May 7, 1997

Two Alice hotel managers have mounted a campaign for locals to buy the 60 per cent share in the Ayers Rock Resort Company (ARRC) offered for sale by the NT Government. However, to date the mother and son team, Shirley and Paul Brookshaw, who run the four and a half star Diplomat Hotel in the town centre, have found the response lukewarm.
They say they have approached about a dozen businessmen since NT Treasurer Mike Reed announced a fortnight ago that the share is on the market.
"Most people we spoke to said 'what a good idea', but when it comes to putting up the money, the enthusiasm ebbs off," says Mrs Brookshaw.
By contrast, Mr Brookshaw says during a recent trip he's found keen interest in the proposal interstate where the estimated $60m needed could be raised "without difficulty".
At $60m the government's share seems to be a bargain when considering the cost of the Yulara project - the brainchild of Paul Everingham, the NT's first Chief Minister.
Although the NT Government has repeatedly declined to disclose how much it has spent on the resort, it is estimated to have cost the taxpayer at least $500m.
ARRC's assets at Yulara - all the motels, hotels, camping grounds and most other businesses at the resort, plus most of Yulara's 100 square kilometres of land, held under freehold title - is said to be worth at least $250m. Following the Yulara Town Village Management Act in 1992, the NT Government sold 40 per cent of ARRC to the interstate-based Advent syndicate, consisting of corporate investors and superannuation companies.
It is understood that the 40 per cent share was bought for $24m, which valued the commercial assets at the resort at just $60m - little more than a quarter of its estimated worth.
Unless local investors can be found, tourism to The Centre's prime tourist attraction - Ayers Rock - is likely to fall completely into the hands of interstate or overseas interests.
At the same time, Mr Reed has disclosed that the ARRC will continue to be allowed exclusive control over all commercial activities in the resort.
The ARRC determines which businesses may or may not operate at the resort, who may live there and under what conditions.
In contrast to statements by Chief Minister Shane Stone that his government's intention is for Yulara to become like any other town, a process that became known as "normalisation", Mr Reed announced on ABC radio that the ARRC's powers will not be diminished.
At the same time Mr Reed said the NT Government will continue to provide all public utilities at charges to the ARRC no different to those applied to consumers in any other town.
The Alice News has repeatedly - most recently on April 24 - asked Mr Stone to disclose details about total cost of the resort to the NT government so far.
We also asked Mr Stone to provide a break-down of the difference between the capital and running costs, and the revenue, for the power, water and sewerage services, as well as the 500 Housing Commission dwellings under total control of the ARRC, for use by its staff.
Mr Stone has yet to provide an answer Meanwhile, a national newspaper has reported that according to company investors, a public float of the ARRC is under consideration.

A significant increase in funding for Centralian College administration in last week's NT budget has come at the expense of funding for student education.
There has been a $157,000 increase for administration, while the secondary area has been cut back by $58,000, and the TAFE section loses $63,000.
The overall education picture in the budget is for a $20.9 million dollar increase, but Shadow Minister for Education, Peter Toyne points out "$20.7 million of that amount is for one off capital works, most of which is for new schools and extensions to schools in the Palmerston area, due to population increases.
" Mr Toyne says the NT budget has been framed against a background of Federal cuts to education, so "the status quo here in the Territory means education as a whole is likely to slide backwards in terms of its overall resourcing.
There's not a great deal any government here could do about completely quarantining the Territory from those sort of cuts."
About Centralian College, Mr Toyne says: "I am concerned about the flexible delivery programs which have been cut.
"These are quick response programs for industry or community organisations where the College can put out a short course and deal with the skilling issues.
Now they've been cut back fairly significantly in the budget."
On the secondary area at the College, Mr Toyne says: "There's been a cut to the program budget at a time when programs like Detour are coming through with 75 (mostly Aboriginal) students being introduced to Years 11 and 12."
College chairman Fred Hockley denies there will be cutbacks in programs for students, and says, "students will not suffer in any way.
We're quite happy with the budget funding.
"There are a number of programs that have been provided over the years where people no longer want to do the course, and based upon student numbers you shut it down - just like a shop where there are no customers."
"There are certain subjects which have done very well indeed, for example the one which has the largest number of student increases is Horticulture.
"We used to have lots of people doing computing, office skills, and things like that, but they are no longer sought after.
Certain things have gone off the boil and others have come on line."
Asked how the increase in administration funding will be spent at the College, Mr Hockley says:
"There will be something coming out fairly soon on that.
"There've been various moves about the place for people to do different things in different ways, but I'll probably have more details on that in the near future."
Labor spokesman Peter Toyne believes that Centralian College must have provided details to cabinet on which the budget arrangements were then based.
DISABILITY Mr Toyne is concerned that "funding has been cut for students with disabilities, in particular in the Southern Region, at the same time as it's been increased in the northern area, and that will affect both bush schools and schools in Alice Springs.
"There's already a large unmet need for arrangements for students with disabilities yet funding has gone from $1.54 million down to $775,000."
Mr Toyne says he would characterise the CLP education budget as: "More of the same with very little imagination, and no new initiatives, other than capital works."

A year ago last Monday Margaret Burgess was told that she was terminally ill.
For two years the 53 year old former cleaner at the Alice Springs Hospital had been fighting acute Myeloid leukemia.
This had included a six month stint of chemotherapy in an oncology ward at the "Queen Lizzy" in Adelaide.
It was there that doctors, "real human beings with tears in their eyes", finally told her that there was nothing more they could do and to go home.
In the final stages of the disease she could return to Adelaide for blood platelet transfusions.
"That really only puts off what you know is going to happen anyway," she says.
Margaret's choice when the time comes will be to receive palliative care in Alice Springs where she'll be close to her daughters, grandson and friends.
However, Margaret feels that palliative care here is not clearly focussed on the needs of the terminally ill.
"Us dying patients are the most talked about but the least talked to," she says.
"Here they seem to have spent all the money at the wrong end of the scale - there's a pretty room where the relatives and friends will be comfortable but no properly trained staff available 24 hours a day [see report about new arrangements page 3].
"In Adelaide I had the best treatment you could wish for.
Perhaps I've been spoilt but here it looks half-hearted, as though it's just there to appease people.
"I've been close to dying so many times and to be honest I didn't care who was there in terms of family and friends.
"When you get into the morphine you're in a sort of twilight zone.
I know it doesn't sound very nice but the people around you are just like a gaggle of geese in the background.
"All you want is someone who knows what you need before you do - your back rubbed with oil, lanolin on your dry lips.
A well-trained palliative care nurse seems to know these things instinctively.
"And you need time on your own to make peace with yourself."
During her time in Adelaide Margaret made friends with many of her fellow terminally ill patients.
"We would all say we wanted our family to visit but only for five minutes or half an hour.
"People feel that they have to be with you all the time but let's face it, what can you say to a dying person after six hours!
"It's not easy to tell your visitors that - only other dying patients understand.
"You can only really discuss death with them too - doctors understand to a certain extent but there's nothing like talking to someone who's in the same boat.
"Often when you talk to family they get upset and you end up consoling them! It's quite a complicated caper, this dying, nothing like I thought it would be.
"I now know exactly how I'm going to die - I'll suffer a massive stomach haemorrhage followed by a brain haemorrhage - and I was hoping I would just close my eyes and drift off.' Margaret says there's a big need in Alice Springs for better information for the dying: "I've had a friend here ring me up absolutely petrified about having to have chemo.
Nobody had told her exactly what would be involved.
"In Adelaide the specialists would often ask me to talk to people.
That's close to my heart and I'd like to be able to do that here in what time I've got left.
"I've had all the fears but the greatest one is not knowing.
"When you know what's going to happen it helps you manage better."
While it would defy the odds, Margaret's goal is to live to see the Olympic Games in the year 2000.
She also very much wants to see her six month old grandson Jesse grow up a little.
"When I think I won't be around to see him go to kindy or school, it makes me try a little harder.
You know you won't beat it in the end but you can try to stay well a little longer.
"In February I was given four to six weeks to live.
Then the doctors said: 'Margaret's bloody Margaret and she comes from the bloody Territory so add an extra two!" Margaret laughs: "I think I'm doing pretty well really."

The Health Department has streamlined procedures for admission to the palliative care room at the Alice Springs Hospital, and has apologised to the families of two former patients who were victims of red tape.
Joyce Bowden, general manager of Alice Springs Health Services, says patients or families can now book the room - set up some five years ago with the help of $15,000 in public donations - with just a single 'phone call.
She says patients and families can inquire about using the room prior to admission by calling 89 517777 and asking for the Adult Liaison / Discharge Planner during normal business hours, or for the Nursing Services Coordinator after hours.
A decision about admission would be made "within hours, certainly on the same day".
Mrs Bowden says staffing arrangements for Ward Seven, where the room is located, have been revised, making full-time nursing care in the special room more readily available.
The palliative care room is larger than a normal hospital room for a single patient, is comfortably furnished, has facilities to make simple meals and has a couch that can be converted to a bed for visitors wishing to stay overnight.
Large windows look out on the MacDonnell Ranges.
Mrs Bowden says criteria for admission to the room have been clarified further.
They are:- The room, provided it is not already occupied, is available for terminally ill people at any time.
The patient expresses a desire to use the room.
The patient is receiving palliative care, that means it has been accepted by the patient and the doctor that "no further curative treatment will be pursued".
Mrs Bowden says a working group had begun community consultations well before the current controversy surrounding the room.
Public feed-back had shown a keen interest in the room, and a welcome sense of "ownership" of the hospital generally by Alice Springs people.
Mrs Bowden says the department regrets its failure to deal promptly with complaints and correspondence from the families of the late Pat Holden and Bert Noske, whose access to the room had been frustrated by red tape.
Mrs Bowden says letters of apology have now been sent.
Since undertaking community consultations the hospital has received two letters of appreciation from families of terminally ill people, and verbal thanks from a third.
Mrs Bowden says some of the $5m allocated in the NT Budget for improvements at the hospital will be spent on setting up a second palliative care room within two years.

Territory teachers have a new log of claims ready to present to government at negotiations set to start in Darwin this Friday.
Following the Australian Education Union NT branch's annual conference, held in Alice Springs over last weekend, the teachers have resolved to focus on four key issues.
According to Union President Chris Sharpe these are: The quality of teaching and learning, including concerns of teachers at the grass roots level.
The AEU will be looking to review the formula by which schools are staffed with a view to improving teacher support for students.
This will include having fewer students per teacher, particularly at the primary and junior secondary levels.
Ensuring that schools are properly staffed with high quality teachers attracted and retained - largely a pay and conditions issue - and a resumption of last year's stalled negotiations over a separate enterprise bargaining agreement for teachers.
Pay and conditions for remote area teachers.
The gaol will be to match the Queensland model, so that Territory teachers would be encouraged to "go bush" for two or three years, instead of the six to 12 month present average. Recognition of the AEU's position in enterprise bargaining as representing teachers, rather than the Education Department's preference for individual contracts.
The Union wants to be included in decision-making processes.
On pay levels, Chris Sharpe says: "New South Wales is the benchmark, and to catch up with that state we would need to see a 12 per cent increase in Territory teachers' pay over the next two years.
Independent teachers in NSW have recently been granted an increase over the next three years that puts them 22 per cent ahead of current Territory levels."
As an indicator of the NT's wage uncompeti-tiveness, Chris Sharpe points to staffing shortages: "Up to a dozen teaching positions in bush schools are currently unfilled in the Southern Region, encompassing Alice Springs and the Barkly areas."
The AEU is also concerned about the inclusion of students with special needs into mainstream education.
Chris Sharpe says: "While teachers support the concept, they believe it needs adequate resources.
"Some (special needs) support is being provided, but this is not trained support, and it places considerable extra burdens on teachers." Public Service Commissioner, David Hawkes told the teachers' meeting: "We can't pay the top wages in the country, but we don't want to be at the middle level either.
We want to be wages competitive and pay the market rate." Commissioner Hawkes will commence the first round of negotiations with the AEU in Darwin on Friday, May 9.

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