July 21, 1999


Twelve workers at the Granites gold mine north-west of Alice Springs were sacked and given just 30 minutes to leave on a company plane or else face trespass changes.Most of the men, 11 from Alice Springs and one from Katherine, have worked at the mine's mechanical maintenance workshop for many years.In an exclusive interview with the Alice News they said most of them were handed the dismissal notice at 7.15am and had to be on the aircraft at 7.45am on July 2.They had to leave behind personal belongings, including tools, which the mine's operator, Normandy North Flinders Mines (NFM), insisted on having packed up by "site personnel" and forwarded later. Several of the men said the belongings included personal letters, trade union correspondence, as well as equipment liable to be damaged by careless handling, including TV sets.They said despite an undertaking to have the items flown to Alice Springs, at least some were road freighted.The 12 have now reached a financial settlement with the company, but they say Alice Springs jobs at the mine are being lost to contractors flown in from interstate.They claim that four new contractors had been flown in on the day of the sackings, and others had been secretly brought in before.All 12 had been employed under a special enterprise bargaining agreement struck in November 1994, and they say it's clear some 30 further workers under the same agreement may also be facing the sack.Some 300 people work at the mine.The News spoke with sacked worker Mike Wait, who has live in The Centre all his life and worked at the Granites for six years. Steve Geue, an Alice residents for 11 years, was employed for five years.Terry Cooper, an Alice resident for 15 years, worked more than 10 at the Granites, including six with a contractor, and the balance as a Normandy NFM employee.Kieran McKinley, 13 years in The Centre, has regarded the mining camp as his home for 10 and a half years.Mr Cooper says he will have difficulty finding a new job as well paid, and is facing a drop in annual income from $66,000 to $21,000.Mr Wait says the company even set up a road block to stop the sacked workers from going from the camp to their place of work, and extra security guards were standing by, having apparently been flown in from Alice Springs.The four men interviewed by the News said the man from Katherine was a young Aborigine who had just lost two close relatives, had not long ago completed his apprenticeship, and until recently, had been the star of company propaganda on race relations.The men say the company has violated the Mining and Processing Industry (NT) Award 1996 which requires the employer to "hold discussions" with workers proposed to be dismissed, and with their unions.Mine manager Terry Smith said in a letter to Federal Member Warren Snowdon that the reasons for the dismissals had been the "disappointing economic performance" of the mine and "a continuing adverse gold price".Contrary to information the sacked men claimed to have obtained, Mr Smith told Mr Snowdon the contractors replacing the sacked workers "draw their labour from Alice Springs".Mr Smith's assertions about hard times at the mine also seem to conflict with a three per cent pay rise to "staff" employees at the mine.Normandy NFM did not respond to an invitation to comment.


Tangentyere Council, believed to be funded mainly by ATSIC, will not reveal how much money it lost after it bought Territory Business Suppliers in 1995.Willy Tilmouth, who heads the organisation set up to assist people living in Aboriginal town lease areas in Alice Springs, says he will not disclose details of a settlement reached recently with local solicitor Michael Deane, a legal advisor in the purchase, nor with Westpac Bank last year, which financed the acquisition.A statement from Mr Tilmouth says Westpac had denied liability.The Alice News, which broke the story, understands that $600,000 deposited in the bank for other purposes was allegedly used for the TBS venture which collapsed soon after.Mr Tilmouth would not disclose whether anyone with Tangentyere - currently or previously - had accepted liability for the disaster. He says Tangen-tyere is continuing action against former accountants, Jack and Sharon Wolstencroft, although it has been stood over by the court "following the bankruptcy of the Wolstencrofts".Deputy president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, S. A. Forgie, commenting during the hearing of an appeal by Mr Wolstencroft last year, said TBS had "incurred trading losses which had led to a loss of working capital. "Losses of up to $30,000 per month had been incurred over the previous three to four months. "[The report] went on to make various criticisms of the manner in which TBS was being managed and operated. "No business plan could be produced, no cash flow forecasts had been prepared and there were inadequacies in the manner which the accounting records had been maintained," said Miss Forgie. "Various recommendations, including an injection of capital of $200,000 were [made] on the basis that [Tangentyere] considered that TBS had long term viability."Local ATSIC manager Richard Preece said at the time: "I understand that the collapse of the venture was a big loss to Tangentyere."However, this loss was met by Tangentyere's own resources, not with public money. ATSIC will not suffer any loss."However, Mr Tilmouth said he "expressed his gratitude to ATSIC for assisting Tangentyere Council to pursue these matters to settlement, including obtaining legal assistance".Tangentyere is believed to have an annual budget of $8m but it does not reveal the figure, not even in the annual report it makes public.TBS was closed down by a receiver and manager on February 6, 1997.


Sir,- Incredibly, a majority of the elected members of the Alice Springs Town Council voted to ignore the findings of its own workshop on Mandatory Sentencing. Some of my colleagues seem more passionate about raising the rates and stitching up the Deputy Mayor position than addressing the major social problems confronting this town.By choosing to do nothing, we have wasted the efforts of community experts who gave up their time to contribute to the workshop organised by the council.At a time when leadership is needed, some elected members are failing to act on social issues which are an obvious priority for most ratepayers. This lethargy is inexcusable for a council which has fewer core responsibilities than municipalities in other states. No wonder people are angry at another rates hike. The only reason given by the promoters of the "do nothing" decision was that it is not our legislation. How pitiful. Town planning is not our legislation either and yet we employed a town planner for 15 years.The NT Government currently spends about $54,000 per year to keep a person in gaol!. There is no evidence that Mandatory Sentencing reduces crime. This was the clear message to emerge from the council workshop.As a crime fighting policy it was shown to be both ineffective and expensive. Experience elsewhere is that well-targeted crime prevention programs are effective and cheaper than policies such as Mandatory Sentencing.If the Government matched the Mandatory Sentencing budget with crime-prevention strategies at least there might actually be a reduction in crime. That is the whole point of Mandatory Sentencing, isn't it?To put the issue in a wider context, we have one of the highest rates of youth suicide in Australia and you don't have to be a relative or close family friend to see that policies like Mandatory Sentencing are not very helpful. In our society imprisonment is an important punishment option however, the clear message of Mandatory Sentencing is: "We don't want to know and we don't care what your circumstances are, we're going to lock you up anyway."This simplistic approach will give the community more than it bargained for. I have worked hard in council to get the organisation to respond positively, and within its means, to areas of community need. For example, I proposed a program where a small part of our capital works budget involved the employment and training of young Aboriginal people. Footpaths get constructed, albeit at a higher cost, but in the process around half a dozen young people get a few months' work and training. Until the whole town and all levels of government focus on creative solutions to truancy, poor retention rates, unemployment, suicide prevention, etc this town will continue to go backwards. With flawed policies like Mandatory Sentencing, we will go backwards faster.The issues are too important to excuse the poor performance of community leaders.Alderman Geoff Harris
Alice Springs


"Locals", qualified to comment after 25 years or more of residence in the Territory, gave Alice Springs the thumbs up at a recent dinner organised by Margaret Baker, with town council support.Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA asked some of the 160 attending what they liked best and least about the town. (See also Part One in last week's issue.)
Elizabeth Richter-Cross, retired and staying on: My husband and I came from WA to SA to Alice Springs. There were 8000 people when we came here, and Alice Springs has been really good to us. We couldn't have done anything better than we did in Alice Springs in a city. Had we not come to Alice Springs we would not have been as well off as we are today. We were both working, I as a teacher, George had three jobs at the time, work was very easy to get. We found we were getting ahead without really trying. We built our own house, borrowed only a very small amount of money, and since then we've been reasonably comfortable.I lost my husband four years ago. I really think I probably will always have Alice Springs as a home base, even when I retire within the next year or two.I think there are lots of things to do in Alice Springs for people who are retired. I'll go and play Mah Jong, I might play bridge, I'm going to take on art again, I'll take up music again, I might even start to play a bit croquet or bowls or whatever. Even for people who're quite old there are many, many things to do in Alice Springs, and you don't have very far to travel, you can get from one place to another in three to five minutes. Perfect!
Hilary Coulson, 26 years in The Alice: The best thing has been bringing up three children in a nice environment. It's given us an opportunity to see most of Australia, having this place as a base. There are some disappointments, but that comes with progress. I would like Alice to go back to the way it was, but that's impossible. I don't like six foot fences around everybody's houses. There's no contact with your neighbours, you don't have the personal thing you used to have. You don't find the neighbours look after your kids any more. We've lost that.
Ian Rowan, just 25 years here: Alice Springs grows on you, but you either love it or you hate it. There is no middle of the road. The people, the lifestyle, the culture, everything's sort of laid back. When I first came to Alice I had a drink in the front bar of the Alice Springs Hotel. There was an old drover in there, I think he was half Aboriginal and half Chinese. He bought me my first drink in the Territory. He said it's not what you know, it's whom you know in the Territory. We had a good time that night and after that I never saw him again, but I'll never forget those words, they worked for me, meeting different people.I was employed at the hospital for eight or nine years, met many people through that, and through horses. The place just grows on you, it's been good for me, really good! I can't complain. Alice Springs can only go forward. You have people here from all over the world, each one brings in something, it's good!
Liz Wauchope, artist: My best thing is coming back here and getting into the countryside again and seeing that all of those places I used to go to as a kid are being looked after, out in the Western MacDonnells, for example. On the one hand it really gives me the pip that I can't camp right next to The Rock or whatever, but in fact they're looking after it. Given the number of people who're coming by, now that there are bitumen roads out to all these spots that used to be dirt roads, I guess that's the best development in this place, that they're looking after the environment.All the performing arts, the visual art, the various art awards and prizes, the exhibitions people have, the ability you have as an artist or crafts person to get out there and show your stuff, and meet other people who are doing so, having people put work in exhibitions here, from all over Australia ... it's huge, it been developing for 25 years! What I would like to see is a gallery to put it all in, where you can show these collections on a rotating basis. That's planned for next year at Araluen. I'm looking forward to seeing that open, but I'm scared that all they'll end up doing is putting the Namatjira collection in it all the time because that's what attracts the tourists, and not showing, often enough, all the other collections. I'd like to see at least two more galleries to show contemporary art and craft from all the people who are creative here. We need more space to show it more often!


Economic initiatives on Aboriginal communities in The Centre are a long way behind those in the Top End, according to Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley who last week made an extensive tour of the Territory outback."It's much better in the north."We've got to find other answers in The Centre, there's no doubt about that," Mr Beazley said in an exclusive interview with the Alice News."I've been to a few northern communities and I'm going to go to a lot more."Really, it's chalk and cheese in terms of development of effective institutions."We've got to work it out."I think we now have the sort of Territory based operation in the Parliamentary party which is likely to start to come up with a few answers on that front."I'm going to ask [NT Opposition Leader] Clare Martin how does she think they can turn it around."She is the person on the spot, she's got good brains, she's got a very good manner and delivery, she will have now have had a chance to formulate a few views on the subject."Mr Beazley says Ms Martin "represents the best chance for a very long time" for the ALP in the Territory.He says political exploitation of racial tensions has run its course."Part of the problem has been the belief in the CLP at the state level that they are advantaged by keeping a racial divide."This is now 20 years on and I think people are a bit tired of it."Mr Beazley claims that former NT Chief Minister Shane Stone's appointment as president of the national Liberal Party will play a role in ending the discrepancy in the vote for Labor in Territory and Federal elections.Mr Stone's move will do "more long term damage to the CLP than even their bad decisions," Mr Beazley says."The CLP has always maintained this fiction that they are a special Territory party, and they've sort of mocked us as an Australian party or a southern party. I think Shane's just blown their cover."While the CLP has maintained in the Legislative Assembly about double the number of Labor's seats, the sole Federal seat has see-sawed between the two parties. But while the Territory's Federal seat has previously always swung with the government in Canberra, in last year's poll Labor's Warren Snowdon unseated the CLP's Nick Dondas despite a Coalition victory.Mr Beazley says the Federal vote in the NT is usually much closer because "there is a recognition that the Labor Party is probably likely to be more generous to the public service and the Defence Forces and the rest of it, and that has direct ramifications for the economy up here." But he concedes it remains a tough battle to gain ground in Territory elections."They had an early break on us years ago and it's been very difficult to shift them since," he says.PROPORTIONAL"I think probably you have too many Members of Parliament, and they should be elected on a proportional representation basis."The constituencies here are a few thousand people. It works in favour of whoever got there first."You might have a real objection to the CLP Government, but you can't bring yourself to vote against Fred Smith, because Fred's been at all my Christenings, he's been to the funerals, all these sorts of things.ATTENTION"When a Member has a constituency of 70,000, he can't [pay such personal attention to individual voters, but] when they have a constituency of 3000, they can."Mr Beazley says a turn-around in Territory political attitudes was revealed in last year's statehood referendum.He says the defeat of the referendum was "unfortunate" he's a supporter of statehood for the NT."That was really a statement of confidence or otherwise in the CLP."Mr Beazley sees Aboriginal-white reconciliation as a key requirement for statehood, although much of the reconciliation initiatives emanate from Canberra."I think a lot of it is Federal. "The employment programs, health programs are heavily Federal ... [but] at the Territory level there are a number of things that ought to be done."With respect to bilingual education, he says, "it's been interesting to see that after the initial flurry, the CLP Government has been forced to address it with a bit more common sense and humanity."It's good that they have been obliged to change direction."Now you see the CLP beating the drum on native title."I think that sort of bashing of native title issues is just about to run out of steam."Mr Beazley says the recent indigenous land use agreement with the Jaywon in Katherine should be an example for the rest of the NT."What that is is working around log jams in the Native Title Act."Even with the changes that have been put in place, the processes of going through tribunals and courts is enormously time consuming and very difficult."Once people can see a way through to negotiate with the Aboriginal community, miners, tourism operators, all the rest of them, outside of the log jams in the courts, I think things are going to come on in a rush."The essence of the "work around" this cumbersome process "is a broad based agreement on the economic use of the land, and bringing the Aborigines into employment.SILVER BULLET"I think you will find as a product of that a much more intense engagement of the Aboriginal community, and sooner or later it's going to strike the Territory Government like a silver bullet."The first is that you're never going to get statehood unless the communities are reconciled, you won't get the votes for it domestically."And the second thing is that if you're really going to develop the most important industry in this Territory, and that is tourism, everybody has to be in it."

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