October 19, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Hazardous waste is leaking into the ground at the Alice Springs Town Council depot and should be contained in a concrete pit, says Alderman David Koch.
And he says the depot’s limited opening hours – four hours a month –   beg the question of where the hazardous waste goes for the rest of the month.
He suggests “a fair percentage of it” goes into the tipface and “that is not good for the environment”.
The depot takes waste oil and LPG bottles as well as flammable gases, liquids and solids, oxidising agents, corrosives and toxic waste.
Council’s director of technical services Eric Peterson says a drainage system beneath the landfill provides “leachate containment”.
Mr Peterson says the hazardous waste depot is operated under NT Government regulations by Wastemaster, now Cleanaway.
The cost of operating the depot is just under $1000 per month plus removal costs when the facility requires emptying.
All materials are collected and transported to South Australia for disposal at an authorised facility.
Wastemaster is also the landfill management contractor but the hazardous waste depot is operated seperately as it requires qualified personnel who log and process all materials “into separate sealed compartments”.
Ald Koch’s comments came in the course of debate about the depot at  Monday night’s Technical Services Committee meeting.
Ald Robyn Lambley, who chairs council’s Waste Management Advisory Committee, also raised concerns about the limited opening hours of the depot.
She said members of the advisory committee believe that more hazardous waste goes into the landfill than is collected at the depot.
Ald Geoff Bell expressed astonishment at the limited opening hours: this is “crazy” he said, when “we are trying to look after the environment”. 
Part of the problem was illustrated when the Alice News visited the depot – a fenced yard at the entrance to the landfill and a stone’s throw from the sewage ponds: on Tuesday morning two containers of unidentified waste were sitting outside the gate, despite warnings that this is an offence. 
In a “drum muster area”, drums, labelled as poison and containing herbicide, had tumbled from their stack and at least one had rusted right through.
On Monday night aldermen generally agreed that the depot opening hours should be extended, although still to only two Sundays a month when, according to Ald Koch, “most other councils” open their depots weekly.
CEO Rex Mooney asked for the issue to be taken on notice.
Meanwhile, a decision on the long awaited works restricting access to Basso Road to prevent illegal camping in Charles Creek, has been deferred to the December quarterly budget review.
The works have been demanded by senior citizen Gerry Baddock who lives adjacent to a favoured illegal camping spot in Charles Creek  (see most recently Alice News, March 23 and June 22).
The works are estimated to cost $50,000, of which the Territory Government has agreed to pay half, although Mrs Baddock has suggested that the trunks of illegally burnt trees, bulldozed into place, would suffice.
On Monday director of finance Bob Mildred requested the Finance Committee to give him direction regarding this item, as well as four others, not included in the budget and for which he can see no way of raising the necessary funds. The items are:
• repairs to the basketball stadium, $360,000 (see page 15);
• studies of the CBD and Todd Mall in preparation for upgrade, $200,000;
• repairs to Gap Youth Centre (GYC), $45,000;
• works to restrict vehicular access to Sturt Terrace banks of Todd River, $63,750.
This last, arising from a recent request by the Todd & Charles River Project Group, will be deferred to next year’s budget estimates. The basketball stadium situation will be raised with Minister for Sport and Recreation, Kon Vatskalis when he meets with council on Friday.
Commonwealth funds will be sought for the Mall study, while the CBD study will be deferred.
The GYC repairs will be deferred to the December budget review.
In other council business, Alds Murray Stewart and Koch expressed the view that native title holders should fast track their processes regarding land suitable for the proposed short-term accommodation facility for bush visitors.
“Isn’t this about Indigenous people?” asked Ald Stewart. “It’s remarkable that Indigenous organisations have not been the first to put up their hand.”

The aldermen were considering a letter of complaint from Centralian Motors’ Tony Connole about the Dalgety Road site being considered for the facility, some 250 metres from his business.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff said alternative sites subject to native title were not an option for the facility as it could take “several years” to resolve native title issues: “There are legal processes to be gone through,” she said.
Lhere Artepe’s Bettey Pearce confirmed that even if native title holders wanted to expedite the process, they could not.
Consultation with custodians and traditional owners, conducted by the Central Land Council, has to be proven to have taken place before the National Native Title Tribunal, said Mrs Pearce.
The process would take nine months to two years: “When are the aldermen going to learn about the Native Title Act, considering they are in partnership with Lhere Artepe?”

 Two Alice based companies which helped pioneer solar energy use in Central Australia are getting ready to leave town while Bushlight, run by the taxpayer funded Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), is being handed, by the Federal Government, a de facto monopoly over providing renewable energy power systems to small Aboriginal communities.
CAT has now received a second grant from Canberra, $11m, together with the assurance from Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough that any Federal subsidies for the scheme will be channelled only through Bushlight.
This cuts other companies out of tendering direct for domestic units or plants for small communities, because it’s unlikely that Aborigines would have any funds for them other than grants from the Federal government.
But CAT director Bruce Walker says other companies can sub-contract to CAT for work, and both of the firms, whose principals were not prepared to be named, had done so in the past.
Bushlight has already spent $24m in Federal grants and NT subsidies over four years, on just 90 domestic systems across northern Australia.
Equipment cost an average of nearly $180,000 per unit, about three times the market price, plus a staggering $90,000 per unit was spent on services such as “community support” and “empowerment”, and the minimal training needed by users of the equipment.
But Mr Walker says it is clear that the Federal Government has examined the Bushlight scheme, found it to be appropriate and selected it to be the national program manager for renewable energy services in the bush. 
He says in that framework outside companies are encouraged to take part in the open tender system.
“This is no different to the process used by the National Aboriginal Housing Scheme which had ARUP as national project manager,” says Dr Walker.
“The Army does a very similar thing.”  
A spokesman for Mr Brough says a recent independent evaluation of Bushlight has found it to successful and has recommended the extension of the program.
“External companies can tender for Bushlight-generated work,” the spokesman says.  “Manufacturers can bid to produce the systems following design completion and electrical contractors can tender for the installation.”
CAT is set to move into the new Desert Knowledge Precinct, under construction by the NT Government, as Alice Springs is hoping to be declared a “solar city”.
The CAT web site says Bushlight has two aspects: “First is empowerment and education of remote communities, which is critical to the success and sustainability of these systems.
“This will allow them to engage with energy services networks to manage and maintain the community’s renewable energy services.
“The second factor is the need to improve the reliability of [renewable energy] systems, manage demand-side issues and establish an energy services network to give ongoing support to the communities.”
Dr Walker confirms the residents don’t do any repairs but – in this order – alert their outstation resource centre, a service agent, or CAT if something goes wrong with their solar units.
Dr Walker claims that residents “observe trends and system performance ... and record data of how a system is used, its peaks, troughs ... daily readings of meters ... voltage, amps ... how much power left”.
But an official of the Northern Territory government, which kicks in a hefty subsidy for each unit, says he’s still waiting for details due last year from people using Bushlight plants.
“We get information very infrequently,” he says. “We have to chase it up.”
Dr Walker says Bushlight was given the thumbs up initially after a survey by Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE) which had found that on Aboriginal communities only 63% of previously installed solar systems were working, and only 85% of the diesel systems.
And in a recent survey, says Mr Walker, “nearly 100%” of Bushlight units were found to be working.
However, industry sources say CAT was a member of ACRE when it did the initial survey, which means it could hardly be regarded as independent.

When one of the town’s three water tanks ran dry on Wednesday last week, causing a mild dose of panic in the hospital, it was a case of bad luck.
An computerised level indicator, which normally alerts that section of the Power and Water Corporation dealing with water, had given up the ghost.
But was it also a case of bad management?
The pumps drawing water from the Mereenie basin, roughly under the Pine Gap space base, are the town’s biggest consumers of electricity. That’s where the section of Power and Water that deals with power comes on the scene.
The pumps are usually run at night when other electricity demand is low, in order to keep the generation load on a reasoably even level.
So if the pumps don’t cut in, the power people in Power and Water would say to themselves “Why are we using so little power?” or words to the effect.
But it seems that’s as far as it goes – or went.
The power people at Power and Water are apparently not talking to the water people, or at least not enough. So a backup check that would cost absolutely nothing isn’t activated. Or wasn’t.
The people who are powerful in the power section of Power and Water are believed to be looking for a suitable blunt instrument to stimulate thought processes amongst their staff.
Apart from that things wouldn’t have been as bad as they seemed had it not been for an almost simultaneous and recurring break in the main to Ilparpa. 
That part of town was without water for some hours.
Alice has three main tanks, Larapinta (in Paterson Crescent), Carmichael (off Larapinta Drive, behind the scout hall) and Sadadeen (near the power station complex) in the Golfcourse Estate.
Power and Water local manager Alan Whyte says during last week’s problems Larapinta and Sadadeen were each still half full, meaning they had enough for a day and a half for the areas they are serving.
Once – and it took some hours – the Carmichael tank was found to be the culprit, water could be diverted from the other two tanks to the CBD, where pressure had dropped. 
And the Mereenie boosters were redlined to bring water into town at the rate of 500 liters per second, refilling Carmichael in less than a couple of days.
Alice normally has three days’ water storage – less in February when the summer heat is at its peak.
Stand by for climate change.

Territory Supreme Court judge Sally Thomas, during pre-trial legal argument in the case of the “Pine Gap Four”, has rejected the defence argument that the base was not a prohibited area under the Act at the time the offences.
She ruled last Thursday against the claim of the four that an area could be declared prohibited only if a security threat to Australia could be proven as objective fact.
Counsel for the four the previous week called into question the validity of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 which governs the “prohibited area” status of the spy base.
But Justice Thomas accepted the argument of the Crown that words could be read into the Act to the effect that the declaration of a prohibited area could be made if the Defence Minister is “satisfied” that there is a security threat to Australia.
The reasons for Justice Thomas’s decision will be published “in due course”.
The four are Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Bryan Law and Donna Mulhearn, who in December last year, as Christians Against All Terrorism, managed to breach the security of the top-secret Pine gap base, with Mr Dowling and Ms Goldie actually scaling a building, unfurling banners and taking photographs.
On Easter weekend this year they were informed that Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock had decided to charge them under the never before used  Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, a decision they say blurs the separation of political and judicial powers.
This law carries a penalty of seven years’ jail for trespassing on Pine Gap land, as well as two years’ jail for taking photos.
The four had already been charged with a number of more usual charges (also carrying possible jail terms) under the Crimes Act. These charges have yet to be heard.
Further pre-trail argument challenging the validity of charging the four under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 may yet be mounted.
Last Thursday defence counsel Russell Goldflam asked for an adjournment to allow consultation with senior counsel, retired Federal Court judge Ron Merkel QC, who is acting without payment for the defendants.
Mr Goldflam said preliminary advice is that the challenge would require the defendants to notify attorneys-general in other jurisdictions around Australia, “a step which would only be taken after careful consideration”.
He said the defendants’ application for “discovery” (of documents held by the Crown that they deem relevant to their defence) could only be progressed after the pre-trial arguments have been dispensed with.
Justice Thomas had raised the possibility of the trial, whose dates have yet to be set, moving to Darwin.
Mr Goldflam said this can only happen on application of one of the parties; he had not been instructed to make such an application and had not heard that the Crown proposed to do so either.
Pre-trial argument will be heard again on November 8 at 9am.
The court was closed to hear argument from the defence in relation to a suppression order which prevents the defendants from talking publicly about what happened to them following their arrest.

The Aboriginal communities of Mutitjulu, Imampa and Docker River have gained national notoriety for their wretched poverty, violence and substance abuse.
Yet the people in these communities have financial interests in Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation (NAC), the owner of  Wana Ungkunytja Pty Ltd, which according to its secretive CEO Glendle Schrader, has liquid assets of $10m.
The companies are operating community stores and other businesses including Anangu Tours at the Rock.
Given that an administrator was earlier this year appointed to run NAC, against its vehement opposition and despite offers of a bail-out by Mr Schrader, it’s highly surprising that Anangu Tours, wholly owned by Wana Ungkunytja, has has had the resources to buy the Camel Farm, the Milky Way Cafe as well as Desert Tours and Transfers in Alice Springs.
The flagship Anangu Tours has been operating for 10 years at The Rock, but trading figures or numbers of clients are not being disclosed.
Meanwhile, no less than three top level inquiries are now trying to get a handle on allegations of child sex abuse in Aboriginal communities, including – prominently – Wana Ungkunytja’s home base of Mutitjulu. The alleged crimes are fuelled by alcohol and petrol sniffing.
That makes it perfectly amazing that Wana Ungkunytja, through the manager of the groups’ tourism businesses, Simon Webb, should now be seeking a liquor licence for the Milky Way Cafe, which currently offers serene contemplation of The Centre’s starry sky, followed by coffee and cake.
The application to allow the consumption of liquor “ancillary to a meal” is – judging from early indications – about to unleash a storm of protest from local residents, determined to prevent the setting up of an alcohol trader in a residential area.
But there’s more at stake than the peace and quiet of a neighbourhood.
One question the NT Liquor Act requires to be answered is this: is Wana Ungkunytja “fit and proper” to hold a liquor licence?
The imposition of an administrator upon NAC, and protracted staff conflicts, were followed by a sharp decline of the college at Yulara, which now apparently has no headmaster, just a handful of students (the last we heard was six, with three teachers) and the campuses at Mutitjulu and Docker River are shut down.
The Alice Springs News has covered the crisis for more than a year, facing sustained obfuscation from NAC staff, while they were spending fistfuls of public money.
All Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop would say last week is that her department is “working with the Administrator of the NAC to continue to strengthen community support and engagement with the College and its governance arrangements “.
Clearly a cloud hangs over the Nyangatjatjara group until this issue is resolved: there must be complete disclosure of the relationships between NAC, Wana Ungkunytja and any other entity that may be involved.
The liquor application is further complicated by the fact that Wana Ungkunytja is an Aboriginal-owned business.
There are powerful kinship responsibilities in Aboriginal society which require wishes and favors to be granted in a wide range of circumstances. 
These requirements result in serious tribal penalties if contravened, and at times, to the individual, the customary laws are more relevant than the Australian or Territory ones.
The Act requires that the “applicant for a licence must make an affidavit disclosing whether certain persons may be able to influence the applicant, or expect a benefit from the applicant, if the licence is granted”.
Before the Licensing Commission to even considers the granting of a license it must seek full disclosure about the structure of authority within Wana Ungkunytja Pty Ltd: Who owns it? How is it governed? By whom?
And what tribal and kinship obligations exist between the directors and managers and any other persons, which could influence the use of any liquor license, should it be granted?
There are moves to make Alice Springs “dry”, with the intention of outlawing drinking in public places, or rather, to finally enforce such laws.
Further, indiscriminate camping in creeks and vacant land is prohibited and this, apparently, will now also be enforced.
The two proposed “transient” camps in town will be dry, and occupants will have to pay for staying there.
The operators of Milky Way, should a licence be granted, may come under pressure from its owners or share holders to be generous in the interpretation of any conditions for the sale of alcohol. And all that in a residential area.
This invites a look at the Milky Way liquor application from the perspective of the worst case scenario.
Here are five hectares of land, Aboriginal owned, where one can drink for 11 hours and 59 minutes every day.
It is clear the applicant has more in mind than star gazing, given he’s proposing to start selling alcohol at 12 noon.
It is also clear that such a drinking opportunity would be wholly unacceptable to the neighborhood, while being extremely lucrative to the operators. The Act says: “The applicant for a licence must demonstrate in the application that the grant of the licence will be in the public interest.”
That seems a big ask, under the circumstances.
To be sure, Mr Webb, when asked the Alice News, was saying all the right things: the license is sought to create a new venue for both locals and tourists.
After 5pm the patrons would exclusively be participants in prepaid tours, arriving on buses, and the venue would not be open to the general public.
“We’re not interested in yahooing,” he says.
But what Mr Webb isn’t doing is pointing out what in his liquor application, if granted, will stop the Milky Way from turning into something far less benign than what he describes.
And what Mr Webb will not disclose are the answers to all the other questions: only Mr Schrader can, he says, and Mr Schrader hasn’t responded to several requests for comment and replies from the Alice News.
[The writer is a long-term resident of Rangeview Estate where the Milky Way Cafe is located.]

The Alice Springs News reported nearly two months ago information which – finally – made national and Territory headlines last week.
On August 17 we revealed allegations by a whistleblower that Chief Minister Clare Martin knew in November 2004 – if not earlier – of allegations that children were prostituting themselves for petrol to sniff in the chaotic Ayers Rock community of Mutitjulu.
Ms Martin neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, despite several contacts by The News to her media advisor.
The whistle blower was quite specific: “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.
‘[Ms Martin] 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.”
The latest flurry of media attention comes after The Australian newspaper used Freedom of Information legislation to obtain a copy of this correspondence.
While Ms Martin ignored in August the requests for response and comment by the Alice News, she was not so arrogant following the disclosures in national media last week.
She finally owned up to having done precisely what was claimed by the whistle blower who was quoted by us, and who is known to us and trusted as a credible source.
Her conduct is in violation of her usually breathless assurances of running a transparent, open, accountable, honest government.
The belated attention of the Opposition shows them to be similarly reactive under the national spotlight rather than in touch with local debate.
Ms Martin’s answers of last week are as disingenuous as her assertions earlier this year when, in response to an ABC Lateline report, she claimed to have been shocked about the Mutitjulu allegations.
Now she’s sheltering behind the police inquiries into the allegations having turned up nothing. But how does Ms Martin explain the presence of sexually transmitted diseases in little children?         

A local man with Afghan and Aboriginal ancestry has been recognised for his efforts in promoting multiculturalism in Alice Springs.
Eric Sultan last week won the  Territory’s Office of Multicultural Affairs Charles See-Kee Award.
“I’m honoured to receive the award but also embarrassed in a sense,” says Mr Sultan.
“There are worthy recipients out there, I’m just lucky that someone nominated me.”
Mr Sultan’s friend, Dr Bavadeen Habibullah nominated him after seeing his work sharing the history of the Afghan cameleers in Central Australia.
“In the 1800s my grandfather came from Afghanistan to Port Augusta as a cameleer and transported goods with the camel train throughout Central Australia and beyond,” said Mr Sultan.
He has spread his heritage in diverse ways including dressing up as original cameleer Charlie Sadadeen, coordinating an album of songs including pieces from Ted Egan which is being sold in Germany, the UK and the US, and also appeared in three national magazines and television documentaries.
Mr Sultan is also a founding member of the Interfaith Group in Alice Springs which has helped create understanding between church groups here.
“Alice Springs acknowledges the role of Afghan cameleers more than anywhere else in Australia,” says Mr Sultan.
“This is also shown in the new sister city partnership between Alice Springs and Paghman near Kabul.
“Afghanistan is a misunderstood country, especially at the moment, and we need to create awareness of our cultural history.”
Mr Sultan has also suggested a camp for homeless people returning to Afghanistan be named with a Central Australian Aboriginal name “to show the special connection that we have”. 

This year Scrapyard Magicians combines 83 pieces by 20 sculptors, trade and student exhibitors and includes 40 works exhibited for the first time at the Silver Bullet Cafe in Hele Crescent.
In the spirit of previous years, the show projects a sense of magic, beauty and humour, and connects the popular themes of recycled and salvaged materials, larger than life plants and animals and outdoor furniture made with breathtaking skill and precision.
On the opening weekend, first time exhibitors Henry Schreiner, Tim Day, Warwick Beever and Jane Easton surprised and delighted the crowds with the unexpected quality and power of their work.
While the formidable presence of artist Dan Murphy’s sculptures contribute greatly to the context, setting and spirit of the site, each year more and more electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers and builders are joining Scrapyard Magicians.
This diversification brings additional depth to the show and augurs well for the future. Some patrons were a bit miffed that only 30% of the works, mostly smaller pieces, are offered for sale at this year’s exhibition.
Conversely, we believe that the willingness of local sculptors to allow a public viewing of a treasured piece they crafted for their personal enjoyment simply adds to the charm of this exhibition.
It does seem shocking but thankfully not everything in this world is for sale!! This year’s show includes a display of stationary engines restored by biomedical
engineer, Ian Ross who is the inspired creator of some of the  whimsical kinetic works on permanent display at the Silver Bullet. Also on display are several sculptures from the 1960s and 1970s which provide a historical reference point for this industrial site and one time home of legendary welder Jack Maskell.
In this tradition, the works of our contemporary scrapyard magicians will continue to outlast the tsunami of disposable manufactured goods!  – MIKE GILLAM, organiser.

After several hundred people turned out for a mini arts festival on the Flynn Church lawns recently, the Uniting Church’s Rev Tracy Spencer is looking to turn the area over more regularly to public arts events.
A community kitchen, operating out of Adelaide House, fed some 200 people on the night and a few hundred more, “from all walks of life”, turned up to watch the evening’s program.
It included a number of films projected on the white wall to the north of the church.
“We’ve had lots of positive feedback and have already been approached by other groups to show material, “ says Rev Spencer.
She is now seeking to establish a formal group to take the project further and hopes the town council, Lhere Artepe, CATIA, the NT Film Office as well as interested people in the community will come on board.
“From the church’s point of view, this is about working towards the benefit of the community, providing an opportunity for the community to represent itself instead of always being represented by external media,” she says.
“It’s about education as well as entertainment, about encouraging engagement and dialogue.”
Rev Spencer has teamed up with film-maker David Nixon to raise funds for a digital story-telling project around next year’s Harmony Day.
She says following the recent debate in the town council about digital art, the mini-festival settled the doubts in anyone’s mind that digital story-telling “is art and it belongs in the public sphere”. 

After the shock burning of the Central Australian Art Society’s art shed, an exhibition at Watch This Space celebrates the creative spirit of artists who have discovered an ironic beauty in their smoke and heat damaged possessions.
“Raized” will show burnt objects, damaged drawings, books, and lino cut prints  salvaged from the art shed in Crispe St.
The show, a fundraiser for the art society, open this Friday, 6pm at The Space
Says society president Dugald Beattie: “Raized is not about pain. It is about hope, imagination and the spirit of creative people.
“It also shows the spirit of cooperation that exists between the art organizations in this town. Watch This Space have generously offered their gallery to us and fitted this in at extremely short notice.”
There will also be a display of cuttings and photographs illustrating the history and aims of the art society which has been alive for 43 years.
Halcyon Lucas, the society’s oldest active member, will speak at the opening. She took up painting 40 years ago and hasn’t stopped since.
Opening hours:  Sat, Oct 2, 10- 2pm; Sun, Oct 22, 1-5 pm; Wed-Fri, Oct 25-27,  9-5pm.

One of the town’s biggest participation sports, basketball, is heading for the year’s second climax, the finals on December 2.
There are two seasons a year, each with its own finals, over 10 months (only July and January have no basketball).
Matches are played on five days a week, and the other two days, Sundays and Thursdays, are used for training.
Association president Elaine Rock says the 400-odd players are being put to the test in more ways than one.
The stadium is very old and “falling down around our ears”, she says.
“The floors are rotten, have no spring left in them, and we’re worried about duty of care with nails sticking out.”
The town council estimates $440,000 is needed. The Sports Facilities Advisory Committee will chip in $80,000 from its reserve, while the council will have to raise $360,000.
Council’s representative on the committee, Alderman Murray Stewart, says the committee will be asking the NT Government for $10m a year for 10 years to “deal with the crisis” facing sporting facilities in town.
Ms Rock says the NT Government is providing no support to basketball in Alice Springs.
She doesn’t know the spending policies but there is a “perception” that the lion’s share goes to cricket and AFL, with the new Traeger Park grandstand a monument to the government’s attitude.
But none of that dampens the enthusiasm of the players.
Many players even compete interstate, despite the cost of “$2500 upwards” per trip and player.
Interstate victories are scarce: “We’re too short and too few,” says Ms Rock.
In 2003, when the junior national championships were contested in Alice Springs, “we did a lot of checking of ages,” she says.
“There were quite a few 12 and 13 years olds taller than six foot.”
You can start young.
Aussie Hoops is for youngsters aged five to eight, and Rising Suns for under 12s. Ring the stadium on 8952 8356 between 10am and 3pm.

The Olympic Games in Sydney was one of the finest things I have ever been a part of.
No, no, I wasn’t an athlete in the games, but thanks for thinking I could have been. But I did feel like a participant. I was surrounded by this wave that caught everyone in its path.
The feeling of positivity and excitement and pride in Sydney for those two weeks is a feeling I have yet to match.
The Olympics in 2000 were so typically Sydney. Showy, sophisticated and a bit lairy. It was perfectly executed yet we all held our collective breaths when the flame wouldn’t move in the opening ceremony.
A moment that more perfectly describes the city, I can’t remember.
The motto of the Olympic movement is Higher, Stronger, Faster.
I wonder what the motto should be for the Masters Games? Perhaps Older, Harder, Messier.
Alice Springs is about to succumb to the Masters. It will be my first and I cannot wait.
From all reports from friends in the hospitality industry, Alice Springs will be swimming in people at the peak of their ability.
The only people not enthused by the idea of the games are those working in kitchens. The Masters. A mass of athletes who have prepared for this one week in October. Tapered and honed their bodies for the glory. Well not quite glory.
More for the week long party that is about to kick off in less than 48 hours time.
The Masters Games is one of those events that is steeped in history and legend. Many an anecdote have I heard about the games of times past.
None of these stories, not a one, have involved sporting achievement.
Most have involved the fact that the person telling the story remembers playing a game of cricket and then waking up a week later in Adelaide in the boot of someone else’s car dressed in a floral sheet.
“Had a great time though.”  
That isn’t to say the sport isn’t important.
There are scores of people across the country actually training.
The events will be fun to watch and for the most part the standard will be excellent.
In fact, knowing that there will be men and women in their sixties who can run the 100 metre faster than me, doesn’t do the ego any favours.
There is a part of me that is a little sheepish at the fact that, apart from possibly the 98 year olds competing, the reason I won’t be entering any of the events is less to do with the age restriction and more to do with the fact that they’d wipe the floor with me.
But c’mon, let’s not kid ourselves here, the reason thousands of folk from the four corners are coming to Alice Springs isn’t the high standard of sporting excellence, is it? Nor are the athletes of the Masters Games here for the stunning beauty of the Red Centre.
They’re here for the party.
And there is one thing Centralians can do pretty well and that is have a good time. 
The Masters is a celebration of being here.
A celebration of participation. From all reports, if having a good time was an Olympic event, the vast majority of the Masters competitors would be going home with gold.
It’s just lucky alcohol isn’t considered a performance enhancing substance or there would be a scandal to rival the Tour de France.
If the tales are anything to go by, the next week is going to be fantastic.
Go to bed now. Get a good sleep.Youy’re going to need it.

Sir,- I am the former business manager of Aboriginal Air Services (AAS) and I write regarding the complacent attitude of Lynne Peterkin, head of Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (Alice News, Oct 5).
• Developing West MacDonnells National Park: We are not talking about developing resorts (not necessarily a bad idea anyway), but the roads to these “prime tourist attractions” which are a joke.
Surely funds from Mereenie Loop could be diverted to pay for 10 kms of sealed roads to Ellery Creek Big Hole (5km) and Finke Gorge National Park (5km). What an astonishingly complacent attitude from the head of our tourism association.
• Upgrade Alice Springs Airport, pursue more international flights: “Let’s just consolidate the charter market and get that growing”. Hello, it is established and growing. Any chance of trying to stimulate a few other markets?
Despite Australia still being the most preferred destination of all our major tourism markets, international tourism to Australia actually declined by 5% last year while all our competitors grew by 10%.
Aboriginal Air Services (AAS) was a victim of the Regional Assistance Subsidy Scheme (RASS) contract whereby some operating costs were subsidised for operating to various remote communities throughout SA, NT and WA that received only one flight per week.
From a total budget of $70m, Aboriginal Air received a paltry $336,000 last year. Guess who received most of the remainder – Qantas.
The contract (negotiated before my time) was so inflexible and voluminous that AAS ended up operating at a significant loss on those routes because it was not reimbursed for changes in the nature of the service provided, nor increases in operating costs such as maintenance, pilots and skyrocketing fuel costs.
Qantas on the other hand would have a whole department that could afford to devote all the time and energy involved in recouping these extra costs.
What is the biggest deterrent to flying to Alice Springs – Qantas fares.
Who has just closed its office in Alice Springs – Qantas.
That is the pathetic scene that exists in the airline and tourism industries and unfortunately the biggest losers are the NT and Central Australia.
We need to lobby our Federal politicians on both sides, to:
• Realise that Qantas is no longer government-owned and therefore entitled to no more assistance than any other private or public company and that bi-lateral agreements are not in Australia’s best national interest.
• Encourage new and existing carriers to commence services to Australia, especially from the largest markets in the world, Europe and the USA and emerging markets of India and China.
• Improve airport infrastructure to facilitate tourism growth to Alice Springs as a matter of national importance.
We need to lobby our State politicians on both sides, to:
• Improve infrastructure to our existing tourist attractions, especially roads.
• Have Alice Springs declared an “Open” international airport as soon as possible.
It is definitely no time for complacency, Ms Peterkin.
Ross Pollock
Alice Springs

Sir,– After reading [a recent] article regarding the loss of backpackers to Alice I thought I would drop you an email to say as a former backpacker I did notice a difference from the first time I visited Alice to the second time I was there, but not a dramatic change.
The first time I visited Australia was in 1995. Backpackers then toured around the whole of Australia: we worked for a while to raise funds, tried to visit as many places as possible and tried to do as many trips as possible so we could experience what the country had to offer. 
I didn’t get time to visit Western Australia so I went back over on another trip. 
We had a really good time in Alice, we booked a trip to Uluru etc and I had one of the most wonderful experiences.  When we came back from the trip we stayed for about another week and then moved on.
The third time I came back to Australia (2000/2001) I had two friends with me that had never been travelling before and I wanted to show them why I fell in love with the country.  We bought a car and started off on our journey, eventually ending up in Alice where we stayed in one of the camp sites. 
We were looking for work and saw an advert for a cleaner so gave a call.  The person who wanted a cleaner was Jan Hayes of Ooraminna Bush Camp.  She said she really only required one person but told us to take a drive out.  So with our two wheel drive car and never having driven on roads like it before we set off from the camp site to see if our luck was in with work. 
After having driven at 20 kph!! we arrived at this most wonderful location.  She did explain that really she was only after one person but with our good old Scottish charm she couldn’t really turn us away. 
We took the offer of free food and board but I think nowadays a lot of people travelling tend not to go for this kind of offer. 
A lot of people travelling are leaving home without much savings and tend to go to some of the bigger cities like Sydney and they tend to get stuck there.
They get somewhere to live, go out everynight, spend all their money and then get a job as they cannot move on without earning more money and by this time it’s time to go home. 
Also as Alice is a smaller town it has limited jobs. 
We kept on applying for jobs even when we were at Ooraminna as we wanted to stay in Alice for as long as possible, but were unsuccessful. 
We were all small town girls back home and Alice suited us well.  The bush camp was amazing and we have memories from there that will never leave us.
Some of the nights out we had were really good too.  We were there at the time of the Finke races and it was great. 
We did also learn to drive faster on the roads to save feeling the effect of every bump!!
Everytime I speak to anyone who says they are away to Australia I always tell them to make sure and visit Alice and Darwin as it’s places like this that people seem to leave out.
It is my intention to one day return and Alice would definitely be one of the first places on my list to come back and visit.  I met people there that I will never forget and I would like to thank them for making us feel so welcome.
I hope that after the new hostel is finished that the backpackers come flocking back.
Amanda Smith
Inverurie, UK

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