May 28, 1997
The NT Government is offering school principals six-figure salaries in a bid seen by the teachersÍ union as a ploy to drive a wedge between teaching and senior staff. Australian Education Union (AEU) NT secretary Chris Sharpe says: "These contracts take employees outside of union influence, so that principals will not be as supportive of teachers, or as interested, in any future union negotiations.
"It's about de-unionising NT teachers."
Around 45 Education Department employees in the Territory, with at least 15 more as of July 1, almost all of them at the level of principal, are being made the offers.
In return for going on to four year contracts, the recipients rocket up to a new salary range of from $99,000 to $108,000 per annum.
One local principal of an Alice senior secondary school recently went from a tenured salary of $65,000 to a contracted one of $102,000 per annum, a whopping 57 per cent increase, which also includes a new, fully maintained vehicle.
Other teachers in the Territory received a seven per cent pay increase last year after prolonged battles and industrial action.
There are a few disadvantages for those who take up the present offers, according to Mr Sharpe: "Principals in schools who go on to contract will lose the school holidays, except for five weeks recreational leave a year.
"They also lose the NT Government's contributions to their superannuation, costed at about $20,000 per annum, and this figure is now paid to the contracted employee as part of the annual salary package.
"And of course, they no longer have security of tenure.
"After the four year contract expires there is no guarantee it will be renewed," Mr Sharpe says.
Ken Davies, president of the NT Principals' Association, says: "With higher level of accountability and responsibility, these positions need to be rewarded and recognised to the same extent as other high level positions in the NT public service."
Staff signing up under the new contracts get a new, fully maintained vehicle for which the relatively low sum of $3,500 per annum is deducted from the salary package.
The original 45 positions to be offered contracts announced last year were mostly for principals of primary and secondary NT schools defined as large.
In Alice Springs this has included the principals of such schools as Bradshaw, Gillen, Braitling and Ross Park Primary Schools, and Anzac and Alice Springs High Schools, as well as Centralian College.
The Teachers' Union says it has learned that as of July 1 the contracts on offer are to be expanded by about another 15 positions to take in principals of some medium sized schools, such as Acacia Hill Special School, the new Larapinta Primary School, and perhaps the Language Centre.
Mr Sharpe says: "The majority of the original 45 positions have now accepted a contract which is virtually saying 'stuff' the Award and is outside the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), so that in the event of strife the IRC is not an avenue of redress."
However he points out that most of those who've opted for a contract were union members previously and have remained with the union after signing their contracts.
MANY JOIN A spokesman for Education Minister Fred Finch says: "About 85 per cent of those eligible have taken up a contract to date.
"Principals who play a management role are entitled to go on to contract.
"Those at the level of ET 5 (Executive Teacher level five) have come into the scheme as of this year's budget, effective as of July 1, and ET 6 and above were previously eligible." Because the Education Department is not releasing the information, to find out who in fact might have accepted a contract, Mr Sharpe says: "You have to look in the carpark, because the cars going with these contracts are either a new Toyota Camry or a Mitsubishi Magna, most probably silver in colour and with private plates.
"If your principal's driving one of these, then he or she is on a contract."

"Let's face it, it bores them. You'd be a fool to deny it," says Lilliah McCulloch about many young people's response to Year 10 in high school.
For the former publican, cattle breeder, small business woman and holder of two degrees, it's more than musing about a facet of our education system: She thinks much of the truancy and juvenile delinquency wracking the town can be traced back to what is for many the final year at school.
Lilliah is the newly preselected ALP candidate for Araluen and, since the beginning of this school year, a teacher at ANZAC High. She says Year 10 is too academic and offers too little for students not aspiring to tertiary education.
The exam at the end of the year creates apprehension that makes many drop out early.
A more appropriate curriculum would generate interest that would keep the 14 and 15 year olds, many of whom become street kids, back at school.
Lilliah (pronounced Lila) claims revamping Year 10 is one of many measures needed to get a handle on juvenile delinquency.
Two doors down from her flat in Kempe Street in the Gap Area is Arrernte House, providing activities mainly for 10 to 17 year olds, in a bid to keep them from committing offences. "It's running on a shoe string now and next month will lose all its funding," she says.
Yet Lilliah doesn't claim that government-funded institutions are the sole answer to our social problems.
When she goes home to mark her school papers, she knows many of her students go home "to who knows what," to single parents, to impoverished people with little education who feel they have no role in society, who're not a success, who "haven't quite made it".
If she makes it into the Assembly - defeating sitting CLP Member Eric Poole - she says she'll carefully and methodically examine the problems.
Her background is likely to have equipped her well for such a task.
Lilliah is now consummating a love affair with Alice Springs that started when she spent nine months here, with her mother, as a teenager in 1968.
She returned with her first husband - who later died in a horse riding accident - in 1971 for another nine months, and came back last January, "to make the Araluen electorate my home". In between her stays in The Alice, and school teaching, she ran a cattle farm in Macksville in NSW and managed two pubs in working-class Fitzroy and East Melbourne.
While running a pub she completed a post-graduate degree in urban and regional planning with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Lilliah is experiencing an acute sense of deja vu as the NT is embarking on changes to education compellingly similar to those of Jeff Kennett's Victoria.
She says the jury is still out on the changes there so far as benefits to the students are concerned.
What is already clear is that performance based contracts for principals - now sweeping the NT (see lead story, page one) - has changed their relationships with the teachers.
"In Victoria, it's developed into a them and us situation," says Lilliah.
Efforts that attract approval in the new performance based process may do little for students.
"It's not hard to write a program," she says, "but very hard to apply it." Lilliah says she will approach her battle for Araluen "like a degree": She'll "plod along" getting to the bottom of issues, and when she comes to a conclusion, put it before the public in a way that's comprehensive and based on solid research.
As for a likely election date, her tip is later this year rather than earlier.
Meanwhile the vice president of Yulara Town Council, Peter Kavanagh, has won ALP preselection for the seat of Greatorex, currently held for the CLP by Dr Richard Lim.
Mr Kavanagh, 39, moved to the Territory in 1991 and has been based in Yulara since then.
Mr Kavanagh is a committee member of the NT Grants Commission and president of the NT Local Government Association.
He says he has been actively involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs with a particular interest in trying to combat anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs.
Mr Kavanagh says: "In discussions we had at a regional meeting in Alice Springs recently, Aboriginal people themselves were trying to take a positive attitude towards anti-social behaviour, whereas the Chief Minister's response seemed to be just stomping anti-social people on the head.
"The inaction of the CLP indicates to me that they've just run out of ideas."
Dr Lim has been quick to attack the ALP candidate: "The ALP shows contempt for the electorate when it picked a person who lives in Yulara to run as its candidate in Greatorex ... the ALP has dredged the bottom of its barrel to find such a poor candidate.
"How is he going to service an electorate from Yulara?" Mr Kavanagh says he will soon be moving from Yulara into the Greatorex electorate.
He says: "It concerns me that the CLP, a long term government in the Territory, has people like Mike Reed who's the Minister for Everything - Tourism, Lands Planning and Environment, and Treasurer. "If there were people on the back benches of the CLP with a bit of ability, then they'd spread the portfolios a little further. "I would suggest that someone like Dr Lim, who's been in the Territory Parliament for the length of time he has, has not been recognised as being capable enough to have a portfolio.
I think that speaks for the standard of representation that Greatorex is getting."
The new candidate also says: "I am very strongly in favour of the Reconciliation process, and believe that in the Territory we have to come to terms with living with our 27 per cent Aboriginal population."
Mr Kavanagh says he feels confident the seat can be won for the ALP, and is ready to commence his campaign the moment an election is called.
He and his wife are expecting their first child in January.

More law and order initiatives in response to anti-social problems, including strong support for an anti-truancy strategy, are receiving strong support from people answering a questionnaire distributed in Alice Springs by Stuart MLA Peter Toyne.
Answers are pouring in at around 100 a day, making an answer rate of about eight per cent, well ahead of expected responses to direct mail where a one per cent return is considered good.
To date 5000 of the forms have been delivered to mailboxes and 500 distributed to town camps by Tangentyere Council.
The questionnaire is still going out, but Mr Toyne is surprised and pleased at the results so far.
He says: "The overwhelming majority are broadly saying two things.
They want law and order initiatives to tighten up on anti-social problems.
"Almost all of the law and order type suggestions that we put in the questionnaire have been supported, especially about introducing an anti-truancy strategy.
Police foot patrols and enforcing the two km law also drew a lot of support."
The second broad area of opinion coming from the questionnaire, according to Mr Toyne is "agreement on programs for young people to provide accommodation and combat petrol sniffing.
"More football ovals out bush, strengthening Tangentyere Night Patrol and Warden services were also supported.
"But fairly equal numbers are for and against reduced alcohol trading hours, as well as for more or fewer outlets.
On the other hand most were against take-away alcohol sales restricted to home deliveries."
Mr Toyne believes people are being balanced in their responses saying: "We're the victims (of anti-social behaviour) and we want law and order to protect us, but the perpetrators are victims as well and they need some intervention because they're at risk."
By the end of the week Mr Toyne expects to have the returns completed and analysed, but what will take longer to assess are "the interesting essays that many people have written to us on the back of the form."
Results will be widely distributed and also go to the Office of Aboriginal Development to present at a series of forums, one of which will be at Hamilton Downs in mid June.
The reply-paid form contains 15 suggestions, and Mr Toyne says: "I think it's balanced and breaks new ground."
We've just put in, without fear or favour, 15 suggested initiatives from many different sources, including some of (Chief Minister) Shane Stone's. "We're not playing any kind of biased line.
We're trying to be as inclusive as possible, and people are responding to it as a questionnaire, not as a party political document."

The building industry is drawing up a plan for the next 20 years, defining its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Paul Oprean, local manager of the Territory Construction Association (TCA), says it's the first such long-term industry plan anywhere in Australia.
The project is getting under way as the industry in The Alice is "healthy but not in boom times," says Paul.
"The motto is ïSteady as she goes'.
"Long established firms will continue to do OK, but it's hard work, no easy money."
There are a few immediate opportunities and some threats.
Many of the TCA's 70-odd members in The Centre have begun building up to 200 dwellings for Pine Gap, and there's still work on Aboriginal communities, with indications that funding is going to continue in this area.
With the gaol and the wildlife park now completed, there are few major public works in progress or expected, says Paul.
However, the industry has learned to live with ups and downs, and most firms are as competent with small projects as they are with big ones.
In fact, they've adapted to local conditions so well that it's rare for "fly by night" operations to lob in town from interstate.
Paul says the NT Government is still resisting calls from the TCA to license builders - as is common in most other states - "because the government doesn't seem to be keen on over-regulation".
Instead, self regulation remains the name of the game, with some efficient safeguards now in place.
For example, Commonwealth funding for jobs on communities - previously the scene of ripoffs and other horror stories - is now channelled through the Indigenous Housing Authority of the NT (IHANT).
It in turn requires builders and contractors to be vetted by Contractor Accreditation Limited (CAL), a private company which examines financial, technical and other abilities of firms seeking government work.
The NT Government has been using this system since January last year, and IHANT, since November.
Firms putting in for work nominate the value of contracts they're seeking, and after an evaluation by a panel of peers, can obtain approval up to that limit.
There is a degree of protection for private buyers too: They contribute - $600 for an average home - to a Home Builder's Certification Fund to cover legal costs arising from disputes over standard of work or materials.
However, this "insurance" comes into play only when a house is completed: Home builders falling victims to shoddy firms not completing a house may still be left high and dry.
TCA has responded to this situation by offering its own insurance package to homeowners choosing a TCA builder.
The package is cheaper, says Paul, and offers indemnity insurance (against the builder falling into financial difficulty) as well as warranty insurance (against faulty workmanship and materials).
Paul says the industry is facing several hurdles at the moment.
The major one is the cost of land.
The average cost is in excess of $70,000 for a block of land, going up to $100,000 in some areas - just behind Sydney, an absurd situation in a town that like no other is surrounded by the wide open spaces.
"You can't get a house and land for much under $220,000 these days," says Paul.
"That's out of reach for most people."
Paul says prices for building a home here are influenced by an average freight bill of $8000, and by the absence of economies of scale.
"It's dearer to build 10 homes than it is to build 100."
Rightly or wrongly, uncertainty over native title is seen as the major cause for the skyrocketing of land prices, while much land still vacant is in the hands of investors banking on the market to rise even higher.
Paul says there's general confidence that John Howard's Ten Point Plan will become reality, extinguishing native title in town areas, whilst compensating frustrated Aboriginal claimants. This will create a tricky situation for the NT Government, poised to release land in the Mt Johns Valley and the Larapinta area, estimated to be able to accommodate some 1000 blocks all-up.
These will in all probability be developed by private enterprise acquiring the land from the government by tender.
In the era after native title, says Paul, "it's not in anyone's interest for too much land to be released.
"The objective should be to slow down the rate of increase in land prices."
So what's the brightest star on the industry's horizon?
"Tourism and the Darwin railway," says Paul.
"A few more Kings Canyon resorts would be nice."
Perhaps when the TCA's 20-year plan lands on the table, there may be some nudging of NT Ministers to crank things up in The Centre.

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