It’s always profoundly disappointing to read stories of this nature …

Comment on Sit-down money: Pointless jobs for the dole by Alex Nelson.

It’s always profoundly disappointing to read stories of this nature but not at all surprising. Today we have Labor Opposition NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy attacking the failure of the Community Development Program (CDP) for which NT CLP Senator Nigel Scullion is responsible as Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Over three decades ago essentially the same story was played out in the media but the roles of the respective political parties were reversed: “The Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) is floundering in many areas of the Northern Territory, CLP Senator Bernie Kilgariff told the Senate last week.
“He claimed in some settlements, Aborigines are listed as being in the workforce and are being paid accordingly, but in reality not attending work or carrying out their duties.
“This is causing a great deal of discontent among those Aborigines who are working for their pay,” the Senator said. “They are angry that others are receiving the same amount of money for doing nothing.
“In this situation the CDEP is nothing more than another form of unemployment benefit,” he said.
“Senator Kilgariff said he had asked the Federal Government what plans it had for encouraging increased Aboriginal employment in the remote areas and has suggested that funding for employment be channelled into areas such as fishing, garden plantations, animal husbandry and abattoirs.
“He said lately funds had been unavailable for such projects despite their ability to be high employment initiators” (CDEP ‘floundering’, Centralian Advocate, October 12, 1983).
The CDEP program was stoutly defended by Labor MLA Neil Bell, Member for MacDonnell, who “this week attacked comments made by Territory CLP Senator Bernie Kilgariff on the Community Development Employment Programs for remote Aboriginal communities.
“There are certainly problems with administration of CDEP’s [but] the CDEP schemes are an attempt to address the short-term and long-term effects of epidemic unemployment on these communities’, he said.
“He said the public should be aware CDEP schemes were funded essentially out of money which would otherwise have been paid out in unemployment benefits. He said the schemes were a valuable form of job creation” (Centralian Advocate, December 16, 1983).
So, here it is, exactly 33 years to the day between publication of Neil Bell’s comments and the latest story on Alice Springs News Online – and there has been no shortage of similar stories on the same and related themes between the decades.
Nearly two decades ago I had my own personal experience of working on the CDEP. I witnessed and recorded first-hand the deliberate rorting and corruption of the program administered by the (subsequently defunct) Arrernte Council of Central Australia but there was no response from any of the government organisations (including police) or mainstream media (notably the ABC) about the information I presented to them (His life on jobs for the dole – On one occasion I confronted one person about this situation, only to be rebuffed “if everyone else can do it, why can’t we?”
It’s particularly telling that Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion now maintains a studied silence on these kinds of issues. This wasn’t the case in 2008-9 when, as an Opposition senator, he was at the forefront of a Senate inquiry into Centrecorp chaired by then Shadow Attorney General George Brandis: “The News has been covering the Centrecorp controversy in 44 reports and comment pieces since April 1998, and a dossier of Alice News reports was a substantial part of the briefing NT Senator Nigel Scullion gave Senator Brandis” (Alice Springs News, November 8, 2008).
(The subsequent report on Centrecorp would rank as one of the greatest exercises in white-washing I’ve ever seen).
Senator Scullion was also vociferous in his criticism of the NT Government at the time: “Billions of dollars in Federal funding earmarked for Aborigines and disabled people has been misspent by the Territory Government, a Federal politician said.
“And he has called on his colleagues to join him in his strident demands for an inquiry to find out where the money went.
“NT Senator Nigel Scullion last night said he had ‘deep suspicions’ the Territory Government had misspent the funding.
“[He said] There is more than $2.5 billion in GST revenue being given to the Territory Government. The spending of this money should reflect the Commonwealth Grants Commission formula.
“There are also other grants which are tied – the money is specifically for indigenous and disabled Territorians. But I’ve been looking around and I can’t see that there’s anything different or that anything’s been improved for them” (Centralian Advocate, September 5, 2008).
Conveniently, the NT Government was then Labor including Malarndirri McCarthy, Minister for Children and Families (amongst other portfolios). How the wheels turn!
All this endless circularity reminds me of the dialogue between two US paratroopers depicted in the episode “Carentan” (Band of Brothers, 2001) when 1st Lt. Harry Welsh jumps into a foxhole with Pt. Albert Blithe, who had earlier been traumatised in battle.
Welsh: What happened at the aid station today?
Blithe: Doc Roe, he called it hysterical blindness.
Welsh: It’s a game, Blithe. That’s all. We’re just moving the ball forward one yard at a time. Nothing but a game.
Blithe: What is, sir?
Welsh: This. The whole thing. Just a game.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

‘Bring back school based constables’
Oh, I don’t know about that, Evelynne – I recall there were a lot of ratbags during my time at school, and quite a number of them were the students 😉

‘Bring back school based constables’
@ Phil Walcott (Posted March 17, 2018 at 2:55 pm): Interesting comment, Phil, because when I was a student at the Alice Springs High School in the late 1970s there was a school counsellor employed there. Her name was Glynnis McMahon, if my memory serves me right, a highly regarded person who worked at the high school for many years.
She passed away in 1989 as I recall, and maybe wasn’t replaced at a time of increasing budgetary constraint. That’s speculative on my part but given you arrived here in 1993 not long after massive cutbacks to public expenditure including significant attrition of staff positions, that’s probably the reason there were apparently no school counsellors employed here by that time.

Federal study casts light on future source of town water
Our family visited the Rocky Hill lucerne operation in the early 1970s when an open day for the public was held there. It continued to operate throughout the 1970s but was long abandoned by the mid 1980s.
I still have in my possession the Primary Industry flow charts for the development of the horticulture industry in Central Australia from the mid 1980s onwards, courtesy of permission from then Horticulture Senior Technical Officer, Frank McEllister.
One aspect stood out for me, there was no mention of potential horticulture development at Rocky Hill.
I inquired of this with Frank, and he told me that area was excluded from consideration because it was reserved as the future water supply for Alice Springs.
This was at a time when it was still expected the town’s population would reach 50,000 by the turn of the century and the NT Government had officially announced the development of a satellite town on Undoolya Station would proceed.
All of this is now forgotten but history always comes back to bite us in the end.

Cops hush up dangerous joyride
I witnessed a similar incident that evening too, which I think was the same vehicle.
I was walking on the footpath next to the ANZ Bank along Parsons Street when this utility came screeching around the corner from Todd Street and raced towards the Leichhardt Terrace intersection.
The utility turned left and charged up towards Wills Terrace where I lost sight of it.
When I got to the corner of Leichhardt Terrace, I observed the utility speeding over the Wills Terrace Causeway where it spun around the Sturt Terrace roundabout, tyres screeching, and then charged back along the causeway onto Wills Terrace past the Todd Tavern, when I again lost sight of it.
Despite being a block away from most of the action I witnessed, I had no difficulty hearing the young hooligans yelling and shouting. They were clearly defiant and rebellious, and deliberately challenging authorities.
Presumably they felt they had nothing to lose by indulging in this behaviour and were heedless of the possible consequences of their actions.

A good spot for the art gallery?
Hal, this is just the latest attempt to re-purpose Anzac Oval as a village green, first proposed by the Alice Springs Town Council in 1979 and firmly resisted by the rugby codes (and especially by John Reeves, then ALP Alice Springs branch president, rugby league president, elected as alderman on the town council, and not long afterwards elected as Member for the Northern Territory. He is now a Federal Court judge.).
The village green concept was tried again in 1994 when the ASTC attempted to relocate the rugby codes to the Ross Park Oval, enticed there by the promise of lighting to facilitate games at night; and stoutly resisted and defeated by local Eastside residents, led by the Eastside Residents’ Association of which I was then a committee member.
And now here we go again …
Quite apart from the old high school complex, Anzac Oval itself is of considerable historical value as it is the first turfed sports oval in the NT and it was established entirely as a community effort over the summer of 1951-52 – no government assistance involved.
Part of that work was done by the town’s children who were organised by the new Youth Centre into an emu parade on one weekend that cleared the whole area of rocks and sticks.
Ah yes, the bad old days of Commonwealth control.

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