Harold, I was referring to confidentiality generally (I’m not able to …

Comment on Leaked letter casts light on town council pool fiasco by Alderman John Rawnsley.

Harold,
I was referring to confidentiality generally (I’m not able to provide comment about this specific issue). This is why I started following my opening comments by saying “referring to confidential information generally”. My comment is my personal opinion about the general subject matter and not of Council. John.

Alderman John Rawnsley Also Commented

Leaked letter casts light on town council pool fiasco
One of my great disappointments in my time on Council is the fact that confidential information is leaked so often. It is confidential under the Act, but the regularity of the leaking undermines the purpose of those parts of the Local Government Act and, apart from this, the very definition of “confidentiality” itself. It also undermines the ability of elected members to be frank and fearless in their questioning and scrutiny of the papers.
Referring to confidential information generally, Alderman Liz Martin is correct in asserting that in many cases only a small percentage of the subject matter requires confidentiality (so this means the whole matter must remain confidential). From a governance perspective, there are very good reasons why this is so. Some may seem mundane, such as the slandering of someone in public (or even inferring a fact) without providing that person a right of reply, but they are very important.
Often, only parts of it are leaked, or parts that are not subject to verbal updates (where these updates are confidential but essential to the topic). The leaker in most cases has their own agenda and is often selective. The way the story is projected often gives hints as to the angle which is being played. Media often play into this story because this encourages their source to keep on leaking to them and for them to be in a position to continue to do stories based on leaked information. There is no space for objectivity because elected members and Council are bound by confidentiality and the LG Act not to speak about them.
In any debate, an elected member can have their own individual and personal political imperatives at heart, and, at times, this can conflict with the town’s interest. I’ve seen this time and time again. When matters are discussed behind closed doors I see and hear the opinions of certain individuals change. Their voices are suited to the audience (and in a confidential room the audience are other elected members and select staff, as opposed to the media).
Some individuals play on the confidentiality issue at length, and for personal political reasons, because they know the public don’t know what’s discussed in confidential and they know, as such, that it’s easy to create the notion of secrecy or a conspiracy. One concerning aspect of modern democracy is that the level of trust in government (and this applies to all governments across the world) has been steadily reducing. Such politics plays into this mistrust. It is irresponsible politics because it is saying to that portion of electors who are anti-government generally that their stance is supported and is valued (when, on an objective level, it should not).
I understand Hal’s proposal, but, have to disagree because some elected members will be influenced more by their own political interests than the valid reasons why an item ought to remain in confidential. I could support a proposal where a member of the public can ask for a category of reasons why a matter should be kept in confidential, but once it’s then opened to elected members and / or debate it is treading on dangerous Territory.
Unfortunately, I was not there on the night that this particular subject matter was debated but I can say with absolute certainty and conviction that the clear majority of elected members have the town’s interest at heart whether they discuss matters in open or in confidence. This includes whether a matter should be brought from confidential to the open section.


Recent Comments by Alderman John Rawnsley

After pork barrelling and scandalous waste of money, business as usual after the election? Afraid so.
Professor Gerritsen is correct in asserting that fundamental structural reform is required if we are to see real change. He is correct in saying that “so long as the Darwin seats decide who is in government, nothing will change; urban bias will rule even if the CLP wins this election. So what are we to do? There are several possibilities.”
His first suggestion is to call for the “NT to be divided, between north and south, into two territories (as it was briefly in the 1920s). This would at least reduce the electoral power of Darwin in the southern half of the NT”.
To achieve this, changes would be required from the Self-Government Act in Canberra. Given the pace of change in indigenous affairs such as a radical proposal is not far-fetched, but it is hardly on the radar so far. Not many people call for it. Key leaders from across the north and south regions remain too connected or enmeshed in the current system, and see such a proposition as too far-fetched, to call for it. Notions of self-determination, of localised and / or regional decision-making, are not supported when leaders from outside of our region receive such broad and strong vocal support from various local leaders in our community (the intervention is an example). Neither political party at a national level has proposed such a change or even flagged or discussed it as a possibility.
Prof Gerritsen’s second suggestion is that we “call for the Commonwealth to resume formal control over the NT’s Aboriginal population and be responsible for expenditure in that area? In effect the NT government would then become the government of the major urban centres of the Stuart Highway”. A major pitfall of this is the lack of a Commonwealth structure on the ground. Many argue that this would throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Commonwealth would retain control, as it pretended to do with the Commonwealth intervention, and would not have the local capacity to affect such change.
Prof Gerristen’s final comment is that we “need to start a debate about the future of the Northern Territory based on the view that the currently constituted Territory is unsustainable”. The view is, “Statehood is nonsense”. This ignores the fact that the Statehood process is designed to empower delegates from across the Territory to design a draft constitution.
What we want in that constitution is up to us. We could, for example, put a clause that requires Government to expend money consistent with the formula put by the Commonwealth in its distribution of grants, or that the Territory cannot take an admin fee from grants to Local Government, or to set up a structure for Darwin and the rest that effectively reflects the first idea put by Prof Gerritsen, or puts in place a secure and empowered accountability measure as suggested in the past from the Professor. At the end of the day, there will always be a struggle for regional delegates to argue persuasively with a number of Darwin votes required for effective change, but a compromise and fundamental structural change through the drafting of a new constitution is not impossible.
Ironically, the Statehood process failed because some MLAs in the Opposition, including from this region, didn’t want the debate for delegates for the constitution to cover issues that would “spill” over into the NT election. They didn’t want such issues as how we can have systemic change to the way we are governed and structures that support the region to be on the radar and to be discussed. This is a blight on our current leadership, because there remains very little space and impetus for a debate about such issues.
These views are my own and don’t represent any organisation I am involved with.


Last meeting of 11th Council descends into chaos
Hal – your proposal for a two tiered government is one way of seeking structural reform. Others have put that there should be two separate areas within the Territory. Other options include regional interests being embedded in the way finances are distributed (this is currently done for GST at a national level to the States under horizontal fiscal equalisation).
Whatever option is pursued, my point below is that it can be achieved either through the Commonwealth Parliament amending legislation or through the design of a new constitution. The video and our campaign has fervently worked in the interests of regions (and Alice Springs). The process for a convention to design a new constitution has stalled. The current government, with bipartisan support, sought to have an election of delegates on March 24 alongside the LG elections. The Opposition withdrew its support and committed, sometime in the future, for a separate and independent election of delegates.
When the Statehood debate re-ignites, the debate over the relationship between the capital centre and regions will be even more sensitive because the political power of the greater Darwin area is growing at an accelerated rate. This rate is so fast that, at the next election in four years’ time it is nearly certain that the number of Alice Springs members of Parliament will be reduced from 3 to 2 (or one seat will include both bush and town electors).
Political power will be reduced in the regions and concentrated in greater Darwin. The video, and Town Council’s campaign, will be a crucial and leading role amongst the regions in a push for constitutional protection if Statehood does take place. In our many meetings Council has been careful not to assume a position either in favour or against Statehood.
Ian – the line that those who oppose the curfew are not concerned with the welfare of children has been used time and time again. You can refer to a Mayoral candidate’s comments at the start of this current campaign (early March) in the Advocate, for example.
Janet – the video does not support Statehood. I’m not sure how many different ways I can say this. And the next time you or Steve go on radio and talk about how political correctness has sent the world mad, and that people fear expressing themselves because they will be called “racist”, remember your assertion that this is “petty politics” and that you don’t get “involved” in it.


Last meeting of 11th Council descends into chaos
Janet, recently I spent a significant amount of time correcting the person whose campaign you are managing: Steve Brown. It’s a waste of time to do this. I find myself doing it again.
First, the Statehood video is not a video “promoting Statehood”. It’s a video as part of a broader campaign which says that if Statehood takes place the new constitution which will underpin the State must protect and empower regions. This is one of only two ways to achieve structural reform in the way we are governed (the other is legislative change from the Commonwealth Parliament, which is highly unlikely). I have written extensively about the reasons why structural reform is necessary. I suggest you read this material.
Second, the Federal Government did not “put it on ice and closed it down”. The process stalled because bipartisan support for the previously agreed process was withdrawn. It was withdrawn, partly, because some caucus members on the Opposition side felt more concerned about their own position then a public debate about why structural reform is important (and were able to overturn their leader’s statements). This is a story for another day.
Third, I sat next to Terry Mills when, in front of the cameras, he made his commitment to the process. Many months later he withdrew his support and said he “didn’t think it through”. Money was committed to the process during these months (and before based on the principle of bipartisanship).
In my view the Town Council is correct in taking the lead on advocating structural reform to empower and protect the interests of regions. No other politician in Alice Springs is doing this. If you want to pass judgement on whether this is a waste of money or not I suggest you read the reasons why structural reform is important first.
(This debate is very different to the head story – Steve and Janet, what are your views on me being called racist by two other Alderman during the Adolf Hitler / Alice Springs debate? Usually you both jump at this type of politics in our town but have been silent this time around).


Last meeting of 11th Council descends into chaos
At the Feb 27th Council meeting Ald Habib said that an Alice Springs by-law was “exactly the same” as “Adolf Hitler’s Germany”.
When I noted the offensive nature of the comments and that an apology was an appropriate response I was told that:
• I was “electioneering by surrogate”.
• All I wanted to achieve was a “headline in the newspaper”.
• I was “racist” (or the by-law is racist, I can’t quite make out the logic).
• I wanted Ald Melky and Habib Bitar to leave Australia and that this was the next step.
• I took Ald Habib Bitar’s comments “out of context” and they are not offensive.
• There was nothing to be apologetic for and the comments are acceptable.
• Nazi Germany was run by a Dictator and so is Alice Springs.
• I’m doing this to avoid a debate about the actual by-law.
Two Alderman amongst the three defending the comments and questioning my motivations were being smug and were laughing at the situation. Ald Habib Bitar’s comment was made on the 27th February. The Council election is 24th March. My motivations were seen as dishonest for raising the issue between these two time periods and at my final meeting.
My wife’s great grandmother was the only one of 13 in her family who survived the holocaust. My wife is interested in learning about most things about the world but refuses to learn about Nazi Germany. I have read of how we not only pass genes down to our children (and so forth) but that behaviours, impulses, memories can also carry on, often in subtle ways. How I respond to something reflects ways that certain lines of my heritage responded. I could not imagine what it was like for those directly affected by the holocaust (and any act of genocide). I have no doubt that Nazi Germany has left an imprint for many generations to come. These generations, and their lost family members, are the “victims” who were “punished” by Hitler’s Germany, not a person in Alice Springs affected by a by-law.
In Washington last year I spent hours walking through the Holocaust museum. I met survivors who volunteered. I walked through hallways where photograph displays of family portraits of those who were lost rose above the height of the wall until they disappeared. I learnt about the lead up to the holocaust and saw many visuals and stories of what had happened. I saw others crying as they walked through. An actual door with markings and signs was displayed. At one part an extensive cabinet with thousands of figurines showed mostly women and children lining up to go down to a lower level for what they were told were showers. At the other end were operating tables where jewellery and gold were removed.
I saw video footage and historical info about surgeons performing all kinds of tests. I saw that what was done was not only Jews but disabled and gay people. At one stage was a pile-up of burnt out shoes. I learnt about the international response and how dedicated journalists and radio announcers constantly gave updates of what was happening. The Olympics were held and were hailed as a success (propaganda by Germany to show that nothing bad was happening). Some Western countries went from dealing with the issue of mass migration of Jews (even turning back boats) to intervening. I learnt about individual stories of people who, by luck, escaped extermination and were never to be reunited with their family. I saw a section which was named after a book a journalist had given me many years ago here in Alice. The book sought to teach young children what had happened.
I visited the museum twice and left with a distinct impression with what took place. I came away knowing how serious these issues are and how they deserve a special place in our memory – not to be confused or compared to more mundane things.
To compare an Alice Springs by-law to the actions of Adolf Hitler by saying that both “punish the victim” is abhorrent. To trivialise what happened in Nazi Germany by drawing bleak comparisons to what happens in Alice Springs is to deny the hurt and pain by those affected by the holocaust. To defend such comments disgusts me. To question my motives, and to hold the view that there is no substantive issue with the comparison made, is inexcusable. To laugh smugly and treat the situation as a joke is distressing.
I don’t mind having a debate about the by-laws and I know the arguments put against it are made by reasonable people (just as those in favour are made by reasonable people). What I do no accept, and what I see as entirely inappropriate and unreasonable, are comparisons made to Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Such arguments are not made by reasonable people.
Alderman John Rawnsley


Hot debate in council over youth curfew, public stays away
Steve, I’m glad the attention has turned to a debate between you and me. I do note, however, that you have still refused to respond to the points put against the blanket curfew proposal. Your follow-up comment also goes all over the shop. This will be my last response, too, because I don’t have time to continually correct your comments.
So, here it goes again.
First, we could talk about voting support in Alice Springs but it’s not relevant to this debate, and I’m not sure why you would be the person to bring this up. The supposed facts you put forward are wrong.
Second, you claim my contribution is a “never ending spiel of Labor party propaganda” and that I have “unquestioning support” regardless of the town’s voting patterns. My record shows otherwise, and as Alderman I have always had, and will continue to have, the best interests of the town at heart.
For example, to this specific debate I am open in saying that young people on the streets at night indicates the need for a more effective child protection system. If this is the fact I would say it no matter who is in government. Another example is, and only as recently as a few months, I moved a motion (with one elected member voting against) stating the community’s expectations for the same level of Police resources in time for summer as that experienced in March this year. I will openly support and encourage good ideas and contributions no matter which side of politics (or who) they come from. I wouldn’t have been voted in unanimously as Deputy Mayor if I did otherwise.
Third, you claim that I have been here long enough to put into effect the answers. The fact is Council does not have sole responsibility for law and order. I know a few examples of efforts where elected members have shown leadership. Alderman Stewart advocated for a permanent police dog presence in our town and, shortly after, the police released a media statement saying it would do so.
Alderman Melky argued for two additional Rangers as part of the current municipal plan. Mayor Ryan put in place a plan for Council to fund night security in the mall and this was later picked up by the NTG.
I moved the motion described above. I know there are many other motions and directions put by other Alderman. None of these are complete answers, and there is always more to do, but it does demonstrate effort in an area where we have little power and limited resources.
Fourth, you attack Council’s record and assume that by now we should have clearly developed policy. Again, Council does not have sole responsibility for law and order. And in any case, if there were easy answers, and following significant investments in child protection by the NTG and a Commonwealth intervention at $1.8 b in the name of “protecting children”, then I know we would not have the problems which afflict our town if the answers were easy.
Fifth, you claim that you “don’t think you have to support a curfew as long as you have an alternative response”. As demonstrated by your other comments this is clearly delusional.
Calling for a more effective child protection system where young children left unsupervised at night prompts a personal intervention IS an alternative response. Other responses have been suggested. Despite this, your lot keep running the line that if you don’t support a blanket curfew than you do not care for the protection and welfare of children.
Sixth, you play the race card just as two movers of the motion did the night of the debate. And, in any debate, if the inference is drawn that I don’t care about Aboriginal children and want them to be treated differently because they are Aboriginal (and that I want them to be treated in a way where they are not cared for), I will call the accusers of this stance on playing the “race card”.
I will also defend the views of many people against the blanket curfew (including many young people) as being based on the merits of the case and not their supposed lack of care for Aboriginal children. If you interpret the fear of being called racist as the reason why we have challenges in our community then your assessment is grossly distorted.
The social challenges we face aren’t the result of examples such as Action for Alice being forced to apologise, they are the result of inadequate policies. (To the point about separatism see point eight below).
Seventh, as you know Council’s previous stance was to support a blanket youth curfew. Council motions stand until they are rescinded. If Council’s current stance is to support a blanket youth curfew why would one bring the same effective motion again? And, if all of Council’s previous motions, positions and efforts have not worked (as you claim), than this cannot be construed in any other way than as criticism of the current Council position which is in support of a blanket curfew, because it is a position that we have had for four years. See here
for the debate previously.
Eighth, you claim that all the problems affecting Aboriginal Centralians
are the result of people such as me. You also claim that I argue for
separatist and different treatment. Again, you don’t bring up evidence
to back your claim. Your claim is also incorrect. My post
here is an example of my contribution in this area.
As I said before, I don’t have the time to continually correct your statements.


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