October 26, 2005.


If you believe all the nation's nuclear waste will be dumped in our back yard you haven't been paying attention, although you can plead in mitigation the carefully stage-managed mass hysteria on the subject - or poor presentation by the Federal Government of its plans.
All states will continue to have their own radioactive waste storage or disposal facilities, or they soon will acquire such facilities.
Furthermore, there is no decision yet on how the Federal Government will be dealing with its intermediate level waste in the long term.
It's likely this material will be disposed of deep underground in Australia, but a decision on where is still a long way off.
The only waste proposed for the Northern Territory is Commonwealth waste.
And while the facility will be large by Australian standards, it's tiny by international ones: the dump proposed for the Territory will have a capacity of 10,000 cubic metres of low level waste.
A dump in France, in the Champagne District where the famous bubbly is made, is 100 times bigger.
The Commonwealth's annual production of waste is about 30 cubic metres of low level and two to three cubic metres of intermediate level waste.
The facilities of the individual Australian states will be smaller than that of the Commonwealth, but they will store waste of the same levels of radio activity.
Low and intermediate waste will be stored in the "back yard" of all states, all currently governed by Labor, produced by their hospitals, mines and manufacturing industries.
For example, New South Wales has a storage facility in Sydney.
Queensland has two sites - one in a Labor and one in a National electorate.
WA has had a storage as well as a disposal facility for some 10 years.
And South Australia, who is into uranium mining big time, and whose refusal to let the Commonwealth set up on its chosen site near Woomera, has consultants on the job in preparation for setting up its own N-dump.
The difference with the one in the Territory, if it becomes reality, is that it will be paid for by the Commonwealth, forking out $30m to $40m.
It will the house the Commonwealth's waste, currently stored in some 30 locations, including old sheds, on Commonwealth owned land around the nation.
The Territory's waste will be stored there as well, gratis it seems.
All this emerged during a briefing in Alice Springs last week for executive members of the Chamber of Commerce, and invited guests, by the two man nuke dump road show from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Department for Education, Science and Training (DEST).
The presentation by Patrick Davoren, director of the Radioactive Waste Management section of DEST, and senior health physicist at ANSTO, Frank Harris, did not evoke the hostility displayed by the audience at a public meeting in Alice last month: the answers to questions were accepted dispassionately, and there was some interest in any commercial opportunities for the Territory and its businesses.
Mr Davoren says the nation-wide search for a Commonwealth site cost $13m and started in 1992 under Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
What's needed for low level waste, preferably stored near the surface, is a trench with five metres high cover, in an arid location, not too far from infrastructure, and preferably where there is "no beneficial use" of the ground water.
If the site is wet - as would be the one near Katherine - both low and intermediate level waste would be stored in buildings above ground, the intermediate material until a long-term solution is found.
All that's needed is 25 hectares, or 200 when counting the area to contain monitoring bore wells.
The idea is to keep the storage drums secure for up to 300 years.
Two of the regions, Bloods Range and Tanami, identified in the 14 year long study are in the Northern Territory (contrary to many reports and claims).
The preferred region was Woomera in South Australia. Three out 52 sites there were regarded as ideal.
However SA, which has one of the world's biggest uranium mines nearby at Olympic Dam, blocked the selection of the site in court by threatening declaration of the area as public park, and, says Mr Davoren, by successfully arguing that Canberra inappropriately used the expedited acquisition processes of the Commonwealth Land Acquisition Act.
It seems that legal reasons, rather than the activities of traditional ladies from Coober Pedy, stopped the use of the area.
Most of the waste is gloves and clothing and other lightly contaminated items, some 1600 cubic metres of it contained in drums. Packed in plastic bags it can be handled safely even outside the drums.
The drums look like "forty-fours".
The biggest stores are at Woomera and the site of Australia's only nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney.
Intermediate materials were stored at the old St Mary's Munitions Factory in Sydney before transfer to Woomera in 1995.
These are old radium "sources", including some Word War II dials of compasses and other instruments.
Mr Davoren says Australia does not have facilities for treating Lucas Heights fuel rods for long term storage.
They are sent overseas for reprocessing: "The unused uranium is taken out, and the residues, which are quite radioactive, are put into a glassy, leach resistant matrix, the kind the French put their high level waste in for disposal in their own country."
France produces about two thirds of its electricity from nuclear power.
"They have quite a degree of confidence in that material," says Mr Davoren.
The matrix is put into a stainless steel "flask" and that goes into a container for transport.
It weighs 112 tonnes. There are five flasks to be stored, under agreement to be returned from overseas from 2011.
This material needs to be contained some 10,000 years.
Would it be exposed to theft?
"There are not too many terrorists with 112 tonne fork lifts," according to Mr Davoren.
He says these packages "will just sit there until the government makes a decision on deep underground disposal of intermediate level waste.
"That would be subject to a specific site selection study, unrelated to the current exercise [for low level waste].
"It would be Š a bit like the previous low level waste site selection process, but with much more exacting criteria, probably in the most arid part of Australia.
"But that's a long way off.
"Some countries are building disposal facilities for this kind of waste.
"It's a very expensive exercise."
Because Australia doesn't have a nuclear power industry "we don't produce the volume or level of waste, so storage [instead of disposal] is judged to be the most sensible option at this stage."
The currently planned dump will take just eight or nine months to build.
The rest of the time between now and 2011 will be needed for "regulatory stages".
These start with a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS), which must satisfy Federal authorities in the environmental portfolio.
"They have to be convinced that the facility has no impact on people or the environment," says Mr Davoren.
Then comes a regulator in the health portfolio, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).
"We have to go through a multi-stage licensing process with them.
"Once again, like the EIS, it involves full public comment and external peer review."
This has to be done three times, for the siting, construction and operating phases.
Mr Davoren says in addition to 400,000 medical treatments and diagnoses a year ("every Australian, on average, will at some time use reactor produced isotopes from Lucas Heights") ANSTO's new OPAL reactor will provide better facilities for researchers, and irradiation for industrial clients, such as "doping" of silicon.
Says Mr Davoren: "ANSTO is one of the biggest sources in the world of treated silicon for semiconductors."
Computers would not work without it.
Gauging the level of beer in bottles or the thickness of condoms, and checking the welds on pipelines, all use nuclear technology.
There are 16,000 users in NSW alone.
Mr Harris says compared to the fastidious regulation of radioactive materials, the risks from pesticides and hydrocarbons, and their manner of disposal, are "generally far less known".
Mr Harris says Australia has no high level nuclear waste: "We don't produce it and under Australian customs regulations we're not allowed to import it."
The Territory facility, once construction is finished, is likely to have six guards, two on duty at any one time.
"The main visitors would be regulators and the main staff would be guards," says Mr Davoren.
He says chances of Federal Government and the states collaborating on nuclear waste are slim: "The Commonwealth basically decided after the South Australian reversal, we'll look after ours and the states can look after themselves.
"The only exception that's been made there is for the Northern Territory.
"The government has said because the facility will be in the Territory we'll look after the waste currently at Royal Darwin hospital and the [radioactive] sources at Mount Todd and any other stuff they have lying around.
"At the moment Western Australia already has an operating [disposal] facility, they've been using it for almost 10 years, at Mt Walton near Kalgoorlie.
"That's the only state that has bitten the bullet.
"All the other states are now scrambling to set up their own sites.
"The government thinks we need a national approach, it's tried to develop one.
"The deal certainly is not that states other than the Territory will go to [the NT] facility.
"I think it's fair to say the Commonwealth wasn't very happy after spending $13m on an unsuccessful siting process.
"I don't think it will be jumping over itself to help the states.
"The states are making their own arrangements now.
"South Australia is building a facility. They've got a consultant on the job.
"Queensland has a very good store. Once again there's politics there.
"They've actually got two stores, one in a Labor electorate and one in a National electorate.
"Some of the state facilities are not ideally sited or constructed.
"One of the big fears, when there is not a rigorous control system, is that radioactive material can get lost.
"Losing control of a source, and people coming in contact with it, could be quite dangerous," says Mr Davoren.
A "quite active" radium source from the decommissioned Victoria Hospital in Melbourne, was put into a safe which ended up in a scrap yard.
"Fortunately nobody cut into it, but that could have been quite serious."
Mr Harris says the states "have a lot of intermediate waste, things like old industrial gauges.
"A lot of it comes from industry sources, or old radium treatment that was used in most hospitals, in the Œsixties.
"All that radium would be classified as intermediate.
"That's what most of the states have ... 10,000 years [half life] stuff."
Says Mr Davoren: "The mining industry has a lot of these hot sources, although they decay a bit quicker than that, but they are quite active and they have to be properly managed."
Yet the careful protocols for radio active waste, its ultimate decay, and the ease with which it can be measured (by simply pointing a Geiger counter at it), make it less of a hazard than, for example, "mercury products and lead".
"They don't go away at all, ever."
There is some interest in the NT from people seeking to benefit from a dump being set up, and maybe even running it.
"At the moment no-one's put their hand up although we've spoken to people who expressed interest in the facility.
"The terms of usage and what the Territory gets out of it are still a matter for debate.
"Look at some of the hazards associated with mining to put this facility into perspective.
"When we saw the Central Land Council they seemed more preoccupied with the spill of cyanide [on the Tanami Road] than with some of the things we were talking about."
Mr Davoren says concern expressed by NT mining minister Kon Vatskalis that Territory meat will be spurned by the markets if we have a dump has no foundation: "In the middle of the Champagne District [in France] you have a near-surface facility ... with a capacity of one million cubic metres.
"If we bury low level waste we'll have a capacity of 10,000 cubic metres.
"The Champagne facility is 100 times the size of ours and everyone's still drinking champagne, from what we hear."
And a recently decommissioned dump in Normandy is near the village of Camembert.
"There is no taint there."
And about 900 nuclear weapons were exploded "just down the road" from Las Vegas.


There isn't much to be celebrated on the 20th anniversary of handing over ownership of Ayers Rock -renamed Uluru - to local Aborigines.
As the proprietors of the nation's greatest landmark, they have sadly gained national notoriety for their domestic violence, drunkenness, petrol sniffing and rampant unemployment - right next to a resort with work for 1500 people.
Visitors from the world over are faced with a plethora of "cultural" restrictions that most find difficult to understand. What could be an element of wonder about the world's oldest living culture has been degraded into a petty enforcement of irritating rules. And the region is missing out on millions of dollars in free advertising because of draconian regulation of photography.
But the anniversary is still significant: Two decades after Bob Hawke, there's another Labor government, this one headed by Clare Martin, set to hand over national parks in the Territory to Aborigines.
As Mr Hawke did in 1985 Ms Martin is proceeding in almost complete secrecy and without consultation that is anywhere near adequate. That's the view of the Alice Town Council and other prominent organisations.
Both politicians were clearly motivate by gaining cudos with the left wing. Having learned nothing from the Ayers Rock debacle, Ms Martin is, perversely, even using it to justify her decision to hand over many of the remaining parks.
As the Rock handover was opposed by a majority of locals, there is now growing opposition to the Martin strategy, although a moribund CLP failed to turn it into an election issue earlier this year: The magnificent West MacDonnells and a string of other parks are seen as the property of all, black and white.
The Martin government has been refusing to answer vital questions first asked by the Alice News in mid-August, except to say some of the parks have been declared illegally, are therefore exposed to land rights and native title claims, and the government doesn't want to fight them in the courts.
There was strong council support for a motion by Alderman Melanie van Haaren to demand a cessation of the handover process. The council is also asking Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone to delay changes to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act which would conclude what Ms Martin has set in train.
Ald van Haaren asked Mayor Fran Kilgariff, a Labor candidate in the June election and on the public record as supporting the parks handover, a number of questions.
Which parks were illegally declared?
Which parks are exposed to land rights claims?
Who are the claimants and what are they claiming?
Which parks are exposed to native title claims? Which native title rights have survived earlier land uses, such as pastoral leases or grazing licences, which extinguished major rights such as control of access and use? Which native title rights - such as access - are inherently granted by virtue of the parks being public land, to which everyone has access? Which surviving native title rights can or cannot be a satisfied by Indigenous Land Use Agreements?
Answers to these questions would go a long way to demonstrate the reasonableness or otherwise of the Territory government claims that legal challenges can be mounted, that they are inevitable, drawn-out, socially divisive and expensive. Two weeks later Ald van Haaren still has no reply from Ms Kilgariff.
Meanwhile CLP Senator Nigel Scullion and Labor MHR for Lingiari Warren Snowdon disagree about the role of Senator Vanstone in the issue.
Says Senator Scullion: "The process has been rushed. What happens at the end of 99 years [when the lease-back of the parks to the Territory runs out]? The Alice Springs Town Council needs to have the opportunity of asking these questions."
Senator Scullion says this is not an issue of the Commonwealth thwarting Territory legislation, as the Aboriginal Land Rights Act "is in fact Commonwealth legislation".
"It is quite appropriate that organisations such as the Alice Springs Town Council make approaches to Amanda Vanstone to point out what they consider the irregularities and the lack of benefit to Territorians.
"The tourism industry is very concerned. It's most appropriate for Amanda Vanstone to examine information such as this."
But Mr Snowdon says the town council "should have a good hard look at themselves: "This is a process where the NT Government has properly exercised its powers.
"It's an issue the council need to take up with the NT Government. The last thing I would be supporting is Federal interference."
Mr Snowdon says Senator Scullion's argument is "absurd" and the town council has a responsibility to deal with the NT Government, not the Federal Government.
Would Mr Snowdon support the town council if it took the view that Ms Martin's policies were detrimental to the town?
"The government has an election every four years," says Mr Snowdon. "In large parts the NT Government has responsibility for land management. There is one piece of legislation, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which requires amendments by the Commonwealth, and if they require amendments after agreement with the traditional owners then I see no difficulty with that at all.
"I'd say it's a fair request. Absolutely."


As Nyangatjatjara College at Yulara prepared to celebrate the opening of its new $2.5m accommodation wing, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of the Rock handover, accusations were flying about the way in which the college is run.
Concerns of staff who have recently resigned from the college include: a stream of staff resignations leading to chronic shortages; attendance records being falsified to gain higher government funding; windows left broken for weeks on end; glass shards lying on the ground; weapons being fashioned from them; money - as much as $50 - being handed out to students as an incentive to attend school.
However, it has also come to light that two Aboriginal staff members - among those who have resigned - had been promoted to positions well beyond their qualifications and training in a move to accelerate "Aboriginalisation", and that this had severely stretched the management capabilities of the college.
Former staff also told the News there have been no regular staff meetings, no clearly defined policies, practices and delegations, poor communication and constant rudeness.
One source claimed that last Thursday night parts of the school were trashed by "rampaging" young men because there was no adequate supervision. The source claimed the incident was reported to the Department of Education.
These allegations were vehemently denied or heavily qualified by Clive Scollay, CEO of Nyangatjatjara Corporation, of which the college is a subsidiary.
By way of general comment Mr Scollay firstly said: "At a time when seemingly endless negative focus appears to be on Mutitjulu Community, Nyangatjatjara College is about to celebrate eight years of successful education serving this community.
"It has been a long process of considerable struggle but it is one of the few positive stories to emerge from that troubled place.
"At a time when governments are desperately trying to find solutions to many problems including petrol sniffing, the elders have created a college which has provided ongoing education which will assist its graduates one day to run their own communities."
The college is the only Aboriginal community owned and controlled secondary school in the Northern Territory and the only secondary school in a town not on the Stuart Highway. The communities involved are Mutitjulu (at the foot of Uluru / Ayers Rock), Imanpa to the east, and Docker River to the west. Mr Scollay acknowledged a very volatile period at the college since the dismissal of a former principal in June 2004 before she had completed her probation.
The dismissal has resulTed in a hearing before the anti-discrimination commissioner, whose findings have yet to be released.
The college has also been under review by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Technology (DEST), whose draft report was expected to be received by the college on Monday.
The review was prompted by circumstances surrounding the dismissal of the previous principal. It was announced last year and the college was given limited funding pending its outcome, according to Mr Scollay. "The whole process has been incredibly destabilising," he said, "and has only just concluded, which means it has covered many of the issues referred to in the statements [made by the News' sources].
"It should be pointed out that the review was rigorous in its examination of all aspects of the governance of the college, its finances and educational standards and we understand the reviewers are satisfied with the way things are currently being run."
Former staff who contacted the Alice Springs News last week (and asked to remain anonymous) counted between 19 and 23 staff in total who have resigned or left this year - only two were asked to leave, according to these sources.
"In fact," said Mr Scollay, "13 staff have left this year, four of them for professional malpractices. Two left because of inadequate housing, while several others were on short term contracts which the college was unable to renew." The departures have led to a situation where "duty of care" is compromised, said one source, who resigned after several years at the college because they felt they could no longer take responsibility for what might happen.
On the alleged incident last Thursday, Mr Scollay said there were some windows broken "at an abandoned work camp owned by Probuild" near the college. No college property was damaged.
On broken windows remaining unrepaired, he said it is difficult to get sub-contractors to repair damage immediately, but it does get done. He said litter and broken glass is picked up "as soon as possible".
He said to his knowledge duty of care has not been compromised.
"The new dormitories will require different staffing arrangements.
"They have house-parent facilities inside the dormitories which we have never had before.
"We have been managing with casual staff and temps until permanent staff are in place.
"We have been adequately covered for duty of care."
More than one source questioned the ability of the Aboriginal board to govern the school, suggesting that the board is effectively run by Mr Scollay.
Mr Scollay said the cross-cultural situation of the school and its management is "unique and extremely complex".
Nonetheless, the board can and has made decisions differing from his own judgment on matters.
The News understands that one such decision has resulted in a wrongful dismissal case currently before the courts. But wrongful dismissal cases, of course, are far from unique to this situation.
Mr Scollay said the capacity of the board to govern the school has been looked at by the DEST review. He said he has been told that the review has found no problems with governance, finances and educational standards at the college.
"It is often difficult for new and inexperienced staff to understand that decisions are in fact made by Anangu themselves," said Mr Scollay.
"It is all part of an ongoing process of learning to manage their own affairs. For example, the corporation struggled hard to set up the college and feels strongly that it should remain with the corporation, notwithstanding the views of some disaffected staff to the contrary." He has also been told the review has found no reason for separation of the corporation and the school.
"The corporation manages the college at arms' length.
"We contribute to the college by finding funding for it, both from government and benefactors.
"We charge a very small fee for administration."
The Anangu principal of the school, who worked at the school since 2001, is among those who have recently resigned. So is a young Anangu woman who was working in administration at the college. The News understands she resigned last week.
Both were graduates of the Wiltja program at Woodville High in Adelaide. This a program specifically catering for Anangu.
The News understands that both were given significant promotions by the former principal. The young man went from working as an assistant teacher and a house-parent to being Anangu principal on a salary commensurate, the News understands, with a deputy principal position.
He told the News his duties were to liaise between students and non-Indigenous staff and with communities and family members and to help deal with behaviour management.
The News understands that the young woman went from working as an office assistant to a management position, with commensurate salary.
Information obtained by the News suggests that this was part of an accelerated Aboriginalisation of the college instituted by the former principal.
Our source commented that this process had stretched the management and financial capacities of the school to the limit, as neither Anangu staff member had qualifications or training adequate to the demands of their position.
More than one source was critical of management for failure to support these Anangu staff.
Mr Scollay said Anangu staff have felt the pressure of a "difficult work environment" as much as anyone else and "all Anangu staff have received formal VET training in order to more successfully run the college". "It is the aspiration of the college to Aboriginalise, with local people given appropriate training, as quickly as possible," said Mr Scollay.
"There will be new appointments in positions where staff have left and they will be given appropriate remuneration." One source said that attendance figures have been falsified. The source said they had witnessed a roll being altered to show increased attendance. They had heard that it had happened before. They were going to report this to authorities.
Mr Scollay strongly denied this.
"That's not true. The highest standards are maintained. And the review process specifically looked at this aspect. The figures are also regularly audited." Other concerns were mainly to do with the management style of the current principal, who took up the post at the start of this year. "Before there used to be set routines," said one source. "Since [the current principal] these have fallen through. Things are really unorganized."
Another talked about poor communication, failure to encourage or appreciate the staff, threats that contracts would not be renewed, arbitrary changes of mind, ad hoc decisions. One example was the distribution of rewards or incentives to students. This was done without system, said more than one source. It included the distribution of money, including one $50 bill, and a television, Walkmans and footballs.
Mr Scollay could not comment on the distribution of incentives or prizes. He had no knowledge of it, but he strongly defended the principal:
"He has been working under enormous pressure, with a very tight budget, no deputy principal and with a major review going on." On the manufacture of weapons at the school, sources were ambivalent. They mentioned it as an issue but said they had not seen them being used to cause harm, although "lots of windows are broken with rocks".
One source said: "When fights were starting, I'd be tearing implements from students' hands. But I never saw anyone injured. "A bike chain was used once - but I only saw a report about it."
Mr Scollay said he had no concerns in this regard: "Children, not only Aboriginal children, have been fashioning weapons with whatever comes to hand, from the beginning of time.
"These Aboriginal children come from communities were it is totally accepted that they will hunt birds in particular. "Whilst I would never condone this sort of activity, it is really an issue that comes and goes."

How to keep Latham from your kids. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Even from the contented detachment of Central Australia, the ravings of Mark Latham last month left me feeling forlorn.
I put most of the interview out of my thoughts, except for one point he made that stuck in my mind through October.
It was when he said that every day spent away from your children is a day that you never get back. In a literal sense, that's true of course, but it wasn't a message that I wanted to hear. My pile of guilt-inducing advice that all overwrought parents receive is high enough.
I could stay at home but my influence on my children is fast waning compared with the pleasures of one-to-one messaging on MSN and the vagaries of music videos and schoolyard gossip.
Faced with this losing battle, I try to hang on to a few bastions of parental fortitude. These include applying a firm steer to the way they spend their money (otherwise known as fiscal policy) and providing assertive advice on the way they use their time (my equivalent of industrial relations legislation).
The twin levers of time and money can replace thousands of words wasted in trying to make our teenagers resemble me. It's little wonder that they resist.
In this struggle, I worry about the effect of Hollywood movies on formative minds. One useful tool is a website called ŒKids-in-mind', which offers movie ratings based on the amount of sex, nudity, violence, profanity and gore that they feature.
The site has one problem, however. It takes parental warnings to the extreme, listing every tiny offence against decency in graphic detail so that even the entries for mainstream family films are long. As a test, I clicked on "Finding Nemo". Under "Violence and gore" the reviewer warned that "The aquarium is filthy and the fish talk about their own waste in which they are swimming. A fish burps. One fish is nicknamed Œshark bait'."
A fish burps. What kind of schools do the reviewers imagine that our cherished youth attend? Places where children don't belch, fart and giggle? Straight away, the phrase "a fish burps" was adopted as our household's measure of the suitability of movies for young people.
But sometimes I forget to check the website and then we find ourselves sitting in the Alice Springs Four, watching a film that would be enjoyable if the generations attended separately but is embarrassing when we are together. We saw "The Wedding Crashers", for example. A fish didn't just burp in that one. It developed intestinal cramps, a severe case of trapped wind and was rushed to hospital.
In common with most governments, my fiscal and industrial relations policies fail.
This leaves me with the careworn parental standbys of common sense and logic, neither of which pass the laugh test. This is how I have turned into someone who tells teenagers to switch off lights and to close the fridge door, while five minutes later I am ranting at them about replacing the empty toilet roll and sweeping the yard in the desert heat.
These are not moments that our children will remember as milestones in their development. Instead, shouldn't I be guiding them in a gently inspiring manner from the vantage point of a rocking chair on the verandah?
Shouldn't I say things like "Let's have a talk about the difference between homework and study" or "Have you ever made chapattis? Let me show you how". While we're at it, "Let's replace the underbody spoiler on the imported car". Or, better still, "Let's discuss your future".
None of this happens. Anyway, I get hay fever if I sit on the verandah. So I'll just have to imagine that somehow they'll get there in the end, wherever that is supposed to be.

Save Water, shower with a friend. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

I was watching "Catalyst" on the ABC the other night about NASA's plans to fly people to the moon again in next 15 to 20 years.
One of the things mentioned was the importance of finding water, as it contains the elements for making rocket fuel as well as oxygen to breathe and of course it is good to drink.
In future space exploration it will be essential for astronauts to be able to use what they can find out there, as it will be difficult to take everything that they need for years in space from Earth. Like the explorers of the past they will have to be able to "live off the land".
The recent and very welcome downpour over Central Australia has been a blessing for many as well as a great source of enjoyment for adults and children alike. Water and mud are novelties not to be missed even though the mess around the house has been extensive!
With a bit of rain also comes the politics of water, and on top of it we've had Water Week. We are constantly reminded that we in Alice use more water per household than the rest of Australia and that the water will run out if we don't change our ways.
The threat of a distant hell has never motivated me to go to church, while a general awareness of the value of our water resource discourages me from wasting water, the threat of no water 100 years from now is a bit difficult to imagine. If, on the other hand, I had to pay twice as much for water as I do now, I would probably become water-wise very quickly! Feeling guilty about watering the exotic plants in my garden or having a bath is not going to help much.
I was reading an essay in TIME magazine about people in Montana, USA starting to think twice about going shopping at discount outlets far away and driving big petrol-guzzling cars as the higher petrol prices are beginning to hurt. Changing to hybrid cars and shopping locally is suddenly becoming more attractive.
If the car-loving Americans can change their ways so can we. There is actually no shortage of water on this planet, unlike petrol it won't run out, but in its clean, safe to drink, unpolluted form it may well become more and more expensive.
There are lots of ways to save water, but as long as we can get away with what we are doing most of us are slow to change.
Every time I watch "The New Inventors" on ABC it strikes me what a positive program it is.
It proves that there are remarkable solutions to a lot of our everyday problems and that there are lots of inventors coming up with them.
In the media we mostly hear about how bad things are. Politics is often about blaming others for whatever present mess we might be focusing on.
I would like to think that we will find solutions for our nuclear waste problems that involve something more sophisticated than sweeping it under the carpet by burying it deep into the ground.
While we argue about whose mess and whose responsibility it is, we are caught up in a fight which is doing nothing to solve the real problems.
I suppose that will be for some other government in a distant future to deal with, or maybe space exploration and common old grass-roots inventors will save the world in the end.
Nuclear waste dump sites pose no real threat to our federal government as long as they can put them far away from the majority of the voters.
The prospect of no water in Alice a century from now is not likely to be of great concern for most residents.
If we or our politicians are faced with an immediate hardship or challenge we are more likely to take tackle the problem than if we are faced with a distant threat. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.


The Hottest Ticket in Town - a fashion, beauty and hair extravaganza - is being held by Headlines hairdressers at Araluen on November 5 to raise money for two cancer charities.
Joanne Walter, one of the salon owners, organised the event after her daughter, Emma, 17, received help last year from the Ronald McDonald House and the Childhood Cancer Association in Adelaide. Emma and her family lived in Adelaide for seven months while she was being treated for Hodgkin's disease in accommodation provided by the Childhood Cancer Association. And they stay in the Ronald McDonald House every three months when she goes back to Adelaide for checkups.
"They did a lot for me last year," says Emma who has been back at work in salon full-time for 12 months now.
"I'm doing this for other kids in Alice Springs going through chemotherapy and treatment in Adelaide."
Says her mother, Joanne: "It wasn't until we were personally touched with cancer that we realised how isolated you feel and how little accommodation there is available to families from here who have to go to Adelaide for treatment.
"Finding somewhere to live when you're going through something like cancer and not working is an extra worry you don't need."
Joanne says that she hopes the fashion event will raise $30,000 for the Ronald McDonald organization, which is planning to build long term accommodation in Adelaide for families with ill children.
"Most children who have cancer in Alice Springs are sent to Adelaide for treatment, but we also met children staying there for all sorts of reasons," explains Joanne.
"Having long-stay units will help the families have some sort of normal family life down there.
"We got a lot of support while we were away and we want to give something back." One hundred local teenagers will dance and model in the show including ballerinas from the Central Australian Dance Academy, senior dancers from St Philip's and other local girls involved in hip hop, cabaret and contemporary dance routines.
The dancing will be fused with a spectacular slide show and catwalk models showing contemporary beauty and fashion looks.
"The show will be all very different looks and inspire all ages," says Joanne.
"You will see things from streetwear, through to futuristic and fantasy looks."
Headlines' award-winning hairdressers will be dressing hair, helped by makeup artists coming from Sydney and Melbourne.
Some costumes for the show have been donated by commercial shops but many have been designed and made by locals.
"So many teenagers have donated so much of their time," says Joanne.
"And local businesses have been really supportive, especially Framptons, helping with the paperwork and behind the scenes."
The Hottest Ticket in Town costs $75 and can be bought from the box office at Araluen. Headlines is also selling raffle tickets before the show.


Pioneer Park's leading jockey Craig Moon proved his number one status once again this weekend when he booted home four winners and a second place from his five rides.
After just three months of the new season, Moon is sitting on 19 premiership wins and looks like the 2005/2006 title is his for the taking.
On what was a good day's racing at the Young Guns II event, trainer Nigel Moody (that's me) scored an impressive double victory and Donna Wehr got a career-opening win.
In the first race, a Class Four handicap over 1400m, Gary "Soft Hands" Lefoe gave an outstanding display of front running riding.
Lefoe on Red Horizon took the mare to the front early and slowed the pace to a walk as they went down the back straight.
With a lap full of horse under him, Soft Hands sprinted at the 500m mark and got the rest of the field off the bit and chasing.
From there the five year old mare was never going to be beaten and she won by one and a half lengths from Skippin and Jumpin, who again this week ran on nicely, and third was Milestones who tried hard.
Craig Moon's quartet began in race two, the Class One handicap over 1200m, when he scored an all the way victory on the Donna Wehr-trained Regal Rose.
The strongly built mare showed good speed to lead, and always appeared to be travelling well. When Moon asked her to go upon straightening she did, and romped away to a career first win for Wehr.
Negev once again had to settle in the bridesmaid's role, but his turn for victory won't be far away as he chased hard and looked strong, and the promising maiden Danskel made good ground again to get third.
RIVALS Fission Belle gave no one else a chance in the third race, a 1000m Maiden. Jumping fast and going straight to the front, she simply ran her rivals ragged in scoring a big six length victory to give leading trainer Leeanne Gillett one winner from her only runner on the day.
Three-year-old Potaski turned in an encouraging run to out slug Enunciate for second place.
In race four newcomer Tan Tat stamped himself as a horse with a future when he blew away the Class Three sprinters over the 1000m journey.
Settling fourth in the run and about six lengths off the fast speed set by Benarchi and Moonlight Express, the seven year old tracked up onto their heels approaching the turn and simply sprinted away upon straightening to record a five and a half length win in a fast time.
Moonlight Express held on well for second and Our Precious Girl worked home for third.
In the final race of the meeting over 1100m, the former boom two-year-old Getting Lucky returned to the winners' list after some 20 months.
A combination of injury and illness had plagued the mare since her city win at Caulfield on Boxing Day 2003.
Once again Craig Moon sent the speedy mare straight to the front and from there the race became a procession as Getting Lucky set a cracking pace.
Dr Congo travelled in second spot for most of the run, and never gave up the chase, even though beaten by four and a quarter lengths.
Cooke Street boxed on gamely for third.


Alice Springs boasts two national champions in offroad racing after the national championships were decided in Goondiwindi, Queensland.
Tony Burns and Chris Smith won the class four category, and Geoff and Liz Roe are champions in class two. The final round was washed out because of heavy rain, so the results were decided on points after the previous round held in Griffith, New South Wales.
But Burns and Smith had been in the lead for the whole five rounds of competition - despite it being their first year in the national competition.
"It's great to win," said Tony Burns. "Especially for motorsport in Alice Springs.
"I guess we were constant throughout the competition, although we had a big crash in Griffith when we missed the corner and went over an irrigation channel.
"It took us five weeks to rebuild the car.
"It was disappointing for the last round to be cancelled but I reckon we could have taken them out!"
Geoff Roe said: "We didn't expect to win. It all came down to the last event."
The Roes won their class in the Finke race and also in Griffith, but mechanical problems caused them to pull out of the race in Mount Gambier, SA.
He says Alice Springs has some of the most talented offroad racing drivers in the country: "The standard here is better than anywhere else in Australia. Everyone puts the effort in and it raises the standard."
Other Alice Springs drivers who made the 6000 km round trip for the offroad series include The Kittle Team of Danny Auricht and Paul Davies, David Fellows and Andrew Kittle and Chris Coulthard and Danny Bartels.
Results for these drivers had not been announced at the time of going to press.


Federal Demons cricketers were back to their winning streak this weekend, defeating RSL Works by 16 runs at Albrecht Oval.
Rain meant the game was reduced to 42 overs but it failed to dampen the spirits of the Federal players who won the toss and made 134 runs, with RSL making 118 after the break.
Top player for Feds was the consistent Tom Clements (he made 33 runs and also took four wickets for 27 off nine overs). For RSL, most valuable players were NT Institute of Sport rep Tom Schollay who made 19 runs, and Glen McCosker who took two wickets for 27.
The match between Rovers and Wests was cancelled because of vandalism to the Traeger Park pitch two weeks ago.
It is believed the turf was damaged by vandals riding bicycles over wet grass but the town council says the ground should be repaired in time for this weekend's contest.
The points for the forfeited match will be divided equally between Rovers and Wests.

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