Robocops, minder as extras for Giles’ exclusive media event

COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

 

We thought they’d turned the corner: Useful one-on-one interviews with Ministers Anderson, Lambley and Chandler prompted us to comment: “Could it be that one of the sea changes being brought in by the Adam Giles government is direct access for reporters to ministers, as a matter of policy and not tainted by preferential treatment for some?”
But now it seems the practice of media dialogue via odious minders while the ministers stand behind the door, favoured by Labor and to a degree by the Country Liberals in their first few months, has been replaced by Hollywood stunts and cutting journos out of the loop if they point up government failings.
The Alice Springs News Online did the hard yards on the Triple O investigation: we broke the story about the agonising 46 minutes when tennis club manager Matt Roberts, his son and a young friend were under siege from some 20 youths armed with knives and clubs.
We reported that his two 000 calls had failed to get through to the police for an inexcusable length of time.
We interviewed the police commander for our region, Kate Vanderlaan, and she gave us gave a detailed account of what happened on the night, from her perspective, and how the process should work.

We spoke at length to Telstra, which takes and transfers the 000 calls in Perth, and outlined why the process is not working as it should.
The upshot that we revealed to the public was that the NT police had only six lines on which 000 calls can be put through and they need many more.
Telstra said they can have as many as they like. It was a no-brainer.

So it would have been a nice touch for new Chief Minister and Police Minister Adam Giles to invite the Alice Springs News Online  to the hoopla yesterday at which he was announcing an expansion of the police call centre. He didn’t. He gave the story to the ABC.
The staging for the “news” event in Alice Springs, where Mr Giles made public that he would do exactly what the News had suggested, was impeccable: the young, bright, new Chief Minister surrounded by mounted plods in Robocop attire … all the King’s horses and all the King’s men … a beaming Police Commissioner, cops on bikes, a grateful Member Of The Public rushing up to the Leader and shaking him by the hand – hang on, that was one of Mr Giles’ minders, former radio shock jock Adrian Renzie!
Why would the Alice Springs News Online have been excluded from this circus?
Did Mr Giles not like that we pointed out the solution to a problem which, while in Opposition, he and is party had been bleating about for years, but had done nothing about it during seven months in government?
Is he just a tad touchy about criticism? Would that not be an Achilles’ heel for a polly? Worth keeping an eye on.

PHOTOS: Images from the ABC TV News last night.

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13 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Melanie Ross
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Where was the media stunt to announce the closure of the Police Beat? Yep, the police outpost virtually next to the grog outlet that tips out its patrons to cause drunken mayhem. The Police Beat that a few months ago Mr Giles ‘promised’ to set up at Braitling shops. Is this the same Adam Giles who was urging Federal leaders in the national media to come to Alice to see ‘out of control’ violence? Well Mr Giles, the alcohol fuelled violence is worse than I’ve ever seen it. 20 rehab beds ain’t gonna fix it. We voted you in and we expect you to live up to your talk. What are you going to do about the crime and violence Mr Giles? I’m beginning to think Alice Springs has been politically shafted yet again.

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  2. Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:36 am

    I congratulate Adam Giles for his new position on our NT government and find it degrading of the media to continually mention our new leader as the first indigenous person to hold this post. Is this statement also not racist? Is this going to happen every time they mention the Territory? My kids are indigenous but not black. Get your dictionaries out, reporters and newsreaders, and get your English correct.

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  3. Erwin Chlanda
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    In reply to the anonymous commentator “Ray”: Thank you for your praise, in general terms, of our editorial performance.
    However, a careful read would have disclosed no suggestion in my comment piece of homicidal tendencies in our police: “mounted plods in Robocop attire” was a reference merely to what they were wearing.
    And my interviews with Renz on 8HA were of mutual benefit: The Alice Springs News Online got exposure in a top rating radio show, while it received the benefit of some of our research and story-breaking.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor, Alice Springs News Online

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  4. Unnamed
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 9:58 am

    I live in a remote community a few hours from Alice Springs. Last night a woman came knocking on my door at 11:30pm with a graze made by her husband on her cheek. Her husband only just got out of jail, and was in a drunken state.
    I rang the police in this community and the number says it is not connected. I rang the police in the next community and it rang once and said to call 000 for an emergency.
    I called 000 and told the operator what had happened. The operator “mostly” did her job, taking all particulars, except for the mention of a different community, which I took no notice of because she had got my address down where the victim was cooling-off.

    After speaking with the victim some more, she told me that her husband received a paper from the court stating that they were to live separately, and that he was to live in a community five hours drive from here.

    As the police were taking a long time to get back to me, I tried other police stations, this time, ones a few hours away with large populations. All up, I tried the local one with a disconnected phone, and three more with the same message to ring 000.

    After one hour and 15 minutes of cooling-off, and being bored in a whitefella’s house that could only speak a little language, she went back to go to sleep in the same part of the community her husband was in – it was her home, after all.

    The police called me, one hour and 30 minutes after the initial 000 call to inform me that no-one would be able to respond tonight. As I was in a state of tiredness and the victim had gone, I forgot to mention the possible court order. One thing that the officer was confused about was that he believed it was taking place in the community mentioned by the operator and was confused of the whereabouts of the whole incident. I sent him on the right path as to its location.

    In the morning, I rang the police lines again. Nothing in the three surrounding communities, so I rang the Alice Springs number to add information to my initial call. They said that they will find the initial call information and call me back … It is now 45 minutes later, and no response.

    In the end, in the Territory, not only are police responses to calls pretty poor in the urban areas but they are extremely terrible in remote communities, along with their attendance. Sometimes, the phone number is even listed incorrectly on their own website.

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  5. Ray
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Erwin. Couldn’t help but notice the negative, emotive language used in your story here Erwin. I really enjoy reading the Alice Springs News Online to get a balanced, in depth understanding of some of the home grown issues we face in our town.
    You explore the issues the others gloss over or ignore, and it is really interesting to expand my understanding of the issues by considering the alternative views of those who also contribute. What surprised me was firstly the reference not of “Police Officers but the description “Robocop”. Are you implying the NT police are self styled vigilantes dishing out summary justice and executions?
    All I saw was a couple of motorcycle police dressed in normal protective equipment, chest guards, crash helmets and other accoutrements etc. This was an initiative introduced to curb anti social behaviour in this town, and from all reports, one that is having great results.
    Secondly the reference to Adrian Renzi, the same Adrian Renzi who gave you great exposure on his award winning Territory Today radio show, discussing the articles in your newspaper.
    I remember listening to these discussions numerous times and enjoyed the interaction you two shared, but now, Adrian is not a media adviser, a former host of Territory Today, or even a former talkback radio host, but a “shock Jock”.
    I find it difficult to accept that with all your years of experience in the media, that you do not realise the term Shock Jock is a derogatory term.
    The now Opposition used the same term as an insult to Minister Conlan in parliament. Kyle Sandilands is a shock jock, so is Alan Jones, Steve Price and many others. America’s Howard Stern is one of the most outrageous and best known.
    Shock jocks deliberately stirred up hate and revulsion, purely to boost their ratings ie. people were shocked at the low comments that came out of their mouths.
    I found that although the presentation style of both Matt and Adrian differed, they had the interests of the town at heart, they cared about local issues, and used the forum of TT to encourage local people to discuss issues that affected locals.
    Yes they encouraged healthy debate, but they were hardly Shock Jocks. I was a bit surprised to see you use this term as it seems you have stabbed Renz in the back.
    I have contributed to your paper through the comments section many times, and sometimes get hot under the collar, which I believe is a great way to encourage robust discussion, however I am surprised to see you using such derogatory terms as the owner / editor of the paper, especially to our hard working police and a former media colleague.

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  6. Goddess of Northside
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Such a serious issue and I applaud you for saying what needs to be said … I have been incredulous at the ignorance of the 131444 operators and double check that they have the right city because my street name is similar (not the same but they always want to correct me) to a Darwin one.
    But I must say I laughed when you pointed out that Renz rushed up to shake Adam’s hand. That’s hilarious!

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  7. Bob Taylor
    Posted March 20, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    As a voter in the Braitling electorate, if I had had notice and the opportunity to meet and greet with Adam Giles and the Police Commissioner at Hearne Place on Monday I may have commented on or asked some of the following questions:
    • Congratulations Adam on becoming Chief Minister and the Police Minister and indicating you will govern for all Territorians.
    • The Commissioner of Police and / or any other senior public service managers or influential business people for that matter do not possess all the wisdom.
    • The public servants you employ and the general public will have a swag of local knowledge and ideas on how to tackle issues if given the opportunity.
    • Remember a little debt is not necessarily a bad thing, if you run too tight a budget local businesses will eventually suffer with trickle down affect to the general public.
    • Congratulations on the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner based in Alice, increased manning of the Darwin Controlroom and the 24 hour opening of the Alice Springs Police Station, all good positive decisions.
    • Talk to the Police, Fire and Emergency Services staff and St Johns who were around in the mid 1990’s about the decision to combined the controlroom at the Alice Springs Police Station and then move it to Darwin and the rationale behind those decisions.
    • Wasn’t the new (1997) Fire Station communications centre meant to be a backup to the Police Station controlroom at the time and have “the capability of running Darwin’s entire emergency service network in the case of a disaster such as Cyclone Tracy.” (see article in Centralian Advocate 22nd August 1997 by Michael Hartshorn)
    • I am not personally against an Alice Springs based combined control centre, but if it is decided to go down that track as Vince Kelly (Police Association) said, it would need to be fully resourced and staffed. A purpose built facility similar to Darwin would do wonders for local public confidence, the building industry and the general Alice Springs economy, but only if we can afford it without cutting into other essential areas.
    • Thinking outside the square maybe in conjunction with the above, a default or reserve Telstra triple 0 call centre could be established in Alice Springs as a backup to Telstra’s capital city call centres.
    • Is it possible to have security cameras installed in (1) Hearne Place, one on the south side and one on the north side, both placed to observe the laneways and corners of the shopping centre, (2) The toilet block / car park facing Len Tuit flats and (3) Braitling School facing the staff and public car park and one facing Erumba Street?
    • Also remember not everyone watches, listens or logs into the ABC, so at all future media events or press conferences all media in that area or town should be informed and given the opportunity to attend.
    • The public do like to read, hear or see in the media the progress and/or results of local crimes.

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  8. Hal Duell
    Posted March 20, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Is it pointless to again ask if anyone is looking for the kids who did the damage, who made the threats?
    Or are we only interested in the sound of x telephones ringing? And where are they ringing? And for whom are they ringing?

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  9. Russell Guy
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    @ Steve Brown. “I’m not sure if it is an oxymoron but I’m absolutely sure the word moronic belongs here somewhere.” A pocket dictionary would save you.

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  10. Steve Brown
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Adam really is to be congratulated for his rapid response to this issue, and many many thanks to Alice News of course for raising the reoccurring 000 issue.
    I am quite satisfied that extra lines and extra staff at the call centre should see any delays disappear from the system. However for the long term Government must consider the re-establishment of a Centralian Call Centre simply because of the inherent dangers of having all our eggs in the one basket, particularly when that basket is situated in a cyclone and natural disaster prone area.
    The reopening of our police station 24 hours is also a great move. It should help in re-establishing a sense of safety of available help in times of emergency. I have been informed of many incidents over the past few years where in desperation help has been sought by going to the police station only to find it locked up!
    There was always something rather wacky and self defeating about this, kind of like the local shop fully staffed but keeping its doors closed so it doesn’t have to deal with customers.
    I’m not sure if is an oxymoron but I’m absolutely sure the word moronic belongs here somewhere. Good on you Adam, if you want someone to shake your hand and congratulate you on this give me a yell. I think it’s great!

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  11. Bob Taylor
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    As a member of the public and a local Braitling voter I would have also liked to have had the opportunity to meet and talk to my local member and the new Chief Minister about the triple 0 / controlroom story.

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  12. Bob Durnan
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    This business about keeping the police station open all night: I didn’t realise that anybody had been requesting this. Is it really necessary, or is it just a stunt to divert attention from the real issues?
    As far as I am aware, most of the Alice Springs and remote community public’s real complaints have been about call centres being in faraway places, where staff may sometimes be poorly trained for understanding Aboriginal names, local place names and spelling systems, and local landmark information, let alone understanding Aboriginal spoken English and strong Aboriginal accents.
    These staff who answer calls to the police, ambulance and fire emergency call services from geographically and culturally remote places such as Kintore, Lajamanu, Hermannsburg, Santa Teresa, Elliott, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs may sometimes seem to be condescending and / or uninterested about a perceived emergency incident, and refuse to take action about possibly life-threatening incidents of violence, fire outbreaks or car accidents until they have slowly, laboriously and often uncomprehendingly asked a set series of questions.
    The big issue is: why can’t the system permit the call centre staff to first accept the basic relevant facts, and relay the substance of the issue immediately to the police / fire service / ambulance station so that a vehicle could be despatched as soon as possible?
    Where other details will be relevant to the attending police / fire /ambo personnel, then these further facts could be relayed to the attending officers whilst they are in transit or when they arrive on the spot, but at least the response times would have been minimised in the process.
    I fail to see why the person answering the phone has to get the full details required by their forms, about your name, phone number, the colour of the victim’s skin and the perpetrator’s clothing, exactly what you have witnessed etc before the basic facts of where and what and how urgent have been relayed; surely this system could be streamlined.
    Won’t having the police station fully open all night just tie up precious police resources at the front desk, when people are wanting the over-night police on roster to be available to attend incidents?

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  13. Tim Collins
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 11:21 am

    This government is really showing a willingness to waste police time for their silly stunts. First it was Alison Anderson’s Elliot Ness-style failed raid on a town camp residence that wasted six officers’ time for a spectacle in front of the ABC cameras … now this. Get your act together, get your egos under control and do something positive for the community. When is the next election??

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