July 11, 2001.


Chief Minister Denis Burke says major announcements about NT Government spending in the Alice Springs region will be made soon. "I don't want to announce it yet, for obvious reasons," he said in an interview with the Alice Springs News at the Show last Friday. The Territory elections, due this year, are now strongly tipped for next month. Giving nothing away on the actual date, Mr Burke said the news about government initiatives will come "before a significant event" which may or may not be his birthday "on September 22, a Saturday. Could be a lucky day. It's an option." Mr Burke (pictured at right) says he "rejects entirely" assertions that Alice Springs is getting left behind in NT Government spending, saying "issues in Alice Springs concern Government enormously". [Chamber of Commerce president Neil Ross said in February the government should not see the railway as the cure for the town's economic woes, but should look at other projects, so long as they create "an asset that will provide lasting benefits". And last week leading businessman Peter Kittle said: "We're definitely not getting our share of the NT Government spending. That's obviously affecting the economy."] Says Mr Burke: "You don't just throw money away. You've got to invest in a way the Budget can afford and on projects that are worthwhile. "If you look at the economic situation in Alice Springs today, I would suggest to you it's better than in the Top End." When the News put to Mr Burke that Alice Springs is on the margins of the Darwin railway spending, and will get little benefit from any developments in Darwin connected with Timor Gap gas, Mr Burke said: "Money earned anywhere in the Territory is for the Territory. "It is a geographical fact that the pipeline will come on shore in Darwin, and the construction [projects] will be there. "That's just a fact of life. "But the investment and earnings to Government will be able to be spent throughout the Territory. "I accept there are issues – why hasn't the Tanami Road been made an all weather road, why haven't we spent the $80m on completing the Mereenie loop road. "I believe we're doing our absolute best with Alice Springs at the moment, with the convention centre, the hospital redevelopment, and some of the projects we'll be announcing shortly." Commenting on the ongoing debate about measures to combat the effects of alcohol abuse in Alice Springs, Mr Burke said: "You can't look for a single lever in these things."The idea of restricted trading hours, I think, doesn't have strong community support. "I think the general opinion is, why should law abiding people be penalised for the sake of a minority. "We've got to set up a system whereby the Aboriginal organisations are encouraged to be more involved." Mr Burke says while the government "obviously has to be involved", Aboriginal service deliverers, some of them Federally or ATSIC funded, should play a bigger role. "The land councils increasingly should take on some responsibility in this issue. "[Aboriginal leaders] exercising authority in their own country is the major issue. "You could have security officers who are Aboriginal people, who speak with some authority from Aboriginal organisations." These could be funded by government as well as business. "We obviously need more night patrols. "I believe we've got to look at this ‘return to country' program much more. "Some people think that's a racist point of view but I really think a lot of the problem is dislocation. "We've got to encourage people to get back to their communities." WET CANTEENS Mr Burke says he's not an advocate of forcing wet canteens on communities, but "the notion that one section of the community can be free of these issues because they are a problem, and the issue is just being [imposed] onto others, is becoming increasingly unacceptable. "Aboriginal people need to learn to live with alcohol the same as everyone else does. "Of course, they need assistance with it. "More and more we're seeing the stronger communities adopting responsible drinking practices, opening community clubs, having restricted hours, and gradually increasing these hours as people learn to drink more responsibly. "They also get increased revenue in the community." Mr Burke says the controversial new public order legislation is no more difficult to enforce than the existing law prohibiting public drinking within two kilometres of licensed premises, widely criticised as being enforced inadequately. "What people don't understand is under the Summary Offences Act police do not have the power to act in the way they need to act," Mr Burke says. "Police can act against an individual [but police have] an onus of proof that the person has committed a crime. "In many respects, when [police] experience anti social behaviour amongst a group of people, it's often impossible to find out [who committed a crime]." Mr Burke says the new law "requires a lower onus of proof, allowing the police to deal with a group rather than an individual. "It essentially says, this behaviour is unacceptable, we cannot determine whether one individual is responsible, but the whole group can be told to either cease the behaviour or move on." Commenting on likely challenges to the Public Order and Anti Social Conduct Bill by Federal politicians, Mr Burke says: "I would be amazed if the Coalition Government didn't take the same approach as they did with mandatory sentencing. "That is, we may not agree with it, we may not necessarily do the same ourselves, but it is a Territory issue and under the Self Government Act they are allowed to make their own laws, provided they are supported by the community. "The ultimate test is the election. "We'll be going to an election shortly, so if these things aren't supported we'll soon find out. "Once people understand what's actually involved, [contrary to] some of the commentary that's ignorant, they'll realise it's not as punitive, nor has [it] any suggestion of racism, as some are saying." Mr Burke would not be drawn on his party's disendorsement of Senator Grant Tambling, who – contrary to CLP instructions – voted with the Coalition to ban casino style gambling on the Internet. But Mr Burke says states rights should prevail on that issue as well: "I accept the fact that legislatively the Commonwealth can act, using the Postal Telecommunications Act. "I just don't believe that [applying] the legislation is necessary because traditionally gaming regulations have been a state and territories responsibility. "The Internet is just another gaming medium. "We already have in place legislation which is workable, and deals with safe gambling practices for those who wish to use the Internet. "It is a con to say you can control Internet gambling using this legislation. WEB LAW ‘CON'"It's also a con to suggest that somehow it's dealing with problem gambling. "Problem gambling is manifested in poker machines. "If the Commonwealth acted against poker machines in the same way it acted on Internet gambling, it may have some credibility. "The issue with problem gambling in Australia is poker machines, full stop. "Lots of people get into problem gambling. "Some people get in trouble with scratchies. "But the major problem is poker machines, and I don't believe the controls in place on poker machines come anywhere near the safe practices that are already there on interactive gaming on the Internet."


"I wasn't going to stand in line and grow old and gray waiting for a preselection from Labor," says David Curtis, who in all likelihood will run for the Senate on an Australian Democrats' ticket at the next Federal election. The Democrats NT Executive has recommended that the former Labor Party member be preselected and are expecting the membership to ratify this in a ballot closing tomorrow. Mr Curtis's ambition to enter Federal politics was buoyed by his election as one of two Territory representatives at the Republic Convention in Canberra in 1998. He nominated twice for preselection on a Labor ticket, but was defeated by Trish Crossin and subsequently joined the Democrats. He has had considerable administrative and political experience.After almost a decade in the public service, working as a vocational officer all over the Top End, he became general manager of the Julalikari Council in Tennant Creek, a position he held from 1990 to 1996.In 1991 he was elected the first chairperson of the ATSIC Regional Council and on the same day was informed he'd been elected as an alderman on the Tennant Creek Town Council.He was the first Aboriginal person to become an alderman in Tennant, and was the only elected Aboriginal person on any town council in the Territory at that time.As a result he became involved in many local government issues at Territory level, as well as nationally and internationally. In December 1996 he was elected to the ATSIC Board of Commissioners, on which he served till 1999, with portfolio responsibilities for education and training, and local government. Mr Curtis (pictured above at last week's Alice Show), was born at the Wauchope wolfram mines south of Tennant and is a native title holder for Alice Springs (his father was born at Undoolya). Mr Curtis says he expects the "prescribed body corporate" representing local native title holders will be set up by the end of August. However, Mr Curtis says he wants to represent "the whole of the Territory. "I'm proud of my family background. We've been in the Territory for generations and I'm tired of the way things are happening here."The Territory extends from the islands in the north to the South Australian border, it doesn't start at the Casuarina foreshore and end at Palmerston."All of the communities, from the smallest and most remote to the largest, make up the Territory."He sees the Democrats as a credible political force, young and vibrant and on the rise.With numbers of candidates from minor parties and independents, he says Territorians will have more of a choice than ever on how they want to vote at the next elections and they should think about it carefully.


The CLP may be turning into an "ALP type discipline machine", compelling its politicians to take instructions from the party about how to vote in Parliament. This is the view of NT Senator Grant Tambling, whose preselection was revoked after he supported the Howard Government's ban on internet gambling. The measure also had the support of some Democrats and independents, but was opposed by the ALP. The CLP had wanted the veteran politician to cross the floor in the vote that has now seriously affected the on-line operations of the Alice Springs based Lasseter's Casino. Senator Tambling says his dumping flies in the face of the long standing Australian convention that "conservative members, at the end of the day, always have the freedom of having a personal position". "The party is creating a precedent for future Senators and MHRs that will not give them the freedom to work in the best interest of the NT," says Sen Tambling.He says it seems the Territory's ruling party has moved to a Labor style enforcement regime "of totally controlling the vote". Senator Tambling supported the amendment to exclude sports betting and wagering from the measures, a move he says has saved "all of the jobs in the industry in the NT". But he remained firm on banning access via the net to casino style gambling, such as roulette and pokies, after consulting with about "200 Terri-torians". Senator Tambling says the CLP is misreading the changing mood of the NT: "It's not as fiercely parochial as it used to be." He says it's fine to believe in Territory rights "but you can get too full of yourself". He says political attitudes are changing as the NT is maturing, young people are growing up here and many more are coming in from outside. "Issues are no longer as black and white. "Back in the ‘eighties we in the Territory were always right. "But the old Everingham days are over. "The statehood debate, which we lost, shows people are much more focused on cost of living and quality of life issues than constitutional rights." Senator Tambling says gambling hasn't yet joined the issues of land and alcohol on which the CLP will not compromise on its hard line: "I sincerely hope gambling will not be put in the same category. "Some people are trying to engineer it to be." Senator Tambling says the CLP doesn't understand "how Canberra works". "I'm sad that the party undervalues the complexities and the role of the Federal Senator." He says he will not stand as an independent: "They are stirrers in the Parliament. "They can't contribute anything to good government." Senator Tambling served in the Territory Parliament from 1974 to 1977. He won the Federal Lower House seat in 1980, lost it to Labor's John Reeves in 1983, and in 1987 took over from Bernie Kilgariff as one of the NT's two Senators. He has spent 20 years in Parliament, 14 as a Senator. "I don't have tickets in myself but the CLP has dumped a veteran and a person who's done a lot for the Territory, fighting much bigger fights, including land rights, native title, euthanasia and uranium mining."He says he is appealing the CLP Central Council decision internally and "may consider the option of a judicial review with the Supreme Court if necessary".


Setting up a camp ground for 6000 people at Blatherskite Park will be just one of the logistical challenges of the $2.8m Yeperenye Federation Festival on September 8 and 9. Billed as "the biggest event ever to be held in Alice Springs", free and for families, the spectacle has enlisted support from around the country, including from Sitzlers, who'll supply six 50 tonne trucks and a giant crane to move 300 tonnes of red sand to the site, to create the main dancing area. Northline and National Rail are making two railway carriages available to transport scissor lifts and cherry pickers from South Australia. Negotiations are underway with the RAAF to fly in the lighting and sound equipment from the Richmond Air Base near Sydney: " The gear will be as big as an AC/DC set-up," says logistics manager Chris Tangey. Buslink are donating the use of their fleet over the two days, although everyone with a car is still being encouraged to use it. (Judging by the traffic jam following the Show fireworks last Saturday night, police will have to put on their thinking caps.) The busses will be used mostly on transporting out-of-town visitors to the event.Negotiations are underway with a service club to provide management of the camping area, mostly on unpowered sites. Mr Tangey says the camping area is a contingency, in case commercial accommodation and caravan parks in the town cannot cope with the influx of visitors.He says most people tell him he's over-estimating but it's better to be safe than sorry.Thousands of visitors from outlying communities in Central Australia come in for the community football grand final every year, says Mr Tangey, and "they are absorbed into the town, without any special provision".The Department of Lands has recently assisted festival organisers to plan the camp site, complete with one way streets and give way signs. Four semi-trailer sized toilet and shower trucks are being brought in from Dubbo, NSW.One thousand of the visitors, Indigenous performers in the festival, will be catered for. "That's 11,000 meals we need to be thinking about," says Mr Tangey, who's talking to local caterers about the challenge.He says the festival will have its own power supply because one Alice Springs's chronic power failures "would be a disaster". ABC TV will be covering the event, with an expected 12 camera crew. The footage will be packaged up and broadcast the following night nationwide, and with future international distribution.Some 80,000 postcards advertising the festival have been printed and distributed throughout the country.The festival will be looking to sign on 300 volunteers in the coming weeks to help with logistics on the weekend.Because of the presence of VIP guests – the new Governor- General is a definite, and every state premier and ambassador are maybes – security will be tight. Everyone will have to pass through metal detectors and submit to a bag search. The event will also be entirely grog free, no exceptions: "Even the VIPs will be sipping orange juice," says Mr Tangey.


Record rains for two seasons and prices never heard of before are rejuvenating the cattle industry in more ways than one. Young station people led by stockman Wes Press from Mt Riddock have formed Enterprising Territorians with about 40 members, an agenda of merging tourism and pastoral business, generating lively interest in the town and some 100 potential participants. The "on the hoof" price at the combined stock agents' sales in Alice Springs last Thursday crashed through the $2 barrier for the first time ever, reaching $2.08 a kilogram. Wesfarmers Landmark's Neville Chalmers says the price was paid for a pen of 60 Aberdeen Angus milk teeth steers on account of the Smith Family from Tieyon Station near Kulgera. The whole pen was worth $39,561, or an average of $659.36 per beast. Elders, which yarded 1348 head, achieved $1.98 a kilo for Umbearra Station, also near Kulgera, with a pen of 42 Red Angus Cross steers, under 18 months old, weighing an average of 403 kg, which made them worth $797.94 per head.At the Alice Show, the 41st annual bull sale conducted by Elders averaged $2776 for 43 bulls sold, a total of $120,000. The top price paid was for a Red Poll bull from the Maleer Stud in SA, knocked down for $8250 to Elders Charleville bidding for Taraba Grazing. And last Friday the 1858 square kilometer Huckitta pastoral lease, 180km north-east of Alice Springs, was sold at auction by Roy Anderson for $5.05m – about $1m more than expected by industry sources – to Nobar Enterprises of Longreach. Auctioneer Philip Black, of Longreach, says an offer had been made from England prior to the auction, but was rejected.Four bidders competed on the day – locals and from interstate. The sale included about 5440 branded cattle and working plant. Bidding started at $4m and the sale was all over in 10 minutes. Mr Press says the current boom is "kick starting the cattle industry again". He says it appears the buying spree by Aboriginal interests has apparently slowed down, and several properties now in Aboriginal hands are becoming available for lease. The pastoral industry increasingly has tourism firmly in its sights as a further source of revenue, and has a growing role consolidating the romantic image of the region. "If you didn't have the young rural people coming to Alice Springs you'd find the tourists wouldn't be as interested in the place," says Mr Press. "You go out of an evening, you sit down and have a drink, the tourists come up and say, what do you do? "You tell them a yarn and they love it. "It's good promotion." He says more stations close to town will integrate tourism into their operation, as Bond Springs and Deep Well have already done,"That will help with the running costs of the stations," says Mr Press. Enterprising Territorians, which received a $3000 set up grant from Chief Minister Denis Burke last week, started as a group for "jackaroos and jillaroos, governesses and young cattle producers taking over the businesses", says Mr Press, but there is now "a lot of interest from townspeople".The AGM soon to be held will set a program for the group for people aged 17 to 38, with social events sure to be on the agenda, so people in the town can "touch base with the station people". It will be a good move considering that the opportunity for townsfolk and station people to mingle, the Harts Range Races, have been canceled this year.


The argument that "alcohol restrictions alone will not work" cannot be applied in Alice Springs because a much broader alcohol strategy is largely in place already, says the People's Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC). The major missing ingredient in this broad strategy is a restriction on supply, to bring consumption more in line with national standards, PAAC argues.The group, made up of concerned citizens, community groups, churches, local business people, health professionals, and service providers, yesterday launched their detailed response to the Licensing Commission's decision of May 31 not to impose alcohol restrictions at the present time. Commissioner Peter Allen argued in his decision that, "If restrictions are not supported by other community initiatives, the initial benefits are likely to be lost in the longer term."The Commission undertook to work with community "to develop suitable initiatives to be implemented or trialled in tandem with the proposed restrictions." Yet, the group points to many such "suitable initiatives" which already exist, suggesting that those who claim other initiatives are needed, are not fully aware of the range of programs currently on hand. The regulations rejected by the Liquor Commission, "far from being an isolated and ill-thought out measure, are the last piece to be put in place to make the whole package work", the group says. The group outlined in some detail the existing strategies to combat alcohol misuse and alcohol-related harms, and the variety of actions in place to support them: • There is a strategy to empower the victims of alcohol misuse to take more effective action to prevent heavy drinkers disrupting and ruining their lives. The many services to women and children, some of which may well need strengthening, are nonetheless examples of initiatives supporting this strategy.They include women's and youth refuges, safe houses, community centres and education programs; domestic violence legal help; a raft of family well being and lifeskills programs.The provision of split payments, weekly payments and food voucher systems for welfare beneficiaries are also part of this strategy.• Improved and more coordinated policing, regulation, violence prevention, care, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of people who are abusing alcohol is also an existing strategy. Examples of implementation are the night patrols in town and in the bush; community policing and foot patrols; the Return to Country program; restraining and trespass orders against violent drinkers; the two kilometre law; DASA's sobering-up shelter; detox services at DASA and at the hospital.Yet to be implemented but on the agenda are managed itinerant camping places and coordinated case management.For the first time a regional strategic plan on substance misuse has been developed and agreed upon by Territory Health Services, AMSANT (representing Aboriginal medical services), ATSIC and Commonwealth Health. New provisions of the plan have yet to be implemented but many of the programs mentioned above are also part of it.• There are also a number of actions in place to implement a strategy of promoting, encouraging and supporting alternatives to the chronic and binge drinking culture, especially for young people.These include DASA's Drinksense program; collaboration between the town council and CAAMA/Imparja on a community advertising campaign; Living with Alcohol strategies; secondary-aged Indigenous education reforms and programs, including ASHS Future Directions, Alice Outcomes, and alternative Learning Centres at Irrkerlantye, Yarrentye Arltere and Gap Youth Centre; and a range of youth services, catering to diverse groups.• Finally, there is also a strategy to address long term underlying causes of alcohol misuse with better targeted regional social and economic development initiatives.A major long-term solution to high rates of alcohol misuse is to reduce unemployment and under-employment. Up to 700 people from "at risk" sections of the community are currently being assisted to access employment and training by the Community Development Employment Programs (CDEP) of Arrernte Council, Tangentyere Council and Ingkerreke Council.There are Structured Training & Employment Programs (STEP) at THS and Alice Springs Hospital; the Alice Resort; Arrernte Council; Tangentyere Council; and, the Aboriginal Arts & Culture Centre.Tangentyere Jobshop and Centacare both offer an Intensive Assistance program to assist the long-term unemployed into the workforce. Aboriginal organisations, such as the Central Land Council, have employment and training strategies; the Memorandum of Understanding between Tangentyere Council and Alice Springs Town Council includes an Employment Agreement.PAAC says coordination among all these programs is improving, as a result of the establishment of an Alice in Ten Quality of Life Working Group on Employment Education and Training.Education and training programs to address the underlying causes include IAD's Workskills, Horticulture Skills, Community Development Facilitation, and Tour Guide Training; and a wide range of courses and training programs through Batchelor Institute, the Centre for Appropriate Technology, Centralian College, VET in Schools and the Central Australian Mentoring Program ("deadly mob") at Gap Youth Centre."Turning down the tap" on alcohol consumption – "the missing strategy" – has to complement these efforts, says PAAC.


Figures released by the Local Government Association (LGANT) show that bush councils in The Centre have suffered cuts averaging 7.4 per cent in their 2001-2002 NT Operational Subsidy Funding in money terms. Taking into account a 5.8 per cent CPI increase, LGANT says the funds have been slashed by more than 13 per cent in real terms. The figures show only one of the 12 councils in the region has received an increase, Anmatjere (Ti Tree), regarded as a CLP stronghold, which got a rise of 11.4 per cent.LGANT says the biggest drop in the NT was in Aputula (Finke), which lost 14.8 per cent. However, a spokesperson for Local Government Minister Richard Lim says the Government has provided the same actual amount in total funding to local government for 2001/2002 as was provided last year.She says the difference this year is that it is the first year of impact of a new distribution methodology which takes account of the size of the population serviced by a council and the costs of delivery over a dispersed area. She says the changes to the distribution methodology were negotiated in discussions with LGANT over a substantial period.According to the spokesperson, the Anmatjere Council received an increase because, unlike many councils in Central Australia, it delivers services over a wide area. She points out that Urapuntja has also received an increase. LGANT says there is still an allocation listed for Willowra, deregistered recently by Dr Lim (see last week's Alice News). LGANT's CEO, Jeff Hoare, says the money for Willowra should go back "into the pool" and be distributed throughout the NT. He says the Anmatjere allocation clearly does not include any work the council may be required to undertake at Willowra. About Willowra Dr Lim's spokesperson says it should be made clear that NT Government funding for local government is not provided to prop up councils. She says it is to ensure that residents have access to local government services. Funds for local government services to the people of Willowra are still required. These funds are simply to be directed to an organisation that has the capacity to deliver services rather than one that has not, says the spokesperson.


Anyone familiar with Kathleen Wallace's art expects to see an exquisite sense of design and colour, exceptional deftness and intricacy in the application of paint, immaculate craftsmanship.All these qualities are present in her first solo show, which opened at Araluen on the weekend, but for me what is striking, apart from the astonishing diversity of her skills, is her ability to engage the viewer in some kind of apprehension of a spiritual experience of the land.Spirit people have now become something of a hallmark of Mrs Wallace's acrylic paintings. In this show they are present in many works, both paintings and ceramics, sometimes very subtly, sometimes assertively, centrally. There is a strong sense of life lived in an environment imbued with another order. Mrs Wallace presents a vision of this other order as bountiful and radiant – see for example, the large vase with figures [16], the painted coolamon [14], and the wonderful acrylic on canvas "Seed Spirit" [12], which has been kept as part of the Keringke Collection. The spirit order also supplies a supremely comforting guidance, as in one of the most complex of the paintings, "The Ochres". In the explanatory note Mrs Wallace writes: "The people would always go to the spirits for anything they wanted to know and do. They couldn't do anything by themselves." That everything doesn't always go smoothly for the spirits, despite their omnipresence, would seem to be because they are not so far removed from human experience as to never encounter an obstacle. In a marvellously conceived work [2], Mrs Wallace shows the messenger spirits getting "held up": someone else has asked for their help along the way, so they are late arriving to help the original supplicant. "That's the sort of distraction the spirit always has as it goes about its healing work," comments Mrs Wallace.The non-Arrernte speaker is well served in this show by the excellent translation of Mrs Wallace's commentaries by Mary Flynn. Explanatory notes in Aboriginal art shows often make for dull reading and do little justice, one suspects, to the culture they are trying to explain. But these translations, whether of a story, as in "The Antlion Sisters" [5] or of commentary, are engaging and informative. A delightful surprise in the show are Mrs Wallace's hand-built ceramic sculptures – "We weren't aware of her skill in sculpture until last year," says Keringke coordinator Susan Graham – while another fascination for me was the naturalistic representation of human figures on the acrylic-painted hatbox, "Butterfly Women Dancing" [25] (see front page illustration). In contrast to the spirit people, these female figures have expressive facial features, and gravity seems to bear down on their bodies; their connection with the world around them is not as buoyant and fluid as that of the spirit people.Ms Graham says that the artist was thinking here of "the old ladies who own the Butterfly Dance", which will apparently be performed during the forthcoming Yeperenye Federation Festival. Finally, mention must be made of "Australia Reconciliation" [7], which depicts four spirit people linking hands across the Australian continent, actually a painted map cut out in timber. Its message is spelled out in Mrs Wallace's commentary, and is made all the more poignant if you have read some of the details of the life of this determined and generous woman, who after losing her parents to the grog, has raised 26 children, many of them "suffering from drinking parents". Yet she never lost sight of what her grandparents, who also started drinking, and her parents taught her, "all the old stories and paintings": "Everything that was taught to me is still with me."After going on the Reconciliation Walk in Sydney (2000), Mrs Wallace started thinking about "the first people of Australia, the Aboriginal people":"They did not refuse anybody. "They allowed people from other countries to make their home here. That's how Creation would have it."The Aboriginal people didn't get nasty with people over their country. They didn't hunt them away or attack them."In some places people would fight over country if other people went on to another people's estate without letting them know."If people didn't show respect by announcing themselves, they could be attacked. Our spirit taught us to be respectful of one another's property, to look after the sacredness of the country and not to hunt each other away."But us poor black people were attacked by the newcomers to the country, and we still share our country with them. "They don't think about us, "Those poor people gave us their best country"."Aboriginal people don't hate the people who attacked them."They live amongst the people who have attacked them."This painting then is about the Spirits of Australia."The Spirits of the Nations who have come from every country are holding hands. They can see each other now and they really are holding hands. They have said ‘sorry'."

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