August 13, 1997
Development of the Glen Helen resort, vital to the Alice Springs tourism industry, has been delayed by the Aboriginal land claim over the West MacDonnell National Park.
The Aboriginal owned resort was reopened on the week-end as a roadhouse style operation, but a program of comprehensive upgrading and expansion is on hold. Glen Helen, some 126 km west of Alice Springs, was bought by the Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation in 1993 in a multi-million dollar deal.
The association will not disclose the amount. The accommodation section of the former award winning lodge - its restaurant was once declared the best in Australia - was shut down in October 1996, and the lodge closed its doors completely in February 1997.
The former homestead, on the banks of the Finke River, has a spectacular red rock wall as its backdrop, and has long been a favourite spot for locals and visitors alike. Previous owner Di Byrnes used to call the historic buildings "the Mt Sonder Safari Lodge".
The complex is on freehold land but in order to carry out urgent improvements to water and sewerage facilities, as well as to upgrade the camping ground, more land "about the size of four football ovals" is needed, according to a Ngurratjuta spokesman.
He says about two thirds of the additional area needed is in the national park; the remainder is on the Glen Helen pastoral lease, and portions of that are under claim from Aborigines seeking a living area excision. The spokesman described the situation as "extremely complex".
Negotiations to acquire the additional land were near conclusion when in late June the Central Land Council (CLC) lodged a land claim over the entire West MacDonnells national park, some 2000 square kilometres. Land Minister Mike Reed said at the time that all developments in the park are now "on hold" indefinitely. However, the Ngurratjuta spokesman says the CLC has indicated that a solution could be found "if all parties are in agreement".
Meanwhile, NT Tourist Commission managing director Tony Mayell says: "Glen Helen is absolutely critical to the success of tourism in Central Australia.
"I'm shattered that it's closed.
"Glen Helen is important to the repositioning of Alice Springs as a destination in its own right.
"Without it there is a big gap out there, particularly if you're concentrating on the West MacDonnells.
"Glen Helen is the linchpin for that whole [Mereenie loop road] touring circuit.
"We had all the wheels rolling, everyone was going in the right direction, including the community, they were supportive, and all of a sudden the Central Land Council lodged the claim.
"That's brought everything to a complete standstill."
Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation is a self-supporting investment business owned by Western Arrernte people.
The seed capital came from royalties from the Mereenie oil and Palm Valley gas deals.
The NT Government has a major investment in the Kings Canyon resort - also part-owned by Aboriginal interests. About $5m of the $17m resort, opened in 1991, came from the NT Government, paying for power, water, electricity and the camp ground.
The Kings Canyon camp ground will be sold to the resort in 2001. The Ngurratjuta spokesman says while negotiations about Glen Helen are still in progress, it is unlikely that the government will become involved to the same extent as it did at King's Canyon.
However, all departments had been eager to assist with advice: "The government has been positive but has not committed any money." The spokesman says it is clear that the present impasse "cannot be resolved in five minutes.
"We've opened parts of Glen Helen as a good will gesture to the tourists and the tourism industry.
"We're open now for fuel, drinks, toilets and basic food. "There's no accommodation, no dining room. We're now a roadhouse style service.
"We're aware that some CATIA members are suffering because Glen Helen was closed.
"We want to help the regional industry. It will probably cost us money.
"We'll be happy to be breaking even."

Looking at the NT Tourist Commission's latest initiative one could be forgiven for thinking that tourism is a brand new industry in The Centre.
The latest drive is based on "qualitative research" with seven "consumer segments" ranging from singles to "empty nesters" and retirees.
Several factors were found to be preventing people from firm commitments to visit the NT:-
´ A "widespread" feeling that if you are going "all that way" you should see it all in one go, making the trip "time consuming, expensive and potentially quite arduous."
´ The belief that it won't be an easy holiday - "you need to psyche yourself up for the trip".
´ The excuse that "I can always do it some other time". According to the commission, people don't see Alice Springs as a destination in its own right but as a place from which to visit Ayers Rock, still perceived as being quite close to town.
"At worst, and quite frequently," says the commission, Alice Springs was seen as expensive to get to and stay in; hot, dusty, humid; with plagues of flies; having problems between "locals and Aborigines" (the latter are apparently not "locals").
Other impressions are poor standards of food and accommodation; lots of boring travel to get anywhere of interest; non existing night life, and no really good day time attractions apart from Ayers Rock.
This throws up the question of what the NT Tourist Commission (NTTC) has been doing in the past two decades.
With a current annual budget of $26.5m it is - per capita of population - by far the most lavishly funded in Australia.
Former Central Australian Tony Mayell, who took the NTTC's reins as managing director last October, says the expenditure split is roughly half each for The Centre (Tennant Creek and south) and the Top End (Katherine and north), but he's uncertain of how much of The Centre's budget has benefited especially the Ayers Rock Resort, in which the NT Government has a controlling interest.
"The Rock resort is treated no differently to any other potential cooperative marketing partner," he says. The commission has a series of press advertisements ready to go, promoting Alice Springs as a civilised town, as well as such activities as ballooning, the new Desert Park, the Old Ghan and camel riding.
But Mr Mayell says TV commercials due to be filmed later in the year will also promote scenic attractions in The Centre, especially the MacDonnell National Park. Mr Mayell says the thrust of the campaign will be to entice people to stay longer, with the Mereenie loop road linking the West MacDonnells, the booming King's Canyon resort and Ayers Rock as a major feature.
Mr Mayell says between 75 and 80 per cent of visitors are Australians, and more international promotion is needed. For example, 170,000 Germans visit Bali every year - just a brief flight from Darwin - but only 54,000 come to the NT. [See also interview with Mr Mayell below.]

NT Tourist Commission Managing Director TONY MAYELL spoke with Alice News Editor ERWIN CHLANDA about new promotion strategies pushing the Desert Park, ballooning and the Old Ghan - and the apparently little known fact that you CAN be comfortable in Alice Springs.
News: Don't we lose marketing opportunities by failing to push our main assets - the blue sky, the wide open spaces, no pollution, no crowds? Would you come all the way from Europe to see the Old Ghan, the Desert Park or go for a fly in a balloon?
Mayell: A lot of those products, the way they are presented now individually aren't strong enough to drag any business from anywhere.
News: So why don't we use the strong ones? We've got 2000 square kilometres of Western MacDonnells National Park. It doesn't get a mention in your new newspaper campaign. I have a friend who's just done a three day walk on the Larapinta Trail through the Western MacDonnells. He says for access to a trail of such magnificence anywhere else in the world you'd have to book years ahead. He didn't see a single person.
Mayell: The type of product you've just mentioned is exactly spot on, the sort of thing we need to push but we need to have an operator who can deliver the product. Particularly with natural attractions it's very well to say it's there but we've got to have the access to the product as well.
Trek Gondwana are doing that sort of walking type product. What we've seen over the last few years is a very fundamental shift by the Tourist Commission.
When I was in Alice Springs 12 years ago, the very strong visual images of the Territory that the commission pushed in those days were very much centred around the Western MacDonnells.
News: So how are they being promoted at the moment?
Mayell: Well, I think, they've been forgotten, to be honest. The West Macs are a tremendous asset we need to push in front of the public again, both international and domestic.
News: Yet the West Macs aren't prominent in the present campaign.
Mayell: Not in the press inserts, but the scripts for the [planned] TV campaign actually open with the West Macs.
News: How do you think the Parks and Wildlife Commission are performing in that respect? They're the managers of the West Macs park, but a very large percentage of their staff are tied up in the Desert Park which is artificial.
Mayell: The response we've had about the Desert Park is very positive. We've always said that we see the Desert Park as a tourist asset as well as having tremendous educational and scientific value. We see Parks and Wildlife as great operators.
News: Do you think there is a case for The Centre to say, the Tourist Commission's getting $26.5m a year; give us half and then do what you like in the Top End with the rest?
Mayell: That's the sort of thing I would have said 10 years ago [laughs]. I don't think the Territory will ever be as successful as it can be unless we have a totally integrated approach to marketing it as a complete destination.
What I am very keen on doing is establishing Alice Springs as the southern gateway to the Territory, and Darwin as the northern. The product the two areas offer is totally complementary.
Put together it's an absolutely tremendous Australian product. It would be a tragic mistake if we would head off in different directions and be competing for the same tourist dollar.
News: We've got this marvellous place, yet our tourist accommodation - caravan parks and backpacker's lodges excepted - is half empty. Your commission gets funding 10 times greater, per head of population, when compared with South Australia.
Why isn't our industry booming?
Mayell: Over the last decade the Territory market has continued to grow. If you're looking at The Rock, there's obviously a unique situation.
News: But Alice Springs has been stagnating.
Mayell: I look at it from a Territory perspective. The market has definitely grown.
News: Why then has Alice Springs missed out?
Mayell: Alice has suffered a little bit because there's been a tremendous amount of resources and effort pushed into The Rock, not necessarily by government but by industry itself. [Ten years ago] people had to come to Alice Springs to see Ayers Rock.
Now that's not the case. When I was on the executive committee of the Central Australian Tourism Association in those days I remember saying, the greatest danger Alice Springs was facing was not looking at the way Ayers Rock would develop. They had to come up with a strategy to address that. [The fact that the commission] went to Cabinet and fought to get extra money [$750,000] was really to say, this place has some tremendous assets, let's see how we can position them so that they become part of a "must see" holiday.
But let's also accept the fact that people come to Central Australia basically expecting to see Ayers Rock. We can't try and turn people off that.
We've got to give the market what they want. The Rock is an opportunity for Alice Springs.
News: Going bush 10, 15 years ago was pretty easy. You'd take your swag, jump into a four wheel drive and head off. Now there are many restrictions.
What's your commission doing, for example, about urging the Parks and Wildlife Commission to open up the West Macs to camping in a much bigger way?
Unregimented bush experiences are expected by most visitors, yet they're increasingly harder to get.
Mayell: I sit on the board of the Parks and Wildlife Commission and we are very aware of the tourism aspect.
News: Well, what are they doing?
Mayell: Their primary concern has to be land management and conservation. One of the great dangers of unstructured tourism is that a lot of those conservation values are in danger.
News: But isn't it the Parks and Wildlife Commission's obligation to make bush experiences possible in an acceptable manner? Mayell: We've just looked at a couple of parks in the last week or so. There's a plan of management for these parks, and tourism is a big element of it. Exactly what you're saying is what they're considering. How to make the experience a quality one for the visitor.
News: Are these parks in the Top End?
Mayell: Yes, I haven't seen any Central Australian ones, but I've only been to four board meetings. Now that you've raised it I'm happy to go back and have a look at what the issues are in Central Australia.
News: Aboriginal tourism - you're saying you're looking for a "professional product". Hermann Malbunka, at Ipolera west of Hermannsburg, had a fascinating operation - a great camping area, spectacular country, authentic traditional Aboriginal experiences.
Yet it all folded - it seems to me - because the management skills were inadequate. From its $26.5m budget, could the Tourist Commission not find money to set up an advice and management service to make operations like Hermann's viable, providing what's without a doubt the prime interest for people visiting the region?
Mayell: I don't think that's a role for the commission. There are other agencies for that, such as the Department for Asian Relations, Trade and Industry. There are also Federal schemes which support that sort of thing.
News: Have you encouraged people like Hermann?
Mayell: Certainly.
News: And how have they responded?
Mayell: That's an area in which we can work a little more closely with those other agencies. We just haven't started that dialogue to any great degree as yet.

Labor says it's listening to the people on issues of anti-social behaviour but the CLP counters that the Opposition is merely copying NT Government initiatives. Labor's policy statement for Central Australia, released last week, is largely based on majority responses to the recent anti-social behaviour survey (to which 1000 people responded), door-knocking of 3500 households in Alice Springs and the meeting of Aboriginal groups and communities at Hamilton Downs.
It has a strong law and order thrust, involving increasing police resources in order to enforce laws "for all people, without discrimination".
The statement puts lack of enforcement of the 2km law, for instance, down to insufficient police resources.
The Alice News asked Stuart MLA Peter Toyne whether public drinking, being apparently one of the easier laws to police because its breaches are so visible, needs to be tackled from a different angle?
"I think we should try different angles," says Mr Toyne, "but we have to be honest with what people have said to us, to start from where they are at.
"We've had to make decisions about to what extent we can lead opinion and to what extent we have to respond to what we're hearing."
He stressed that many Aboriginal families want to take "a fairly hard line" on public drinking and anti-social behaviour.
He also commented that anecdotal evidence suggests that public drinking is not an easy area to police.
Mr Toyne is currently concerned about the fate of a Warlpiri man who faces charges of arising out of his role in a brawl between police and river drinkers.
The man, says Mr Toyne, had an absolute obligation, under Aboriginal kinship laws, to get involved on behalf of his relatives. "These situations can be explosive and are not as simple as they look.
That's why we want to give more support to night patrols and increase the number of the wardens from two to four, as well as more training to police so that they can understand the social framework in which they have to operate.
"With an increase in resources we are committing ourselves to that more complex process.
"We're not working on a simple law enforcement model, but across a whole repertoire of law and order guarantees.
"If 50 things will help, then we'll do 50 things!" Other law and order initiatives outlined in the policy statement include:
´ establishing a Specialist Juveniles Squad;
´ introducing a Police Strength Formula, with the needs of community policing built into that formula;
´ funding Aboriginal Community Police Officers;
´ introducing Community Safety Audits, a Streetsafe scheme and a Park Warden Scheme , involving Neighbourhood Watch, which will be strengthened in a number of ways;
´ introducing a Homesecure scheme (subsidised security arrangements for older people).
The policy statement also looks at longer term changes:
´ Labor will bring communities together to "increase understanding of behaviour standards that are acceptable or not acceptable in urban areas".
´ Truancy will be tackled with a number of initiatives, including a trial attendance centre in Alice Springs, aimed at bringing school authorities, parents and students together.
´ Employment and training will also attract a number of initiatives, especially for Aboriginal people and youth.
"We want to see an end to the passive welfare era for Aboriginal people," says Mr Toyne, who is involved as a facilitator for a single bid by the major Aboriginal councils of the region for the Federal Government's new labour market programs funding. "This is the essential next stage beyond land rights," says Mr Toyne.
"Aboriginal people need to secure for themselves a contemporary future with viable, appropriate economic development."
´ Sporting facilities and programs will receive a boost, in bush communities and in Alice Springs.
´ Labor will support Homemaker programs (to overcome problems arising out of cultural differences in suburban neighbourhoods). ´ They will establish substance abuse facilities in Central Australia, especially targeting petrol sniffing.
´ They will address the needs of youth (in a policy soon to be released).
However, Central Australia's three CLP Members, Loraine Braham, Richard Lim and Eric Poole, said in a joint statement to the Alice News that the Opposition's policy statements are vague, uncosted and short on detail.
"Furthermore, virtually everything Labor says it will do is already being done by the Northern Territory Government," they say. "But perhaps most importantly, Territorians should not trust Labor to fulfil its promises because much of what Labor promises to do now, it previously opposed."
"The NT Government has always been pro-active in responding to public concerns over law and order issues. It has taken a hard-line approach to enforcing laws to deal with anti-social behaviour.
But while Labor has consistently criticised the Government for being too tough in reacting to public demand, its policy reflects a knee-jerk reaction.
"The Opposition has often criticised the Government's laws, such as mandatory sentencing, which Labor leader Maggie Hickey now says she wants scrapped.
When the 2km Law was introduced, Labor opposed it. Now, as a result of the Government's success with the law, the Opposition has once again changed its mind and in this policy, supports the Law.
"The Opposition has previously been critical of Government's threats to enforce truancy laws, but again Labor has changed its mind and now supports the Government line," say Mrs Braham, Mr Poole and Dr Lim. "The NT Government has already recently embarked on a program which will put 150 extra police on the beat. Last month, 30 new police auxiliaries and 31 new police constables graduated in the Territory.
"Another 48 police recruits are now in training and when they graduate another 48 will begin training. In its policy, Labor now wants to put on an extra 150 police.
"Is Labor just copying Government again, or has it gone overboard with plans, without any costings, to put on an additional 300 police?"

"We were bored, we didn't want the car, we just wanted something to do. "It was a bit of fun, better than just walking around, you get to move fast, use your skills, get a buzz."
The thieving kids of Alice need to be noticed. This is the only way they know how, the only way they think they can be heroes, be someone.
The culprits, five of them aged between 12 and 15, encircled me to be interviewed. Smartly dressed in clean sports gear they competed to be heard as they leant over shiny new mountain bikes.
They couldn't wait to reveal their identities. "I've done two break-ins, stolen two cars, AND got away with it." The eldest kid managed to assert some authority: Bob (not his real name), around 15, has made thieving his passion.
He sleeps late so he can muster the energy to perfect his art. Then, as the day progresses nicely past noon, he's ready to strike.
The stories are told excitedly: "We were at the Casino, we smashed the [car] window, there was no alarm, so we did it.
"We made sure that there was no-one around first. We managed to drive everywhere until the car ran out of petrol by the train-station.
"Then we abandoned it and walked back." Police stress the importance of security. It's obviously a deterrent: when a car has an alarm they look for an easier target.
Bob is impatient to carry on with his story: "Then we broke into a taxi, it had money in it as well. "Before you smash the window you can see a red light. "We only do cars without alarms.
The driver caught us at the 24 Hour and got the money back. "We enjoyed running away though, it was fun."
These kids even break into their friends' houses. "The other day, we stole some gear from the back of a house "We didn't have to break in, we jumped the fence, and ran before they could get us.
"But we often get the keys to houses. One girl picked up the key to a mate's house whilst she was there and kept it.
"We just walked in one evening and got loads of stuff. "Jewellery, food, grog. We often just walk into properties at night and snoop around looking for signs."
The loot doesn't seem to be as important as the thrill of "getting away". For Bob it's almost an after-thought. Radios and CDs are the prime target. "They are the best, you can sell them at second-hand shops around Alice.
"A lot of people know it's stolen, but take it off us anyway. "We keep it if we like it. Once we found three boxes full of opals, we hid them away at once but couldn't remember where we'd put them.
"We couldn't find them but we didn't care." These kids want to feel needed - useful within their peer group. Breaking-in is also a way of feeling alive, making something happen in their lives.
Les Smith, an ex-policeman who now co-ordinates the CDEP at Arrernte Council, reaffirms this. "I know one guy who'd go out and do breaks and then ring me up and tell me about them.
"He'd end up giving all the property back, he was just trying to prove something." Les stresses that the kids he's in charge of now, at the Arrernte Council, are not criminals.
He's speaking about his days in the police force. The kids don't steal to survive. "I'm not short of money," admitted Bob. "My parents give me $40 a week.
I'm not bothered how much I get for the stuff, it gets a bit of grog or dope." It is these stimulants (along with the thrills of thieving) which make them forget about what isn't happening in their lives.
I asked Bob if he was looking forward to the prospects of work. He gets all excited again. "Yeah, I'll have a job soon, out bush, fencing. I'll stop nicking stuff then. I won't have the time."
Many seem to lack essential attention from their parents. Some didn't even know what their parents did. "My dad has a job ... I think ... I don't know what he does."
The CDEP, run by Les, has been a positive step towards increasing work opportunities and occupying the youth of Alice. "The whole youth crime scene was so frustrating when I was in the police-force, though working with juveniles can be very rewarding. "They have so much energy, it just needs to find a direction.
I saw a lot of kids come off the street, get married, get jobs. "When I left I found it far more satisfying being able to do something positive, finding work for these people." Certainly, the figures show that crime in Alice decreases whenever the unemployment figures drop, according to a Police spokesperson.
"Unlawful entry to a dwelling" dropped from 396 in 1995 to 286 in 1996, and reported stolen cars fell from 293 in 1995 to 237 in 1996. "One of the hardest things to understand from my experience is that a lot of the kids are from good homes," says Les.
"But their listless behaviour, frittering away money on pin-ball machines and dope shows lack of motivation." The CDEP scheme only offers opportunities to kids aged 16 and over.
Many of the offenders are younger than this and it is school which bores them. They talk of just wanting to get out bush and work. Academic subjects do not suit everyone.
"If there was a break-in that day, I'd go and knock on the door of the kid who hadn't turned up at school, always a fail-proof method," says Les. There are two main factors in local crime: The difficult "no man's land," around the ages of 15 and 16, between school and work, and those long days of intense summer heat.
Thieving increases dramatically at this time: In February 1996, there were 51 break-ins compared to only 9 in June. An astounding 74 bicycles were reported missing in the same month, the peak time for the theft of the single most often stolen item in the town, though there are always 70 bikes at any one time waiting to be claimed.
"The heat builds up, and all that bottled-up energy without a positive outlet boils over in the form of aggression and frustration," says Les. "At 4 am in the summer, there are hundreds of kids still walking around the streets waiting for something to happen."
He says sport has often been suggested as a way of diverting that pent-up energy. Says Bob: "Yeah, I play Aussie Rules, but still get bored, there's nothing to do in the summer, except walk around."
Les used to run the Boxing Club at the youth centre, and far from making kids more more violent, it gave them an outlet. "I noticed vast differences when teaching boxing to these kids. It's perfect, it gets rid of their frustrations and aggression.
"It teaches discipline, respect and control."
A term in prison doesn't seem to have the same effect, says Bob: "I have a couple of mates in prison but nothing's ever happened to me. My mates still steal stuff when they get out of prison.
"I go home, go to sleep, and know I can get away with doing it tomorrow. "The only time I've been punished was when I was fined for not wearing a helmet on my push-bike, that I just nicked.
With such a mindset, the new mandatory custodial sentences will not alter the thieving mentality: "I may get punished" obviously does figure when a life is empty.
Says Les: "Money is not really the motive to thieving in Alice, the way the houses and cars are trashed is a sign of resentment." The kids are trying to make an impact in a town which they feel has no place for them. Their energy is being wasted.
They are like wasps hovering around a closed jam jar.

The Australian Education Union's Chris Sharpe claims the Territory will suffer as a result of a predicted shortfall of 4,700 teachers nationwide at the start of next year.
The figures come from the Deans of Education survey which, he says, has always been considered an authority on this issue.
This is a huge increase on the figures for the start of this year, which stood at 400 nationwide,explained, he says, by the effect of the Victorian surplus wearing off, a small turn-off of graduating teachers and an aging workforce.
Mr Adamson says: "None of the states or the ACT are experiencing any significant shortfalls at this stage and, in the Territory, our 1997 staffing pattern has been quite normal."
At the same time Mr Adamson identifies staffing as a key issue for Territory education: Territory schools must be staffed with "appropriately trained, skilled and experienced teachers and other personnel" and their ability "to attract such staff through appropriate salaries, conditions of service and professional rewards" must be maintained.
He says predicted teacher shortages were considered at the recent meeting of Education Ministers held in Darwin, with states and territories and the Commonwealth agreeing to cooperate to develop a national strategy to encourage entry to the teaching profession.
Shadow Minister for Education Peter Toyne says the Territory education system needs to make a specific commitment to recognising and rewarding the teaching profession:
"This is the only way to counterbalance the relative difficulty we will always have in recruitment because ïhome' for most teachers is and will continue to be places far from here." He adds: "I don't think the CLP have ever given education a high enough priority.
It is a core area, essential for the next phase of our community and economic development." On Aboriginal education the Minister believes we are doing "a good job".
"Certainly we are providing significant resources for [Aboriginal students]," he says. "We should be continuing with our existing programs and exploiting new ideas, initiatives and opportunities as they arise.
"We need to accept that we cannot achieve overnight the level of outcomes that we want and we need to monitor our programs to ensure that outcomes are continually improving.
" Mr Adamson says not enough recognition is given to areas in Aboriginal education where there is significant improvement, naming programs for remote secondary age students as one example.
By contrast, Mr Toyne says there should be a "sense of urgency" about improvement of Aboriginal education. "We are trailing nationally on every parameter," says Mr Toyne, who in June placed 180 questions to the Minister on notice, about details of programs and outcomes in remote area education.
"I'm still waiting for the answers," says Mr Toyne, asserting that of $450,000 paid by the Commonwealth for distance education delivery, less than quarter "hit the workface".
The remainder was "swallowed up" by the administration in Darwin, says Mr Toyne. The Minister emphasises the need for Aboriginal parents and communities to give education a high priority and to encourage and support their kids in the education process.
"We can't teach them much if they are not attending regularly," says Mr Adamson. However, he also says truancy is not a simple issue. Fining parents and locking them up, as "the Opposition seems to think we should", when their kids don't attend school would be impractical and would not resolve the issue, says the Minister. Furthermore, it would give people a negative attitude towards education.
The Minister says: "We have a wide range of positive programs designed to accommodate all types of kids in schools and we employ many people who have a prime task of encouraging attendance and removing barriers to attendance.
"We have to continue with our parents as partners initiatives. "There is too much good happening in our schools to have it degraded by some bumbling approach to truancy," says Mr Adamson. Mr Toyne says Labor's truancy policy is wrongly construed by the Minister.
He says action on truancy, amongst all the issues considered, received the highest level of support from respondents to his recent anti-social behaviour survey. However, enforcing truancy laws should only be "a last resort", according to Mr Toyne. Labor advocates counselling for low level truancy, with a whole school approach, including outreach programs and specially tailored streams of study where the truancy level is higher.
"A truancy policy needs to be adaptive and sensitive, to deal with a range of situations," says Mr Toyne, but action needs to be taken "urgently".
"God help us if the horse has already bolted," he says. Mr Adamson claims a role for Territory education as leader in information technology and in the provision of services for students with special learning needs and students with disabilities.
He acknowledges the current strong national interest in literacy and numeracy but believes we cannot afford to concentrate on any essential area at the expense of others. He sees the Territory school curriculum as "well rounded" with the balance "just about right".

Claims of wide-spread support for alcohol sales restrictions sparked a row when several members of the business community either withdrew or qualified the position they had earlier expressed in writing.
Of five business people who had written to the People's Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC), three have confirmed their personal support, but stressed that their companies - all of them national - do not have a position on the issue.
While "something has to happen" on alcohol-related problems in Alice Springs, restrictions on liquor sales are not the way to go, says Robin Murray of Bob Jane T-Marts in Alice Springs.
Mr Murray initially signed a letter distributed by PAAC to businesses and organisations throughout the town, calling for a trial of restricted alcohol sales, including a ban on take-aways on Thursdays and Sundays, and no front bar sales on Thursdays.
He has since withdrawn his support following, he says, a heated discussion by family members around a barbecue: he realised then that he would not like to be told to not sell tyres on a Thursday. PAAC is calling for a six month trial of the bans.
"We cop a fair brunt on a Thursday, with people [under the influence of alcohol] wandering through here," says Mr Murray. "That's what made me jump when I first saw PAAC's letter.
"But restrictions aren't fair on the people trading, not unless it's right across the board." Rob Manning of AIB insurance brokers' Alice Springs office has also withdrawn support.
He referred our enquiries to Glen Skipworth in AIB's Darwin office. Mr Skipworth said that there had been a misunderstanding when Mr Manning originally signed the document: he had understood that AIB had already approved the letter.
"AIB could never agree with any move towards restrictions on trade. "We are a free enterprise and we support free enterprise," said Mr Skipworth, adding that there had been no outside pressure on the matter.
Jeff Tubbenhauer, a financial planner and an agent for AMP in Alice Springs, said that he as an individual and a businessman supports PAAC's call for restrictions but that he never authorised the use of the AMP company name in PAAC's letter.
Similarly, Barry Slattery says the name of his employer, Ansett Australia, should not have been used in the PAAC letter. However, as an individual, resident of the town for some 30 years, he supports a trial of restrictions.
"From where I sit in my office [on Todd Mall] I see a lot of problems associated with Aboriginal people who are drinking. "I think we should try restrictions to help them control their drinking," says Mr Slattery. Beverly Ellis, owner of the Dymocks Books franchise in Alice Springs, also says that the Dymocks name cannot be used to support PAAC's campaign.
"My personal feelings are another matter," says Mrs Ellis. "I supported PAAC's call to the town council to act on PAAC's proposals." Mrs Ellis was one of some 40 signatories to a letter to the town council, dated April 10 this year. PAAC's Barbara Curr describes the letter as historic because it had broad-based support from both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.
Ms Curr says PAAC has pursued a community-driven campaign for trial restrictions in the wake of Tennant Creek's success and on the advice of former Liquor Commissioner John Maley and his successor Peter Allen.
"Mr Allen attended a meeting of the former PAAG on November 21, 1996," says Ms Curr. "He told us that we needed more substantial community support for our campaign and even said that the Liquor Commission could play a role in facilitating community discussions.
"We have also been advised separately that making formal complaints about breaches of the Liquor Act is a costly and time-consuming procedure. "We would have to employ lawyers and produce watertight evidence, such as videotaped breaches."
On the "free trade" arguments, Ms Curr says that we do not and never could have completely free trade. "All trade is regulated to a certain extent, as is a great deal of our behaviour. "When people were first made to wear seat belts, many objected but now most accept it as a reasonable restriction on our freedom in order to achieve a greater good.
"Australians, in particular, Territorians, have not proved themselves as the civilised drinkers of the world. "We need alcohol availability to be restricted for our own good," says Ms Curr.
Meanwhile both the Liquor Commission and the promoter of a petition opposing restrictions are declining to give access to the document. Shane Arnfield, the owner of a local computer business, last November presented the petition, signed by 5500 people, to commission chairman Peter Allen.
Ms Curr says she would like to see the document so that she could verify the authenticity of the signatures, and ascertain how many had come from local people and how many from tourists.
Mr Arnfield says the document is now the property of the Liquor Commission. He says he has the names of the signatories on a data base but "I'm not happy to distribute that data base" because of privacy considerations.
Liquor Commission registrar David Rice says the document is not available for inspection because it "has not been formally tendered in evidence" associated with a hearing.
Mr Rice says the petition "has not been made a public document". Yet Mr Allen agreed to receive it in the commission's Alice Springs office, with most local media present.

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