ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
July 21, 2011. This page contains all
major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
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will be asked to help Alice's flagging tourism industry. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The Town Council is writing to the Prime Minister to ask for financial
assistance for the tourism industry in the Centre. While councillors
voted to take this action back in May, it has now become more urgent
with the grounding of Tiger flights.
Alderman Samih Habib Bitar at Monday's meeting appealed to councillors
to use what lobbying power council may have to help get Tiger back in
the air on the Melbourne-Alice route.
Ald John Rawnsley went further, asking whether council should not send
a delegation to government to ask for a financial assistance package,
given the "particularly rough time" the town has had from the impact of
the high Australian dollar and the negative national and international
publicity around high levels of crime and anti-social behavior.
(Clarifying later for the Alice News, he said the delegation would be
to the Territory Parliament, with a package to be funded by both the
Australian and Territory governments.)
Councillors were reminded by Director of Corporate and Community
Services Craig Catchlove that they had already resolved to send a
letter to the Prime Minister, asking for special assistance. In fact,
he said a letter had gone out, although an enquiry by the Alice Springs
News revealed that it is still in draft form. It will be sent this
week, almost two months after council's resolution.
At Monday's meeting Ald Habib Bitar suggested council should approach
Virgin Blue to see whether they could reinstate flights to Alice.
However, Ald Jane Clark argued loyalty to Tiger is warranted if they
get back up and running. What must be avoided, she argued, was a return
to Alice being serviced by only one airline. She criticised Qantas for
originally excluding Alice from its special
deals for stranded Tiger
She had had two children caught in Melbourne by the Tiger grounding and
had been facing having to pay two $900 one-way airfares to get them
home. She said there were definitely no special deals for passengers to
Alice "until enough people kicked up a fuss".
A one airline situation would represent a "real danger for the tourism
market", said Ald Clark. She said council should establish a "lobbying
position over the next couple of months" to ensure that other airlines
service Alice Springs.
Deputy Mayor Ald Liz Martin took up the theme of the damage being done
by negative publicity about Alice Springs.
She said media were
responding to "negative people in the community"; that this was
endangering investment in the town; and that the impact was going
beyond the town, being felt all along the gateway routes into the
Mayor Damien Ryan requested the CEO to have a report prepared, drawing
on "knowledgeable people in town", to provide direction for councillors
on the issue. CEO Rex Mooney said that the report would be ready for
the end of month meeting.
Speaking later to the News, Ald Martin said "good news messages" need
to get out about all the wonderful natural and man-made attractions of
the town and the region. If the government funds became available, they
could be used to "subsidise" publicity in niche publications not
normally targeted by tourism marketing campaigns. These would be the
monthly subscription publications relating to fields where there are
attractions of special interest in the Centre, such as art, sport,
road, rail and air heritage, said Ald Martin.
Ald Murray Stewart is on annual leave and was absent from Monday
night's meeting. However, he was the initator of the original motion to
write to the Prime Minister. He told the News that in his view Alice
Springs and its tourism industry in particular had experienced a
calamity as a result of deteriorating activity on the streets and the
publicity around it. Just as the Australian Government had stepped in
to offer assistance to Queensland to help its tourism industry get over
a difficult period, so they could do for Alice Springs, he said. He
said the town's troubles are not of the same magnitude or tragic nature
as Queensland's but there is certainly an economic downturn.
He favoured using any government assistance to "drive new tourism
events", and also used that word "niche". For example, there could be
"a celebration of great Australian voices", not only in song, but also
spoken word, like the wonderful recitation of iconic Australian poems
by actor Jack Thompson.
"We should zero in on two or three unique events and time them for the
shoulder periods of our tourism season when the weather is still
said Ald Stewart.
fly-out desert knowledge. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
A branch of the desert knowledge movement, that supposedly
quintessential Central Australian drive to transform the governance and
economy of the vast desert regions, seems to have turned into a fly-in,
Jan Ferguson, the CEO of the Remote Economic Participation CRC / Ninti
One, which was spawned by the earlier Desert Knowledge CRC, now
reportedly lives and works in Adelaide, and so does the Communications
Manager, Linda Cooper.
Neither returned phone calls and emails from the Alice Springs News in
the past few days.
Board member Harold Furber, one for the founders of the desert
knowledge movement, asked about the apparent new arrangements, says: "I
find it very hard to comment."
Mr Furber, together with others, has worked tirelessly to bring the
movement to fruition: "It was a Central Australian idea," he says.
Two other branches, Desert Knowledge Australia and the Desert People's
Centre, are still firmly rooted in the Alice Springs.
The Remote Economic Participation CRC's Donna Anthes (General Manager
Operations) and Tammie Boehm (Executive Officer) are still based here.
We put to Mr Furber that a true headquarters of an organisation would
be where the CEO works.
He repeated his earlier statement: "I find it very hard to comment."
Ninti One notably has a massive Federal Government contract to
cull feral camels, mostly by shooting them from helicopters.
Alice airport could close in major flood.
By KIERAN FINNANE.
expected this year but investment continues
The Alice Springs Airport
could not be guaranteed to remain open in the case of a major flood
cutting access to the town through Heavitree Gap.
Mayor Damien Ryan put the
question to the airport's general manager Katie Cooper when she made a
presentation to council on Monday night about the airport's
contribution to the Alice economy.
If Heavitree Gap were cut off
by major floodwaters, road and rail links from the south would be
severed. It seems also that air links could be restricted or could
cease because of the difficulty of getting airport staff from their
homes in town to their workplace.
Ms Cooper told councillors
that the intention would be to maintain staffing levels and operations,
but she could not give a "100%" guarantee. For example, if the flood
occurred in the middle of the night, getting people to the airport
"might be a challenge," she said.
Meanwhile, Ms Cooper said the
Alice airport contributes 0.4% to the NT GSP (gross state product).
Slow steady growth of annual passenger movements is forecast: from
630,000 in 2009, projected to grow to 940,000 by 2029. A decline of
around 4.5% on previous years is expected this year, however. The 20
year old facility was built to cater for up to two million passenger
movements a year, so there is room for much more rapid growth, which Ms
Cooper said NT Airports is bent on chasing.
She said bringing in scheduled
international services is unlikely on the basis of current usage, but
NT Airports "actively seeks partnerships with airlines," with
representatives attending the global route conferences each year.
Charter flights from overseas have gone into abeyance.
Again Ms Cooper said NT
Airports is keen to make use of the facilities to receive them.
Currently the aircraft tug and other facilities are in storage, costing
the airport money.
Ms Cooper said one of things
"against us" is the high Aussie dollar, although that's a country-wide
problem. She said more positive stories about Alice as a destination
"would be useful," mentioning as "not very helpful" the recent London
Times article, describing Alice as "cursed by alcohol" and as a town
"where even the security guards live in fear".
Slow growth aside, investment
in the airport is continuing and commercial opportunities for its
assets are being sought. The Alice airport now has its own iPhone app,
the second airport in Australia to have one, following Darwin (also
owned by the NT Airports). $8m is about to be spent on apron overlay,
following the $10m runway overlay in 2009.
She also mentioned the Remote
Towers trial (of the air traffic control centre operating from
Adelaide) as representing a "significant investment" by Air Services
Australia. This is expected to start at Alice Springs in late 2012.
On the boneyard,
announced to fanfare in May this year, she said Asia Pacific Aircraft
Storage is out looking for clients. She is hoping that work will start
on building the facility later this year, with the airport apron
overlay possibly offering an advantage of asphalting "synergies" for
the boneyard project.
She said it is not clear how
the tourist potential of the facility could be managed, given that it
will have direct access to the airport runway, but she said some of the
USA boneyards have "quite a big tourist market". She did not know how
may jobs would be involved in the boneyard operations.
The airport is continuing to
work with the NT Government on the extension of the Kilgariff
subdivision into airport land. An MOU exists and a further agreement is
being worked on. Ms Cooper described this as a "long-term project".
Rod Moss wins Prime
Minister's literary award.
JACQUIE CHLANDA in Canberra and ERWIN
The Hard Light of Day by Alice Springs author Rod Moss today won the
Prime Minister's non-fiction award worth $80,000 and the huge prestige
attached to it.
The book chronicles the
lives of Aboriginal people at the White Gate community, a squat on the
eastern edge of town.
Mr Moss was
at the National Gallery in Canberra to receive the award from Ms
He spoke to the Alice Springs
News minutes later.
"I'm just a bit bewildered,"
he said. "I'm in esteemed company. I'm one of them now, apparently.
"I don't think I'm suffering
any chemical imbalance but if feels unreal.
"I'm a stranger, an outsider
here, surrounded by other writers with their own coteries of literary
Did he shake the Prime
"Yes, she has a warm little
mitt. She has a capacity for mingling. Her speech felt very genuine."
Mr Moss said neither Ms
Gillard nor Arts Minister Simon Crean referred in their speeches to the
contents of the books winning awards or short-listed.
Mr Moss is a teacher, noted
painter and long-time resident of Alice Springs.
He says "part two is happening
already," a continuation of the subject from where the book left off in
1998 "to last week".
This was prompted by the
response to the book, previously culminating in the Chief
Minister’s NT Book of the Year award earlier
But the sequel may "not see
the hard light of day," he quipped.
Judges Brian Johns AO, Colin Steele and Dr Faye Sutherland say in their
comments the book "draws a picture of Aboriginal Australians living in
The Centre that we have rarely experienced on such a moving level.
"Rod Moss, with unflinching, knowing vision, reveals the harsh
realities of the day to day lives of Aboriginals with devastating force
"Nothing is spared – the pain of chronic ill health, the alcoholism,
the mutual violence, the aimlessness of the dislocated and the
They say the book is enriched by Moss' paintings and photographs.
The author's friendship with tribal elder Arranye "is the spiritual
backbone of the book, starkly realistic, yet both enriching and
encouraging, transcending the often desperate circumstances.
"There is humor and there is hope," the judges say.
of love and anguish: Review of
the book by KIERAN FINNANE
residents: We will not go, it’s home. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Special reports by KIERAN FINNANE about the
alcohol abuse crisis:
Stopping the next generation of
before they start. By KIERAN FINNANE.
We can do something to prevent the next generation of alcoholics from
developing and it involves intervening in the earliest years of life:
little children need their parents or other care-givers to be
interacting and talking with them daily, reading to them, putting them
to bed at regular times; they need to be physically active and to have
a good playgroup of children of similar age. International research,
conducted over many years, has shown that children benefitting from
this kind of care in their first years will grow up to be far more
resilient to addictions.
While to date the People's Alcohol Action Coalition has focussed almost
exclusively on curbing existing heavy drinking, it is starting to turn
its attention to prevention. Spokesperson Dr John Boffa says the first
three years of life are critical. For many disadvantaged children, by
the time they enter school it is too late for the cognitive and
emotional development that will help them succeed in education and
resist addiction in later life. Without the brain capacity to do well
at school, they will most likely drop out at the earliest opportunity,
and their impulsivity, poor concentration, lack of self-discipline and
self-control will predispose them to develop addictions in adolescence.
Dr Boffa recognises that the vast majority of adolescents will
experiment with alcohol and drugs, but says the most disadvantaged
young people are more likely to indulge in persistent very heavy
drinking. In adolescence this causes permanent brain damage which in
turn leads to further diminished self-control, spiralling down into
full-blown addiction. Dr Boffa says this is what is going on for many
Aboriginal heavy drinkers; it is not a genetic predisposition to
alcoholism but the result of physiological deterioration that commenced
with excessive abuse of alcohol when they were teenagers.
In his day job Dr Boffa works for Central Australian Aboriginal
Congress. That organisation has published a policy paper on rebuilding
family life in Alice Springs and Central Australia. In it they are
pushing for a three-pronged approach to turn around the early years of
the most disadvantaged children in our community and so divert them
from a likely future of under-achievement, unemployment, addiction to
alcohol and other drugs and possible criminality.
Two parts of the approach are in place: nurse-led home visitation to
mothers, both before and after the birth of their babies, and a
pre-school preparedness program.
Home visitation has been happening in Alice Springs for the last 18
months and has already led to a significant improvement in birthweight
of the children born in that time (a critical developmental factor).
Congress wants to see the program extended throughout Central Australia.
A team working on preparing children to enter pre-school started work
in February this year, and so far 30 children who otherwise would not
have attended pre-school have been enrolled and continue to attend.
The remaining part of the approach, not yet the subject of a funding
application but that Congress is advocating for, covers the years in
between, during which there is important and rapid cognitive and
emotional growth that underpins a child's future development.
"If we wait until age three or four to enroll the most vulnerable
children in education, they will enter far behind," says Congress CEO
British researcher Michael Marmot, studying the fates of 17,200 UK
babies born in the same week in April 1970, found that the things that
made a critical difference to brain development and subsequent life
chances, including good health, included: daily one on one interactions
and talking with young children, daily reading, going to bed at regular
times, being physically active and having a good playgroup of children
of similar age.
Both the nurse-led home visitation and getting children into pre-school
can help to varying degrees achieve these things. The establishment of
educational daycare centres could fill in further gaps. The model that
Congress is promoting is the "Abecedarian approach" of Professor Joseph
Sparling, developed in Carolina, USA.
• "learning games", where teachers engage daily with one or two
children at a time in short interactive sessions;
• "conversational reading" to each child, every day;
• "language prority", surrounding spontaneous events with adult
• "enriched care-giving" in which teachers encourage children to
practice skills like cooperating, counting and colour recognition,
during care routines.
The day care centres would operate for six hours a day, four days a
week, with one teacher for every four children. The teachers do not
need to be tertiary-trained. People in the community committed to
working with children and who have an acceptable level of literacy
could be trained on the job. Congress says 250 children in Alice
Springs could benefit from such a program and it would also create
The long term benefits for the children in Prof Sparling's program have
• fewer risky behaviors at age 18;
• fewer symptoms of depression at age 21;
• healthier life styles. The odds of reporting an active lifestyle in
young adulthood were 3.92 times greater for children in the Abecedarian
program compared to the control group (children from identical
disadvantaged backgrounds who had not had the benefit of the program).
"If there was a medicine that produced this odds ratio every child
would be on it!" says Ms Bell.
Alice at the table of
Canberra grog summit.
With a floor price for alcohol and no take-away sales on Centrelink
payday, the People's Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC) would achieve its
aims. Not much more harm minimisation could be expected through supply
reduction, says the group's spokesperson John Boffa, who in his day job
is a doctor at Central Australian Aboriginal Congress.
"At that point we would turn
our attention more fully to other strategies," says Dr Boffa, "because
we know that restrictions on alcohol are not a magic bullet.
"Even with optimum
restrictions in place, there'll still be a lot of excessive drinking in
Alice and the NT as a whole and a lot of violence flowing from that."
With the cooperation of
retailers a partial floor price – a minimum price per unit of alcohol –
in Alice Springs has been achieved. Perhaps more importantly, the
publicity around it has given momentum to a national push for the
introduction of a floor price around the country. On Wednesday (July 6)
Dr Boffa joins like-minded lobbyists in Canberra for meetings with some
60 politicians. PAAC was accepted as a member of the National Alcohol
Action Alliance around two months ago and must be one of the group's
most useful recruits, given the focus on the issues that it has been
able to generate.
Dr Boffa says the national
alliance's main platform is about getting price mechanisms to play a
role in consumption reduction. He says it's good policy for
as it's proven to work on a population-wide basis and costs virtually
What about the popular outcry
that is bound to ensue?
Dr Boffa urges people to stop
and think: do they really consider that a minimum price for a standard
alcoholic drink that is no more than the price of a can of Coke and
often cheaper than bottled water is too much for people to reasonably
"As Coles have said, there is
still a very large volume of affordable alcohol available. All that has
been eliminated is the ridiculously cheap alcohol."
The price mechanisms being
lobbied for by the national alliance are a floor price and a volumetric
tax. The latter applies the same rate of tax per litre of alcohol
across all beverages.
The alliance wants both, but
Dr Boffa's personal view is that a floor price is more achievable and
fairer. Both work to eliminate from the market ultra-cheap wine, the
big baddy from a public health point of view. However a volumetric tax
would also increase the price of wine in the bracket that many
responsible drinkers choose from, the current $10 to $14 range, while
significantly decreasing the price of very expensive wines. Meanwhile,
the price of beer would also rise by about 5%. So the tax, unless it
was formulated to overcome these consequences, would advantage wealthy
drinkers, while disadvantaging the not so wealthy.
A floor price is a relatively
new concept and at present has been applied nowhere in the world. Dr
Boffa's confidence in its impact is based on research into the way
other price mechanisms, making the cheapest wine dearer, have worked.
In Alice Springs the removal
from sale of four-litre cask wines from September 2006 and the
restricted availability of two-litre casks and fortified wines led to a
19.6% drop in population consumption, a 70% switch to beer (less
harmful than wine), an 85% move away from cheap wine, and a
corresponding 21% reduction in serious harms.
Consumption started to rise
from mid-2009 when ultra-cheap bottled wine began to be promoted.
Currently population consumption is 14% below pre-restrictions levels.
Dr Boffa is confident that it would return to around 20% if an
effective floor price could be achieved. This would require the
remaining two local bottleshops (at Todd Tavern and Gapview Hotel) to
cease selling two litre casks.
Tennant Creek's Thirsty
Thursday and ban on liquor in containers larger than two litres,
introduced back in 1995, also achieved a 20% drop in consumption and a
big switch to beer.
More recently restrictions
were introduced in the WA town of Halls Creek. From mid-2009 you
could not buy take-away full-strength beer there and you could not
start drinking at the town's pub before midday unless it was with a
meal. A review of the restrictions after 12 months showed a
"significant" drop in alcohol-related incidents requiring police
response and "significantly fewer" alcohol-related injuries and
presentations at the hospital. However, there had also been "some"
displacement of drinking to other towns, with Kununurra experiencing an
increase in general violence and alcohol-related harm. (The
displacement of problems from one town to another demonstrates the
value of a national approach.)
This evidence all relates to
Australian examples. Dr Boffa also points to international research,
including a study of 18 pricing policies for alcohol in England. The
results, published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, last
year, showed that price increases were effective for "reduction of
consumption, health-care costs, and health-related quality of life
losses in all population sub-groups".
The World Health Organisation,
in a 2008 paper on strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol,
also says price is "an important determinant of consumption", and that
a "particular concern emerges when alcoholic drinks are cheaper than
nonalcoholic alternatives such as bottled water".
Dr Boffa said this is the kind
of evidence that PAAC have previously presented to Coles and that he
would take them through again when and if they visit Alice, as
suggested by their General Manager of Corporate Affairs Robert Hadler
(see report below). He says action on Alice's alcohol issues requires
leadership based on evidence, not on popular opinion. In any case, he
argues, the current views of the majority are unknown as there has been
no proper survey of residents' attitudes since 2000. At that time 96%
of respondents rated alcohol as a serious to very serious problem for
Alice Springs, while 36% supported some kind of restrictions on
availability of alcohol as a solution.
He says the NT alcohol
problems are not confined to Aboriginal drinkers. Statistics published
in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2010, by a team of researchers
including Dr Steven Skov, Public Health Physician for the NT Department
of Health and Families, show that non-Aboriginal consumption in the NT
is about 1.43 times the national average, while Aboriginal consumption
is 1.97 times. Deaths attributed to alcohol occur in the NT at 3.5
times the national rate; for the non-Aboriginal population the rate is
double the national rate – bad enough – while for the Aboriginal
population, it is 9-10 times higher, a profoundly tragic state of
affairs. Hospitalisations related to alcohol in the NT occur at twice
the national rate.
Dr Boffa says that the Central
Australian statistics for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations are
likely to be worse than the NT-wide statistics.
wine: Coles says it will lose revenue, not
Coles expects to lose revenue as a result of foregoing the sale of cask
wine in Alice Springs, says General Manager of Corporate Affairs Robert
Hadler, rejecting any suggestion of a profiteering motive for their
He said cleanskin wines were only ever sold at ultra-low prices in
short-term promotions and he did not expect much of an impact on
revenue from the decision to set a minimum unit price for these wines.
Mr Hadler spoke to the Alice News after he had made contact with Mayor
Damien Ryan this morning to discuss last night's vote in council (see report below). A majority of
aldermen supported a motion to ask Coles and other retailers to reverse
their decision on the sale of cheap wines in the local market. Mr
Hadler says Coles will respond formally once they have received
He says he understands from Mayor Ryan that there are different views
held by councillors. He says his company's "strong view" remains that
the initiatives they have taken meet "the needs of their customers" and
the company's "broader responsibility to the community".
The company took the action because "it was the right thing to do,"
after listening to the concerns of community leaders including the
Reverend Basil Schild, Dr John Boffa and CAYLUS (the Central Australian
Youth Link Up Service, strong lobbyists for substance abuse strategies
including the rollout of Opal fuel).
Despite the likely loss of revenue, Mr Hadler says Coles will be
comfortable with the outcome "if it helps reduce alcohol harms and
abuse in Alice Springs".
What evidence of this will they look for?
Mr Hadler says Coles expects to visit Alice Springs in the near future
to assess the success of the move and whether additional steps need to
be taken. He says they will be pleased to meet with the Town Council at
asked him about concerns regarding bottles being used as a weapon. He
said he could not see that the existing risk would be enhanced by
Coles' actions but the company is prepared to review the decision, in
consultation with community leaders and the NT Government, if there are
"any unintended outcomes".
On the impact of their decision on pensioners, Mr Hadler says the
company remains committed to providing value for money to all its
customers, particularly for low income and fixed income customers and
tourists. He believes that bottled wines at $7.99 and one litre casks
at $14.99 will meet this demand.
Regarding the suggestion of broader discrimination towards Alice
Springs, he says the company complies with a range of regulatory
restrictions in other Indigenous areas in the NT and other states. As
an example, he pointed to the Casuarina Business Precinct Liquor Accord
of which Coles is a signatory. Concluded in April 2011, it commits
licensees to "use their best endeavours" to ensure that sale of wine
and fortified wine in two litre containers is restricted to one
container per customer per trading day and to withdraw from sale "ready
to drink products" in units greater than 500 ml.
back the cheap booze: town council.
The Alice Springs Town Council will be writing to Coles, Woolworths and
local IGA stores (now
Lhere Artepe Enterprises Supermarkets) asking them
to reverse their recently announced decision to set a
minimum price for cheap bottled wine in their local outlets and to
withdraw cask wine from sale.
The vote was five in favour, three against. The three included Mayor
Damien Ryan who asked aldermen to allow the letter to go out under the
CEO's signature, rather than his. On protest from Alderman Samih Habib
Bitar he accepted that he would sign the letter.
The motion was put by Ald Murray Stewart, seconded Ald Eli Melky. Alds
Brendan Heenan, Liz Martin and Habib Bitar voted in favour. The Mayor
was joined by Alds Jane Clark and John Rawnsley in voting against.
Ald Stewart described the move by the big retailers as "most unjust"
for Alice Springs and as discriminatory, especially towards seniors and
tourists, including grey nomads, traveling on a budget. He also raised
the potential danger for Indigenous women of drunks armed with a bottle
rather than a cask.
This concern was echoed by Ald Habib Bitar, who said the retailers will
have "blood on their hands".
Ald Stewart was dismayed that the move had come on the eve of the
rollout of the NT Government's latest alcohol reforms. He also accused
"the corporates" of profiteering, with the increased profit on the sale
of cheap wines going into their pockets and not towards community
benefit, such as rehabilitation services for alcoholics.
Ald Clark said she could not support "the aspersions" cast on the
motives of the corporates. She said they had been lobbied by
organisations arguing for the public health benefit of a floor price
and this could have been their motivation.
She noted that cask wines will still be available through some outlets,
and said she would like to see how the reduced volume of sales, through
the actions of the supermarket retailers, "pans out".
Ald Rawnsley said it was "courageous" to put the motion up as it's a
"sensitive debate" but he disagreed with it. He said while the move
could be seen as discriminatory, on the balance it might be
constructive, just as Basics Card is seen to be by many. He sympathised
however with the "angst" of pensioners.
Mayor Ryan said he couldn't recall aldermen voicing concern over
discrimination in relation to Basics Card. In his view the retailers
were looking at the "triple bottom line" and taking responsibility for
the impact of their products on the community.
New challenge for online shopping for grog
Sir – Labor’s banned drinkers’ register, which penalises all
Territorians not just problem drunks, is quickly turning into a farce.
From tomorrow (Friday, July 1), anyone buying take away alcohol must
show photo ID, which is checked and scanned, before the sale can go
through. Labor says personal details won’t be kept and the scanning
process will only take seven seconds, but that’s far from the truth.
A constituent has handed me a letter they received from one of the
major grocery chains. It says if they wish to shop online and include
alcohol in their shopping then they will have to fax copies of their
personal details to the shop and those copies will be kept on file for
The email states that orders from 1 July 2011 will require a:
• NT or other Australian drivers licence; or
• NT or other Australian evidence of age card; or
• Passport; or
• NT Ochre Card.
The email ends with an invitation to “fax a copy of your ID through…
upon receipt of this letter.”
This means people living in the bush or on cattle properties or who
simply live too far from a bottle shop, or even pensioners will be
forced to hand over their personal details if they want to buy alcohol
With identity theft becoming an ever increasing issue and cost to our
community, people are being forced to hand over personal details with
no control over how the information may be used.
Labor’s alcohol policy is an invasion of privacy, and once again
ordinary law abiding Territorians are being punished, because Labor
can’t keep drunks off our streets and out of our parks.
Shadow Minister for Alcohol Policy
Minister responds, sort of
Sir – The CLP’s latest flimsy and misleading attack on the Banned
Drinker’s Register proves they are soft on crime.
The party that said that "the link between crime and alcohol is
negligible" are now complaining that people who want their alcohol home
delivered will have to provide their home address.
The Member for Sanderson’s latest clanger confirms his party’s shaky
grasp of reality, with a misleading tirade against the Banned Drinkers
Register that effectively accuses online retailers of potential
Mr Styles falsely claims that people buying alcohol online will have
their details recorded on the Banned Drinker’s Register. As
consistently stated, the ID scanner system being rolled out across the
Territory does not record any personal information.
The simple scan of your ID checks your name against the Banned Drinkers
Register – if you are not banned, you are free to purchase alcohol with
no information recorded – the whole process takes about seven seconds.
To regulate alcohol sales made away from the checkout, online retailers
are requiring licence details for online purchasers from the Territory
to ensure they are not selling to banned drinkers.
The personal details Mr Styles refers to are necessary for the
completion of an online order whether it includes alcohol or not.
Is it official CLP policy for online orders not to include an address?
It would be interesting to see how these orders would be delivered.
The reality is that the CLP want people who commit grog-fuelled
violence to continue to have access to alcohol.
We know 60% of all crime in the Territory is alcohol related. The
CLP are soft on alcohol abuse and soft on crime.
Much like their embarrassing claim that there is no link between
alcohol and crime, Terry Mills and the CLP have proven themselves out
of ideas and out of touch with Territorians.
Alcohol Policy Minister
Responsible drinkers pay for failures of government
While it is commendable that a number of Alice Springs licensees
have moved to take action against problem drinking in the town, it’s
unfortunate responsible drinkers are being made to pay for the failure
of the Labor Government’s alcohol policies.
It’s unfortunate it’s being left to the liquor industry to find a
solution itself because of the ineffectiveness of Government policy.
A floor price on alcohol will have the effect of increasing the cost of
living in the Northern Territory and will hit ordinary Alice Springs
residents who enjoy a bottle of wine with their evening meal.
It’s already expensive to live in the Northern Territory without taking
away the competitive nature of business and the benefits that come from
The Henderson Government’s position on a floor price is all over the
shop, with Treasurer Delia Lawrie last week dismissing a concept her
Government had fostered for months and the Chief Minister this week
applauding the move.
What is certain is residents of Alice Springs will pay more for a
bottle of wine than elsewhere in the Territory.
Instead of punishing all Territorians with drinking licenses, the
Government should target problem drinkers.
Labor talks about cracking down on problem drinkers and mandatory
rehabilitation, but the reality is much different.
The Government’s much publicised Banning Alcohol and Treatment (BAT
notices) are a damp squib.
While the Government promised problem drinkers issued with BAT notices
would face mandatory rehabilitation, the reality is somewhat different.
Instead of mandatory rehabilitation, problem drunks will be referred to
an approved provider which could be a nurse or Aboriginal health worker
for discretionary rehabilitation.
This could be as little as a health counseling session before the term
of the BAT Notice is reduced at the discretion of the approved provider.
This hardly constitutes mandatory treatment.
Under the Country Liberals, drinkers placed in protective custody three
times in six months will face mandatory rehabilitation. No ifs, no
Peter Styles MLA
Alcohol Policy Minister
Artepe Enterprises Supermarkets continue their alcohol strategy
The Northside, Eastside and Flynn Drive Cellarbrations
stores have for a long time taken a responsible position on the service
We are continuing our 18 months ban on “clean skin” wines and will
our floor price on wine, port and spirits based on a price per standard
Most people probably haven’t noticed we have been using a floor price
at Northside Cellarbrations for over two months.
This strategy has
given us a significant drop in the amount of behavioural issues
presenting at the Northside store.
Importantly our approach has not affected the vast majority of our
customers, who are responsible drinkers. They have been getting the
same great products at the same great prices.
We welcome announcements by Coles and Woolworths that they are also
adopting a responsible approach to the ranging and pricing of products
that contribute to anti-social behaviour.
A floor price is the best way to address alcohol related issues, it
reduces problem drinking, it stops problem products entering the
market, and because it only affects the bottom 2% of products,
responsible drinkers will never notice the difference!
Lhere Artepe Enterprises Supermarkets
takes lead against ultra-cheap wine. (Posted June 23.)
The fight against the availability of ultra-cheap wine in Alice Springs
has had a win, with Coles Liquor announcing that its Alice store from
July 1 will set a minimum price of $7.99 for bottled wine, including
cleanskins, and will no longer sell two litre casks of wine.
The move will make the minimum price of their standard drink of wine
$1.14. The store will continue to sell one litre casks of wine,
targeted at the tourist market, for $15 ($2 per standard drink). Coles
Liquor national promotions, including discounting wine by 25-30%, will
no longer be available in Alice Springs.
The changes will be reviewed for possible introduction in other stores
across Australia "where there are sensitive community issues to
manage," said Managing Director of Coles Liquor Ian McLeod
in a letter to the Chief Minister on June 20.
The Alice move comes in the wake of a flurry of national publicity
around the local campaign for setting a floor price for alcoholic
drinks, with $1.20 – currently the price of the cheapest full-strength
beer – proposed as the minimum price for a standard drink.
This would eliminate the ultra-cheap wines – cleanskins which have been
selling for as little as $2 a bottle. Campaigners – chiefly the
People's Alcohol Action Coalition through their spokesperson Dr John
Boffa – have argued that these wines have undermined the effectiveness
of the current restrictions regime in Alice. Before they came onto the
market during 2009, the existing regime was credited with an 18% drop
in pure alcohol consumption, brought about by a 70% switch to beer and
an 85% switch away from cheap wine.
Campaigners say that a floor price could help reinstate the preference
for beer over wine. NT Minister for Alcohol Policy, Delia Lawrie, has
dismissed the possibility of her government's action on a floor price,
sticking to the line that the problem lies with a minority. They will
be targeted through the government's Banned Drinkers Register, while
"it is drinks as usual for the rest of us", according to Ms Lawrie's
Meanwhile, our cashed-up youth appear to be unaffected by price: with
hard liquor their preference they enter the drinking culture with
abandon, according to our young interviewee.
See also a backgrounder on alcohol and alcohol policy by Kieran Finnane
published June 22 in the online journal
"As long as
adults drink, younger people will." (Posted June 23.)
At the recent forum about young people's dreams for Alice
schoolgirl asked what could be done about underage drinking. She said
that she knew of students leaving classes to go home for a few beers,
describing it as "ridiculous". She later agreed to speak to the Alice
Springs News in more detail about drinking among her peers.
Her name is Mikaela Simpson (pictured
above). She is 17 years old, a confident, motivated Year 12
student at Centralian College and boarding at St Philip's as her mother
works out bush.
She says almost every time she goes out, which she does with her
mother's permission, she witnesses a fight and it's not only the guys –
girls are getting involved as well.
"Ninety-eight percent of the time they're extremely intoxicated," she
says. "Their egos get so big and you only have to look at someone the
wrong way and it's on."
She camped overnight by the racetrack on the recent Finke weekend. In
the morning as she was putting her swag into a car to go home, a fight
erupted between a carload of girls and a carload of guys. Most had been
drinking the night before and one guy in particular was still really
drunk. As insults flew between the two groups, he began hitting the
girls' car, screaming and swearing. One of the girls was egging him on
and eventually spilled some of her Coke on him. This sent him off the
deep end and he ended up smashing the windscreen of the girl's car.
The Finke weekend wasn't exceptional. On any ordinary weekend a lot of
people will say they are going out to get drunk, says Mikaela. If
they're underage, usually an older friend buys the grog for them
(there's a lot of socialising between different age groups). She also
says some parents are open to the idea of teenagers drinking:
"They understand that some are responsible and know how to do the
Are her peers paying for their alcohol themselves?
"The majority of the time, yes. They work to earn their money or
sometimes friends buy it for other friends or even parents pay for
What's the drink of preference?
"Anything and everything. Everyone's different when it comes to
drinking, but the majority are drinking spirits like vodka, Bundy, or
Jack Daniels etc."
She says at parties, it's a regular sight to see people throwing up,
falling over, starting "unwanted business".
Does she mean sex?
No, she means fighting and "making a mess of themselves". This is the
worst consequence of drinking, she feels: girls getting hit by guys,
guys passing out either because they're so drunk or have been hit,
girls or guys having car accidents because they're drunk.
She's never seen her friends in a situation of having unwanted sex.
Is that because the girls are strong about what they want?
"It goes both ways. If a girl doesn't want it, she knows to speak up,
and a lot of guys know that 'no' means 'no'."
Although she's concerned about underage drinking, Mikaela also does it.
She says she had her first drink in Year Nine but it was not until
about halfway through Year 10 that she began regularly having a drink
at parties. She says she sometimes gets drunk, though only if there's a
friend who's going to take care of her (and definitely not if she's
going back to the boarding house).
Drinking amongst young people is simply a "fact of life", she says. She
doesn't think it can be stopped, but "there are probably steps that can
be taken to minimise it".
She's not thinking about restrictions, but rather about other forms of
fun. As is frequently heard from young locals, she'd like there to be a
lot more underage gigs. She doesn't only mean big bands from
interstate. She says there are quite a few local bands and young people
enjoy watching their friends play. It would be a good alternative to
sitting around in a house, getting drunk, which "gets boring after a
As long as adults drink, younger people will, says Mikaela.
"You see older people doing something and you think that's what I'm
going to do. And if you took alcohol off the shelf then people would
find some other substance."
She thinks maturity is the best cure. Even amongst her peers, she can
see the dawning of a realisation that there are better things to do
with their time.
Note: The Alice News has
published this report with the consent of Mikaela's mother.
leaders are letting down their town:
alderman. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Alice Springs' leaders are a cosy club, a snobbish hierarchy, drinking
the same cocktails and dumping on people daring to highlight their
incompetence in fixing the town's escalating problems, says Alderman
Despite the number of houses for sale and businesses closing at an
unprecedented level, the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce and
Tourism Central Australia are not coming up with the tough responses
needed, he says.
Ald Stewart was responding to statements by the chamber's chair, Julie
Ross, claiming that the advertising campaign by Action for Alice had
backfired, spreading the word about the town's lawlessness to potential
visitors in Australia and abroad, rather than making the point to the
politicians who can make a difference.
Ald Stewart says he is a supporter of Action for Alice but had nothing
to do with the decision to launch the campaign.
But he is scathing about the leaders "club" which will "scorn" people
outside their "clique" trying to creating
the kind of solutions the
leaders are incapable of.
"There is no place in Alice Springs for their ridiculous social
lifestyle, their boring smugness.
"They should acknowledge they are a failure," says Ald Stewart.
He says the town saw a boost in policing "for five minutes" while the
Legislative Assembly was sitting here, but now assaults and other
crimes are out of control again.
"When Parliament finished so did the police presence," he says.
Ald Stewart says the long mooted youth curfew needs to be brought in.
Young people at night not obviously engaged in an occupational pursuit
"should be frisked for any offensive weapons and smartly sent home or
to a facility where they are supervised".
Offenders should be committed to compulsory rehabilitation.
"Let's do it and flash those pictures around the world," says Ald
He says the leaders had failed to stop the hike in alcohol costs, done
nothing about the high fuel prices, and it had taken 8HA talk show host
Adrian Renzie to have Qantas include Alice Springs in their assistance
to stranded Tiger passengers.
Local business needs shot in the arm. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
The government urgently needs to get behind Central Petroleum's project
to produce "ultra clean" diesel from massive coal deposits in the
Simpson Desert. That's the view of Julie Ross (pictured), chair of the Alice
Springs Chamber of Commerce.
She says there is little else the local economy can look forward to:
the construction of accommodation on Aboriginal town camps, funded by
Canberra, is drawing to a close. Apart from tenders soon to be called
for a gas pipeline to Pine Gap, expected to cost $5m to $6m, and
headworks for the Kilgariff suburb at the AZRI site, there are no major
"The only growth industries are pest control, security and
removalists," says Ms Ross, "dealing with the mouse plague, the crime
wave and people leaving town."
She says labour shortages are already beginning to bite: one company
has lost a refrigeration mechanic and it now takes three to four weeks
to respond to service calls.
"We are at a critical stage. Skilled people are leaving town and new
employees aren't coming to town because of the negative publicity."
Ms Ross says the tourism industry is on its knees, not helped by the
unfortunate publicity generated by Action for Alice. Instead of taking
up the issues of crime and public disorder with the politicians, Ms
Ross says the group's advertising suggesting rampant anti-social
behaviour by young people has been going to all the wrong places. The
Murdoch owned London Times last month did a two-page spread calling
Alice Springs an "Aboriginal community crippled by crime and violence
... where even security guards live in fear".
Ms Ross says the coal to diesel proposal should not be subjected to the
treatment suffered by the Angela Pamela uranium project on which the NT
Government pulled the pin during a by-election. She says the site's
distance from town, some 200 kms, environmentally friendly product and
huge benefits to the local economy should put into perspective any
The government has already missed the boat with the rare earths project
at Nolan's Bore near Aileron: all processing will be done at Whyalla
because "the NT Government was too slow off the mark, not offering land
in Darwin," says Ms Ross. The processing requires huge amounts of water
and therefore needs to be near the sea.
Letter to the Editor: Leaders in
Sir – The comments by Julie Ross on the Action
for Alice advertisements leave me
flabbergasted. As we report that Rome is burning, does Ms Ross attack
the messenger, or the person who lit the match?
Does she pander to the bloke with the match in case he lights you up
again, and go all out for the messenger instead? No mistake, there is
only one way out for Alice: to deal with the issues. Any attempt to
pretend they don’t exist is blatantly immoral.
Ms Ross' claim that Action for Alice is responsible for the downturn in
our economy because of our enormously successful advertising campaign
to win the ear of government is simply stunning!
Action for Alice only swung into action after the streets of Alice had
descended into complete mayhem, over the 2010 Christmas period.
This occurred because, as the police put it, they had taken their eye
off the ball.
Just how good is Ms Ross' contact with her supposed constituency? Out
of the 350 businesses signed up to and putting money into Action for
Alice ads, a good many were members of the chamber. She might do well
to spend a little more of her time talking to her members than worrying
about her own perceived role of whispering in the odd pollie's ear.
The traumas portrayed in the Action for Alice adverts have been
occurring at an escalating rate over a good number of years, plenty of
time for the pollie whisperers to swing into action
The chardonnay-swilling set, as Ald Stewart describes them, sold us out
a long time ago, when they took government funding for their various
roles, forthwith never being brave enough to raise an objection in case
it was detrimental to their funding.
This current government has demonstrated its preparedness to use that
leverage more than any other I remember, the result being that these
organisations, rather than representing our town's woes, have
themselves become part of the burgeoning bureaucratic schemozzle that
has become the norm in the Territory.
It's an approach that has led us to the very edge of chaos. Ms Ross is
right about one thing: this town needs a shot in the arm, a new and
I think the beginnings of that should be a flurry of resignations from
those who have filled these representative rolls in our community, to
little or no effect, making way for some fresh, independent thinking,
backed up by some good old-fashioned intestinal fortitude, so clearly
missing in the current batch. Meanwhile Ms Ross, Rome really is burning!
Cows' stink? No, it's man made. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
"I suppose that's the cows we can smell here," an interstate friend
suggested to me as we were wandering around the Alice Springs Show on
Friday last week.
"No," I said. "That's human poo you're smelling."
The odour was wafting in from the sewage ponds next-door to the
showgrounds on a gentle westerly breeze, putting a dampner on the joys
of the great annual event for two-thirds of the town's population who
It was another anecdote in the sad saga of Power and Water's management
of the town's waste, underlining corporate spin that has reached new
The poor tourist season and the consistently dry weather
notwithstanding, the evaporation ponds aren't keeping up with the
discharge from the town.
The plant produces fluids of varying degrees of purification – none to
the extent of being drinkable.
Let's look at two of them.
One is used for irrigating the show grounds' grassed areas and a
lucerne patch within Blatherskite Park where horses are grazing.
That water comes from the ponds and is processed further through a
Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) plant.
"The system is designed to ensure plant water is not intended to be
used where human contact occurs," says a P&W spokeswoman.
And: "Spray irrigation is limited to times outside of public use."
In other words, human contact with that water is to be avoided.
But what about the water that is released into Ilparpa swamp, and from
there makes its way into St Mary's Creek, and – open to anyone – flows
under the Stuart Highway, past St Mary's home for children, the new
complex of transitional housing, a place where babies are born, and to
Pioneer Park racecourse.
P&W has a cute way of describing that water: It "has completed
final treatment through waste stabilisation ponds".
Excuse me? Should that not be: "It has only completed treatment through
waste stabilisation ponds?"
So while water used for irrigating Blatherskite Park is not fit for
human contact, although it has passed through the DAF plant, effluent
straight out of the ponds is allowed into public places.
Gap: Expose or the official story? By ERWIN CHLANDA.
"It certainly isn't a
WikiLeaks type of story," concedes David Rosenberg, author of Inside
Despite the titillating
sub-title "The spy who came in from the desert" the book reads more
like the official story.
"It was well and truly vetted.
I certainly did get approval from the various review boards," Mr
Rosenberg told the Alice Springs News.
There were four of them, in
fact, including the Pre-Publication Review Board of the National
Security Agency, for which Mr Rosenberg work for 23 years, bigger and
more secretive than even the CIA.
But while there isn't much in
the book which people like the Australian National University's Des
Ball hadn't already told us, it's now more than well-informed
speculation, because it has Mr Rosenberg's certification, so to speak.
"It is an expose of what
happens at Pine Gap. After being there for 18 years I was in a credible
position to be able to relate what goes on, particularly because I
worked in operations the entire time," says Mr Rosenberg.
"There is quite a lot of
information in the public domain ... but not at a level of detail that
I was able to provide. I don't think anybody has ever written about
[Pine Gap's role in] the searches for downed pilots. Or collecting
signals that are sent by various weapons systems."
One thing the book clarified
for me was why the base is near Alice Springs, in the middle of the
country. The author explains that the down signals from the satellites
it communicates with are quite broad. If the base were near the ocean
then spy ships from hostile nations could more easily pick up the
transmissions. But it would be pretty hard for the KGB to set up
listening posts in Papunya or Finke.
For a long time Australia had
been outdoing the US in hushing up details about The Base. A turning
point came when Prime Minister Bob Hawke, quoted by Mr Rosenberg, in
1988 spoke openly about its functions "to collect intelligence data
which supports the national security of both [US and Australia] and
contributes importantly to the verification of arms control and
The "space base"
been in the news in 1975 when Gough Whitlam – as claimed in one of
Australia's enduring conspiracy theories – was sacked as Prime Minister
because he was going to shut down the facility.
In 1974 Victor Marchetti,
author and ex-CIA officer, described the base as a "vacuum cleaner"
sucking up signals. Mr Rosenberg confirms this: "Anything that
transmits electromagnetic signals into the atmosphere is fair game for
really anything out there to pick up. I do talk about the Pine Gap
satellites picking up information that is transmitted, any kind of
electromagnetic signal. You certainly have heard reports about
conversations being picked up by the media when they do their
NEWS: Except when we do it we
get into trouble. Just ask Rupert Murdoch.
ROSENBERG: We are under a
tasking constraint as to what we can look at.
NEWS: Nevertheless, the book
makes it clear that, for example, all telephone and email
communications that go, at least part of the way, by transmission can
be picked up by Pine Gap equipment.
ROSENBERG: That is certainly a
possibility. Anything that is transmitted is basically fair game.
NEWS: Would you agree that
Pine Gap is the United States' most important military base on foreign
ROSENBERG: That's a subjective
opinion depending on who uses the data.
NEWS: To what degree are
people in Alice Springs subjected to Pine Gap style electronic
surveillance? It's no secret when the space base convoys of busses are
traveling every day on the South Stuart Highway, and planting a
roadside Improvised Explosive Device, as they are used in Afghanistan
and Iraq, wouldn't be any big deal. Would you not wish to have the jump
ROSENBERG: I can certainly say
Australians and Americans are not targeted by Pine Gap. It is not
involved in that sort of surveillance whatsoever.
NEWS: You are making a strong
point that the Aussies and the Americans are sharing the information
gathered. Do the Aussies get all the information which, for example,
you send to the headquarters of your organisation? Do the Aussies
automatically get a copy?
ROSENBERG: There are
distributions that are put on each message. The Australians do have
access to those reports that come into and are transmitted by Pine Gap.
NEWS: What percentage of
reports would be transmitted to Australian secret services?
ROSENBERG: They have access to
all of them. Reports that are of interest to people within the
Australian government – they have access to all of the reports.
NEWS: Do they need to know
that a certain report exists so they can ask for it, or do they get a
list of what's available?
ROSENBERG: You can set up a
filter to allow you to receive reports, maybe key words or subjects
that you are interested in, or reports on anything that is of interest
to Australians. The extent of the partnership, the extent of sharing
that goes on within Pine Gap, that was speculative, but in my book I
was able to confirm that everything in operations is shared equally
between the Australians and the Americans.
NEWS: Each country, so it is
rumored, has a cypher room to which the other country does not have
access. Is that right?
ROSENBERG: I didn't have
anything to do with that end of it. I never went into the cypher rooms.
It wasn't part of my job. Cryptological capabilities are proprietary to
The book, apart from being a
glowing tribute to the beauty of Central Australia and its friendly
community, has its light moments. Whilst being vetted prior to getting
the spy job Mr Rosenberg flunked two lie detector tests – over smoking
He confessed to have puffed
the magic dragon 20 times. When he was interviewed by the FBI the
officially acceptable number was 10.
"I kind of wondered what they
would have said if I only smoked pot nine times," he says.
On the other hand, rigorous
examinations as to whether he is homosexual (a no-no amongst spooks at
the time) he passed with flying colours. He's now on his third
marriage, all to women, including his
current "very happy" one to an
Australian singer and quite obviously a major reason for leaving Pine
Gap and becoming an Aussie.
Early in his 18 year stint in
The Alice, equipped with one of the highest security ratings, with the
cold war in full swing, The Base was considered a prime nuclear target.
Opponents, in a sustained campaign, saw it as the kind of place to be
zapped in tit-for-tat scenarios of an escalating conflict, each
superpower taking out a foreign base. It would have shown they meant
business without – at that point – attacking the mother country itself.
Says Mr Rosenberg: "The world
was a different place in the '70s and the '80s. Since that time
basically terrorism has become a concern of many governments."
NEWS: Wasn't this a plausible
scenario during all of the cold war?
ROSENBERG: That was a
reasonable and probable scenario put forward by the leadership, yes.
NEWS: Do you agree with it?
ROSENBERG: That was certainly
before my time. I was actually still in high school in the 1970s.
People at the time considered this something of a possibility if
somewhat very, very remote.
NEWS: That scenario was touted
as a possibility right up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
ROSENBERG: They had a big
nuclear arsenal but ever since the end of WWII those military crises,
if you will, have been able to be resolved diplomatically, without
taking the nuclear option.
NEWS: How come you missed
9/11? You first heard about it on CNN, then on the bus, going to the
ROSENBERG: That's right. It
caught us all by surprise. I talk in the book about the intelligence
community being basically fractured at that time. There were basically
walls between the various agencies. Sharing your information with other
agencies wasn't done very easily. A lot of the information that could
have been used and put together simply wasn't. That certainly had a
major impact on why the attacks on 9/11 were successful.
NEWS: And that flowed over to
the supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, didn't it?
ROSENBERG: I don't think so.
The reason for that wasn't that there wasn't any communication. We in
the intelligence community were certainly looking for evidence on WMDs
and as I say in the book, nothing really came across my desk, or I
never read anything over 10 years of reading reports about Iraq, that
they had WMDs. We just didn't have the conclusive evidence, at least
not at Pine Gap.
But I'll also say the White
House has access to a lot more intelligence information than we did at
NEWS: Did the NSA, which is
apparently even more important than the CIA, make the point to the
government that they had nothing solid on WMDs in Iraq?
ROSENBERG: I don't know what
the leadership at the time was saying to the White House, but from the
frontline I can certainly say there was nothing available to us, and
nothing from our level was passed to the White House that, yes, Iraq
does have WMDs. If it had been I'm sure many of us in the intelligence
community would have been aware of any conclusive evidence out there.
We thought other sources may have passed evidence to the White House
but in the end this wasn't the case.
Mr Rosenberg says his book's
objective is partly to debunk claims made by anti-base protesters.
NEWS: What kind of claims?
ROSENBERG: That we are killing
NEWS: Isn't that what you are
doing in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan almost every day?
ROSENBERG: All of that happens
on the ground. The information we pass back is simply in response to
intelligence gathering. We get tasked to find this information and we
pass that back whenever we can. Pine Gap has not, and would never
NEWS: It's part of the war
intelligence is always part of the war effort, yes.
NEWS: So the war in Iraq, for
example, couldn't be conducted without you guys.
ROSENBERG: It could certainly
be conducted but the intelligence community is quite broad. You have
naval assets, you have ground assets, other facilities similar to Pine
Gap, but the amount of intelligence wouldn't be at the same level
without places like Pine Gap.
NEWS: If you can, as you
explain in the book, give information about launching of Scud missiles,
and their location and readiness, then that is a pretty intense
involvement in the war effort, is it not? You would have passed on
information about insurgent groups?
ROSENBERG: I do talk quite a
bit about the role of Pine Gap in that effort. We certainly look for
anything that is of interest to the military that we are tasked to do.
One of the most important issues is to be able to locale road mobile
missiles. That effort is shared among the intelligence community which
have their own assets such as aircraft and drones.
NEWS: You are one of the
world's most highly skilled spies, have one of the United States'
highest security clearances, you became an Aussie. You offered your
services to the Australian Defence Signals Directory, to ASIO and ASIS
and they said, "no, thanks"?
ROSENBERG: It was surprising.
The problem was getting an Australian security clearance. When I left
Pine Gap in 2009 it was the year I became an Australian citizen, so I
would have needed a citizenship waver to receive the Australian
security clearance. In the end it was too problematic and appeared they
didn't know the exact procedure of what I had to do to get that waver.
I was quite disappointed in the end. I thought my 23 years with the NSA
would have been quite valuable for the Australian Government.
NEWS: Are you saying to me
that the creme de la creme of the Australian spooks couldn't work out
whom to see about what bureaucratic process to follow for them to give
you a job?
ROSENBERG: That's correct. It
was only one of these organizations that I'd gone through but I did
apply to the other agencies but they didn't show any interest.
NEWS: A final question: Was I
one of the individuals about whom new arrivals at Pine Gap were warned
in their induction briefings?
ROSENBERG: I can say no to
that. I think that you are one of the trusted individuals in Alice
Springs, from what I know.
NEWS: Here goes my carefully cultivated bad reputation.
FOOTNOTE: The Pine Gap Four, Adele Goldie, Donna Mulhearn, Bryan Law
and Jim Dowling, of the group Christians Against All Terrorism after
the had their
conviction quashed for entering
in 2005. Only
the Alice Springs News and the Canberra Times printed a photograph,
provided by the group, showing
Ms Golding on the
roof of a building in the inner compound of Pine Gap. Other media were
also offerd the photo but yielded to police pressure not to publish it.
Mr Rosenberg described the
incursion by the four
as "the most serious security breach in Pine Gap's history".
camp artists commissioned by Darwin Festival. By KIERAN FINNANE.
A 75 metre mural commissioned by the Darwin Festival is keeping
Tangentyere Artists busy this week. The painters from Alice Springs
town camps are tackling it section by section in the warehouse space on
Fogarty Street that they hope will eventually become their
The corrugated iron mural will be wrapped around the festival's
Lighthouse venue, a big top tent, in Festival Park. Larrakia artists
had the commission in 2009, artists from the Tiwi Islands last year,
and now Tangentyere Artists have taken the baton.
The opportunity arose after their exhibition at Darwin's Outstation
Gallery last year and will be great for further raising the profile of
the art centre in the capital.
It will also tell a different story about town camp life. Painters are
working in characteristic vein: Dan Jones is creating one of his truck
scenes at Utopia, underlining the link that many town camp residents
have to country and communities outside of Alice; Margaret Boko is
painting vignettes of children playing, men hunting, people sitting
together around a fire and her written texts tell us that traditional
beliefs continue to loom large for her people; Alison Inkamala is
evoking sunlit country that shows no sign of modern life, nor of people
at all, except that you sense them through her fond memory.
Six of the artists will travel with staff to Darwin for the Lighthouse
opening on August 13, following the announcement of the National
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards on August 11. Margaret
Boko is a finalist in the awards, as well as in the Togart Prize for
Territory artists, which will be announced on September 8. Alison
Inkamala is also a finalist in the Togart.
Alongside all this activity another town camp family has created their
own jewelry line, fashioning earrings and brooches out of bottletops
which they paint with colourful designs. Some of the recycled
bottletops are beaten flat and painted on both sides. Others are
pressed into a dome shape and paired, a bit like castanets, with
different designs on the outside surfaces.
Louise Daniels observed the technique in a workshop, took the idea home
and her relatives have responded with enthusiasm. The pieces have been
selling well from stalls at special events and soon will be featuring
regularly at the Sunday markets. At $10 for brooches, $20 for a pair of
earrings, they make a unique affordable gift while further down the
track the family may look at developing more than one range.
Last migrations. By KIERAN FINNANE.
A soaring bird can take our hearts with her; in her flight we see an
incomparable image of freedom. Conversely, there is no more potent
image of mortal endings than her fall to earth in death. "Succumbing to
gravity" she leaves the airs, expiring in the space of the earthbound
before passing beyond.
Pamela Lofts in two compelling series of drawings meditates on this
final physical state. Her subjects are fallen Shearwaters, birds that
undertake extraordinary migrations across the hemispheres. Without
being told this, we can intuit it from the drawings. The last movement
of each body speaks of a profound exhaustion, a life fully expended.
In the smaller drawings, the series of 16 titled Free Fall (a broken
curve), the birds appear to have exerted themselves to the last breath,
their wings outflung, their heads thrown back. In the five larger
drawings that make up the series Landfall (wind-scoured), the birds
seem to have drawn their energies into themselves. There is something
more desperate in the Free Fall series, the birds' desire to go on
living, to regain the airs, enacted to the very last. With the Landfall
series there is a surrender, a final folding of the wing and then no
There is sorrow at the heart of this show, but the sorrow is leavened
by the work's meditative beauty. Lofts is a fine drawer. Readers
familiar with her book illustrations will know that, but these drawings
in the character of their mark-making are more like the work that won
her the Alice Prize in 1995, Landscape (on the road again). This was a
large-scale drawing of the decaying carcass of a dog, a road kill. The
scale allowed an ambiguous reading of the carcass as landscape; Lofts,
who always has a strong idea at the centre of her work, was commenting
on the brutality of the way we, in this technological age, move across
the land. Her drawing was able to render the texture of matted fur, the
many tones in its darkness, the contrasting tautness of sinew and
muscle, the smooth hardness of claw and bone, which at the same time
could all be seen as a tortured landscape under a sombre sky.
The ambiguity in the current drawings is of a different order; the
birds are unmistakably dead but still we see life in them, the essence
of their lives – flight. With the mark-making there is a similar
brilliance in rendering the textures and lights in the birds' dark
feathers, whipped by cold winds, the beautiful curve of wing, domed
head, slender neck, hooked beak.
There are two further elements to the current exhibition. The Sea
(tide-washed) is a series of 21 small framed oil pastels, showing
waves, sky, a distant headland in many moods.The framing is important.
It emphasises the artist's gaze into a space – the sea and the sky –
about which there are unknowable qualities, an eternal "beyondness". By
contrast, the drawings are presented unframed, giving them a heightened
immediacy, the physicality of the death of the body. Pinned to the
gallery walls only at the top, the paper curves up and, with the
smaller series, inwards at the bottom corners. These curves and their
shadows cast on the wall create a double visual echo of wings, of
There is also a video, on a tiny screen, titled Some sort of ending. It
shows the unceasing movement of the ocean, a metaphor for the enduring
breath of the world, the great life cycle in which we join, each for
our time. A wave breaks on the shore, another comes.
This exhibition, under the overall title Free fall (time after time),
opened last Friday at Watch This Space, the artist-run initiative
conceived by Lofts in 1991 and officially established in 1994. At the
opening the current committee, through its chairperson Dan Murphy,
announced the creation of an annual award for a Central Australian
artist, named The Lofty in honour of the space's initiator. Lofts and
the five other founding members – Angela Gee, Pip McManus, Jan
McKay, Mary-Lou Nugent and Anne Mosey – were also all given
lifetime memberships. The award, in December of each year, will give
the recipient $1000 prize money and the opportunity to exhibit at WTS
in the following year with no charge for gallery costs.
Free fall shows until July 22.
Itchy feet and big brain. By ESTELLE
ROBERTS. (MOZZIE BITES is on holidays.)
Stuarts Well stole my heart. And kidnapped my imagination. I got big
brain, a friend’s term for when your imagination gets so big it
stretches the contours of your brain. This happens most when it rains.
But let me start at the start.
My feet had been feeling really itchy. Completely unrelated to the rash
on my neck though, which according to long term Alice Springs residents
is probably due to the water here, "Oh yeah, everybody gets some sort
of rash-dermatitis-type-thing when they get to Alice". Great.
My initial weeks of kicking around with not a lot to do soon turned
into a pot luck dinner, gig, exhibition opening or backyard fire, every
night kind of weeks, leaving me gasping for down time and craving some
wide open spaces with 100s of kilometres between the next stop and me.
Was I getting nostalgic for my last home at the truck stop? Maybe a
mini road trip would sort me out?
So a friend and I drove out of Alice Springs one drizzly afternoon and,
music blasting, tore up the highway till we took the turn off for
Rainbow Valley. The drive till then was without incident, a feat in
itself considering the road trains careening our way. Turning
onto the shatteringly corrugated red track, the country took on a
breathtaking glow as I caught my first glimpses of the setting sun
playing charades with the red-splintered cliffs. I thought that
dinosaurs could still be living up there and nobody would know.
The fish curry cooked over the fire was delicious, and the
expanse of cloudy sky, lit here and there by a barely visible moon
enveloped us in its wide grasp.
After some sunrise pancakes we called into the Stuarts Well roadhouse
for a cup of obscenely over-priced instant coffee, which was perhaps
worth the money as it took me straight back to my old truck stop.
Even as a seasoned barista, there is something about instant coffee and
white sugar that I secretly enjoy.
The roadhouse is a curious joint, of an architecture defined by
generations of expansions and add-ons of haphazard materials and a
dried up pool in the courtyard. A piano sits centre stage in the dining
room whose walls are lined with dusty photos and news clippings, most
of them dedicated to Dinky, the internationally renowned singing dingo
that has made it as the subject of a Trivial Pursuit question.
We got talking to Jim, the owner, about a photo that looked like a big
crop circle in the middle of desert. He told us all there is to know
about the lucerne field and its circular shape, apparently a water and
energy efficient irrigation design.
Over the next hour the dining room filled with people as we listened to
Jim tell stories and to his dingo sing. I like a passionate
person who tells stories as though everybody else is just as
passionate. Before we left, he casually let loose the biggest
story of the day, "The road house is for sale. Any of you mob
interested, make an offer".
My eyes must have rounded and I felt my heart race and skull tighten as
big brain set in, imagining all the possibilities for the place. A
self-sufficient oasis! A menu inspired by whatever’s in the market
garden! (So no huge trucker breakfasts or mixed grill plates.)
Star-gazing pool parties on suffocating summer nights! WWOOFAs in earth
bag domes! A venue for music and art events, workshops, artist retreats
and, and, and ... the potential as expansive as the country
around it. I could feel my lack of road trippin' being cured by an urge
to create something, something as inspired as the country around me.
Thinking outside the square
Sir – With the inevitable final decision by
the Lands and Planning Appeals Tribunal, permitting Telstra to proceed
with a 24 metre high phone tower in the Larapinta area after seven
years disputation, one wonders whether a different approach by all
parties concerned might not provide a more satisfying long-term
Travel broadens the mind, it’s said; and as my flight approached Riga
International Airport in Latvia in July, 2008, the first thing that
caught my attention was an enormous tower situated on an island in the
Daugava River near the city’s southern outskirts.
The third tallest manmade structure in Europe, its primary purpose is
for transmission of TV channels across much of the flat Latvian
It resembles the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, perhaps lending
some credence to Riga’s claim to be the “Paris of the Baltics”.
It’s an imposing edifice, unmistakable on the skyline yet situated so
that it does not inappropriately dominate the city, which
architecturally is seen as one of the most diverse and best preserved
The sheer scale of it is best appreciated from close-up, which I did on
a pleasant river cruise that included a tour around the island. It
creates a startling juxtaposition with the natural vegetation below,
yet its simple structure creates an elegant solution to what otherwise
risked being an ugly utilitarian blot on the landscape.
Far from despoiling the view, this TV transmission tower actually
creates an attraction as a landmark in its own right. It’s evident a
lot of thought went into its construction, most impressive given the
impoverished status of the Latvian economy.
In many respects Latvia reminded me of my home in Central Australia. By
European standards it’s a remote and under-populated region (about the
size of the Irish Republic, Latvia has 2.5 million people, much less
than either Sydney or Melbourne).
Tourism is a major economic mainstay, much of it occurring on a
seasonal basis as it does here (coincidentally the same time of year).
However, as an independent nation Latvia cannot rely on constant
taxpayer funded largesse as we do in the Northern Territory – there’s
no equivalent of a Canberra for that country.
So necessity becomes the mother of invention – in Riga a tremendous
amount of effort has gone into preserving, restoring or reconstructing
the historic character of the old city, while modern structures like
the TV transmission tower add a new dimension to architecture which can
add to, or at least complement, the aesthetics of place and nature.
Perhaps there are some lessons in that for us.
Get out of cushy Canberra, say NT cattlemen
Sir – The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s
Association has backed calls for the independent review and Senate
Inquiry to extend their deadlines and come to Northern Australia to
talk directly to affected producers and their families.
If the Senate doesn’t leave the rarefied chambers and cushy armchairs
of Canberra, we will have no confidence that it will have done its job
properly. People need to be given a chance to have their say when the
committee is considering draft legislation aimed at closing down an
entire industry which is vital to Northern and rural Australia.
Pastoralists won’t have a say if the committee sits only in Canberra.
In fact, by sitting in Canberra it will be unduly influenced by the
uninformed activists based in Southern Australia who have ready access
to their politicians.
Our recent trip to Canberra revealed a frightening lack of knowledge
and understanding of basic issues surrounding the live export trade,
indeed of Northern Australia generally, among politicians representing
It is a telling fact that 80 per cent of Australia’s land mass is
represented by only 6.6% of Federal Parliamentarians. It would be a
gross miscarriage of justice and a failure of democracy for such a
vital matter to be considered only in the committee rooms of Parliament
House, Canberra, without exposing the Senators on the committee to the
realities of what is being proposed by Senator Xenophon, Andrew Wilkie
and the Greens.
I back comments by Labor Member for the Kimberley, Carol Martin, at the
weekend who expressed concern that the inquiries will lack balance if
they don’t have face to face contact with pastoralists. Ms Martin
pointed out that pastoralists were helpless in the whole process,
whereas animal welfare lobbyists had had five months to prepare for the
airing of the Four Corners footage. Ms Martin was quoted on the ABC at
the weekend as saying, “The cattle industry has been brought into ill
repute by a stupid government making stupid decisions to please one per
cent of the constituency who usually don’t vote for bloody Labor
I say, “Hear hear."
Sir – Far from being the “protector” of
animals that they claim to be, the RSPCA is showing they are nothing
but a bunch of radical extremists, hell bent on ruining the Northern
Territory economy and putting hundreds of families onto the welfare
The RSPCA’s recent online publication for schools focusing on northern
Australia’s live cattle trade demonstrates they are more interested in
misleading students and teachers and creating economic and social
mayhem than they are about animal (or human) welfare.
The ‘resource for schools’ lifts the veil on the RSPCA and shows their
true colours, which are out of step with educational values and
highlights their hidden agendas. Through this supposed educational
resource they are misrepresenting an industry that is the lifeblood of
the Territory and is a vital social component of the country.
Rather than work with graziers to assist in lifting Indonesia’s animal
welfare standards, they call for a complete ban on all live exports.
The consequence of this would be tens of thousands of cattle slowly
starving or being shot where they stand on Territory and Australian
farms, while at the same time ceding all influence over what standards
It shows the RSPCA has no regard for the protein needs of some of our
poorest neighbours and no regard for Australia’s quarantine risks if a
country like Indonesia is forced to source beef from countries not
declared foot and mouth disease free.
Providing material for students and teachers that is not linked to the
curriculum shows how little the RSPCA is concerned about proper and
decent student education. Far from being a “non-government,
community-based charity dedicated to protecting the welfare of all
animals – great and small, the RSPCA is showing themselves up as not
being a friend of the Northern Territory and its people.
All Territorians and Australians, especially those in the north, should
visit the site before considering supporting the RSPCA – there are
plenty of other non-profit groups that care for animals but don’t pose
such a threat to our way of life.
NT Shadow Primary Industry Minister
Government doesn't care about animal welfare
Sir – Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s
decision to lift the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia—despite
the fact that Australian officials have not inspected any Indonesian
abattoirs and there is no system in place to ensure that cattle are
stunned prior to slaughter—shows that the government doesn’t care about
Instead of requiring Indonesian abattoirs to make meaningful animal
welfare improvements, Australia’s government has bowed to pressure from
the livestock industry. This comes less than a month after footage
showing horrific cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs—including cattle being
beaten and having their throats hacked and their eyes gouged out—aired
on ABC’s “Four Corners”, sparking massive public outrage.
While the public is rightfully shocked by this cruelty, PETA has known
about this and similar abuses occurring in the live export industry for
years. In 2006, after a joint PETA and Animals Australia investigation
showing abattoir workers in Cairo chasing cattle, slashing the animals’
tendons and beating them with heavy metal poles, Australia temporarily
halted live exports to Egypt, but these too have since resumed.
Living beings should not be treated worse than cheap cargo. It’s time
for Australia to do the right thing and ban all live animal exports for
good. To learn more, visit PETAAsiaPacific.com.
Director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia
Exploration worker in the
60s says he likes resource project
Gday Erwin, (and Team) – Thanks to your excellent weekly online
We have just read with much pleasure the best news story [about the
coal to diesel proposal in the Simpson Desert] ever produced since Alan
Wauchope and Peter Wilkins were in competition!
I commenced my working life in the Alice in the early 1960s, on the
first oil and gas exploration lines out from Mt Dare and Old Andado.
We miss Alice.
Kind regards to all who know us up there in God's Country.
Peter and Marlene Bassett
Neighbors not consulted over school's outdoor learning area
Sir – Education Minister Chris Burns is again riding
roughshod over the interests of residents living near an Alice Springs
The construction of a Covered Outdoor Learning Area at Gillen Primary
has angered residents living near the school.
It’s de-ja vu for Alice Springs residents. Residents living near the
school were not consulted on the nature of the building and its
proximity to homes.
Most only received notification that the building was to be constructed
just a few days before building commenced.
This failure to consult bears a disturbing resemblance to the
development of an indoor basketball stadium just metres from homes at
Centralian Middle School.
It’s beyond belief that just a few months since committing to improving
the Government’s consultation processes, the Education Minister is
presiding over a similar debacle in Alice Springs.
I have written to the Education Minister expressing my disgust at the
Government’s failure to consult over the school development and I will
work with residents to have their objections heard and to have the COLA
relocated elsewhere within the school’s grounds.”
Member for Araluen
Love, sadness for The Red Centre
and Aussie arts and crafts
Dear Sirs (a very British greeting but that's what I am) – I have just
read your article
about Renate Schenk, along with reports in other papers of alcohol
related crime, with sadness.
My husband and I first visited Alice Springs in 1994 when we drove from
Uluru to Ross River and finished with a few days in Alice.
We fell in love with The Red Centre and the Outback. The whole
experience was everything we hoped for and although, even then, we were
advised to avoid the Todd River area in the evenings, we enjoyed our
few days exploring the main tourist areas.
In Alice we bought three wall hangings of the type shown in your
picture – they were all proudly "Made in Australia" and we have them
Between 1986 and 2006 we have visited Australia six times and each time
we were determined to explore a different corner of your fabulous
country. Grant you, the impetus for our visits was having family out
there but after the first holiday in 1986 we needed no ulterior motive
to keep returning – just the funds!
Each trip gave us some magical moments and wonderful memories. There
are too many to recount.
We returned to the Red Centre in 2001, hiring a small campervan out of
Alice and spending a week exploring Uluru (again), Kings Canyon and the
McDonnell Ranges, including the Mereenie Loop Road.
Our only slight disappointments came with the inevitable "progress" and
the increase in tourists.
The base walk around Uluru became discreetly cordoned; it made no
difference, those who wanted to take the 1000th photo simply stepped
over the rope and ignored the signs to respect the sacred areas.
Port Campbell National Park and the 12 Apostles went from a wild and
wonderful natural experience in 1986 to fully commercial, Visitor's
Centre with coach parks and boardwalks by the time we returned in 2003.
By 2006 we noticed a marked increase in accommodation and car hire
costs (and the UK pound wasn't as weak then as it is now!); everything
seemed much more commercial, whether it was Sydney, Noosa, Gold Coast
and so on.
Our biggest disappointment was the amount of cheap souvenirs. Trying to
buy anything of decent quality made in Australia became a challenge
almost as tough as Outback driving!
My favourite store in Sydney has gone to the wall – Weiss Art. We did
find a small family business with a stall at The Rocks Market in Sydney
where I spent a small fortune.
And in Queensland we bought two watercolour prints by a local artist.
They now are proudly hung in our lounge. But I guess that we are of the
few who would rather buy one genuine Australia-made article than ten
made in China.
It must be even more difficult now that the infamous Global Downturn
has affected most of us.
We are now retired and know that with the current exchange rates
between our two countries my husband and I cannot afford to do the kind
of independent trips we used to enjoy and the organised tours all tread
a well worn route, moving on after just a day or two in each place.
They miss so much.
We hope to get back to Australia one day and when we do we'll do our
best to support local arts and crafts – if there are any.
Good luck and best wishes
Isobel and Dave Smith
Lifting of live export ban
Sir – The Federal Government's decision to lift the suspension on
live cattle exports to Indonesia is a relief to the industry and
pastoralists who have faced almost a month of uncertainty about the
future of their industry and the trade to Indonesia.
Now our efforts and focus must shift to immediately hammering out the
logistics around the practicality of how the resumption will take place
on the ground.
Primary Industry Minister Kon Vatskalis will be talking with officials
and industry about:
• assisting the transition back to exports;
• supporting Territory families affected to understand how the
resumption will work;
• identifying after-effects including managing oversupply of cattle;
• exploring new potential markets in Asia.
We estimate there will be an extra 100,000 head of cattle left on
country that would otherwise have been exported to Indonesia. As the
cattle trade resumes it is important that the necessary assistance is
provided to Territory pastoralists to help manage their excess cattle.
The NT Government will also provide funding to host and train
Indonesians involved in the industry so that animal welfare standards
are adhered to.
Paul Henderson, Chief Minister
Kon Vatskalis, Primary Industry Minister
Sir – I cautiously welcome the Federal Government’s decision to lift
the blanket ban on live beef exports to Indonesia.
While details are sketchy, I welcome Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s
announcement that live cattle exports will resume with Indonesia and
hope the decision breathes life back into an industry that has been on
The decision to slap a six-month blanket ban on live exports to
Indonesia showed the Federal Government was woefully out of touch with
northern Australia. Its knee-jerk reaction has damaged northern
Australia’s economy as well as our relationship with Indonesia.
Senator Ludwig’s back-flip was necessary and overdue. I look forward to
seeing the details, although it appears the Commonwealth has put the
industry back on the same footing it was immediately after the Four
Corners program went to air.
In the weeks since the blanket ban was announced, the livelihoods of
thousands of Territorians have been under threat as income streams
dried up. I hope the Commonwealth honours its commitment to compensate
pastoralists and workers affected by the ban.
The blanket ban has highlighted the importance of the Northern
Territory re-establishing a permanent presence in Indonesia to
capitalise on our strategic relationship to mutual benefit.