April 23, 2003.


CLP organisers of a rally outside the Parliament sittings in Alice Springs next week "continue to promote the biggest lie in Territory politics", according to Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne.
"The CLP continue to claim that mandatory sentencing reduced crime and that the crime has risen under the Labor Government.
"The figures show the exact opposite," says Dr Toyne.He says compared to the last year of the CLP government, most crimes were down substantially between April 2002 and March 2003.
Offences against the person had dropped nine per cent, and property offences, 10 per cent.
"The very crimes that mandatory sentencing was meant to prevent were rising under the CLP," says Dr Toyne, claiming that there had been a 20 per cent increase during the party's last year in power.
"What has happened to law and order in Alice Springs," asks a flier distributed last week.
"If you are sick of the increasing crime rate in our community, come and have your say."
The rally is called for 5.30pm next Wednesday outside the Convention Centre where the Territory Parliament will have its first ever sittings in Alice Springs, from Tuesday to Thursday.
The flier invites people to ring 89 523666 for "more details" – the number of Greatorex MLA Richard Lim's electoral office.
The Alice News rang that number three times.
The first time we got an answering machine.
We left a message requesting to ring us back, but no-one did.
RANG OUTTwo subsequent calls rang out.
Dr Toyne says far from "increasing", all property offences were down in the past 12 months when compared to the CLP's last year in power: unlawful entry into dwellings (down from 338 to 235, or 30 per cent); theft (1490 to 1218, down 18%); property damage (steady, 1457 and 1463 respectively); other property offences (33 to 22, down 33%).
However, motor vehicle theft was up from 249 to 305, or 10 per cent.
Crimes against the person: murder steady at three; manslaughter from three down to one; assault from 1022 down to 917 (a 10 per cent drop).
However, sexual assault numbers rose from 13 to 20, a 54 per cent increase, a "hot spot" on which the police is taking every possible action, says Dr Toyne.
He says while these offences are very troubling, substantial percentage swings are not unusual when low numbers are involved. (For example, there's been a "100 per cent" drop in attempted murders – from one to none.)
Dr Toyne is laying much of the blame for public misconceptions over crime at the feet of the Murdoch newspapers.
"The NT News and the Advocate have led the crime debate with totally unjustified claims about the broader tends in the community," says Dr Toyne.
"They are jumping on individual crime events and from these extrapolate that crime is out of control in the community.
"This is not only dishonest. It is totally unhelpful."While individual crimes should be reported, statements about crime in the community as a whole should respect the figures put out by the police and the Office of Crime Prevention."
CANDIDDr Toyne says much more than any other government in Australia the NT Government has been open and candid about crime so that the public "can make up their own minds".
The government will be spending $400,000 on crime prevention grants, allocated "at arm's length" from the government by the Regional Crime Prevention Councils.
Recipients will include the crime council in Alice Springs, and the first remote one, in the Warlpiri lands, called Kurduj (shield).
That amount is "infinitely higher than what the CLP ever put out for crime prevention," says Dr Toyne.
In addition, the Neighbourhood Watch funding has been roughly doubled by the current government.


Birds Australia has turned its back on 45 years of local experience, giving marching orders to Alex Coppock, former owner of its Newhaven Station, now a birds reserve.
That's not how they see it of course.
CEO Jim Downey, from his office in Melbourne, describes Mr Coppock's eviction as the "fulfilment of a contractual agreement".
He says the contract between Birds Australia and Mr Coppock allowed him to stay on for a period of 14 months, which was extended by a year.
He was paid for the maintenance work he did during that time.
"He did a marvellous, marvellous job, we are grateful to him, but we have no qualms with telling him now that he has to leave," says Mr Downey.
People who know more than most what the loss of Mr Coppock will potentially cost Newhaven are Birgit Dorges and Jurgen Heucke, German biologists who have been studying camels on the station since 1986.
Both are also members of Birds Australia.
They cannot understand why Birds Australia have not sought to keep Mr Coppock on for at least a handover period once a new manager is appointed.
They point to the size of the station – over 2600 square kilometres, "bigger than the ACT" – and in particular to its vulnerability to fire.
"In a fire, if you don't know where to go and what to do it can be very difficult," says Dr Heucke, paying tribute to Mr Coppock's fire-fighting skills and determination.
"Without Alex we could not have stayed there for so long," says Dr Dorges. "He was our life insurance. If anything went wrong, he'd be there to help us."
The Alice News asked Mr Coppock if he would have been willing to stay on for a training or handover period?
Mr Coppock: "That's only common sense, but we are not dealing with common sense.
"I've been there 45 years and if I'd been able to stay another couple of years I would have just got up and walked out, left most of my equipment to them.
"They've got nothing out there. The ranger came to town the other day and bought a shovel!
"They've shot themselves in the foot badly.
"They're getting a manager and good luck to him, but he doesn't know where all the best campsites are or where the birds live.
"I'm not a ‘birdo' but I know where different things live. I've got quite a few campsites selected – for scenic and birds.
"And the cost! They spent $700 doing a bit of a service and a few little repairs on their Toyota which I would have done for free, which I did do last year."
Dr Heucke says it will be some time before a manager gets to know the land well enough to be useful in a search for people who become lost – an increasing possibility with Newhaven now open to visitors.
"There are 300 kilometres of roads in our research paddock, which is only one eleventh of the whole station. Visitors have been lost in that small area."Last year several times visitors did not come back to the camp in the evening and each time Alex went out and found them.For new people that would be very difficult."
Drs Dorges and Heucke also lament the loss of Mr Coppock's camel-handling skills. They have proposed that Birds Australia gets involved in camel harvesting as a way to fund their conservation activities on Newhaven.
In any case, they say some active camel management will be necessary.
Mr Downey acknowledges Mr Coppock's fire-fighting skills as well as his "quite rare" camel-handling skills.
He says the new manager will have to have remote area fire-fighting and livestock experience, and Birds Australia may talk to Mr Coppock about assisting with training.
"We haven't closed off that option," says Mr Downey.
"In the event that he doesn't wish to, we will have to replace his skills as best we can."
The Alice News asked Mr Coppock what his attitude would be to such a request?
Mr Coppock: "What would your attitude be if you got evicted, told to get out with just a few weeks' notice. Come back and help us? I mean, get real!"
It irks Mr Coppock particularly that in the end he received a letter from lawyers, setting a deadline of April 30 for him, his cattle and "his rubbish" to go.
"They could have at least rung me and said you'd better go," he says.
"They could have done it better."
He says removing his cattle was delayed by the long hot summer and his endless work fighting fires.
The "rubbish" – much of it valuable scrap material and spare parts vital in such a remote location – could not be dealt with prior to the sacred sites clearance, which only came through in mid-March.
He then had to wait for a bull-dozer to become available, which it only has in the last week, with Roy Chisolm off Napperby Station and four of his staff coming to Mr Coppock's aid.
That's the way it often works out bush. As Mr Coppock says, "the practicalities are not quite as simple as what's written down on paper".
He says the way he has been treated is "fairly disgusting".
"There's a bushfire going out there now, since last Saturday, it's just burnt another couple of hundred kilometres of country out.
"I couldn't do anything because I'm flat out doing this other stuff ..."It will eventually go out, but all this beautiful habitat that I tried hard to protect and save [will have gone].
"From a pastoral point of view, it's good to burn some of this country and get new growth, but you don't want to burn the whole damned lot in one year, you want to burn in stages. And I've got to wear a different hat now and you want all these clumps of spinifex for beetles living in there and a hell of a lot of little ground birds."
Mr Coppock says he had accepted the fact that he would leave.
"The time had come, I'm not getting any younger, but I could have left in better circumstances for everybody concerned, especially Birds Australia.
CONTRIBUTE"I'm not the only person in the world but I've got a lot to contribute. And there's none so blind that don't want to look."
What looks like a heavy-handed approach has also been applied to the former Newhaven management committee, made up of local volunteers, including Dr Heucke and Mr Coppock, all of whom had rich experience to offer, including in business management and various aspects of arid zone land management, conservation and working with Aboriginal people (Newhaven is under native title claim).
Mr Downey says the role of the committee was redefined as an advisory rather than management committee, and most of its members decided not to continue in that capacity.
He says the Birds Australia Council decided that the management task was too onerous for volunteers.
"We have appointed to the new management committee people who are employed by Birds Australia or who have time on their hands to commit to it."
Former committee member Meg Mooney says if Birds Australia was unhappy with the way the committee was going about its task, "they should have told us and they never did".
Ms Mooney is a geologist by training, with extensive experience working with Aboriginal people on land management projects.
She says CEO Jim Downey was "notably absent" from the committee's phone-link meetings.
She says Birds Australia Council's actions have been "inappropriate and confusing" and that the majority of committee members could see no point in staying on if their input was not going to have an impact.
She says she indicated a willingness to continue her communications role but has not been approached at all since the disbandment of the committee.
Another former committee member, Jim Longworth, a biologist working on biodiversity planning, says the disbandment has come "at the tremendous cost of the loss of local knowledge and effort".
He says the committee had done an enormous amount of work, drafting a management plan for the reserve and preparing a capital works program, including a ranger's house and an information shelter.
He says despite all members having full-time work commitments, they had been meeting one day a week over the summer to progress matters.
Work on the ground had been held up by long delays in the sacred sites clearance process, not by the committee.
"We've done heaps, it's the Birds Australia Council who have done very little," says Mr Longworth.
Mr Downey says it is "unfortunate" if committee members "feel that their contribution is unrecognised".


The ATSIC leadership is a scapegoat for the anti-ATSIC agenda of the Federal Government, says Central Zone Commissioner Alison Anderson.
However, she also says it would be better for controversial chairman Geoff Clark to go, so that ATSIC can focus on the job at hand – delivering services to Aboriginal people.
While Indigenous Affairs Minister Philip Ruddock has said that his latest reforms of ATSIC are focussed on the proper spending and accounting for $1.1billion, Ms Anderson argues that the ATSIC board and regional councils only have direct control of a fraction of that amount. In this region there are "discretionary funds" of $3m.
She says "separation of powers" already effectively exists and, in any case, the Minister should have waited for the recommendations of his own review of ATSIC, due to be finalised in three weeks, before "jumping the gun".
Says Ms Anderson, who lives in Papunya and Alice Springs: "The ATSIC Act doesn't allow Geoff Clark to step aside, but there are mechanisms in place that Mr Ruddock himself put in, the misbehaviour determination.
"He's got the power now to sack Clark, who's been convicted."
She believes Mr Ruddock does not resort to that power so that he can use Mr Clark and his deputy, Sugar Ray Robinson, as scapegoats for his undermining of ATSIC "as a whole organisation".
Ms Anderson makes her point with a comparison: "You've got the mobile phone incident with Reith [former Minister for Defence], you've got travel rorts in the current government.
"Are they being reformed, their money taken away and put into other agencies so that they can't deliver appropriate services to their people?"
Last Thursday saw Minister Ruddock impose "separation of powers" on the ATSIC Board, after it had endorsed the reform only "in principle".
Ms Anderson agrees with Mr Clark's description of the day as a "Black Thursday" for Aboriginal people.
Ms Anderson: "I say the Coalition has gone in and bombed Iraq, and the Minister had a Scud missile sitting there with ATSIC's name on it, to bomb ATSIC.
"It's a sad day for Aboriginal people in this country that the delegation of allocating programs and dollars has been taken away from Indigenous people and been given to a man who has only been in ATSIC for five months.
"The question needs to be asked how is he going to do the job better than us?"
She is referring to ATSIC CEO Wayne Gibbons and Mr Ruddock's decision that he should, while remaining CEO of ATSIC, also head up a separate agency which would administer ATSIC's programs.
In a media statement last week Mr Ruddock emphasised that the move did not entail "mainstreaming" of ATSIC's programs.
He said the agency would be "independent and required to operate in conformity with the [ATSIC] Board's policies and priorities".
It was necessary because ATSIC's "micro-management" of spending had resulted in "the potential for perceived or actual conflict of interest" and had also "distracted the elected arm from more significant policy issues".
The Alice News asked Ms Anderson if the board has confidence in Mr Gibbons.
Ms Anderson: "I'll speak for myself. I don't.
"I think he has kept the elected arm out of the process of being informed properly.
"I though that from the beginning he had a very good strategy of always working for the Minister.
"He got rid of a lot of good staff in ATSIC who could have alerted the elected arm to see what was coming.
"I think he played his cards very well."
She also questions the cost of the Minister's reform. His proposals include staffing each of the 18 ATSIC commissioners with an "APS 6", a senior bureaucrat, on top of the "APS 3" they already have.
Ms Anderson puts the cost of the reform at four to five million dollars.
"Where is that money going to come from?" she asks.
"It should be spent on Aboriginal people.
"I'd ask the question, is a white man who doesn't understand the needs of Aboriginal people better at delivering programs than Indigenous people who come from the suffering?"
Ms Anderson says the "separation of powers" proposal put to the ATSIC Board was incomplete.
"The 14 page document we had a look at was put together by five chairs from around the country and the ATSIC CEO.
"There were no mechanisms in there for dispute resolutions and [prevention of] victimisation of organisations.
"The reason why I voted against that paper is that I thought there's a review that's already out there, looking at a reform.
"That review team wasn't put out there by us, it was put out there by the Minister.
"We need that review to finish its job … One would have thought that the Minister would wait … and then make the decision."
Mr Ruddock has said that the "separation of powers" arrangements being put in place are "interim in nature and allow for refinement in light of the wider ATSIC review".
Ms Anderson says that under present arrangements the board has no direct say over large areas of ATSIC spending and programs, such as business development and native title, for which the decision-making power has been completely delegated to the CEO.
Likewise, the "work for the dole" scheme, CDEP is "set within the framework of national policy and national guidelines" and spending is "quarantined" from board decisions.
All housing activity is done under bilateral agreements with the various states. In the Northern Territory the program is administered through IHANT, the Indigenous Housing Authority.
She says there is a small amount of discretionary funding allocated to regional councils, but it is "minor compared to the delegation that the administrative arm already has".
In the Central Zone, the regional council is allocated about $3m a year which is spent on community infrastructure, night patrols, BRACS, and sport and recreation.
Ms Anderson says it is not possible for a commissioner or councillor to push "pet" programs, to use the Minister's term.
"Things are done on a needs basis.
"We declare conflict of interest and walk out of the room when certain communities come up that we belong to.
"We're not part of the decision-making for that."
Does she see any case for reform?
"I don't see anything major within the elected arm of ATSIC.
"There might be minor changes that need to happen for accountability.
"Like I said, there's a review out there, people running around all over the country doing his review that he hasn't even waited for. At what cost?
"And at what cost to the Australian taxpayer is this new agency being set up? That's the question that we need to ask the Minister now and the CEO of ATSIC."
Are there problems in terms of service delivery that ATSIC is responsible for?
"Absolutely not.
"I think we've done a good job in providing supplementary funding and I think we've held the Commonwealth and states to account for a lot of their responsibilities.
"We've put power, water, sewerage into a lot of the communities through NAHS programs.
"Policing, schools, and health aren't the responsibility of ATSIC.
"They are state responsibilities. I think we've done an excellent job in making sure we are holding those departments to account."


The views of two local Vietnam veterans who will be marching on Anzac Day reflect the split in the Australian community over the war on Iraq.
Both praise the Aussie service personnel in the current conflict.
But while Neville Chalmers says Prime Minister John Howard "made the right decision" to send troops to Iraq, Peter Aebersold says the current conflict should have been left in the hands of the United Nations.
Mr Chalmers, now the Alice Springs manager of Wesfarmers Dalgety, between 1968 and 1970 was a driver in 89 Transport Platoon.
He spent half his service time in Vietnam in Vung Tau, two months with a tank squadron in Nui Dat, and the remainder with the Australian contingent in Saigon.
He was carting supplies for the US forces between Saigon and Long Bhin in escorted convoys.
Mr Chalmers says: "We are allies of the USA the same as we were in Vietnam but there is more of a purpose in the war on Iraq.
"In Vietnam we lost a lot of lives but at the end there was no firm result.
"In Iraq we got a result and we got it quickly.
"I have full respect for Howard.
"He made the right decision.
"We need America on our side."
Mr Chalmers says the Iraq conflict could have escalated into a religious war "and we have the biggest Muslim community just north of Australia".
"I've got no faith in the UN. They were not able to make a decision from day one."
Mr Chalmers says no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq "but they found areas apparently related to them".
Mr Aebersold, a former Territory police officer, says when he served in Vietnam the "domino theory" of communist expansion was plausible.
But "even in your wildest expectations" there is no threat to Australia from Iraq.
Mr Aebersold served one year in Vietnam, as a NCO in charge of a section running a workshop, first in Vung Tau and Nui Dat with 102 Field Workshops, until Nui Dat was handed over to the Vietnamese army at the end of the war.
He came home in 1972 on the last trip of the Sydney.
He says he volunteered for active service because he "firmly believed we should be there" to stop aggression.
"It was not so far removed from the Japanese threat in World War II.
"Iraq is different. It is much more remote.
"I don't believe there was a threat from Iraq to Australia."
Mr Aebersold, a former president of the Viet Vets in Alice Springs, and now a veterans' advocate, says Iraq may have weapons of mass destruction but "it's a long bow to think they are able to deploy them here".
"I don't believe Australia was in peril for us to go to war in Iraq."
He says the war against terrorism is a separate issue.
Should Australia attack all of the many "rogue states" suspected of having links to terrorists?
Mr Aebersold says those issues should be left to international bodies.
"We have the UN and international courts of justice. They may be very slow and laborious.
"But I don't think any one country should be the arbiter of who's a rogue state and who is not."


This week's Anzac Day has a special significance: yet again is Australia fighting a war far from its shores, at the behest of a superpower.
We asked CLP Nigel Scullion, who sits with the Howard Government in Canberra, about his views of Australia's war on Iraq.
NEWS: As there was no direct threat by Iraq to Australia, was the invasion illegal?SCULLION: That's not a widespread opinion, nor one the Australian Government is taking.
The level of threat to Australia and the rest of the world could be quite real.
Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction and declared, as early as 1975, his intention of being the first Arab nation to have the atomic bomb.
NEWS: What is the evidence, which under international law would justify an Australian attack on Iraq, that Saddam had both the intention and the capability of bringing to bear these weapons against Australia?
SCULLION: The United Nations was convinced that Saddam had the capability and in all likelihood the intention to use these weapons again.NEWS: It's a bit cute to justify the invasion of Iraq, an action opposed by the UN, by citing an opinion supposedly held by the UN.
SCULLION: Who says the invasion is against the wishes of the UN? Some nations have said that in their opinion, the action is not warranted. But UN resolution 1441 said to Saddam he needed to produce evidence of the disposal of his weapons of mass destruction or there would be serious consequences. Resolution 1441 was a unanimous decision passed by the Security Council.
NEWS: But these were consequences under the auspices of the UN. The UN did not authorise the invasion if Iraq.
SCULLION: The UN did, actually. The end of the 1991 Gulf War was a cease fire conditional upon Saddam doing a number of things. The UN sanctioned war against him 12 years ago.
For 12 years Saddam did not comply. UN Secretary General Koffe Anan himself said it was only the threat of action by the US, Britain and Australia to take military action that forced Saddam to let weapons inspectors back into the country.
NEWS: Are you saying that the UN sanctioned the invasion by the US, Britain and Australia?
SCULLION: No, but the legal justification for that invasion was already present. Prime Minister John Howard tabled in Parliament the legal opinion that the war was justified.
There was opinion out there that the invasion was justified under the existing UN resolutions and guidelines.
NEWS: Does the fact that weapons of mass destruction have neither been used nor found cancel Australia's main justification for the invasion, and is the war consequently an unlawful act?
SCULLION: What still hasn't been found is proof that Saddam has disposed of his weapons of mass destruction.
SEARCHThe search is still going on. Iraq is a big country and there is plenty of scope to find what is believed to be there.
Saddam's whole argument has been that he didn't have these weapons so if he had used them on day one of the war his credibility – or what was left of it – would have been shot.
You can't say that if they were not used they are not there.
Do we take the word of a despot who used rape, torture and mass murder?
NEWS: How much longer should the Australian forces stay in Iraq?
SCULLION: We still have some obligations in Iraq until the country can become re-established and bring back law and order. You can't put a time on that.
NEWS: Should we be party to any attacks on any other despotic countries if the Americans ask us, even if the UN withholds its sanction?
SCULLION: That's a hypothetical question. Australia has acted in this instance as a result of our involvement with the UN, of our commitment to the causes of that organisation.
Our role in the war wasn't just at the behest of the USA.
The USA took a lead role. It wasn't, as it's often portrayed, a unilateral action of the USA.
There are more than 30 countries, members of the UN, supporting the war on Iraq.

Politics all about money? COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

This may be an arid land, but politics in the new millennium is drier than a dead dingo's do-dah.
That Aussie phrase book is getting more and more useful. Just wish I could understand it. Anyway, I know that this has happened to politics because I have been watching for three years now. In fact, the turning point was sometime earlier than that.
I cannot place it exactly, but the date was sometime in the early ‘nineties.
All the old fiery blood-and-thunder politicians suddenly became subdued and faintly embarrassing.
In their place came new fiery ones, except that they dressed better and rattled on about less important things like shares, flexible work practices and proper management of the economy.
Politics used to be a seedbed of new ideas and fervent debate about the big issues. But suddenly it was reduced to a discussion of who manages the economy best.
How pathetically sad this is. If you are a right-on student in our decade, what is there to get hot under the collar about now that the war is over? And how did this state of affairs happen in the first place?
I reckon that all political debate boils down to how you feel about markets.
The argument about the privatisation of Telstra and services in the bush is essentially about whether market forces can produce a better outcome than the public sector. Global warming is about how much we are prepared to pay, or sacrifice, for a healthy environment.
Official reactions to asylum-seekers owe much to whether the government classes migrants as economically-motivated or not.
The war in Iraq is about, er, well I'm sure that markets are in there somewhere.
If politics is basically economics in disguise, you might think that the prospects of something interesting happening are next-to-nothing.
But some of us remember political discourse with dewy-eyed nostalgia. It wasn't always like it is now, even when they were arguing about markets the whole time.
Economics might be known as the dismal science, but for decades politicians have extracted enough fire and brimstone, not to mention new ideas, to sustain a healthy debate.
There was Milton Friedman and monetarism, there was reinflation, public sector internal markets, Keynesian economics and all the rest. It may sound boring, but it wasn't.
So what happened? All this is the result of a managerial conspiracy. Many politicians want us to have shares and houses and superannuation that depends on the performance of the financial markets.
This performance depends on, you guessed it, good husbandry of the economy. It's a lot safer for political parties to compete over who are the best managers rather than give us some risky debate about ideas.
After all, who needs creativity when you can have a grey man bleating on about the price of West Texas crude oil and interest rates day and night on the telly. The more of us that become home-owners, the more we worry about financial stability and keeping risks to a minimum.
Forget about inspiration on better ways of managing natural resources and whether localisation presents a viable alternative to globalisation.
Whenever someone comes up with a challenging idea, the political managers crush it with rhetoric about the dangers to economic performance. And if it doesn't affect the dollar in our pockets, then nobody really cares. So vote for managerialism every time.These changes have happened everywhere in the world. Well, almost everywhere. But in the Territory the government changed for reasons that were actually not about markets.
You know better than I do and I may be simplifying this, but I thought that the electorate actually wanted some new ideas. They were prepared to put aside their worries about management for a while and embrace some ideological change. Out with the old, let's try the new. Regardless of the party politics, I think Territorians deserve some credit for that.

Innermost thoughts turning warm, fuzzy. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

If you can't find anything pleasant to say about someone or something, then don't say anything at all… or so Mummy said, on numerous occasions, when we were growing up.
Does that mean that the act of writing it all down actually puts those comments, pleasant or not, positive or negative, into an entirely different category? Time for a warm and fuzzy type column, I think …
People often tell me that they enjoy my column but many purport to prefer it when I write about in town happenings, the local scene, places and people they know … which is okay, but it's healthy to broaden (or try to) the outlook every so often. Then again, it's said that we write best about what we know.
There's no doubt putting words on paper, trying to find some sense of order and then waiting for feedback, is very personal – it's a bit like peeling an onion, layer by layer, revealing whatever the inner most thought is, almost like walking around naked in public , on show and wearing a happy public face, even though sometimes a smile is the last thing on the mind!
Lately, between friends' concerns, readers' comments, pros and cons, sensationalised headlines and shocking news items in national and local papers which have absolutely nothing to do with world affairs or international struggles, it's difficult to come up with an inspirational angle on things.David and I were invited out to the Hilton on Todd a couple of weeks ago. As usual, we were spoilt and enjoyed a great selection of Indonesian dishes, home grown chillies on the side, with Francoise and Ian, and their friends from Darwin, Mick and Barbara and long-time Alice locals, Terry and Trevor. The conversation was lively: station life in Alice's early days, long-haul truck driving prior to the sealed Adelaide -Alice road, real estate and the fishing around Streaky Bay. Then, as is wont to happen, the after dinner conversation turned to everyone's respective hobby-horses and it was a bit too late to set any rules, to determine that the untouchable topics, on that particularly splendid balmy evening were, say, anti-social behavioural problems in the Centre, local Government funding, the weather, religion, politics or sex. And the "don't go there" issues just happened to be most of the above, but mainly funding and the anti-social element in town… I decided to have the night off – no comment, nothing for the press.
It over-flowed into what has been a super week: dinner under the stars with Terry and Alison and others; lunches with Emma, Lori, Francoise, Anne and Stephanie and friends in favourite eating houses: a (very) short trip from the Old Timers' to the Date Farm to share the largest freshest date scone with friend, Lesley; a trip out to Emily Gap, always beautiful at this time of the year; a dinner with Ruth and Matt to farewell Sammy and Chris, leaving after many years in the Alice, to travel around the rest of Australia; sundowners, pool-side, with my brother Norm, Lee and little people, delighted to celebrate 20 years of going unsteady at Easter.
We're told the two sure things in life are death and taxes. I thought I'd add another couple – dear friends and the Centre's incredibly beautiful countryside and enormous skies.Sometimes the phone rings and it'll be someone, usually a friend, often David, asking, are you busy or are you "just" writing?
There's a bit of a perception out there that because I don't physically go somewhere to work I'm not actually busy.
Well, I'm pleased to announce I'm now going to be busier than ever whilst continuing to write.
I'm (re) joining the real estate game and looking forward to adding to my 20 years of experience in and around the Alice Springs real estate scene and getting back into the swing of things.
Maybe this will give my columns a completely different slant? As they say: watch this space…


The annual Easter Lightning Carnival at Traeger Park now rightfully deserves a place on the pedestal of great sporting fixtures, not only in Central Australia and the Northern Territory.
It also should be recognised by the AFL itself for its achievements and the direction in which it is going.
It would not be too parochial to suggest that to have 27 teams "put their money where their mouths are" and nominate for the carnival is unprecedented nationally.
Over the two days of the competition some 30 minor round games and then 14 finals were played, with the dew kickers starting at 8.30 am and the night owls finishing at around 10pm.
It was non-stop footy, which attracted 6000 men, women and children through the gate. Alcohol was on sale, as was a plethora of traditional footy tucker, and the numbers escorted from the ground (10 on Saturday) were a far smaller ratio than expected at festivals of this magnitude, be they sporting, cultural or even pop concerts.
In a nutshell, Traeger Park was host to a true weekend of celebration where the fans gathered to watch football at its best in the desert. It was an ideal launch for the 2003 season of football fever, and it sent messages to our community in terms of the state of play.
Historically it was the first time in over 20 years of the carnival that a CAFL side did not play in the finals, be it Division 1 or 2.
In Division 1, Yuendumu won a place in the game of the weekend by downing South 4.1 (25) to 2.3 (15). A week ago South showed they are a potential 2003 flag winner in the CAFL when they accounted for Federal by 20 goals. They were knocked out this weekend by the very side who have had a season out of the country competition and have re-entered the Centralian football arena full of true grit.
Just as effectively Western Aranda proved too good for the reigning CAFL champions West, when they ran in 5.3 to 4.4 and so won a place in the final. Western Aranda, as with several country clubs, dearly wish to raise their status in local football by playing in the most prestigious CAFL competition, presently run of a Sunday. To prove a point they fielded two teams in this year's carnival, showing they have the depth to satisfy the requirements of having an A and B side run on during the season.
They spread the Western Aranda talent between the two divisions and still came up trumps by winning a finals place.
The Western Aranda grand final however was really run in the semi challenge against West. By the time they laced the boots up to face Yuendumu, the adrenaline was still high but the energy level low.Hence Yendumu coasted to a 9.4 (58) to 3.2 (20) premiership victory.
In Division 2, the blue and gold colours of Amoonguna carried the day in a final against Santa Teresa. Amoonguna were the predecessors of South, playing in CAFL competitions before the early seventies, and the win put a sentimental glow in the hearts of footy followers of all persuasions.
The Amoonguna Crows got to the line by two points, 5.4 (34) to 5.2 (32).
A downer, yet a sign of the times, was the fact that Federal could not place a team for the Sunday schedule and Rovers failed to run on all weekend. The explanation for the dropout was simple: each of these CAFL founding clubs have a high dependency on country players and at the Easter Carnival players play for the team where their heart lies.
South, Pioneer and West each suffered the drain of players back to their community allegiances, but for the Demons and Blues, the exercise had deadly effects.
The Ngukurr team from the Roper region, and Tjukala from across the WA border also expressed interest but could not make it for most acceptable reasons. The mere nomination of these far-flung clubs further illustrates the passion communities have for football and the true potential of the Easter Carnival.
If this carnival were nurtured, it could become even bigger and even better.
To recognise the achievement to date however, the AFL or its NT parent body, should ensure a presence at the carnival.
It is interesting to see the amount of official visitor support the Tiwi grand final attracts, as compared to this gathering of sports lovers from all over the desert expanse.
Consideration needs to also be given to how the carnival is conducted. Running all games on the one oval no doubt places pressure on all.
The ability to accommodate the crowd that the event attracts, and to keep doing it better, is essential.
Most significantly though is the need for us to recognise where AFL footy is at in Central Australia and who the real stake-holders are in 2003. Planning for the future is vital, and discussions around the format of the footy competitions in Alice Springs should continue to be pursued.
This Anzac weekend the CAFL season takes off on Sunday, with a replay of last year's grand final. West will play Pioneer. As a curtain raiser South will take on Rovers.
On Saturday the Country program kicks off, with Southern AP against MacDonnell Districts, and then Central Anmatjere against Western Aranda.


Young Guns Day has become a tradition for the Cup Carnival in recent years.
It may not assure bookmakers of a frenzied swill of big money punters, but does sew the seeds in race goers of the future of the entertainment value of a day at the track.
While many attended for the social side of the day, in the business quarter the seven event card provided a foundation for the working man's stock exchange to operate effectively.
In the first, attention was focussed upon Delway, the only runner left alive in the Triple Crown challenge for Two Year Olds. The Jansz Dash over 1000 metres proved disappointing for the top weight. Nigel Moody's Getting Lucky was sent to the barriers as favourite, but a disruption in the gates saw him not prepare for the voyage in the best of manners. Getting Lucky jumped to the front however and led in typical blistering fashion until about 80 metres from the post when Phil Crich on Drifter was able to gather him up and take the money.
Drifter had enjoyed the run of the race in third place and was able to put in the big paces when they were needed. Drifter won by two and a half lengths, with Getting Lucky second, one and three quarter lengths in front of Blev.The Class One 1400 metre Vodka Cruiser Handicap, proved that in racing anything can happen. The grey Our Tanglefoot started as the rank outsider at the barriers, and was considered similarly by those in the ring. He missed the jump by several lengths and tailed off the field by some 15 lengths in the running.Le Mire led in the running but was found out on the turn, when Saratoga Boy grabbed the limelight and looked the winner. Our Tanglefoot had however begun to wind up with a sustained run from about 600 out and was able to range home over the top of the field, swamping them in the straight to win by a length and a quarter. Saratoga Boy hung on for second and Go Bragh filled the placings, a further half length behind.
The third of the day was a Class Three handicap over 1600 metres, named in honour of Melanka. The favourite Mr Cardin continued with his winning form, proving too good for the field. Ben Cornell sat him nicely on the fence in fourth place in the running, allowing Arch Henry to lead and Merrits to keep him honest.
As the front runners dropped off Mr Cardin was able to claim control of the race some 200 metres out. He strode to the line by a length from Strewth who impressed in the rattle home, with Arch Henry holding on for third, a further length behind.The NT Guineas supported by Crown Plaza was raced over 1600 metres by a small field of five. The Kevin Lamprecht trained Surrenders proved to be the only starter to run the mile out truly. He led early, then outstayed the opposition to go to the line by a length and a quarter from Edge to Edge, with Cartoon Hero nearby in third place.
Hi Tail was impressive in the ALM Quality Handicap over the 1600 metre trip. Ben Cornell settled the Alwyn Trengrove trained performer on the fence with the highly regarded The Spunk setting the pace. Last start winner Cypress Lakes kept the pace honest but faded early when the business end of the race began.
At the top of the straight Hi Tail dashed to the lead, recording a two and a quarter length win over the perennial second place getter Solario, with The Spunk taking third prize money a further two lengths behind.
The 1200 metre Ted Hayes Class Five Handicap, provided local apprentice Lauren Stojakovic with her first riding success. It was the presence of Stojakovic on board Punk that gave the Catriona Green stable an advantage. Punk was awarded 58 kg by the handicapper, but the lightweight apprentice was able to claim three kg, so giving the barrier one starter every chance. Punk jumped nicely and led with Old Swampy doing it tough, lumping 61 kg from barrier 10. Weight and barrier draw paid their price on Old Swampy, and Punk was able to dictate terms. In the straight the front runner kicked to win by a length and three quarters, defeating Premonish who ran on impressively. The well-backed Al Tayar completed the placings.
The card was completed when Scotro scorched the ground in the 1000 metre Absolute Steel Handicap. In the ring the smarties got plenty on early and sent Scotro out as equal favourite with the Nev Connor stable's Bathers. In the running however Scotro once again set an electrifying pace and headed the field into the straight. In the charge to the post the leader had too many guns for the field and went to the line a length and a quarter in front of The Bigfella. Son of Grace ran an honest race to take third money.


Winner of last year's Alice Prize, Deborah Paauwe has begun her residency in the Centre (part of the prize) with an exhibition at Watch This Space in collaboration with the Alice Springs Art Foundation.
By coincidence, work by Paauwe's partner, Mark Kimber, was also acquired out of the Alice Prize exhibition for the foundation's collection. Kimber accompanied Paauwe to Alice Springs and is also showing work at the Space.
In both instances, the exhibition helps give an insight into the artist's processes.
On the basis of her prize-winning work, "Crimson Autograph", I had thought that Paauwe was fairly straightforwardly embracing the aesthetics of fashion photography. However, some works in the Space show, and others reproduced in a catalogue available at the gallery, indicate that at times she introduces disturbances to her otherwise beautifully seductive, easy to digest work.
The most unsettling image for me is "Porcelain Mirror", her frankest depiction of nudity. We are long used to the adult female nude offered up to the delectation of the viewer. Here the model is a pre-pubescent child.
The pose is frontal; we see one nipple revealed and the exquisite porcelain skin of her torso framed by a lace blouse; her sun-browned hand, with dirty fingernails, rests lightly on her breastbone.
This is a sexualised image of a child. There is debate around the negation and/or quarantining of children's sensuality and developing sexuality. However one responds to the issues in the private domain, with the shift into the public domain, where in a photograph like this the child's body is being offered for consumption, the issues become more fraught. Where does exploitation start? I cannot see how Paauwe's image deals with that complexity.
It is worth mentioning that Paauwe had the permission of the child's mother for the modelling session and indeed, the mother subsequently bought the work.
Pauuwe sees the image as "very innocent" and consistent with the "dressing-up" theme of many other images in her body of work.
She also says the particular pose was instigated by the model.
Paauwe determinedly leaves interpretation of her subjects to the viewer. She does say, however, that she is interested in the "underlying truth" expressed in the bodies she photographs.
She enjoyed photographing the scratches on the model in "White Dress". In real life they were self-inflicted on a hot and sweaty day. In the photograph, they are riveting signposts of damage or violence to a woman's body that becomes archetypally vulnerable, exploitable in its headless, splayed state. Where does the "truth" lie here?
There is a lot of food for thought in this exhibition.
Kimber's work is less controversial by a mile.
His series Suburban Nights captures distilled images from the environment where he grew up. Human presence is suggested with the lights showing in the windows of these neat facades. In a film with the next frame we would move inside to meet the characters. Here we must stay with the enticing suggestion of their existence and have time to contemplate its external details, the manicured lawn, the relief pattern of the cement render, the choice of window dressing. But somehow, this is not trite.
Kimber pointed to his secret: the distillation made possible by time lapse photography. He works with five, 10 minute and up to half hour exposure times. This produces a compressed moment that you could never experience with the naked eye and so captures something of the quality, the heightened intensity, of memory.
Paauwe and Kimber will return for the second half of their residency in September.
Show at Watch This Space, 9 George Crescent, today till 5pm and next Monday and Wednesday, 10 to 5.

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