ALICE WOMEN AT CLP HELM: SALVO FROM NEW PRESIDENT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Country Liberal Party's new president elected on Saturday, Alice Springs resident Jenny Mostran, lost no time landing some heavy punches on the NT Government.
"Our membership has been attacked in both business and the public sector," she says.
"There are constantly stories of people seen to be attending CLP meetings, being brought to account in the public sector, or people are not winning contracts because they are seen to be aligned with the CLP.
"People are not getting positions because they are aligned with the CLP.
"It is an absolute disgrace."
What can be done about that?
"It is a huge problem," says Mrs Mostran.
"You only need to look at the ability of our public sector.
"We've lost the decision making capacity in Alice Springs.
"People are fearful for their jobs.
"They face the wrath of the Labor government. People are being passed over for promotions.
"But they will not intimidate me.
"My job is to gather support for the CLP in whichever way.
"I applaud people for supporting us, in whichever way.
"I completely understand that they cannot come out publicly and support the CLP if their livelihoods are at stake.
"I will be happy to stand up for them.
"The government will not put me off."
The plucky business woman, in town for 30 years and having run, with her husband, a lucrative fuel retail and wholesale business for more than 25 years, won the CLP's top job despite speculation it would - again - go to a Darwin person.
It's not since the Everingham-Heaslip era some 25 years ago that both the party's president and the parliamentary leader are from Alice Springs, the birthplace of the CLP, although Mr Everingham moved to Darwin.
Never have there been two women in these top jobs.
Mrs Mostran has had a run in public life as an alderman for a four-year term.
Significantly, she will be a spirited sparring partner for Mayor Fran Kilgariff, the most heavily promoted - albeit unsuccessful - ALP candidate for Greatorex.
Mrs Mostran stood against Ms Kilgariff in the mayoral race in 2000, was streets ahead on primary votes but missed out by nine votes on preferences.
Mrs Mostran is currently studying for a business degree.
She spoke to Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
NEWS: Everyone expected another Darwin president.
Mrs MOSTRAN: The CLP has gone against the way it's always been. Now's the time to do things a little bit differently.
I'm passionate about the Territory, and for it to go forward it needs the CLP back in government.
NEWS: What are the main policies you will be focussing on?
Mrs MOSTRAN: We have very good policies but unfortunately we didn't tell anyone about them. It's really about communication and about respect. We have got to listen to Territorians.
NEWS: The government wants to hand over the national parks to Aboriginal ownership. How will you respond to this?
Mrs MOSTRAN: The parks issue was fought very vigourously. If the media don't want to grab it, it's very difficult.
It was not seen as the major issue that it is. We're selling our children's birth right.
NEWS: The town council has now bought into the issue. Do you have the kind of pull required in Canberra to stop the process?
Mrs MOSTRAN: Senator Nigel Scullion and MLA David Tollner have been working very hard on this issue even when it wasn't picked up by the press. It has been and will continue to be fought in Canberra.
NEWS: How will you be running the party from Alice Springs?
Mrs MOSTRAN: We are part of the Territory. The Top End forgets that but we don't. My background lends itself to rebuilding organisations and my commitment is to do that, and I can do that from Alice Springs. I've run businesses operating throughout the Territory from here. I see it as no different.
NEWS: Does the party instruct its politicians on policy issues?
Mrs MOSTRAN: Good governance means you cannot instruct anybody about how to vote. It's the same in corporate governance. We have a position, we have a party policy, and once that policy is there then that is the way our Members of Parliament vote. But we don't direct them how to act in a parliamentary debate.
NEWS: Why not? After all you endorse the candidates?
Mrs MOSTRAN: They are the people who hear both sides of the debate. They have our guidelines and our guidance but they are elected to do a job. We are elected to be the eyes and ears of the community. We are here to help the parliamentary wing to develop policies.
NEWS: Are the politicians subject to instructions from the party?
Mrs MOSTRAN: It's a partnership between the party, the Northern Territory parliamentary wing and the federal politicians.
NEWS: Who gets their way if there is a disagreement?
Mrs MOSTRAN: There is always vigourous debate which is resolved in a democratic way. It is an equal partnership. We cannot be effective without each other.
NEWS: In the last elections you had a parliamentary leader manifestly incapable of getting his point across. The proof is the disastrous election result.
Mrs MOSTRAN: It's not just one person who leads to the loss of an election and it won't be one person who regains government. It will be a team. I'm about facilitating the team.
Meanwhile the CLP has appointed a Territory director, Craig Rutherford, who is originally from North Queensland and has relocated to Darwin.
He has worked most recently in Sydney. His career path has included being a Police Prosecutor with the Queensland Police Service and working for Wesley Mission (Sydney).
ASIAN WORKERS TAKE JOBS LOCAL ABORIGINES WON'T. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Neil Ross, the principal of Ross Engineering in Elder Street, is used to getting - if he's lucky - one application in response to a nation-wide search for welders.
Then he found himself sitting in a room surrounded by 25 of them, all keen to work for him.
No, Mr Ross hadn't passed prematurely through the pearly gates.
But he did have to fly Singapore to solve his labour problem, the significant unemployment in his hometown notwithstanding.
Mr Ross says this needs to be qualified: There is high "Aboriginal" unemployment in Alice Springs, while among work ready people there is "virtually nil unemployment".
Committed to offering apprenticeships (he has currently seven) and indigenous employment, Mr Ross has long been trying to solve the problem, and so has Peter "Strachy" Strachan, who heads up the Tangentyere Job Shop, catering mainly to Aborigines.
Mr Ross says those Aborigines who persist finish up as very highly skilled people, "especially with welding".
"They have this natural ability.
"The issues aren't really whether they can do the task. Often the issues stem from having troubles at home.
"All the social issues come in to make it impossible at work for them."
At the moment Mr Ross has one Aboriginal person who completed his trade with him: He's not a local, but from Queensland.
Mr Ross and Mr Strachan have been in touch for years but seem no closer to getting a handle on the absurd situation: local unemployed Aborigines have access to training and, ultimately, highly paid skilled work on offer around the corner.
These jobs are now going to Chinese and Indians who are willing to pay their way to Australia, and saddle themselves with significant debts to emigration agents, to get the same jobs.
Mr Ross says he's embarked on the recruitment process upon "encouragement" from the Australian Government, and found it "reasonably straight forward".
The only expense was a trip to Singapore for himself and his operations manager, David Rilstone.
The Chinese and Indians they were interviewing had been working in Singapore shipyards: "They've been there for a few years," says Mr Ross.
"You don't get to stay there if you're an idiot.
"Their current wages are lots better than in India and China, but well below Australia."
ACCEPTANCE The Australian authorities approved the immigration of two Indians within about four months.
Mr Ross says he has no worries about their acceptance by the Alice community: "They're mad keen cricketers."
Two Chinese applicants are not yet approved, says Mr Ross, and it appears that "background checks take a lot longer, a lot more vetting is required".
On the face of it, the reluctance of the local job seekers is hard to fathom: a welding apprenticeship - and there's one been on offer at Ross Engineering for some time now - takes around three years.
The training wage starts at about $7 an hour, increasing "fairly quickly" as skills build up, leading to a $40,000 to $50,000 a year job, in demand right across Australia.
"Contrast it with a university student," says Mr Ross.
"At 21 he's still four or five years away from really meaningful employment, and the HECS fees he will owe can be in the tens of thousands of dollars."
Mr Strachan says there are several obstacles.
Firstly, there are relatively few apprenticeships being offered across the trades: "Only some employers invest in the starting point" of the training process.
"Years ago there used to be tech schools in some cases producing these sorts of skills," says Mr Strachan.
"Australia is now in fact coming back to the technical college approach.
"In the first run there is going to be one in Darwin but none in Alice Springs.
"There are only going to be 20 nationally, as I understand it."
Tangentyere has a builders' training program that's been running for three years, starting with 24 apprentices.
But that program gets its money from government grants for Aboriginal housing.
To start, say, a welder from scratch, while he's not attached to a project generating money, is costly.
"The works department at Tangentyere hasn't been operating for quite a while because the costs of running it without the ongoing contracts to cover the work meant it was just not viable," says Mr Strachan.
"It was costing the organisation far too much."
Only Charles Darwin University and "possibly" the Centre for Appropriate Technology are now set up for trade training.
The other question is money: Aborigines are either unwilling or unable to make a long term commitment with low pay at the beginning, despite the prospect of excellent pay down the track - not even all that far down the track.
Says Mr Strachan: "For some people the wage can be as low as $6 an hour.
"That might be OK if you're 16, fresh out of school and don't have any responsibilities.
"But if you're older and have a family then it's a vastly different issue.
"That's part of the competition for employment.
"If a person can get more money working at MacDonald's or somewhere else, that meets their needs, then no matter how much they want to be a welder, and no matter how much they may earn in five or ten years' time, it's the immediate needs that often win out.
"You'd be mad if you didn't take up a welding apprenticeship but people don't always make their decisions based on what's for the long term good."
Says Mr Ross: "Apprenticeship wages are certainly on the table, for anyone, white or black.
"I think the standard award for apprentices is too low, that's 35 per cent of the award wage.
"The award may be $15 an hour, for example.
"Most tradesmen get at least $20 an hour, and 35 per cent of $20 is perhaps more realistic.
"But that's only for a few months because as they progress through the training the wages are building up fairly quickly.
"There is more recognition now of the attractiveness of trades than there used to be."
RAISE BOOZE PRICES, SAYS ACADEMIC. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
A new review of the Territory's innovative but now defunct Living With Alcohol program has confirmed that alcohol taxation is the most important mechanism for reducing alcohol consumption and associated harm.
In the Northern Territory as elsewhere in Australia, alcohol is second only to tobacco as a cause for preventable deaths, and the federal government has been called upon to do something about it.
The Ministerial Council on Drugs Strategy, which brings together all state and territory health and police ministers as well as their federal counterparts, will hear from the National Drug Research Institute the case for action in seven areas. Reform of alcohol taxation is at the top of the list, says the institute's Associate Professor Dennis Gray.
Existing research from Australia and overseas already pointed to this, he says, but this latest review of the Living With Alcohol program, by Tanya Chikritzhs, Tim Stockwell and Richard Pascal, underlines once more the effectiveness of alcohol taxation. As many will remember,
Living With Alcohol initially imposed a levy on all alcoholic beverages and later an additional levy on cask wine, which were used to fund intervention programs. The levie, together with state liquor licensing fees, were found to be unconstitutional in 1997. The High Court ruled that it was a form of excise duty, which under the constitution only the Commonwealth is allowed to impose.
The levies were dropped. Past evaluations of Living With Alcohol established that alcohol consumption had fallen while the levies were in place, as had one of the key indicators of harm, acute alcohol-related deaths. The question has always been, says Prof Gray, was it the levies, the programs, or a combination of both that produced this desirable result. If it had been the programs, which continued after the levies were removed, the decline in acute alcohol-related deaths would have been expected to continue.
However, Chikritzhs, Stockwell and Pascal have shown that in fact those deaths again increased.
The conclusion is that while the programs had some effect, the levy had the greatest effect. "If state and territory ministers are serious about reducing alcohol-related harm," says Prof Gray, "they will put pressure on the federal government as part of a new national alcohol strategy to introduce alcohol taxation."
The best model, he argues, is a tiered volumetric tax. Beverages would be classified according to alcohol content, as light, medium, heavy.
The amount of tax would increase in line with the amount of alcohol, thus using price to promote low alcohol drinks. Prof Gray argues against targeting specific products, such as cask wine, because of the problem of substitution. He points to what happened during Alice Springs' now infamous trial ban on large casks of wine, without controlling other products.
The introduction of two litre casks of port completely undermined the trial.
"With a tiered system all beverages are taxed equally," says Prof Gray.
However, relative prices of wines would change. At present tax on wine is based on the cost of production, which means that premium winegrowers pay much more than those who produce wine for sale in casks.
If all wine was taxed on the basis of alcohol content, cask wine prices would increase and premium wine prices would be expected to decrease.
Prof Gray is expecting the premium wine producers to support the taxation reform proposals, but there will be stiff opposition from the other end of the industry. He says the South Australian Government is strongly opposed because of the economic impact on large parts of the Riverland area devoted to cheap wine production.
The National Drug Research Institute is also calling for stronger law enforcement in two key areas.
One is serving alcohol to intoxicated people and minors. Prof Gray says intelligence-based policing in Western Australia is making an important advance in this area.
In recording traffic accidents and assaults police are required to also record the place where the people involved had their last drink. The collated evidence shows that a small number of licensed premises are involved in a high proportion of alcohol-related incidents. This allows police to take effective action against those premises. The institute recommends that this system should be adopted throughout Australia.
Better enforcement is also needed in relation to drink-driving. It is responsible for 30 per cent of all road fatalities, with the 15 to 34 year old age group over-represented.
Disqualifying those responsible from driving is not working, says Prof Gray. According to research by Simon Lenton, some 70 per cent continue to drive while disqualified and this is shown to correlate with further drink driving, not wearing seatbelts, and speeding.
States and territories have agreed in principle to adopt common policies in relation to alcohol consumption.
Overall the Territory has had better policies than many other jurisdictions, says Prof Gray. He hopes that the present government will lobby strongly at the ministerial council for the adoption of alcohol taxation reform.
FOOTNOTE: The Alice News has repeatedly asked the government for an interview with local professionals about the policing of selling takeaway alcohol to minors.
This request was made after the News became aware of a serious incident of alcohol misuse by young people in their early to mid-teens, involving the hospitalisation of one. The alcohol in question, spirits, was bought for them by a 17 year old.
He told the News that he never has any problem buying alcohol at takeaway outlets in Alice. He said they are "slack" in terms of asking for proof of age.
The interview has never been granted.
TERRITORY BUDGET IN STRIFE, SAYS OPPOSITION. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The NT Government is failing massively to live up to its financial promises, says a spokesman for Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney.
Despite a GST revenue of $650m during its first term, more than double the amount expected, there is a whopping deficit again.
Capital works projects have had to be cancelled or deferred to pay for the ballooning day to day costs.
Ms Carney says the Treasurer's Annual Financial Statement shows the early promise of a balanced Budget by 2003-04 has been broken and deferred to 2008-09.
There is an overspend of nearly $100m - similar to the "black hole" the government alleged had been left behind by the CLP government defeated in 2001.
The biggest overspenders were the Department for Infrastructure, Planning and Environment ($41m), followed by Education ($20m) and Community Development, Sport and Cultural Affairs ($11.3m).
The NT's net debt has grown from $1.638b to $1.656b in the last year.
The government had promised $123m for infrastructure, but it took out $10m to help cover the $51m "Output Appropriation" blow-out, spent on wages and small capital expenditures, says Ms Carney.
The government's superannuation liability ($41m), the "employer's contribution" for its public service, has been deferred and is not included in the shortfalls, and neither are, as of this year, long service leave provisions amounting to $30m.
AUDIT The Auditor General has declined to accept the report without qualifications, saying "in my opinion, because of the effects of the matter discussed in the preceding paragraph [the Australian accounting standard 31], the Treasurer's Annual Financial Statement does not present fairly, in accordance with applicable accounting standards, and other mandatory professional reporting requirements in Australia, the financial position of the Northern Territory Government as at June 30, 2005, its financial performance and its cash flow for the year then ended."
GOVERNMENT HAS CAMELS SHOT, LEAVES THEM TO ROT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
While one arm of the NT Government is helping the camel industry to grow, another last weekend shot nearly 100 camels in the Kings Canyon national park, and is leaving the carcasses to rot.
Speaking from New York, Peter Seidel, executive offcicer of the Camel Industry Association, who is negotiating the establishment of an export abattoir, says he hasn't been told about the cull and says "potential investors will be dismayed".
But a spokesman for parks Minister Marion Scrymgour says the association had been informed, and had rejected an offer of the camels, although he could not say who had been informed.
Mr Seidel says despite being overseas he is easy to reach: the Alice News had no difficulty contacting him on his mobile on Monday morning.
He says the camels in the park would have been an "easily accessible resource".
WHERE WILL CLARE MARTIN STORE TERRITORY'S NUCLEAR WASTE? Report by KIERAN FINNANE and ERWIN CHLANDA.
Will the Territory Government store its own radioactive waste at the Commonwealth's proposed dump once it is built?
Or will those radioactive materials remain where they are: 2.5 cubic metres of them in the Royal Darwin Hospital and "15 industrial gauges containing a closed radioactive material" in a store "utilised and maintained by the Department of Business, Industry and Resource and Development" (now presumably the Department of Business and Economic Development). (Source: Hansard: Oct 5, 2004).
It's a question Chief Minister Clare Martin isn't answering although that can't be because she is unprepared. Storage of the waste was a hot topic in the Legislative Assembly a year ago, well before Brendan Nelson's shock announcement in July of the proposed location of a Commonwealth dump in the Territory.
Ms Martin announced on Sunday that the Territory's legal advice has ruled out the prospect of a successful challenge in the courts of the Federal Government's legislation relating to the dump.
Meanwhile, a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra last week gave both Territory senators ammunition for their opposing views on the issue.
Senator Nigel Scullion (CLP) said that senior officials from the federal Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) told the hearing that that information contained in the Territory Government's ŒWhat you need to know about Canberra's proposed nuclear dump' was wrong and misleading.
"The officials told the committee, which included Territory Labor Senator Trish Crossin, that communities residing near a nuclear waste facility were in no way at risk of "a range of terminal and debilitating medical conditions" as suggested by the NT Government publication", according to Sen Scullion.
Senator Crossin said evidence in the hearing revealed that "the three possible dump sites were selected by the Defence Department from their land holdings without reference to any scientific criteria for radioactive waste storage".
"DEST Science Division staff said they were only advised of the chosen Territory sites the day before their Minister Brendan Nelson announced the dump would be in the NT on July 15 this year.
"The science of selecting the site that best meets the appropriate criteria is yet to be done," according to Sen Crossin, who was to move for the government's Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Bill to be referred to a senate inquiry.
In Alice Springs opposition to the Commonwealth's plans is building, with traditional owners of the possible affected areas in the Centre, supported by the Central Land Council (CLC), making a protest trip to Canberra.
With Maralinga's 50 year history still a living memory for people they feel strong links to, it will take a great deal of persuading to overcome their deep distrust of anything to do with radioactivity.
Mervyn Rubuntja, son of the late W. Rubuntja, is particularly worried about the potential for transport accidents: "Anything can happen," he said at a press conference last Thursday.
This fear was echoed by Steven McCormack, who has an outstation near Mount Everard: "A truck might turn and spill them things, kill us mob."
He was also concerned by the possibility of radioactive materials leaching into the groundwater: "If they drink the water, they'll get poisoned."
Lindsay Bookie runs a tourism venture on his traditional lands on the Plenty Highway: "The government say there are no people out there.
"We're there. We were living there before they ever came."
He too was worried about the potential for a transport "rollover" and about business suffering because people would be worried about travelling in the area.
"Pastoralists will go broke, nobody will want to buy their cattle," said Mr Bookie.
"It will kill all our wildlife, we won't be able to eat anything."
William Tilmouth spoke as chairman of the Alcoota Aboriginal Corporation, whose 1000 members all live in the area. The corporation is running a cattle business and is concerned about the impact of a waste dump on their "clean, green" image.
"There's been no environmental impact study and no economic impact study," said Mr Tilmouth, calling on Territory Senator Nigel Scullion to block the Commonwealth bill.
(There will be an environmental impact study and a licensing process for the siting, construction and operating phases. See Alice News, Oct 26.)
Kathleen Martin, from the Mount Everard area, protested against the government's "steamrolling" of people on this issue.
She also mentioned Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, and Hiroshima, asking "How can you put that out of your mind?"
"We don't know anything, we are living in a state of fear," she said.
Asked whether there'd been any discussion of compensation of traditional owners, CLC director David Ross said there was "no point" discussing compensation as Aboriginal people do not want "poison" on their land.
Mr Ross said he was not present at the briefing by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Department of Education, Science and Technology (DEST).
He said his understanding was that the discussion was about low-level waste - "gloves and Superchux wipes".
"They are not telling people about the real reason for the dump which is in five years' time they have to start storing re-processed fuel rods. That's not low level waste."
He said the rods "in Australian scientists' terms are medium level waste" but in some countries the rods are "described as high-level waste".
(In the Alice News' experience Commonwealth Minister Brendan Nelson, ANSTO and DEST have been quite clear, in media statements, public meetings and briefings, that the proposed facility would take intermediate level waste.)
In contrast to traditional owners, the Alice Springs branch of the Chamber of Commerce appears to be serene about the prospects of a dump in the Centre.
Terry Lillis, the Alice president, says the chamber has not officially met to formulate a position.
Most executive members were briefed recently by government representatives (Alice News, Oct 26), "and it's obvious there wasn't a lot of concern after everything was explained to them," says Mr Lillis.
"We understand the facility will proceed and the chamber hasn't been asked by the Government for consent nor for help, and we're not offering any.
"It seems to be quite a safe facility. None of the members raised any concern with me as the president."
FOOTNOTE: A reader alerted us to a brief report in last Friday's Advertiser about South Korea's first nuclear waste dump, "resolving a 19-year-old headache in a country that relies on atomic power for about 40 per cent of its electricity".
Residents of Gyeongju, the city receiving the dump, voted overwhelmingly - 89.5 per cent - for it.
SPORTING IDENTITY NEARLY KILLED BY FALLING BRANCH.
Alice sporting identity Noel Harris narrowly escaped death on Sunday afternoon when this branch broke off the landmark tree near the Todd Mall sails and pinned him to the footpath. "I was flattened like a tissue," says Mr Harris. Dazed and in shock, with a badly bruised ankle and possible spinal injuries, the champion runner, extreme sports participant and sports medicine expert was rescued by police and ambulance. Mr Harris (inset) says one of the emergency workers suggested the tree - which is sacred - was affected by white ants.
MINING MATES MAKE MONEY. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
In the mining industry it's not what you know - it's who you know.
So say two local businesses, which for the last 18 months have been part of the Alice Springs Mining Services Network, a joint initiative of Desert Knowledge Australia and the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre.
Fluid Power NT and The Watershed are two of the 20 local businesses which have linked with mining services companies in Broken Hill, the Upper Spencer Gulf, Mount Isa and Kalgoorlie-Boulder to form a network promoting their expertise to the industry and sharing ideas and skills.
John Joseland, the managing director of Fluid Power NT, believes it's worth around $100,000 to his business.
Half of Fluid Power NT's business comes from mining - it supplies services and equipment to the industry, and also repairs machinery on site.
"The mining industry is small and a lot of business is got through word of mouth. But our work is a very difficult thing to market," explains Mr Joseland.
"We don't have the expertise to market ourselves other than driving over to visit people which is costly and takes time.
"Desert Knowledge is promoting the expertise that is available in rural areas and giving us opportunities that wouldn't be available otherwise."
Mr Joseland recently returned from the Goldfields Mining Expo in Kalgoorlie, where he picked up two potential business deals in Mount Isa worth $10,000.
"We're building a network of people to take a joint approach in sharing of knowledge and getting contact with people in the same field we wouldn't otherwise get to have personal contact with," he explains.
And he believes that the network is creating opportunities for a flow-on effect for the wider economy - keeping money within the Desert Knowledge network rather than it being spent elsewhere.
"We've certainly gained work that would otherwise go out of remote areas and are providing services that may not be provided otherwise by a desert economy.
"The larger mining companies working in the Territory will usually go straight to a capital city thinking they're the only people who have the expertise to provide equipment, services and repairs.
"But if they are aware of us and what we do, they may come to us. For example rather than paying $100,000 for a replacement part of mining machinery from overseas, we can repair it for $60,000. That trade money will stay in the country.
"There's a flow on effect from the goods and services we provide - we spend the profit margin money on paying our guys and using local sub-contractors.
"In a lot of cases if we're working in Mount Isa or Broken Hill we use their local services. And they do the same over here - if they come over here to do a job like manufacturing a part, they would use a town service to get their machine going."
Fluid Power NT has just finished a project with Ross Engineering, which has manufactured a sprocket for an apron feeder used for transmission equipment for the Granites gold mine. And The Watershed is working on a centrifugal water pump (used for pumping water into mines) which will also be supplied to the Granites later in the month.
"Mining will be a positive growth industry in Alice Springs if the exploration going on at the moment comes to something - and we want to be a part of that," says Simon Worssam, one of the directors of The Watershed (which supplies materials to the Granite mines).
He says it's hard to put a price on the knowledge he's gaining: "At the moment it's not bringing us big business but it's keeping us in the loop - and the value of that is hard to quantify.
"We're hearing of the latest developments and being informed of what's going on in our own area as well as elsewhere. By keeping up to date there may be opportunities for us to supply pump parts to other areas outside of the Granites.
"We had a phone link with all the guys we met at Kalgoorlie yesterday, a debrief of the expo.
"We'll have one every month now to stay in touch."
While at the expo Mr Worssam met people who were part of the Broken Hill Mining Services Network. Seven months ago they formed a successful joint venture, Alliance Engineering, which generated $4.5m of work this year with the support of the Desert Knowledge Linked Business Network Project.
"Alice Springs has a lot of potential to do something similar," believes Mr Worssam. Like Mr Joseland he says Kalgoorlie was a useful "meet and greet" exercise with his suppliers - and other companies doing similar work to The Watershed in other rural areas. He says it's easier to share ideas with businesses not in direct competition with him - for example ways to address the skills shortage by recruiting from overseas.
"There won't always be a benefit for me but the knowledge I gain might benefit someone here locally so I'll pass it on to someone else. To me that's part of what networking is all about."
SPORT with ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
€ Six senior umpires will not be returning to Traeger Park next season following disgraceful behaviour earlier this year by players and spectators after the A and B grade and under 17 grand finals.
Danny Fraser is the only senior umpire left.
"I was concerned that umpires would boycott games next season - but the problem now is going to be finding any at all," says Mr Fraser.
"A year of hard work recruiting new umpires has been lost in a day."
€ This year's rugby union competition kicked off at the weekend - with an exciting 22-all draw between Devils and Cubs.
The closely-contested game saw Cubs dominate the game early with Devils clawing their way back over the second half.
Saturday's other game was won by the 2004 rugby union premiers, Warriors, who defeated Eagles 74-12.
The Warrior men looked a tight unit throughout the match, and will be the team to beat if they maintain their form.
Paul Venturin, the president of rugby union in Alice Springs, said it was a good start to the season with encouraging numbers supporting the sport by attending the match.
Politicising the personal. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I know all about the threat posed by bird flu, climate change and global terrorism, but if it's all the same to you, let's stay in the domestic arena. By domestic, I don't mean Australian domestic.
I mean backyard domestic. The big issues I can do nothing about. With child-rearing, garden husbandry and the never-ending struggle to master kitchen technology, at least I have half a chance.
Politics is any issue that provokes debate based on different values. There's plenty to work with in this town.
For example, if I go out onto my patio in the evening and call my cat, this simple act can provoke contrasting reactions. Some of my neighbours, overhearing my cries of Œ"Here pussy, pussy" will think to themselves that it's wonderful living in a quiet suburb of a country town where the heavy silence of a warm evening is broken only by bucolic sounds of domestication. What a nice man, they'll think, taking the trouble to care for his pussy.
Other neighbours will take a different view. To them, calling the moggie is tantamount to a statement of hate towards the native wildlife of Central Australia.
They'll have the urge to rest their stubbie and pick up a weapon with which to hunt Pussy the Furry Terroriser of innocent wildlife, not to mention its owner. I know this because I read bumper stickers about shooting cats that frighten the living daylights out of me. Look, I surrender, but given the ingress of feral cats into the Alice soon there will be no need for such drastic action. The ferals are already bashing the domestics.
See what I mean. Backyard politics is alive and well among the straggly lippia and the crispy brown native shrubs that you planted last month. The very same political sentiments inspired by pussy cats also apply to Loppy the Wabbit, not to mention the rats whose names I can't remember and every other household pet that I have resisted but has come to live in our house anyway.
Even our chooks, those copious producers of blobby poo and perfect eggs, probably have an army of furious enemies out there. So it is that the gentle pastime of looking after furry birds and animals takes on a significance that I hadn't imagined until I came to live in a place where the natural environment looms large all around us and is not, in any way, to be disrespected.
I like the idea that everything you do in life has some kind of moral or political meaning. My moral fibre has the strength of cheap toilet tissue these days, but I have friends who fight the good fight.
An old friend of mine, still manning the barricades after all these years, sent me a digital photo of himself. He was standing in a small group of protesters who had just pushed a custard pie into the face of a television presenter known for being a four-wheel drive enthusiast.
This was nothing to do with wildlife. It was a protest statement in support of pedestrians and cyclists, forever bullied by big cars in narrow streets of English towns. What impressed me most was that my old mate was wearing a wig that covered his spiky grey hair. Getting old doesn't mean that you leave the comic protests to students. It is a lesson I had forgotten.
Sometimes I wonder what the pussy makes of all this. Nothing he seems to do is politically neutral. But, silly me, I was forgetting that the behaviour of cats is mostly driven by instinct. Their brains can manage hardly a smidgin of independent thought. Maybe they're not so stupid after all.
Women are witches: notion lingers. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
I often point out to my teenage daughter how fortunate she is to be living in a country where she can get an education and pursue a career of her choice.
I know how privileged I am not having to spend all my time carrying wood or water and being able to raise my children in a relatively safe environment with plenty of food, shelter and time to play.
Most of us lead very affluent lives by world standards and might only occasionally reflect on the hardships of women and children in areas of natural disasters or political repression. We have rights and are protected by law. Yet even in our midst all is not well.
On my recent visit to Sweden I found out that a new political party has formed there called FI, short for Feminist Initiative. Despite years of promoting feminist ideas in all the major political parties there is obviously still a need for a party that specialises in "women's issues", or politics from a feminist perspective. I rarely come across situations where I feel that I have been discriminated against because I am woman. It could be because I spend the majority of my time with other women and I'm not trying to have a career. But even in my sheltered existence I pick up feelings of mistrust and prejudice against women.
Somewhere deep down the notion that women are inherently bad still lingers. Remember Eve, if it hadn't been for her we would all still be living in Paradise. In the not too distant past it was thought that women had to suffer when giving birth as a punishment for what Eve did. The baddies in our traditional fairy tales are the witches and the stepmothers, women outside the community or family blood-line. During the witch hunts of the Middle Ages women who were found guilty of witchcraft were burnt at the stake. If their guilt was in doubt they could be bound and thrown into water. If they floated they were witches and would be burnt. If they sunk they were proven innocent, but drowned.
Halloween provided my youngest daughter with the opportunity to dress up as a witch. Normally she is into the pink and pastel fairy and princess dresses but this time she wanted to be dressed all in black and spent quite some time making a realistic broom. She wanted to show a different side. She wanted to be able to be angry and nasty, like a real witch.
We don't believe women who are into alternative medicine or who live alone are witches anymore and we've long since given up burning them, but the idea of a woman who doesn't fit the image of a good mother, sister or daughter, as being a bit suspect is never far away. Even a woman who does not show the traditional signs of emotional weakness, helplessness and dependence is fair game.
We can tell our daughters that the world is their oyster, that they can do anything they want, but it isn't entirely true. The law says it is possible but the reality of the society in which we live has not changed that much. There are few women in politics and the ones who are there are often not particularly interested in issues relating to women.
Although there are still major obstacles to combining motherhood and family with a career outside the home, being just a mother and housewife isn't good enough either. To that you add financial dependence on a man or society. We might think that we are liberated, free to pursue lives of our choice, that because we have the right to dress in skimpy clothes we have power and independence. But women still earn less than men and generally get the jobs that fit in with their men's careers or the children.
In Alice Springs jobs are easy to come by, friends are easy to find. There are lots of young families and a strong sense of community. This very situation prevents us from raising issues. It is not so bad. The kids come first. We'll make sure we put the money into the house and his super. We make sure we stay within the role description of a traditional good girl.
It is OK to be a witch for a day, to dress up in black and be assertive and ugly, but women still run the risk of being cast as witches if they choose a life of their own. Our society needs to challenge stereotypes and recognise that strong independent women are not a threat but an asset.
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