I don’t have an argument with many of the proposals …

Comment on Cr Brown adapts Port Augusta solution to Alice Springs, calls for closer look at youth centre proposal by Alex Nelson.

I don’t have an argument with many of the proposals put forward here by Steve Brown but, as usual, I’m reminded of various attempts and proposals from the past to deal with these issues.
Steve Brown’s youth centre proposal echoes a suggestion I put forward over 20 years ago to convert the abandoned Turner Arcade at the north end of Todd Mall into a youth-oriented facility in which the young people of Alice Springs would have a direct say in its management and operation, and would expose them to real-life experience of business and commercial operation. I wrote specifically to Alderman Carole Frost about this idea – she was also the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Alice Springs and was a prominent identity in the Alice Springs Branch of the CLP. I received a nice letter of acknowledgement in reply but the idea never proceeded.
A few years later Turner Arcade was bulldozed, along with the Shell Todd service station, to make way for the existing carpark at the north end of the mall, in conjunction with opening up that end of Todd Mall to traffic in the current cul-de-sac – all at the cost of $5 million to bring more people into that end of the town again. Hmm, sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? But I digress.
It was also in the very early 1990s that another attempt was made to create a youth complex (a Youth Multi-Function Centre) in response to the entrenched issues of youth crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour that was plaguing Alice Springs at the time. A committee was established, including Tangentjere Council, and a number of sites were listed for the proposed youth centre, including the abandoned water-slide site (now Mercorella Circuit) and the Transport and Works depot off Smith Street (from where the large shed for the Road Transport Hall of Fame was obtained). However, the timing could not have been more inauspicious – Australia was enduring the “recession we had to have” and the NT Government had enacted a program of freezing recruitment in the NT Public Service, slashing over 1220 positions in the process, and implementing wide-ranging cutbacks in expenditure all over the Territory. No prizes for guessing what happened to the Youth Multi-Function Centre proposal!
Finally, in regard to the treatment of Aboriginal people with the “gushing destructive paternalism of the past”, it’s perhaps salutory to take note of Albert Namatjira’s opinions on this issue published on the front page of the Centralian Advocate in October 1952, almost exactly 60 years ago. Namatjira was seeking citizenship rights equal to that of white Australians for himself and a few other Aboriginal people; but he expressed strong reservations about extending such rights to all Aboriginal people for he feared that “they will drink liquor like water”. In light of subsequent history he clearly knew what he was talking about.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Cr Brown adapts Port Augusta solution to Alice Springs, calls for closer look at youth centre proposal
In reply to David Chewings concerning the correct spelling of Tangentyere Council – jes, jou’re probably correct but I’m fairly sure the name was originally spelt with a ‘j’. That’s me, always living in the past! There’s nothing unusual about the evolution of spelling of Aboriginal names; for example – Aranda, Arunta and now Arrernte.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Inquiry into fracking: Giving it the green light?
The release of the draft final report of the inquiry into unconventional onshore fracking in the NT comes just two days after the 50th anniversary of Project Gasbuggy in New Mexico, USA.
On December 10, 1967, the US Atomic Energy Commission detonated a 29 kiloton underground nuclear explosion to test this method for fracking for natural gas.
It was the first of three such tests conducted in the US which was a part of a wider program (called Operation Plowshare) to find civil engineering uses for atom bombs.
Project Gasbuggy was of direct relevance to Central Australia because great expectations were held of this method for potential use in the new Mereenie gas field.
In fact, Magellan Petroleum had already applied to the US and Australian Atomic Energy Commissions for a licence to conduct nuclear fracking in The Centre.
Hopes were dashed when the gas extracted from the test sites consistently proved too contaminated with radioactive particles to be safely used; and the new method of hydraulic fracturing helped bring to an end the research program of Operation Plowshare in the mid 1970s.
Of course, it is unconventional onshore hydraulic fracking that now lies at the heart of the current controversy.


Keith Lawrie Flats – people have had enough!
The Keith Lawrie Flats came under pressure for demolition in February 2004 from neighbouring residents and then Member for Araluen, Jodeen Carney. This story was part of a feature report about the problem of petrol sniffing in Alice Springs.
The Minister for Housing, John Ah Kit, stated the NT Government had no intention of demolishing existing public housing stock, and in March 2004 announced this block of flats would be a part of the government’s multi-million dollar “urban renewal program.”
I was suspicious of the initial report about the Keith Lawrie Flats as it was only three years after the former CLP government had announced its intention to demolish the Cawood Court complex and replace it with house blocks and a retirement village.
The effect of this approach was obvious – it would reduce the quantity of available housing in town at a time of existing short supply and so contribute to driving up the price of real estate.
The CLP lost office before this could happen, and in late 2001 the new Labor government (specifically Housing Minister Kon Vatskalis) reversed that decision in favour of the CLP’s former practice of selling rundown public housing to developers to refurbish the flats and release them for private ownership. Consequently the Cawood Court complex became the City Edge Apartments and sold rapidly when released for sale.
I had a few letters published in the Centralian Advocate (and got some haughty responses) early in 2004 about this matter. The Keith Lawrie Flats were later shut down for quite some time. I took photos of the abandoned complex about January 2006, by that time over-run with weeds.
Later that year the units were reduced in number from 32 to 22, were extensively renovated and (as I recall) were to be closely monitored and controlled to avoid the problems that afflicted them previously.
The stories I have on file about this don’t reveal the public expense involved but sadly it’s apparently entirely wasted as this complex has reportedly reverted to slum conditions again, effectively within a decade.
At least some of the blame for this must accrue to the previous Country Liberals government because the flats surely can’t have declined so precipitously in just the one year of the current government.
In 2004 I suggested the Keith Lawrie Flats should be sold, renovated and released for private sale. The Housing Minister, John Ah Kit, wrote to me saying the government was reluctant to do this because of the adverse impact on waiting times for public housing.
Given the return of the anti-social behaviour at the Keith Lawrie Flats and other complexes, maybe the NT Government just has to bite the bullet on this one and offload these properties for sale.


Pollution? High fliers get it easy.
While it’s preferable that dumping of fuel in the sky is undesirable for a range of reasons, this incident is small beer compared to the overall impact of aviation emissions in the atmosphere and its substantial well-documented contribution towards climate change.
This is clearly evident from the DIRD’s statistics quoted above – if 0.01 per cent of “of fuel used by the aviation industry each year is released into the atmosphere” through dumping then the obverse suggests up to 99.99 per cent of aviation fuel is eventally combusted and emitted as various greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides (which generate ozone at lower height levels), water vapour and other contaminants, all of which contribute to atmospheric warming.
Some more information is provided by DIRD on its web page “Aviation Emissions – Managing the carbon footprint of Australian aviation”.(https://infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/environmental/emissions/).
Another website (https://www.quora.com/) provided some interesting answers in 2015 on the question “What is the impact of dumping fuel by aircraft in the atmosphere?”
One answer states that vaporised dumped aviation fuel contributes to “emissions of atmospheric pollutants such as benzene  and ground-level ozone” but another contributor vividly points out that “it’s a fart in a hurricane compared to all of the carbon being pumped into the atmosphere” and “focusing efforts on fuel dumping would be akin to checking the pedicure on a gunshot victim.”
Others point out that vapours from fuel spills by motorists at petrol stations in total far outweigh the effect of air pollution from aviation fuel dumping.


Pay up, and you’ll make the news, inquiry is told
Manipulation of public opinion by the mainstream media in the Northern Territory is a time-honoured practice that dates back more than quarter of a century, and possibly further.
I awoke to this in the NT election campaign of August 1997 when a Murdoch-owned newspaper published on the day before the election a front page story warning that the vote was too close to call.
This was patent rubbish but it triggered a vague recollection that I’d seen something similar before; and as I’d been heavily involved in the two previous NT election campaigns I checked the back copies I’d filed away.
Sure enough, the same trick had been played with both front page stories and editorials published one day prior to the election days of June 4, 1994 and October 26, 1990, warning of the closeness of the polls. The technique was employed in Alice Springs and worked in favour of the ruling party.
The method wasn’t used in 2001; instead the election campaign began with a front page story stating the CLP was a red hot favourite to win – no prizes for guessing what happened on August 18 that year!
It was this pattern of reporting during the 1990s that alerted me to the value of the (literally) paper trail that has been laid by print media in the NT over the decades.


The ‘tough gig’ of doing things the right way
Thank you, Kieran, for a most interesting article.
Sorry, I can’t help it, but there is one error of a minor nature concerning “Magistrate’s Hill” – the house that used to be on top of it was built in late 1964 / early 1965 and was first occupied by Magistrate “Scrubby” Hall.
When Hall retired in the late 70s he was replaced by Magistrate Denis Barritt whose family lived in that house until his retirement in early 1992.
Thereafter the house was abandoned and heavily vandalised until its demolition in 2000.
It’s interesting to note a letter published in early September 1964 signed by “An Old Timer” lamented the construction of the house on that hill, criticising the unnecessary damage inflicted on natural outcrops that “give our town that unique ‘something’ which is part of its charm and character”.


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