Consider these scenarios: first looking at Alice Springs – lots …

Comment on Town gets a say in its economic future as $2b cut hits home by Alex Nelson.

Consider these scenarios: first looking at Alice Springs – lots of empty shops, a struggling tourism industry (nothwithstanding hopeful indications to the contrary), rampant crime and chronic youth justice problems, the loss of an urban electorate in favour of a new one in the Top End, and the town’s tallest building under construction.
At the Territory level – Darwin’s scene much the same as Alice Springs except it’s even worse in several respects: There’s a large capital works project under construction in Darwin, a new pipeline linked to the Amadeus to Darwin gas pipeline is on the verge of construction, Shane Stone is the president of the CLP, and the Chief Minister (the Member for Fannie Bay) has led his party to a remarkable election victory.
On the national scene: A slowing economy, a rising budget deficit, record levels of personal indebtedness, unemployment trending upwards, a crisis in housing affordability, energy distribution posing serious problems for the manufacturing industry, an unstable Federal Government returned to office with the smallest majority since 1961.
Sounds very familiar but I’m actually referring to the situation that existed in 1990.
There are a few twists compared to the current scene, for example the Federal Government was Labor under PM Bob Hawke (we’ve just passed the 27th anniversary of Labor’s wafer-thin election victory) and the NT Government was CLP led by CM Marshall Perron.
The biggest twist is that in the lead-up to the NT election campaign of October 1990 the CLP government had been wracked with controversy for several years and by early 1990 was set for electoral defeat for the first time.
Instead, in an astonishing turnaround, the CLP was comfortably returned to office with an increased majority (a situation that has never been properly analysed and also had profound consequences for national politics – but that’s another story).
However, what’s not different to now was the budgetary situation confronting the returned Perron Government with severe cutbacks of Federal funding for the NT.
Shortly after the NT elections of October 1990 the NT Government responded to the worsening economic situation by establishing an Expenditure Review Committee, headed by Treasurer Barry Coulter. The ERC’s decisions were released in April 1991, announcing widespread cutbacks in government expenditure and the slashing of 1,220 positions in the NT public service.
This coincided with the onset of a national economic recession, which as contemporary history now shows was the last occasion this has occurred in Australia.
It was also in April 1991 that Alice Springs’s tallest building, the four-storey Territory Motor Inn, was officially opened to great fanfare for the tourism industry.
Simultaneously, Magellan Petroleum announced that natural gas reserves in Central Australia “were more than adequate to supply another market on top of long-term requirements in the NT.
“Negotiations were continuing to pipe the Central Australian gas through the national grid to Adelaide and Sydney and to supply gas to MIM operations in Mount Isa.
“Plans are being completed to pipe gas from Katherine to Nabalco operations in Nhulunbuy”.
A few months later the owners of the Territory Motor Inn went into receivership and of course the gas pipeline developments never proceeded.
So what of the present? Well, NT Treasurer Nicole Manison will be announcing her first NT Budget in May, which undoubtedly will be heavily revised in light of the $2b cuts in GST revenue announced for the next four years.
Coincidentally (perhaps) the new NT Supreme Court building in Parsons Street, the tallest building in Alice Springs, is scheduled to officially open about the same time … and as for the new pipeline from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa – well, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Given the uncanny parallels between 1990-91 and current conditions, there should be no surprise if Australia soon enters into its next major economic recession for the first time in over a quarter of a century.
Incidentally, one of the biggest casualties of the “recession we had to have” in 1991 was PM Bob Hawke, who was replaced by former Treasurer Paul Keating late that year. Will history repeat with the current Federal Government?
Forewarned is forearmed.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

When NT was officially ‘a country for the White Man’
The story of John Anderson Gilruth demonstrates an extraordinary example of the phenomenon of “six degrees of separation” in the Northern Territory.
After Gilruth left the NT he worked as a consultant until, in 1929, he was appointed as the foundation chief of the Division of Animal Health in the newly constituted Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which later became the CSIRO. It was the CSIR’s most important division in which Gilruth led research into livestock diseases of national importance.
Gilruth’s strong personality and leadership skills enabled productive co-operation with state research institutions and universities, and with pastoralists whose enterprises were the intended beneficiaries of the research effort.
In 1935 Gilruth retired, having created a highly successful research team across Australia and doing much to reduce mistrust and misunderstanding between scientists and graziers.
Gilruth was elected as the president of the Australian Veterinary Association in 1933, which later named its top award, the Gilruth Prize, in his honour.
This was mirrored to a remarkable degree when in 1946 the Federal Government appointed Colonel Lionel Rose as Chief Veterinary Officer of the Northern Territory and the foundation director of the Animal Industry Branch, headquartered in Alice Springs.
Rose proceeded to build up the AIB as an efficient and highly regarded research organisation throughout the NT; one of its first major projects was to initiate in Alice Springs the pleuropneumonia campaign which became the world’s first successful national animal disease eradication scheme (the original stockyards for disease testing still exist at AZRI).
Just like Gilruth, Colonel Rose also was possessed of a dominant personality and leadership skills, and with these abilities facilitated strong relationships with other research bodies – and one such body was the CSIRO for which he provided resources and assistance to enable its permanent establishment in Alice Springs in 1953 (I reside at the original CSIRO property in Alice Springs, the former home address of Dr Robert Winkworth who was the first CSIRO scientist permanently appointed to the Centre).
Also like Gilruth, Colonel Rose built up a highly successful and well regarded team of staff and researchers, of whom many came to be known throughout the NT as “Rosey’s men” – I believe my father is now the last surviving member of that exclusive group.
To top it off, it was in 1961 that Colonel Lionel Rose was honoured with the top award of the Australian Veterinary Association – the Gilruth Prize.
I was sorry to miss the official launch of Ted Egan’s book about Gilruth but am very much looking forward to obtaining a copy and reading it with interest.


Pine Gap and the Nobel prize the Oz government ignores
@ Robert Hall (Posted October 19, 2017 at 10:20 am): In October 1983 the annual Alice Art Prize was held at the Nurses Lounge at the Alice Springs Hospital. The NT Government sponsored a special category, The Golden Jubilee Award, to mark the 50th anniversary of the official renaming of the township of Stuart to Alice Springs.
The controversial winning entry was by Dr Jenny Gray, whose work of “a nine-panel quilted piece in satin” depicted the progression of a nuclear explosion behind Mt Gillen.
In the front page story (November 2, 1983) about this award, Dr Gray was described as “a member of a world-wide organisation of doctors, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War.
“She said its main aim was to inform the public of the medical consequences of nuclear war, in the hope that people would urge governments towards disarmament.
“World-wide membership stood at 35,000 with 1000 members in Australia. Eight medical practitioners in Alice Springs belonged to the association.”
This event occurred more than a month prior to the women’s protest at Pine Gap that year and clearly shows that Robert Hall’s claim to be the sole representative of MAPW in the Northern Territory at the time appears to be incorrect.
As it turns out, the greatest moment of danger from nuclear conflict during the entire Cold War occurred on September 26, 1983 – probably about the time Dr Gray was stitching her quilt for the Alice Art Prize – and it had nothing to do with Pine Gap or the Americans.
A Soviet spy satellite alerted a military command centre in Moscow that the US had launched a few nuclear missiles towards the USSR. The officer on duty, Stanislav Petrov (who died a few months ago), chose to regard this warning as a false alarm thereby averting a nuclear catastrophe.
It turned out that the offending Soviet satellite had interpreted sunlight reflecting off clouds as missiles that had just been launched from America.
Nobody in the West knew anything about this event until after the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly a decade later.


Pine Gap and the Nobel prize the Oz government ignores
@ Steve Brown and @ Hal Duell: I don’t know the personal circumstances and timing of Russell Goldflam’s family leaving Nazi Germany; however, historically Jewish people were fleeing or being expelled from Germany prior to the commencement of the Second World War in September 1939 and long before Japan’s entry into the Pacific theatre in December 1941.
Some of those refugees made it to Australia before the war or very early in that conflict. A notable example was the British passenger ship Dunera which transported German and Italian “enemy aliens”, including Jewish refugees, sailing to Australia from July to September 1940, a period of time that saw the fall of France and the Low Countries to Nazi Germany and the onslaught of the Battle of Britain – this was more than a year before the USA and Japan entered the war.
One person on board that ship was Doug Boerner, who came to Alice Springs during the war and made his home here (he passed away in 2000).
Russell Goldflam has written an eloquent contribution for the Alice Springs News Online and provides a very interesting perspective which isn’t personally familiar to me. I don’t agree with all that he has written but I see no need to respond with the vicious rudeness expressed by at least one correspondent to this story.


CBD planning: The vibrants are at it again
Last weekend (Saturday, 14 October) was the 30th anniversary of the official opening of the full pedestrian Todd Mall.
Interesting to read what was published on the Centralian Advocate’s front page about Todd Mall on that occasion: “After a long and tedious 12 months of noisy machinery, frustrating dust and some inconvenience to the public, the new-look Todd Mall opens officially today. And what a mall it has turned out to be!
“It has ushered in a new era in the town’s development and growth. Some people may have had some misgivings on the outcome of a project they believed was unnecessary.
“But we are happy to say that the mall has assumed an essentially Centralian character which has pleased most people – and the tourists seem to love it.”
The editorial opined: “This newspaper has always maintained that Alice Springs needed a full mall to give the town a lively centre. Today that mall is a reality.
“Big problems were predicted when a full mall was mooted. Some traders felt they would lose business if people could not park in the street and deliveries would be made very difficult.
“While the matter of service lanes has never been properly addressed, customer parking has been provided in adjacent areas and through a good-sized car park within the Ford [now Alice] Plaza.
“There is also a big car park in the Yeperenye Shopping Centre opening next Tuesday – and that is only a short stroll to the mall.”
The editorial went on: “So early in 1986 council commissioned the architects to design and document the project.
“The wisdom of council’s decision to use a local design has been proven – the end result is suitable for our unique area.
“Today locals enjoy the traffic-free ambience of the mall almost as much as the tourists.
“It is fitting that the International Malls Conference is being held in Alice Springs this week. We hear that, generally, the delegates also think our mall is just great.”
Ouch!!
@ Bob Taylor (Posted October 17, 2017 at 10:05 pm) – The Post Office was relocated to its current site in 1977, prior to then it was on the corner of Railway Terrace and Parsons Street. At that time Todd Street was undergoing reconstruction to become a semi-mall with a one-way street from south to north (opened in 1978).
Historically the proximity of the Post Office to Todd Street was unnecessary; and indeed would have been most undesirable as it would have worsened the traffic and parking problems then being experienced in an extremely busy and chronically congested main street in the commercial centre of town. That is simply unimaginable today.
Your suggestion for a multi-storey car park south of the current Post Office has been made before at least twice as I recall (in the 1980s and again in 2001); and I suggested Hartley Street have one-way traffic with angle parking in a submission to a town council commissioned CBD traffic study in late 1987, exactly three decades ago. There was no response.
Alderman Les Smith made a similar suggestion about a decade later.


Master plan for town, reconciliation plan for Australia Day
@ Domenico Pecorari and @ Steve Brown: The first site chosen for the Anzac Memorial was to be an area set aside at the (then) new cemetery established west of town in 1933 – today’s Alice Springs General Cemetery on Memorial Drive.
There were objections to this location, mainly that it was a considerable distance out of town and access was via a very rough track.
According to an account published in 1952, a veteran by the name of Jack Novice suggested that the top of View Hill (or Stott Hill) next to Wills Terrace would be a good location for the memorial. This idea was challenged on the basis it would be too difficult and costly to transport materials to the top of the hill but Novice claimed he had been able to drive his vehicle to the summit easily enough although there was no track at the time.
Dr D R Brown tested this claim by driving his A-Model Ford to the top of the hill without difficulty whereupon the decision was taken to proceed with construction of the war memorial on that site.
The energetic Reverend Harry Griffiths became the driving force behind this project, designing the obelisk and presiding over its official dedication on Anzac Day of 1934 on the top of what now became Anzac Hill.
I’m unaware that any Traditional Owners were consulted about this project – this was an era and time when such considerations just didn’t arise; moreover, Aboriginal people required permits to enter the town area at the time and had no right to be present within the town at all after sunset each day.
If there is permission from TOs for the Anzac Memorial now, it’s almost certainly been obtained long after the fact of its existence.


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