ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
March 23, 2005.


SHARE OUR STORY IS AN SOS, SAYS BURKE. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
"Share our Story should be Save our Souls," says Opposition leader Denis Burke of the Tourist Commission's brand "refresh".
It's too Top-End focused, incohesive and is being run three months too late, Mr Burke says.
"The Tourist Commission took international marketing off the shelf as a cost-cutting exercise and they haven't recovered. You can't blame 9/11 or Sars – all other states have recovered while we're lagging behind.
"Under the CLP Government the tourism product and marketing was the envy of Australia through the nineties – we used the slogan ‘If you never ever go you'll never ever know' and featured Darryl Summers.
"Now there is no sense of cohesion. Last time there was a crocodile staring out of a bathtub, now it's ‘Share our Story'.
"Tourism is too Top End-focused and focused on Southern experts.
"We need to have a direct branch of the Tourist Commission in Alice Springs.
"I'll be putting a great deal of effort into marketing and setting up a branch of the Tourist Commission here. If we get government, it'll be done immediately.
"A clear indication of how bad the campaign is, is that the advertising is coming out in March – that's too late, people have already decided where they're going to go on holiday. It should have been brought out in December and January.
"The campaign isn't focused and sends the story that NT is asleep – it should be focusing on unique tourism experience.
"There's too much focus on the Rock – Alice needs to be pushed as a destination in itself.
"This place is rapidly disappearing as a tourist destination.
"We need to work hard to push for an international airport and an international marketing campaign that's out there at the right time."
Meanwhile NTTC acting CEO Rita Harding says the commission would set up a link to the web site sponsored by Alice Springs business interests if CATIA, the Alice tourism lobby, suggested it should be done.
The designer of the site, thealice.com, Neil Aitken, said last week the commission wanted "to share our story but not our initiative". (Alice News, March 16.)Ms Harding says to get commission support the private site must "feature the whole industry.
"It cannot favour one group over another. We are guided by CATIA on the issue. I take my hat off to the Amazing Alice Team.
"It is a fantastic web site but doesn't accommodate all of Alice Springs and surrounds.
"Our charter requires us to work with industry through the regional tourism associations."
CATIA's Craig Catchlove says there is a link from the NTTC site to the CATIA site which in turn has a link to thealice.com.
That means there is an indirect link from the NTTC to thealice.com.
Mr Catchlove says at this stage CATIA isn't suggesting a direct link from the NTTC to thealice.com because it has far fewer businesses than the CATIA site which has 360 members.
These include 140 core operators offering tours, accommodation, attractions and car hire.
Mr Catchlove says all but a handful of core operators in the region are members of CATIA.
Mr Burke was speaking prior to the Parliamentary sittings being held in Alice this week. The News asked him what issues he'll be bringing up.
"I'll be raising the lack of action of the Territory government over the last four years. There's been a huge increase in GST but they haven't built anything or done anything.
"They haven't built a single school, teachers are on strike, nurses are under stress and taking industrial action. I can't point to anything it's done.
"I'll be focussing on the state of the economy which has left the NT sliding when the rest of Australia is going gangbusters.
"I'll also raise the way John Elferink was treated in the last Assembly. Burns should be sacked after the way he treated him. Clare Martin is weak.
"And I'll be taking the government to task on teachers – it is not meeting the promises made.
"It will be an interesting three days for Centralians."
The News also asked Mr Burke about Fran Kilgarrif's decision to stand as a Labor candidate in the next election.
"It's her right, it's a democratic society.
"I've got every confidence that Richard Lim will maintain the level of support he's had in the past. He does everything he can for Greatorex.
"It's up to Fran to explain to the electorate her decision herself. She must have known she wasn't committed to the job when she ran as mayor and that won't be lost on the electorate.
"While there's no legal requirement, if she was honest and isn't elected, she'd stand aside as mayor. That's what Frank Sator [now NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities] did in Sydney."
The News also asked Mr Burke whether his party felt responsible for the unhealthy state of the Alice Springs Hospital.
"The Labor Government needs to explain why it allowed that hospital to become accredited, knowing there were defects. Now they say it's the CLP's fault.
"All I can say was that we provided the funds and put forward the contractors for the job. It's been the responsibility of Labor for four years. It's that party which has explaining to do, not mine."
Mr Burke also commented on anthropologist Peter Sutton's proposal that Aboriginal children need time out from their culture (see last week's Alice News).
"I think there are probably too many people telling Aboriginal people what they should be doing. They're well aware themselves of the problems.
"I was health minister for four years and the problems of Aboriginal families and their children are no different to the slum dwellings white Australians faced in the 1920s – poor sanitation, lack of opportunity for work and education and an inability to compete in modern society.
"We fixed it then by primarily addressing housing and sanitation so we can fix it now.
"I support the ‘Hands up not hands out' campaign by the Howard government.
"There are enormous economic opportunities for Aboriginal people. They're the largest landowners in the Northern Territory.
"We need to redefine the co operation between national, territory and Aboriginal organisations.
"In some respects the CLC needs to be congratulated for looking for economic opportunities but also criticised because Aboriginals and their families are not benefiting from these economic opportunities.
"We want to work in partnership with the CLC to improve the situation of Aboriginal people.
"I believe there's a desire within Aboriginals for betterment – they're sick of being looked at from a statistical basis. They want the opportunity to see their children take their place in modern society. We shouldn't be harping on who's to blame."

HALF OF TOURISM COMMISSION BUDGET GOES ON TOUR ADS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The NT Tourist Commission, one of Chief Minister Clare Martin's portfolios, spent well under half of its total budget on advertising in the 2004 calendar year.
The commission has an annual budget of about $30m. In 2004 the NTTC also had available part of a special allocation of $27.5m to be spent between December 2003 and June 2006.
This equates to $11m a year spread over a two and a half year period. That means the NTTC had a total of $41m in its kitty in 2004.
But only $18.5m was spent on the purchase of print media space, TV and radio air time and other forms of paid advertising.
According to the commission's acting CEO, Rita Harding, this is how that expenditure was made up:-
• $8m for buying print space and air time, direct mail and point of sale advertising.
• $1.9m for "media famils" – paying the expenses of visiting journalists who will then, hopefully, say nice things about the Territory. Ms Harding says the benefit from that is "in the tens of millions for dollars".
• $1.1m for trade famils – hosting domestic and international contacts including "travel agents, inbound tour operators and airline partners".
• $5.7m for "Marketing – other" which includes publicity support for such events as the Darwin festival, the Finke Desert Race, national footy matches, and so on. No break-up was available before deadline, but Ms Harding says she will supply it next week.
• $1.1m for expos and trade shows such as the Territory Muster, Inbound to Outback and the Australian Tourism Exchange.
• $750,000 for online service, website development and the Australian tourism data warehouse. - ERWIN CHLANDA

FRAN KIGARIFF TO STAND ON HER RECORD. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Alice Springs should become a university town, says Fran Kilgariff, and gaining a greater presence here for Charles Darwin University is an issue she intends to take up, whether as Mayor or as possible future Member for Greatorex.
This was the only fresh idea that emerged during an interview with the Alice Springs News about her prospects.
While "no government has ever done enough" for Alice Springs, Ms Kilgariff is largely comfortable with both her own record and that of the Territory's first Labor Government.
During her time on council the "look of the town" has been "vastly improved".
She is looking forward to a Masters Games report soon to be released that reveals a positive visitor appraisal of the town.
The News reminded her of the poor score surveyed residents gave council on matters of cleanliness.
Early in 2004 around 1000 residents ranked five services to do with cleanliness as "of very high importance" but on average they scored only a 22 per cent satisfaction rating. (Alice News, November 17, 2004.)Ms Kilgariff acknowledged that council could "lift its game" in relation to litter but argued it had done very well in other areas.
These included having fewer itinerants in the river; and the construction of the $10m Civic Centre, which "has provided jobs when there was nothing else" and will be a building "Alice Springs can be proud of".
She also takes pride in her contribution to "improved relations" between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Evidence of this is the "trust" between the town council and Tangentyere Council and Lhere Artepe.All three are working towards a "Safe and Tidy Town", with a public meeting scheduled for April 7 to deal with litter issues.
She said Tangentyere Council are putting $100,000 into a new approach towards cleaning up the town camps, no longer relying on CDEP services.
On alcohol, a big issue of her first term, Ms Kilgariff regrets the displacement of problems to the town camps.
Todd Mall is safer but the camps are probably not, she says, and this is an issue for the Safe and Tidy Town approach.
"The emphasis so far has been on ‘tidy' but we are still working on the ‘safe' part."
She said the government's Domestic Violence Strategy should contribute to greater safety, with police moving to prosecute even if the victim will not.
She credits Labor with "quite a bit" of investment in infrastructure.
She was unaware of figures published in the News (March 2) that show that this investment is not in proportion to the region's population: $74m for Central Australia compared to $935m for the rest of the Territory.
"Clare Martin told me recently that Alice Springs is getting more than its share in infrastructure spending," she said.
Labor's commitment to negotiating with Indigenous people led to the land release at Larapinta.
Wasn't that a very protracted process resulting in only a small land release?
"It's still the right way to go. The alternative is legal action and vast amounts of money. It's painful, but patience will pay off.
"It is also a good basis for the future."
She argues that the creation of the Office of Central Australia has been a positive contribution to breaking down the Berrimah Line.
How effective then have been her representations to the government on behalf of the town?
Heritage issues galvanised her interest in Territory politics. When the CLP government threatened to demolish the old gaol, Ms Kilgariff was a key figure in the popular revolt that led to their backdown.
However, she hasn't lobbied the government at all in relation to the soon-to-demolished Rieff Building.
"I haven't been asked to intervene, although I offered Dominic Pecorari the opportunity to talk to council on the issue.
"He hasn't taken me up on that."
She and council have lobbied the government to get more money for environmental health and beautification of the town.
"I think we were listened to.
"And certainly the Regional Development Board [of which she is the chair] is able to get straight to Jack Ah Kit in relation to the need for more land releases, an international airport and support for Desert Knowledge."
Labor is "realistic", she said, about the problems of urban drift to Alice Springs by, for instance, providing more police and developing the community harmony strategy.
She is also confident in the future benefits to the community of Desert Knowledge.
"Like everyone else I am looking forward to seeing the commercialisation of their research."
The government could do better, she said, especially in relation to the retention and attraction of skilled staff to the Centre.
"This is a nationwide problem but it becomes more critical when you are isolated like we are.
"Over employment is an issue; there are hardly any jobs vacant, yet there is also massive unemployment amongst Aboriginal people."
"Increased training and job opportunities" is the way to fix that.
And to this end, "we need to look at ways to stimulate enrolment at Charles Darwin University so that it becomes a more vital part of our town.
"Students from around Australia as well as our own young people should be eager to attend university here.
"We need a greater focus on skilling our workforce. You can study accounting and nursing there but there need to be other offerings as well.
"I understand a university in New Zealand abolished their HECS fees and that turned their town around.
"Maybe we could look at incentives like that."
Ms Kilgariff has always said that she will put Alice Springs first. This was why she earlier toyed with the idea of running as an independent or establishing her own political party.
Back in February, 1999 she told the Alice News: "In a political system where party discipline often overrides the interests of electorates, I would represent Alice Springs first and foremost."
If she does become a Labor MLA, how will she reconcile commitments like this with the discipline of the party room?
It is something she is used to, she said. As mayor, she has often had to represent a position adopted by council that she personally disagrees with.
"The place to make your views known is in the policy-making room. After that you have to accept the majority decision."
And finally, why should the electorate trust what she says? Hasn't she reneged on a commitment to being the town's mayor for a full term?
Ms Kilgariff says she understands that people may see it this way, but "a change in her personal life" made her think that it was time to do something she had long been interested in.
She joined the Labor Party at the end of January with a view to gaining preselection in Greatorex.
"They've been talking to me for a number of years."
The last time was early last year, before the local government poll.
"I did intend to stay on as mayor for four years. That commitment was given with honesty.
"But circumstances changed. The fact that there is legislation that directs how that change happens suggests that such an occurrence can be expected."

"CAT'S LEFT BEHIND CHIP HEATERS AND DUNNIES FOR A SERVICE FOCUS."
Come July 1, when the Howard Government gets control over the Senate, Aboriginal affairs funding will undergo a sea change: not only will the government be able to ask the hard questions, and make the hard decisions, it will also no longer have an excuse for not making them. In the meantime getting hard facts from some publicly funded groups is hard work, as ELISABETH ATTWOOD found.

"If we could measure benefit to communities we would generate a lot more money than we are," says Dr Bruce Walker, CEO of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT).The Alice News asked Dr Walker exactly how the organisation is benefiting communities and individuals in Central Australia.
"Facts and figures will never tell the whole story," he said.
"The simplistic view of value for money would be like dividing our annual income by the number of wheelchairs produced and saying it is an expensive wheelchair.
"But it's a more complex issue. You can't measure impact in small doses. You have to look at the overview."
When the News asked for specific information on how many bush communities are being given practical help by CAT, Dr Walker said CAT provided practical services in 123 communities and worked with a further 41 agencies across Australia last year.
"The Bushlight project was a good example of one of CAT's unique services which could be measured in terms of numbers involved. Eleven communities are now equipped in Central Australia, nine in the Top End and 34 nationwide.
"We are working concurrently with another 60 communities for the next cycle of Bushlight."
(See our website for reports about Bushlight, July 14 and 28, 2004.)
Education and training projects are a major part of CAT's work. When asked how many people have been employed as a result of training programmes like teaching car mechanics skills, Dr Walker said: "We wouldn't have an accurate handle on that because there's not always an immediate employment outcome for many of our trainees.
"Some go on to apprenticeships but most use the skills in their own communities – they are able to work on their own cars, prolonging the life of that car, for example.
"We offer technical skills training at a pre-trade and pre-apprentice level. We're not competing against the trade training that universities deliver, rather we prepare people for it if they choose that pathway. It's pointless looking at employment outcomes when there are none in many communities. But there are livelihood opportunities and training at the right level can enhance those livelihood opportunities.
"We teach practical technical survival skills in communities so that the communities don't have to pay people to come in and do things for them all the time. The AT Work project is a certificate in basic technology problem-solving skills for water, shelter, waste and communication issues.
"Half of the training costs are paid for by the NT government and half by the communities themselves or the Commonwealth. 400 students enrol each year but a lot of them drop out – [an average of] 133 students a year finish the course. Since the program began in 1991 more and more communities are asking us for training." Dr Walker goes on to say that CAT has created jobs for Aboriginal people through a policy it has with contractors: "If a contractor wins a contract, for example to build an airstrip or a road, they must employ Aboriginal people.
"This is in operation in Derby, WA, as part of the Essential Service Program we manage.
"On most contracts we can get a maximum of two people employed over six to eight months. We've got 29 contracts running at the moment and up to 58 Aboriginal workers employed.
"The future is in being able to forge partnerships between Aboriginal people and small business to carry out work in communities. For example, for air conditioning maintenance, house construction and power supplies."
Dr Walker cites the example of how CAT works in partnership with Rio Tinto in an annual program to encourage Indigenous students to look at science and technology as a career. Twenty-five students participate each year," says Dr Walker. The number that take up science as a career is unknown. But we are pleased to have working with us Seth McCann, an Indigenous cadet who has made that career choice and is studying a science degree at James Cook University, plus another Indigenous woman [in year 10] due to start work in Derby shortly as a trainee."
The fellowship program organises eight practical projects to be completed every year with Rio Tinto. Successful projects last year included installing a VHF radio for telecommunications and the construction of the Ngallaganda Crossing off the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley.
The project employed the services of local Aborigines. The contractor is an Indigenous man who owns Smart Contracting and he employs up to four local Aboriginal people at any one time," explains Dr Walker. Another local contractor working on our other projects employs five to eight Aboriginal people depending on the size of the job."
A memorandum of understanding has also been set up with the Ali Curung community.
"We will work with them over a number of years to suggest a business plan for new basketball facilities, improvements to homemaker facilities, bough shelters and an undercover machinery area."
The future of employment for Aboriginal people lies in the hands of Desert Knowledge, argues Dr walker: "It's harder to move into partnerships when communities are fully dependent on a welfare framework.
"The economy in Central Australia is heavily impacted by government funding. That's why CAT got involved with Desert Knowledge. If there's a future for Aboriginal employment it's not in primary industry, it's in knowledge-based and service-based industries. Primary industry is a volatile environment affected by, for example, market prices and freight costs."
Dr Walker cites research by John Taylor at the Australian National University: " Taylor comments that by 2015 the working age population of Aboriginal people will have increased by 24 per cent across desert Australia. We're not going to address that by relying on pastoralism or mining. We need to explore a broad range of approaches, spending taxpayers' money in the NT developing options. Service-based industries are less volatile and that's what the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is looking at.
"CAT has left behind the dunnies and chip heaters and moved to a service focus. Judging by comments received from last week's Expo, businesses in Alice Springs are ready to support that.
"No one's invested in knowledge yet but we know it has to be invested in now to provide benefits in the future.
"Desert Knowledge is developing projects to run over the next five years based on partnerships that research new ways of operating small businesses on Aboriginal lands and new livelihood opportunities that contribute to the national interest.
"For example, fire management partnerships across the desert, protecting Australia's quarantine objectives and bio-security through feral animal and weed control, and extending the concept of a ‘park ranger' to one of a land steward or natural heritage investment manager. This research will open new employment opportunities across desert Australia in the way that land care activities have begun to open new opportunities for pastoralists across Australia's agricultural lands."
When asked how much funding CAT is given from the public purse, Dr Walker said: "I don't think that's necessary for you to know. "Continuing to scare people about the false dichotomy between indigenous and non-indigenous money will ultimately lead to the demise of small business in Central Australia. Most private businesses are beneficiaries of public money and taxpayers' dollars as well – every major road project carried out by a private contractor, for example."
He did explain that: "60 per cent comes from the Commonwealth, 20 per cent from Territory government and 20 per cent from private investment." The CAT annual report states that the total income for the organisation is $6,540,585, and $5,459,031 of that is made up from grants. Dr Walker: "CAT has been successful in winning competitive tenders against criteria specified by people who want the work done. Telstra has given us funding to develop the Community Access Telephone to cover standard plastic phones in communities to protect them." Twenty units are to be installed in Central Australia.
"The Desert Peoples Centre is a major capital works project ($20m). If we weren't here, that money wouldn't be here. The Desert Knowledge CRC is worth $94m over seven years, Bushlight is worth $24m over four years. In 20 years people will appreciate Desert Knowledge."

NEW BATCHELOR - GO AND GET IT! Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Batchelor Institute will place greater demands on its students, emphasise English and maths, and become a bridge to the "dominant culture" under the leadership of Rosalie Kunoth Monks.
An Alice Springs native title holder (in the Mbantua kinship group and one of the 30 members of Lhere Artepe), an elder of Utopia, and star 50 years ago of the movie classic "Jedda", Ms Kunoth Monks has been the deputy chair of the institute since the death in May last year of Top End leader Gatjil Jerkurra.
She expects her formal appointment as chair will occur in the next few days.
The council of the institute, now 30 years old, during a meeting at Glen Helen last week accepted the resignation of the director, Veronica Arbon, an Aboriginal woman with roots in the Oodnadatta area.
Says Ms Kunoth Monks: "She has served us ably but now needs time out for herself to complete her PhD."
The institute has about 2800 students from throughout Australia and offers vocational courses, as well as higher education including diplomas, degrees and post graduate studies.
The main campuses are at Batchelor south of Darwin and in Alice Springs.
Tom Evison, the coordinator of the Central Australian campus, says Batchelor also has five purpose built study centres and about 40 other study spaces, which range from a single classroom to a few rooms, in communities across the NT.
Ms Kunoth Monks says the institute needs to become more "efficient and get closer to our [Indigenous] core client group.
"We have to bring them in touch with the dominant culture.
"To make life worth while and to find some kind of sustainability, people have to have education to compete with the rest.
"The NT is a unique place in the nation simply because it's a tourist destination and the ancient Indigenous culture can play a positive role.
"The only way we can do that is by communication.
"Indigenous people must become responsible for obtaining education from the dominant culture."
Ms Kunoth Monks says this includes "the responsibility of mothers and fathers to ensure their children are fed and ready for school, every school day.
"If you're an adult and you sign up to do a course, you do not come in and play around in town.
"You ensure that you complete the course that you have undertaken to do.
"I think the days are over when we say ‘I think this is good for you and I'm going to give it to you.'
"It hasn't worked."
In the Utopia community north-east of Alice Springs, where Ms Kunoth Monks lives, "we talk to the senior men first" before sending students to courses, and the elders "make sure the students are in that car, or when a lecturer comes, they attend the course".
Batchelor will play an even greater role when the Desert People's Centre comes on stream.
"That to me is a real catalyst for change," says Ms Kunoth Monks.
"In my three years [as chair] I'm going to encourage Indigenous people to have the hunger to seek out education.
"Come in, request and take advantage of what is available."
How many people have passed courses at Batchelor and how many have obtained mainstream jobs?
According to Mr Evison, "virtually all of our VET and higher education graduates are employed."
Ms Kunoth Monks says the institute council wants to see an improvement, with advancements in English and maths being vital.
"We can do it. I think Aboriginal people are the most adaptable people in the world."
She says Batchelor, so far, has laid the groundwork.
"I think our people became a bit more acutely aware of how essential it is for us to belong to the two cultures."
How will "mainstreaming" of Aboriginal funding, in the wake of ATSIC's demise, affect Batchelor Institute?
"I think we have good will in the government. I really believe that," says Ms Kunoth Monks.
"Even with Amanda Vanstone, I believe if you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, within reason, I think they'll look at it.
"I have faith in that.
"Batchelor plays a fantastic role, empowering and enabling a section of our humanity.
"It has the capacity to enable people to grow up and reach their potential.
"We can't go on the way we have in the last 40 years."

DOES LABOR RELY ON WOMEN CANDIDATES? Report by ALEX NELSON.
History shows that Labor's best chances of winning seats in Alice Springs (with one notable exception, Michael Bowden) lies in choosing well-known women as candidates.
However, will the electorate "buy" Mayor Fran Kilgariff, given that last year she offered to serve a four-year term on the town council?
The preselection of high profile female candidates, Alison Anderson for the bush seat of MacDonnell and Ms Kilgariff for Greatorex, displays the hallmark of Chief Minister Clare Martin's method of targeting individual electorates that was a prominent feature of the last election campaign.
Having swept the northern suburb electorates of Darwin in 2001, it is clear this successful approach is being tried further afield.
The two candidates will challenge the male CLP politicians John Elferink (MacDonnell) and Richard Lim (Greatorex) while a relatively unknown John Gaynor has been preselected by Labor to contest Araluen against the CLP's sitting member Jodeen Carney.
The Araluen by-election of April 1986 was a two-way contest between CLP novice Eric Poole and Labor's Di Shanahan, the latter candidate achieving a mighty swing of 16 per cent in her favour yet insufficient to win the seat.
Ms Shanahan contested Araluen again in the Territory elections of March 1987 and polled well but Mr Poole now benefited from incumbency and strengthened his grip on the seat.
The neighbouring electorate of Sadadeen was the focus of a bitter contest between the MLA Denis Collins, who ran as an independent after losing CLP preselection, and his usurper, lawyer Shane Stone, and also (along with all other electorates) a candidate from the NT Nationals.The Labor candidate was Meredith Campbell.
The four-way contest in Sadadeen produced a remarkable result, for Meredith Campbell came second in primary votes to Denis Collins and ahead of Shane Stone, becoming the first ALP candidate (to my knowledge) to beat the CLP in an urban Alice Springs seat (Collins retained the seat).
In 1988 Labor's Di Shanahan contested the Flynn by-election and topped the poll with a 20 per cent swing towards her but the NT Nationals' Enzo Floreani won on the distribution of preferences from CLP candidate June Tuzewski.
This was the pinnacle of the ALP's achievements in the Alice.
There followed a drought until Labor's Kerrie Nelson (no relation) ran for Greatorex in 1994 in a strong campaign against Denis Collins, also challenged by the CLP's Dr Richard Lim.
I was heavily involved in this contest, during which there was a strong sense of déją vu, as it was similar to the Flynn by-election of 1988.
As it turned out, Denis Collins polled lowest and his preferences ensured Richard Lim took the seat.
Labor wasted a golden opportunity in Braitling in 1994, as the long-serving Roger Vale retired from politics and the CLP lost the advantage of incumbency.
If Kerrie Nelson had run for Braitling against then CLP candidate Loraine Braham, the result would have been very close, in my view.
This was amply demonstrated in 2001, when events turned full circle with the retirement of Eric Poole from Araluen.
The CLP chose lawyer Jodeen Carney, who had been an important figure in the preselection struggle that led to the CLP's dumping of Loraine Braham in Braitling (shades of Sadadeen in 1987).
Ironically, Labor had chosen a female candidate, Liz Scott, for Araluen but she had to withdraw shortly before the election campaign.
Mike Bowden filled the breach and, had he had enough time for campaigning, probably would have taken the seat.
Labor's problem for this year's campaign is that all incumbent members of the Central Australian electorates are standing for re-election.
History shows that the status quo is likely to remain.
[The writer was a member of the CLP between 1984 and 1995, and a financial life member from 1987 onwards.
Alex Nelson resigned from the party because he says "I believed the party was not acting in the interests of the Territory, and was not honest and accountable."]

LETTERS: I'M UNASHAMEDLY PRO-BUSINESS: ALD STEWART.
Sir,– Thank God for democracy and freedom of speech! It's with this in mind that I reply to Charlie Carter, Alice Springs News, March 16.
Anyone who knows me, Charlie, understands that I am straight as a die. When they put the lid on my coffin, I'll be carrying my radio, mobile phone, St Kilda badge, and my principles. The group of independent businesspeople that recently approached me to stand for the seat of Braitling are some of the people who have been totally deserted by your increasingly irrelevant Labor Party, particularly at the federal level. Hence, your demolition at the last national poll.
Your party fails to understand that the industrial scene has changed and the working class of yesterday, in increasing numbers, are now either subcontracting or working their arses off in a small business.
You referred to whether or not this group of businesspeople were in the mix in my short term efforts to make the ALP in Alice Springs a relevant player in today's world.
I'm sorry to say, Charlie, but my supporter base has grown well beyond those levels, and my decision to leave the branch was based on a determined progressive, belief in Alice Springs' future that is not shackled to a party.
The last meeting I attended at the Alice Springs branch bordered on a comedy show. Prior to the meeting, two men discussing the weekend's football results were berated and asked if they were going to continue "talking boys' games today".
In general business, one of the members waxed lyrical and received a rousing reception when he recited some long failed socialist doctrine from a bygone era.
And hell, silence certainly descended over the meeting when I dared suggest that at the upcoming Territory conference we apply pressure to the Federal Party to drop the unfair dismissal legislation where it applies to small business.
I have to say, there were some progressives within the ranks whom I both admire and respect. They've frequently called me, urging me to stand for president and assist them in reforming the party.
However, on principle, I declined as I am not only unashamedly pro-business but I also am totally opposed to the "poor bugger me" Indigenous syndrome perpetuated by the healthy band of social engineers that remained within the ranks.
My commentary and my actions will continue to be honest, upfront, and directed towards a progressive, dynamic, and inclusive Alice Springs future. This approach, I know, is foreign when dealing with the murky world of politics. My supporters will soon have a voice and I will ensure that they are heard.
Charlie, why don't you climb aboard? You're one of the town's achievers. Stay tuned.
Ald Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

Unsafe practice

Sir,– I write in reference to the front-page photo (Alice Springs News, March 16) showing playwright Michael Watts working on renovation of the Totem Theatre. The lack of work safe practice and the possibility for a horrendous accident leaves me gob-smacked. A plank in resting on two off-balance plastic crates while Mr Watts is ostensibly using a large angle grinder, against a length of metal, with sparks flying. He is not concentrating on the job because he appears to be looking at the camera, wearing welding glasses. If one of those crates tipped over or slipped at all, quite possibly that angle grinder would slice into his thigh quicker than lightning. With a major artery involved, Mr Watts could be dead within minutes from blood loss.
Surely, a sawhorse or some secure workbench is called for, and why not clear, protective glasses or goggles so that the field of vision is unimpaired. His off-sider appears not to be using any protective gear.
Mr Watts' intentions are laudable; his work safety is lamentable.
P Nelson
Alice Springs

Comedy of manners

Sir,– I just read Mr Fisher's column (Mar 9). As one that will soon be living in Alice Springs and being a southern gentleman, I had to take a step back and consider what type of culture shock the McAllister family (there are five of us) are going to endure.
My family lived in Japan for seven years and the only difference was the language barrier. Are you saying that I am going to live (by choice of course) in an English speaking (Aussie dialect) country and practice in the mirror not to say "thank you" or offer a visitor a beverage?
If this is so, could you send me more "OK-to-do's" and "do-not's" in and about Alice Springs so that my family will be well prepared (with mirrors in hand). I'm sure this is not your regular job, but as one who understands that one needs indoctrination before one makes an ass on oneself, could you forward me a few notes?
Thanks in advance ... ooops, was I not to say thank you?
Charles McAllister
Florida, USA

Happy holiday

Sir,– I was on holiday in Alice Springs a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was only going to stay two nights and ended up extending my visit to six nights – very relaxing and a lovely hotel, helpful staff (Mercure Inn Oasis).
Alice Springs is a very special place and I hope one day to return, maybe on the train from Darwin this time.
Carole Markham
Carole.Markham@nio.x.gsi.gov.uk

ST PAT'S RACES DRAW BIG CROWD. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The St Patrick's Day meeting caught caterers and administrators at Pioneer Park by surprise when an enthusiastic crowd passed through the turnstiles.
And in the running of the five-event card the enthusiasm was far from dampened.
In the first race of the day, an 1100 metre canter saw Haunting Chant notch up a third consecutive win.
The Barry Huppatz-ridden galloper shared the front running with Classic Rainbow and Daka's Babe but by the turn was able to shake the opposition off and head for home a four and a quarter length winner.
Nigel Moody's Skippin and Jumpin came from last to account for all but the winner while three quarters of a length away in third place was Inca Miss.
The boilover of the day then came when the heavily supported Marzotto was beaten on the line over 1200 metres.
Marzotto, as expected, led in the running and was a good four lengths in front before starting to paddle in the straight.
Shrewd Ace (an outsider in the betting) found its feet at about the 500 metre mark and despite preferring to take the outside running was able to grab the favourite on the line to win by half a neck. Meanwhile the stable mate of the winner was able to do enough to hold on for third.
Kevin Lamprecht then notched up a winner when Picayune proved to be too good over the 1200 metres.
Kings Alley set the pace early establishing a one length lead over I Scream and Regal Rose. Picayune settled nicely in fifth position and waited for an opportune run.
The chance duly came and Huppatz took full advantage of the offering surging his charge to the lead.
Picayune then went to the line a winner by two lengths from Kings Alley.
A half head behind in third position was the honest Saratoga Boy in third place.Nigel Moody then had good reason to smile when Bevan saluted in the fourth race, the St Patrick's Day Cup. Run over 1400 metres, the pace was on early with Darowby Livewire leading the field. Murphy's Law and Le Saint kept things honest in second and third place, while Bevan tailed the field. Darowby Livewire looked the goods as they set sail for home, but in the straight found the going too tough to maintain the rage.
Bevan who had made his move from the six hundred metre mark bolted to the lead and went on to win by six lengths.
The veteran Le Saint kept giving plenty to claim second spot while Southern Renegade finished a further length behind in third place. Darowby Livewire weakened to finish fourth.The day finished with a win to a horse jockey Paul Denton rates.
Over the 1000 metre dash, The Snarling Dog proved too strong to win by two and three quarter lengths.
The Terry Gillett trained pair of Abetacrew and Dodoma set the track alight leaving the field to settle and bide their time. In straightening The Snarling Dog had plenty of petrol left in the tank and slipped away frommthe field. Sports Nut who had been well supported in the ring worked its way home well to fill second place while Fiery Prospect picked up the cheque for third.The whips will be cracking at Pioneer Park with racing every week through to the Carnival.

CRICKET: FEDS SMASH WEST. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
To win a premiership grand final is something you never forget.
At the weekend, A Grade cricket saw the Federal Club record back-to-back premierships, after having also claimed their third successive one-day championship. Adding to the win was the fact that they also brought the flag home in the Colts Grade.
But the Feds v West scores were reversed in the B Grade match.
In the premium competition, conditions were ideal at Albrecht Oval for the season decider, with Federal the minor premiers pitched against the post-Christmas side to watch, West.
West batted first. Peter Tabart and Shannon Vaughan opened with the partnership soon coming to an end when Vaughan was judged run out for 3.
Rory Hood, who has been in scintillating form of late, came to the wicket with the expectation of big things to come. Alas Tom Clements delivered him a clever cherry that resulted in a sharp catch going the way of Blain Cornford and a major scalp was claimed.
Jeremy Bigg was then frightfully unlucky in copping a shooter of a ball that was well nigh unplayable. This sent Bigg back to the pavilion with a quack next to his name, while Tabart maintained his position until given LBW, when 23 off yet another Clements delivery.
Daniel Cook instigated something of resurgence for West by compiling a solid 44 and keeping the middle order in shape. He was eventually claimed by Brendan Martin, catching off a Jarrad Wapper tweeker.
Otherwise it was a pretty sad day for West as Kevin Mezzone was caught and bowled Michael Smith for 8 and skipper Darren Clark could only manage 7 before Allan Rowe had him caught by BJ O'Dwyer.
Peter Ryan was able to put together 16 before being given LBW off Wapper and Ben Reichstein was bowled by Rowe for 7. Mark Bramley's duck to a Wapper delivery did not help, while Ryan Thomson remained not out also on a globe.
Hence West were dismissed for a paltry 119 off 48 overs. Best with the ball was Clements who struck early and effectively taking 3/15 off 5 overs. Wapper also returned three wickets, this time for 16 off 11 overs and Allan Rowe chimed in with 2/31 off 16. Smith was the other wicket taker claiming 1/33 off 11 overs.
Federal went to the crease with a task at hand, but in any language not a difficult one. By stumps in fact they had virtually put the icing on the cake. They went home at 3/79, with Mike Smith on 21 and Tom Clements also undefeated on 28.
David Overall (5) fell early to Jeremy Bigg by virtue of a Shannon Vaughan catch. Fellow opener Brendan Martin (4) also went cheaply this time to a Rory Hood delivery that was adjudged LBW. The gun Blain Cornford also registered as a statistic with 15 before being caught by Darren Clark off Bigg.
Play on Sunday saw the two overnight batsmen dismissed for the addition of only seven runs. However the Federal depth quickly became evident as Brendan O'Dwyer adopted the anchor role and steered his side to victory.
Rick Shiell did his bit in scoring 12 before a Hood delivery had him caught by Vaughan, while another Hood ball, six runs later snapped up Jarrad Wapper, caught Peter Ryan for 1.
O'Dwyer however then found a soulmate in Chris Clements and the result was put beyond doubt. O'Dwyer ended the innings not out on 28 and Clements also not out on 11, with Federal 7/138 off 53 overs.
Rory Hood again showed his value returning 5/57 off 21 overs while Jeremy Bigg took the other 2 for 41 off 18 overs.
The B Grade match at Head Street ended with a reverse result. Again it was Federal and West. At the end of play on day one Federal was cock of the hoop having dismissed their opponents for 195. Craig Galvin sat at the top of the perch having claimed 7/39. In the elimination the week before Feds showed their capability to score 300, but in the final this was not to be.
Federal were bundled out for 114. Kym Dick rose to the occasion claiming five scalps, leaving Feds with rookie Peter Rolfe as their top scorer with 24.
In C Grade West also had a game they would rather forget. The Rover Club, which has battled this season, claimed a sense of achievement when they dismissed West for 66 and went on to win the match losing only seven wickets.
The Colts Grand final is probably second to the A Grade as a significant event as it provides input into our players of the future. Federal and RSL came up against each other at Albrecht Oval with Federal securing the flag thanks to an innings that registered 155 runs. Daniel Gardiner with 45 and Peter Rolfe (18) got Feds off to a reasonable start with second drop Andrew North chiming in with 22. Late in the innings it was Kielarn Quan (15) and Jake Fallonberg (24) who propped the Feds tail up. With the ball Jake Morton and Roy Graham were effective taking three wickets each.
RSL's chances were then blown away as a result of a grand bowling performance from David Thomas. He claimed 5/12 off 5 overs to clean up the RSL tail.
Earlier in the innings Rolfe, Quan and Sam Day had their opponents reeling at 3/19 taking a wicket each. In the middle order Daniel Gardiner proved his potential with 2/12. In scoring 75 RSL had Roy Graham top score with 22 and Asha Kanaan support him with 14.

GO AND EXPLORE A DRAIN. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
It's peculiar how adults can spend their days doing complicated tasks like preparing landscaping quotes or repairing engines or theorising about desert knowledge, but when they get home they have to ask their twelve year-old how to operate the satellite television.
This shows that being a grown-up is just a charade. So long as you say the right things at the right time and hold yourself in the right way, you can get away with forgetting a set of basic instructions that you've been told several times already. It also makes hanging onto childhood even more important than I thought it was. After all, adulthood is not all its cracked up to be.
The reason I mention this now is that I heard about a disturbing study that shows the average age of viewers of the children's series Sesame Street has been dropping steadily over the last decade. Sesame Street used to be watched by four and five year-olds. Now it is enjoyed by three and four year-olds. The bitter truth is that you hit your fifth birthday and you're over the hill or, at least, far too sophisticated for the overgrown birds and biscuit creatures of Sesame Street. The same applies to Thomas the Tank Engine, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder, long-time favourites whose appeal is being damaged by the acceleration of childhood.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but all this makes me deeply melancholic. Even more so a documentary I saw about working lives that featured an interview with a man who had spent forty years toiling behind the scenes on a range of children's television shows. His specialisms were puppets and backdrops. Having decided to retire, the interviewer asked what had maintained his commitment all these years. A tear welling up in my eye as well as his, the old man explained through a barely-audible hoarse whisper that childhood is far too short and so his job was to make it as much fun as possible.
The childhood years are being squeezed. I tell my bored children to go and explore a drain or make something out of scrap and they look at me like I'm the Cookie Monster. So, at the risk of making this week's column a parenthood manual (let's face it, the world has enough), I reckon that the one objective of we clueless parents should be to prolong childhood. Forget all that hogwash about making them stand on their own feet and to get a job at Hungry Jacks. All in good time, I say. Please, let's go fly a kite or make something or other from paper maché. I don't much care what it is.
If you too are troubled by the shrinkage of childhood, then consider whether being in Central Australia makes any difference.
Can a few years in the Alice or Tennant Creek extract even a handful of weeks from the ration of childhood that we give up so prematurely. Do children have greater opportunities to do childish things like explore rock formations and make ant farms from lemonade bottles? Can they improvise games with tip shop scrap and run around carefree in spinifex-strewn paddocks?
My experience may be limited, but I'm afraid that the answer is no. Sure, children can do all these things, but nothing is going to persuade them outside in this weather and if I try to set a good example, then I do it on my own. Even worse, the time available to have any influence your children is shrinking too.
Soon, the space between weaning them and providing advice about the opposite sex will be all of three weeks.
Now I'm really melancholic.
Anyone fancy a game of snakes and ladders? No, I didn't think so.
steve@afishoutofwater.com

Writing an ode to a louse. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
I will never forget the summer I had head lice.
I was nine years old and washing my hair when I noticed these little creatures falling into the bath. I grabbed one and took it to show my dad who promptly got the encyclopaedia and the magnifying glass out. Comparing the creature to a picture in the book he read out "head-louse" with a bemused look on his face.
Although head lice had been common enough when my grandparents were young my father had never seen one before. I think he had thought that they were extinct. He went out for a while and came back with lice poison from the pharmacy. I had very long hair and a bad dose of lice. It was a nightmare. Later in the summer holidays we visited our cousins in a different part of the country. While we were driving to the beach, all six kids without seat belts in the back, I discovered to my horror that my youngest cousin had head lice.
When the summer was finally over and we went back to school the first thing that happened was that the school nurse checked everybody's hair and I was treated again for good measure. Since then I have never been able to think about head lice without feeling physically sick and itchy all over. Not until my latest encounter in Alice Springs, that is.
About a week ago I found a louse in my youngest daughter's hair and without a moment's hesitation I put her in the bath and fetched the lice shampoo from the cupboard. I just dealt with it and afterwards I realised that I'm now over my lice phobia. Since my children started school I have come across lice a number of times and even reading the warning notes sent home from school has been difficult. Not only did I relive that horrible summer but sub-consciously I also felt that if I had had lice I had done something wrong and if my children got them I had failed as a mother.
A recent TV series on ABC, The Body Snatchers, has helped me look at the world and the creatures we share it with in a different way. We are starting to understand the parasites that live around us and inside us better and to appreciate how clever they are. At least head lice are visible to the naked eye and possible to get rid of.
But although treatment of the lice is quite easy, our attitudes and fears are harder to treat.
A friend who moved with her kids to Canberra thought that she would be able to escape head lice but found them in schools there as well. It is maybe natural to think that our problems are area specific and that other parts of the country would be better to live in for a number of reasons. Or that it is a specific situation that is bad, not our way of dealing with it. However unpleasant something is it is better to drag it out into the light and face it. Learn about it and deal with it. Know thy enemy and thy fears.
My skin no longer crawls at the mention of the word lice and after a long hospital stay I no longer have a needle phobia. I have learnt that I can come to terms with the unpleasant and the difficult. Wherever I go and wherever I choose to live in this world I bring my emotional past with me. We can run but we cannot hide.

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