April 27, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


A "dry" Alice Springs would have no takeaway sales of alcohol on Thursdays and Sundays, and would cut trading by two hours on other days.
This is part of the Alice Springs Town Council plan to make the town "dry".
The full picture of what the town council is pressing for is revealed in a report compiled following a visit to Port Augusta last week.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff said the visit had shown that the declaration of a dry town in itself does not solve the problem, but displaces it, and that council must also press for a raft of other measures.
Given that the town has been legally "dry" for decades under the two kilometre law, notoriously under-enforced, it is still not clear how the council will make any new restrictions stick.
On Monday night aldermen endorsed the following recommendations for action:
request amendments to the Liquor Act so that council can apply to the Licensing Commission to declare all public places a dry area as from December 1 this year for a 12 month trial;
seek financial support from the NT Government for other measures to support the introduction of a dry town, including a "transitional camp" for bush visitors; consult with the public throughout the trial; seek urgent action from the Commonwealth to reduce alcohol-related harm in Alice Springs. The detail on what other measures and urgent action might mean is contained in a list of planned activities.
They include:
advocating for liquor licensing changes to reduce the supply of alcohol by decreasing the number of takeaway liquor licences as well as takeaway sales hours;
getting NT Government support for a comprehensive media campaign and preventive and treatment strategies;
advocating that the Australian Government investigate "pricing differential" for alcohol products (prices scaled according to the amount of alcohol per drink, making beer the cheapest available). Ms Kilgariff said Licensing Minister Sid Stirling, part of the Port Augusta delegation, had give "an absolute commitment" to support council in whatever it decides to do on the dry town issue.
Alderman Samih Habib made an impassioned plea for unity from the council in backing the measures.
"What we saw in Port Augusta opened our eyes," he said.
"We must forget all our differences and move on.
"[Everyone in town] is in the mood to push for a dry town.
"There must be one thing in our mind - to make it a success."
He saw Port Augusta's resolve, their ability to bring everyone on board "to save" their town and to keep the issues clear of anything to do with race, as "the best part" of what they had done.
Ald Meredith Campbell identified the provision of supported accommodation to bush visitors as the key achievement.
The accommodation is run by an Aboriginal organisation, can accommodate up to 60 people in "wiltjas" (large domed tents), has a staff of 12, offers two meals a day, and will accept drunks to sober up but no alcohol.
Maximum length of stay is six months for a charge of $30 a week and, amazingly, when the council delegation visited the site it was only half full, though it was apparently full during the summer months.
Ald Jane Clark singled out the "comprehensive media campaign" as the thing that Port Augusta had done and other towns hadn't (Ceduna and Coober Pedy are also "dry" towns but continue to have public drinking problems).
An attempt by aldermen Robyn Lambley and Murray Stewart to criticise the mayor over inaction on alcohol and associated issues drew attention to the divisions developing in council.
Ms Kilgariff has the loyalty, even devotion, of Alds Campbell (who described her as council's "functional and spiritual leader") and Clark.
Ald Ernie Nicholls sat between Alds Lambley and Stewart but did not speak.
Comments by Alds Lambley (on the mayor's apparent "backflip", from opposing to supporting a dry town) and Stewart (seeking an admission that the mayor had been wrong on these issues in the past) lacked relevance, given Ms Kilgariff's and the council's current determination to take a dry town strategy forward.
Ms Kilgariff was clearly provoked by their attack and had difficulty in imposing her authority as chair on Ald Stewart (though perhaps anyone would as Ald Stewart, when heated, takes no notice of the chair - to the detriment of the points he makes).
The professed attachment of Alds Campbell and Clark to "teamwork" was unconvincing as they spoke to emphasise their alignment rather than overcome division.
Ald Campbell took Ald Melanie van Haaren to task over her comments to the Alice News (April 13/14) on council's current meeting process, taking exception in particular to the suggestion that aldermen were drinking wine at their pre-meeting dinners (this is not the case).
Ald van Haaren apologised for her error but nonetheless tabled her formal grievance over the process, seeking review by a third party. Such an intervention was rejected by the mayor, and the grievance was merely received and noted.
Ald Habib emerged as the unifier, warning all aldermen not to "got too far" and to return to the main issues, which he saw as "restoring confidence to the town".


Heritage Week invites a comparison between Alice Springs in the MacDonnell Ranges, Australia, and Aspen in the Rocky Mountains, USA.
Both towns have a similar background, are much the same size, remote, surrounded by magnificent country and have tourism as their main industries (see the first three parts of our Aspen series, starting March 30/31).
Where they differ is that Aspen, one of the wealthiest towns in the world, has around 200 of its historic buildings left, and an active historical society well endowed with public funds.
Alice by contrast, struggling for its economic survival, is continuing to bulldoze the buildings which tell the town's story, currently with the collusion of a Labor government that had vowed never to do such a thing, and that is starving the heritage protection movement of funds.
After a developers' rampage there are only around 20 heritage listed buildings in The Alice, according to Domenico Pecorari, of Heritage Alice Springs Inc. A further dozen or so are "in limbo", nominated for heritage listing but yet to be protected under the Act.
The Rieff Building, corner Gregory Terrace and Hartley Street, will be levelled soon to make way for an extension of the Aboriginal owned Yeperenye Shopping Centre.
"There has been no appreciation of what made this place unique," says Mr Pecorari.
"Governments don't see any value in heritage.
"Alice is seen as a gold mine for opportunists, the quick buck.
"There's no will to protect heritage.
"Yet if visitors stop coming to this town then we may as well fold up and go away."
How much does Heritage Alice, which broke away from the Darwin-dominated National Trust three years ago and now has more than 100 members, get from the NT Government? Not a penny in funding, says Mr Pecorari.
By contrast the Aspen Historical Society scored a $650,000 annual windfall funded by a small property tax approved by Aspen voters last year.
Colorado has two referendum-style ballots a year, at which the public can make decisions binding on the state government.
They vote on issues that have been put on the ballot by public demand, usually through petitions signed by thousands of people.
Aspen Historical Society spokesman Tom Egan says although the tax is just a fraction of a per cent of real estate values, these are so high in Aspen that the new money "will be a really good financial foundation that the society can use to go forward instead of folding."
The decision was approved by 65% of the voters, "and we're working on getting the other 35% on our side.
"We're feeling very strong about our history and I feel most people around here do," says Mr Egan.
Meanwhile the Alice group, including 33 life members contributing between $110 and $330 for the privilege, isn't paid a cent for running the Residency in Parsons Street.
Bringing the historic building back to life is the group's major task, followed by setting up a comprehensive web site, together with, predictably, lobbying the government for funding.
Meanwhile the Aspen Historical Society looks after four museums and two ghost towns, Independence and Ashcroft, both formerly larger than Aspen, and 15km out of town.
They're staffed by caretakers.
Another project managed by the society is a "hands on" living history museum about the mining and ranching industries.
And in two other hobby mines visitors can chip away at the silver lode that once made Aspen one of the world's greatest mining towns.
The mining museum shows two methods of silver extraction: the relatively simple smelting for high grade ore, and the water-based method for lower grade ore, requiring a huge plant, as long as three football fields.
Some of the machines have been brought back to life: "When they run the stamp mill you feel the pounding on the floor," says Mr Egan.
"Thousands and thousands of hours" by volunteer labour went into the restoration.
"The society wouldn't exist without the volunteers."
Mr Pecorari says The Alice, too, is heavily dependent on volunteer efforts: the Ghan Preservation society, Transport Hall of Fame, the RSL's military history museum, RFDS.
They are independent groups each looking after an aspect of our heritage, he says.
"All have to raise their own funds.
"The government will contribute to special occasions, but not to ongoing running costs."
Yet there is a downward spiralling availability of volunteers: there are no people taking the place of people becoming frail or leaving, says Mr Pecorari.
"The same people often help two or three organisations."
It's not a problem Aspen is having, according to Mr Egan.
"There are scores of volunteers, hundreds over the years," he says.
"We get interns over the summer, almost on a full time basis."
A lot of Aspenites have been donating their time "year in, year out", hosting walks, wearing Victorian costume, taking visitors through the historic part of the town, where all the Victorian homes are.
Some 200 of these homes have been historically designated and cannot be demolished, moved nor altered without permission from the heritage authorities.
Local architects now build brand new "Victorians" hard to tell apart from the old ones.
"They are very into it and very good at it."
What a contrast to the bland boxes now springing up all over The Alice!
Mr Egan says in Aspen conflicts start usually when a developer wants to bulldoze an historic building, or move it to another location of the block of land.
He says the City (equivalent to our town council) and the Chamber of Commerce are pro-conservation because "it's part of Aspen, part of our character".
In Alice, says Mr Pecorari, there isn't much financial assistance of heritage, just empty rhetoric.
The town council's business plan last year sounded great "but there is no action behind the words," says Mr Pecorari.
"All controls are out of Darwin, not at the local level."
In 1879 the first white man arrived in Aspen, and 10 years later it was world renowned because of its huge silver production.
"Instead of remaining a standard mining town of tents, bordellos and saloons it quickly reached a financial level of stability where people built houses.
"Wealthy people would come to Aspen because we had an opera house," says Mr Egan.
There's a rumour that Enrico Caruso sang in Aspen in the Wheeler Opera House.
"It was on what was called the silver circuit in the wealthier mining towns."
But before the end of the century and "literally over night" the mining boom came to an end when the US Government stopped guaranteeing the price of silver, pegged till then at one sixteenth of the price of gold.
But in the mid-1900s Aspen developed itself as a winter and summer playground for the super rich, relying on its traditions, and using its historic buildings as a major draw card.
Is it too late for Alice?
There is still enough left to bother, says Mr Pecorari.
"We're lucky to still have the very first sign of European development, the Old Telegraph Station," he says.
The Totem Theatre and the Todd Tavern have recently been heritage listed.
And the post World War II army surplus buildings, sheds and Sidney Williams huts are telling a fascinating story.
Heritage activism in The Alice isn't over. It just needs a shot in the arm, says Mr Pecorari.


A group involved in fund-raising to support, for instance, the West Papuan independence movement, could potentially be classified as a terrorist organisation under Australia's new anti-terrorism laws.
Even attending such a fund-raiser would be against the law and punishable, says Alice Springs lawyer Russell Goldflam. Speaking in a private capacity at a public meeting last week, dubbed the "Security Summit", Mr Goldflam (pictured) was considering the potential impact of the legislation on political activism.
The complementary Territory legislation supplementing the Commonwealth laws enacted last year, is set to be passed.
Mr Goldflam quoted Police Minister Paul Henderson on the legislation as saying Territorians "will, when extraordinary events occur, temporarily need to sacrifice some fundamental rights".
Said Mr Goldflam: "I had this idea that if something's fundamental you can't need to sacrifice it."
Mr Goldflam did a "retrospective hypothetical" looking at specific examples of political activism, particularly the kind of actions staged in the 1980s by the Alice Springs Peace Group, of which he was a member.
The group's solidarity work, supporting liberation movements all around the Indo-Pacific region, could qualify them today as a terrorist organisation, risking members up to 10 years imprisonment, he said, because the definition is "global in its reach". It would have been illegal to be a member of such an organisation, let alone direct it.
It would have been illegal "to give non-violent direct action training, as I used to do, or to get such training from a member of such a group".
It would have been illegal "to hold a quiz night or a dance party for the purpose of raising money to help the solidarity movement".
It would even have been illegal to associate with the group by attending such a quiz night or dance party on two or more occasions.
"Just as well in the 1980s none of these things were illegal because we used to do them all the time," said Mr Goldflam.
He explained that under the new laws a terrorist organisation is one which is indirectly or directly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act whether or not a terrorist act actually occurs.
"You are also a terrorist organisation if the relevant Minister says you are," he said.
There are 19 organizations presently on the Australian Government list, none of which are active in Alice Springs as far as Mr Goldflam knows. However, his concern was not about those organizations, but about any that might come within the new laws' definitions.
The definition of a terrorist act is more complicated. It must firstly be an act which: causes serious physical harm or danger to life or serious danger to property; or causes serious risk to public health or safety; or seriously disrupts an information, telecommunications, financial, essential services or transport system.
Secondly, such acts must be done in a political, religious or ideological cause.
Thirdly, there must be an intent to coerce or intimidate a government anywhere or to intimidate a section of the public.
However, a defence can be mounted in relation to an act that meets all three elements of the definition if it's a protest and if it's not intended to cause serious physical harm or to endanger life or to seriously risk public health or safety.
Mr Goldflam applied these definitions to political activities in and around Pine Gap in 1980s, and indeed, more recently.
"What about if you enter Pine Gap, as people have been known to do on occasion, without a permit? Is that a terrorist act?
"No it's not, there's no serious disruption to a telecommunications facility because someone happens to climb over a fence.
"Nonetheless you can be done for trespass, as I know from personal experience, or Š for much more serious offences if the Attorney-General decides to allow prosecution under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act (1952), carrying a maximum penalty of seven years in prison."
This is the case for the four activists of Christians Against All Terrorism, whose trial is underway in Alice Springs.
Mr Goldflam considered whether the mass entries of Pine Gap that occurred in 1983 and 1987, intending to close down the facility for a day, could be deemed a terrorist act.
Although such an action could seriously disrupt a telecommunications facility and it could be argued that it was an attempt to seriously risk public safety (which Pine Gap is supposed to ensure), he thought the government prosecutor would have trouble proving intent to coerce and intimidate a government if the action were just for a day.
But what about a similar action undertaken with a commitment to continue it until the government changed its policy on Iraq, for example? Could it be deemed a terrorist act?
COERCE Perhaps - as it would be seriously disrupting and could be seen as attempting to coerce and intimidate the government.
People merely attending a meeting about the planning of such an action could also be made the subject of a preventative detention order, Mr Goldflam warned.
This would see them detained in a secret place, not allowed to let anybody know that they've been detained, or why they've been detained or when they'll be released in order to "to substantially assist in preventing the commission of this terrorist act".
"This is starting to get serious," said Mr Goldflam, comparing the provisions to scenes from a George Orwell book, where "you see people rounded up and locked up incommunicado".
"It's the law in Australia as we speak."
Mr Goldflam considered what sort of advice he would give to people planning political activities. He suggested: telling police exactly what is being planned, so that they'd have no basis to mistakenly form "reasonable suspicions" that a terrorist act was being devised;
setting limits to actions to ensure they are not terrorist acts; getting everyone involved to sign undertakings to restrict actions to non-terrorist acts, because the actions of any group member could implicate all other members;
being very careful about solidarity actions with groups here or overseas which might be committed to perpetrating so-called terrorist acts, "such as overthrowing fascist dictatorships".
Mr Goldflam said giving such advice appalled him as it went against "all the principles that we grew up with as political activists" but he said it's important that people understand the current statutory framework in the NT and Australia affecting their actions


The John Flynn Memorial Church was the first in Australia to unite the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational denominations to become the Alice Springs Uniting Church on May 7 1956, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next month.
"In the 1960s it became an internationally renowned example of team ministry across denominations, with international delegations coming to see how they did it," says Reverend Tracy Spencer, who job shares as minister of the church with her husband, Rev Murray Muirhead, after a search for 18 months to find a pastor.
The church was ahead of its time in creating a united congregation: "Cooperation between denominations was a lot rarer than today, and clergy being part of a team mission was unusual.
"John Flynn's dream of an inland cathedral was always with the intention that it be a church accessible for all faiths. He even purchased a lease on land in Todd Street for it, but was too busy 'building people and families' to get around to it."
The church was opened on the fifth anniversary of Flynn's death. The prime minister, Bob Menzies, laid the foundation stone, and the governor general, Sir William Slim, opened the official dedication service. Pitjantjatjara men quarried the stones for the building, the choir of Ernabella sang, the Victorian Youth Group paved the forecourt and the late Reg Harris wired the building. Mr Harris' son, Roger, was the first child to be baptised at the church, a week after it opened.
And Mr Harris' funeral was held at the church in March.
The master builder on the project, James (Jim) Alfred Richards, sadly died during its construction after falling from scaffolding. There is a plaque to his memory on the Pioneers Wall in the garden on the far side of the church.
Ron Ross played the bagpipes at the opening ceremony, and his wife Barbara was part of that first congregation too. Both were originally members of the Methodist church.
Now living near Port Lincoln, the couple are regular visitors to Alice Springs.
"The foundation service was a special day," says Mr Ross. "I played for the prime minister, I can't remember what I played though!
"We stayed here for 40 years, and I worked on church council.
"We're looking forward to the celebrations, and I'll play something on the bagpipes again for them."
Peter Nyaningiu was one of the three Aboriginal men who quarried the stone the church is made from. "Three men from the Pitjantjatjara lands, we dug out the white stone and made them into bricks, with non-Aboriginal people. We worked together."
Now retired, Mr Nyaningiu was a minister at Ernabella, a community that the church still has strong ties with. The Finke community also retains links with the church through its missionary workers like Margaret Bains who has spent 20 years there.
"For the past 50 years the building has been a central focus for a human church that has spilled out into its community and across the country," says Rev Spencer. Offering friendship and support to Indigenous people has always been an important part of the church. In the 1960s, the Rev Jim Downing developed a ministry resulting in the establishment of the Institute for Aboriginal Development. Today an Indigenous service is held every Sunday by a retired Aboriginal minister, Raymond Bandicha.
The church holds worship on Sundays in four communities throughout the day.
"Today's congregation [120 families] reflects the community: old timers, loyal Territorians, those who came for a few months and stayed for a few years, newcomers, and short stayers," says Rev Spencer.
"The bulk of our members are in the 50 to 70 year old age group. Our Indigenous population is between 15 to 30 people, although many more in Ernabella and Finke claim a sense of belonging when they are in town."
Rev Spencer says the Flynn Church will survive to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
"Whether it will look the same, I don't know. The trend in how church membership expresses itself across Australia and the world is changing: it might not be a gathering on a Sunday morning, it might be expressed in other venues throughout the week.
"We hope to redevelop the church to be a centre of desert spirituality for pilgrims and travellers.
"People come to a landscape like this looking for something in themselves.
"It's certainly in our mythology that we're the heartland of the country and it encourages us to think about ourselves having a particular role for those who come to visit and live here.
"John Flynn thought there should be a church that could embrace all comers."
The celebrations will be on May 5 to 7.


Sir,- Every letter or article I have read relating to the ownership of our national parks has managed to degenerate into an argument about race. No one mentions that we are witnessing another privatisation of another public asset.
As it now stands, we all own a system of parks, recognized around the world for its unique and iconic quality. This is about to be given away and then leased back to the NT Government, to us, for one million dollars per year.
How can this not be privatisation? Under the new scheme, who will pay for the upkeep of the roads and the campgrounds? Who will pay the wages of all those park rangers?
Will these costs be covered by the new owners? Will we, the taxpayer, be picking up these bills in addition to our one million dollar annual rental? Or will a system of 'user pays' come in?
And when the Federal Government swears with hand on heart that they have a policy of respecting Northern Territory decisions, they tell lies. I remember the world's first euthanasia law being overturned a few years ago. And there was a clear statement by the NT Government just last year not to allow a nuclear waste depository anywhere in the Territory.
The Federal Government does what all governments do. It cherry picks its morality to advance its own electoral advantage.
And the Martin Labor Government has clearly shown its intention to abandon the Centre. They privatise our National Parks, close our schools, and move public servants north of the Berrimah Line. Clearly we are excess to their requirements. Liberal or Labor, we may as well call them Lib-Labs, they have two primary overarching concerns. They want to privatise their responsibilities, and they want to keep themselves in the back seats of the government limos.

Hal Duell

Alice Springs

Sir,- I probably don't read Viktoria Cormack's column very often and after doing so this week, I now remember why.
Her naive comments regarding people's concerns about the handing over of the community's parks reflect that most outdated of attitudes, namely political correctness.
Her comments: "But we are not under siege; we are only doing the right thing by recognising prior ownership ..."
The truth is, Viktoria, we all own the national parks. Clare Martin is disenfranchising people on racial grounds. The national parks are not her personal property to give away.
Let me explain how I feel on this issue on a personal level. I am of mixed-race descent. Irish, English, Dutch and Aboriginal.
Historically, all of these races fought each other bitterly at one period of time. Now they don't.
The national parks are an important part of reconciliation. They are there for everyone to visit, regardless of race or creed.
In 100 years' time, many of today's Aboriginal people will have mixed race descendants, that is how things work. So who will own the parks in the future? I just believe what my grandmother said, "People don't own the land, the land owns the people". She made a great deal more sense than Clare Martin and Viktoria Cormack.

Margaret Thomas,

Alice Springs

Sir,- I would like to commend your paper on its non-biased reporting of the meeting to save our parks from being given away for no reason other than to buy votes. I attended the meeting to try to help save what belongs to all Territorians, and indeed all Australians, only to see the meeting trying be hijacked by the CLC representatives waffling off their spiel.
They were asked to keep their turn to speak to a couple minutes, not good enough for the CLC spokesmen. Only the bit where [NT Park Service's Mac Moyses]was asked to return the microphone was biasedly reported in the other media.
As far as the ex-CLC lawyer gloating about the Indigenous employment at the Granite Gold Mine, I worked there for four years and I can assure you that some may be Indigenous but most don't come from that mining area.
To come to the main thrust of my thinking: we (that's all of us white, black, brown etc) already own the parks so why the hell should we give them away to a money-hungry minority and to top it off lease it back for millions of dollars. This Government is already broke so why should they put us in even more debt?
No one asked us if we wanted to give the parks away.
We are the constituents of this territory so we should be at least asked first as it's our land.
It can be stopped if we all stand up. If we don't they will be gone and we all will pay for it in more ways than one.

Max Heckenberg
Alice Springs


Time supposedly isn't linear even though for practical purposes it is how we relate to it. We are born, we grow up, have a life, retire and die.
It does seem pretty straight forward. But many times we live in the future, the past and the present. Our minds, with the memories and experiences we have had, let us relive the past as well as daydream about the future. We are encouraged to live in the present because it is where we have the ability to act and interact physically but it is difficult to focus singularly on the 'here and now' as our interpretation of it will always be based on our experiences up to that point. So we remain prisoners of our past, and to move on is nearly impossible.
It is like walking in circles when you are lost in the woods. Instinctively you walk back to your starting point, not realising it until you are there and you recognise familiar land marks and emotions. Progress along the time line is slow. Looking back we have gone from telegraph wires to fibre optics, satellites and the internet but we are still struggling with the problem of being human and mortal. Time is still the ultimate hurdle so we try to overcome it by speeding up so that we will be able to squeeze more into it.
We end up feeling dizzy and seeing everything as a blur or feeling stressed and frustrated, impatiently revving at the stoplights we come across. Someone I know has been confined to bed with terrible back pain. Doing is living to her and being forced to be still is a death sentence.
It is interesting how most religions suggest stillness as a means to finding balance and peace, yet the more technologically developed we become the less time we have for spiritual things. There is a perception that activity equals vitality, and stillness, nothingness and death.
Living in Alice could be like a death sentence. Compared to other parts of the world the pace is slow, especially in summer when it is too hot to even contemplate doing something.
Left in this situation boredom is sure to set in but the interesting thing with our minds is that they don't like being bored and out comes creativity, art, stories, ideas and solutions.
What I really enjoy about living in Alice Springs is the feeling of endless space and of time in abundance. It may be an illusion, a mirage in the desert, but most of us don't have to spend all our waking moments doing or getting from A to B.
The ancient landscape that surrounds us reminds us that although our time is limited, the geological aspects of our immediate environment have been here for a very long time and will still be here centuries from now. We cannot alter the fact that we are going to die, that our individual lives will ultimately come to an end, or that our skin will wrinkle and show the seven signs of ageing that the beauty cream manufacturers alert us to and promise to combat.
But time as defined by a human life does not have to be an express train rushing us to the end of the line. It can be a ride on a donkey, a walk along an outback trail or a dance under the stars.
Living in the present time stops. Maybe that is what happens in a faraway place, in a town like Alice.

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