September 21, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Alice Springs needs to start planning for its future or it won’t have one, says Steve Brown, member of an old Alice family, calling for like-minded locals to join him in a strong lobby group.
Mr Brown says he hopes the group will field candidates at the next local government election and turn the town council into a regional force.
“A  local doesn’t necessarily mean someone who’s lived here for a long time,” says Mr Brown, “although I’ve lived here all my life.
“I think local means someone who is committed to the town’s future.”
The Browns are linked by marriage to the equally large and long established Kilgariff family.
Mr Brown sees the biggest threat to the town’s future as having so few people available for unskilled and semi-skilled jobs.
“We haven’t got that section of the population, who’ll pump fuel and wait on tables.
“We can’t keep our kids, they leave to look for opportunities elsewhere, and people working for low wages can’t afford to stay here.
“Aboriginal people, who were the backbone of the town when I was young, are not in those roles either.
“Without that base level, people who’ll do a lot of the basic necessary work, the community begins to fall apart.
“We’re all top and no base. The base is where kids start off and work their way to the top.
“We need a healthy growing structure.”
Mr Brown says the Territory Government seems to have adopted a “wait and see” approach to the Alice economy.
“We can’t wait and see,” says Mr Brown. “We have to plan. If we wait, the town will collapse.”
Part of the plan has to be the provision of affordable housing, he argues.
“We’ve got to have public housing. It was all sold up. We’ve still got the need but not the homes.
“What has to be resolved is how people are going to live in those homes, how we’re all going to live together.
“The law must be equally enforced for all. The idea that Aboriginal people can’t live in houses is a kind of paternalism, the worst type of racism in my view.
“We can make a really interesting community if we crack that, with the potential of being very different from other Australian towns, almost 50/50 black and white, living together in harmony.
“It will be deeper, more colourful than other towns, different from the McDonalds type culture that’s everywhere, good for tourists, but most of all good for the people living here.
“Having black and white together would be a huge lift and boon for the town, not a negative like it has so often been portrayed.”
There has to be affordable accommodation for a transient workforce, people coming here to look for opportunities, a reverse of the current situation.
Again Mr Brown remembers his youth: “When I moved out of home I lived in a Commonwealth hostel. There were three meals a day and it was well run.
“As a single person I was well looked after and it was very affordable. There’s nowhere like that now for working people.”
Cheap land has to be made available for first home buyers.
“People have been content to make money off escalating land prices due to land shortage and they are worried about the release of land affecting real estate prices but nothing will affect the prices as much as the collapse of the town.
“When I was young there was always a subdivision out front. A first home buyer could get a block of land pretty well for the cost of developing it.
“That’s not possible now – young people and the semi-skilled section of the workforce can’t afford to buy here.”
Mr Brown is conscious that his family is known to be pushing for a large residential subdivision to be allowed on White Gums, at the western end of Ilparpa Valley, at present designated as a rural area.
He supports the creation of that subdivision but says it would not answer the need that he is talking about.
“A rural block with a house is $600,000 at current land prices. Kids can’t afford that.”
Alice needs the infrastructure investment to support growth, argues Mr Brown: “Thirty years ago the town was surrounded by land claims and nobody could see what the future would bring, so the power station was done on the cheap, the sewerage works and water supply, the same.
“The public servants who made those decisions have long gone. There’s no follow-through on why a decision was made and what might have changed since then.
“The imbalance between Darwin and Alice is now institutionalised in the Territory. People don’t know it wasn’t always like that.
“We have to find a way of dragging back funding from the Top End.
“We’ve been isolated by Darwin to an extent that we’re now worse off than before self government.” 
A “structured plan for the development of Alice” would also see “prosperity concentrated in the centre of town so that the town makes a statement about itself”.
“We need a vision for the town centre,” says Mr Brown, concerned about the shift of many businesses into “sheds in the industrial areas”.
“What will our children have to preserve for the future?” he asks. “A whole lot of sheds?”
Mr Brown, a businessman and father of seven (though only two left in Alice), had been thinking of leading the quiet life but says, “if you want change, you can’t stop making the effort yourself.
“Local people need to take the initiative.”
To date Mr Brown has been talking with family and close friends but wants soon to call a public meeting. 

There’s a charge of energy as you enter Araluen’s main gallery to view the 16th Desert Mob show: it comes from an uninterrupted line of bold canvasses in the richest of earthy colours, starting with Papunya Tula Artists and working through Tjungu Palya (formed only in March in the Pitjantjatjara lands) to the Spinifex Arts project (two collaborative canvasses, notable for their zinging blue, by women and men from the Great Victoria Desert).
A decision was made to hang these works, and others continuing around to the eastern end of the gallery, with enough wall space to show them to advantage. The middle of the gallery is charmingly occupied by a red sandy trail, busy with the folkloric creatures of the Tjanpi weavers, while the large pots from Hermannsburg rise behind them.
Keeping artists from the same area together, the silks from Ntaria Arts have been given a better than usual spot in the display and benefit from it.
Unfortunately the high southern wall of the gallery is packed with works, some strong, but the overall display is very crowded. Likewise the second gallery is packed, with in many instances works hanging one on top of the other. Strong works still manage to assert themselves but only just.
In this respect Desert Mob is a victim of its own success. It is the major annual survey of Aboriginal art from Central Australia and its inclusive principle is claimed as a positive.
However, given that inclusivity can be catered for in other ways, such as through the Desert Mob Marketplace, there is a case for thinking about a ‘less is more’ principle and more rigorous selection for the main exhibition to do justice to the exceptional work that is the reason for Aboriginal art’s acclaim.
This year the opening of the show was followed by a symposium. ‘Carpetbagging’, the topic of the moment, was of course raised. The term was recognised as “fuzzy” by the ANU’s Professor Howard Morphy, at pains to acknowledge the integral role of ethical galleries, dealers and agents in “value creation”.
In cases where artists are not receiving a fair return for their work, Prof Morphy saw education both of the artists and the public as part of the solution. He spoke of the poor standards of Aboriginal art journalism, full of “vacuous cliches” with a few prominent exceptions; of the limited number of high quality books on Aboriginal art; of too few professionals working on Indigenous collections in Australia’s museums; the lack of university courses and doctoral students in Aboriginal art.
Considering the “global impact” of the art, he described the neglect as “extraordinary”, contributing to an uninformed buying public liable to support the activities of ‘carpetbagging’ because they know no better.
They pay high prices for not the best work which leads to a deterioration of production standards, said Prof Morphy.
Ironically, Desert Mob itself, albeit impeccable ethically, also offers instances of not the best work at relatively high prices.
There are a number of very ordinary paintings on display by some of the big names of Warlayirti Artists, for example. It would seem quite clear that many art centres do not send their best works to Desert Mob because of its inclusivity. 
Having works of every order hanging alongside one another also does little to educate the viewing public and the catalogue, while containing useful factual information about the art centers, does not contain any critical writing. 
There’s seems to be plenty of scope for Desert Mob, presented in partnership by the Araluen Centre and Desart, the art centres’ advocacy body, to lead by example.

Saturday morning: “What have you done for these people,” asks CLP functionary Michael Jones, referring to the people amongst the filth strewn about the Warlpiri Camp, at the northern edge of Alice Springs, the burnt out cars, the trashed houses, in plain view of the tourists entering or leaving the town on the north Stuart Highway – much the way it was during his own party’s long reign.
“Fuck off,” replies Peter Toyne, retired ALP Member for Stuart, some of whose former constituents are ambling across to the mobile polling booth to cast their vote for his successor.
The language matches the environment: the open air “booth” is delineated by a bush, some holes in the ground, a pile of garbage, a jerrycan and some playground equipment in bad repair.
Inside that rough circle are two tables occupied by polling officials, five cardboard “voting screens”, which later topple over in a gust of wind, where the voters complete their ballot papers, and the little green ballot box.
Outside the circle are the people handing out how to vote cards.
The ALP’s handpicked candidate Karl Hampton, a long time aide to Dr Toyne and an Office of Central Australia staffer, is outnumbered five to one on the ballot paper.
But on the ground his helpers outgun his opponents by at least that margin: there are some 10 campaign workers, including other Office of Central Australia staffers, prominent Aborigines and – clearly most effectively – the controversial Member for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson.
All wearing green Karl Hampton T-shirts, they pounce on everyone approaching the “booth”, handing them Hampton how to vote cards.
The scene is repeated on Monday morning in the Hidden Valley town camp.
A voter approaches.
Ms Anderson hands him a Hampton card.
As the voter proceeds towards the booth, CLP helper Francoise Builder offers him a Rex Granites or Lloyd Spencer card.
The voter reaches out for it.
Ms Anderson says something in language.
The voter pulls back his hand.
I ask Ms Anderson: “Did you say don’t take it?”
“Oh, I’m not telling you,” she says, a twinkle in her eye.
Most voters are giving a wide berth to the non-Labor candidates’ supporters.
The CLP’s Member for Greatorex Richard Lim says it’s all so undemocratic.
He points to a Labor sign at the Warlpiri Camp claiming “the CLP want to take away permits for our land”.
The placard’s second message, “Save our land. Vote Labor,” reinforces the suggestion that the Opposition would take away Aboriginal land, not just the permit system for access to Aboriginal land, as mooted by Federal Affairs Minister Mal Brough.
Dr Lim says the CLP doesn’t even have a policy on permits, let alone one for the overturning of Aboriginal land rights.
Apart from this, any impartial observer would call Labor’s effort at both town camps a well oiled campaign, and ask why does the Opposition party have only four helpers at Warlpiri Camp and two at Hidden Valley?
Why don’t they have a Warlpiri speaker present?
Why is neither of their two candidates present while Hampton is on hand at Warlpiri Camp, kissing babies?
The independents are having an even harder time.
Anna De Sousa Machado, who has a strong following in the Willowra area where she was running the store until being brutally evicted by the Central Land Council, only has her husband John as a helper.
Gary Cartwright isn’t in town. He’s apparently focussing on the northern part of the sprawling Stuart electorate.
And minibus driver Peter Tjungarray Wilson has a flat tyre on the way to the Warlpiri Camp and gets there when the bulk of the voting is already over.
By then the hostile mood has given way to a bit of jovial banter between the political camps.
In Hidden Valley they even return each-other’s how to vote card.
“It’s a nice gesture,” says Ms Anderson. “Politics is dirty enough as it is.”
More difficult to understand is the gerrymander of the Stuart where it enters Alice Springs, with the boundary weaving in and out so as to take in all Aboriginal town leases to the north and east, but not any of the “white” areas.
Previously a good slice of the Head Street – Old Racecourse subdivision was part of Stuart.
According to Greg Davis, the electoral commission’s supervisor of the Alice town camps’ brief exercises in democracy, the initial report in 2004 about proposed new boundaries said the incorporation of the town camps in Stuart “would benefit the quota in Stuart and acknowledge the community of interest of the residents of the town camps with their traditional homelands”.  
The quota is the number of electors required by a seat (division) under the Self Government Act.
What a disappointing argument: is it now considered a fact that there is no “community of interest” between white and black?
Are the two races in different countries, planets?
What does that say for the prospect of harmony between the races?
It goes further: the NT Electoral Commission, at great expense, is running eight mobile polling places in the Alice Springs area for this by-election, six of them in town camps a few minutes walk from the Braitling School, where polling will be between 8am and 6pm on Saturday, or a polling place open all week on Leichhard Terrace.
The handful of people at Mt Nancy had their own private polling place last Friday, and Palmer’s Camp, directly across the road, will have one this Friday.
The access by the media to observe the election is not at all guaranteed.
Central Land Council director David Ross announced on September 5 that permits will be issued “to enable people to enter communities to help the political candidates during the Stuart bi-election campaign” and that “the CLC is committed to supporting the democratic process”.
There’s no mention of journalists.
In fact, the Alice News didn’t even receive a reply from the CLC when we asked for a permit for me and chief reporter Kieran Finnane “to observe, and report on, as journalists, the democratic processes all through the Stuart by-election”.

Latest statistics for building approvals suggest that Darwin is set for huge expansion, while Alice limps along.
Real estate sales figures also reflect Darwin’s boom conditions, but strangely its vehicle market is flat.
Darwin’s boom versus Alice’s bust is reflected in the dollar value to each from building approvals, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. 
Alice gained 61 new houses in 2005-06, worth $12.3m, while Darwin gained 517, worth $125.3m. That’s 10 times as many more for Darwin.
Alice got 52 new flats, and Darwin, 388. The respective dollar values were $6.9m versus $125.4m, in other words, 18 times more for Darwin.
Non-residential building in Alice was worth $35.2m, while in Darwin the figure was $300.8m. That’s eight times more than Alice’s.
Total building approvals in Darwin, worth $588.9m, account for the majority of the NT’s approvals, worth $752.3m. Total approvals for Alice were worth $69.9m. So overall, total building activity in Darwin for 05-06 was worth eight times Alice’s total.
Meanwhile median unit prices have increased twice as much in Darwin as in Alice, according to the latest figures from the Northern Territory Real Estate Local Market analysis.
The development of contemporary executive units in the Darwin city area have meant the median price of a unit has jumped by 32.1% over the last 12 months.
In Alice, median prices rose 17.3% over the same 12 months. The median cost of a unit here is $203,000 compared with inner Darwin’s $331,658.
Stephanie Hart, the principal and director of Roy Weston in Alice Springs, says she’s not surprised at the Top End boom: “It’s a capital city with a bigger population. Darwin has had a lot of development recently including the waterfront project which has pushed unit prices up, and there has been a lot of Southern investment into the area.” 
In Alice, the main unit development has been North Edge, on the North Stuart Highway, a complex with a shared pool and gym with 25 two and three bedroom units and 12 one bedroom units, sold exclusively through Frampton.
Says Ms Hart: “The [local] market has been a bit slow.
Some of the bigger developments like North Edge and the release of houses from the Department of Defence, which are being sold at auction, have slowed the general market. There were ten sold in the last few months and five on the market.
“It will continue to affect prices for a while although the market seems to be turning now, we are seeing more interest over the past few weeks.” 
During the June quarter, house prices in Alice Springs decreased by 0.4 per cent compared with the same period last year but the numbers of sales lifted by 16 per cent. Over the last six years, the median house price has increased by 75 per cent.
In Darwin, there was a 4.8 per cent drop in house sales over the last 12 months but the median price went up by 25.1 per cent.
Median house prices in Darwin have increased by 83 per cent over the past six years.
Alice Springs is maintaining its car market while Darwin is dropping, show figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
The number of cars sold in Alice Springs for the months of April, May and June 2006 is marginally less (13) than the number sold for the same period last year. But dealerships in Darwin sold 248 less in the June quarter 2006 compared with June 2005.
On average, Darwin sells roughly two thirds more cars than Alice, which is nearly in line with the population difference (28,000 versus 70,000).
The price of fuel and increased interest rates are the reason for the slowing of sales in Alice, says Robert Tucker, Oasis Motors’ dealer principal.
“I’ve heard fuel could be $2 a litre by the end of the year. The trend of customers is buying smaller vehicles because of pressure on savings.
“People are looking for more economical vehicles. The Kia five door hatch is our most popular, it always has been. Its capacity is 6.7 litres per 100 km.” 

Recorded crime increased in all key areas in Alice in 2005-06 compared with the previous year. Only Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy fared worse than Alice out of the Territory’s major centres.
However, Justice Minister Syd Stirling said “pro-active and intelligence led policing” in Alice had seen a reduction in violent crime in the June quarter (assaults down 46% and sexual assault down 80%), and the Alice Springs Property Crime Reduction Unit had seen property offences fall in the quarter (down 21%).
In 2005-06 overall offences against the person in Alice were up 29% to 1182 (264 more offences) compared to 2004-05.
Assault (common and aggravated assault of a non-sexual nature) was up 28% to 1106 (241 more offences), while sexual assault was up 63% to 44 (17 more offences).
Overall property offences were up 19% to 3354 (530 more offences).
House break-ins increased by 36% to 282 (75 more offences), while commercial break-ins were up by 92% to 300 (144 more offences).
Motor vehicle theft and related offences were up 21% to 282 (48 more offences); other theft up 10% to 1180 (111 more offences); and property damage up 15% to 1294 (167 more offences).
In Darwin overall offences against the person were down 1% but overall property offences were  up 16% compared to the previous year.
In Palmerston the year-to year comparisons show overall offences against the person up 6% while overall property offences dropped 11%.
In Katherine overall offences against the person were up 39% in 2005-06, compared to the previous year and overall property offences increased by 20%.
In Tennant Creek the year-to-year comparisons show overall offences against the person up 41% and overall property offences up 30%.- Commercial break-ins in Tennant increased by a massive 118% to 83 (45 more offences).
In Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula overall offences against the person were up 35% and overall property offences were up 76% to 328 (142 more offences). House break-ins in the town were up 240% to 17 (12 more offences) and commercial break-ins up 209% to 34 (23 more offences). 
Regional and remote areas showed overall offences against the person up 10% to 1310 (114 more offences) and overall property offences down 8% to 2669 (242 less offences).

The air conditioning system in the new Civic Centre, hailed as innovative, is still not working.
The original design has been modified to allow the use of by-pass pumps, says director of technical services, Eric Peterson.
The pumps are still being priced so the solution is not just around the corner.
The additional cost will not be “significant” in terms of the overall project, says Mr Peterson.
The building is “reasonably comfortable” to be in at the moment.
The problem is technical – “very difficult for a lay person to understand”.
Is it to do with the design’s innovative aspects?
“I wouldn’t say that at all,” he says.
“The design is focussed on achieving lower energy consumption by using natural thermal energy.
“In that context it is more complex than your everyday air conditioners that you simply switch on.
“The additional costs of the system are offset by savings in energy costs.” 
And are savings being made?
“Early indications were that electricity was well down but I’m not sure we have got all the meters accounted for,” says Mr Peterson, although ultimately the system will be able to be monitored in detail.

The Qantas travel centre in Todd Mall will close on December 1 because it’s not making enough money.
“The move reflects increasing customer preference for online bookings,” said a spokesperson for the company, whose website gets five million hits a month. It won’t affect any flights coming in or out of Alice Springs.”
Three members of staff are currently employed and have been offered redundancies or relocation.
Craig Catchlove, the general manager of the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association says the closure won’t have a negative affect on the local tourism industry.
“What business was going there will move to other travel agencies which is good for local companies, or people will use the web. 
“I am surprised it lasted as long as it did. That kind of retail frontage is a thing of the past.”
Other Qantas offices are also closing around Australia including one on the Gold Coast.

by columnist ADAM CONNELLY.
There are many sayings that we Aussies love to throw about.
I have, in previous columns, spoken about the “too easy”. That two word conversation finisher. The perfect answer to every request. “Can you get me a drink out of the fridge?” “Too easy.” “Can you fix my broken down car even though the exhaust has fallen off?” “Too easy”. “Can I have one of your kidneys?” “Too easy”. We love it.
My dad was the king of such terms. “Toey as a roman sandal.” “Camp as a row of tents.” “A face like a dropped pie.” These were his favourites.
But if you dig a little deeper into our culture, you move from the glib and the sarcastic to the succinct and poignant.
“The tyranny of distance” is four words that encapsulate the Central Australian experience for so many of us. These four words sum up the frustration, sometimes the heartache and often the logistical nightmare many of us go through by living in the middle of a continent while most Australians live on the edge.
It is my birthday soon and I was hoping to go back home. To get to Sydney, there is really only one option. Three and a half pleasant enough hours in a slightly too small seat next to people I don’t know. But who’s complaining, I’m going home and it will all be over soon enough.
There are other options of course. I could drive if I so desired. Three and a half hours becomes two and a half days there and two and a half days back.
In order to get there in any comfort I have to drive a “family” sized car which means, with petrol prices at $1.48, I’ll either need a loan, a banana plantation or to give up an organ or two just to pay for the trip.
A bit impractical anyway because most of us can only get a week off work. “Hi Mum! Just dropped in for my birthday cake.
Mmm delicious. Is that the time? Must dash, got to work on Monday.”
The time disqualification also kicks in for a coach. I cannot imagine me on a bus for three days.
When I imagine hell I don’t think off the fiery furnace I think of the cramped seats and crappy food with Beelzebub himself at the wheel saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, our in bus movie this evening will be “Young Einstein”! Make the nightmare stop!
So with only one real way to get home, we come to fully understand the tyranny of the distance.
Sadly, my birthday falls upon the school holiday period. This means that in order to book a seat on a plane to Sydney for under the price of the national debt, one would have had to book in February, 1973.
I asked my agent if there was a ticket available and they politely told me that I can either fly business class for the price of an arm and a leg or fly to Sydney via Darwin and Wellington. “Wellington! I’m sorry love but that’s not even in Australia”.
“I know that sir, but you see ... it’s school holidays”.
All of a sudden I started thinking of some of my father’s not so printable sayings.
The tyranny of distance, once again oppressing the disorganised and the spontaneous. I’ve never been a Marxist, never really seen myself as a revolutionary sort of bloke, but at this moment I was ready to don the Che t-shirt and write a placard. Maybe even two placards. 
“Give me more than one flight a day or give me Death!” it would read. Maybe even “Jetstar brings Freedom”. We’ll take to the streets shouting, “Whadda we want” “Return flights home for Christmas that don’t cost $800!” “Whenda we want them.” “November!”
Yes, children of the revolution, the time has come. Gone are the days when we sit idly by and let our weekly magazines turn up late.
We shall not be silenced when people from cities tell us that they can only put on a service once a week.
No longer will I take the excuse that the reason there isn’t a major brand chain store in town is because it’s not economically viable. I want my Time magazine on time.
I want my plane to leave when I need it to and I want a coffee shop that sells mocha-bloody-chinos and I want them now!
They say the world is getting smaller. I can talk to friends in London and they sound as though they are in the next room.
I can see a web cam image of the street I grew up on, on the internet and I can send photos to every single person I know with the click of a button but I can only do these things from the comfort of my home.
Because I’m stuck here until the kids go back to school.

A 29 year old Belgian man has walked 330km across the Central Australian outback unaided.
Louis-Philippe Loncke hiked the entire Larapinta Train relying only on himself and climbing three of the Territory’s highest peaks: Mount Razorback, Mount Giles and Mount Zeil (the highest summit in Australia outside of the Great Dividing Range).
Incredibly, the journey took him just 11 days: he had to carry food for the whole journey and enough water for up to three days at a time.
“It was much more difficult than I expected,” says Loncke who slowly walked into the Telegraph Station on Friday, dehydrated and exhausted.
“It was all about pushing my limits. I did it for myself, not to break a record.
“Walking between Zeil and Razorback: you are somewhere else, not the outback.
“It was so hard. You can’t see how to get over the hill after hill.”
He set off with a backpack weighing 34 kilos including 12 litres of water, eating just German pumpernickel bread, dried pasta and 48 energy bars.
Dropped off by four wheel drive, Loncke had to rely on his home made maps to reach the Larapinta Trail.
“No detailed maps exist so I made my own with satellite photos.
“I have extremely good navigation skills. I was in the Scouts in Belguim, I don’t know if that helps?
“After two days I had a gash on my back where my backpack rubbed on my underwear. My feet hurt. The full moon and my walking sticks saved my life.”
He averaged 30 km a day, walking about 15 per cent of the time at night or early in the morning.
A photographer and filmmaker, Loncke was forced to abandon his filming of the adventure at Redbank Gorge.
“I had made a canoe to cross the gorge with inflatable sleeping roll, balloons and condoms but the canoe broke when I climbed over rocks.
“So I swam with backpack. My sleeping bag and food got wet and my filming camera was destroyed.” 
At the end of his trek, Loncke knew exactly what he wanted to celebrate his achievement.
“A bar of chocolate.
“For the last four days I didn’t eat much. I can’t wait to spend $30 on food and eat it all.”

Back to frontpage the Alice Springs News.