August 19, 1998


The town council's health inspector is investigating the so-called Warlpiri Camp on the North Stuart Highway where about 40 squatters have been living without toilets or any ablution facilities for nearly one month.
The Alice News has been told by a senior man staying there, Kenny Wayne, that the only place for his extended family to defecate is in the grass and bushes surrounding their makeshift accommodation.
The mostly elderly adults and children have been living at the Warlpiri Camp since reportedly being evicted from the nearby "Woodyard Lot", owned by the Aboriginal Inland Mission based in Sydney.Last Saturday, 24 days after the plight of the group became public, the only "facilities" that had been provided by any organisation were four 44-gallon drums for use as rubbish bins, which Gerry Baddock, a frequent visitor to the group, says are sometimes overflowing.
The camp is a few metres from a large service station, the Truckstop, and across the road from a major tourist resort, the Red Centre Resort.
Tangentyere Council, which receives some $6m in public funding annually, and which is widely regarded as the organisation under the greatest obligation to help, has not responded to enquiries about the fate of the group, but it did apparently provide the rubbish bins.Tangentyere is chartered to support the Aboriginal town lease areas - held under individual titles by Aboriginal housing associations.The Warlpiri Camp, Ilperle Tyathe, is one of them. Town council CEO Nick Scarvelis says no complaints have been received about the sanitary conditions for the camp's new inhabitants.The council is making enquiries following a request for comment from the Alice News.Mr Scarvelis says if the defecation is taking place on the town lease area, the council will be taking up the matter with the appropriate housing association, possibly through Tangentyere Council.If vacant Crown Land is being used, then the council would contact the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment.Either way the areas are within the municipality of Alice Springs.The group had lived at the Woodyard Lot for six years, according to Mr Wayne, and now hope to be given housing in the southern section of the Warlpiri Camp.They continue to express the belief that this will be supplied by Tangentyere. At present the group use tents and humpies, covered with corrugated iron and boughs.These shelters leak in rain, and several of the occupants are sick after the recent wet weather, according to Mr Wayne.


The privately-owned Ayers Rock Resort will get more than $4m in NT Government funded public works this financial year, according to Treasurer Mike Reed.He said in a letter, leaked to the Alice News, that the "Ayers Rock Resort is now privately owned" but "the people living and working there remain Territory residents."As residents, they receive services from Government just as do the people of Jabiru, Nhulunbuy and other special purpose centres."It appears Mr Reed is drawing a long bow in making this comparison.The Ayers Rock Resort - and the more than 100 square kilometres on which it is situated - is owned under freehold title, and all activities are subject to control by the proprietor since late last year, General Property Trust (GPT).By contrast, Jabiru is subject to considerable public control. The land is owned by Parks Australia, a Federal Government instrumentality.The town site is leased to the Jabiru Town Development Authority, a statutory body set up under NT law.This authority is governed by a board of seven, all appointed by the NT Minister for Local Government, with the majority of four being three NT public servants and one councillor from Jabiru town council. These are answerable directly or indirectly to the public.The minority three members are officials of the main local mining company, ERA. The authority may sub-lease land for residential or business purposes.In the Ayers Rock Resort, GPT has the sole say over who lives, works or conducts business there, and any such arrangements are made by way of lease at the discretion of GPT.Mr Reed says in the letter that this fiscal year the Ayers Rock Resort will be getting a new fire station for $970,000; new fire equipment ($230,000), modification to the police cells ($100,000); upgrading of the Lasseter Highway - Yulara Drive intersection (within the resort - $200,000); augmentation of electricity generating capacity ($1.2m, part of a $4.2m program); and augmentation of waste water treatment ($200,000).Additionally, says Mr Reed, the Education Department provides assistance for students living there, and the Centralian College offers courses to locals. The resort will contribute $143,000 towards operational costs for fire services.


The Prime Minister's historic announcement that an in-principle decision has been made for the Northern Territory to become a state has been welcomed by many, derided by some and queried by quite a few. The goal is that the NT should become Australia's seventh state on New Year's Day 2001 - a new state for a new century - and the first new state admitted to the Federation in its entire 100 year history. The Territory Legislative Assembly sittings this week has seen lively debate on the topic. Unfortunately, our adversarial system of political debate, and the nature of some politicians' egos, do not always serve to put important topics such as this into a framework that can be understood by those outside the political arena. The detail and intricacies of the issues are complex, but there are some broader aspects about which we will all have an opinion. The Radio National forum "Australia Talks Back" devoted Thursday's program to Territory statehood. The majority of callers were from interstate and were not supportive. Well-known Territory historian, Peter Forrest, did a great job in representing the Territory, his responses often setting the record straight. I am on the record as a supporter of statehood. I believe there are no intrinsic differences in the individuals that make up the NT from those who make up the population of other states. Why then should our rights or responsibilities be different from other Australians? Coinciding with the Prime Minister's announcement in Canberra on August 11, the Federal Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, Alex Somlyay, addressed the NT Legislative Assembly. He assured "all Territorians that any terms and conditions of statehood" would be "subject to full consultation and negotiation". These cover the areas over which the Commonwealth Government has retained control - industrial relations, uranium mining, the payment of mining royalties, Aboriginal land rights and national parks. Other matters which are subject to negotiation are those relating to Senate representation and arrangements for the Indian Ocean Territories (Christmas and Cocos-Keeling Islands, Ashmore and Cartier Islands). While the topic of Senate representation has received considerable public discussion, the latter has hardly been mentioned. Under the government of former ALP Prime Minister Keating, the Indian Ocean Territories were included in the electorate of the Northern Territory for voting purposes at Federal elections. It will be interesting to see if the Federal Government consults with residents of the Indian Ocean Territories on the matter of inclusion in the new state. The Prime Minister has made it clear that we cannot expect to have 12 Senators on statehood - and Chief Minister, Shane Stone appears in agreement. Looking at what has happened recently in the Senate, there could be some interesting ramifications if we were to have three to five Senate representatives. Separate from, but linked to the above, is the Northern Territory Constitution, the document which sets out the way in which we wish to be governed. The Legislative Assembly last week endorsed "in principle" the draft constitution from the Statehood Convention held earlier this year. Chief Minister Shane Stone has indicated that copies of the document will be distributed to Territorians in the next month. Given that there are some important meetings being held, particularly by Aboriginal groups, it will be interesting to see whether further public input - and change - to the draft constitution as it stands, will be allowed.At what stage does the draft become the formal constitution?At his press conference, the Prime Minister stated that his government would "facilitate at a Federal level the holding of a referendum on statehood within the NT at the time of the next election".As many readers would be aware, I was a delegate to the Statehood Convention. While it was outside the brief of the convention, delegates did make the recommendation that statehood be put before Territorian at a referendum. This has been arranged and a Referendums Bill 1998 placed before the Legislative Assembly.Again, while it was outside the convention delegates' brief, the majority voted in favour of a three part question for the referendum, which clearly separated approving statehood and the constitution.I have not seen much publicity regarding the actual question or questions that will be put in the referendum.During the past week I have been asked this question by a considerable number of people who hold different political views. I would hope to have more information in next week's column.In the run-up to the Federal election and the referendum, all politicians, and leaders of major community organisations, will need to ensure that Territorians can clearly understand which topic is being addressed. Both the Federal Coalition and the ALP have given support to Territory statehood, if it is the wish of Territorians. The Constitutional Convention organised by Centralian Aboriginal people and currently underway at Kalkaringi has attracted a diversity of influential speakers from Central Australia together with Territory and Federal politicians. The range of issues being discussed over the four days is impressive and like many others, I look forward to the results of their deliberations with great interest. Another forum to both inform and debate the issues of statehood and the constitution is being organised by local identity Fran Erlich. Planned as an all day event for Saturday, September 5, further details will be advertised shortly. These forums play an important role, especially when set against the background of comments made by Mr Somlyay in the Legislative Assembly. He stated: "While I do not want to underestimate the complexity of some of these issues, and while it is true that these issues will require careful and comprehensive consultation with all interested parties, including the Aboriginal community in the Territory, I do not believe they represent barriers to statehood. "They are all issues which, with goodwill and collective endeavour, can be resolved."


Argument about the cost to Territory residents has always been a significant feature of the statehood debate and, now that the decision to proceed to Territory statehood by 2001 has been taken, it can be expected that questions about the financial price will be intensified. Despite the government's consistent claims that statehood will not involve additional costs, there is still a high level of scepticism within the community. In recent Territory history, there are certainly grounds for such scepticism. Some people might remember the assertion by Paul Everingham before self- government that constitutional change would only cost Territorians one extra can of beer a week. As taxes and charges rose steadily in the years after 1978, Everingham's contention was proved wrong.There are, however, clear differences between the situation in 1978 and that of the late 1990s and the government's position on the financial costs of statehood seems to be justified. Obviously, the new funding arrangement set out in the tax package announced last week, if it gains electoral and parliamentary approval, introduces some unknown quantities but it is unlikely to depart much from the existing distribution process. Since 1988-9, the Territory has been funded on a state-type basis and it has been treated in substantially the same way as the existing states. A pool of money, whether a portion of Commonwealth tax revenue as it is now or provided by the GST as proposed after 2000, is set aside by the Commonwealth for distribution to the six states and the two mainland territories. It is divided on the basis of "relativities" established periodically by the Grants Commission. The purpose of the "relativities" is to ensure that each unit of the federation is "given the capacity to provide the average standard of (state-type) public services, assuming it does so at an average level of operational efficiency and makes an average effort to raise revenue from its own sources". That is the principle, embedded within the Australia federal system, of "horizontal fiscal equalisation". The Commission determines the appropriate "relativity" on the basis of regional disabilities. In the case of the Territory, a range of disabilities - factors such as the effects of distance, remoteness and climate, high costs, population size and distribution, and the sizable and disadvantaged Aboriginal community - is taken into account. From those calculations, the Territory is rated the most "fiscally disabled" polity and it receives a share of the pool which is currently about five times the national average per head and about five and a half times more than New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. The next most "disabled" state is Tasmania with a "relativity" of 1.55 (as against the Territory's 4.88). Thus, the Territory receives a share of general Commonwealth grants in per capita terms much higher than elsewhere. Moreover, it receives a higher level (about 70 per cent above the national average) of special purpose grants, which are funded from outside the pool, than other jurisdictions. As a consequence of the equalisation process, the Territory is the most dependent unit of the Australian federation. About 80 per cent of its expenditure is covered by Commonwealth transfers - well above the national average of about 50 per cent. As local taxes and charges have risen, the level of Territory dependency has declined; in the late 1970s, the proportion was nearly 90 per cent. Indeed, before the High Court stripped the states and territories of the ability to levy franchise fees last year, about a quarter of the Territory budget came from internal sources. And, it should be stressed that the Territory does fulfil the requirement of raising local revenue at a rate equivalent to other states. Statehood will not necessitate a wholesale lifting of state-type taxes and charges. Even if the basis of federal funding is changed in 2000, the Territory should not be affected unduly, if at all, in financial terms when it becomes a state. As economic activity and population increases, the extent of dependency will continue to fall. If statehood involves expanded opportunities for revenue collection, then dependency will decrease more rapidly. If the Territory is born as a state in the context of a GST-based pool, then it is likely to benefit from an expanding tax platform, long a demand of state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers, and the concomitant removal of several existing tax imposts. From my reading of the past financial treatment of the Territory and its prospects under the mooted new revenue-sharing regime, there will be no adverse funding ramifications for local residents. The situation following the institution of self-government should not be replicated with the granting of statehood. Any campaign against statehood, using arguments of financial disadvantage, will have to be founded on rhetorical conviction and not on solid factual evidence.[ED - Nevertheless, the Alice News has asked both MHR Nick Dondas and NT Treasurer Mike Reed to advise the exact mechanism under which the NT will continue to receive "disability" funding, should the Coalition's plans come to fruition. More about that - hopefully! - next week.]


The document called the Northern Territory Literacy Plan is not really a plan.Recently jointly published by the NT Department of Education, the Catholic Education Office Darwin, and the Association of Independent Schools of the Northern Territory, it is rather, by its own acknowledgement, "an overview of the programs and materials currently in place in the Northern Territory to support schools in the development of students' English literacy".Along with the soon to be published Northern Territory Numeracy Plan, it will become a basis for "review of our current position and for decisions about its enhancement".However, the document does not contain any measurement or even generalised assessment of our current position, nor any precise statement of needs.It indicates a commitment by all three education systems to the "development of excellent English literacy skills" and that an array of programs and materials are available to provide such skills in the Territory, but the reader is given no idea as to how effective these programs and materials are.Neither is there any indication of the longevity of the numerous projects listed: what source of funding do they depend on and how far will it take them?There is no clear statement of deficit in the fraught area of Aboriginal literacy, although the description of a number of targeted programs, as well as the following comment, start to paint a picture: "Erratic attendance at school for some [Indigenous] students, as a result of their parents' mobility, often affects their capacity to gain optimum benefit from the educational programs provided."The educational challenge is further exacerbated because high mobility also characterises the Territory's teaching population: teachers in our schools come from all States of Australia and beyond, often stay a short while - especially in the isolated communities - and then depart."This reads as a rather helpless statement of the staffing and attendance problems wracking many remote area schools (nearly 53 per cent of all Territory schools, catering for just over 23 per cent of students, are in remote areas).Under a "forward planning" heading, the document says: "It is the responsibility of the NT Literacy and Numeracy Task Group to identify gaps that exist in the systemic provision of support for Indigenous students and make suitable recommendations about changes or extensions to existing programs, the adoption of new programs, and the more effective allocation of resources".There are similarly worded statements vis a vis programs for parents, for ESL students, and for the professional development of teachers.It would appear that the public will have to wait till next year for a concrete assessment of the NT's achievements in the literacy field.As the document reports, in March 1997 the Ministerial Council on Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) agreed to a national goal: "Every child leaving primary school should be numerate and be able to read, write and spell at an appropriate level."The council also adopted a sub-goal: "Every child commencing school from 1998 will achieve a minimum acceptable literacy and numeracy standard within four years of beginning school."To achieve these goals, a 10 point plan has been agreed upon, which includes comprehensive assessment, bench-marking and early intervention strategies.There will be "progress towards national reporting by systems and school authorities on student achievements ... against the Year Three and Year Five benchmarks from 1999 (in respect of 1998), data provided being comparable by State/Territory."Further: "States and Territories have agreed to provide MCEETYA with detailed plans of how schools will ensure students meet minimum acceptable literacy and numeracy standards, and how funds will be used to achieve measurable improvements." The national plan also says that "from 1998 student performance against nationally agreed standards will be reported to them, their parents, teachers and schools by the relevant State/Territory system ... Statewide performance data will be published. Schools falling below agreed levels of student performance will be assisted to develop literacy improvement plans."Next month, September, then will see a "common writing task" administered to all Years Three and Five or "age-equivalent" students in urban and non-urban schools in the Territory. It will be centrally marked and is "the principal component that will provide the data for measuring students' writing and spelling achievements against the national benchmarks".The benchmarks are being developed under the direction of a national taskforce. The NT document reports that, as they are finalised and further refined, appropriate changes will be made to the NT assessment vehicles, English - An Outcomes Profile for NT Schools and the Multilevel Assessment Program (MAP).It also says that a "format for all schools to report to parents of Year Three and Five students on their child's achievements in the MAP, including performance against the benchmarks, is being developed."


"Leadership and vision" are needed to generate significant new economic activity out of Central Australia based on "knowledge of the arid zone", says Director of the Centre for Appropriate Technaology (CAT), Dr Bruce Walker."I think that we in Central Australia could be leaders in that area. We've got an excellent research facility in CSIRO, a lot of work has been done by the Department of Primary Industries on land management, CAT has done a lot of work on technologies, a lot of people work in community development. "I think it's a product that we can sell, not only here but elsewhere."We need to be able to capture all that in a marketing ploy. We're pinning too much on tourists. There are other things that we can do. "We need a think tank with all those knowledge-based people and people who run businesses."A ripple of enthusiasm is spreading the idea since a recent seminar held in Alice by the Northern Territory Research and Development Advisory Council (NTRDAC).The seminar heard that while research and development (R&D) expenditure in the NT had grown by a healthy 25 per cent between 1992-3 and 1995-6, to a total of $57.6 million, it still only accounted for just 0.8 per cent of national expenditure. Industry R&D was a very low $4 million.Almost 90 per cent of R &D was funded by, and 75 per cent performed by, the public sector. Work has been focused strongly on three broad socio-economic objectives: the environment (37 per cent), primary products and production (18 per cent), and health (13 per cent); just six per cent has been directed towards mineral and energy objectives; there is almost negligible R&D on defence, manufacturing, construction, or information and communication sciences (outside the non-reported R&D in small firms). "There is prima facie evidence that the Territory's R&D capability is strongly focussed on the challenges of the past and the present," the seminar was told. "However, it may not be developing sufficiently rapidly to address the challenges and opportunities, and provide the underpinning knowledge for the industries of the next decade."Now, says Dr Walker, a proposal is being developed "to do some scenario planning" on the potential of a local knowledge-based economic sector."It will require a fairly broad group of people who will come together and actually market Central Australia for a number of things we know a lot about."These include delivering a range of services, technical, scientific and social. CAT is already a significant performer in these areas. They are currently involved in cooperative research with the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE). This centre is not short on scientific expertise, but they need to find out what the barriers are to delivering renewable energy products and services in remote areas."While there's been a lot of market hype, nationally and internationally, that renewable energy is free, in reality the systems often can be just as expensive as conventional fuels. This brings another set of constraints on the research environment," says Dr Walker. "You may not be paying for fossil fuel to go in every day or every week, but you pay in chunks to replace your batteries, to repair an electronic component that's faulty, which requires a person who's got a higher rather than lower level of technical expertise so it costs you more for their time, and an air trip in and out. "They can be quite expensive systems in a remote context. The energy that's converted is free, but the cost of converting that energy can be significant. "So these market-related issues, that we know of because of where we work, need to be conveyed back into the research pool. "That is a tradable thing."This cooperative relationship between CAT and ACRE is subject to an intellectual property agreement. Dr Walker explains: "You indicate up front what it is that you bring into the relationship, you demonstrate where your previous experience has given you that intellectual capital. "The process helps you to identify what is the baseline of the intellectual property, and the intellectual property that is developed as the result of the joint funding. "That activity is then documented as the intellectual property of the joint venture, so both parties own that and agree up front about how to treat that."If they want to commercialise any aspect, there's an arrangement whereby there's a commercial return to the parties."Another example of "trading" intellectual capital is in work CAT's Cairns office has done with the Queensland Government."In that instance we were asked to draw up some terms of reference on infrastructure planning in communities. We indicated as part of our contractual arrangements that we brought to that project a series of contacts and understandings. "Our methodology was our intellectual capital that we wanted to preserve, and in applying that in the job we were about to do, we weren't actually giving them the right to that piece of capital, we could use that separately."You've got to be very careful to identify up front what it is that you take into the relationship that you owned before you got there, and make sure that that's not deemed to be owned by them."Dr Walker says that in a lot of research work, there's no money to pay on intellectual capital brought into the venture, until it actually reaches the stage of commercialisation. "Let's take for example the renewable energies project."If on the basis of some of the advice we gave, there was a system that was designed, and they sold a million versions of it in Indonesia, then we would expect to get a percentage of the profit from that back to us as a payment for our intellectual capital and the work we'd done."Quite detailed commercialisation clauses cover this eventuality.More immediately, the return on intellectual capital comes in the form of additional research grants on the basis of work that CAT has done in the past. "The return is not an replication of a product, it's on the acknowledgement of your position in the field and your ability to conduct certain research and activities."You're rewarded for that by getting the next job to do that leads you on from that."NEXT WEEK: Rewards from far afield: CAT's work for the UN in the "Golden Triangle".

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