April 5, 2000


A multi award winning tourism operator has slammed the NT Tourist Commission for almost completely ignoring Aborigines in its latest promotions.Paul Ah Chee, who heads the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre in Alice Springs, says he is "astounded and bemused" that the commission is clearly ignoring its own research about the significance of indigenous attractions.Mike Gunn, general manager of the industry lobby group CATIA, says he can't explain the commission's current policy."We promote Central Australia's attractions as natural and cultural attractions and Aboriginal culture is an important part of that," says Mr Gunn."What I have heard is that it's a timing issue for the commission and they just haven't got to that stage of the campaign yet."I understand they're saying they will be doing it in the fullness of time."That's the Tourist Commission's official line. It would be interesting to hear what the minister has to say about that."However the minister, Mike Reed, who was eager to be photographed with Mr Ah Chee when he received the international "To Do" award for socially responsible tourism in Berlin last year, has not responded to an invitation for comment.The commission publication, Selected Statistics 1998/99, says "Aboriginal art / culture" is the second most popular activity for tourists, behind only "photography", and ahead of 11 other categories.The publication also says Central Australia generates almost 70 per cent of the $50m spent annually on Aboriginal art in the NT.Yet a brochure about the "Explorer Highway" from Adelaide to Darwin doesn't mention Aborigines in text nor images.Neither does a glossy brochure inserted into a national newspaper recently.There are sporadic references to indigenous culture in the text of a 20 page glossy brochure, but no images of Aborigines.Of 199 images in "Territory Discoveries: Central Australia" just one shows an Aboriginal person.Mr Ah Chee says several companies have for years provided a "quality product" to the market, including Anangu Tours at Ayers Rock, Rod Steinert for about 20 years, the Wallace Rockhole community near Hermannsburg, Lilla Creek Tours at King's Canyon, as well as his own firm.Mr Ah Chee says he will be raising the issue at this weekend's national tourism conference in Alice Springs.Meanwhile according to figures supplied by CATIA, Alice Springs gets far fewer than half of the tourists coming to Central Australia: in 1998-99, 264,000 stayed in town while 373,000 visited other places in The Centre, mainly Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon.However, those visiting The Alice stay longer: we had 1.35m visitor nights compared to just over one million for elsewhere in the centre region. Visitors to the town spent $179.3m, which is a little more than half of the Centre's total of $317.2m.These figures show an increase in visitor numbers of 14 per cent, in visitor nights of 15 per cent, and in visitor spending of 12 per cent, compared to the previous 12 month period.It's interesting to note that the spend per visitor night doesn't vary a great deal between the town and the areas including The Rock and King's Canyon: it's $132 for The Alice, $137 for "elsewhere" and $134 for The Centre generally.Ayers Rock Resort Company CEO Grant Hunt says two thirds of the resort's business is in camp grounds and lodges, not in the up-market accommodation.Mr Hunt also says the company is "assisting the owners of Double Island with their transition" from receivership and after a cyclone. He says it's too soon to say whether there will be an ongoing relationship with the island resort near Cairns.


Sir,- I write in response to the letter published in the Alice Springs News on March 8, "Effluent Flowing Over the Road is Not Treated", to correct the impressions that your correspondent has left about the treatment of sewage in Alice Springs.The Alice Springs Waste Water Treatment Plant was designed as an environmentally friendly, low energy use process. It makes maximal use of the sun, and its processes for treating the incoming sewage are all natural, with effluent conforming to national reuse guidelines for recycling as irrigation water. In addition, the Power and Water Authority (PAWA) is using the treated water from the plant to irrigate a 25 hectare tree plantation nearby, as well as greening areas of Blathers-kite Park.The processes consist not only of evaporation ponds as stated by your correspondent, but also includes facultative and aerobic lagoons. These facultative and aerobic lagoons provide effective treatment to irrigation quality, and the evaporation ponds further improve the quality of the water leaving the plant. The evaporation ponds also reduce the total volume of discharge to the Ilparpa swamp, a naturally occurring feature of that area. The ponds also attract considerable bird life, and PAWA has incorporated "islands" in the pond system to protect the birds from predators, allowing bird watchers an excellent opportunity to enjoy their interest.In the recently occurring rains, the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment monitored the quality of water at various locations around Alice Springs. In particular, water samples taken from the area around Ilparpa Swamp, on examination, were no worse than other areas including the Todd River itself. It is reasonable to conclude from this that the quality of local aquifer recharge would be unaffected as a result of flow from the treatment ponds in the recent rains. To further allay concerns, I also point out that the separate aquifer supplying drinking water to Alice Springs is quite remote from the treatment ponds, and has no known recharge to it from the Blatherskite Park or Ilparpa Swamp areas.In addition, PAWA is actively engaged on a program to positively improve treatment plant performance in line with world's best practice. Part of this effort is examination of a number of options, as part of an overall strategic plan, for improving total water management in Alice Springs. One of these options, referred to by your correspondent, is to further treat the effluent to a high standard that would be not merely as good as, but better than the natural run-off that presently recharges the aquifers, and then inject this better quality water for later reuse. If this process were to prove technically feasible, the Power and Water Authority would of course undertake wide-ranging public consultation, and seek approval by agencies such as Territory Health Services and the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment before proceeding.
Lyndsay Bryceson
Regional Director (South), PAWA

Sir,- It is unfortunate that in their attempt to rid Alice Springs of feral pigeons, Parks and Wildlife staff may, occasionally, unintentionally wound, rather than kill, a bird.However, I applaud and encourage them. The great thing about living in Alice Springs is that we can be so close to the natural environment even while living in town.In the mornings, I am delighted by the calls and whistles of a range of different native birds. But in recent years they have been drowned out by the cooing of the introduced pigeons. And in my part of town, I have sighted fewer native birds as the introduced pigeons have taken over their nesting spots.Lately, it seems to me that the trend is reversing. I hope this is because P&W staff are having an impact. I suspect that they are using other methods as well as shooting. Keep up the good work!
Frances Collins
Alice Springs

Sir,- On behalf of the Alice Springs Junior Singers, I would like to publicly thank everyone who helped six of our choristers to fund-raise for their trip to Sydney in January. They were chosen to perform with the prestigious Gondwana Voices National Children's Choir. Special thanks Ansett Australia, Alice Plaza, Desert Sounds, and Taps, Tubs and Tiles.The girls are now busking for their trip to Melbourne in April. Please support them! If you would like them to perform at your next function, phone myself on 8952 7679.
Pia Harrison
Musical Director
Alice Springs Junior Singers


Alice Springs' small Islamic community got a shot in the arm when its spiritual leader received a visa from Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock last week.Pakistan born Imam Ahmad Hussain (pictured above) was threatened with expulsion last year because his visa had expired, but local Muslims and politicians, especially MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, appealed to Mr Ruddock.The Imam says he and his congregation are following a "very moderate" line.The reception for the faith and its followers in Alice Springs is "very warm and encouraging".Imam Hussain says he will be joining the local Ministers' Fraternal, and he sees himself "not as a holy man" but as an ordinary person.CONVERSIONThe softly spoken Imam says the congregation isn't proselytising: "The conversion of people isn't our goal."We don't want to change other people's religion. We don't interfere."He says the group is made up of mainly people with Afghan and Aboriginal origins, as well as immigrants.He also ministers to Muslim prisoners from Indonesia and Thailand at the Alice Springs gaol.Some 40 to 50 people regularly attend monthly social functions and prayer at the mosque in Lyndavale Drive.About 15 people attend Friday prayers, and 15 children go to weekly religious classes at the mosque.The group's secretary, Jawed Khan, says the granting of the visa was celebrated with a function last Sunday.


"In business one of my biggest advantages was being under-estimated," says mayoral candidate Jenny Mostran.After a 20 year career in business and raising three children, in collaboration with husband Peter, as well as a range of roles in community organisations including chairing the Central Australian Chamber of Commerce, Mrs Mostran says being a woman has given her experience of grass roots issues, in particular in relation to the needs of families and youth, while her professional background has given her the effective management skills and financial background needed for the job of mayor."My management approach is one of mutual respect, it's conciliatory and deals with the facts. "People are passionate about their ideas and that's great, but we need to stick to facts and put the passion into selling those facts."She says council meetings she has attended, especially recently, have been highly "emotive" but she is undaunted: "You need to take the emotive side out of it, deal with the facts, and certainly not disregard somebody's proposal because they brought it up."You have to be able to deal with all types of people. I've proven that I can do that in my business life, and in the enormous variety of my community interests."I'm also not afraid to make decisions, I've had to make a lot of hard decisions in my business career."As mayor, she would prioritise team-building, "not just with the aldermen but with the officers"."The different roles of the two groups need to be respected and understood."The people who are doing the work are looking for direction from the aldermen and the Mayor."The aldermen aren't there to carry out the work, they are there as a management board."And what should that "management board" be managing?Mrs Mostran says rather than council trying to do a little bit for everybody, it should develop its role as a coordinating body and an effective lobbyist.She says council needs to show the Northern Territory Government that it has a grasp of the issues of town planning, develop its expertise and then lobby to be given a greater role."Council needs to be able show the government how town-planning is often ineffective for people in Alice Springs and government needs to be held accountable."Mrs Mostran is not a member of any political party and says council needs to be apolitical, to keep trust with all sectors of the community.She says flood management for the whole town needs to be revisited. In particular, if a convention centre is to be built in the casino area, access during times of flood needs to be addressed, not only for the sake of visitors, but for the growing residential population in the area."We can't afford to have a convention centre without the infrastructure that goes with it."Recycling and waste management are huge issues for the community: "We can surely do more than we are doing now," says Mrs Mostran."There must be a way of finding the balance between cost and environmental protection."The Todd River is an under-developed resource and could be a wonderful place for the whole community as well as visitors.Its management is affected by "blurred lines" when it comes to dealing with the hard issues.Mrs Mostran describes as "appalling" council's withdrawal of funding for Kickstart, the annual youth expo, which she sees as exactly the kind of coordinating event that is an effective use of council resources."And I just don't believe you should ever cut services to youth."All teenagers need is a spark of enthusiasm and it will light up their life, finding out about a career option that may interest them, or a sport, or some other type of recreation."Council said they were withdrawing their support because it wasn't their core business. If the people of the town are not their core business, then what is? "You can have a fantastic Civic Centre but if no one is going to work here and live here, what's the point?"You need to put your weight behind supporting people, they are always your best resource."An important way to support people is by engendering pride in the town:"We need to have a town we are proud of, that everybody participates in, and council can offer leadership on this. "All sectors of the community need to take ownership of this town. "If we can foster that culture we are going to deal with so many other problems."A good start would be ensuring better presentation of the town."If the place looks good, people will feel better."Whether it's the Queen or an elderly couple who have dreamt about coming to Alice Springs all their life, when they set foot in the town, it's not very inspirational."Mrs Mostran says in particular "the positives of Aboriginal culture" should be promoted, and this is a community discussion that council could take a lead in."Once people feel they are empowered and have a sense of ownership in something, they will want to protect it, and it would combat other problems in town, like litter."Mrs Mostran would like to see an end to people just "letting things happen"."We should make them happen, make that culture of wanting to do things and participate."She sees council's slow response to the aftermath of February's heavy rains as an example of "letting things happen"."If we were Katherine, we'd still have dead cows in the middle of the road. That's how slow we are to tidy up our town. "We've had the biggest rain in 25 years, the grass is six feet high, there are all the problems that can cause, an influx of snakes, a fire hazard. "Let's get in there and tidy this town up! Let's make the most of the rain. While everything is lovely and green all we can see is six foot high grass everywhere."What explains this apparent inertia?"People seem to be looking for other people to make the decisions. I don't have a problem with consultancies nor with planning but you still have to operate the town."Council need not be afraid to make decisions. You can plan and plan until you're blue in the face but we need to have a bit more action around the place. "There needs to be community consultation, of course. If objections are strong enough, then at least you've brought people out, encouraged discussion and then you deal with it."The state of the town's parks is another example of of council's inertia, says Mrs Mostran."They have been there for 20 years – one piece of play equipment in these huge parks children can't go to anyway because they're full of bindis and no shade trees. "Out at Larapinta Primary School, just a couple of years old, the grounds are absolutely magnificent."Even at Araluen Park, our premier park, there is no shade over the play equipment. Unless you're there before nine o'clock for eight months of the year you can't use it because it's too hot."How can this happen?"I believe a consultant is still working on what colour the shade should be! We are paying a fortune for these consultancies! Why isn't that put out to tender? Get some community people involved, get all the ideas, choose the one which appeals most and get on with it!"She says council's stray dog program has been very effective, and that a similar approach – an education program plus close monitoring by inspectors – should be used for litter.She says council workers need to have a more visible presence in the town:"One of the most effective council employees is the guy who pushes the street sweeping cart along. When I was running my business in town, I would see him, always directing tourists, chatting, helping people who were distressed, still doing his work, a really cheery person."She supports council's involvement in the alcohol survey now underway: "This is a major social problem in the town, the visible and invisible problem of alcohol whether it's in your face in town or in someone's home and family, it's inhibiting people's quality of life."The public forums are a great idea. People being able to have their say is the only way that you will then empower them."This is another area where council could take on a coordinating role to improve access to services: "We're still not a big town, if we are networking effectively, when there's a problem it should be a matter of a phone call or two, you can make things happen for people pretty quickly."Mrs Mostran does not agree that council should provide grants money for businesses (as it has done with its economic development programs)."Council's role is to make it easier for business people to do business, by being effective in its work in the community. "Attracting and keeping staff is one of the biggest problems for business in Alice Springs. If council helps make it a great place to live, staff will want to stay."She says council could also look at speeding up the process of authorisations that businesses need, and support organisations that support business, like the Chamber of Commerce.A new promotional video about the town would also be worthwhile. The current one has been very useful for businesses recruiting from interstate, but it is now getting old. She doesn't think a lot of money should be spent on a new Civic Centre. Renovations to the existing centre would be adequate and council could think about whether the administration needs to be housed there."The service side of council needs to be in the CBD but the administrative side probably doesn't."She says the mayor's job should not be fully salaried. "I see it as a community service position, and the present allowance covers all expenses. "My firm view is that council should remain an apolitical, community- based organisation, able to relate to all the people of Alice Springs. "We must do something to stop the disenfranchisement of sections of our community, and any politicisation would be disastrous from that point of view."


Living in the Gap has made aldermanic candidate Annette Smith acutely aware of how quality of life in Alice Springs differs from area to area.Ms Smith moved to Willshire Street, off Traeger Avenue, four years ago. She says her and other residents' concerns about traffic and parking in the street have been completely ignored, and she suspects that not having anyone from the area on council may have something to do with it."I know we don't have a ward system, but I think it's telling that there are five Eastside residents on council and no one from the Gap."There are a lot of families with children and a lot of old people in the Gap who need council's attention, but we don't get any."However, Ms Smith wouldn't only push for consideration of Gap residents."I've lived in Gillen as well and still take my child to school in that area every day. I know there are areas in Gillen and out at Larapinta which have similar problems to ours."I just want representation to be more equal."The problems Ms Smith sees are basic ones: the maintenance of verges, which she describes as "non-existent" in certain areas, broken glass on footpaths and bike paths, inadequate maintenance and development of parks."I see every ratepayer as an investor and we are simply not getting a good return on our investment."All the little things that affect our quality of life need to be done better."Ms Smith says that when residents raise legitimate concerns, they need to be acted upon.She has tried numerous avenues to get action about the through traffic in Willshire Street and "absolutely nothing" has happened."There are 22 houses in the street, with 12 kids under five and five frail aged or disabled residents."Because of our proximity to a number of tourism and sporting facilities, we often find it hard to get parking in our own street, and there is an excessive amount of through traffic."One day last November Ms Smith sat down and counted 35 coaches passing through the street in the space of one and a half hours."We've written to the coach companies, suggesting an alternative route, complete with a map, and we've asked the council to consider either blocking off one end of the street or putting in speed humps."We also get a lot of rubbish in the street from all the traffic, but no extra clean-up service."I'm sure people living near other high traffic spots, such as the Milner Road shops, or the Queen of the Desert, have similar problems.""I want to run for council because I think getting these kind of issues right is more important than being part of a push for greater tourism."If council gets it right for residents, they will be happier and stay longer, and we will have a less fractured community. I think those things will make Alice Springs a nicer place for tourists to visit anyway."Ms Smith is a paraplegic but she does not want to make disability issues central to her campaign. In fact, she says Alice Springs is a better place than most to be in a wheelchair, that council is on track with their Access 2000 policy, but where basic facilities and maintenance are lacking, a disabled person is perhaps more severely affected than others.She is appalled by the lack of public toilet facilities in the CBD."It's a nightmare to go to the Sunday markets with my five year old, and it affects lots of other people too, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal."Ms Smith argues that local government control over town planning would allow for more effective practical solutions to problems like these.In Alice Springs for most of the past 20 years, she has had a varied career including work in tourism enterprises and running her own small business. She now works for the Division of General Practice (a resource body for health care professionals), as project officer for Chronic Disease & Community Care, and as liaison officer for the Consumer Reference Group.She downplays her work experience, saying she is running as a "community-minded person" and as someone who'll push for "a better life for families"."By family, I don't necessarily mean husband, wife and two kids. I mean people in their homes, whether it's just one person and a cat or a dog, or a whole mob."Government and business think of Alice Springs as tourism town, but it's our home and that's what I want council to remember."


CATIA general manager Mike Gunn is joining the NT Parks and Wildlife Commission to oversee commercial development of the Alice Desert Park and the Territory Wildlife Park near Darwin.He says boosting business for these two "big investments" of the NT Government will be the initial focus of his job.But "down the track it has the potential to involve any other commercial operations within national parks," says Mr Gunn. He was previously the manager of AAT Kings in Alice Springs, and has been at the helm of the Central Australian tourism lobby for two years.He says CATIA has no problems with the way national parks are managed at present, but there may be scope for improving access, car parks, camping grounds, walking trails and four wheel drive opportunities.Meanwhile the commission appears to have ignored reports last year that cattle are roaming in national parks (Alice News, Dec 22, 1999).Tourists supplied to the News this photograph, taken in Ruby Gorge National Park last week, not only of feral cattle, but also an infestation of buffel grass.


The Disability Advocacy Service has vehemently attacked an Aboriginal town lease housing association over moves to evict a long term resident with a mental handicap.Danny Mitchell, the service's Aboriginal Liaison Worker, says the Mt Nancy Housing Association management committee has used its "unrelenting power to disrupt and cause chaos to a resident's life".The association, criticised recently for refusing housing to a single mother of three, is headed by prominent activist Geoff Shaw.The association receives public funding.Mr Mitchell says the disabled 48-year-old woman has lived all her adult life at Mt Nancy and is now battling an eviction order in the courts.Says Mr Mitchell: "One of the very members of our community we should be protecting and supporting has been evicted from her house – for what reason? Who knows?"Could it be she simply doesn't fit in or can't we be bothered with her?"Mr Mitchell says the woman has been "continually harassed and abused to the point that she has been at risk of harm," by having services cut, doors and windows broken and by being abused."Where is the support and protection of the needy and underprivileged that Mt Nancy's constitution states it will protect?"The housing association receives public funds from ATSIC (Federal) and the Indigenous Housing Association (IHANT, Northern Territory) via Tangentyere Council which provides construction and maintenance services to Aboriginal town lease areas in Alice Springs .ATSIC says it does not wish to comment on the allegations because it does not provide funding directly.Neither Tangentyere nor the NT Minister for Housing and Aboriginal Development, Loraine Braham, responded to requests for comment.


The manager of an Aboriginal owned cattle station for the past seven years says he has been sacked by the senior lawyer of the Central Land Council (CLC) against the wishes of traditional owners.Henry Bloomfield, who is also a traditional owner of Loves Creek station north-east of Alice Springs, says the lawyer, David Avery, wrote to him in January, telling him his contract would not be renewed after February 29. In his letter Mr Avery says he is acting for Jayrook Pty Ltd, the company controlling the station.But Mr Bloomfield has shown the Alice News statutory declarations from three people who say they are directors of Jayrook, that they wish Mr Bloomfield to remain the manager, and that they attended a meeting in December at which all other directors voted in favour of extending Mr Bloomfield's contract by a further three years.He also showed the News two statutory declarations from directors who were not present at the meeting but who want Mr Bloomfield to be reinstated as the manager.They say "we need traditional owners to run their own country, not outsiders".Mr Bloomfield says the station land is the subject of an application for conversion to inalienable Aboriginal freehold under the Land Rights Act.The land council declined to comment.Meanwhile Mr Bloomfield says the CLC has made a report the police, alleging he has stolen cattle.Mr Bloomfield says he sold the cattle to a local meat processor on behalf of Jayrook, and denies having acted improperly in any way.Police would make no comment other than to say that an investigation is in progress but no charges have been laid.


While Aboriginal art centres and their advocacy body, Desart, say implementation of the GST "in the field" is likely to be "a logistical nightmare", ATSIC, the main funding body of the centres, says they can and will cope.Nationally, ATSIC has GST contact officers in each region, as well as a GST task force in Canberra through which network information is disseminated to ATSIC client organisations.In the Alice Springs ATSIC office, Mark Walker, Deputy Regional Manager, says the current situation has parallels with changes a few years ago in the crayfish industry in the Torres Strait Islands."If the Torres Strait Islander fisherman couldn't provide tax data to the buyer, then the mothership was required to withhold 48.5 per cent of the sale price and remit it to Government. Experience shows that people learnt how to cope with the new system."However, art administrators seem far from convinced.Acting Executive Officer at Desart, Kate Yeowart says Desart's greatest fear is that confusion over the new tax system will exacerbate the black market in Aboriginal art. She says the art centres have been informed that they need to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) before the end of May, but there is great uncertainty over how individual artists will become compliant with the new tax system. If artists want to be treated like a small business they will need an ABN, and then will need to keep records in order to file quarterly returns. An alternative will be for the artist to be declared a hobbyist, the sale of whose work is not subject to the GST. However, the Australian Tax Office has yet to make a ruling on what defines a hobbyist. If an artist is not equipped with an ABN, nor a declaration that he or she is a hobbyist, the onus is on the purchaser to withhold 48.5 per cent of the sale price and remit it to Government. The artist would be entitled to claim back part of that withheld tax but would they be equipped to do so? This is why Ms Yeowart fears the black market would prosper: "I don't see why an artist would suddenly accept that his or her work sells for nearly half of what it sold for yesterday, so they will look for an opportunity to get around that." Ms Yeowart says: "The onus is on the Government to ensure that Aboriginal people are not marginalised and placed outside the law. It is up to them to explain their tax reforms to people who often have English as a second language and don't have a level of education that the rest of Australia takes for granted. "We have had conflicting information from the Australia Council, tax advisors and ATSIC. "Each individual art centre has their own strategy at this point, but I can say quite confidently, they are all confused." Simon Turner, administrator for Urapuntja Artists based at Utopia (320 kilometres north east of Alice), says the Government's tax reforms have been "put together for mainstream Australia" and ignore the impact they will have "on the micro-economies of communities and art centres". He says the paperwork involved in implementing the GST will add at least another 10 hours to his week, which means less time to help artists in the development of their work. He says artists understand that there will be a change but "that's about it". He calls for a specific form of education for Aboriginal and rural communities, saying "The change has brought about an uncertainty in the relationship of the artists to the art centre and that's sad because the artists own the art centres. The changes are acting to estrange Aboriginal people from their own business." Mr Turner also fears the GST may drive the art market up by as much as 20 per cent. Will consumers and collectors absorb that rise or will the artists have to accept a reduced return on their work, he asks. Steve Fox, coordinator of Maruku Arts based at Mutitjulu, says the work of Maruku's buyers will become a "logistical nightmare". Maruku last year bought art work from 914 artists across three States. From what he understands the onus will be on the buyers to know the tax status of all these artists. "When we go to a community like Warburton (WA), we face a sea of buyers. People come in from far and wide to sell their work. How are we going to deal with that? "I can't see many of the artists registering for an ABN, let alone doing all the paperwork that goes with it, to file their quarterly returns." Chris Bala-lovski of the Australian Tax Office, in response to a request for comment, told the Alice News that the ATO has issued a draft ruling on what constitutes a hobbyist.This is Draft Miscellaneous Ruling 1999/D1,which is available for public comment, and is accessed by contacting the ATO or visiting the ATO websites.He says Field Officers are available on request to visit communities, in order to help organisations understand the impact of the New Tax System. If interpreters are necessary, then those situations will be catered for, says Mr Balalovski.He says art centres (and anyone else) may avail themselves of the ATO's "replyin5 service", whereby they will receive a written answer to an enquiry surrounding their specific circumstances. He says Mr Turner's comment that "the tax system is put together for mainstream Australia and ignores the impact it will have on the micro-economies of communities and art centres", is probably best directed at the legislators."I feel that the public expect that the ATO fulfils its responsibility to administer laws when they are passed by Parliament," says Mr Balalovski.He says it is difficult to assess the impact of the GST on prices in the art market, but he is confident that it will not, as suggested by Mr Turner, drive them up by 20 per cent. "It must be remembered that GST registered entities, which may include art wholesalers and retailers, will be entitled to claim a credit for the GST they have paid on their business acquisitions. "The availability of this credit should be factored into their prices. "Further, while it is true that unregistered art consumers and collectors may be paying more for their purchases from July 1, 2000 onwards, they will be the beneficiaries of significant tax cuts intended to offset any price rises. NOT DIFFERENT"With respect to interacting with numerous sellers of art, I would suggest that dealing with them after the implementation of the GST shouldn't be too different to current procedures. "That is, art wholesalers and retailers should presently be keeping appropriate records for ordinary taxation and other purposes. "From July 1, those same records should still be obtained when making acquisitions, with a few minor modifications to ensure that they are compliant."


The day the Queen comes to Alice there's a kind of Christmassy feel to the place. People from in and out of town are gathering in their best frocks and shirts and little kids everywhere are jumping up and down clutching their Territory Flags and squealing with anticipation. The mall is filling with people, all well behaved and happily humbled by the momentous occasion. The only ominous grumpy ones are the security people lurking conspicuously at every post: "Why has every one of those men got a hearing aid?" asks one kid. There's still an hour to go until 1.45pm when Her Majesty's 15 minute walk down the Todd Mall begins.I'm no monarchist but I'm as keen as everyone else to see her. That's the thing about Alice, it seems to be a place where you can get close to things you wouldn't be able to elsewhere. The atmosphere is buzzing. It makes me feel like a little kid again. I can almost hear my father at meal times: "Sit up straight and close your mouth when you chew. What if the Queen suddenly comes to dinner?" It was a stupid threat as I knew she never would. And besides I'd become angry with her at a very young age. Queens were supposed to be very kind and beautiful and have golden crowns and magnificent red velvet robes. My grandmother had better dress sense than the Queen we had to tunefully ask God to save at every school assembly, her sombre musty portrait looking on. But that was years ago. Now I feel sorry for her. I wouldn't expect anyone to come to Alice Springs for three hours, walk down Todd Mall chatting to half the town, visit the School of the Air, attend an official function at The Desert Park and be off again to Perth, all in temperatures of mid thirties. Especially an older woman such as herself. You have to admire her stamina and steady temperament. It seems an achievement that in all her years of punishing schedules she has never publicly "lost it". While I am waiting I decide to pop into The Residency on the corner of Parsons and Hartley Streets, next door to the Post Office. Someone had told me that it was where the Queen and Duke stayed during their 1963 visit, and that you could inspect the toilet that She once used. This turns out to be inaccurate but the place has quite a royal history and was definitely worth a look in the lead up to Her Majesty's visit. The Residency, one of Alice's early government buildings, is dark, cool and sparsely and traditionally furnished. It is hard to believe that the Royal couple were guests in a house that seems no more opulent than your average Alice share house. Meg Callum, the woman at the desk in the entry hall, explains that it was completely temporarily refurbished for their visit, though most of this was removed again within hours of their departure. However, the bathrooms remain and she points me in their direction. A special sign announces "The Queen's Bathroom" and explains that " was not thought delicate for the Queen to share ..." even with her husband. So two new bathrooms were built side by side, in the western breezeway of the building, in anticipation of their visit, the first ever of a reigning monarch to the Northern Territory. The sign goes on to say, "The Royal bathrooms have been retained as a permanent record of the significance of the Royal stay at the Residency." They are no fancier than your average ‘seventies bathrooms. The northern bathroom, with blue and white floor tiles, green tiled walls, a shower, basin and toilet was used by the Duke.The southern one, with a green and white floor and pink tiled walls was the Queen's, and apart from the tiles, is completely gutted. The sign on the wall explains that all the contents and fittings were removed when it was later used as a storage room by Museums and Art Galleries of NT. The explanation adds some dignity to the unceremonious stripping of the Royal Bathroom by noting that "the spaces and marks which indicate where plumbing fixtures were attached have been retained as a permanent record of the design of the bathroom". The signs are complete with puns about "royal thrones". The whole scenario is a unique tribute to Her Majesty's previous visit.With temperatures outside rising and another half an hour still to go until her present appearance in The Mall, I linger in front of the display in the rear breezeway to take in further Royal connections with the building and the town. It mentions the 1946 incident when the Duke of Gloucester was an official guest at The Residency and was "nearly" scalded by hot water, as well as how, during an official luncheon at the Stuart Arms during the 1963 Royal tour, former Residency occupant Colonel Rose shouted at the "vocal" guests to "shut up" so the Administrator could be heard. It is also revealed that the "... extra lavatory facilities installed for the 1963 visit came into very good use following the 1977 visit to the Residency by Prince Charles ...", who like many others, got food poisoning from an official luncheon held there. The report includes clippings and quotes from the time listing the symptoms suffered as "diarhoea (sic), stomach cramps, fever, the passing of blood and mucous, and vomiting".Another dignified memorial to a Royal visit. Next to these, copies of local newspaper front pages celebrate the 1983 visit of The Prince and Princess of Wales: "While in Alice Springs, the Royals spent part of the day at the home of local car dealer Dino Diano", lounging by the pool. In the pictures a young and awkward looking Diana clutches a tiny baby William. She is hardly older than many of new mums around town that people shake their heads at and mutter "so young, what a shame ...". She got no such sympathy.Another information plaque begins, "Some years later Princess Diana was to describe that first visit to Alice Springs as crucial to the experience of becoming a member of the Royal Family. She said that in Alice Springs her life had been changed as she realised the extent of ‘the demanding role' facing her in the future".These comments were made during her notorious BBC interview with Martin Bashir. Next to this are more newspaper front pages, dated November 22, 1995, just after the interview. While other papers worldwide focused on her revelations that she had committed adultery, the NT News and the Centralian Advocate ran the following headlines respectively: "Visit to Territory changed Di's life" and "Di Tells: My life changed at Alice". She and many others who have passed through this town. Meanwhile the time has come to go and take my place in the Mall. By now people have well and truly secured their places along the barricades. I squeeze into a spot under the sails at Parsons Street. The crowd is a collective mass of craning necks but erupts in cheers and chatter as the Royal vehicles finally appear. Kids around me are disappointed to find the first few cars crammed with serious looking identical men with their arms folded, but wave their flags frantically as they catch a glimpse of the green frilly hat going past that could only have been Her Majesty. Like many others around me, I rush further south along the mall to witness her actual walk. Every possible vantage point is being used. Benches, rocks, verandah posts, seats, light poles, rooves, balconies are covered by folk eager to catch sight of the Queen. People stand three deep in from the barricades so there is disappointment from those stuck behind and unable to push through, or see over. One frustrated older lady takes to a camera man on a stepladder with her walking stick: "She's our Queen. She's our Queen, you people from the media, you shouldn't be allowed." The camera man becomes more and more incensed as he tries to film the Queen alighting from the car while stopping the old lady from knocking him off his ladder. Someone intervenes: "Come on love, he's only doing his job," and the woman disappears in a grumpy huff. Further along I sneak into a thin spot on the barricade. In front of me are two English back-packers and a local mum and her kids. Through their heads I get glimpses of The Mayor greeting the Royal couple outside the church in the distance. In his red robes the Mayor looks more Royal than the Royals themselves, prompting a kid on shoulders nearby to ask if he is the King. Questions are flying around back in the crowd: "Is she coming? What's she wearing?" "Is that her?" Several kids wrongly identify another well dressed lady in the official party as the Queen and sink down disappointed when they are corrected. A little boy beside me squats, fed up, amongst the crowd's feet and begins to take off his shoes. "Get up," says his Mum, "the Queen doesn't like little boys with no shoes." She doesn't hear him mutter: "I'm hot and I hate The Queen." "There she is." "She's in green, not a bad green either." "Oh no, The Duke is doing this side of the barricade ... ooh, it's okay, they're swapping she comes."Luckily for us, The Queen has sauntered over to our side of the Mall, and is heading in our direction. There is a flurry of flag waving. I can't see one Australian flag, they are all the black, white and ochre of the Territory. Her Majesty stops in front of us. It is a strange feeling to be face to face for the first time with someone so familiar. She smiles at the backpackers, the mum, the kids and me and asks in that famous British voice: "Do you live here?" The mum, the kids and me answer yes, while the backpackers explain they're from England. She chuckles at this and proceeds to ask them if they're enjoying their stay in Central Australia, while with the other hand she accepts a drawing from one of the kids. She does not appear to hear him saying indignantly: "They're just tourists, we live here! Mum, why isn't she talking to us?" And then Her Majesty is gone, off onto the next engagement at Desert Park. Again my heart goes out to her as I imagine my own grandmother trying to do as she does. The crowds disperse quickly, relieved to get out of the heat, but everybody has that look on their face like they've just seen a good movie. Here and there people are gathered, exchanging experiences: "Yeah really? What'd she say next?" In a shop, someone is saying to a grumbling girl behind the counter: "You must be the only non Royalist in town.""No," she replies. "I met two others." Later, the barricades are being packed up and the Mall is back to its sleepy self. Like with floods and storms, the Centre seems to quickly swallow up evidence of whatever upheavals come our way. You would never have known She was here. Luckily we have reminders like The Residency. Going back to my car, an old man stops me: "The Queen," he asks. "Where is she? I'm going to see her."He's crestfallen when I tell him that She was only here for three hours, that She has already gone.

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