June 15, 2005.


While the Martin government has no firm arrangements for electricity generation in the major centres in five years' time, when Palm Valley gas runs out, it is pouring cold water on a proposal by Opposition Leader Denis Burke to link the Territory to the national power grid.
Alice Springs is unlikely to ever be part of the scheme, unless a significant mining development is started near-by, because we are too far away and too small a user.
But Saturday's election may turn on the project, rivaling in size the Ayers Rock Resort - under Chief Minister Paul Everingham - and the Darwin railway, pushed by CLP Leader Denis Burke.
The difference is, the proposed power line, which would be one of the world's longest, would need to be paid for by private investors, not by governments.
And the CLP is a lot more bullish about the scheme than even one of its promoters, Queensland based Alan du Mee, whose company, A Solid Foundation, promotes itself as "counsel for boards, CEOs and senior managers".
He says work on the proposal started 18 months ago.
It was put to the NT Government as well as the Opposition at roughly the same time, before the NT election was called.
And there had been discussions with Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane to see if the transmission line could still qualify for major project status.
"The reply was encouraging," says Mr du Mee.
He says the scheme is viable only if Mt Isa becomes part of it, and claims the line "will need to happen ­ be it in five, seven or 10 years".
The Territory will soon need alternatives for its power generation now mainly running on Palm Valley gas which will be depleted around the end of the decade.
The deal with the consortium of oil companies, headed by Santos, for the supply of Palm Valley gas runs out in 2011.
Mr Burke has pinned his election chances to the scheme, saying "we'll get this project over the line because we need it".
"Does the grid stack up? Yes it does," says Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Lim.
"Would Territorians benefit from lower power prices? Yes, they would." There is an obvious hip-pocket appeal with claimed savings to the consumer of around 30 per cent, but the rest of the argument is dry and complicated.
Dr Lim says the line would take two years to design and three years to build.
It would have masts with a single pole, a cross arm and two bundles of up to four cables as thick of your fist.
The line would have a life of up to 50 years.
Vast amounts of gas will come on shore in Darwin as a result of Timor Sea production but "every molecule" of it, as Dr Lim puts it, is spoken for and will be exported to Japan.
But Business Minister Paul Henderson says: "Power and Water are in advanced negotiations with a number of offshore gas producers to supply the Territory.
"Gas is coming onshore to fire the Alcan expansion at Gove Peninsula.
"The gas will cross the Territory from Wadeye to Nhulunbuy, crossing or interconnecting with the existing north-south gas pipeline."
Mr Henderson says this refutes a suggestion by Mr du Mee who claims producers are unlikely to sell gas at prices feasible for power generation in Australia, while they can get much more overseas.
So unless new energy sources are found and competition is created, come 2011 the electricity prices in the Territory may go through the roof ­ including, according to Dr Lim, in The Alice because the NT has uniform tariffs.
The current annual consumption in the region including Darwin, Katherine and Jabiru is 1.146 billion kilowatt hours (KWh). Residential electricity at present costs 14c per KWh.
Attached to the national grid, the annual cost of providing power to the Darwin region ­ on present-day consumption ­ would be made up as follows (this is a simplified model, drawn up by the Alice News with representative costs, after consulting Mr du Mee):-
€ Buying electricity from the national grid for around 3c a KWh, that's $34m;
€ $3m for the nine per cent loss in transmission;
€ $86m for interest on the capital investment for the $1b transmission line at 8.6 per cent;
€ $20m for depreciation of the line;
€ 3c per KWh for pumping it through the regional grid, owned by PowerWater, a total of $34m;
€ and $300,000 for administration.
That would put the price per KWh at 16c.
However, the project would really get legs if the Darwin region consumption increased substantially and, especially, if Mt Isa shared in the project.
Mr du Mee bases his calculations on 2.4 billion KWh for the Darwin region, plus 6.2 billion KWh for Mt Isa, a total of 8.6 billion KWh.
That assumes a doubling demand in Darwin and a trebling demand in Mt Isa over the next five to eight years. In that case the KWh would cost 9c ­ a 36 per cent saving on the present price.
Says Mr Henderson: "This is based on a trebling of demand in Mount Isa, which is already supplied by the gas-fired Mica Creek Power Station, and it assumes a 100 per cent capture of that market by the transmission line supplying coal-fired power.
"These figures bear no relation to reality.
"Burke announced a $1.3 billion project.
"In a desperate attempt to make the project appear credible, the proponents have removed $300 million from the construction costs, allocated nothing at all for repairs and maintenance, nothing at all for operational costs (such as staff, offices, vehicles, computers), nothing at all for retail costs."
But Mr du Mee says: "We have not removed $300m. The total capital cost of a 40 year project for a 1500 MW line is $1.3b, but the capital comes in stages".
The up-front investment of about $1b is a starting point, to put in place enough capacity and other infrastructure for the 40 year life of the loan.
Mr Henderson also says the model doesn't include the cost for existing power stations which would need to be kept operational to supply stand-by electricity when the transmission line drops out ­ tipped to occur on three to four days a year.
Another downside of the proposed direct current (DC) line is that it requires expensive transformers to increase and reduce the current, and turn the power first into DC and then back again into alternate current (AC) mode.
Mr du Mee says transmitting as DC current reduces the line losses to about half of an AC system.
That means practically no communities along the line could plug into the line unless the consumption was in the order of twice that of Alice Springs. However, one beneficiary may be the McArthur River mine near Borroloola, using nearly half as much electricity as Darwin, says Mr du Mee.
Wrong, says Mr Henderson: "McArthur River mine's installed capacity is 24 MW.
"The Darwin-Katherine system has an installed capacity of 332 MW."
Advocates of the transmission line project say Mt Isa's generators are close to capacity, and planned upgrades would cater only for present-type of consumption.
However, if the town had access to cheap power, via the national grid, the mines could be expanded and smelters could be set up, rather than carting the ore to Townsville for processing, says Mr du Mee.
He says a typical smelter uses about as much electricity as all of Darwin.
The Territory would benefit from buying electricity on the national market, profiting from price fluctuations.
For example, last week's average wholesale price in Queensland was 2.2c per KWh in Queensland, says Mr du Mee.
He claims if cheap gas became available in Darwin, the NT could become an electricity exporter, using the transmission line which can "switch direction in milliseconds".
Mr Henderson says the logic in bringing gas onshore is to develop processing and manufacturing industries close to the gas source: "This is the most cost-efficient method of delivering energy to industry, and means that the jobs are created in the Territory.
"Exporting our electricity is a dangerous idea that would see jobs and economic growth also being exported interstate."
Meanwhile the present PowerWater owned gas turbines would hold much of their value as stand-by generators, providing "peaking power".
Channel Island power station in Darwin would be selling electricity for up to 10 times the going rate, during the expected blackouts of the national grid supply, on around four days a year, says Mr du Mee.
He says Channel Island has a thermal efficiency of just 30 per cent, as compared to some 60 per cent for modern plants.
But Mr Henderson says coal-fired power stations, which supply most of the electricity in the national grid, have a thermal efficiency of 26 to 32 per cent.
But Mr du Mee says new coal generators perform at 39 per cent, and future ones will achieve 42 to 43 per cent.
Meanwhile Greens leader Bob Brown, in The Alice to support three Greens candidates, said it is "incredible that Denis Burke can be repeating the mistake of the Liberals in WA [pursuing] a mega-project of bringing a resource from thousands of kilometers away without discussions with the community."


The 30th Finke Desert Race saw national off road racing champions, Shannon and Ian Rensch from Warrnambool in Victoria, become the Kings of the Desert for Cars, while Jason Hill from Leanyer, NT, took out Desert King on his bike.
The anniversary Finke was enveloped by a sombre mood when 54 year old Victorian Greg Lincoln passed away during the prologue. Police investigations revealed that the track condition had not played a part in the fatality and, with his family's permission, the event continued.
The Auricht family had reason to celebrate on Saturday when Danny, accompanied by Brian Shearn, claimed the poll position with a sizzling 5'11" coverage of the 8.3 km prologue.
In the bikes 20 year old cousin Caleb then spreadeagled the field with a 5'15" time, so giving him the right to lead the two wheelers from the grid.
Race day saw the 94 car entries depart on a course that literally billowed dust.
The opening section to Deep Well again proved to be a testing time. Michael Napier managed to roll when just two km from the start, and John Towers broke a belt only 30 km into the race.
Pollster Auricht found his prologue success did not continue when a timing belt went.
Reigning champion Dave Fellows, racing as part of the Peter Kittle team, had been making real headway on the then leader Mark Burrows when his power steering presented problems. The local Toyota dealer's team was then reduced to one entry, Chris Coulthard in a Holeshot 1600 cc buggy.
At Rodinga Terry Rose rolled and the saga of misfortune continued with 27 cars eliminated on the downward journey.
National off road number one team of Shannon and Ian Rentsch had adopted a steady as she goes approach and were able to claim victory on adjusted time into Finke.
Five time victor Mark Burrows actually led the field to the half way point, and sat a mere 17 seconds in arrears of Rensch for the run home.
A major performer on this leg was Hayden Bentley from Port Pirie, who in his Jimco 5700 cc was able to lift his position from tenth off the grid to third place at Finke.
Also among the top 20 were Hayden Tatnell, Locky and Paddy Weir, Tony Byrnes in his 5800cc Chev, and Bob Mowbray.
The late morning start by 411 bikes had them banked to approach the grid as storm clouds formed a bleak backdrop. The thunder and rain however was short lived, only following riders for some seven kilometres down the track. So insipid was the rain that the ground was hardly dampened.
The leaders off the grid, Caleb Auricht and Warren Strange, each had an opening dash they would prefer to forget. Strange, who had ploughed $60,000 into his KTM, came to a halt only 10 kilometres south with starter problems.
Auricht, who had eased off in the charge after being blinded by Strange's dust, hit a log and was knocked unconscious in the fall. He was assisted by onlookers, but in a noticeable daze began to ride in the Alice direction before being turned around by the fans and sent on his way. Amazingly he got to Finke where he received treatment including a drip to rehydrate.
Having started in number one position it was a blow to end in 19th on adjusted time.
Ben Brooks led the bikes into Finke on his Honda CRF450R in 2:09:40, almost 11 minutes behind the time of the first buggy. Local Gavin Chapman, piloting a Yamaha YZ450F, placed himself second in 2:10:28 and Mark Sladek on his Yamaha was third.
In sixth place Stephen Greenfield was only 4:47 off the pace, while another past winner Rick Hall was ninth.
Through the night life at Finke was a mixed bag. While competitors sought sleep in their swags, mechanical teams worked late into the night to the throb of generators and those at the race for a party had music, fireworks and flares to provide bush style entertainment.
The return trip was raced in very different conditions. Overnight rain set most of the track perfectly, with pools of water over the final 10 km.
The Rensch team took full advantage of their 2000cc machine and their lead.
They enjoyed a clear run and brought their Chenowth Buggy home in 1:56:24, claiming King of the Desert status over Burrows who recorded a time of 2:00:12.
Hayden Bentlay from Port Pirie filled the placings in his Jimco Buggy powered by 5700cc.
Disappointment followed the Kittle team into day two, when Couthard got to within two km of the finish before being crippled by a collapsed drive shaft.
Andrew Freeman and David Cox nursed their 5700cc Nissan home on only three tyres.
On bikes Ben Brooks maintained his lead with Gavin Chapman in pursuit. Brooks held a 22 second lead coming into Deep Well where he stopped to refuel, only to be further delayed when he couldn't start his bike. This allowed Chapman to steal the lead, but also in touch was the Darwin rider Jason Hill.
Chapman, having crossed the line in second place, didn't wait to mount the victory podium.
While he'd camped in Finke between stages of the race, his wife had given birth to a son, so he headed straight to the hospital to welcome young Nate into the world.


A nuclear waste dump in the Territory "will be at the forefront of John Howard's mind", said Greens leader Bob Brown during a visit to Alice Springs last week.
This could be averted only by CLP Senator Nigel Scullion crossing the floor when the issue comes up.
But Senator Scullion says a waste dump "will never happen on my watch" and although he never makes any forward commitments about which way he votes, the Prime Minister would not pursue the issue without his consent.
Senator Brown says South Australia and Western Australia have legislated against nuclear dumps but "unfortunately for the Territory, the Federal government has an override and both houses of Parliament are in the government's hands as of July 1".
Only Senator Scullion's vote against can stop it, and "anything short of that won't.
"He and the CLP should commit themselves to that outcome so Territorians can really feel safe against simply being seen as the easy answer for a national government which is quite determined to set up a national nuclear waste dump."
Senator Brown says the Territory government's announcement that it will seek world heritage listing for the MacDonnell National Park has been made in the run-up to an election "and the homework hasn't been done".
"These days the world heritage authorities are rejecting more places than they are accepting," he says.
Given the poor management of the park, allowing it to be overrun by buffel grass and devastated by bushfires because no precautionary burning had been done, would these authorities tell the parks managers to get their act together?
"No, they'll say that to the government," says Senator Brown.
The application will go before the World Heritage Convention which will be advised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
"They will look at the management problems, and if [the park] has been let go and hasn't been managed and adequately funded by the Martin Government, that would pull the rug from under the nomination."


There are already ways of dealing with our serious social problems without the hastily conceived law and order measures touted of late by some aldermen and both sides of politics in the Territory election campaign.
There has been no petrol sniffing in the Larapinta Valley Town Camp for five months, where once it was rife.
This is the result of the sustained and concerted effort of some residents, supported by the Yarrenyty-Arltere Learning Centre located in the camp and other agencies, including FACS and the police.
President of the learning centre's community committee, Janella Ebatarintja and committee member Raelene Namatjira, told the Alice News that four chronic sniffers from the community are now being taken care of out bush, at Ipolera and Illamurta outstations.
Others, "instead of sitting at home sniffing", are involved in CDEP projects at the camp, such as maintenance, painting, and making outdoor furniture for the centre. This is work for young men, under the leadership of George Close, who also provides the centre's security.
Young women have been working alongside older women in the art room, where Batchelor Institute provides a teacher, Jeanine Stanton, for certificate courses in art and craft.
Ten children go to school in the camp, in a classroom annexe of Gillen Primary School.
If they went to a school in town "they might walk away and come back here", says Raelene.
"When they learn they can go to school in town."
Raelene did her schooling "years ago" in Hermannsburg; Janella went to Yipirinya and to Catholic High.
She says her kids, seven and four, might go to school in town when they're older.
Both women expressed satisfaction with the way things are now in the town camp and see their future and their children's future there.
Janella played a key role, says learning centre coordinator Leonie Sheedy, in establishing a strong reputation for the centre: no sniffers, no drinkers, no trouble.
Residents of the camp were either absorbed into the centre's programs or, in the case of the four already mentioned, were removed by Family and Children's Services for rehabilitation out bush.
The centre then identified certain people from outside the camp as unwelcome troublemakers, and involved their families and a range of agencies to come up with solutions for them.
If they didn't keep away, the police were called and they would be given a trespass order.
"Once that had a happened a few times, the word got around that we wouldn't put up with trouble," says Leonie.
Janella also works part-time with Tangentyere Council's Youth Link-Up Service (CAYLUS), rasing awareness at local fuel outlets and caryards about petrol sniffing issues.
Holiday programs in remote communities, organised with the help of CAYLUS, have also helped alleviate pressure on the camp from visitors who would gravitate there because there was nothing to do where they came from.
As well, the fact that the learning centre has been around for five years now has allowed camp residents to develop the confidence that they can something to control their living environment.
The centre is now well supported by the Health and Education Departments, but funding for the coordinator's position, from a Commonwealth program, is more tenuous, as is support for youth training and adult education.
Recently the centre has recruited a drug and alcohol caseworker, though it took eight months to find a suitably qualified and experienced person to fill the two-year position.
The classroom was originally thought of as a transitional arrangement, preparing children for entry to Gillen Primary.
Leonie says the centre continues to aim for transition but hasn't achieved it yet.
"The Education Department is very committed to maintain their support for the classroom, they recognise that the situation here is fragile." All this is a long way from the situation four years ago when "people's lives were hijacked by violence and substance abuse".
Leonie's role can now develop into more than crisis response, with greater employment opportunities being an obvious next focus.
To date CDEP projects have provided the only work experience that camp residents have had.


The Papunya Community Council, recently the subject of critical reports in the Alice Springs News, followed up in national media, has embarked on a string of initiatives, including dealing with petrol sniffing, according to acting CEO Peter Vroom.
He says Papunya is one of the first communities to switch to Opal fuel, which is not suitable for sniffing.
"It's in our bowsers now," he says.
A new community manager, Brian Perry, has started work, is being briefed by Mr Vroom for the "next couple of months", and is being trained as the new CEO.
This follows a turbulent period when Steve Hanley, husband of former ATSIC commissioner and current ALP candidate for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson, was the CEO.
Mr Vroom, who is also the council's accountant, says Mr Hanley now runs the community store and has nothing more to do with the council.
The News asked Mr Vroom how the intended appointment of a new CEO would fit into reported plans (Alice News, May 25) by the NT government to remove the money spending power from bush councils, and to appoint an Alice Springs based CEO for Papunya, Haasts Bluff and other communities.
He said: "You work that one out."
He also said the academic and local government qualifications required by the NT government for council CEOs far outstrip the available supply of "suitably qualified" people.
He says six to 10 are needed in The Centre alone.
Mr Vroom says the council is also seeking to recruit a new CDEP co-ordinator, and will be holding elections in August.


In the last week of the campaign there is little out there to grab the swinging voter, says Dr BILL WILSON, a lecturer in history and politics at Charles Darwin University, in this second interview with Alice Springs News editor ERWIN CHLANDA (see last week's issue for the first).

NEWS: Last week you were saying there is still time for someone to make a big gaffe. Has Denis Burke done it with his electricity scheme?
DR WILSON: It hasn't won a lot of people over. Some I've spoken to think it's like the Western Australian pipedream of the big canal. But there is still time for people to make another gaffe.
NEWS: Do you think the electricity scheme is a gaffe?
DR WILSON: I think it's certainly one, yes, [judging] from the very limited surveying I've done. People see it as a pipedream. Most just roll over laughing.
NEWS: Both parties are spending big, at least in their promises.
DR WILSON: It's reflective of this campaign. I find this campaign rather strange. I still don't see it well managed by either of the big parties. There seems to be the tendency to spend, and spend big, with policies that are not fully put out there. You get headlines but not the detail underneath.
NEWS: Are there any further developments on the anti-social behaviour debate?
DR WILSON: No, that seems to have gone away last week but I'm sure it will come back before the end of the campaign.
NEWS: The government is promising $10m on just two projects in Darwin's vaunted northern suburbs, $4.8m for a new police station and $5.2m for the extension of a park. Meanwhile they're saying Alice Springs parks will get an unspecified slice of $500,000 for urban parks throughout the NT. Is that fair to Alice Springs?
DR WILSON: The bulk of the Northern Territory's population lives in Darwin's northern suburbs and Leanyer Park has proved very popular. Clearly Labor is trying to retain the electorates. The police station? That's harking back to law and order a bit. There is a police station at Casuarina. It's a 1972 or '73 building which isn't old in Australian terms but old in Territory terms. I just wonder about building new police stations rather than refurbishing old ones. The new police station in Mitchell Street in the city was put there after Berrimah [police headquarters] was built in 1985, expansion room all 'round the place, which sits there idle.
NEWS: Are there any surprises in the nominations of independents?
DR WILSON: The most significant ones are the two independents in the outer Darwin seat of Goyder, to be vacated by Peter Maley [CLP]. That changes the dynamics there quite considerably. That seat could quite possibly go to an independent. And Tim Baldwin is retiring in Daley which adjoins Goyder.
NEWS: That only leave Steve Dunham from the CLP's old guard. What happens if Burke goes down again?
DR WILSON: The rumor is that the CLP might fracture into two parties, the National Party and the Liberal Party, which would take them back to their roots. In 1974 they decided not to fight each-other and that was how the CLP was formed. I think rumors that Shane Stone is coming back are not right.
NEWS: How are the CLP and the Labor Party different in this election?
DR WILSON: It's quite hard to distinguish between them in this election. Some policies have been announced by the ALP that I would have expected to see in CLP clothing, and there were some CLP announcements that I would have thought were ALP. The parties are probably quite close together in the middle.
NEWS: What are the notable about-faces?
DR WILSON: Labor's law and order and anti social behaviour policies I would have expected to come forward from the CLP and Denis Burke's trip to Wadeye (Port Keats) and his Aboriginal policy contain elements of the ALP policies.
I haven't seen much to differentiate one from the other. The ALP advertising is knocking Burke as a leader and the CLP [says] "not good enough, Clare". The two striking issues are the two negatives. But a lot of voters want to see positives.
There are a lot of announcements but none of them really grab people. I can't find many issues where one party stands apart from the other, quite frankly.
NEWS: We find the minders are playing a significant role. We can get an interview with Clare Martin any time but the three local candidates we most would like to talk to, Fran Kilgariff, Alison Anderson and Peter Toyne, are in hiding. Is it similar in the Top End?
DR WILSON: Absolutely. It's been said several times. Did you see the PR person for the Chief Minister actually answer a question the other day?
NEWS: Do you think electioneering by minders seems to be more common this time 'round than ever before?
DR WILSON: Absolutely. I don't recall an election like it for that.
NEWS: Does that apply to the CLP as much as it does to the ALP?
DR WILSON: Not as much. However you're seeing a lot of press releases by the CLP but you're not seeing many CLP candidates, apart from Denis Burke. But I think the ALP is far more tightly controlled.
NEWS: What about the prominence of minders?
DR WILSON: I think the ALP clearly have the edge in that.
NEWS: I put it to the government, but didn't get an answer, of course, that as soon as an election is called, the minders should become employees of the parties, and be paid by them, because much of what they're doing at the moment is disseminating party propaganda, at taxpayer's expense.
DR WILSON: It's one of the points why I think it's a bad campaign. I'm seeing lots of material without any depth.
NEWS: During Mr Burke's policy launch in Alice Springs he said zero tolerance many times but mandatory sentencing not once.
DR WILSON: One is code for the other, in many ways. Mandatory sentencing is the ultimate in zero tolerance policing.
NEWS: You said last week there isn't anything out there yet that really grabs you. Have you found anything in the meantime?
DR WILSON: No. I'm still waiting! My vote's out there for someone to grab!
NEWS: Who will win?
DR WILSON: At this stage of the campaign it appears likely that Labor will be returned.


The historic Rieff Buildings on the corner of Hartley Street and Gregory Terrace will be completely demolished to make way for a bland suburban complex of shops, offices and a restaurant.
The story the Rieff Buildings tell about the development of post-war Alice Springs and the work here of highly regarded architect Beni Burnett will become one more that we won't be able to share about our town, to quote the tourist commission's latest still-born campaign.
Drawings by Adelaide based architects, attached to the development permit granted last month, reveal that no aspect of the buildings recommended for heritage preservation will be retained.
This is despite recent assurances from Yeperenye Board chairman Danny Masters that the development would "successfully reflect both the past and the future" (Alice News, May 25).
If there is any reference to the past in the architects' proposals it is so subtle as to avoid detection. Perhaps there will be a plaque somewhere, recording in small type what once existed.
We have Heritage and Environment Minister Marian Scrymgour and Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne to thank for this latest nail in the coffin of Alice Springs' built heritage.
Ms Scrymgour turned her back on the advice of her own Heritage Advisory Council in favour of commercial arguments that do not extend beyond the construction period.
Even Yeperenye Pty Ltd's general manager David Cloke admitted that the financial return to his company in the short term would only be marginally above bank lending rates, although it could improve as years go by.
Mr Cloke said the main objective of the development was enhancement, creating "something that people in town could be proud of". (Alice News, November 24, 2004.)
Why would a town that tries to project itself onto the world stage as a unique, exciting and resilient community in the heart of the continent be proud of looking like any other part of suburban Australia?
What are we saying ­ that we can be ordinary too?
The arguments have been put to Dr Toyne; one might have expected that as a long time resident he would have understood how vital it is to retain the little of the old Alice Springs that survives. But his courage has apparently failed him.
His silence on the issue has been deafening.
Little wonder then that it is with trepidation that the lobby group Heritage Alice Springs is nominating for the Heritage Register another commercial building, the former Wallis Fogarty store, now the offices of Travelworld on Todd Mall.
Behind the current faηade the fabric of the original building is intact.
It was designed by Caradoc Ashton & Fisher who also designed the first Flying Doctor Base in Alice. It is one of only two pre-war shops to survive in the town (the other is Tuncks' Store, presently occupied by Hertz).
And it is the only building that can be properly described as 'art deco', characterised in part by the use of elegantly simple decorative motifs in groups of three.
Its heritage value is also through its association with pioneer general merchants Fred Raggatt, Tom and Jessie Fogarty, and the Wallis family.
The building only ceased operating as a store in 1961, when it was bought by Ansett. This coincided with Woolworths opening its first store in Alice.
In face of the ongoing destruction of our built heritage, let's hope that whoever wins government this weekend makes a new, honest commitment to its preservation and, more importantly, is able to maintain the political will to defend it in the face of short-sighted commercial pressure.


"Fran Kilgariff is a strong Labor candidate in Greatorex because of her high profile as mayor of Alice Springs, and as a born-and-bred local and member of the respected Kilgariff family."
This line has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by most political observers, but how well do these attributes stack up based on precedence?
First, no mayor of any town in the NT who has run for office in the Legislative Assembly has succeeded in translating their support at council level to the next tier of government.
Leslie Oldfield (Alice Springs, 1990) and Jim Forscutt (Katherine, 2003) ran as independents (Forscutt also ran as a NT Nationals candidate in 1987, and as an independent in Elsey in 1983); Paul Ruger (Tennant Creek) ran for the CLP in 1990 and 1994; Michael Ting (Palmerston, 1987) also ran for the NT Nationals, and Kevin Diflo (also mayor of Palmerston) ran for Labor in 1994.
They all failed.
Only Gerry Wood, the former president of Litchfield Shire, may be classed as an exception in this field, when he won the electorate of Nelson as an independent in 2001.
What about being a born-and-bred Central Australian local?
Neville Perkins won MacDonnell for the ALP in 1977 and 1980, and the CLP's Ray Hanrahan was the Member for Flynn in 1983 and 1987.
Thirteen others (including myself) since self-government have run as candidates across the political spectrum (independent, ALP, CLP, NT Nationals and Australian Democrats) without success (and it is interesting to note that of those "ragged thirteen", nine are of Aboriginal descent).
What about the "Kilgariff factor"?
Fran Kilgariff's father, Bernie Kilgariff, had a long career in Northern Territory politics, commencing as a non-official member of the Legislative Council in 1960, and as an elected member in 1969.
He was a founding member of the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party in Alice Springs in 1974; a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1974, becoming the first Speaker; and also was the CLP's second deputy leader (Paul Everingham was the first deputy leader but fell out with Goff Letts).
He was then elected as one of the first senators for the Northern Territory in 1975, and remained as such until his retirement in 1987, after which he ceased to have any further active involvement in politics.
However, he assisted in Richard Lim's campaign for Greatorex in 1994, but I recall he felt his contribution on election day was of limited value because he did not recognise most people who came to vote at the polling booth at Centralian College.
Two of Fran Kilgariff's brothers have also been involved in politics.
The first was Dan Kilgariff, who served one term as an alderman of the Alice Springs Town Council in the early 1980s.
The second was Michael Kilgariff, who was prominent within the CLP during the 1990s (in Darwin), where he ran as a candidate for Fannie Bay against newly incumbent Labor member Clare Martin in 1997 (he lost, obviously).
However, he was successful in being elected as a delegate to the republic convention held in Canberra in 1998, a cause that was also dear to the heart of his sister Fran.
However, they failed to sway the minds of Territory voters in the national referendum of November 1999 sufficiently to support it, a result in keeping with the rest of Australia except the ACT.
History shows that Fran Kilgariff's chances for success are grim.
Nevertheless, she is now the most prominent member of the family in politics, commencing with her convincing win in a council by-election in August 1994 (ironically necessitated by former alderman Loraine Braham's election as the new CLP member for Braitling earlier that year).
She subsequently won the position of mayor with the aid of preferences against front-runner Jenny Mostran in 2000.
Labor is clearly targeting Greatorex in the current election campaign with significant funding promises: a $5m upgrade for Ross Park Primary School, a $130,000 program to tackle salinity problems at the Alice Springs Golf Club, and improvements for urban parks.
However, this is setting no precedent, as Labor targeted Greatorex in 1994 in a strong campaign headed by their candidate Kerrie Nelson.
Labor also targeted Araluen in the by-election of 1986, and in the elections of 1987 and 1990, as the CLP member Eric Poole was widely regarded as ineffectual and vulnerable.
This was particularly evident in 1990 when the Labor candidate Brian Doolan campaigned extensively for many months.
When I quizzed Mr Poole about this issue during interviews for CLP preselections that year, he was able to assure us that Mr Doolan's campaign was failing due to overkill ­ and so it came to pass.
The wily Mr Poole was relatively untroubled in two subsequent elections. There is one new factor in this election, namely that Labor is the party in power.
I have consistently stated that the ALP is likely to win this election campaign, for a variety of reasons: its first term record is no worse than any experienced under the CLP; there is no "It's time" factor; and their election campaign is running well.
Meanwhile the CLP's resurrection of Denis Burke as leader demonstrates a serious lack of talent for that party in the Top End (quite in contrast to the rise of Paul Everingham after Goff Letts lost his seat in 1977, or when Marshall Perron took the helm in 1988).
It is the Top End, of course, where Labor holds the advantage in representation, and consequently government largesse and related economic activity favours Darwin (see "Spin vs fact", Alice News, June 8).
Will this convince Central Australian voters to swing behind the ALP?
Fran Kilgariff's election ads clearly play on this theme: "I think Alice deserves a better deal from Darwin. That's why I'm standing for Greatorex."
This reads as a tacit warning, suggesting the ALP will not regard the Alice favourably for funding priorities if voters fail to support Labor candidates, effectively a quid pro quo.
This situation, too, is not without precedent ­ one has only to see the neglect of remote areas that consistently supported the ALP when the CLP held power. The community in general must now cope with consequent crime and anti-social problems.
In my view, Central Australia, and especially Alice, is in an invidious position, torn between returning all incumbent members (the likeliest result) and "going with the strength" by supporting Labor in Darwin.


Police would have the power of locking up young people under curfew provisions which a CLP government would bring in.
Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Lim says: "We have a policy of imposing a curfew on youths under 17 years of age who are breaking the law.
"The policy will not affect any law abiding young person."
Asked who decides whether a young person has broken the law, Dr Lim said: "The police will decide."
Dr Lim says the police will also decide how many days young people have to observe curfew after dark, in a safe house if their own homes are not suitable.
Dr Lim says Aranda House in South Terrace would be refurbished as a safe house at a cost of between $1m and $1.5m.
Alice News editor Erwin Chlanda spoke to Dr Lim about a range of election issues. NEWS: Is it possible to reverse the decision to hand over ownership of national parks to Aboriginal people, as proposed by the Martin government?
DR LIM: I understand the government wants to sign 99 year leases. Once they are signed we are locked in.
NEWS: Have they been signed yet?
DR LIM: Not as far as I know.
NEWS: Would a CLP government sign them?
DR LIM: We believe that all parks in the Territory belong to all Territorians.
NEWS: In the current Budget, what infrastructure projects would the CLP have funded?
DR LIM: Now that the Mereenie loop road sealing has started we'll continue with it.
NEWS: Would you have allocated around $25m for Batchelor Institute and the Centre for Appropriate Technology to be accommodated in the new Desert People's Centre?
DR LIM: It will go ahead. Desert Knowledge and the Desert People's Centre were our initiative. This government dropped the ball, everything slowed down, they had no political will to see it completed. All they could do [so far] was to put up a sign saying Avenue of Knowledge ­ to nowhere! Had we retained power in 2001 the Desert People's Centre would have progressed much faster.
NEWS: Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne told the News that the government owned portion of the Larapinta residential development would be sold for market value. To my way of thinking market value is what buyers are prepared to pay. Yet the government set the reserve price, as I understand it, at $800,000, well above what bidders were prepared to pay. Now the land is lying idle while blocks are still in short supply. How would you have handled this issue?
DR LIM: The government determined that the value of native title at Larapinta was 50 per cent of the land value. That immediately set the benchmark.
Now the government is under the hammer because they set a benchmark the industry cannot meet. It's a mess of their own making. The Minister for Central Australia announced that the price of the land in the first subdivision, the one sold by Lhere Artepe, was going to be around $100,000.
When the first blocks were sold they went for $110,000 to $140,000. This government should not be in land speculation.
NEWS: Would you not have set a reserve, as the government has done?
DR LIM: The last CLP government very successfully negotiated with the Larrakia people for a huge land release near Palmerston, without any base line set by the government.
NEWS: Ms Martin keeps talking about the fastest growing economy but we have 25 per cent unemployment outside Darwin, if you include the "jobs for the dole" participants". What would you have done in the last four years to change that?
DR LIM: It is a tragedy. All Territorians should be provided with the skills to hold on to employment. Young indigenous people should be our new wave of tradespeople.
NEWS: The government is clearly making an effort in education. Are they not getting it right?
DR LIM: The education effort is uneven and not wide-spread. The government quotes the experience in Kalkaringi and Maningrida. That's two spots out of 63 communities across the Territory, for goodness' sake. There are many indigenous kids, who are now considered adults through their initiation processes, who are not advanced enough to undertake secondary education.
We need to create an adult environment where these people can be taught basic literacy and numeracy. You cannot put them back into a primary school situation because it would be a shame job. You need to create special classes. This government wants to build secondary schools in the bush and that is doomed to fail. What's needed is primary level of education in an adult or teenager setting. We need to make it attractive for these young people to come back to school.
NEWS: What would a CLP government do to deal with urban drift?
DR LIM: We can't say Aborigines can't come to Alice Springs. That would be crazy. They should be welcome. But there are certain standards that must be observed. We need to have special funding for urban living skills programs to teach the different responsibilities and behaviour that's expected. It was a program that we had under the CLP government but that was terminated by the ALP when they got into government. That was a bad mistake and we're now seeing the consequences.
NEWS: What could be done to make life more palatable in the bush?
DR LIM: Without skills it would be meaningless to set up enterprises in the bush. They only would be run by whitefellers.
NEWS: Denis Burke says Central Australia is losing the image of being the dinky-di outback to imitators interstate. What are we doing wrong?
DR LIM: South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Western Australia are all promoting themselves as the outback and they are capturing the tourism market, and we are losing it. This last year we lost more than 170,000 tourists.
That is an indictment of the Minister for Tourism who doesn't know how to promote tourism.
NEWS: Is the "share our story" campaign working?
DR LIM: The feedback I'm getting is that it is not. The Chief Minister made a song and a dance about the three charter flights from Japan in to Alice Springs. These people were whisked out of town, to King's Canyon and Ayers Rock resort, before the dust had even settled. That was a huge lost opportunity.
NEWS: Is there a case for saying there are two distinct regions, the Top End and The Centre, and Central Australia should have more autonomy in some respects? For example, Mr Burke says there would be a tourist commission office in Alice Springs under a CLP government. Does that mean it will have its own funding discretion?
DR LIM: The CLP will decentralise the public service. We'll ensure that regional directors will have decision making powers, that they don't need to refer to Darwin every time a decision is made. We'll allow the regional directors to work together and work towards the Minister of Central Australia, so we can make our own decisions based on the ethos of Central Australia which is so different from Darwin.


Alice Springs is a great place to live ­ if you've got a home: 727 people among us haven't.
Greens candidate for Araluen, Alan Tyley, says homelessness is not talked about enough in our community.
Those without a home are mainly but not exclusively Indigenous. Mr Tyley says the waiting time for a publicly owned one bedroom unit in Alice is 32 months. For a four bedroom house, it's off the dial ­ in excess of 54 months!
In the whole of the Territory there are 5423 homeless people (figures from the 2001 Census).
"And that's out of a population of just 200,000 people! That points to real structural inequality and needs to be addressed," says Mr Tyley.
He is also concerned by our incarceration rate: "It's the highest of all the states and we are not even a state!"
Victoria for example has 96 people locked up per 100,000, while the NT as a whole has 520 people in gaol (Department of Justice figures, 2003-04), and this at a time when it is claimed that crime has decreased.
Three quarters of prisoners are Indigenous, with the most common offence being assault.
"With results like these, we are definitely doing something wrong!" says Mr Tyley.
A former social worker, who worked mainly with the homeless in Victoria for 20 years before coming to the Territory, Mr Tyley says experience has taught him that problems of anti-social behaviour and crime can be dealt with by overcoming homelessness, poverty and lack of opportunity, rather than by "big stick" approaches.
"It takes time and energy but it pays off." By way of example he talks about a former client, deemed to be a hardened criminal who had spent most of his young adult life in gaol.
Intensive effort by Mr Tyley and others helped him turn his life around: today he is married with children, settled and working to support his family.
Mr Tyley also talks about his experience in a "ghetto area of Melbourne ­ West Heidelberg", the 1956 Olympic village turned over to public housing and experiencing all the social problems that such estates tend to.
He says that a huge effort by authorities to improve the quality of the housing, develop parklands and other amenities as well as work opportunities has paid off ­ it is now a far more peaceful community.
"That could happen in Alice Springs."


When the hard questions are being asked the Labor Party resorts to a bandaid solution of its very own: pasted firmly across most candidates' mouths.
The spindoctors tell us this is the new way of doing politics, so get over it: it's called presidential style electioneering.
This is how it works: the voter is confronted ad nauseam by a small number of pollies, in our case Clare Martin and Paul Henderson.
They repeat relentlessly a small number of messages such as: "We have the fastest growing economy in the nation."
If you happen to live in Alice Springs where there is no sign of growth, let alone spectacular, then that's too bad.
From time to time Ministers such as Peter Toyne are trotted out to deliver a scripted message in a carefully staged "doorstop", after which he or she are whisked away again into obscurity, and kept incommunicado.
Ordinary candidates are used as wallpaper: In TV interviews they are standing behind their glorious leaders, either smiling benignly or knowingly nodding their heads.
They don't get to say very much at all.
Alison Anderson, candidate for MacDonnell, refuses to take phone calls presumably because she's told not to.
The more lowly candidates' interaction with the public is almost entirely in the hands of a minder.
That's a person usually hired from interstate and possessing little or no local knowledge, on contract to the government, which means the taxpayer is paying their salaries.
That notwithstanding, as soon as an election is called the minders devote themselves almost entirely to disseminating party political propaganda, usually in the form of election promises.
Here's an example.
A Darwin based minder sent out a media release that said: "Labor candidate for Greatorex Fran Kilgariff welcomed the commitment to improve playground equipment and shade in Alice Springs parks.
"Our parks play an important part in our great lifestyle in Alice Springs," Ms Kilgariff said.
"I'm very pleased to see some of Greatorex's popular playgrounds get a boost."
And so it goes.
In case you have any questions there's a phone number on the handout - for yet another minder based in Darwin.
This is a pity because you might like to discuss a few things with the candidate herself, especially why as the Mayor, she and her council "wanted to sell off our parks," as her opponent Richard Lim puts it.
"Suddenly, on the eve of an election, she tell us she loves the parks and wants to put money into them."
Another question woule be: Why, for example, is Ms Kilgariff making a big hoo-ha about getting an unspecified slice of a Territory wide program worth a total of just half a million dollars, while an already well-equipped park in a northern suburb of Darwin is getting $5.2m?
Trouble is, Ms Kilgariff, even if you ring her on her new mobile number, doesn't return calls, at least if you're a journo asking difficult questions.
Darwin may now be big enough for presidential style elections - Alice isn't, especially not having them shoved down our throats by a party that has sold itself as transparent, open, responsive, democratic Š you know the spiel.
The remedy is easy: don't worry about it. Don't worry about who's winning on Saturday. We've had a decade and a half of cynical neglect under the CLP, once its centre of gravity shifted to Darwin. And now the ALP is no better.
When you get done over with a big stick it doesn't matter who's doing it to you, especially when you have a bag over your head.
The Alice doesn't need friends in Darwin. It needs leadership at home.
We need people who aren't afraid to be tough making demands for the town.
We'll get nothing without it. You've heard it all before - elections are won and lost in Darwin's northern suburbs.
Chamber of Commerce Alice president Terry Lillis this week flew to Darwin to join representatives of business quizzing the two leaders about what they will do and for whom.
It's time the council started to act on the town's behalf: No politician could survive unified censure and pressure from 11 people elected by the town.
And the tourism lobby CATIA, if it aspires to any relevance as an organ for the town's major industry, needs to get out of the government's pocket, even if it means losing a good slice of its funding.
The town's new leaders, who will now hopefully emerge, must start realising this region's enormous potential. The government sure as hell won't.


All little girls dream of becoming a ballerina when they grow up ­ and for six young women in Alice Springs, their dreams might be about to come true.
Next month Peta Steller, Clare McDonell, Cathy Young, Fayth Lees, Tamara Diehl and Erin McKinnon, all trained at The Australian Dance Academy in Alice Springs, will travel to Prague for two weeks to take part in an international master class. There they will be taught by directors of ballet companies from around the world and work with other professional dancers from all parts of the globe.
This will be a first for all of them, although they've been to Australian workshops. Directors of ballet companies will be there, looking out for the best.
"Hopefully our dancers will be chosen to join a company," says teacher Lynne Hanton, the principal of the Academy, which is based in Diarama Village, Larapinta.
Peta Steller, 19, has lived in Alice Springs since she was seven and has been dancing for 11 years: "Going to the master class is the most exciting thing I've ever done.
"The experience I'll get from the teachers will lift my standard.
"I'd love to be asked to join a company, preferably in Australia."
Peta has been dancing full-time for three years, and finished school last year. At the moment, her focus is on classical ballet but she also does jazz and contemporary dance, and has done character work and tap in the past: "I practice dance for most of the day and then come back at night for a couple of hours.
"Living here is a disadvantage ­ we don't get to watch as many professional dancers as those who live in the city. But when dancers do come, like Sydney Dance who sometimes take classes for us, it's much more personal ­ there are only five of us in a class.
"We get to know them better than if we lived in a city."
Lynne says living in the outback isn't necessarily an obstacle to making it as a ballerina: "Dance has always thrived in Alice Springs. There are a lot of talented dancers and musicians here.
"Because we don't have companies coming here, that's why I started Duprada. It's a great training ground. If you challenge young people, they rise to the challenge.
"These girls lift themselves every day."
A former professional dancer, Lynne celebrates the 21st birthday of the academy this year.
She's been teaching for 34 years, and has taken classes overseas as well as across Australia.
She has 250 dancers on her books, from three-year-olds up to adults, offering classes in ballet, jazz, tap, play dance for the littlest ones, contemporary and general dance.
The Duprada Dance Company was set up at the same time as the school, and is made up of 35 dancers, all at varying stages of their training (some still at school), with six full-time dancers.
"We tour every second year," explains Lynne.
"We cover the South Australia and Northern Territory area, and hope to arrange some overseas performances for 2006."
What about male ballet dancers ­ are there many in Alice Springs? "We teach seven at the school, but there aren't any in the company.
"When we need male dancers, we import them," Lynne says.
Next weekend Duprada will perform with a live orchestra for the first time. Then local musicians make up the ensemble, which will be conducted by Tanika Richards.
They will accompany the 28 dancers in the cast as they perform three ballets as part of Esprit de Trois at Araluen next Friday and Saturday evening.

We pay for bad food choices. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

In the past few days we have enjoyed some really good avocados.
I normally don't buy them as I think they are too expensive and too much of a gamble. But for once both the price and the quality have surprised me. All the family love them.
When my oldest son was a baby, avocadoes were his favourite 'solid' food. I was about 10 years old when I first tasted an avocado pear. It was pale and hard and filled with shrimps and mayonnaise and didn't do much for me.
It took my mum nearly 20 years to convince my dad that fresh frozen green peas were both better and tastier than the tinned ones he grew up with after the war.
Although my mum used to complain when my brother and I devoured three kilograms of apples in an afternoon she was determined to make us eat healthy food. I remind myself of this when my children eat six or seven mandarins each in one sitting! We have watched a couple of TV programs about chef Jamie Oliver's attempt at improving the school lunches in the UK. Our children could not contain their giggles when a group of school children was unable to identify rhubarb, leek and asparagus.
At their age I wouldn't have known what asparagus looked like either, but they have been fortunate enough to both pick and eat it fresh.
Australian kids seem to eat better than kids in the UK, although my mum thinks our school lunches are pathetic compared to the Swedish ones, paid for by taxes and planned by nutritionists.
Both the Swedish and British systems provide school lunches, ensuring that all children get at least one proper meal each day. The approach in the UK, until Jamie came along, was to make sure the kids ate by serving them the rubbish they preferred. In Sweden it must be a healthy meal. In Australia it is not a government responsibility.
It is difficult to know how well school children eat in this town. There seems to be a trend towards healthier canteen menus, but as long as the students are seen and treated as customers rather than dependants in our care our influence is limited.
When the canteen at my daughter's school changed its menu to a healthier one, many students were quite annoyed. How is one supposed to survive without chips?
Australia is recognised as having a major obesity problem. Health-costs are sky rocketing and are likely to continue to do so with our ageing population.
We pride ourselves as a sporting nation yet are not investing in our children's future health by ensuring that they eat nutritious food.
We are all products of our environment.
While it is easy to assume that others will have similar knowledge and experience to us, our assumptions are often misplaced.
We pay for our bad food choices both as individuals and as a society through tax dollars and poor health.
A political party in Sweden that suggested abolishing school lunches to reduce taxes would be committing political suicide.
Yet food and school lunches are not even on the political horizon in Australia.
In the Territory the political parties promise more nurses and private hospital wards and on the national level bulk billing for visits to the GP, but who is promising better health through better food and education about food? The more fortunate have always been able to enjoy excellent food, housing and health care. Many studies have shown strong links between bad food and bad behaviour and good, healthy food and good behaviour.
I would much rather spend my tax dollar on promoting long term good health than band aids.
Looking around Alice I wonder how improved nutritional standards might improve many of the social problems we face in our schools and greater community.

What happened to skilled trades? COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

As I come from a family of tradespeople, I take an interest in the attitudes of society to the skilled trades.
This interest sometimes lapses into that gushy haze that some of us experience when ruminating on the good old days, but mostly I stick to a plain respect for people with straight forward practical know-how that they employ with speed and accuracy.
How did it happen that trade skills are somehow not valued any more? You know that things are bad when the federal government has to set up a website called 'Get a trade'.
Long ago, my father was a carpenter (actually, a wood patternmaker), my uncle a butcher, granddad a mechanic, another uncle was a painter and decorator and so the list goes on.
My other granddad helped dig a railway tunnel, so the story goes, found a fossil and then wangled himself a job in Ipswich Museum when the railway was completed.
This must be true because I can remember being taken to see him in a pushchair while he strutted around in his uniform and showed my mum where he kept his tobacco ­ up the bum of the stuffed rhinoceros.
Few of my relations enjoyed their working lives very much. This is sad but true. So it was ironic that after 40 years of hating his work, the first thing my father did when he retired was buy a shed and install woodworking machines. He couldn't do without the smell of timber and the indescribable satisfaction of tightening a wood screw as it squeezes two timber sections together.
When I retire, I am going to buy a keyboard and a chainsaw so that I can cut the former into tiny pieces using the latter. It will be symbolic.
The days of the rhino rectum tobacco caddy and being a child sitting on my dad's knee and picking wood shavings out of his hair were simpler times when we all knew where we stood.
But as jobs become more pretentious and complicated and people change their work and even their careers on a regular basis, many of our own children won't be able to explain what their parents did for a living.
Mine will have to rely on 'Er, something with computers', which sounds a lot more impressive than what I actually do, so I won't correct them.
Here lies part of the problem. A plain old trade is not a sexy job title any more. Everyone wants to be a creative or design something or other or have a job that your friends don't understand but it sounds good.
Most of all, your work shouldn't be remotely dirty or dangerous and should allow for extended lunches in pavement cafes. While finding a skilled person to fix an urgent problem becomes tougher, the traditional trades fall lower in the pecking order of professions that parents want their children to pursue.
I can attempt to rehabilitate the traditional trades to anyone who will listen, but tradespeople have other ideas.
Sensing their ratings slipping, they prefer to be known as independent contractors.
This is something that teachers, estate agents and politicians cannot do. Teachers will never be independent teaching contractors in the same way that people who whinge about teachers will never be able to teach.
And no matter how inanely they grin from election posters, pollies will always be mistrusted.
Meanwhile, in a remote town where everyone knows your business, there's little chance of respite for the much-maligned tradesman. If you have an occupation that people don't respect and if you enjoy your working life as little as my relations did, then the only option is to wangle a job in a museum.
Then it will be absolutely impossible to find a skilled person when you need them.

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