URBAN DRIFT OR URBAN RUSH? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A senior public servant says the Territory Government seems set to move 5000 to 7000 Aboriginal people from bush communities to Alice Springs.
He says remote councils are being "starved out of existence": under the euphemistic motto "meeting new needs" the government is withdrawing funds, realizing its policy of amalgamating small councils is failing.
Meanwhile a $10m upgrade to "town camps" in Alice Springs is planned.
The Opposition Member for Greatorex, Richard Lim, says he's heard reports of the plans: "It seems the government has abandoned Alice Springs because it doesn't vote for them.
"It is bringing in people considered to be Labor voters to dilute the CLP vote in Alice Springs.
"The NT Government has also abandoned people in the bush. Cynically speaking, it's easier and cheaper to manage them in the town."
The public servant, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals from the Government, says another indication of the policy is that the only Central Australian member on the new board of the Indigenous Housing Authority of the Northern Territory (IHANT) is Tangentyere boss William Tilmouth.
His organization has no major responsibilities outside Alice Springs, but is charged with looking after the nearly 20 town camps in The Alice.
IHANT makes recommendations on funding from Canberra, to be allocated on a needs basis.
IHANT, in this post-ATSIC era, now has no decision making power, only an advisory function, and the money is spent at the discretion of Territory Government.
NT Housing Minister Elliot McAdam, who evaded several requests for comment from Alice Springs News, said in a prepared statement: "I will be looking to the new board to set innovative policy directions for the Territory."
Mr Tilmouth did not respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, Alderman Melanie Van Haaren at Monday night's committee meeting alerted the town council to the implications of the Alcohol Court Bill currently before the Territory parliament. The Bill proposes new forms of sentencing - intervention orders and prohibition orders - for offenders facing a prison term who are dependent on alcohol.
Ald van Haaren said an estimated 2500 people would have met the criteria for either order last year.
She said because both orders require support services it is likely that people under them, sentenced in the Alice Springs Court, will remain in Alice Springs.
She said offenders being considered for an intervention order would have to be assessed by a clinician but there was only provision for one such position in Alice Springs. This would mean protracted waiting periods for assessment and further boost numbers of people in town, she warned.
Add to these numbers family members joining the person under the orders and Alice Springs will be looking at a considerable increase in population with an attendant impact on services. Ald Van Haaren urged the council to make a submission to the Territory Government before the legislation is passed into law.
"At the very least the town will need additional resources to manage the people under orders."
ALICE MUSLIMS: MAKING A POINT PEACEFULLY. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Muslim community in Alice Springs would have protested if the Danish newspaper cartoon depicting the Prophet Mahomet as a terrorist had been published here.
But they would have used the pen, not the sword, as has been the case around the world where at least five people have died in violent demonstrations.
So says Dr Bavadeen Habibullah, president of the Islamic Society in Alice Springs, a resident of nine months' standing, working as Power Water's power networks regional manager.
He's been involved in Islamic affairs in Australia for 27 years, including two years ago in Queensland when the Brisbane mosque was burned down, apparently by protesters supporting the Iraq war.
Dr Habibullah, an ethnic Indian, spoke to the Alice News together with the town's new Imam, Abdul Hamid (pictured), who arrived from Malaysia three months ago, and has already had contact with the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart school, part of the Interfaith initiative in The Alice, the gaol and the hospital, ministering to Muslims there.
The number of practicing Muslims here is small, they say, about half a dozen people, "maybe" 50 people at the end of the month of fasting, Ramadan.
NEWS: What would the Islamic community have done if one of the Alice newspapers had published the cartoon?
Dr HABIBULLAH: We wouldn't like it that someone deliberately hurts the feelings of some citizens of Alice Springs. We would not agitate but condemn the publication wholeheartedly. We would write to the newspaper. The cartoons were published to create unrest in the community.
NEWS: Many of the reactions around the world have been a lot more vigorous. Dr HABIBULLAH: When you open a box of apples you will find some rotten ones among the good ones. It's similar in the Islamic community. There are some people with extreme views.
NEWS: On the scale from radical fundamentalist Islamic groups to liberal, moderate ones, where would you put the Alice Springs Islamic community?
THE IMAM: We are a small community here, but we inform ourselves about the views of Muslim communities around the world. We are moderate, not extreme.
Dr HABIBULLAH: We have been here for more than 100 years. We have never created any problems in Alice Springs which treats us very well. NEWS: Where do you stand on the war in Iraq?
Dr HABIBULLAH: America went to war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction. [On those grounds] we supported the war. Then it turned out that it was a complete lie. We don't like the war, but we can't do anything about that.
ALISON ANDERSON IN DEEP WATER AGAIN: NOW IT'S PAPUNYA MONEY LAUNDERING ALLEGATIONS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Fresh evidence has emerged about apparent rorts in the Papunya Community Council when the current Labor Member for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson, was its CEO.
The Alice News has obtained a note from the council to its accountant, Peter Vroom, advising that a council-owned Toyota Landcruiser had been exchanged for three cars that were "donated" to three prominent locals.
The note is signed by "A Anderson", Ms Anderson's signature.
She was the council's CEO until becoming the zone commissioner of ATSIC, a source of major funding to the council.
Ms Anderson is continuing to decline replying to questions from the Alice News, as she has been since mid last year (see story opposite page).
The lack of adequate records about motor vehicles purchased by the council was later a key issue in a scathing report by the council's auditor, Deloitte partner W. R. McAinsh, reported exclusively by Alice News on April 27, 2005. The issue was later taken up by other local and national media.
Mr McAinsh said in his 2003-04 report:- "Approximately half of all assets could not be located or were vehicles which were clearly scrapped: "We were not provided with explanations for the large number of assets missing or scrapped."
The report also says purchases were frequently not supported by formal council resolutions, as it is required by law.
Meanwhile Steve Hanley, Ms Anderson's now estranged husband, who succeeded her as CEO when she moved to ATSIC, says over the years hundreds of cars were bought with council funds and given away.
Mr Hanley says prices at the Papunya store, run by the Social Club, were hiked to generate substantial profits which were donated to the Papunya Community Council.
This was corroborated by another well informed source.
This was done, apparently, so that the purchasing mechanism could be used for the vehicles and to get around the constitution of the Social Club, which doesn't allow such gifts to be given.
The council, in effect, laundered the money.
Money spent on car "donations" may also have come from government funds.
And all this went on for years under the supposedly watchful eyes of Territory and Federal authorities which poured millions into the community.
The council received public money mainly from ATSIC but also from other Federal sources and a minor amount from the NT Government. The findings of a Federal probe last year into the council's affairs have still not been made public.
The memo leaked to the Alice Springs News is on Papunya Community Council letterhead and says:
Attention [accountant] P. Vroom: "Please be advised that on 1st July Ô94 the Toyota Landcruiser Reg No 428254 was exchanged for three cars [underlined] from A Anderson and S Hanley. This was agreed to at a council meeting 28-6-94.
"The three cars were donated to Dickie Brown, Sammy Butcher and Tobias Raggett.
[Signed] "A Anderson [Alison Anderson]
[The Alice News contacted the Papunya Council for comment but its CEO was not available.]
NEW LABOR STAR SHY WHEN IT COMES TO COMING CLEAN
The new star in Labor's galaxy, MLA for MacDonnell Alison Anderson, is effortlessly taking the Martin government's spin to new heights.
She's been declining for more than six months to answer allegations of financial improprieties at her home community Papunya, during her time as its council CEO, and later, as the zone commissioner of ATSIC, the community's main source of public funds.
Just before Christmas I was talking to an acquaintance outside the Alice News office in Gregory Terrace, when Ms Anderson wandered past.
A conversation along the following lines unfolded:- "Hello Alison, Merry Christmas."
"We need to get together and have a yarn."
"Oh, all the issues in Papunya we've been writing about for much of this year."
"No worries, any time."
"Great, I'll drop you a line and let's make a time."
Well, I rejoiced that there clearly IS a Father Christmas, and over the holidays I sent an email to Ms Anderson, whom I've known for the best part of 30 years.
Back in town after the holidays, having a coffee at The Lane with the Alice News chief reporter and a friend, Ms Anderson wandered past again, as happens in a small town.
"Hi Erwin, Happy New Year." A friendly pat on my shoulder.
Perhaps she didn't get my email?
"Same to you! When can we have that chat you promised before Christmas?"
"Now, Erwin, there is a process, you know that!"
"We only talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey, Alison, you know that! And you're the organ grinder."
"There's a process, speak to the media advisor." "So, you'll tell her it's OK."
"I'm not saying it's OK. Just speak to her."
So we sent another futile message to a minder and got an answer that was entirely predictable. Forget Father Christmas.
The hallmark of the Martin government isn't the openness so tirelessly promised in the lead-up to the 2001 elections, but the media "management" developed since, designed not to give information but to manipulate it or conceal it.
It works like this:
 The thought police formulates an Official Reply.
 That is disseminated to all minders, other pollies, even sympathizers and Labor's hangers-on.
 No discussion is to be entered into.
 If anyone raises further questions, repeat the Official Reply.
 Don't say anything else.
The Anderson issue is a good example.
This is what we got back from local minder Mandy Taylor, a former journalist: "Erwin, Alison has declined your request for an interview about these matters."
This is followed by a "statement" from Ms Anderson, saying in part: "There is a clear personal campaign to target and attempt to discredit me and my reputation [through] unsubstantiated allegations manufactured by my ex-husband.
"The investigation did not find any evidence of a criminal offence by Ms Alison Anderson, MLA or any other person."
And that's the line that has been trotted out for several months now, despite a string of other questions being raised, by the Alice Springs News and other media.
Why was the police investigation so short?
Why have key players not been questioned?
On November 23 last year the Alice News drew into doubt key evidence in the investigation of whether or not Ms Anderson distributed bribes to influence the election in the seat of MacDonnell, which would be an offence.
Her estranged husband, Steve Hanley, says she did.
[Section 88 of the Criminal Code Act on bribery says in part : "Any person who gives, confers or procures, or promises or offers to give or confer or to procure or attempt to procure, to, upon or for any person any property or benefit of any kind on account of anything already done or omitted to be done, or to be afterwards done or omitted to be done, by an elector at an election in the capacity of an elector or in order to induce any person to endeavour to procure the return of any person at an election, or the vote of any elector at an election ... is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 3 years."]
The police have taken a statement from Mr Hanley, at his insistence, but have not asked him to assist further in the inquiry nor act as a witness in any prosecution.
This is odd given his 30 year knowledge of Ms Anderson, his ability to point out who the recipients of the alleged bribes were, and under what circumstances, and his access to or knowledge of relevant documents.
The News understands a key piece of evidence was a letter (the Alice News published an image of it) supposedly signed by Mr Hanley, and saying the gifts he had distributed on behalf of his wife had in fact been sold.
Mr Hanley, who is implicating himself, said he did not sign this letter because it made false assertions, and was concocted by a treasury official, Alan van Zyl.
A government official acting for Mr van Zyl denied he had written the letter.
There is a hand written note, signed by Mr van Zyl, in the margin, saying: "Mr Hanley, received at 1130 1/9/05 with thanks. This fully answers my query. No further action required on this matter."
As the letter was not Mr Hanley's, as he insists, Mr van Zyl's query is far from answered.
NO ANSWERS The Alice News put the following questions to Mr van Zyl on Novermber 30 last year:-
¥ Why did he not deal direct with Mr Hanley, who is dyslexic but has excellent oral communication skills, rather than through Mr O'Connell [the former CEO of a neighbouring community]?
¥ Was Mr van Zyl, dealing with allegations that draw into question the fitness for office of a Member of Parliament, relying on hearsay and second-hand information?
¥ Why did Mr van Zyl, who is Darwin-based, but no doubt has access to a number of NT public servants in Alice Springs, deal through an outside intermediary?
¥ Given that the statements in the letter obtained by Mr van Zyl are described as untrue by its supposed author, Mr Hanley, where does that leave Mr van Zyl's investigation of the alleged election bribes?
We still don't have an answer - and neither, clearly, does the police.
Does that not mean its exoneration of Ms Anderson is very much premature?
HUSBAND SENT PACKING AND IGNORED BY INVESTIGATORS
After three decades in Papunya in a string of senior positions, Alison Anderson's estranged husband Steve Hanley clearly has a wealth of knowledge that could cast light on allegations against his former wife, only some of which have come from him.
Yet there seems to be reluctance by the police and other investigators to take advantage of his knowledge, with the police - after an amazingly brief investigation - "clearing" Ms Anderson.
Meanwhile Mr Hanley has been subjected to a smear campaign, and was thrown out of his home of 30 years in circumstances unthinkable elsewhere in Australia.
He worked in Papunya, as essential services officer, store manager and even council CEO, despite his dyslexia.
For better or worse, the strife torn community was the place where he raised his five children.
On September 16, 2005 he was given a day's notice by a Central Land Council lawyer to get out of his home and his town.
A handful of belongings had been packed in some boxes for Mr Hanley.
He says he was prevented from gathering up any more.
Soon he would discover that his retirement nest egg, some $500,000 worth of paintings by world famous Western Desert artists, including Michael Nelson, collected by Mr Hanley over more than half his lifetime, had been stolen from his gun cupboard, forced open and containing weapons properly registered.
He says he reluctantly took, for five years, the CEO's position vacated by his wife when she became the ATSIC commissioner for the region, so that they could retain their council house.
Ms Anderson is well known for her assertive conduct, and as a powerful member of the family running the community.
Mr Hanley claims his wife missed no opportunity to remind him of her role.
When he was implicated in allegations against her of mismanaging council and ATSIC money, she stopped him from rebutting them.
When requested by media to comment, "Alison always told me to be quiet, shut my mouth," he says.
"I used to be told by her to shut my mouth, keep quiet, don't defend myself, it'll all go away," a message soon reinforced by an NT Government propagandist based in the Office of Central Australia in Alice Springs.
And Mr Hanley last November claimed that Minister for Central Australia, Peter Toyne, had also urged him to "just ride it out, keep it quiet, don't respond to them, even though you feel like it because that's what they want you to do".
Dr Toyne has not denied this allegation.
Says Mr Hanley: "Alison used to guarantee me that if I ever left on bad terms with her she'd make certain that I never got a job in Alice Springs or any other community.
"And if I didn't keep on doing what she asked of me she'd fire me."
And that, he says, included signing documents he had scant understanding of.
"I've been fired by Alison as the essential services officer in the last two years on at least 20 occasions."
And on top of it, says Mr Hanley, his wife had always taunted him as "mentally defective" for his obsessive compulsive disorder: "Alison always thought she was superior to me."
This is in stark contrast to her claims in a restraining order of being "fearful" of him and being in "hiding" - while highly publicly conducting her business as a Member of Parliament.
Possibly significantly, the order was served on Mr Hanley as he was sitting in the Alice Springs police station, giving a nine-page statement accusing Ms Anderson of vote-buying in the 2005 elections.
The restraining order contains just one allegation of threatened violence less than 30 years old, namely that he had said: "Next time I see Alison I'll have a knife in my pocket."
This is an uncorroborated claim, by an unnamed work colleague of Ms Anderson's, resolutely denied by Mr Hanley.
The order says of Mr Hanley that it "is suspected he also has unregistered firearms" - no proof is offered - and he "poured cold water over" Ms Anderson - in 1976.
Near broke, cut off from his family, barred from his second home in Alice Springs, and facing the taxpayer funded resources marshaled by the NT Government to support its new star in Central Australia, Mr Hanley didn't have the means to fight the restraining order in court.
He says he had no choice but to consent to the order, while rejecting the allegations against him contained in it.
FREEMASONS HELP STUDENTS. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The Freemasons group of Alice Springs has given $8,000 to help three young students as they start the new university year.
The three young people are Michael Bennett, studying for two degrees at ANU in Canberra; Sarah Schubert, who is enrolled in medical sciences at Flinders University; and Sonia Johnson, who is hoping to become a teacher and has applied to universities in Tasmania.
It's the third year the Freemasons have offered the sponsorship: "It's always difficult to chose from the applications," says Derek Poolier of the Freemasons.
"This year, because the field was so good we decided to help three young people.
"People say that young people are despondent and don't want to do anything but the applications we get show that there are a lot of young people who are determined to get ahead and perform well at school and who are willing to travel to get their education.
"We're really glad to assist them."
Michael Bennett also received the award last year: "Michael has been an excellent advocate for us, and achieved extremely good passes last year so we'd like to continue to assist him," explains Derek.
Michael is about to resume his bachelor of science with a major in geology, and a bachelor of arts majoring in film studies. He received distinctions and high distinctions in all of his courses last year. He received a scholarship for $4000 towards the cost of his accommodation for his second year. "It puts less stress on me with my studies - I can concentrate on work rather than money," he says.
Michael, who has lived in Alice Springs since he was nine, says he loves both courses and hopes to be a documentary maker when he graduates. "It will combine both sides of my degrees," he says.
Derek Poolier says that many people don't understand what the Freemasons is.
"People tend to think it's a secret society but it's freely open to everyone who wants to join. We've got policeman, labourers, doctors.
"[The aim] is to help each other and society," he explains, and encourages people to contact him on 8953 3051.
SHOCK MESSAGE ON PARKS FROM NEW FEDERAL ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS MINISTER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A blunt statement from new Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough about the NT Government's proposal to transfer national parks to Aboriginal ownership is set to test the Country Liberal Party's influence in Canberra, its ability to mobilize public support, and the readiness of its two Federal politicians to get tough on an issue in which they have declared a passionate interest.
Liberal Mr Brough has been asked by the Labor Chief Minister Clare Martin to schedule a string of parks, including Central Australia's iconic West MacDonnell Ranges, as Aboriginal land under the Federal Land Rights Act.
The CLP is vehemently opposed to this, and leading figures have declared they will now seek to persuade Ms Martin to change her mind.
However, it seems clear this will have little prospect of success, leaving as the last resort the refusal by the CLP's political allies in Canberra to schedule the land.
Mr Brough told the Alice News through a spokesman: "This is a local land management matter for the Northern Territory that would not warrant Commonwealth interference.
"It is normal practice for the Australian Government to agree to scheduling land under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act where the parties have reached agreement."
Mr Brough, who declined to answer further questions, appears to be acting in contradiction to the circumstances surrounding the issue:-
¥ The Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Judge Olney, advises the Federal Government on matters of Aboriginal land rights, in particular whether land claims should be granted or not.
¥ The Central Land Council (CLC), just before the sunset some 10 years ago for land rights claims, made application for 11 national parks which are in public ownership.
¥ NT Chief Minister Clare Martin is requesting Mr Brough to declare those parks as inalienable Aboriginal freehold land under the Federal Government's Land Rights Act.
¥ But Judge Olney has "disposed of" the CLC's applications over the parks because as the property of the Territory's Conservation Land Corporation, he ruled they are ineligible for Aboriginal land claims (Alice News, Feb 9).
¥ That means Ms Martin is asking Mr Brough to grant, under the Federal Land Rights Act, Aboriginal freehold title over land that Judge Olney has ruled to be ineligible for claim under the very same Federal Land Rights Act.
LETTER: Parks are black land.
Sir,- Given that the jurisdiction of the Alice Springs Town Council extends to its municipal boundary, it is hard to understand why its councillors are using their time and energy to argue for the denial of the rights of the traditional owners to the land taken over for national parks.
Irrespective of whitefella law, morality tells us that it "Always Was Always Will Be Aboriginal Land".
Despite the fears of Paul Everingham and his cronies in the CLP, restoring the title to Kakadu and Uluru-Katatjuta to Aboriginal ownership has not affected the access of the public to those parks.
For once the NT Labor government is keeping faith with its traditions and supporting the rights of its Aboriginal citizens by proposing this handback.
The town council, supposedly non-party political, appears to be acting as a stooge for the Territory opposition party. Perhaps this is because the CLP was so thoroughly trounced at the last election that they no longer have the resources to do their job themselves.
Councillors: how about getting on with the job you were elected to do? It's not as if there weren't enough issues to deal with within the town boundary.
ED - The Alice News asked Alderman Melanie van Haaren, whose motion lead to the town council demanding further details from the government before proceeding with the transfer of ownership, to respond. She wrote:- I appreciate Dr Hope's concerns, as there is no justification in looking at the big picture, if you'r enot trying to address the nitty gritty as well.
However, I'm diligently trying to do both, as I don't believe we can achieve what we want locally if we don't try and influence decisions that impact on us made by people living in Darwin and Canberra. Our problem is we don't do it enough.
And ... I am no political stooge. I offend both parties regularly. I take each issue as it comes and vote according to what I believe will be the best outcome for Alice Springs.
As for not supporting the "rights of Aboriginal people", I never hesitate in coming forward and supporting Aboriginal people, but always (I hope) in the right way.
The parks issue is around transparency, preparedness and process. Not rights.
IN TOURISM, TASMANIA IS THE MOUSE THAT ROARS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE and ERWIN CHLANDA. In the business of tourism Tasmania is the mouse that roars.
Nearly 40 per cent of the state is set aside as parks and reserves, a breathtaking combination of rugged alpine and sensational ocean side landscapes, three meters of annual rainfall in the west and semi arid zones in the east, temperate rainforests with giant trees and scrub so dense you can't even squeeze through, rivers that made and broke governments and spawned the Greens, people with a heart of gold and a climate so fickle the saying goes: "If you don't like the weather in Tasmania, come back in half an hour."
"It's incredibly wet on the west coast but it's incredibly dry in other parts," says Stuart Lennox, a good example of a new breed of tourism and parks managers, responsible for parks conservation with a strong background in tourism promotion.
"Where I live, which is 15 minutes from Hobart, has the same annual rainfall as the West MacDonnell Ranges, 350 to 400 millimetres [in a good year]."
By contrast, the area of the controversial Gordon hydroelectric scheme has 3000 mm of rain falling on 200 days of the year.
The Northern Territory is 20 times bigger than Tasmania yet the island state has a third more tourists: expressed as a percentage of visitors, Tassie has 3.1 per cent of the nation's holiday market share, the NT has 2.3 per cent.
While tourism in the NT is stagnant and nationally in decline, in Tasmania it is booming: a 68.4 per cent increase in earnings between 2002 and 2005, and a 42 per cent increase in visitor numbers from 531,500 to 757,500 in the same period.
The NT and Tassie now make about the same amount of money from tourism, $1.3b a year. But the spend per visitor is $597 in Tassie and $945 in the NT, the nation's highest.
Tamania's success rests on a combination of marketing savvy and clever parks management, with tourist promotion and parks management in the same department and under the same minister.
This was brought in by the previous Premier, the late Jim Bacon who "was presented with some very compelling data prior to his re-election in 2002", says Mr Lennox, manager of strategy and sustainable use, of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.
"It showed that the brand strengths Tasmania had were its wild nature, its rich cultural heritage, and then food and wine, and a very vibrant arts community."
Mr Bacon "pulled the department together with the tourism agency so it would be a catalyst".
Mr Lennox says he understands this "visionary" move was a first for Australia and possibly for all Westminster system governments.
The Territory, by contrast, has three ministers for the same job: Clare Martin (tourism), Marion Scrymgour (parks) and Paul Henderson (business). The way it works here is Paul's making sure that Clare and Marion (and their departments) are working together constructively.
The Territory has just 3.5 per cent of its land mass as national parks (not counting Kakadu and Uluru which are under Federal management).
Nearly half of Tassie's visitors, 345,000 people a year, come to see its parks.
Their breathtaking variety and beauty makes them easy to sell yet they're hard to run.
The Territory is justifiably proud of its 250 km Larapinta Trail.
But it pales into insignificance against the 3000 km of trails in Tassie, most of them carved out of the bush and a lot of them, wherever the ground is muddy or fragile, built as timber board walks, costing up to $100 a metre.
The Larapinta Trail is fairly daunting. Vehicle access is often difficult. Facilities such as toilets are rare, and the walker needs to be hardy and self reliant to a great degree.
Tassie's walks are much more user friendly: access roads are good, well-maintained dunnies are everywhere.
There are the classic walks such as the Overlander Track, from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, with no supply points at all, except walkers can obtain drinking water from the many creeks (most people boil it).
Tents and warm clothing must be carried. That walk is now so popular that during the peak summer walking season, registration is required, there is a fee and no more than 60 people a day are allowed to start the trail.
But the vast majority of Tasmania's walking trails can be enjoyed with an absolute minimum of regimentation and Big Brotherism: Very few "do" and "don't" signs.
They're clearly not needed: in some 20 days of walking between three and seven hours most days, we could count on the fingers of one hand the occasions of seeing carelessly disposed of rubbish.
There's also a clever promotion, in the form of an attractive and informative brochure, of short walks, ranging in difficulty from the ascent of Cradle Mountain (eight hours) to 10-minute boardwalks to scenic lookouts, often accessible to people using wheelchairs and prams.
Camping in parks is welcomed.
A pass to all the parks, all 25,000 square kilometers of them, for our family of four, and a mobile home, for up to three months, cost us $50.
And that includes staying for free in hundreds of designated camping areas equipped with well-designed and maintained drop pit or pump-out toilets.
There are some interesting comparisons between the Tassie and the NT parks system. The Tasmanian state government has 19 national parks and 440 reserves, plus marine reserves; employs 300 to 350 staff (the higher number in the tourist and bush fire seasons); and has a budget of $30m.
The NT government has 90 parks and reserves (Uluru - Ayers Rock and Kakadu are managed by the Federal government), 182 staff and a budget of $44m.
Tassie parks have 8000 to 10,000 assets, ranging from offices to waste management systems, and 900 visitor sites.
There are more than 100 tourism concessionaires in the parks, not counting those adjacent to national parks.
All up there are 1400 tourism operators in Tasmania; the NT has 650. Population: 200,000 for the NT, 500,000 for Tassie.
There are 3000 other leases and licences in the Tasmanian parks, ranging from private jetties to small grazing leases and telecommunication facilities. Accessibility is clearly a hallmark of the Tassie parks management.
The Tasmania parks estate got a boost in one of Australia's most heated environmental conflicts: Tasmania wanted a hydro electric power station on the Franklin River.
In 1983 Bob Hawke wanted green votes on the mainland.
He got them by imposing World Heritage listing on the Franklin region - the same status now sought by the NT Government for the West MacDonnell National Park.
The heat has now gone out of the issue but there's sober debate about whether World Heritage listing is a good thing or not.
Will the West Macs benefit? Will tourism in the Centre benefit?
"One can't necessarily draw conclusions from the impact it's had on us to the impact it may have elsewhere," says Mr Lennox.
The Tasmanian listed areas met both natural and cultural criteria, similar to the West MacDonnells.
"In the early 80s I think there were only two or three sites of 500 or 600 in the world which met both these criteria.
"Like with all these things there are obviously negative and positive impacts.
"You've got to remember that the World Heritage area was part of the whole tension to do with the Franklin campaign, when - 25 years ago - we had state versus Federal issues going on here.
"The World Heritage declaration meant for us significantly more management responsibility.
"World Heritage Area is really a status, a branding that goes over the top of that.
"The tenure of the land - national park - stays the same," says Mr Lennox.
An advantage was a deal with Canberra that Tasmania managed to clinch for an annual subsidy of about $3.4m, and even more in past years. "I think World Heritage Status is not well understood by the travelling public," says Mr Lennox.
"It means different things to different people.
"I think the concept of a national park is better understood, people understand what they are going to get.
"For us the real challenge was that local residents, on the periphery of the World Heritage Area, felt to some degree excluded. "A number of the recreational activities they would have undertaken were perceived to be inconsistent with the status of the World Heritage Area, such as vehicle access and [camp] fires, what people considered their traditional recreational experience."
Only stoves not using wood are now permitted, no open fires; camp fires to keep warm are also ruled out. Says Mr Lennox: "These are not substantial issues but important culturally, and some people opposed any change to their traditional usage. "The green vote was arguing very much for much stronger management and to give [the parks] the longer term status they believed the area should receive."
Is Tassie's tourist boom a result of World Heritage listing? "No, it's a result of tourism products within the World Heritage area," says Mr Lennox. Are these products that would not have been developed without World Heritage listing?
"No. They would have been developed, or had already been developed, but you can say the product took on greater esteem or quality or status. "A lot of people who jump to conclusions about the benefits of World Heritage areas possibly don't have the data to support their argument.
"Cradle Mountain, irrespective of World Heritage, would always have been an icon site [because] it's a stunning place to visit and people are enormously attracted to visual beauty.
"You can't visit the place and not be awestruck by the immense beauty of the place.
"It is actually drawing a very long bow to make some associations in terms of growth of businesses and the declaration of an area as a World Heritage area.
"It's only quite recently that the industry has started branding their product as being in the World Heritage area."
Fact, fiction or fantasy? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK. A major Swedish daily paper, in a feature on Australia, reported Canberra as having a population of 25,000, making it just a little smaller than Alice Springs. If that was true we could claim the country should be run from here, given our central location.
It is easy enough to mis-spell or lose letters or numbers and forget minor details. What is a worry is when we believe everything in print to be the truth and forget to use our own judgement or to be a little sceptical. A book about the Falconio case, Dead Centre, has recently been published and has several statements relating to our town, which, to anyone who actually lives here don't ring quite true.
Of course we are all entitled to our opinion and the author writes, "Alice Springs is not a very pretty town".
Fair enough, we don't all see things the same way but then she continues with, "The windows and doorways of shops and private houses are covered with aluminium mesh grilles or cyclone-wire fencing, and even Coca-Cola dispensers are wrapped in metal mesh". With this description she is painting a picture of a harsh defensive town well guarded against real or imagined threats.
She further claims that, "The town is unusual in having permanent water supply from a chain of waterholes in the Todd River". It makes me wonder what else in the book is fiction.
I try to comfort myself with the thought that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", what you observe and dislike around you is what you dislike in yourself, that sort of thing. I'm sorry the writer did not spend some more time here, driving around town visiting some of our beauty spots like the Telegraph Station, Anzac Hill at sunset or the Desert Park, to mention but three major attractions.
But the soft evening light, the majestic gum trees and the positive energy found in these places would not have helped to create the right mood or scene for a murder investigation. A sense of alienation, isolation and threat was necessary, as any student of fiction would know.
Maybe I'm a bit too sensitive to criticism, but perhaps we should also consider recent world events where insensitivity to the feelings of others have caused major uproar, threats and confrontations. We have freedom of speech but that does not include slander, jokes at others' expense etc. If we choose fiction over fact we should make it clear.
The Swedish article also mentioned that Australians are lacking in the manners department. Luckily few Australians read Swedish newspapers or care much about what some Swedish journalist thinks. Everybody knows Australians are hardy, sunburnt, tough-skinned types who won't easily be offended anyway!
It is all too easy to make sweeping generalisations. It is difficult to live in a multicultural society which aspires to be politically correct. To err is human and to be compassionate and understanding in every situation impossible. It is important however to not generalise and judge whole ethnic, religious, national or gender groups based on the actions of a few individuals.
It might be easier for our minds to pigeon-hole and sort people into well-defined categories but we would not ourselves like to be judged in such a way. There is more to all of us than what first meets the eye. We all have a history and are all complex.
I will continue to appreciate my surroundings and share my view of this corner of the universe with anyone who is willing to listen. Truth on an individual level is a subjective thing. We don't even know if we perceive colours and sounds the same way, and just because something is in print, black on white, doesn't make it true.
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