LACK OF TOUR BEDS DOWN TO GOVT, SAYS BUSINESS CHIEF. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Lack of beds in our tourist town to cope with the likes of an AFL match is down to the government, says businessman and local branch chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Terry Lillis.
More government investment in Alice Springs, in the form of capital works projects, tax incentives for businesses and housing projects, is needed if the local economy is to improve, says Mr Lillis.
In total, according to figures from Treasurer Syd Stirling, the government has invested some $74m in capital works for Central Australia over three years, compared to $935m for the rest of the Territory.
The investment is clearly not in proportion to the region's population. Further, in the final months of the government's term, not much of this money would seem to have actually been spent. Very little work has been done on the Mereenie Loop Road (allocated $38m), and at the Desert Knowledge Precinct ($25.6m) while the first sod was turned a year ago, the first brick has yet to be laid.
"Not enough government money is spent in Alice Springs," says Mr Lillis."If you read between the lines, the AFL match wasn't going to be held in town because there aren't enough beds. More money for capital works could solve this."
In the run-up to the next election, the Chamber of Commerce wants to make clear what the priorities should be for the economy in Alice Springs.
Although the chamber is apolitical, the organisation is to lobby the government on behalf of its 1200 business members on issues like skills shortage, tax reform, infrastructure and government outsourcing policy.
Currently overseeing the Central Australian Expo running this week, the chamber sent out a questionnaire to its members on Thursday asking them to prioritise which issues most affect the running of their business.
"Alice Springs has gone from being the fastest growing city in Australia in the late 1980s to probably negative growth," says Mr Lillis.
Proprietor of Centreracing and Multibet, Mr Lillis has been involved in local business for 41 years.
"We need initiatives to make it easy for employers to remain employers here," he says.
"Retail in Alice Springs is the flattest it's been since the pilot strike in the late 1980s.
"The number of vacant shops in the CBD [and events] like the closing of Sportsgirl shows this, and also the suburban mini shopping centres Ð the one in Eastside is 50 per cent empty."
Retailer Chris Neck of the Murray Neck group, however, is optimistic.
He acknowledges the sector has been flat but sees cause for hope in the improved tourism sector, the recent land release and imminent housing construction.
Mr Neck says he had "a very good December, an excellent January" and some parts of the business were doing "record trading".
The chamber has successfully lobbied for payroll tax relief and lowering of power costs. From July 1 this year, Territory businesses with a payroll under $1 million will not have to pay the tax.
This is "an excellent start" in encouraging business to grow here, says Mr Lillis .
Tourism is the sector which brings in the most money to Alice Springs Ð the spend in 2003-04 was $205.5m, according to the NT Travel Monitor.
But Mr Lillis believes, "While tourism in the Centre is looking good, tourism in Alice Springs is not.
"Development to Yulara must be held off. It's imperative.
"Alice Springs also needs a tourist icon, a jewel in the crown for visiting, which we need to identify and market.
"We've got a reputation for good quality Indigenous art and that sector is on the up.
"We need to exploit it Ð something like an Aboriginal-themed restaurant with bush tucker, grown and collected by Indigenous people, owned and run by them."
Mr Lillis points to the lack of house construction as a restraint on the local economy.
"There's been no land to build on. A lot of tradespeople have had to seek work elsewhere and so aren't supporting local business. It's like a stack of falling cards.
"The land that is becoming available is too little and so too dear for first home buyers which we need to attract to Alice Springs. I hope the developments in Stephen's Road will change this."
A significant chunk of government money attempting to improve the economy of the Centre is being spent on Desert Knowledge which Mr Lillis hopes will be successful.
The project claims that "scientists and practitioners are busy finding solutions for people and their businesses throughout desert Australia".
BOOSTBut how effective is it really being in boosting the ailing economy?
Mike Crowe of Desert Knowledge Australia and the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) points to the linked business project. It is encouraging local businesses to "swap ideas, compare problems and work together".
A recent meeting in Alice Springs between small mining suppliers looked at power, water, equipment and communications.
The meeting resulted in the companies collaborating to bid for contracts for major new mines opening up in 2005, "a prospect they couldn't service as individual businesses".
There are now plans for Australia-wide promotion of the group's combined services, says Mr Crowe.
MAYOR MAY STAND FOR LABOR. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff will not rule out standing for the NT elections this year. Neither will she rule out seeking pre-selection for a political party.
Would that be the Labor Party? The News understands interviews are being conducted this week.
Ms Kilgariff laughed: "There are three options. I would have to consider the advantages and disadvantages of standing for one of the parties or as an independent and think about what would be best for Alice Springs."
Causing a council by-election "wouldn't be "the first time".
If she didn't win, the Local Government Act would allow her to be reinstated as Mayor.
HOSPITAL BLAME: OPEN QUESTIONS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
As the blame game over the Alice hospital refurbishment fiasco gets into full swing, a few of the arguments don't stack up, one of the main questions being why the CLP government slashed the contract from $49m to under $30.
Last week the Opposition said the first-term Labor Government was entirely responsible because it accepted a shoddy job.
The Government counters by saying it inherited the mess and is now flat out sorting it out.
This will take three years and will cost at least $10m. The taxpayer will need to cough up unless the contractor, construction giant John Holland, owns up, or unless a court makes them to.
The Opposition is targeting Peter Toyne, Minister for Central Australia and Health. It's a political decision with little foundation in reality.
In a nutshell, Dr Toyne got what he asked for, for example, he got new walls.
The fact that they are made from the wrong stuff, namely flammable material, while fire resistant sheets were specified, isn't Dr Toyne's problem.
It is the construction authority's problem, the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment (DIPE), which answers to Chris Burns.
But unlike Dr Toyne, Dr Burns is not Central Australia's only Labor parliamentarian, and there's an election coming soon ... you get the drift.
How much Dr Burns Ð or his predecessor Kon Vatskalis Ð is to blame will be the subject of spirited debate that may get nastier as the poll draws closer.
Each side deserves some blame; the question is, how much.
The tender was let in 1998.
Labor came to power on August 18, 2001.
Most parts of the refurbished hospital had been certified "practically complete" six months later, by early 2002.
Until the end of June 2001 Ð two and a half months before Labor won the election Ð the CLP government had paid $14.27m of the $29.38m contract.
It's not clear how much was paid in 2001 between July 1 and August 18 (the election date), but in fiscal 2001-02 the new Government paid $15.11m.
So on that score the blame would be shared fairly evenly between the old and the new governments.
However, the bulk of the work was done Ð and its faults remained undiscovered, or should the word be covered up Ð during some three years of CLP management and only some six months under the Labor regime.
So the die was well and truly cast: Labor inherited a dud, although the CLP, in the election campaign, cracked up the project as one of the government's big achievements for Alice Springs.
In fact Denis Burke officiated at two public openings, one on April 5 and one on August 8 (the latter 10 days before the election).
The question why the job was slashed by two-fifths from $49m to $30m is now being asked.
Was there an attempt to get much the same job done for a lot less money, and is that at the root of the current mayhem?
Not so, says Steve Dunham, the CLP government's health minister when it lost power in 2001.
Mr Dunham would have a strong case to pass the buck to his colleague in charge of DIPE's forerunner, the hands-on agency for the project, Mick Palmer, who lost his seat.
Says Mr Palmer: "If a log of claims on Hollands exists Toyne should be able to produce it today to give us all a look at what the alleged defects are."Otherwise I can only and still assume they are telling lies."
Mr Dunham says he hasn't got access to the paperwork and Ð amazingly Ð has no clear memory about the circumstances of the budgeting for the refurbishing, and why its was reduced so dramatically. He says some stages may have been deferred.
Mr Dunham says he has no doubt that there was a reduction in "scope".
"We would not expect the contractor to reduce cost. How price was eventually negotiated I don't know."
What he freely admits is that the end result is woeful: "We did lots and lots of works, and I can't think of anything as bad as that."
Mr Dunham says the system is not at fault, but some of the people working in it obviously are.
Self-certification in the construction industry is a scheme that's worked well in the past and is still in use.
But it all depends on the people running it: "Whoever signed the [certification] form is responsible.
"They put their professional reputation on line.
"They should be pursued over that," says Mr Dunham.
The certifiers were Acer Forester (employed by John Holland) and the independent watchdog was Les Platt, employed by DIPE as the "superintendent's representative".
Neither Acer Forrester nor Mr Platt would provide information or comment to the Alice News.
And, says Mr Dunham, the people at the old Transport and Works Department and at the new DIPE are pretty well the same people.
How come they didn't twig?
And with whom does the buck stop for that? Mr Palmer and Dr Burns? And in what proportions?
It's not over yet.
JOBS FOR THE BOYS? COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.
The key figures in the scandal surrounding the Alice Springs hospital refurbishment, commissioned by the last CLP government, are two former Alice Springs CLP cronies.
They are architect Les Platt and certifier Brian Forester.
Mr Platt's job, as the "superintendent's representative", was to ensure the government was getting what it paid for. It clearly didn't.
Mr Forester's company, Acer Forester, was employed by contractor John Holland to certify the work.
Although signed off as all present and correct, the $30m job is so deficient that the present Labor government needs to spend at least $10m to bring it up to scratch.
Both Mr Platt and Mr Forester now live in Darwin but during their time in the Alice they were the life and soul of the Country Liberal Party.
Mr Platt was the principal director of Les Platt Architects in the 1980s.
His firm amalgamated with Keeler and Associates to form Platt Keeler Architects in August 1990, located at 71 Bath Street in Alice Springs.
Mr Keeler was an active participant in local issues and a key figure in the Alice Springs Branch of the CLP.
I understand it is from this connection that Mr Platt also became very active in the CLP.
Platt Keeler Architects were involved in a number of significant local projects, including the conversion of a functional building for the Ghan Preservation Society.
Their Bath Street office was also where Action Alice, the monthly newsletter of the CLP's Alice Springs branch, was published until 1994.
Mr Keeler left Alice Springs in about 1992 and Mr Platt became the firm's local manager.
He was also an active executive committee member of the branch in 1992 to early 1994.
Mr Platt was closely associated with Paul Scott, the manager of the Office of Chief Minister in Alice Springs from 1988 to 1999.
Mr Scott had ambitions to become a local CLP member. His position was well suited to cultivate links with various identities and organisations to facilitate his goal.
He was secretary for the branch in 1992-93, and also became secretary for the Ghan Preservation Society during that time.
The Ghan Society was strongly linked with other high-profile CLP figures, notably the late Roger Vale (who was a leading force in its foundation) and Tony Bohning, who ran for the seat of Stuart on three occasions (as an independent in 2001).
Mr Bohning worked as an advisor in the Office of Chief Minister following his retirement as the local prison superintendent.
During 1992-93 there was considerable manoeuvring in local CLP ranks in the lead-up to the NT elections scheduled for 1994, including the signing up of new members to the three Alice Springs-based branches, and a newly reformed Young CLP branch.
One new member in 1992 was Mr Forester who quickly became an executive committee member of the Alice Springs branch in 1993, and was obviously a friend of Mr Platt's.
Other prominent identities of the branch executive committee were Erhard Lee (chairman), Carole Frost and Hermann Weber (deputies), Sharon Lim (secretary, wife of the present Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Lim), Bob Kennedy (treasurer) and also Damien Ward (formerly of the NT Nationals).
I was also an executive committee member.
Two urban electorates in Alice Springs were considered "up for grabs" in 1994: Greatorex, held by independent Denis Collins, and Braitling, in which the long-serving Member Roger Vale was set to retire.
Mr Platt was a key participant in the ensuing shenanigans as an ally of Paul Scott and Bob Kennedy.
The Ghan Society had fallen on difficult times, and made a request to the NT Government for a grant to hire a consultant to "get it back on the rails".
This ought to have involved the Road Transport Hall of Fame, which shares the same precinct, but instead the hall was effectively denied meaningful input.
There was apparently no tendering process for the consultancy, for which the Department of Transport and Works paid $50,000 to Mr Platt.
His work culminated in a document entitled the MacDonnell Siding Strategy Plan, a 70-page volume liberally sprinkled with platitudes.
On December 21 I called in on Eric Poole, the then Member for Araluen, for a social visit, during which he revealed to me the extent of his involvement with the preselection struggle.
During the course of our conversation, he showed me a document purporting to be a press release by the "CLP Watchdog Committee Ð Darwin" which he had received via the Office of Chief Minister, just across the road.
It made serious allegations of bribery against Paul Scott in relation to the Platt consultancy for the Ghan Society. (The allegations were denied.)
Apparently few, if any, recommendations of the Platt report were ever implemented by the Ghan Society and the expenditure of public money on it was a complete waste.
Mr Platt's efforts on behalf of his friend Paul Scott to win preselection for a seat in Alice Springs also came to nought.
An "extraordinary meeting" of combined CLP branches was held on January 11, 1994, chaired by then party president Gary Nairn, who became the Liberal member for Eden-Monaro in NSW in 1996.
DUMPEDThe three members of the preselection committee, Brian Corcoran, Rob Hall and Liz Martin, heading up the Transport Hall of Fame, who had been the focus of intense struggle, were dumped in favour of Herman Weber, Barbara Lee and Mr Platt.
In the subsequent preselection process, Dr Lim was chosen as the candidate to challenge Denis Collins in Greatorex, and Loraine Braham got the nod for Braitling.
Paul Scott and Bob Kennedy (amongst others) lost out.
NEW CALLS FOR BREAK AWAY LAND COUNCILS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
"There is nobody we can complain to. There is nobody to help us."
Katherine Parker from Kintore was articulating a common theme at an unusual meeting at the Telegraph Station on Saturday.
Her sentiments were echoed by Mavis Malbunka from Ipolera and Hermannsburg, by Davey Presley from Willowra, currently in exile at Ti-Tree, and others.
Sid Anderson was there from Papaya, listening to the speakers, mainly women.
William Brown, chairman of the Central Land Council (CLC), was right at the back of the group, sitting on the lawn. He did not address the meeting.
What the speakers had in common was that they are on the outer so far as the CLC is concerned.
They said the organisation had failed them, in a variety of ways, and they felt they had no-one who would even listen to them.
MacDonnell MLA John Elferink and CLP candidate for Stuart Anna Machado, who together organised the meeting, said they want to change that.
They also want to gather information they will pass on to Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone who has foreshadowed changes to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976, a move unlikely to be stymied by the Senate over which the Howard government will have control from July 1.
Mr Elferink told the meeting it wasn't an exercise in CLC bashing but a forum for people who feel they are not being adequately served by the land council.
"The Landrights Act wall of protection is becoming the wall of a prison.
"Some of the world's largest land owners can't get a job on their own land."
Mr Elferink asked repeatedly how the current deadlock over commercial enterprises on Aboriginal land could be broken.
One answer, from Ms Parker, was the need for Aboriginal people to be able to use their assets Ð including land Ð as collateral for loans.
Several speakers called for smaller land councils, where the relevant traditional owners, and not outsiders, have the say over what happens on their land.
And Betty Pearce, deputy chairperson of Lhere Artepe, Alice Springs' native title body, said the CLC should respond if asked for assistance, and "not be sitting over the top of us.
"We can look after our land, develop business.
"We need to stand up to the CLC." You are trustees, we want you to help us but our way."
Much of the meeting, attended by about 30 people, was taken up by the distress of the Parker family from Kintore, involved in a 13 year struggle to get permission for the father, Paul, to live there with his wife, Tilau, and his children.
Ms Parker, and her sister Samantha, put the blame for the family's plight Ð unimaginable anywhere else in the democratic world Ð squarely on the CLC, which is refusing Mr Parker a permit.
He previously ran a store at Kintore, after helping to found the community following an epic walk-out from Papunya.
Katherine Parker said "the land council should have no right" to enforce a separation of the family.
As a traditional owner "I have never given away my rights to the CLC.
"We need smaller regional councils."
She said the land council did a good job in its first 10 years but then developed "selective hearing".
That sentiment was also expressed by Ms Malbunka who with her husband Hermann runs a model outstation west of Hermannsburg, including a tourist venture and a petrol sniffing program.
She says the CLC "has no authority to talk about our land.
"They [speak to] the wrong traditional owners.
"We need to change the law ... and have separate land councils."
She said the land council "bring in their own interests.
"They don't want to know about us."
She said the CLC "only has whitefeller papers [the title deeds to Aboriginal land] but they can't run our business.
"We stay frightened because of this mess."
Mr Presley and Clark Martin also called for a separate land council for the Willowra region.
Both are now living in Ti-Tree after a long and sometimes violent rift with Mr Brown's clan.
(Ms Machado and her husband, John, were running the store at Willowra and were evicted by the CLC with less than a day's notice. See comment this page.)
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE ... COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Central Land Council made the point last week that it has a role under the Land Rights Act to "provide assistance to Aboriginal people ... to carry out commercial activities".
The comment came after the CLC provided "assistance" in the last few weeks of a kind that would fill management, public relations and human resources manuals, especially in their "how not to" chapters. (The CLC says it did nothing wrong.)
Two interventions, purportedly on behalf of clients, have had several things in common.
White staff were sacked on the spot.
At Willowra, store keepers John and Anna Machado were told by CLC lawyer David Avery that by nightfall that same day, they must leave their job, their home and their community.
And the manager of a group of traditional painters at Ampilatwatja was sacked by CLC lawyer Michael Prowse, allegedly without proper authority.
The CLC's actions were either in conflict with the business owners' wishes, or without revealing the owners who gave consent or instructions for this thuggish conduct.
From all the Alice News can find out, Mr Prowse was acting against the wishes of the artists.
The News established this by speaking to two of them, including the group's president, as well as to the manager of Desart, an artists' support group.
Aided by an interpreter, the Desart manager attended a lengthy meeting with some 15 painters.
According to the accounts given to the Alice News, one of the women had been approached by Mr Prowse for a signature legitimising his actions.
We're told the woman at first declined, was persuaded by Mr Prowse to provide the signature, and subsequently withdrew it again.
All of the artists at the meeting with the Desart manager wanted their employee back.
Will Mr Prowse's actions stand? A statement by the CLC last week leaves no doubt that it wants them to. The courts may well have the last word.
The Machado case may end there, too.
Meanwhile, a smear campaign is cranking up, hinting that the Machados had run the Willowra store badly.
This is not what Chris Pearson of the Aboriginal management organisation Ngurratjuta Ð which did the books for the Willowra Store Ð has to say.
When asked for comment he said the store was audited two days after the Machados' departure and "there was no evidence of wrongdoing".
He says recent turnover was down by about half but that was the result of half the population leaving town [in the wake of ongoing community strife].
The profit to stock to turnover ratios were "reasonably good".
In our experience the CLC doesn't answer questions on delicate issues. It may, if pushed, issue a brief media release.
The CLC's conduct is unlikely to inspire confidence from prospective business partners or highly skilled staff, the kind of people needed by the black community driven into abysmal welfare dependency over 30 years of CLC "assistance".
For decades Governments, authorities and people generally have been operating on the facile assumption that "the Aborigines" are some kind of amorphous mass with identical opinions and aspirations, faithfully represented by the CLC.
Anyone still believing that after Willowra and Ampilatwatja probably also believes in the tooth fairy.
In each of the two cases there are at least two opinions, maybe more, and woe to those who are on the wrong side, namely not with the CLC.
The ruckus in Willowra, according to Mrs Machado, started when she refused "bookup" (credit) to the chairman of the CLC, who lives there.
She was following the rules set down by the Aboriginal owners of the store.
In a democratic system, such as Australia is trying to set up in Iraq, aggrieved persons have a string of rights, including inviting people to their home to talk things over, get advice, make a point.
People who're living on land controlled by the CLC do not have that right.
Imagine you wanted to ask a mate over and Big Brother said, no, you couldn't.
Access without permit, usually issued by the CLC, is unlawful.
Although traditional owners themselves can issue permits, the CLC can revoke them.
This is what they did in connection with the Machados although a sizeable part of the community want them to return.
It goes on: Anybody in Australia can call in the media and through them, exercise freedom of speech.
That right is denied to people on CLC controlled land: Visits Ð including journalists' Ð are at the discretion of the CLC.
In any other country this would be seen as an outrageous human rights violation.
So, while Mr Howard is sending 450 more Aussie soldiers to establish democracy in Iraq, he would do well to send some legislators to Central Australia for the very same purpose.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN! Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Northline Freight Management has confirmed it is going back to using the roads between Adelaide and Darwin, after just a year of relying on rail.
Rumours of the move were reported in the Alice News two weeks ago (February 16).
The first Northline road trains to the Northern Territory have already begun servicing all destinations between Adelaide and Darwin.
85 per cent of the estimated 80,000 tonnes of freight a year (including building materials, white-goods, retail products and supplies for major infrastructure projects) will now be transported via road, with the remaining 15 per cent by rail.
Northline turns over $85m a year and employs more than 350 people nationwide.
Bruce Hampson, South Australian manager for Northline, said the decision was made at the end of December, shortly after a hefty increase in freight prices on October 1 by rail operator FreightLink. But he says it's not just cost; poor service and the restrictions of rail also prompted the switch.
"If the price increase had gone through but service levels were outstanding, we would have stuck with [rail]. But when the price is equal, service to our customers comes first."
Mr Hampson says up to 40 per cent of FreightLink services failed to run on time over the past year.
"We've had services six hours late. Sometimes we have freight for 20 or 30 clients on one trip so every single client is delayed.
"And if a train is four hours late, I still have to pay the guys waiting to unload for four hours extra work hanging around.
"We need to be able to rely on a service. By using the road we can guarantee time certainty."
FreightLink's chief executive, John Fullerton, was mum on Monday about the impact of losing one of their key clients, refusing to give any interviews to the media.
Says Mr Hampson: "When the rail launched, pricing was 20 per cent below the road. Now it's roughly the same price. I don't know if Freightlink got their numbers wrong from the beginning or if it was a way to get people on board.
"We went into using the railway in good faith and we believed we would predominantly use rail to service our business in the long term.
"We didn't expect to have a 15 per cent price increase eight months later. The initial increase was 25 per cent, but this was watered down to 15 per cent.
"Our clients weren't expecting it either. They've been hit by two price increases in eight months Ð a 12 per cent rise when FreightLink took over from Pacific National, and then again in October through us when the rates went up.
"They're paying 25 per cent more for their transport of freight today than they were a year ago."
Another reason for the change is lack of control, says Mr Hampson. "The actual journey times of road and rail are similar but overall rail is slower because it only leaves at a fixed time of day, and there's up to a gap of three days between services. It also takes a couple of hours each end to load and unload freight.
"Now by transporting mostly through road but still partly through rail, it offers the most flexible services to our clients.
"It gives us more options, for example, offering an express service, the choice of using drop deck containers which can be made smaller or larger, and also being able to carry all sorts of loads. Some pieces can't fit on rail and we've been having to give this freight away to someone else to transport on road."
Mr Hampson continues: "The rail doesn't service all areas so we lost some business in Tenant Creek and Katherine. These places thought rail would be a wonderful, fix-all solution but now they think it's moved things backwards. Now we're back to road we can regularly service these clients."
Darryl Wilson, branch manager of Northline in Alice Springs says: "We can service our wayside drops who have been really affected by rail, and go back to servicing places like Ti Tree and Elliot."
Mr Wilson says the change will also go some way towards fixing the decimated trucking service industry in the Alice, providing 30 more jobs Territory-wide: "Alice Springs has probably been negatively affected by the railway more than anywhere else.
"I hope one of the spinoffs of us going back to road is benefit for local business and the service industry."
Northline's partners in the NT are Peter Gilbert Transport, with whom the company has been working for 20 years, and a new main contractor, Darwin-based Golf RTA. As correctly reported in the Alice News (Feb 16), the contractors have re-equipped with nine prime movers and 42 trailers in preparation for the new focus on road. Northline says brand new and specialised linehaul equipment will provide significantly less risk of damage to sensitive and fragile freight.
Mr Hampson believes rail still has a part to play in the Territory: "It works if there is a full load of equipment [which] isn't time sensitive," he says.Northline will continue to use rail routes operated by Pacific National in other parts of the country, like from Adelaide to Perth and Sydney to Melbourne. The average yearly increase for Pacific National is four per cent.
CLP Leader Denis Burke blamed the government for lack of support for the railway: "Territorians are stakeholders in the railway to the tune of around $200 million and the Martin government has to wake up and realise that to grow the railway and Darwin as a true port then it must take an active, leadership role. It can't simply sit back and wait for things to happen."
SEVEN A SIDE EMOTIONS RUN HIGH. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Emotion boiled over at Flynn Drive when Central Falcons took to the pitch against league leaders S&R Vikings in seven a side football.
In a game both sides would prefer to forget the enigmatic Tommy Braun ended the game with a red card, and a one week suspension. More importantly the distraction worked against the endeavours of the Falcons outfit who have the capacity to feature in the finals.
At half time they were far from beaten, but in the second half the momentum shifted decidedly to the Vikings. The ladder leaders had Cameron Finlay net the ball at the 16 minute mark, followed by a successful strike from Richard Farrell at the 24 minute mark. With Falcons off their game, Rory Hood then put the result beyond doubt with a further goal, giving Vikings a 3-0 win.
In a spirited tussle Federal A had a 2-0 win over Cunning Stunts. The Stunts made some impressive runs up field, but were let down badly at the vital moment when a score was possible. At the 15 minute mark an own goal blunted the Stunts' endeavour.
Early in the second half Luke Bosio put the result beyond doubt with a goal. Federal were able to maintain a stoic defence for the remainder of the half and take the premiership points.
The third clash in A Grade resulted in a 1-1 draw for Neata Glass Scorpions and Starbucks. Starbucks have been the improvers of the competition and would be kicking themselves at having to go home with a drawn result.
In opposition, Scorpions need to address the form slump they have slipped into recently. Troy Cox established a Starbuck advantage with a goal at the 10 minute mark. From there, as has been the case, Scorpions had to play catch up football to survive. The draw only came at the 33rd minute when James Gorman netted.
The absence of midfielder Conan Robertson is proving costly for the Scorpions. On the other side of the coin, Starbucks were served a blow with the injury to their mid fielder, Mark Harvey.
In B Grade Federal fielded their best side, realising a win is all important in their pursuit of a finals berth. Despite their endeavour Buckleys proved too strong. They had goal scorers in Scott Peters, Francis Kumar and Alan Joe, who ensured the 3-0 win. Federal will now have to perform well against Thorny Devils to keep their hopes alive.
The Devils lost again after a promising start to their post-Christmas campaign. A disciplined approach from the young ASSA colts resulted in a 2-1 win to the young guns. Declan Furber Gillick and Willie Devlin each goaled giving ASSA the match. It was Peter Clarke who scored for the Thorny Devils.
Scorpions ran on against Stormbirds again minus their key mid fielders, Urs Marzhol and Matt Gridley, but were able to survive with a 1-0 win. The Stormbirds really rallied and had their chances, but a goal from David Hoey saved the day for the Scorpions.
In C Grade the fortunes were upturned for the Scorpions. Alice Power took the game 2-0. In the Scorpions camp questions would have been asked however, as despite the absence of Neil Smark and Alan Whyte, opportunities went begging.
In a captain's game Noel Murtagh inspired his charges with great field play and a goal. The lead was initially set up by a goal from the boot of Kyle Kruger.The Alice Springs Girls turned in an amazing three goal scoring spree in the second half to down Dragons. With a 1-0 lead at half time time Dragons seemed to have the advantage, but it was Carol Ann Todd, James Tudor and Daniel Yamada who rose to the occasion to provide the Alice Girls with the match points.
Despite a 1-0 loss to the Stormbirds, the Old Farts were the grinners at the end of play. This team of triers have risen to the occasion over the past few weeks. Heather Grieve scored for the Stormbirds in a well contested game.
The RSL versus CLC resulted in a 3-0 win to RSL on forfeit.
At the top end of the Junior comp market Brat Pack enjoyed a 3-0 win over ASSA Juniors. Goals came through the agency of Lachlan Farquharson, Chris Dos Santos, and Cameron Kerr. Brat Pack are now well and truly breathing down the neck of Verdi, who had their hands full in defeating Yirara, 5-3.Verdi had Jordan Newman score with further singles coming from Victor Fisher, Matt Lelliott , Peter McGrath and Peter Hammond. Yirara, who are poised to expand to two teams for the winter competition, had goals scored by Waylon Hudson, Jordan Armstrong and Lemih Thompson.
IMPARJA CUP FOR INDIGENOUS FINEST. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
This is a week flanked by elite sports events, one of our very own, the Imparja Cup, and the AFL's Wizard Cup.
Home grown teams of indigenous cricketers took to the field in a match between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.
The Imparja Cup this year had sides from every state and with them aspiring men and women cricketers from across the Territory.
This weekend the AFL will dispatch the Richmond and Fremantle clubs to Traeger Park to provide Territorians with the live spectacle.
What a week in a town called Alice!
It is also a time to ask, why the national interest in coming to the centre of Australia, and what are the ramifications of such a visit?Cricket Australia has made no bones about the fact that they want to grow the cricket industry into indigenous Australia. The Imparja Cup has the backing of Cricket Australia, in promotional support and a physical presence at the event.Aboriginal cricketers now schedule the Imparja Cup into their diaries and with all states participating it is far from a social bowl in the park. Each team is packed with talent representing their state and their people.Besides there being a winner of the carnival, for Alice the ramifications are many. Role models are able to portray their brilliance. Attitudes and values are widely disseminated. Goodwill is extended and those "vibes" that are vital in developing an elite sports person are permeated.Cricket Australia has a vision to see Northern Territory cricket prosper. In a ridiculously few years the pathway has been established to see this happen. Prior to the Imparja Cup carnivals are held in outposts such as Mataranka giving converts to the game and potential stars a chance to strut their stuff. From there they have the chance to put it all together at Imparja Cup time.On top of the elite players and those from communities vying for the Plate, women's cricket has also prospered. Two local teams met with sides from Tennant Creek and Darwin last weekend, seeking real competition. In the build up the Mayor of Tennant Creek, Rod Swanson, mustered sides to play warm up games prior to the big weekend in Alice.
For Cricket Australia there is now a pathway set for potential Eddie Gilberts to emerge on the prime surfaces of world cricket. For the NT the way is also mapped out to encourage the development of cricket for men and women, both in town and in communities.
For the AFL the impact is along the same lines. Central Australia has developed elite players of the ilk of the Peckhams, Brays, MacAdams , Rosses, Whites, and so on. The AFL also knows the wealth of raw talent that exudes from this part of the world. And they want it to keep coming.
The match between Richmond and Fremantle will no doubt result in greater crowds per head of population than Marrara have attracted to either the All Stars or the Collingwood versus West Coast games thus far this season.
As a value added bonus however the game will inspire a litany of would be players into the fold of devotees.
It will indeed be the catalyst for some to aspire to the level above Centralian footy and be prepared to take the chance in the South.For others the mere experience of seeing role models playing the game they love will set them on a positive track away from the attractions of beer and gunja.Alice Springs should celebrate the occasion throughout this week, knowing that our part of the world is valued by both Cricket Australia and the AFL to the degree that, as Bill Lawrie says, "its all happening".
Plans for nothing. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Often I think that there is nobody in town who doesn't have a plan to be somewhere else, sometime soon.
Of course, this can't be true. There are many people who love Alice Springs and they aren't going anywhere, but after a few days of encounters with people who are forever working out their next move, it can be easy to forget that.
Transience is a feature of Central Australia. It's a product of the shortish contracts that bring many people here and the fact that you can't escape the last person that you had an argument with. You see them the next day in Bi-Lo.
But there's also a generational change that has made the baby boomers more mobile than their parents and the children of the baby boomers unsettled by the fact that their parents never seem to settle down anywhere.
When I think about my vast extended family of aunts and uncles, only the odd rogue actually moved away from our town. They were duly ostracized from the family and last reported unshaven and sailing a boat around the Mediterranean. The rest of the rellies may not be a shining example of rural contentment, but at least they look settled.
Moving away from the suffocation of your home town is no bad thing. People who migrate in search of a better life tend to be dynamic and enterprising. This country is full of them.
But there's a fine line between being aspirational on the one hand and being unsettled and discontented on the other. I have met people who constantly waver from one side of that line to the other. One minute they have to get out of town, the next they're staying put. This week they're off to Adelaide, next week it's postponed for a year. They can't stand the climate a moment longer, then they love it.
If I had a dollar for every person who talks this way, I'd be able to relocate to Maroochydore and buy a house overlooking another house in front of a houseboat on an artificial canal.
For this reason it was refreshing to meet a man the other day who had moved to a remote town in the Kimberley 35 years ago and had decided to stay. His chosen home is a place so far off the end of the remoteness scale that it makes Alice Springs look like downtown Tokyo.
Talking with him about the pros and cons of regional Australia reminded me of the simple pleasures of family and community that are harder to find in the Ôtwo hundred kilometre city' that stretches either side of Brisbane, the nameless sprawl of urban ring development or the gentrified parts of the southern states.
The same day, I heard someone waxing lyrical about Port Macquarie and how wonderful it is compared to Alice Springs. Look, I'm sure it's lovely, but do me a favour. No town in New South Wales is the promised land. The last time I went to one it rained non-stop, the only place open on a Sunday was an internet cafŽ above a furniture shop and I couldn't find the expansive beachfront due to the expansive highways that surround the CBD.
It was a relief to get out of there. I don't care if the residents do have powerful mortgage equity and healthy financial growth plans. They also have vast household debts and houses packed with imported consumer appliances. And I thought the growth of the economy was supposed to be sustainable.
If nothing else, it's good to get things into perspective. Making plans is a healthy exercise. I know that much. What I don't know is whether being in Central Australia means you have to be constantly thinking about your next move.
What's in a name? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet over 400 years ago. Yet today we still struggle with names and what they represent.
Just a couple of years ago NTU changed its name to Charles Darwin University. The old name was no longer good enough, the Northern Territory too obscure a place to give name to such a great place of learning.
Charles Darwin himself wasn't born great because he had been given that name. He gave the name greatness through his achievements. It is what you accomplish not the name you bear that matters.
It is useful when choosing a name to let it communicate association to a particular family or place. In this way we can at least have some idea of where someone or something belongs.
One can easily argue that since Darwin, the place, was named after the great man himself it would be logical to name a university situated in that place after the same man, but why wasn't that done initially?
Was it necessary to change the name to wipe the slate clean and start over because NTU's reputation was not good enough?
It takes more than a new name to create a new image. Just because there has been a bad drought doesn't mean the country cannot again, or even for the first time, produce wonderful stuff. It is by persevering and learning from the difficulties we come across that we can develop good quality and reliable performance.
The Australian wine industry had to work hard to become well known and respected on the international market and has to continue these efforts to maintain its good reputation. Whatever it is you are trying to grow and establish, you have to believe in your product and that it will speak for itself once you have convinced people to give it a go.
According to the grape vine, Araluen Christian School is considering a name change. I hope they will think long and hard about what they are trying to achieve.
The school's reputation will depend on the quality of the education and learning environment it provides and not on what it is called.
I once thought I could change who I was and hide my family connections by changing my surname.
I wanted to be just me, independent of those who had come before me, a new blank page all of my own.
But I realised it is up to me to make my name my own, to carve out a unique identity for myself in the family tree. A name is never a good substitute for content.
It is not the label on the bottle but the taste of the wine that matters.
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