October 12, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

There’s an Alice inside waiting to get out: flamboyant, playful, loving, imaginative, skilled, sophisticated, united.
That Alice is out in force at the annual Wearable Arts Awards but strangely hard to encounter in the everyday town, in the streets, the workplaces, the public spaces where you might expect more play. We dress ‘down’, there’s a lot of anxiety and aggression in our public spaces, little imagination, skill, or sophistication, and a lot of division.
At Wearable Arts, an Alice Desert festival event, there’s not only permission for the opposite to take place, there’s a resounding endorsement of it: bodies – both sexes and of every age, shape, skin colour – adorned and adored, with humour, audacity, artistry  and invention at a premium.
All this in the context of deep pride in community and love of the awe-inspiring environment that gives it home. There is hunger in Alice Springs for these things to be expressed:  in evidence in the audience reaction to  unforgettable footage ( shot collaboratively by Alice-based film-makers David Curl, Shane Mulcahy and David Nixon) of the Todd coming into flood that provided the backdrop for a tango dance that opened the show. And even more so in the reaction to the short film ‘from the edge to the heart’, screened after interval. 
This film, made by Nixon and Craig Mathewson, ostensibly about the arts in Alice, articulates a vision obviously shared by many of the place and community in which they live.  The audience responded to the film and its message with nothing short of wild enthusiasm.
It helped make this year’s Wearable Arts the show to beat all others and underlined its need to grow. A means should be found for more people to see the awards night (many people missed out on tickets last Saturday) but more importantly the qualities so brilliantly on display in the show need to become more a part of our everyday lives.
Coordinator Nicky Shonkala spoke on Saturday of creating a Wearable Arts Centre. Maybe, although that sounds like bricks and mortar, training, staff, organisational structure and a long way off.
To a certain extent local educational institutions have already responded to the training need: the student showings were particularly strong this year, with OLSH, Batchelor, Bradshaw Primary, and Centralian College all represented. In the immediate future more events, of varied nature and in a variety of contexts, that get greater exposure locally, nationally, and internationally for this wellspring of inspiration would be the way to go. 

It’s not new but neither has it changed: Tourism NT undermines the markets for local producers by regularly subsidising interstate and overseas crews to do what local filmmakers could do better.
So says David Curl, president of the ACS NT, the Territory’s association for cinematographers and film-makers, citing a recent example of a DVD about Central Australia made as a giveaway for Australian Geographic.
The work went directly to an NSW company, thanks to a partnership between Australian Geographic and the NT Tourist Commission (as it was then called) as well as Parks Australia.
A similar give-away documentary was also made about Kakadu and again the work, thanks to the same partnership, went interstate.
Shane Mulcahy, who has been making television in the Centre since 1988, backs Mr Curl’s call for a buy local approach. He says local film-makers collectively “hold more than enough material of a high enough standard to put together a much better package on the NT”.
Says Mr Curl: “Ours must surely be the only industry where our own government provides incentives for us to move interstate!
“It seems to be a type of cultural cringe. Tourism NT do not believe we have a quality product but by preventing local product from accessing markets – because Tourism NT have undermined those markets by supporting our competitors – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Penelope McDonald, director of the NT Film Office, now three years old, says her approaches to Tourism NT have made small headway with respect to a couple of specific projects.
However, she also says: “As far as I’m aware they don’t see the Territory screen industry as having a major role in the tourism industry even though film and television is where people get their awareness of the Territory from.
“Documentaries about the Territory, like those made by CAAMA and David Curl, are shown widely.  
“It’s a ‘no-brainer’ that film and TV are good for tourism and given that tourism is one of the Territory’s main industries, fresh product from our screen industry is important to keep tourism ticking over.”
Mr Curl says there are four key ways to run a business in the film/TV industry:
• Making productions is “the most important for a sustainable industry yet it’s undermined because Tourism NT subsidise overseas and interstate film-makers and don’t provide equivalent support for locals”.
• Selling stock footage is “also undermined by Tourism NT who often give away footage and stills photographs to people who would and should pay for them commercially”. He cites as but one example a promotional/commercial document for an Alice Springs legal firm sporting a photo provided courtesy of Tourism NT.
• Retail products “undermined in the same way”.
• Tenders, again “undermined because the government gives out major contracts to interstate companies and washes its hands of any obligations to ensure that Territorians are employed wherever possible”.
“The bottom line is that our government must urgently learn to stop competing with the private sector if it wants to create a sustainable economy. And it must urgently adopt a ‘whole of government’ approach with the film / TV industry.
“It should be finding out what locals are doing (and it never pro-actively consults with us) and, if necessary, provide incentives for locals to do things the government wants. But it should never, under any circumstances, be using taxpayers’ money to harm local businesses.
“Providing support for interstate and overseas film-makers visiting the Territory inevitably undermines the local industry. The only question is whether this harm is short term or long term.”
Tourism NT CEO Maree Tetlow declined to be interviewed but a spokesperson provided a statement:
 “Tourism NT participates in the Federal Government Tourism Agency’s ‘Visiting Journalists Program’ where print and broadcast journalists and films crews are sponsored to come to Australia.  It is based on the principle that journalists can produce better, more motivating and detailed coverage if they experience a destination or product first- hand.
“Tourism NT offers in kind support to both domestic and international journalists visiting the Northern Territory in order to enhance marketing
campaigns and extend the exposure of Territory destinations and products in key domestic and international markets.
“This support provides the NT tourism industry with cost-effective marketing tools, creating exposure for local operators and the Territory as a whole.
“The partnership between Tourism NT and Australian Geographic is part of an ongoing marketing campaign which has provided significant placement, content and PR value-added opportunities.
“The selection of photographers and cinematographers is not carried out by Tourism NT under the partnership arrangement.  Australian Geographic engage these services under contractual arrangements that do not involve Tourism NT.
“Tourism NT makes every effort to use local service providers when requiring photography and cinematic services and, in fact has a panel of local providers.”
Mr Curl says ACS NT sought details about the partnership arrangement with Australian Geographic and other similar interstate partnerships both from Tourism NT and from Clare Martin personally but neither were willing to provide details.
He says the question remains: “Why is Tourism NT prepared to enter into secret interstate partnerships when it is not prepared to enter into partnerships with better qualified locals?”

A prominent Aboriginal leader says she has faith in the new National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force (NIITF) which set up an Alice Springs office last week.
Lhere Artepe member Betty Pearce says after meeting senior officials: “They will be talking first to the actual traditional owners and custodians of that particular land, wherever they go.”
Before even going to a place the NIITF “will be asking who the real traditional owners and custodians are, which to me is a really fantastic step forward,” says Ms Pearce.
“They will be looking for the people who are talking true for the people and the country.”
Who is speaking now to the police?
“Sometimes it’s not the right people.
“Those could have been born there or living there for a long time, but they may not be the proper TOs and custodians,” says Ms Pearce.
Kevin Kitsen, NIITF’s national director, spoke with ERWIN CHLANDA about the role of the new task force.
NEWS: We now have no less than three bodies inquiring into crime in Aboriginal communities. One of them, the Territory police child abuse task force, enquired into credible allegations of rape, domestic violence and child sex abuse at Mututjulu, Ayers Rock. They spoke to some 300 people, but turned up nothing that could be useful in a prosecution. Then there is the Board of Enquiry by Rex Wild QC and Pat Anderson, required to report by April next year. And now there is the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force (NIITF). Why? How would it be better than the other two? 
MR KITSON: The NIITF is a national task force, the other two operate only in the NT. We will create a national picture of the issues confronting Indigenous communities, co-ordinating information from many agencies including welfare, health and education [so governments can better] support Indigenous communities to avoid the kinds of circumstances alleged in Mutitjulu.
NEWS: Why has the NT Police, for example, not been able to draw information from those sources?
MR KITSON: That’s a matter for the NT Police [to answer]. They’ve done a significant amount of work to understand the issues. I’m not in a position to comment on their findings.
NEWS: Haven’t they told you what their findings were?
MR KITSON: We can access a lot of information from the NT but I’m not going to comment on any of the specific cases.
NEWS: Does the NIIFT have powers the NT Police does not have?
MR KITSON: The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) [which leads the NIIFT] generally has a wide range of powers conventional policing agencies don’t have. The intention in this area is to use coercive powers only when we feel there is a compelling case to do so, probably in relation to drugs. There is no coercive power attached to the inquiry currently in relation to violence or child abuse, but that’s a matter for the ACC board to determine as we go along. This is a national project that’s going to take two or three years. We need to coordinate data from agencies [as well as] opinions and stories from all sorts of people.
NEWS: The Wild-Anderson inquiry is focussing more on future prevention of crimes rather than ferreting out past perpetrators. Does the NIIFT have a similar focus?
MR KITSON: It’s a hybrid approach. The primary focus is to make things better for the future, ensuring the responses are better co-ordinated, and information goes to where it needs to go so that action can be taken. We’re unlikely to go back to look at cases even like Mutitjulu unless there is some case study benefit for doing so. If in our analysis we find identifiable and clearly actionable alleged offending we’ll report that to the appropriate jurisdictions.
NEWS: What is your take on tribal law? Is it a second law that needs to be taken into account?
MR KITSON: The ACC is operating under Australian law. We don’t wish to engage in the debate about tribal law. That’s a matter for the Commonwealth and state jurisdictions.
NEWS: Would you take into account tribal law when prosecuting offences?
MR KITSON: That’s beyond the limits of the ACC task force.
NEWS: It is often claimed, and we understand, often falsely, that certain liberties are permitted under traditional law, such as having more than one wife and underage sex.
MR KITSON: We naturally have to understand how Indigenous communities operate. There are sets of laws that govern each and everyone of us. Underage sex is defined by law. Our issue is about understanding how communities interact, and what the issues are within those communities, how they differ from non-indigenous communities. How tribal law applies, its benefits and drawbacks compared with other codes of behaviour, are not matters we’ll comment on except as part of our natural desire to understand the issues. When it comes to a breach of law then we would treat people with the same judgement that would apply to anyone else.
NEWS: If, on the face of it, an underage sex crime is committed, would you ignore that if there is a strong argument that the act is condoned by Aboriginal tradition?
MR KITSON: If information is given to us about an offence against the criminal code then we will be obliged to pass this information to the relevant jurisdiction for their decision on whether or not to act on that. We will not make a judgement.
NEWS: Will the fact that three agencies are now investigating lead to a kind of fatigue by the people from whom information is sought?
MR KITSON: I would hope that the communities involved in this would understand that there are different sets of people [seeking information]. There is a concerted effort by state, territory and Commonwealth governments. We need different approaches here. We will ensure [for example] if the child abuse team of the NT Police is following certain lines of inquiry that, within the bounds of operational and investigative protocol, so we don’t compromise investigations, and within the boundaries of the Privacy Act, that we all seek to share that information. And likewise with the [Wild-Anderson] Board of Inquiry. We don’t want to ask the same questions of the same people and have a queue of people from various task forces sitting on the ground waiting to talk to them. [Yet] each of the inquiries has quite different purposes.
NEWS: Which crimes will you be investigating?
MR KITSON: We’re an intelligence task force ... trying to understand what sorts of issues are confronting Indigenous communities with respect to  violence, child sex abuse and other offences against the criminal code.
NEWS: The Institute of Criminology will in due course be assessing the NIIFT’s performance but, in your mind, what will constitute success?
MR KITSON: It would be to set up a system where we can go to 20, 30 or 40 different agencies nationally [for information] about who’s committing offences in a particular community. That would be a tremendous step forward.

Protest in Alice Springs against the Pine Gap spy base and its role in the Iraq war widened on the weekend with a series of events and demonstrations and the arrest of five people: Jamie Ford and Carl Johnston both of Alice Springs, Tracey Makamae (pictured) from Yeppoon in Central Queensland, Sam Lard from New Zealand, and Edward Cranswick from Adelaide.
They are charged with loitering and obstructing the flow of traffic under the Territory’s Summary Offences Act and Traffic Act and bailed to appear in the Alice Springs Magistrates Court on October 17. 
Their actions, in a non-violent demonstration outside the main gates to the base, and the presence of long time Catholic Worker activist Ciaron O’Reilly, heartened the Pine Gap Four – Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Bryan Law and Donna Mulhearn – who are facing penalties of up to seven years in gaol if convicted on charges arising from their entry onto the base last December. 
The Supreme Court in Alice will today hear further pre-trial legal argument from lawyers representing the Four relating to their charges under the federal Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, never used before in the prosecution of protesters entering the Pine Gap spy base. (See last week’s issue.)
Fellow protester O’Reilly was recently acquitted in an Irish court of charges relating to $2.5m worth of damage on a US war plane.
On the weekend Mr O’Reilly wore a protest t-shirt relating to the first Gulf war, telling supporters not to throw out their old t-shirts: “You never know when they’re going to start bombing the same places again.”
He served 13 months in a US prison after being convicted of charges relating to the disarming of a B-52 bomber in upstate New York during the height of the bombing campaign in Iraq in 1991.
In Ireland in February 2003, just before the US-led invasion of Iraq, he and four others entered a hangar at the civilian Shannon Airport, which he calls “a pitstop for the US war machine”, and used a hammer to damage the US war plane.
Two trials of the activists collapsed when they proved that the adjudications were tainted with a “perception of bias”.
The third trial in July this year resulted in the jury returning a unanimous not guilty verdict, with the activists successfully arguing that they had a lawful excuse for their actions as they were undertaken in order to “preserve the life of another person”, said Mr O’Reilly.

The former Tywetyere Club and a block on Dalgety Rd are likely to become the sites for  “strongly managed”  short term accommodation facilities, after they were given in principle support by the town camp taskforce implementation committee meeting on September 29.
The proposal requires development consent from the Minister for Planning, so a detailed proposal, to be prepared by a project manager soon to be appointed, will be placed on public exhibition for public comment.
 Mayor Fran Kilagriff says the sites require zoning changes and so will probably also be the subject of “an Exceptional Development Application”. 
The facilities, under a plan conceived of by the Australian and Territory Governments, will cater for visitors staying up to three months, provide a mix of camping sites and hostel type accommodation with appropriate amenities and landscaping, be alcohol free and managed professionally on a fee for service basis that is tailored for low income earners.
Other task force recommendations have been progressed since the committee’s first meeting:
• $7.8m has been committed from pooled Northern Territory and Australian Government funding to support a three-year upgrading program for town camp dwellings. 
• The renovation of Stuart Lodge by the NT Government is on track for completion by December 2006.  This facility will provide 32 units for Indigenous people and their families. 
• Expressions of interest closed on 31 August for an NT Government managed short-term visitor accommodation facility to further increase accommodation capacity for Indigenous clients.  The Department of Local Government, Housing and Sport are currently assessing submissions.

Adrienne Willing was the star at Sunday’s triathlon, competing in three events, each successively longer than the preceding one.
The dozen competitors had the choice of entering one, two or three events, each consisting of swimming, running and bicycle riding.
The first triathlons in Alice Springs were in the mid 1980s, organized by Len Newman, the manager of the town pool, with the first event won by Chris Batchelor and Theresa O’Byrne. 
Tris were then taken over by the Running Club and took the form of a couple of mini tris and the annual Alice Tri. 
By the early ‘nineties many people wanted more triathlon events and the Running Club encouraged those who were keen to start up a Tri Club. 
This new club continued the Alice Tri and mini tri tradition and also included many more events for both individual and team competitors. 
A highlight became the annual Corporate Challenge which still attracts large numbers of team entries from Government departments and private firms. 
The club also has a strong tradition of hosting NT Championships and Master Games events.
The sport has seen some outstanding local competitors. 
Loie Sharp and Adrienne Willing have both won selection in the Australian national age group team and competed in World Age Group Championships.
Other successful female competitors were Carol Ayres (a former US national Amateur champion), Wendy Heywood and Jessica Beames.
The best men have included Matthew Yates (now of the Promised Land venue), Tavis Johannsen, Duane Heywood, Daniel Pezet  and Tony Fitzpatrick who qualified for a professional licence, an exceptional achievement. 
In recent years several of the men have banded together to train and compete in Ironman triathlon events.
This group included Tavis Johannsen, Dean Nankivell and Rob Manning who is currently pounding the roads training for an Ironman later in the year.

“Are you going to wear jeans, a jacket and boots?”
“I don’t own a pair of jeans and it’s the middle of summer. So … no.”
“Then no, you’re not riding a scooter.”
“But Dad already organised it.”
My conversation with mum went something like this when I told her that Dad had organised a scooter for me to test ride.
In case you’re wondering, she relented on the jeans and jacket but insisted on boots. I could deal with that.
So on Saturday morning I went to pick up the scooter with my Dad. It was a little red retro number with chrome trimmings.
As you can see, I’m not into technical details.
I’ve been driving a car for over a year now, off my Ps, no accidents, no fines, great!
But my only experience with a scooter was when I drove my brother’s Pee-wee 50 into a fence, on my first try, when I was about eight, so I was feeling a little bit nervous.
But after a quick introduction by Wayne “Woody” Woodberry in the quiet road outside Race Motorcycles I found it very easy.
I proceeded to drive it around Alice to show it off to my friends.
Once in traffic I found I didn’t feel unsafe. Other motorists seemed to be fully aware of me. In fact the scooter attracted a lot of attention both on and off the road.
Mostly girls talked about its aesthetics (“It’s so cute!”) while the boys wanted to know how fast it can go (50 km p/h, flat out), if they could carry off the scooter look (yes, but not all boys, they have to have a bit of flair) and “Can I have a go? Please... Then can you dinky me?” Um, no.
Speed is probably my biggest problem with the scooter. I live in the rural area about a 15 minute drive from town by car, going through 80 and 100 zones south of the Gap.
On the scooter it took me 28 minutes, which is actually a really long time without music.
BUT, and this is a big but, in my car I go through about $40 of fuel a week,  if I go to town every day, whereas on the scooter I could probably get away with $10.
And I’d be doing my bit for the fight against global warming.
So let me sum it up. The cons are boots (and maybe jeans and a jacket) in the middle of summer, no passengers and it’s slow.
But the last one isn’t really an issue if you live in town.
The pros are that the scooter is damn cute, fuel efficient and so cheaper and greener than a car, and easy to drive.
And carrying around a motorbike helmet makes you feel rather cool.
Yamaha XC50 Vino, quiet four-stroke engine, no motorbike license required, consumption about 2.5 litres per 100 km, automatic gears and clutch, lever brakes on handle bars (like a pushbike), big carry compartment, ignition key locks back wheel when parked. $2990 ride away.

I want to go on record as saying that I really do enjoy writing this column.
The feedback I have received from you all has been very encouraging and it’s great to be able to have a place for my random thoughts to be put down in print.
But today is almost too nice a day to be inside writing this column. I really need to get myself a lap top, find a shady spot and enjoy the perfect weather that we’ve been having of late.
Thirty degrees in the day, a nice breeze and bearably cool at night.
I’ve noticed that in town the atmosphere has changed.
People are even friendlier, even more laid back and even more in the mood to have a good time.
There is a real sense of fun in town at the moment and a part of me wants to be there right now having a whale of a time instead of here in front of a keyboard.
Having said that, I could be stuck down a mine like the folks from Ernest Henry, or wiping bottoms at the hospital, so all in all I can’t complain too loudly.
There is a small downside to all this great weather.
I don’t want to rain on the parade of feel good times, and far be it from me to tell anybody that they might need to tone it down a touch, but what I am about to say might just be a little food for thought for tomorrow night. Some of you, and once again only some of you, are getting a little bit too…well naked. It has been as though as soon as the mercury topped 30 all of a sudden people I don’t know thought they’d have to go nude. 
Now I’m not a prude in any way but please if you have to peel off the fabric, please follow a few simple rules first.
Apparently it’s OK to nude up on the council lawn. It’s also ok to walk around freely butt naked in your own home.
But it is not OK to nude up in a car on the road.
I’m pretty sure if the NT had the demerit system that would be a three point penalty.
This was something that confronted me this week. I was driving a 4WD in town which gives you a view into the car next to you and I saw something I never want to see again. Even the most ardent of nudists could see the inherent dangers of driving this way. Seat belt marks, sunburn, hot leather seats on sensitive skin, the chance of having to exchange details if God forbid there might be a bingle.
All of these thoughts were thoughts that didn’t go through this bloke’s head before he drove pants free.
There has also been a propensity for the backpacker folk to swan around town in shorts that Kylie Minogue would be too prudish to wear. Perhaps it’s the epicurist in me but the reason I don’t flounce about in clothes that show off my bits is simply because no one needs to see that.
Perhaps before you leave the rooms you are staying in ask yourself, “Do people really want to see three quarters of my bottom?” Generally I think the answer might be in the negative.
Then there’s the most disturbing one of all. Listen if you have had a few beverages to celebrate the lovely weather, I understand that sometimes your inhibitions get the better of you. I live in a complex where all residents once received a letter from the body corporate asking us  to refrain from engaging in “special times” in the pool.
“It has been brought to our attention that some people have been using the pool for activities for which the pool was not intended…”
Those types of activities generally feel better than they look, let’s be honest and are best suited to the privacy of your own home.
Actually now I think about it, if you’re all outside, maybe it’s better that I’m stuck in here. 

Sir,– Having just read your article on Alice Springs Airport and its status as an international facility, (Alice News, Sept 21) I am astounded again at the short sightedness of governments, and their unwillingness to plan long term.
Those with long memories may remember the plan of the late Lang Hancock to create an international hub in Alice Springs, radiating domestic flights to all states from here.
It was pooh-poohed at the time and no one took it seriously, although Hancock had an excellent track record for making things happen.
When the airport was sold to what was then Infratril many years ago and the third airport controversy was in full swing in Sydney, Infratril called for the submission of ideas as to what to do with the land next to the airport.
I [suggested] the creation of an international hub here to both the company and the consulting engineers in Darwin (Knight Sinclair).
I also proposed a high tech research facility on that land adjoining as a drawcard.
I also raised the matter of an international hub in a letter to “The Australian” at the same time. That letter solicited a number of  positive replies.
One suggested that in the EIS for the third Sydney runway it was disclosed the around 13% of the international  passengers travelling through Sydney were en route to other capital cities in Australia.
Counting the incoming and outgoing passengers it amounted to 25% of the passengers through that airport who did not need to be there!
That was the time to start pushing the idea on internationalising the  airport here. The powers that be have missed the boat (or is it the plane) by about eight years.
It’s too late to talk it up now as one other response to the letter to The Australian pointed out that the sheer weight of tourist infrastructure that has gone into the Eastern States works against our interests, Yulara not withstanding.
It would have been a lot easier then to convince the carriers that it was in their economic interests to terminate their flights here and to distribute from here.
Take a few moments any afternoon to count the number of international flights that pass over to illustrate the point.
I also put the idea of operating out of here as a hub to Richard Branson, as at that time he was investigating a similar hub in China.
I received a reply to the effect that all things were on the table. I doubt if the government at the time even remotely considered the possibility of him operating here, but it was an obvious opportunity which was probably never even considered. Subsequently, he set up in Brisbane.
There is another golden opportunity awaiting development here in the form of the North South Railway.
The vast geothermal energy resources in South Australia (and the potential for the same in the top end) are both looking for a base load on a scale which will enable them to generate environmentally sound electricity at more than competitive prices in comparison to coal. 
If the present crop of pollies want to do something for all of our long term benefit, plan now to electrify the railway using geothermal  power from both ends, then use the railway to distribute the electricity cheaply into the national grid via the rail system.
Then build solar farms and wind farms on our side of the border, feeding into the railway and make the NT the major supplier of very competitive electricity to the rest of the country.
That could be done here. It needs thinking outside the square and a long term, bipartisan plan.
It happens in other countries, but  then, pollies are notoriously short sighted,  aren’t they? They don’t like to think that the other side might get the benefit of their planning and foresight.
The biggest problem would be the entrenched interests of the Eastern states coal lobby, at it was with the airport and the Eastern tourism industry, but surely they couldn’t make the same mistake twice.
Trevor Shiell
Alice Springs

Sir,– Julie Bishop [federal Minister for Education] says she is concerned that many young people are handicapped in gaining employment by low levels of literacy.
Ms Bishop advocates an Australian wide system and standards based on finding the most successful education program, in whichever state that may be, and imposing this Australia wide.  This is the kind of thinking which has caused the problems. Schools and teachers are continually being in-serviced and directed to implement one new “best practice” scheme after another.
The old system is often thrown out regardless of whether it was working well or not. Here is one small example.
For a number of years teachers were directed not to teach phonics explicitly, only to draw attention to sounds and spelling of words in stories.
No doubt this would work well for children in some successful city schools, where children learn the letters at home and mothers help them write things letter by letter from an early age. 
Take away step by step teaching of word building and decoding and these children would progress faster. All they need at school to provide for their literacy development is stimulation and practice. 
However millions of other children, especially boys, who rarely even see their fathers writing, don’t learn letters at home and don’t understand how they work together to make words.  A little behind quickly becomes a long way behind, as the other children who do understand, get all those extra weeks, months and years of literacy practice.
You can’t transplant an education program working well in one place and expect it to work the same way in another social setting.
Even in special needs areas it doesn’t work.
An excellent English program for migrants is not suitable or relevant to Aboriginal students.
A set of standards suited to urban Aboriginal progress won’t work for remote community children who never use English out-side the school.
The only things you can be sure of with a nation wide system and standards is that any mistakes will be made across the whole country, there will be no innovative and possibly better programs evolving, and the different needs and aspirations of a variety of school communities won’t be catered for. 
One size doesn’t fit all, no matter how hard some well meaning politicians and bureaucrats try to squeeze students into it.
Wendy Baarda

Sir,– A substantial increase in the number of administrative staff in Territory Health since the election of the Martin Labor Government has come at the expense of better health care.
Official figures newly obtained by the CLP show the number of bureaucrats in Territory Health leapt from 1,017 at the 31 December 2001 to 1,210 at the 31 December 2005.
More bureaucrats means less health professionals to tend to the medical needs of Territorians.
The additional 193 health administrative staff employed since the beginning of 2002 represents a staggering 20 per cent increase in the number of health bureaucrats and comes at a cost of $15 million per annum.
Further there has been a marked increase at the top end of the health bureaucracy. The senior categories of health administrators showed strong growth during the past five years.
By way of contrast the number of nurses recruited in 2005/2006 fell by 82 from the year before and is well below recruiting levels of the past five years.
As a consequence of increasing recruitment levels for bureaucrats the number of nursing positions vacant in the Royal Darwin Hospital stands at 35, while the Alice Springs Hospital is carrying 13 vacancies.
The Martin Labor Government has its healthcare funding priorities upside down.
Our hospital system is the frontline of the health system and every spare cent should be directed to health outcomes.
Increasing the health bureaucracy at a time of falling nurse numbers makes a mockery of basic government priorities.
The effect has been longer waiting times, a blowout in elective surgery waiting times and more complaints.
Richard Lim,
Greatorex MLA

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