ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
June 7, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Old Ghan back on the rails. By
The Old Ghan Preservation Society will be dissolved and the operation
of the historic train will be put on a business footing by the Road
Transport Historical Society (RTHS).
The RTHS will take over the debts and liabilities as well as the assets
associated with the Old Ghan.
Chief executive officer of the RTHS Liz Martin says the decision has
caused “conflict in the ranks”, and four Old Ghan committee members
have resigned as a result. They include two former drivers of the
However, five qualified train drivers are still available in Alice
Springs, including two who drive the new Ghan and have offered to drive
the old train in their spare time.
Train rides, discontinued four to five weeks ago, will resume when the
track is repaired and the RTHS board has put in place “a train
operation procedure which is required under the Rail Safety Act”, says
Long time Old Ghan enthusiast Charlie Poole will stay on as locomotive
engineer in charge of maintenance.
He has done a “fantastic job” on the steam train, says Ms Martin.
She says RTHS has spent $30,000 so far bringing the rolling stock up to
standard, but they will be seeking government assistance to restore the
track, damaged in recent rains.
“This track is heritage listed so we can’t just take a bulldozer down
there and do it ourselves,” says Ms Martin.
She says quotes for the track restoration work range between $850,000
Otherwise, the Old Ghan will stand on its own two feet, she says, once
the commercial operation gets up and running.
RTHS have researched what other historical train operations do around
Australia and are adapting elements of these for the Old Ghan.
There will still be scope for volunteers to be involved but they will
have to comply with the occupational health and safety requirements
under the Act.
For drivers these include fire warden training, first aid certificates
and medical tests.
This training will be overseen by Rail Safety Manager Jeffrey Mitchell,
long term volunteer with the RTHS who spends several months of every
year in Alice.
Ms Martin says accommodation on site is being upgraded so that drivers
can be on site for six weeks at a time.
She says that is how the Hall of Fame operates, “six week stints from
volunteers around the country, on constant rollover”.
When a major function is underway she will fly a whole train crew into
Alice from one of the operations interstate and pass the cost on to the
The Old Ghan will be run by the RTHS board, now in the process of
becoming a national body.
The RTHS has over 3000 members, overwhelmingly from interstate.
However, its constitution obliges the key office bearers to be based in
Alice, to look after the day to day affairs of the operation which in
2005-06 turned over $1.3m.
Ms Martin says turnover will be greater this year, as they have
experienced a 10% increase in souvenir sales and a 20% increase in
The board has formed a Friends of the Old Ghan to raise money for the
train. Called the Old Ghan 100 Club, membership is available for $1000.
They have nine members so far, including locals Ms Martin, Mr Poole and
Train enthusiast and former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer is
expected to become the club patron.
At present the Old Ghan Preservation Society holds a Crown lease over
the railway corridor all the way to the siding at Ewaninga.
The RTHS are in the process of having this lease made over to them.
Ms Martin understands that the Angela uranium mining lease crosses a
corner of the Ewaninga site and trusts the RTHS will be compensated for
She says mining companies have contributed significantly to the
historic Pitchi Ritchi railway in Quorn, SA : “That will be the model
we’ll be looking at.”
The RTHS is hoping to significantly develop the Ewaninga site as a
ED – See also letters page on this subject.
Food for thought! By FIONA CROFT.
Food for thought: OLSH College students, from left, Anna Neck, Emma
Hurley, Nathan Koehler, Joshua Martinez and, in front, Rainer Doecke,
volunteering on a very chilly Friday evening at The Alice Community
TACK aims to bring together people, from the homeless to restaurant
owners, around food in exchange for a donation.
Teacher Jacinta Boniwell says 25 OLSH students have become involved
with TACK, raising money to purchase outdoor heaters and plates.
It has taught the students “not to be fearful of homeless people”
and empowered them “to be active members of society”.
The students also organise the rosters and enjoy preparing (in the
Salvation Army’s registered kitchen) and serving the food. They roll up
their sleeves to wash-up and chat to the regulars and tourists.
Emma says, “It opens up your eyes to how lucky you are.’’
Rainer sees “a big gap between the average middle class and the
Anna feels “a sense of worthiness that you can help out and achieve and
feel worthy about yourself”.
Nathan also observes that “we have a very privileged life” and
Josh says, “I’ve learnt the joys of helping out.”
A bad time for villains. By ERWIN
Alice Springs will get the next crop of 14 graduating police officers
to bring the town up to its “establishment” number, and in addition,
for some time, a further five.
That may not seem much in the massive force of 180 officers, about four
times the number per head of population when compared to other forces
But it’s a sure sign that the town’s complaints, culminating in the
protest rally of small business people booing the Chief Minister when
Parliament sat here in April, are being heard in Darwin, loud and
What’s more, Police Commissioner Paul White came to Alice last week,
picking locals’ brains in one-on-one meetings.
On Thursday evening he and the town’s new Superintendent, Sean Parnell,
hit the streets together with 13 patrols operating during the shift,
including “several general duties response vans, traffic units, the
property crime reduction unit, foot patrols and public order patrol
members as well as members conducting a special operation into the
recent reports of graffiti around the suburbs”, according to Alice
Springs Commander Mark Coffey.
Mr Parnell had already re-jigged rosters to have more cops on the beat
at the times when they are needed most, showing their presence in hot
There’s a change of tack on specialised policing: while the domestic
violence and the property crime reduction squads remain, their members
are available to don uniforms and go on the beat, if required.
A heightened focus on intelligence driven policing is also paying off.
Over a number of weeks some nasty street crimes, including a vicious
stabbing, have been cleared up, along with some of the wanton vandalism
that’s driving the town to distraction.
Says Commissioner White: “Six per cent of offenders are committing 33%
of the crime.”
That’s a clear call to target repeat offenders.
They are now often nabbed before they can do the next crime: for
example, they are being monitored for compliance with bail conditions.
If they have a court order to stay at home, police will call and ensure
they are at home. Officers get five or six A4 pages with notes about
people they need to keep an eye on, complete with colour photographs.
Mr Coffey estimates there are 20 villains doing “breaks”, 20 committing
domestic violence and there are – as a rule of thumb – 10 troublesome
drunks in each town camp, that means 200 people.
Commissioner White says police are keeping their fingers crossed that
the “normalisation” of the camps will happen, the current dim prospects
for this notwithstanding.
He says the causes of much of the local crime are poor socio-economic
conditions, dysfunctional families, bad health and unemployment.
The force is employing three specialists to streamline recruiting and
placements, especially closing the gaps between resignations and
Recruiting shouldn’t be too hard: the starting salary for a constable
fresh out of Police Academy, after 26 weeks of training, is $45,482 a
year, plus 20% consolidated allowance (applying in Alice Springs as
well, which makes the salary $54,000), plus overtime, housing allowance
There are seven weeks’ recreation leave.
“We’d like to see more Alice Springs people join,” says Mr White.
To the government the cost of a police officer is $140,000 a year.
While attending the academy they are paid at the rate of $40,000 a
Commander Coffey says Operation City Safe for the period April 13 to
June 4 carried out 161 protective custody apprehensions; 1081 people
were moved on; 11 cautions issued; 153 litres of alcohol tipped out;
six summary infringement notices, six summonses and 23 loitering
notices issued; eight arrests were made and three arrests of juveniles
referred for diversion.
Reconciliation, dongas and all
that: Time to get it right. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
For the nation, that orgy of self pity and self flagellation
commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum is mercifully
For Alice the blame game is continuing over the $60m town camps housing
offer from Canberra. This is is a vivid demonstration that we have
learned nothing useful in the last four decades.
The referendum-reminiscing brought out all the usual suspects,
regurgitating for the millionth time that litany of misery from
dispossession to colonization to exploitation to marginalization.
That would have had credibility had it been balanced by an
acknowledgment of 40 years of focussed and deliberate support for
Aboriginal people, by the Australian community, on an unprecedented
Where were the media commentators and reporters eliciting from that old
guard some information about the billions spent?
Few and far between.
The fact is that Australia has said sorry, even if John Howard has not.
What emphasis did the media, in this free for all for aging activists,
give to an exploration of how much self-help has been applied by the
Aboriginal people themselves? Not a lot.
And the media circus blissfully ignored that the vote in 1967 was
colloquially known as the drinking rights referendum. Would the self
inflicted grog carnage have been worth a passing mention
In our town the evidence of failure is in our face, every day.
Here the commemoration coincided with Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal
Brough’s genocidal proposition to spend $60m of public money on getting
people living in unimaginable filth into decent housing. This
outrageous move is currently on hold: the town’s poorest may well miss
out on an injection of much needed money, and so may the town’s
The Brough initiative was turned into brand new evidence around the
nation, of Australia’s continuing despicably callous attitude towards
its Indigenous people.
In the week prior to the anniversary I visited a town camp house, quite
On the front veranda were some 10 mattresses. On them were a dozen or
so people, some asleep, some just waking up, some awake. Among them
were young men and women. Other Alice Springs people in their age group
were at work, just a stone’s throw away, in local businesses
chronically short of labour.
It was 10am on a Friday.
The front yard doubled as the garbage dump. That morning it was also
covered in brand new green cans, all empty.
That night I went to the launch of an art exhibition. A well known
artist delivered the opening address, holding forth about the fight of
town campers for their land (pitted against their supposed foe, Mr
Brough). The art crowd nodded knowingly, nibbles in one hand and a nice
red in the other.
It has now emerged, after weeks of chest thumping, blaming and
denigrating, that the positions of Mr Brough and the town campers are
not as far apart as they are made out to be.
Tangentyere released a letter from its lawyers, Gilbert and Tobin, that
seems eminently reasonable.
It says the offers from the NT and Federal governments “contain
promises or obligations ... which are uncertain and unenforceable”.
Camp lessees, under the deal required to give sub-leases to the NT
Government for those portions of their land where publicly funded
housing exists, or is planned, “are effectively being asked to take
Government on trust.
“This is insufficient having regard to the very significant rights that
they are being asked to trade away.”
Of course, these rights were given to the campers by the public – they
didn’t buy the camps – so that they could have decent housing in Alice
It was a government initiative to get people out of illegally erected
humpies on the periphery of a growing town, and put them into homes.
The resulting mess and mayhem is something for which the campers and
Tangentyere must take a good slice of responsibility.
The points Tangetyere’s lawyers are making are a sober assessment of
the state of play in sensitive negotiations.
But they are a long shot from from the assertions of our free drinks
art launch orator, and from the polemic of the well paid and well
housed functionaries of Tangentyere, whose pronouncements are fed to
the public by media with blushing adulation.
Private companies doing deals with governments must number in their
thousands. Do they climb onto the barricades when there are loose ends?
No. Their lawyers sit down and hammer out agreements.
And, yes, there are checks and balances in the proposed camps housing
It’s a concept little used here, called democracy.
The camp dwellers would indeed have a say over housing that may be
provided to them by the taxpayer, via Territory Housing, like it is
provided to hundreds of other disadvantaged people in the town.
If something goes pear shaped, they can see their Member of Parliament.
He or she would first ring the bureaucrat in charge, and more often
than not, sort out the problem on the spot.
If not he’d see the Minister.
And if that didn’t work the Member would raise hell in Parliament.
He’s got access to the most detailed financial information: it is on
the public record. And he can grill bureaucrats during Budget hearings.
Now that’s a lot more, for example, than Tangetyere will disclose about
the millions of public dollars it is spending, its income from the
Milner Road supermarket and grog shop, its architectural firm and
construction company, its job shop, and last not least, its one-fifth
share in Centrecorp, apparently now one of the Top 100 companies, whose
wealth is founded on philanthropic gifts and money from the public
purse, or from royalties paid pursuant to Federal legislation.
In that town camp yard the other day there was a little boy, maybe
three years old. He was navigating his rickety tricycle amidst the
He was smiling.
Not one of the dozen idle people around him had bothered to wipe off
the dried snot which covered much of his face.
I don’t know his name.
But I am dedicating this column to him. Will he still be smiling in
five years’ time?
Council budget: Where will all
the money go? By ERWIN CHLANDA.
You know what you’ll be paying in Town Council rates in 2007-08, an
average of 10% more than this year.
Now have a look at what you’ll be paying for.
Staff costs are the towering item, but Bob Mildred, Director of
Finance, says that’s 25% of the Budget while the national average for
local government is $38%.
Not shown in the graph at left is $6m for the proposed Aquatic Centre.
This is part of the $8m from the NT Government; $2m has been held in
reserve for expenditure in 2008-09.
Aldermen have described the amount as insufficient to build the kind of
heated indoor pool envisaged by the planners.
The council has a deficit of $4.7m, equivalent to depreciation of all
fixed assets, according to Mr Mildred.
The council is making only a tiny provision ($100,000) in its budget
for replacing fixed assets.
Therse are assets that will last for more than one year.
These items are purchased, and debt is incurred, as required.
This way of accounting by many councils is a concern around Australia,
says one local government source.
Says Mr Mildred: “The biggest worries in the Budget are not funding the
replacement of assets, and finding a new site for the landfill and
rehabilitation of the old site.”
He says a new landfill will be needed in 15 to 20 years.
It’s hoped that garbage management will advance in that time: in some
states garbage is sorted prior to dumping, and partly recycled, so that
the volume that goes into the landfill is smaller.
FiscalStar Services Pty Ltd has given the Alice Council a four star
rating but the outlook has not yet been assessed.
The service says the council was “assigned a four-star financial
sustainability rating on account of the capacity it has to address its
operating deficit without putting any more than slight upward pressure
on its rates and charges over the medium term.
“We estimate it has an underlying operating deficit of around 7% of
annual revenues from rates and charges.
“The Council does not appear to be facing any infrastructure backlog
problem, its debt levels are modest and it exhibits below-average
underlying growth in spending on services.
“These latter features of the Council’s financial performance and
position mean that it is well placed to address any financial
imbalances over time.
“Its recent track record of moderate rates and charges increases
indicate its finances are in a comfortable position.
“Provided existing policies continue, our assessment is that the
Council is quite capable of remaining a four-star Council while it
works to achieve a slight operating surplus over time.”
Parks & Gardens
Roads maintenance & construction $1,459,000.00
Civic Centre repayments (principal & interest)
Waste Management $1,022,000.00
Wheelie bins collection $669,000.00
Engineering staff wages $1,100,000.00
Outside workforce (exc parks & ovals)
Elected members $155,000.00
Bylaws (litter, camping, parking, etc) $669,000.00
Community services, grants, town promotion $886,000.00
Aquatic Centre (ex government grant) $6,000,000.00
Sporting events & facilities, pool $617,000.00
Environment (sweeping, roads) $665,000.00
Capital reserve for replacement of assets $102,000.00
Waste management reserve (new landfill) $100,000.00
Town safety (pavers, CCD, safty audit) $470,000.00
Footpaths and cycle tracks $185,000.00
Building maintenance $319,000.00
Operational plant & vehicles (other than parks &
Nuclear Bonanza. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Uranium is the flavour of the year in the Territory’s mining industry,
with even long shots getting frenzied support.
These snippets are from recent announcements:
April 4: Junior explorer Territory Uranium (TUC) is on track to list on
the ASX in April with strong interest being shown in the Company’s
upcoming IPO to raise $4million.
The Company is focused on uranium and base metal exploration in the
Northern Territory and has secured a very prospective package of
exploration tenements which it intends to explore aggressively over the
next few years.
TUC has 20 granted exploration licences with another 20 in the pipeline
awaiting approval, covering over 28,500 square kilometres. The
company has planned an intensive exploration programme to rapidly
develop drill ready targets.
19 April: Investors have snapped up shares in uranium and base metal
exploration newcomer Territory Uranium, which had to close its IPO
after being heavily oversubscribed.
On April 26 Yahoo 7 reported: “Shares in TUC Ltd ... nearly tripled its
initial public offering (IPO) price of A$0.20 on its trading debut on
“Territory Uranium, a gold, nickel and uranium explorer, opened at
A$0.58 before hitting a high of A$0.59.
June 1: The prospect of new gold and uranium discoveries in the
Northern Territory is behind a A$7.5 million Initial Public Offer (IPO)
and planned ASX listing announced today by Western Desert Resources.
Adelaide-based Western Desert is offering 37.5 million ordinary shares
at 20 cents each to raise the $7.5 million target, with a minimum
subscription of $4 million.
The Company’s 5,000 square kilometres suite of assets – all located in
the NT – includes:
• Significant grass roots and partially explored uranium exploration
prospects, mainly north of Alice Springs.
• A “massive” base metal target at Burt Plain just north of Alice
“Early efforts will focus on the pursuit of uranium prospects which
have potential for early profitable development,” the company said.
“Of the top 16 uranium deposits in the world grading above 0.1% uranium
oxide, at least half of those are in the Northern Territory.
“This is a very strong indication of its untapped uranium exploration
The five kilometre long Burt Plain project north of Alice Springs
boasts the highest magnetic intensity reading anywhere in the Northern
Territory and has never been drilled.
Other nearby projects include Limbla (in an established uranium
province); Blueys (uranium, base metals, silver), Winnecke (gold,
copper, uranium); and the Mueller Creek, Hayes Dam and Cloughs Dam
exploration licence applications – all of which feature uranium nickel,
PGE and base metals mineralisation.
Meanwhile, Crossland Uranium Mines Limited outlined exploration plans
for uranium prospects at Charley Creek, north west of Alice Springs,
and the Chilling project in the uranium rich Pine Creek Orogen, both in
the Northern Territory.
Crossland says an airborne geophysical survey at Charley Creek is
starting, involving almost 14,000 line kilometres of detailed survey.
The survey of the Chilling project over 25,000 line km will start later
into the dry season.
The company has interests in Canada and senior staff were involved in
the Ranger and Jabiluka mines.
On May 18 the chairman of Crossland, Mr Bob Cleary, addressed
shareholders, singing from a now familiar song sheet: “Global warming
concerns have caused a significant re-think about uranium’s role in the
world’s energy mix.
“Most developed or developing countries realise that in order to meet
greenhouse commitments without significantly reducing their people’s
standard of living, nuclear will make up some portion of their energy
“This re-focus on nuclear, coming after a long period of uranium
exploration inactivity and falling international production, has
current operators of power plant reactors concerned about securing
reactor fuel loads for their immediate needs – and they are paying to
“The additional reactors under construction or committed for
construction in the coming decade and beyond will only add to this
pressure, so it is vital that additional discoveries of uranium are
made and brought to production.
“However, the lag between initial discovery and product out the gate
can be seven years or more.”
Will remote Australia be world’s
uranium dump? By KIERAN FINNANE.
Liberal Party support for storing international nuclear waste “in the
geotechnically stable and remote areas that Australia has to offer” has
been condemned by Lingiari MHR Warren Snowdon and The Arid Lands
Environment Centre (ALEC).
Mr Snowdon said Territorians might well ask the Government members in
the Territory when they were going to come clean and admit that this
has been the agenda behind forcing a waste dump on the NT all along.
“It was always on, as soon as they started talking about the commercial
potential of getting involved in the nuclear fuel cycle,’ he said.
“None of the States will accept a waste dump and a quarter of John
Howard’s own members are against it.
“So he imposed it on the Territory against the wishes of the people and
their elected government, aided and abetted by the CLP’s Senator, who
swore it would never happen on his watch.”
Senator Nigel Scullion (CLP) said, through a spokesperson, that Mr
Snowdon is playing politics as he knows the facility is planned only
for low level and intermediate level Australian waste.
There are no plans for the facility to be for high level waste: a high
level waste dump would have to be specifically designed and a site
specifically selected, said the spokesperson.
But Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative campaigner at ALEC, is
She is also concerned that the proposed Federal dump in the NT could be
upgraded to accept international waste.
“Despite assurances now that the NT dump would only ever accept
domestic waste, the Federal Government does not have a record conducive
to being trusted on promises regarding nuclear developments. Howard’s
shameless promotion of an expanded nuclear industry in Australia
provides little assurance that the proposed NT dump is not the thin
edge of the wedge for an international facility.
“The process of assessing Northern Territory sites for a Federal
radioactive dump has been procedurally bereft and outrageously
“Given the appalling process being used for the Federal dump plan,
there is little faith that establishing an international dump would be
done with more community consultation or regard for dissent.
“Nuclear companies will never commit to managing radioactive materials
for the length of time they are hazardous, meaning it would be remote
communities, already economically disadvantaged, who would have to deal
with the long term consequences of living near a nuclear dump.
“Encouraging countries to send their waste to Australia is encouraging
production of toxic materials world wide.
There is no way to safely manage this waste for the length of time for
which it is dangerous. Australia should be encouraging investment from
industries without such long term and environmentally threatening
The Liberal policy resolution, carried by the party’s Federal Council,
June 1-3, says:
“That Federal Council believes that Australia should expand its current
nuclear industry to incorporate the entire uranium fuel cycle, the
expansion of uranium mining to be combined with nuclear power
generation and worldwide nuclear waste storage in the geotechnically
stable and remote areas that Australia has to offer.”
Activists struggle to get same
old message heard. COMMENT by KIERAN FINNANE.
Once upon a time Helen Caldicott and her message were big news.
In 1982 the famed Australian peace activist and paediatrician addressed
one million people in Central Park, New York, at a rally on nuclear
disarmament, then the largest demonstration to have taken place in the
A quarter of a century later, the vigorous 69 year old is still
campaigning on the issue but by her own admission finds it hard to
attract the same level of attention.
At a meeting in Alice Springs last Thursday night she said she can’t
get on national television any more.
As this is “the age of televison”, she urged the small crowd of mostly
fellow activists to do what they could to get themselves and their
message on TV.
“Be clever and imaginative,” she said.
There was no television camera at the Flynn Church Hall, only two print
journalists (the Alice News and the National Indigenous Times).
It felt like a trip back in time. The old cream-painted hall with the
urn going on a cold night, the hand-made posters, the anti-fashion of
There was a DVD projection, but, as so often before, the account of the
issues started with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There was a call to join the demonstration planned for Saturday at the
gates of Pine Gap.
As so often before, an attempt was made to enter the facility, duly
foiled by the forces of law and order, with the two culprits released
It ran on television, at least in the Territory, making a minor
contribution to what must now be a large archive of footage of protests
at Pine Gap.
The issues could scarcely be more serious: there is no doubt that Pine
Gap is involved in the waging of war in Iraq, a war now widely accepted
as unnecessary, unlikely to achieve its goals, and as disastrously
costly for the people of Iraq.
There are growing majorities in the USA, UK and Australia wanting their
countries to withdraw from Iraq, no doubt influenced by the scenes of
bloodshed and chaos they see daily on their television screens.
News reportage is doing activists’ work for them.
Car bombs and suicide bombers and so-called smart bombs are the
spectres that haunt the present day world, overshadowing – justifiably
or not – the threat from nuclear weapons.
Dr Caldicott’s eloquent account of the devastation that could be
wrought by a nuclear war – “it would be all over bilaterally in an
hour” – seemed to come from another era, despite the link she made to
Prime Minister John Howard’s current push for an Australian nuclear
She was asked by a member of the audience what could trigger a mass
popular response to the issues?
She mentioned French nuclear testing from the late ‘sixties as an
important historical trigger, but said the momentum in the early
‘eighties, that saw the huge rally in New York, was brought about by
education, by Physicians for Social Responsibility’s 23,000 doctors
“It was an amazing response – no catastrophe, only education,” said Dr
She urged an appeal to morality.
“Australians do understand morality.”
The churches have to get involved: “How dare they not be talking about
this? It reminds me of Germany,” she said, quoting Edmund Burke: “All
that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.”
But the message of the “good men” present in the Flynn Church hall last
week is tired from being endlessly repeated.
Dr Caldicott hailed the Pine Gap Four, whose trial under
never-used-before defence legislation is underway in Alice Springs at
the moment. The four Christian pacifists, Adele Goldie, Bryan
Law, Jim Dowling and Donna Mulhearn, face a maximum penalty of seven
years in gaol if convicted of charges arising from a “Citizens’
Inspection” of Pine Gap in December 2005.
“They walk in the shoes of the Fisherman,” said Dr Caldicott.
“If these four go to gaol, then the whole country should rise up.”
Perhaps the sacrifice of the four, if it comes to that, will trigger a
more interested, broader response.
But more immediately and significantly, television news will keep
eroding what was once popular support for the “Coalition of the
LETTERS: Call for electric car
Sir,- Most people will know that on a per capita basis Australia is one
of the worst carbon emitters in the world.
What we in the NT probably don’t want to know is that at 64.3 tonnes of
CO2 each per year, and growing, we Territorians are by a long shot the
worst offenders in Australia.
Per person, we contribute about one and a half times what each
Queenslander contributes, twice as much as West Australians, about
three times as much as Vic, NSW and Tas and almost five times as much
as each South Australian.
This is the government’s own data. You can view it on the Australian
Greenhouse Office site.
Unlike some other states, the NT offers no alternative energy
incentives such as solar hot water system installation rebates.
[The Power and Water Corporation subsidises the replacement of water
heaters using only electricity with solar electric models - ED.]
There are federal subsidies and federally funded programs in progress
in the NT such as the Solar Cities project and the Power and Water
program to partially supply some remote communities with solar
These are good projects but all are federally funded.
So what could the Territory Government really do? Well, here is just
My educated guess is that at least 95% of Alice Springs cars travel
less than 150 km per day.
This means that 95% of Alice cars could be battery powered electric
vehicles and charged overnight.
Electric cars are not new technology.
They are highly efficient, much cheaper to run and maintain than petrol
cars; powerful, reliable, safe, some have a range of well over 150 km,
and at last they are becoming available.
Many homes in Alice have two cars, so if your household still wants a
car to travel out bush or drive down south, use the fossil fuelled car.
So where does the NT government come in?
When it’s time for government agencies to trade in vehicles, they could
replace some of their gas guzzlers with these environmentally friendly
This wouldn’t cost anything – in fact it would save money. Use the
money saved to offer us subsidies in the form of lower registration
costs for electric vehicles.
The Federal government could help by offering businesses tax offsets
for going over to electric cars, and as a 10% incentive.
Why not remove the GST on new electric cars?
The electricity generated through the Alice Springs Solar Cities
project could, at least to begin with, offset the electricity used by
the first 100 or so electric cars on Alice roads.
Old Ghan needs town’s help
Sir,– My family and I have been founding members of the Old Ghan
Preservation Society since its inception in 1980 by the late Roger Vale
and several other rail enthusiasts.
I am heart broken to see what has happened to the Old Ghan. Something
needs to be done to bring her back to what she once was. It is shame to
see such a great historical icon going to waste.
This is not what the late Roger Vale envisioned for the Old Ghan.
He saw it as a fully functioning historical railway from McDonnell
Siding to Ewaninga, a rail siding approximately 30 kms from town.
The Old Ghan has been part of our family for 37 years and up until two
years ago my whole family had been working out there doing one thing or
another, including my daughter co-managing the museum in 1998-1999.
Watching it go down like this has been like watching one of our own
family members give up on life.
Please, Alice Springs, we urge you to help out and preserve our history.
Crime prevention loses funds
Sir,– It was with sadness that I learnt of the conclusion of the Deadly
Treadlies project, with the cutting off of funding by the Government.
This project not only had a proven track record of preventing crime, it
also touched the lives of hundreds of young Centralians.
This program won many accolades across Australia. It’s disappointing
the NT government does not recognize the value and worth of early
intervention programs such as Deadly Treadlies that prevent crime in
the short term, but also provide opportunity for the young
disadvantaged in the long term.
With crime issues in Alice Springs now receiving national
attention, and with the Deadly Treadlies program receiving corporate
sponsorship and support, it beggars belief that the government would
not be more pro-active in supporting these few, rare success stories.
I urge the Chief Minister and the Attorney-General to look long and
hard at the decision to end funding. It is time to place early
prevention in its rightful position as a priority in the law and order
Former manager, ASYASS
Stewart not standing for mayor
Sir,– This newspaper asked me some seven months ago whether I intended
to run for mayor.
For me it was a question asked far too early in the piece.
However as politicking is not my way, I replied as honestly as I
I stated that if the election was held tomorrow I would probably
stand. Since then a lot has changed in my life. My
wonderful family continues to grow – in fact my wife is currently
carrying our third child.
Business-wise we are in the process of acquiring a new and exciting
venture and athletically, I have begun to run myself into the history
Therefore it has become obvious to me that dedicating time in leading
this town would be problematical.
This town is a tourism icon. It needs to explode forward as a
trademark. Our next mayor must either be a dynamic thinker or a
person who is flexible in their approach thus allowing dynamic thinkers
and their ideas to reign supreme.
Our next leader also must progress the lives of Indigenous people by
allowing their many talents to be unleashed. This will require a
savvy and strong approach and it will involve a ‘people first’
This may mean the revamping or dissolving of some of the more negative
organisations whose agendas belong in the past.
As for me, I will lend myself to the community as an option to continue
in the position of alderman. I also intend becoming the best
businessman, athlete and most importantly, family man I can be.
In closing, in my attempts to reform the Indigenous agenda, many have
suggested to me that I would never succeed because there are jobs
reliant on a preserving the status quo.
I beg to differ.
I truly believe a new tomorrow with a positive outlook would create for
this town a plethora of new, exciting and positive industries thus
creating many more jobs for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Alderman, Alice Springs Town Council
Tennant not safe for nuke dump
Sir,– The recent magnitude 2.3 earthquake southeast of Tennant Creek
(25 May 2007) highlights the significant hazard that seismic activity
would pose to a possible nuclear waste repository in the Northern
In 1988, a series of three magnitude 6+ earthquakes near Tennant Creek
broke the ground surface for 35 km and damaged an underground natural
gas pipeline. As a consequence, the planned construction of a hazardous
waste facility in the area was deferred.
As a seismologist who investigated hazardous earthquakes for the US
Geological Survey for 22 years, I note that earthquakes are dangerous
not only because of the strong ground shaking they produce but also
because the associated ground faulting can fracture both the
containment structures of nuclear waste repositories and the
near-surface rock structure -- potentially allowing radioactive wastes
to leak into freshwater aquifers.
A nuclear waste repository must be leak-proof not just for tens of
years but for the thousands of years that nuclear wastes remain
For three decades, the United States has been trying to develop a
nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada where it was
thought to be seismically stable. However, in 1992, a magnitude 5.2
earthquake occurred within about 20 km of the site, the largest
earthquake in the history of the area, and the nuclear waste repository
is yet to be completed and licensed.
Sir,– This is an open letter to the Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon.
Two possibly connected items have recently been brought to my
In the first, Helen Caldicott stated on the Todd Mall lawns last Sunday
that the rail line running through the heart of the NT has recently
been sold to a British company with business dealings in the transport
of nuclear waste.
In the second, following the recent Liberal Party conference in Sydney,
the national press has raised the possibility that John Howard’s
government may be contemplating a contract to store international
nuclear waste in Australia.
If these stories are true, and if the ALP is returned to government
after the next federal election, will any contract to store
international nuclear waste in Australia be honored by the new
If the answer is yes, do you have any knowledge on where this waste
will be stored?
Pine Gap’s role in Iraq
Sir,– I wish to draw attention to the trial of four people which
started in Alice Springs on May 29.
They are on trial for an action they believed would alert the
Australian public to Australia’s part in a war that many believed
should never have taken place. A war where 250,000 Iraqi civilians
have already been killed and daily we hear of many more being
added to that number.
The four people on trial entered the Pine Gap Facility in the
Central Australian desert in the hope that other Australians
will become aware of its significance in continuing this war.
Dr Michael McKinley, strategic analyst at ANC Canberra, has stated
“that the Pine Gap contribution to the Iraq war is much more
significant than any sending of Australian soldiers”.
We hope that these seemingly insignificant actions of this small group
will encourage other Australians to do what they can to end
this senseless protracted war in Iraq.
Fr Terry Fitzpatrick
St Mary’s, South Brisbane
Thanks for ‘yes’ vote
Sir,– I want to publicly say “thank you”. I want to thank
Betty, who shared with us her humiliation when asked to renounce her
Aboriginal heritage so that she could be treated like a human being,
and Sylvia, who relived the pride she felt voting “yes” on her wedding
day. Thank you to Tony who invited us onto his land to join him
for damper and billy tea.
I want to thank Geoff who fought for Australia, the same country that
had not yet recognised him as a citizen, and Dick, who described the
rare instances of good will during a time of segregation and
I want to thank Tracey who supported and helped organise the occasion
that brought both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Alice
I want to thank the Australian population of 1967 – 90% of whom voted
for the most fundamental of human rights to be given to the Aboriginal
people … to be counted as people.
I would also like to thank the mere 150 other people who shared Sunday
evening with me at StoryWall.
It strikes me as somewhat sad, however, that such a small percentage of
Alice Springs were present to commemorate this event. I read
about the marches, football games and commemoration ceremonies held
around the country.
But here, in Alice Springs, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people
share the same reality of climate, harsh desert environment and remote
living; where we read articles and letters every day about steps
Indigenous and non-Indigenous people should take together to reform and
reconstruct our society; where we see the evidence of what suppression
and humiliation can do to people … a quiet gathering of 150 people.
Where were the 90% who voted “yes”…I would have liked to be able to
thank them too.
Preserve history of camps
Sir,– As we strive towards town camp normalisation, we are on the brink
of knocking down a ghetto and an eyesore in preference to new ‘urban
boxes’ and clinical streetscapes.
How many of us remember the bull dozing of many old buildings in the
town only to realise a few years later that we have destroyed a part of
our history and culture?
I could kick myself for never photographing my grandparents’
dilapidated house on Hartley St before it was removed in the 1980s.
As we move into a new era of ‘normalisation’ I urge people to be
strident in preserving the history, stories and uniqueness of the town
camps. Look past the darkness and realise that future generations can
learn more if they are able to walk through, touch and feel these
Some of the great artists of the 21st century lived their lives out in
these camps. Not all camps should be bulldozed, maybe none of
them should be, God knows there’s enough land out here.
Even if the old entrance signs, fences, colourful houses and painted
rocks are an eyesore to us now, removing them completely would be a
Let’s draw inspiration from the site’s past and balance it with our
vision of the future.
Let’s inject much needed colour and life back into Alice Springs.
There needs to be a human element in order to create vivacity and life.
Let’s split the project into stages. The first involving shooting
history as still photos’ of the sites, talking to the residents with
respect, then enlisting 3D modelling of future landscape and buildings.
Let’s use this as an opportunity to put the ‘beat’ back into our
community. Let’s understand life in the camps, what we are saying
goodbye to and how to artistically enhance our lives, culture and town.
Ald. Jane Clark
Uni keeps growing.
Charles Darwin University has been awarded $3.5 million dollars from
the Commonwealth Government’s Capital Development Fund towards
construction of a new allied health complex.
Further funding will be necessary to get the facility built.
The complex will be located in Darwin but “it’s a significant addition
to specialist training in the Northern Territory which will benefit
Alice Springs people as well,” says CDU’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Don
Mr Zoellner says the Alice-base Centre for Remote Health (CRH), owned
by CDU and Flinders University, will not be involved in the complex,
whose role will be training in “high end” clinical skills often
involving advanced equipment and techniques.
He says the CRH’s focus is on primary health care delivered in remote
Meanwhile, nursing degree students have been moved onto campus in
Alice, in the new higher education building, “an $8m investment
by the university in Alice Springs”, says Mr Zoellner.
The university have also just advertised for a research leader to be
based in Alice Springs, to coordinate the various research
efforts the university is involved in.
This person will work in conjunction with other groups in town, such as
the Desert Knowledge CRC and the CRH.
NEWS SHORT STORY COMPETITION
WINNER: "Reason" by Jennifer Mills.
One-two one-two: an owl cries out from the hidden branches of a ghost
gum. One of the women jumps up, strides towards the tree and starts to
shout. The other women sitting in the dust in a cluster rise more
cautiously, but they raise both the volume and pitch of their chatter.
I don’t know their language, but I understand by the woman’s tone that
the owl is being warned.
I check my phone for the time. We should have left hours ago. I look
over my shoulder, peer into the grubby window, but I can’t make out the
The women have all gone quiet now, their upturned faces fixed on the
branches. As I watch, a young woman turns and meets my eye. She has a
naked baby immobilised against her shirt. She walks toward my chair and
“That bird,” she says, “she’s telling him to leave us alone. That bird,
kuur-kuur, he’s the man who comes through our fence in the
“What man?” I ask, looking around. There is no fence in sight. The
woman smiles at me with pity, and I realise she is still in her teens.
“You can’t see him, kungka,” she smiles. “Spirit man.”
“Oh,” I nod, losing interest. I move back to my chair but she grabs my
wrist. Her skin is rough, her grip like a vine.
“Kangaroo bone,” she says, and holds a fist to her throat. Her eyes are
black with a glint of daring, though it could be reflected light. She
lets go of my hand.
I smile faintly and step back toward the chair. My phone rests on top
of it, a folder of paperwork leans against its unsteady legs. The night
has cooled without warning, despite the stifling day, and I wish I had
brought a coat.
It has been a productive day, I remind myself. A good meeting. In
meetings I am useful. I keep the Minister informed, hand him the
I don’t participate in the discussion but it’s my job that will go if
this falls through. There’s a lot at stake.
Today we are brokering a billion-dollar deal between these people and
an absent company. The Minister is in the house of an elder, promising
royalties. Even out here the real deals are made after the official
meeting. The woman puts a hand on my arm. “He’s gone,” she says. It’s
true. The sound seems to have stopped.
I nod and smile, trying not to show my disapproval. I am a rational
person. I hate superstition. It’s only a bloody owl. She shifts the
motionless baby with one hand and drifts back into her group.
After an age, the Minister steps out of the house and loosens his tie.
He smiles, unlessened by the lack of context. I nod tersely. I want to
get out of here. It’s been a long day and I crave nothing more than the
comforting wax-coloured walls of my office, its ordered piles of paper,
its calm wooden furniture. I even miss the heavy portraits in the
“Let’s go,” he says.
I dislike driving after dark, but we have an early flight. I have no
choice but to spend the next two years obeying orders. It’s a
probationary sentence, I think, then remember where I found the phrase:
the man who left the community today in the back of the police car, a
battered four-wheel drive which looked as worn as any of the upturned
vehicles we saw on the way here.
I get in the car and wait for the Minister to fasten his seatbelt
before I start the engine. As we pull out, the women watch us. Some
laugh, a few wave, and the rest stand silent. The teenager with the
baby stares beyond us into the trees, waiting for her moment. Our dust
will not settle before we become her story.
Only a hundred or so kilometres of the road ahead is dirt, then it will
be an easy run to town if we avoid the roos that will no doubt hurl
themselves in front of our four-wheel drive. The car is hired. I miss
the little flag on the bonnet.
“Did you reach an agreement?” I ask the Minister.
“They’ll be reasonable,” he says. “We’ve done what we came to do –
present them with their options.” He snorts. “Didn’t have to stand over
them. They know we could cut them off in a second. Besides, those kids
I’m not sure this last is true, but I nod. “I’ll start on the report
I hit a sandy patch and keep both hands on the wheel. To my right the
moon has risen over the rocks, yellow and weak as though its batteries
are running low. I concentrate on the road.
“You’ll probably be tired from driving,” he says. “Still, no harm
making a start I suppose.”
I smile inwardly at the method of his pressure. Corrugations in the
track keep us silent for a while.
He was in that last, unscheduled meeting for an hour at least. I sat on
the old chair on the porch, going through my pile of papers from the
day and checking my phone every ten minutes. There was no reception,
but time still passed by the clock.
I half-listened to the women tell stories. With their babies asleep in
their laps they were free to scare each other with ghost stories, like
teenage girls at a sleepover. Some of the words were English ones. It’s
less jarring to hear them when I’m listening to Japanese or French,
languages I pride myself on having and which are of little use in my
I read over the draft agreements in my folder and checked the time. The
sun had gone down an hour or so before he went inside. I would have
objected to leaving so late, but it’s a habit not to object to
anything, and if I did it would be being left outside with the women
during the real business.
I arrived here by following a trail of work I found myself good at. It
was always obvious to me that I would get an internship and go on to
Canberra. I have no real sense of lust, either for good or power. I am
simply moving ahead in the most logical way. My father was a military
bureaucrat, my mother his wife. I know there are paths carved out for
us if we can hold to reason.
An erratic bat dashes in front of the windscreen and vanishes.
Instinctively I press on the brakes, then remind myself about defensive
driving techniques. The last thing we need is to be bogged out here. I
shift in the seat.
“You have the stats I emailed you for tomorrow?” I ask, so that the
Minister will not offer to drive, not that he ever has.
“What? Oh, yes,” he says. His tone is distracted. When I look at him he
turns away from me and faces straight ahead as if he has been caught
“I can re-send them if you need me to.” He yawns. “Shame that airline
went bankrupt. We could have chartered a flight.”
I don’t remind him it was his idea to drive, to “get to know the land
up there” as he put it. I am too busy concentrating on the road. The
dirt is turning half to gravel, so we must be near the tarmac. I slow
for a wallaby that shoots in front of us and away into the darkness,
After the owl, the women were quieter. They sat still and talked
little, perhaps listening out for its reply. They got something else
Without warning, a song crawled out of the night. From between the
trees came a man’s voice, atonal and pining. The women looked at each
other and whispered, shook their heads. The tuneless song was like the
drone of an insect. It crept into my body as if by stealth. My stomach
tensed, then lurched dangerously.
There is an elevator in my office which does this. I sometimes stop the
lift halfway down to prevent the sensation. The body, unused to sudden
movement, tricks itself into thinking there is no gravity.
As spontaneously as it had begun, the singing stopped. The women
immediately resumed their stories, as though the sound had been a
brief, dull visitor. An encyclopaedia salesman, perhaps, or one of the
charity collectors the Minister refers to as “can-shakers”.
I looked over at the group. The young woman with the baby against her
shirt stood up and stepped over to me. She glanced back at her family
before she spoke, reminding me of the careful, slow release of
information common to politicians. Out of habit, I anticipated
something I could use.
She tossed her head lightly at the darkness behind her. “That man was
singing out for somebody,” is all she said.
When we finally reach the paved road, I am so relieved that I let my
foot relax on the accelerator. I open the window to let some real air
in. The air conditioning has made my throat dry, but the dust is no
less irritating. I close the window and stare into the dark beyond the
I see something. I squint and focus. There is a vague shape on the road
ahead. As we approach, it grows into a man. He is not waving, simply
standing in the dirt, one hand covering his chest. Must be an accident,
I think, a breakdown. You can roll a vehicle out here as soon as blink.
I scan the ditches either side for overturned cars. Nothing. When I
look ahead again he seems to be the same distance away, just on the
edge of visibility. I slow down.
“What is it?” the Minister asks. He leans forward to look for an animal
or interesting feature of the landscape.
“There’s a man up ahead,” I say, “I hope he’s not in trouble.”
“Where?” I refrain from mentioning his missed optometrists’
appointments, because I am his assistant, not his wife. Instead I raise
a finger, but am forced to withdraw it. The road ahead is empty.
“He’s gone. Must have walked off into the bush.”The Minister stares at
me. “There’s nothing out here.”
“Must be an outstation or something,” I reassure him. “The asphalt.”
Then again, maybe asphalt does not mean houses here.
“I’ll call the office first thing in case any of those figures have
changed,” I say. “Accuracy is essential with these industry people.” I
am speaking automatically, not really concentrating, because I am
wondering how anyone could have gone so far ahead of us on foot.
Spirit man, the woman said. Just a teenager giving herself nightmares
for kicks. But the imaginary bone in the fist at her throat. The pity
in her voice: You can’t see him.
As I come to a rare corner, the moon appears to grow brighter and dim
again, a trick of the changing light. Town appears as an orange glow
between the sudden hills. Canberra glows like that when you drive
towards it in the night, and it means you’re under half an hour away.
Alice Springs is so small, we must be close.
I slow the car again, and this time the Minister does not remark on it.
He must think I want to admire the view of the ranges. They look dull
and featureless to me, just dark lumps like the piles left by an
earthmover on a kerb. I wonder what would possess someone to live out
My reverie is broken by a flash of movement, black and white and red
like a bad joke. I feel something hit the bull bar and press the brakes
so fast that the Minister grabs the glovebox with both hands. I do not
have time to think, only to pray we will not flip over. The tarmac is
kind, though, and the car the safest available. It is only after we
squeal to a stop that I realise I have remembered not to swerve. We sit
in the awful silence for ten, twenty seconds, clicked out by the hazard
“I think I hit something,” I admit.
“I’ll make sure it’s dead,” he says, suddenly brightening. He wipes his
hands on his knees. I imagine this is what he meant by getting to know
the country: taking a story home to impress the gang with his outback
know-how. It is all depressingly schoolboy, and he has forgotten the
tire iron. I unfasten my seatbelt and climb out of the car.
“Nothing,” says the Minister, adjusting his tie. He bends to look under
I walk back along the highway, checking both sides of the road. The
moonlight is bright enough to see by. I follow the sound of flies and
find the corpse of a big roo, but it’s been dead for a long time.
When I give up and turn toward the car I see him again. He is standing
in the middle of the road, beyond the Minister. He is clasping
something to his chest. His hand half-covers a red patch on his shirt.
He looks solid enough. I slowly raise my hand to him in a greeting I
realise must look a lot like surrender.
The Minister is leaning on the car, bored now that he has nothing to
club. He is staring at his shoes, probably thinking about getting them
cleaned. I’m glad he’s distracted. I might have time to assess the
situation, deal with the injury, cover my tracks.
The man raises a hand to me from beyond the car. It is clenched. A
sharp white shape grows out of his fist. A bone. The red shape is
revealed on his chest. My heart races. I must have hit him hard. I
think of broken ribs, and whether or not you are supposed to bandage
I think of damage control, try to remember the name of the journo I met
from the local paper.
I am a good problem solver. I breathe. I walk slowly, without taking my
eyes off him, until I can focus.
It’s not blood. It’s a shiny pattern on the shirt. I recognise the logo
of a Melbourne football team. It is just some man out on the road for
his own reasons. Maybe he’s looking for something he dropped. There’s a
reason. There’s a reason he’s gone by the time I reach the car. He went
“Mustn’t have hit it hard enough,” the Minister says when I get back
into the driver’s seat. “Bounded off into the bush I’ll bet.”
I start the engine. “He went somewhere.” The problem seems to have
solved itself. I drive carefully back to town, both hands on the wheel.
In my room at the hotel I open my laptop and my folder of papers. I
stare at the notes from today’s meeting until they swim. In one corner
I have written the word PRACTICAL in small capitals and underlined it
I step outside to breathe some non-conditioned air and blink the words
from my eyes. Beyond the hotel’s artificial oasis I can see the ranges,
lit up by the moon. I stare at them for want of a horizon. They still
look ugly to me, spoiled somehow, but there are arcs in the rock:
patterns formed and broken over geological ages.
My hands are cold. I can hear drunks laughing in the river bed. A bird
lands in a tree nearby and rattles the branches. My desire to be
outside evaporates without reason.
Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.