August 17, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

A letter from a whistleblower alleges Chief Minister Clare Martin knew in November 2004 - if not earlier - about children prostituting themselves for petrol to sniff in the chaotic Ayers Rock community of Mutitjulu.
Ms Martin has neither confirmed nor denied the allegation.
The writer, who has since spoken to the Alice Springs News, notes Ms Martin (pictured) claimed to have been “shocked” to hear about the child abuse on the ABC program Lateline in May this year.
The letter, received by the News late last week, says in part: “In November 2004 Chief Minister wrote to Paul Henderson, the NT Minister for police about the social dysfunction and substance abuse epidemic in Mutitjulu and significant human harm that it was causing.
“She emphasised the extent of sexual abuse and child neglect and informed Minister Henderson that children as young as five had contracted STDs and that young girls were prostituting themselves for petrol.
“She also informed Minister Henderson that two thirds of children in Mutijulu were malnourished.
“In December 2004, well before the NT Coronial inquest that was held in August 2005, the NT Chief Minister’s Department briefed Ms Martin about ongoing violence and sexual abuse, including of children, occurring at Mutitjulu.
“The Chief Minister was also informed that according to Yulara Police petrol sniffing was rife and that no one in Mutijulu, including its leaders, was willing to confront the sniffers who were wandering around the community with petrol tins tied to their faces.
“In April 2005, ahead of an NT Community Cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister and her fellow cabinet members were briefed by the Chief Minister’s Department about the alcohol, marijuana and petrol epidemic in Mutijulu that was resulting in significant human rights abuses, self harm, violence against others and sexual abuse and child neglect.
“The Chief Minister and Cabinet Ministers were briefed that children as young as five had contracted STDs, that young girls were prostituting themselves for petrol, that two-thirds of the children were malnourished, and that community governance and accountability were very weak.
“I am afraid of the costs to whistle blowers in the Northern Territory so choose to remain anonymous.
“The briefing documents and correspondence mentioned above will testify to the truth of this statement.
“An FOI request could reveal them. A question in the NT legislative assembly would also be a useful exposition.”
The Alice News has asked Ms Martin’s media advisor, Fred McCue, whether the allegations have substance, and if so, we requested copies of the correspondence referred to.
Mr McCue did not respond to several contacts from the Alice News.

Our public spaces would come alive, the secret life of nature be revealed, our excellent events like Wearable Arts, the Beanie Festival or the Finke Desert Race could work for us all year round.
Old Alice could be resurrected, Aboriginal culture celebrated.
The possibilities are endless with a bit of imagination and the assistance of digital audiovisual technology.
The town has the film-makers, sound recordists and engineers, and musicians to supply the content; we may need to import some technical expertise.
But quickly and for not very much money we could make a name for ourselves as the digital story-telling capital of Australia.
It’s the vision of film-maker David Nixon who contributed this image to give an idea of how digital projections could transform a place like the mall.  The plain wall at the edge of the Flynn Church lawns, something of an eyesore at the moment, as a projection surface becomes an attraction in itself.
Mr Nixon says cities like Melbourne are exploiting the latest developments in digital technology in exciting ways, but spread over the city the impact is diluted.
As a much smaller community, Alice has the opportunity to make a big statement about itself and its identity by embracing new media possibilities, he says.
“It would accelerate development in tourism, the arts, heritage and take on reconciliation on a grand scale, instead of the hammering we’ve been having lately.”      

It’s a building that looks interesting from every angle, rising like a stylised rocky outcrop from the surrounding landscape.
As you approach the Alice campus of Charles Darwin University, along the Sadadeen connector road, the new university building, designed by  Alice-based Susan Dugdale Architects with Darwin company Jackman Gooden Architects, almost exactly replicates the lines of the hills in the distance behind it.
While striking, the building also sits into its site, looking like it’s meant to be there.
This organic quality is only slightly marred by a render that is too dark and that separates the main walls from the light-coloured upper walls and roof.
I dare say this is not quite the effect that the architects were aiming for.
The approach to the building from within the campus is also unfortunately cluttered, by a service building and carparks, but once beyond the obstacles the building asserts itself with grace. 
The entrance (above, right) is marked by a simple canopy structure that lifts upwards as if on a gust of wind, responding to the upwards thrust of the core form of the building.
It’s not yet clear how users of the building might be directed around it to make use of its grounds but internally the location is beautifully exploited, with workstations beneath long low windows looking out across open space to the ranges on the southern side, and across the campus and town to Anzac Hill on the northern side.
The view to Mount Gillen from the ingeniously shaded second storey balcony (top picture), let into the western wall like a ledge on a cliff face, is spectacular.
For a building that has such an interestingly unpredictable exterior, the internal layout is quite straightforward.
Simple functional work spaces open off a central axis, making the most of natural light but protected, by the building’s north-south orientation, from the harsh heat of the summer sun.
Bold, clever, far from prosaic, this is a building that responds to the aspirations of its higher education purpose.
With construction a little behind schedule, it should be ready for use in four to five weeks’ time.

The Ghan’s chief executive says the tourist industry in Alice Springs is set to benefit in April 2007 from a new timetable  and a walkway which will link the train station to town.
The train will leave Adelaide on Wednesdays and Sundays and allow visitors to stop in Alice for three or four days rather than two or five before the train leaves for Darwin.
The Ghan will leave Adelaide earlier, at 9.30am, but will be slowed down so “people can enjoy the unique landscape” says Tony Braxton-Smith (pictured), the chief executive of Great Southern Railway, operator of The Ghan.
“When the Ghan first opened right through to Darwin, the focus was between riding between Adelaide and Darwin, with Darwin flavour of the month.
“Over the last year there has been a shift to focus on Alice Springs as a destination along the way,” says Mr Braxton-Smith.
He says the booking system doesn’t allow “accurate tracking” of how many people are currently staying here for four hours, two days or five days.
“But market research and anecdotal evidence from staff says that now half of our guests get off at Alice Springs and don’t reboard immediately,” he says.
The busiest section of the route is between Alice Springs and Adelaide and the reverse rather than Alice Springs to Darwin, says Mr Braxton-Smith.
“Alice to Adelaide is always booked out first, and Darwin to Alice is the least travelled sector. 
“I don’t have any figures of how much more popular [Alice] is.”
He says that the timetable has been changed because of this, and also because recent focus groups suggest travellers believe two days is too short for a stopover in Alice, and five days is too long.
He rejects critics who say passengers travelling on the Gold Kangaroo package stopping over for four hours aren’t benefiting local business in Alice Springs because they’re taken straight to the government-owned Desert Park and not given an opportunity to visit shops and cafes in town.
“The idea is if Alice Springs has appeal, they will come back. It’s plain that tourism in Alice Springs has had an exceptional period and it’s partly because there are more people getting off The Ghan in Alice Springs and not reboarding straight away.”
Mr Braxton-Smith announced the changes at a lunch attended by industry delegates and government workers on The Ghan’s 77th anniversary.
He also announced that the NT government is funding a $330,000 path between the platform and George Crescent called a Discovery Walkway, being developed by Great Southern Railway and Tourism NT.
“It will run along the platform. The idea is to create a pleasant visitor experience which meanders into town rather than simply a trek through the industrial area.
“There will be information boards, shady rest spots and landscaping,” said Mr Braxton-Smith.
The funding follows the $350,000 upgrade of the station completed at the beginning of this year.
Mr Braxton-Smith said Great Southern Rail is “promoting the blazes out of The Ghan and stopovers in Alice Springs”.
“We’re spending $2m on television advertising and also running the Red Centre Campaign for a second year.
“We’ll continue to focus over the next 12 months on travel on this route. We’re planning for further growth on it.”
The Red Centre Campaign is a brochure about the attractions Alice Springs offers as a stopover which will be distributed nationally to travel agents, with newspaper and industry advertising. 
Local tourism industry people have welcomed the changes but say more can be done.
“The four hour stopover doesn’t benefit the town much when visitors are still being taken directly to the Desert Park which is government funded and owned.
"It's a shame those people can't have some time in the mall to use the bookshops, souvenir shops, cafés and newsagents," says Danny Brennan of Tailormade Tours, which has been forced to give up its successful train tour because of the unreliability of The Ghan coming up from Adelaide.
“We used to pick people up from the station and take them to the Telegraph Station, Anzac Hill, Panaorma Guth and an hour in the mall to wander around.
“It was a great tour but not viable because we couldn’t rely on the train from Adelaide coming in on time.”
Mr Brennan said that passengers need to be made more aware of the beauty spots surrounding Alice Springs: “I think there should be blown up pictures of the gaps, gorges and waterholes of the MacDonnell Ranges on the train and also at the station.
“If people could see those pictures, they would be able to see what there is on offer here.”
Mr Brennan welcomes the new Ghan timetable. 
“With two days, a lot go down to the Rock and don’t see anything in Alice.
“Three and four days would be better for us – people could go to the Rock and still spend at least a day in Alice.
“The walkway is a good idea as well.
“Even though operators benefit from driving people from the train station into town, any way to get people to visit the town is a good thing.”
Wayne Kraft, honorary ambassador to Alice Springs and owner of the Overlanders Steakhouse, says the new timetable is “excellent news” but it’s now up to tourism operators to make the most of it. 
“We’ve now got to try to promote people to stay for seven days.
“If visitors do Ayers Rock and Kings’ Canyon they still won’t see enough of Central Australia.
“The challenge is for the destination to get out there and pursue the opportunity for seven days.
“We’ve got all the infrastructure and the product, it’s a matter of cohesively promoting the place as a team and with support of Tourism NT and CATIA.”
It’s impossible to judge the impact on visitor nights until the timetable kicks in, says Daryll Hall, general manager of All Seasons Oasis and All Seasons Diplomat 
“Hopefully it will make a difference. But until it’s actually running and we have people coming through, we don’t know how it will go.”
Meanwhile, the NT still remains the only state not to subsidise train tickets for pensioners. Great Southern Railway gives senior travellers a 20 per cent discount but in South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales this discount is between 33 and 55 per cent thanks to the government subsidies.
Braitling MP Lorraine Braham said she’s been lobbying on behalf of senior travellers for discounted fares.
“We’ve tried very hard. There are lots of people who would travel on the train if they could get a discounted fare.
“I’m not sure why we still can’t get it. But we’ll keep trying.”

The NT Labor government has shown in its first five years that it doesn’t do things by halves, although some may wish it would: we’d be better off. 
Since Chief Minister Clare Martin’s first election win in August 2001 Alice Springs got the money for a half a heated pool.
It got two thirds of a football grandstand.
By year’s end, 12 months behind schedule, the town will have a mini sewage recycling scheme (see report this issue): “dry weather” discharge of partially treated sewage into St Mary’s Creek, flowing under two busy roads, past a children’s home and flooding out near the Pioneer Park race course, will stop.
“Wet weather” discharge will presumably continue, and so will the much larger problem: the sewage plant’s stink, stupid use of prime land and wanton waste by evaporation of two billion litres of water a year in the driest part of the driest continent.  Meanwhile the same government-owned company, Power and Water Corporation, has plonked a generator powered by a screaming turbine next to a residential suburb.
When it comes to providing cheap residential land the government has achieved less than half of a half solution which, I guess, makes it less than a quarter solution.
This is how it works: the government did a deal with the native title organisation Lhere Artepe for Larapinta Stage Two.  In the process the government set a precedent for native title to be worth half of freehold, an astonishing concession given that native title, as it turned out, is worth zero in Yulara and Darwin: it couldn’t be proven to exist there.
Lhere Artepe got half of the Larapinta Land, sold it to a developer for $1m, and home construction is now under way on about half of those 40 blocks. None, it seems, will be used for public housing which may have benefited some of the people Lhere Artepe’s represents.
The NT Government kept the remaining land, suitable for 44 blocks. When the government required some of that land to be set aside for public housing, the cause of ongoing conflict in adjoining Larapinta Stage One, the land was passed in at auction. Surprise, surprise.
But just as you may begin to suspect the Martin Government couldn’t organise a pissup in a brewery, consider the ingenious way it dealt with the erstwhile ballooning demand for housing, driven obviously by people wanting to live in this town.
The half-hearted – nay, quarter-hearted – efforts to deal with anti social behavior fueled by alcohol, and by the ongoing failure to provide proper camping grounds for itinerants, have driven quite a few people out of Alice, causing the real estate market to plateau across most of town, and drop in significant areas.
As the government is heading into the second half decade of its first ever time in power, after a record 26 years in the wilderness, it will be looking for Brownie points from Desert Knowledge.
In terms of bricks and mortar the Desert Knowledge precinct is the biggest infrastructure project in town, $13.8m in 2006-07 (that’s projected - let’s see how much of that will be spent), a remnant of the Denis Burke era yet only now being cranked up in earnest.
Among the first buildings in the precinct will be the Desert People’s Centre to house Batchelor Institute and the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), both of which have yet to prove themselves as outstanding producers of brilliance in the desert.
Clare Martin is fully in favour of expanding the mining of uranium. Clare Martin is fully against having anything to do with it once it’s brought to the surface.  That includes nuclear power generation and waste disposal.
Does that mean she’s is favour of a nuclear industry? Well, half and half, sort of.
One thing Ms Martin is going all out for, 100% one could say, is removing ownership of our national parks from the general public, giving the land to the Aboriginal minority, effectively putting the Central Land Council in charge of major community assets.
Ms Martin gives the land council 10 out of 10, notwithstanding its 30 year failure to get its clients out of their social and economic morass, and in some respects getting them deeper into it.
Would it be inaccurate to say the NT Government is failing to fully honour its election promises? 
Yes, it would.  There are some it doesn’t honour at all, hand on Clare’s heart that she will bring open and transparent government to the NT: an army of minders, which the Opposition estimates costs the public $10m a year, obviously deep admirers of George W Bush handler Karl Rove, are both shielding and muzzling elected politicians, turning the NT into a remake of Animal Farm.
When the town rose up against the prospect of losing ownership of its national parks, where were the Labor Parliamentarians during the biggest single issue public meeting in decades, determined to “save our parks”? 100 per cent of them were absent.
And that pretty much put paid to the euphoria starting in August five years ago, when many of us thought we’d entered an era of spirited, enriching discourse about the magnificent opportunities of this region and action to bring it to its full potential.
Country Liberal Party arrogance was replaced with Labor arrogance. Only the CLP never pretended they were running an open, transparent, accountable government.

The proposed quick fix solution for accommodating itinerants, by housing them in ex-Woomera demountables,  may well create greater problems than it solves, says Melanie van Haaren, long-time health professional in the Centre and an alderman on the town council.
She says she will fight “tooth and nail” any attempt to establish another camp in town, describing it as “ludicrous” when there are concerted moves to try to “remodel what we already have”.
She’s referring to Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough’s promised reforms of town camps, announced in early May, that would see them becoming part of Alice Springs suburbia.
And it was Mr Brough who also offered the ex-Woomera demountables for itinerant accommodation.
“There’s a feel good factor here for the Commonwealth,” says Ms van Haaren, “but at the end of the day, Alice Springs will be left struggling with the results of lack of planning.
“The social needs of the itinerants will be greater than our community has the capacity to absorb and it will be left to us to find the solution to a problem not of our making.”
What does she propose should be done to accommodate bush visitors?
Ms van Haaren says there should be immediate greater investment in Aboriginal Hostels to assist them to provide appropriate accommodation rather than demountables.
“This should have been done 10 years ago,” says Ald van Haaren, also calling for investment in an effective return to country program. 
“These camps will encourage people to come to town without any sense of long term commitment to our community and within 12 months they will be overflowing.
“Meanwhile we are doing nothing to help people who do want to engage with the community and make a life for themselves here but can’t because of lack of long term accommodation.
“We are having a crisis reaction, looking at different problems in isolation from one another and the three tiers of government are also working in isolation from one another.
“None of it is bedded down in a holistic approach.
“For all its good intentions this quick fix approach will open a Pandora’s box, multiply the issues and we won’t be able to put the lid back on.”
A holistic approach would see, among other things, a decentralisation of health services.
“We offer an inadequate health service in remote communities,” says Ms van Haaren, “with a skeletal level of staff.
“This forces people to come to town when they may not otherwise choose to. Children wanting a secondary education also have to come to town.
“There’s very little effort to expand employment opportunities in  remote communities.”

Excrement makes up only a tiny part of the sewage flowing into the Ilparpa swamp, and from there into the St Mary’s Creek, flooding out near the Pioneer Park racecourse.
Mark Skinner, of the Power and Water Corporation (PWC) says just one tenth of a per cent of the sewage flowing into the “settlement ponds” at The Gap is excrement.
As this makes its way along a string of ponds, algae eat bacteria and reduce solids by 35,000 times, so that by the time it gets into the creek, the percentage of excrement is just 0.00000028 of a per cent.
Mr Skinner says no effluent escapes into the swamp from any pond other than the final one.
Local manager Alan Whyte says PWC has committed $10m to stop the overflow, but is one year behind schedule.
The government-owned company was due to stop “dry weather” discharge of the partially treated effluent at the end of last year, but this now won’t happen before the end of this year.
Mr Whyte says to date PWC has built a tank and pipeline worth $3m. 
It has also let a tender for over $2m for the provision of the mechanical and electrical equipment that will treat the water to a high standard for storage at the Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI) where a horticultural enterprise is planned to use the treated effluent.
“In addition, in the last two weeks, tenders have been called for the balance of the works to complete the project,” says Mr Whyte.
“These include soil aquifer treatment basins at the AZRI and innovative locally designed buildings at the treatment plant.
“In the meantime, PWC has been actively managing the overflows to the swamp in conjunction with government regulators and the community, and has
dramatically lowered the mosquito numbers to negligible levels over the past few years. 
“PWC has undertaken the most rigorous environmental approval process and scientific investigation from both local experts in the Department of Environment, Natural Resources and the Arts as well as the CSIRO.”
Mr Skinner says the effluent will get further treatment when it seeps into an aquifer underneath the AZRI land where it will be stored and pumped out when the 100 hectare plantation gets under way.
Phil Anning, local head of the Department of Primary Production, says the government is “working towards” an agreement with Matilda Maid, of Cunnamulla, Queensland and Mildura, Victoria, a former senior partner in Territory Grapes at Ti Tree.
Mr Anning says a preliminary agreement has been in place for some time, but financial details have not yet been finalized.
However the deal, due “this calendar year”, will reflect that the recycled water is a resource, not waste.

Rumours that Melanka bar and backpackers is closing down have been quashed by its new general manager.
He says the site will instead be renovated to accommodate a five star super backpackers resort with up to 600 beds with ensuite bathrooms, plasma televisions, state of the art kitchens, a giant swimming pool, beach and landscaped waterfall.
The bar and nightclub will also be rebuilt. 
“It’s all on the drawing board at the moment but it’s going to be the jewel in our crown,” says Ian Loan of Gilligan’s backpackers hotel and resort.
“At first we didn’t think Alice Springs was big enough but on the numbers coming here we think it will be even more successful than our backpacker hotel in Cairns.” 
Mr Loan used to work for Base, the first resort-style backpacker hotel chain in Australia and New Zealand.
He says Gilligan’s is bucking the trend of the flat backpacker market: it has bought land for six new backpacker resort hotels including in Broome, Hervey Bay and Perth.
“We’re always busy and we’re expanding because we’re so successful.
“The market is evolving.
“Travellers are looking for a high quality hostel.
“Backpackers are university students taking a year out and they’ve got money, they’re not penny pinchers.
“They want to be looked after and be comfortable.
“Gone are the days of price driven backpackers and old shower blocks.
“This could make a lot of other backpackers and bars here raise their standards. 
“Everyone is right behind us, including the council.
“We won’t change the name to Gilligan’s until we’re happy with the standard.”
Work will begin at the hostel’s quietest time of year in December and is expected to be finished by June 2008.
Rooms at the neighbouring Alice Plaza Hotel will be converted into dorms for backpackers during the development.

Frustration at being turned down for last year’s Bass in the Dust has meant local metalcore act Nights Plague are ready to unleash at the Headbangers Ball, this Saturday at the Todd Tavern.
The band were discarded for last September’s bash and are sceptical they’ll be accepted this year.
“We’ve got our application in but we’re not expecting much,” says drummer Karl Steller, who played with the band at the Crusty Demons party last year.
“They just kept messing us around and in the end they said no, we were too hardcore for it.  At a festival event where there is supposed to be a wide variety of music they don’t look after the people who like metal.
“We understand that metal is generally a disliked kind of music, but when we played at the two Malice in the Alice gigs earlier this year they were packed.”
He says that the music scene in Alice Springs could be the healthiest in history.
“This is the biggest music scene for a long time or even ever. There are so many young bands getting their stuff together and doing really good for themselves.The Headbangers Ball is important because it lets in the under agers. Everyone should be allowed in.”
The band have recorded an EP, Sine Die, which goes on sale next month.
The Headbangers Ball is at 7pm at the Todd Tavern this Saturday, with Exit Earth and Blacktide also playing (under 18s between 7pm to 10pm with parental supervision).

I guess if you were describing me, once you got through a few things, you’d probably say I’m a fairly positive person.
On the whole that is a true statement. I’m a glass half full sort of guy.
But sometimes even for the most annoyingly positive people, things can get them down.
Sadly that’s the way I’ve been feeling of late. Not about my own personal life but about the big picture issues.
I haven’t been able to look or listen to the news without getting a bit frustrated about what is happening on our planet.
We humans sure have made an art out disposing of one another.
I have to admit that the suffering in Lebanon and Israel, Africa and even closer to home gets to me from time to time and I’m not alone.
The problem is that writing a column about it isn’t going to get anything done. That job belongs to other people. Elected representatives who we charge with that responsibility.
These elected people who ask us to vote for them, they say “ all the things you want done…let me do them.”
This is a good and noble thing. But then we burden them by calling them politicians. I have an interest in the political but I think that the BS inherent in politics hinders getting the jobs done.
NT Senators Trish Crossin and Nigel Scullion have both had the spectre of a preselection battle hanging over their heads this month.
Now whatever your political persuasion, wouldn’t you prefer  these people focussed on the job of fixing the plethora of issues we have in the Territory instead of having to spend time shoring up support.
The hours our representatives work are incredible. They are so busy attending library openings and business functions that I wonder when they have the time to think about ideas to make things better.
Which brings me to something that happened last week.
I was waiting for a movie to start at the cinemas and while outside in the mall I saw a man talking to a small group of friends.
I don’t know this man but I have seen him around and every time I have seen him he has been three sheets to the wind.
Not once have I seen this man sober.
The group was engaging in an inebriated rant. I love listening in to such conversations.
Some of the funniest social comedy comes from such debates. So I was keen to hunker down and watch this one unfold.
My excitement rose when I heard the opening statement. “You know what they should do to fix the Middle East?” Oh joy of joys, this was going to be a cracker.
But then something weird happened. From the mouth of this sozzled gent came the most concise yet well reasoned ideas I had heard in quite some time.
It was a theory he called “The New History” and it outlined a way for the leadership of both Israel and Lebanon to move on from the conflicted history that has plagued them since Abraham.
His preferred method would involve the European community and  moderate  islamic nations in Asia to broker the agreement. A thoroughly well thought out argument. I found myself hanging off every slurred word.
I began thinking that if not for the fact that for the most part this man would be getting over hangovers, I’d vote for him.
Perhaps it was simply because he has had the time to think about these things unhindered by the pressures of modern political life.
Maybe we need to cut our pollies some slack. I know that sounds un-Australian but I do mean it literally.
Maybe we need to listen to people who have time to think about things a little more than those who only have the time to fabricate a sound grab for the 7 o’clock news.
That’s my theory anyway. I think it’s a pretty good one, but I have been a bit busy.

Sir,– I am writing in response to the article on employee housing improving at Ayers Rock (Alice News, July 27). My wife and I were employed by Voyages for three years up until the end of 2003 when we left for bigger and better things. I held a position as a tradesman at the resort during this time and progressed up to a managerial position.
Had I not held a trades position we would have been in “share/share” accommodation [two people sharing a two room flat, with the back room accessed via the front room].
During my time in the maintenance department it was regularly discussed at our maintenance meetings [that we needed] additional staff to cope with the increasing work requests.
Whilst I was there the housing department had over 500 outstanding work requests. These tasks ranged from damaged light fittings and fly screens to hot water service repairs, electrical, water and gas repairs. The more serious/major the problem, for example hot water, the sooner it was fixed, but a couple of handymen can only do so much.
For a staffing of sometimes nearly 1000 people and only eight tradesmen how can you keep on top of the workload? It’s impossible.
May I also tell you that each hotel had its own maintenance department and their staff were never available to the housing department as they all had more than enough of their own work. The housing department relied totally on the trades’ services from the “Giles Street Tech Services team”.
It is true that if you did not like your housing there was “nothing we could do”. You could apply for an upgrade but if someone in a higher position had applied for it, even after yourself, you get nudged down the list. It was a wait that would never eventuate.
Whilst we were employed there an employee was caught in the room of her share/share whilst the room was on fire. She received some burns and was lucky to escape from it. This is because there is only one entry to the rear room. If the fire is in the front room, you are stuck.
As for the housing maintenance issues being resolved “within three days” I find this difficult to believe when there were so many outstanding jobs.
Leaking taps were also a major problem caused by the high calcium content in the water. This was never seen as a priority to fix. “It’s just a small drip.”
I’m not quite sure either where the $1m investment was! Sure there were some new units built in 2002 but that was it and only supervisor position or above got a look in at these!
[The statement by Voyages spokesperson that] “Claims of three or four people in one accommodation is incorrect” is incorrect in itself: that’s exactly how it is. The staff member [in the article] who has written their story of events and conditions [tells it] exactly how it is.
Mark Poyner
Alice Springs  

ED – The Alice News has asked Voyages for details of the $1m per annum expenditure on residential housing services as well as whether anything is being done to address the security and privacy issues in share / share accommodation. The information was not to hand at the time of going to press.

Sir,– Is Labor’s stance on U-mining a joke? To increase uranium production and export (enriched or not!) is to contribute directly to the nuclear world race with its increased risks and its increased wastes to be dumped somewhere... whether in the NT or elsewhere. 
The economic return for Australia would make of us accomplices in a man-made nuclear disaster.
It seems basic common sense to keep our ONE PLANET (the only one we have) for all of us to live on and use the sun, wind, sea etc... to produce the energy we are so keen to over-consume,  with no further green-house effect.
I would recommend to consider reduce Western World energy consumption and certainly not increase uranium production!
Maya Cifali
Alice Springs 

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