July 9, 1997
A member of an Alice tourist promotion think tank says it's time to stop band aid measures. The Centre must be made a genuine "destination", and it needs to take a hard look at the kind of people who should be encouraged to come here.
Hotel manager Shirley Brookshaw, who with fellow CATIA members gives advice directly to the NT Tourist Commission under a new scheme encouraged by Tourism Minister Mike Reed, says: "Quick deals are not the answer.
"We must make Central Australia a destination, a place that you really have to visit.
"You must have a picture of what you want to go and see.
"You cannot use band aid methods, as we've done for the last 10 years, to keep this town going."
Mrs Brookshaw says ad-hoc campaigns have failed to drag the industry out of its current slump. Among the measures she's putting forward is facilitating coverage of The Centre by high-rating TV shows through providing accommodation, transport and meals for crews and reporters.
Another measure is an exchange program for school children, including some from bush communities: "We need to build up contact with Aboriginal people," says Mrs Brookshaw. "Some of these settlements are quite happy for people to stay there - and integrate.
"School children could become ambassadors for the centre of Australia.
"You can't keep on with this nonsense of being separated.
"It should be started with the education departments. It should become part of the curriculum that they come up here."
Mrs Brookshaw says there's much pessimism and defeatism in The Alice: "Everyone in this town is part of the tourist trade.
"We've been trying to do this for years and nobody listens.
"We're targeting the wrong people at present.
"It is not the very young. They want to go overseas. They can afford to go overseas.
"It's not the people with children because it's a long way if you're coming in a car and you've got two little darlings in the back screaming and yelling.
"If you fly it's expensive. We are a very expensive destination, whether you like it or not."
The target group should be people whose children "have left the nest" or people who are retired. "It can be the trip of their lifetime for people who're well off."
Mrs Brookshaw says there's a lot of ignorance about The Centre: "People think Alice Springs is the gateway to Kakadu.
"They don't want to come here in the wet season, they think it's flat and sandy, full of flies.
"They think we have a big Aboriginal problem and it could be very dangerous, there are no decent motels, no hair driers, maybe there are not even any restaurants, and definitely no automatic teller machines.
"The perception about Alice Springs is terrible.
"What have we been doing over the last 20 years in terms of promotion?"
Mrs Brookshaw says Daryl Somers' use-by date expired some time ago.
"If this year is going to break some of us, then that's life," says Mrs Brookshaw: "But we've got to start now to make tourism into a solid industry by selling the destination. "Make the Tourist Commission sell the destination, and make the operators sell their product."
Mr Reed says the group advising the Tourist Commission through a "shorter mechanism" has been "quite successful in Alice Springs and we're now in the throes of establishing a similar committee in Darwin."
Mr Reed says: "In a period when you've got a soft circumstance in the industry - nationally, not just here - there's a need to have lines of communications that are as short as possible." He says the Alice-based Territory Holiday Centre is getting new staff and equipment to not only promote, but to sell as well, starting in the near future.
Mr Reed says there's a strong need to correct misconceptions: "When you come here you're not going to have to rough it.
"You can live in comfort, you can have good food. You can experience good entertainment."
He says there will be "big changes" in overseas promotion for which an additional $1.5m has been allocated in the current budget.
"Half of that money at least is going to go to promoting Central Australia and Alice Springs in particular," Mr Reed says.
Also serving on the advisory group are Meg Nicholls and Peter Nuttall from the commission, and industry representatives Karen Parker West, Steve Ratray, Ian Blevins and Bob Kennedy.

The Australian Democrats are seeking to form a branch in Alice Springs with the ambition of attaining the balance of power in the NT Legislative Assembly.
The Democrats' move is spearheaded by prominent former Country Liberal Party member Alex Nelson who says a principal objective would be to make the NT government more open and accountable, and to support the introduction of Freedom of Information laws to the Territory.
Mr Nelson was a financial life member of the CLP from 1987 until his resignation in 1995, a former chairman of its Greatorex Branch, and ran for the seat of Stuart - urged, he says, by the office of the then Chief Minister Marshall Perron.
Mr Nelson says the group's first aim will be to canvass interest for the party and, depending on the response from the public, may field candidates at the upcoming NT elections.
"We're more concerned to get the party up and running and if that means taking a long-term view with running candidates at the following election, rather than the imminent one, then that's what we'll do," says Mr Nelson.
"If we can generate enough interest we will encourage a high profile Democrat - possibly Cheryl Kernot - to come to The Centre."
Mr Nelson says there is "currently a small presence" of Democrats in the Top End, with no announcements of candidates so far. It is against party policy to exchange preferences.
"The advice we'll give to voters will be to back the candidate they believe would be most likely to facilitate greater accountability and openness in government," says Mr Nelson. Meanwhile, long-time MLA for MacDonnell, Neil Bell, is retiring from politics. He says he's quitting the Legislative Assembly "because I don't fancy being the Father in the House in perpetual opposition".
Mr Bell, Australia's longest-serving opposition politician after 17 years in Parliament, says Territory Labor will not win the next election.
The Pitjantjatjara speaking ex-teacher and private pilot, who's just completed a law degree, held the predominantly Aboriginal rural seat - taking up the entire southern end of the NT - with nearly 70 per cent of the vote.
Mr Bell unsuccessfully contested the leadership of the party in the NT several times, most recently in April last year, following the resignation of Brian Ede. All Mr Bell would say about current leader Maggie Hickey is that she's "conducting herself with dignity and diligence".
Mr Bell told the Alice News: "The self government Act for the NT has entrenched race relations here.
"Self government may have worked with a multi member system like Tasmania's.
"Labor always backs the poorer section of the population and in the NT that happens to be the Aborigines.
"Perron used to call us not the Australian but the Aboriginal Labor Party.
"The fact is that affirmative action such as land rights is opposed by 70 per cent of the electorate.
"That leads to the phenomenon that 15 to 20 per cent of people who vote Labor federally vote CLP in the Territory elections."
Mr Bell accused NT Health Minister Denis Burke of cynical electioneering when he refused recently to sign the joint communique of all other Australian governments on Aboriginal deaths in custody.
"Even rednecks like Queensland's Borbidge and WA's Court signed it.
"Yet in the Territory, it was considered good politics not to sign."
Mr Bell says he has no present ambitions to go into Federal politics but will continue to pursue his long standing advocacy of issues affecting Aborigines in remote areas "in another context".
He says lines of communications between blacks in remote areas and the "majority society" are still grossly inadequate.
The CLP's candidate in MacDonnell, John Elferink, says that he was prepared to take on Mr Bell in the seat, but he is just as ready for a new candidate.
"I will continue to work as hard as possible to gain the confidence and trust of the people of MacDonnell .
"The issues remain the same, whomever I oppose."
Mr Elferink says he has been busy door-knocking in the Alice Springs farms area, with some residences still to go. He has also travelled to Yulara, Kings Canyon, Hermannsburg and Wallace Rockhole, speaking to as many people as possible.
"At Yulara I emphasised the importance of getting on the electoral roll. Because of the high population turnover, there is typically a low voter turnout.
"It's important for those people to think about issues affecting the tourism industry, their jobs and the future of the area, so they should get out and vote."

Transport Minister Barry Coulter has bluntly rejected a request by party colleague and Greatorex MLA Richard Lim to curb the operation of a mini bus service in The Alice.
In a memorandum leaked to the Alice News, Dr Lim - saying he has received complaints from the Alice taxi industry on matters affecting its "livelihood" - urges Mr Coulter to suspend the current "MO" licences of mini buses "operating as de facto taxis", possibly by government buy-back.
Dr Lim says new licences should later be issued by tender at "a higher cost" to protect taxi operators and drivers.
However, Mr Coulter says the taxi industry should "come to terms with the existence of hire cars and mini buses". Claims of economic hardship were difficult to reconcile with "the buoyant price of taxi licences".
Mr Coulter says: "If the industry is in poor condition, how come a licence changed hands this year for $240,000?
"If times are so tough, how come 90 per cent of Darwin taxi plates and 25 per cent of Alice Springs plates are owned by investors and leased to taxi operators for between $400 and $500 per week?"
John Foster, of Bunji Mini Bus, says claims about fares in Dr Lim's memorandum to Mr Coulter are grossly inaccurate, while Dr Lim "has never actually contacted me".
Bunji, which has a capacity of 12 passengers on its bus, is used widely by Aboriginal people in Alice Springs.
Dr Lim's memorandum says mini bus vehicle sharing rates were $20 for the first person to be picked up, and then $10 for every subsequent passenger.
"What would normally cost $20 per taxi would generate the mini bus driver $100 to $110 in the one trip.
"At the same time, nine other taxi drivers miss out on those nine passengers picked up by the mini bus."
Mr Foster says Bunji's actual charge for trips in the town area north of The Gap is $5 - irrespective of the number of passengers - well below normal taxi fares.
Mr Coulter says the government last March imposed a 12-months freeze on the issuing of new private hire car and mini bus licences - but made it clear that's as far as he's prepared to go.
Instead of using this moratorium to improve to create stability within the taxi industry, Mr Coulter says the taxi industry has "engaged itself in a power struggle for leadership of the Taxi Council.
"The industry must come to terms with the existence of hire cars and mini buses.
"It is a competitive world, and it is quite clear that many customers want to use hire cars and mini buses.
"The taxi industry has to deal with this instead of wishing and hoping for a market monopoly."
Mr Coulter says the taxi drivers may be "at the bottom of the money chain, but that is a matter for the industry to sort out for itself.
"The government is not and will not be in the business of guaranteeing gold-plated income for investors in taxi plates.
"We simply want to see good service and good value for customers."
Mr Foster says the co-operative he is part of has four mini buses at the moment, and will soon be buying three more. One more will be coming from Darwin. By the end of this month there will be eight mini buses in the town, says Mr Foster.
He showed the Alice News a reference from Tangentyere Council saying it has not had any complaints about the service.
Dr Lim also told Mr Coulter that:- ´ Mini buses should be given designated routes; ´ and should either display signs with their fare structure, or have meters.
Dr Lim says several private hire car operators "are pushing the edge of the terms of their licence.
"For instance, some PH vehicles are parking in locations within the Central Business District, so as to blatantly expose themselves to potential clients, for example outside hotels and motels, when their licence ... specifically prevents them from touting."
Dr Lim says operators of three PH vehicles are "openly touting" through personalised number plates reading "Hire Me", "Try Me" and "4 Hire".

A member of the NT Tourist Commission, David Bennett, is being charged by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over price fixing in the car rental industry.
The commission's NT director, Derek Farrell, says the Federal Court will hold a directions hearing on July 21 and the trial has been set down for August 11.
Mr Justice Mansfield has ordered Mr Bennett and another prominent NT tourism figure, Brian Measey, to be joined to proceedings in which a hire car firm, trading as Avis Northern Territory, and one of its employees, Neville Ivey, have been found guilty of price fixing.
Mr Farrell says Mr Bennett and Mr Measey are defending the action.
The ACCC's chairman, Allan Fels, says the court found that from late 1994 until around April 1995, the Alice Springs office of the firm stopped offering tourists travelling in the Central Australian Region a rental discount called "Ayers Rock Special" after they had reached an understanding with their competitors.
Avis was fined $200,000 and Mr Ivey, $50,000, and a range of other penalties were imposed. Both had admitted to the price fix.
Meanwhile Prof Fels told a luncheon of Alice Springs businessmen on Monday: "The Trade Practices Act applies to every business without exception, big or small, whether in capital cities, country towns or remote areas.
"It brings benefits, although it is very often the consumer who benefits.
"Every business has a big interest in their suppliers being competitive and efficient.
"The business community supports the Trade Practices Act in general, even if they feel very uncomfortable when we come knocking on their door.
"The Act is the most important thing affecting business and it has had a very big effect in eliminating cartels and monopolies.
"We are in the middle of a case involving price fixing between hire car firms in Alice Springs."
He said about the rental car case: "We regard these arrangements as having a very bad effect on tourism. We are before the court at present with respect to some of the other competitors with Avis and we shall await the court's decision on that matter.
"I cannot speculate. We are going to apply the Act rigorously.
"Not only the Commonwealth, but the State and Territory parliaments agreed to this when they passed laws implementing their Hilmer Report last year."

Budjana, the traditional custodian of the Central Arrernte country to the west of Alice Springs, is angry that his tribal land is slowly being "confiscated", he says, by part-Aboriginal intruders.
Known to the white world as Gregory Armstrong, the elder, who was paralysed by a stroke as a young man in his 30s, is now confined to a wheel chair.
He watches, in frustration, as glib-talking strangers come into his country and, he says, mislead the government with their false land rights claims.
"My old father was called Illutji. He was the ceremonial boss for this part of the country. He was the traditional owner of the Central Arrernte place. When he passed away, I became the custodian and that is what I stay until I die."
Gazing with hurt eyes over the beautiful MacDonnell landscape nearby, the old man said: "Some of these new people who come here since the Land Rights started, they don't belong here.
"They got no skin group. They got no ceremony. They are nearly all white fellows.
"They talk flash way to the government and the anthropologists, and their fancy talk gets them all the money and new cars and people like me don't get hardly anything.
"What's wrong with this government mob in Canberra, anyway? Why don't they listen to the real Aboriginal people - people like me, the full bloods who know the old-time law and the sacred objects and the ceremonies?
"These half white people are just grabbing everything for themselves. They grabbing our land, the houses, motor cars, all the ATSIC monies, and everyone go around us because we fellows can't talk English in proper way.
 On a chair beside the old man's bed rests a worn copy of a Lutheran prayer book. As he speaks, his gaze sometimes wanders to an old black-and-white photograph on the wall, depicting several Aboriginal ringers butchering a cow's carcass.
"That one," he points proudly, "that me, when young fellow. I been stockman at Pukatja (Ernabella Lutheran Mission)."
Youth has long died in his blood and he sits today in a reflective shade, in his mind regretful memories of an ancient past and other values that have been quietly corrupted and replaced by the money sickness of Europeans.
His spirit is troubled, he says, because the sustaining law of his ancestors is quickly being discarded by the young people as old-fashioned and no longer relevant; their eagerness is turned hungrily towards materialism, greed and selfishness, and he cannot affect the cancerous corruption that is destroying the emerging generations.
Budjana proudly displays an enlarged copy of an NT deed of grant, proclaimed on May 30, 1980, by the then Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowan.
Presented to his father, Illutji, on behalf of the Iwupataka Aboriginal Land Trust, the elder reminisced: "My father give me this paper before he die. It says, in white man's way, that the government give all this Central Arrernte country to my people from this place.
"Before white men come, if some black man from another tribe went on to country that didn't belong to him, he'd get a spear through here (indicating the chest) and get himself killed without asking one question.
"But now the old law is breaking down and these half white peoples are coming on to our land and stealing it. This land around here is not for all Aboriginal people, it is only for them ones who belong to it, who been born here, if their 'dreaming' in this country here ..."
Budjana went on to explain that indigenous land tenure comes via parental lineage through the father.
"My father full Arrernte, my mother was from Pitjantjatjara side. I can't go down Uluru and say that big rock mine.
"Some of these people pinching land are nearly all white; they got white fathers and they come from other places; they got no right to be stealing our traditional country from full-blood Aborigines.
"They wasn't living around here before the Land Rights started. When the white man's government started up Land Rights, these half white fellows come from everywhere, saying things like, 'This mine, that mine.' Well, now I am happy I got someone to listen to my side."
Included in Budjana's deed of grant is the popular tourist attraction, Standley Chasm. Allegedly controlled by various rival families, a percentage of monies accrued from gate and kiosk takings is supposedly shared between them on an annual basis.
"All I got last year was about $100," the old man says.
"I think someone's stealing. What's happening to all that money?
"All I got is my pension to keep me and the missus going. We got no phone. Sometimes we got no electricity. When the tank goes dry, we got no water and we got to pay $20 to that Tangentyere Council mob in town and they bring us more.
"If I got no more pension left, I got to sit here - no water for toilet, no water for bath, no water to drink, no petrol for generator. In hot time it's like living in a desert.
"What happens if my wife falls down sick? How do I get help? I'm in this chair and I can't walk anywhere. All I can do is sit here and wait for someone to come."
The old man lives in an isolated area about 30 kilometres west of Alice Springs, approximately one kilometre off the Larapinta Highway near the northern foothills of the MacDonnell Range.
Budjana says Alice Springs has plenty of government-funded organisations who are largely failing in their role to assist full blood Aboriginal people in genuine need.
"ATSIC gives them all the money and they give some to their own families and friends. They keep a lot for themselves, too. Buying new Toyota, new house, new this and that. But the real Aborigines, ones like me, we get left with nothing. That's not the fair thing, is it."

The Northern Territory Government will sell the majority of its residential accommodation at the Ayers Rock Resort, according to Treasurer, Mike Reed.
Mr Reed said the decision to sell housing was appropriate in view of the Government's April decision to investigate selling its remaining 60 per cent share in the resort.
The "in principle" decision to sell the accommodation was made on the recommendation of the Government's adviser on the resort, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell.
Deutsche Morgan Grenfell apparently believe it would be inappropriate for the Government to continue to hold housing for the Ayers Rock Resort Company if the Government is selling its interests in the company.
Government housing at the Resort was constructed between 1982 and 1992 fundamentally for the purpose of housing employees servicing the tourism industry.
At present, all but 17 housing units out of more than 400 are occupied by staff of the Ayers Rock Resort Company or by people doing business at the resort.
The 17 units house government employees, such as PAWA, police and teaching staff.
Government will retain access to up to 25 units plus about 3 hectares of undeveloped land for its future needs.
The Australian Valuation Office is currently conducting a valuation of the Government's housing assets at the resort and it is expected that the housing sale will be completed within a year
As most of the Resort housing was built with assistance from the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement, about 75 per cent of the proceeds of sale will be directed back to the Housing Commission. The remainder of the proceeds from the sale will return to consolidated revenue.

Local identity and businessman REG HARRIS continues his personal account of the alcohol-driven malaise that now besets the community of Central Australia.
In his first article (Alice News, July 2) he reflected on the life of renowned Western Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira whose tragic fate was an early symptom of the problem .
With the 1967 referendum Aborigines gained recognition as full Australian citizens and with it, the right to go to a hotel and drink legally.
Mr Harris recalls that some hotels attempted to provide special facilities for Aboriginal drinkers but usually lost money on the initiative, some even going bankrupt: The first bar to be frequented by Aborigines was the public bar at the Riverside Hotel. It quickly gained the title of "The Snakepit" because of the numerous fights there.
Joe Costello, a well known Territorian, was in charge of the bar and because of the great respect he commanded, trouble-makers were minimised. The hotel was sold after Joe's death for $300,000.
Ly Underwood decided to try for the Aboriginal trade and built a large beer garden adjacent to his Alice Springs Hotel. This soon became known as "Madison Square Garden", for the townspeople claimed there were more fights there than the real Madison Square.
Again a fair amount of control was exercised by a strong little Irish barmaid Esther McGuirk, but Ly's Alice Springs Hotel became bankrupt.
The Riverside Hotel had been purchased by a group of local businessmen who spent $200,000 to upgrade it, and they renamed it Desert Inn.
A bar was built to especially cater for Aborigines. This was under the control of a tough young red-head named Bluey Boyle.
One memorable evening he was having problems with a large group of out of towners. He closed the bar about 5pm.
However the group managed to obtain a quantity of takeaway liquor which they consumed in the bed of the Todd. When this was exhausted they decided to take over the Hotel.
Some 50 to 60 came up from the creek and smashed in the front door of the bar. Most barmen would have fled but Bluey, he met the screaming mob at the door with his crowd controller, a baseball bat. It is alleged he put up to 30 out of action before the mob withdrew.
The Desert Inn also went bankrupt and was sold by the liquidator for $250,000, and the new owners converted the bar to a restaurant.
Aborigines transferred to the public bar of the old Stuart Arms until it was demolished in 1986.
The new Stuart Arms included a public bar which was frequented by Aborigines but this was eventually closed, apparently because of lack of profit.
Aborigines depended more and more on takeaway liquor, the favourite being Tintara VO Invalid Port in casks. The demand was so strong that over five thousand casks per week would be delivered to the various outlets.
This disturbed the NT Government and so the Liquor Commission banned the sale of fortified wine casks, but this did not worry the drinkers who just switched to Coolibah Moselle.
It has often been claimed that Alice Springs has too many liquor outlets, some 68 for a population of 25,000 or one for every 368 people.
Of course the thousands of tourists are not included in these figures.
In 1930 when the population was only 590 there were 3 licences, one for every 197 people.
The preceding paragraphs clearly illustrate that closing one avenue only moves the problem to another.
There was a period when public drunkenness was a crime. This enabled city newspapers to obtain statistics on convictions and so articles were written demanding to know why some 90 per cent of convictions were against Aborigines yet they make up only 22 per cent of the population. The police were accused of racism.
With the decriminalisation of public drunkenness these statistics were no longer available.
Another innovation, when public drunkenness was a crime, was the so-called "Dog Act" of the 40's: a person receiving several convictions for drunkenness would have his name and details circulated to publicans for public display. They could not be served again until given a licence to do so, hence the title.
Part-Aborigines, if they wanted to drink, also had to apply for one of these "dog" licences.
A public sobering up shelter was erected with the admission procedure as follows: the police would pick up a drunk, mostly Aborigines who would normally sleep cold in the Todd. They would take him to the shelter where he would be given a warm bath plus a bowl of soup then helped into a warm bed.
His clothes would be laundered overnight. In the morning he would put on clean clothes, then given a hot breakfast and sent on his way.
The following night might have been just as cold so the person would knock on the door of the shelter, quite sober but seeking the warm bed. Of course admission would be refused and it soon became very obvious that if he became drunk, the bed would be available.
The reduction or closure of licensed outlets did not work, even total prohibition was a failure - the answer appears to be education.
A licensed Aboriginal club has been built just south of Alice, initially with a licence to sell only low alcohol beer, exactly what Ted Evens had recommended, over 40 years before. Triple A (Aboriginal Alcoholics Anonymous) groups have met with some success. One of the AAA leaders used to drink six cartons in one binge, but has not had a drink in years. Native Americans have visited and given lectures on how they mastered their alcohol problems.
Many Aboriginal settlements have now placed a ban on alcohol. The law is strict: if a visitor is caught with alcohol in his vehicle he is fined and the vehicle confiscated.
This measure has been only partly successful for it appears to have driven the heavy drinkers into Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine, therefore transferring the problem from settlements to towns.
Perhaps governments should find an alternative in work. Aborigines are excellent cattlemen and cattle stations have been bought for them.

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