In 1989 I lived in a unit in a backyard …

Comment on CLC members want forensic probe into their organisation by Alex Nelson.

In 1989 I lived in a unit in a backyard of a property in Hartley Street neighbouring Centrecorp. I was astonished to observe a senior town council alderman, also a prominent local CLP identity and former real estate agent, regularly accessing that property where I learned he was employed.
This dumbfounded me, as this was a period of time when the NT Government (CLP) was in constant furious conflict with the land councils and other Aboriginal organisations across the NT.
I misread the situation next door, as I assumed this was a small but positive step towards finding common ground between the CLP and the Aboriginal organisations (incidentally, David Ross had become the Director of the CLC for the first time, replacing Pat Dodson who had returned to WA and was appointed a commissioner for the Black Deaths in Custody inquiry in that state).
In 1990 I was the chairman of the CLP’s Flynn-cum-Greatorex Branch. On several occasions I divided proceeds from combined branch meetings with the Centrecorp “employee”, himself the treasurer of the Alice Springs Branch, in his office at Centrecorp.
I became quite familiar with the internal layout of the building; and at one stage the floorboards in his office were replaced with expensive jarrah timber.
During that year this person was preselected as a CLP candidate for a new electorate in town (following a redistribution of boundaries).
As a local branch chairman, I was a member of the collegiate panel (in whose creation I had major role) to choose the CLP’s candidates for the seats in Central Australia.
This particular individual won preselection by one vote over another nomination for that seat. Interestingly, in his comprehensive application seeking nomination as a CLP candidate, he made no reference to his position at Centrecorp.
In fact, this fact was never publicised for many years except for one occasion when he was quoted in a Centralian Advocate article reporting the announcement that the tourist lodge development at Kings Canyon would proceed (a project in which Centrecorp was involved from the beginning).
It so happened that our recommendation of the candidate for the seat of Stuart was rejected at the CLP’s Annual Conference in Darwin that year; and I was the unwitting patsy that relayed highly sensitive information about this person (which I’m now certain was wrong) to the party’s leaders that led to that decision.
The meeting chose to appoint two people to oversee the completion of the preselection process for Stuart; and one of those appointed was the Centrecorp employee. In due course I ended up being requested (via the Office of Chief Minister in Alice Springs) to be one of two CLP candidates for Stuart in 1990.
The Centrecorp employee narrowly lost his campaign in Alice Springs; he continued in his roles as a town council alderman and CLP functionary, at one time serving on the party’s Management Committee (not to mention his membership of many other committees in town).
This person (along with his close friend in the Office of Chief Minister in Alice Springs) sought preselection as a CLP candidate for the 1994 NT election campaign.
They were key figures in the attempt to pervert the party’s preselection processes to achieve their aims but ultimately were unsuccessful. On one occasion the Centrecorp employee illegally gained access to private bank accounts of certain members appointed to the preselection panel which led to these people being removed from it (all of this was reported exclusively in the Alice Springs News during 1995).
All of this is just to illustrate there have been serious conflicts of interest involving Centrecorp which stretches back more than a quarter of a century, almost back to its inception in the mid 1980s.
There is no question that there badly requires to be an official inquiry probing the Central Land Council, Centrecorp and its various affiliates and subsidiaries but I warn this will likely blow out to be the NT’s equivalent of the Fitzgerald Inquiry of Queensland in the late 1980s.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Air traffic: Looking down on Alice
Interesting to hear that the Alice Springs Airport was blindsided by Qantas’s announcement for flight schedule changes and deletions.
I wonder if that offers any portents about our chances of hosting the airline’s second pilot school? Far from being The Centre, we seem more and more to be on the outer.


No youth detention facilities in residential areas: MLAs
It’s only in comparitively recent times that we’ve developed an abhorrence to gaols and juvenile detention facilities within or near suburbia.
There are two heritage-listed old gaols in or close to the CBD area of town. The old gaol in Stuart Terrace – now the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame – was built in 1938, simultaneously with the old Alice Springs Hospital and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, all neighbours along the same street frontage facing Stuart Park.
There was also new housing on the other side of Stuart Park (now a historical precinct) where the top bureaucrats and civil servants of the day lived, all in close proximity to the gaol. Nobody minded.
In the early 1960s more housing was built between the old Alice Springs Gaol and the new Traeger Park oval. Our family moved into a new residence on Telegraph Terrace on the block between the gaol and Traeger Park, living there for three years.
There was also a new motel (Midlands) and primary school (Traeger Park) built within a short distance of the old gaol – again, nobody was fussed about it.
In 1977 the first juvenile detention facility in the NT, called Giles House, was officially opened by Senator Bernie Kilgariff on the corner of South Terrace and Kempe Street in the Gap area.
I’m unaware that anyone objected to its presence in that suburban location.
There were many escapes from the old gaol and Giles House over the years, it’s nothing new.
It wasn’t until the new Correctional Facility was opened in 1996 that the practice commenced of putting gaols well outside of the town area. Now many of us think that’s a normal situation but, from a historical viewpoint, it’s quite unusual.
If a juvenile detention facility is established near the Desert Knowledge Precinct, it’s still a considerable distance from the nearest suburban area of Kilgariff.
Seems to me some people are considerably overstating the risks and simply giving vent to their prejudices.


Independents now ineffective?
Alice Springs has a long tradition of CLP members becoming independent representatives, starting with Rod Oliver (Member for Alice Springs) who lost preselection to Denis Collins in 1980; Denis Collins (Member for Sadadeen) who in turn lost preselection to Shane Stone in 1987 and was twice re-elected as an independent; and likewise Loraine Braham (Member for Braitling) who lost CLP preselection in 2000 but went on to win two subsequent campaigns.
One might include Ray Hanrahan (Member for Flynn) who resigned from the CLP in mid 1988 and continued as an independent for about three months before his resignation from politics. By the standards outlined by Steve Brown, Hanrahan took the honourable course but the subsequent by-election on September 10, 1988, didn’t work out too well for the CLP – the party came last out of three candidates with a swing of over 21% against it, and it was CLP preferences that enabled NT Nationals candidate Enzo Floreani to take the seat.
And then there was Alison Anderson (Member for MacDonnell) who resigned from the ALP and ricocheted from the CLP to Palmer United Party to independent (I forget the exact order).
One can go back over half a century, when independent Member for Alice Springs, Colonel Lionel Rose, announced in the NT Legislative Council in August 1965 that he was the leader of a new political party, the North Australia Party – and he was strongly supported by Non-Official Member, Bernie Kilgariff, who worked in close association with Rose.
The NAP didn’t last very long – it was wiped out in the elections of October 1965, with only one candidate, Tony Greatorex, winning the seat of Stuart. Greatorex, in turn, joined the Country Party when it was established in July 1966.
Whatever one may personally think about elected members changing their allegiances while in office, there’s never been a legal case against anybody (and that goes for other parliaments, too) obliging a sitting member to resign because they’ve changed their minds about party memberships. It’s up to voters to decide their fates whenever elections are called.


Anzac Oval will be site for gallery: Gunner
Twenty years ago Alice Springs found itself in a remarkably similar situation.
The NT Government was determined to demolish the old gaol in Stuart Terrace and replace it with infill development (all the rage at the time). The NTG was CLP and, under Chief Minister Shane Stone, had been returned to power with an overwhelming majority of 18 members.
There was resistance from local residents determined to save the old gaol as a heritage site. The arguments we’re reading and hearing today over the old Anzac high school and oval site for the NAAG are markedly similar – nearly identicial in many respects – to the bitter dispute that raged for months those two decades ago.
What was the outcome? The NT Government lost on two counts; first, the old gaol was saved; and second, the CLP lost office at the next general elections in 2001.
The CLP had been in power for 27 years but the current Labor government, behaving in exactly the same fashion as the CLP 20 years ago, is only halfway in its first term.
We live in a time where political party allegiances are evaporating, and voters can and do switch their support in no uncertain manner.
Given the astonishing high handed arrogance of the Gunner Government, it seems fairly clear it will suffer at the hands of the voters at the next Territory elections.
History – and contemporary politics – unequivocally demonstrates that big margins provide no protection in the polls anymore.
The inference is obvious.


Four charter flights from Japan to Alice Springs
The concept of Alice Springs Airport serving as an international flight arrival and departure facility is an old one.
It’s typical of the difficulties this region faces with major infrastructure developments of this kind; consider, for example, the histories of constructing the north-south railway (well over a century from its original conception), the sealing of the south Stuart Highway (this took decades), and the still awaited sealing of the “Outback Way” and Tanami Road (first called for by new Member for Stuart, Tony Greatorex, in 1966).
Nothing new in any of this; and it’s telling that progress on these issues is no faster under self-government of the NT (or, in the case of the airport, under private ownership) than it was when the Commonwealth had direct control of the Territory.
Some of us may live long enough to see the completion of all of these major transportation infrastructure developments for Central Australia.


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