February 15, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


The $64,000 question on who'll pay rates and how much in the Territory's nine new local government shires has yet to be answered.
And will the people contributing most of the money also decide how it's spent? There are no rating models on the table as the 63 current councils are being consigned to history. A ward system is foreshadowed but there are no details yet.
Rates are a key concern for pastoralists.
Their representative on the advisory board overseeing the introduction of the reforms, Stuart Kenny, says it is absoluetly clear that pastoralists will be facing a new tax.
The government's information package says: "As local government is the third sphere of government in Australia, it is required to generate its own revenue as well as receiving grants from the Australian and Territory Governments for the delivery of services."
Says Mr Kenny, Executive Director of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association: "It will have an impact on employment. When businesses have to raise money they lay off people."
And it's "unfair" because pastoralists will be paying for services they don't need: "Pastoralists are very self-contained, they generate their own power, have their own rubbish tips, maintain their own internal road system, run their own communities on their properties."
Would it not be to pastoralists' advantage to have more functional Indigenous communities (a promise of the local government reforms) as their neighbours?
Says Mr Kenny: "Every Australian would see more functional Indigenous communities as a positive thing, but we are wondering why we have to pay for it."
Local Government Minister Elliot McAdam says it's "not the intention of government to place an unfair burden on any particular sector of the community".
"Currently, a number of community government councils charge a service fee in their communities for services, such as rubbish removal, which are equivalent to rates charged by municipal councils," says Mr McAdam.
Patrick Dodson (pictured), prominent Indigenous leader and chairman of the advisory board, says "if pastoralists come up with some modelling about [rates] it will be taken seriously. "This is not about exploiting the pastoral industry to sustain the outback of the NT. It's about getting a better quality of services across to the 50,000 people who live there. Pastoralists maybe have 400 people."
Rod Swanson, the mayor of Tennant Creek which will be pulled into the Barkly Shire, was not concerned about rates Ð "there are numerous models available" Ð but is concerned about achieving economies of scale with the current population base of the Barkly Shire Ð 5000 to 7500 people.
He says the Queensland experience shows that no economies of scale are delivered in shires with a population under 10,000:
"Barkly Shire would need to be larger to be properly sustainable."
Leo Abbott, a board member from Wallace Rockhole Community which is being pulled into the Macdonnell Shire, also does not seem concerned by rates: "My guess on the rate side is that it's a name change, communities are already paying rent for houses and so on, each NT portion is already paying. I don't see any major change."
If the reform process is going to rely on "good will", as Mr Dodson would have it, then it's got a long way to go with the cattlemen.
Before last week's board meeting Mr Kenny described the reform as "very dangerous" for what he saw as its reliance on "only one revenue stream Ð the pastoral sector" and after the two-day meeting said he still had "as many questions as answers".
Others the News spoke to were more broadly supportive.
Mr Swanson said the reform is certainly needed for "better quality of service for bush communities" but had particular concerns, especially about the boundary for Barkly Shire. Mr Abbott has high hopes for benefits from the reform:
"My position on the board is to look at the benefit for Aboriginal people, not just for my family community. The big needs are health, education and housing, and things like roads, rubbish collection are all tied in. It's all part of a whole."
Mr Kenny said the government's approach to consultation was "very poor": "It would appear the outcomes have been prewritten. We are getting a system thrown over the top of us with no input."
He says there is "less than four weeks" to comment on the new local government legislation Ð "a complex piece of legislation to cover the entire Territory" Ð and only 18 months for the whole process. (The new system is set to come into operation in July 2008.)
"We call on government to consider we are one of the major industries out in the bush, and enable us to consult with our membership without being pushed or railroaded."
Mr McAdam says local government reform has been widely discussed over the past decade. "The NT Cattlemen's Association were invited to sit on the advisory board and contribute their views throughout the reform process. The pastoral industry is vital to the Territory economy and the reforms aim to create better outcomes and opportunities for them as well," he says.
Mr Swanson also has some reservations about the consultation process:
"There are some arguments for a better revision of the boundaries. For instance, we want Lajamanu to be included into the Barkly. But the government is insisting that the boundaries are set in concrete.
"I didn't think the board was just a matter of rubber-stamping but if the boundaries are set in concrete, well, one will have immediate concern about rubber-stamping." Mr Abbott is more trusting of the government's process.
"It's good to have the opportunity to sit on the board. The government could have stepped in and given the people no say. It's good they're giving people the time and opportunity to look at the changes and to become familiar with them.
"It's a work in progress but I believe the new shires will work Ð the system works in other parts of Australia."
Mr Dodson says it will take more than 18 months to fully bed down the system but "the fundamentals of what's required can be achieved".
He says some manoeuvring" could take place "within" shire boundaries.
Mr Kenny admits that "better roads would certainly be an advantage" to the pastoral industry, but contests that government's claim that more road funding will become available as a result of incorporation.
"The system will not deliver improved road funding. We've asked them to show us proof that it will, but they've shown us nothing at all."
Mr Swanson agrees that there's no guarantee of extra road funding, but like Mr McAdam, he says there'll be a stronger case for it.
"There's been a heavy reliance by the Territory Government on the lure of an extra $20m for roads, but it's not guaranteed.
"It will depend on how strong our case is and we'll have to compete with all other states.
"But the reform means that the opportunity exists to put a stronger case for roads now that they'll be in incorporated areas."


The NT Government has entered into 20 secret agreements under the Native Title Act about national parks in Central Australia, including the iconic West MacDonnell National Park.
The arrangements are understood to be personally overseen by Chief Minister Clare Martin.
The government is refusing to disclose who the various native title owners are, and what deals the Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) contain.
There is a long standing request by the NT Government for the scheduling of some or all of the parks in The Centre under the Federal Aboriginal Land Rights Act, turning the parks into Aboriginal inelienable freehold.
Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough has not complied with that request, and neither have his predecessors.
The parks are regarded as the principal assets of the Central Australian tourism industry.
There is a strong "Save Our Parks" movement in Central Australia: spokesmen say 7000 people have signed petitions demanding the parks should stay in public hands.
But Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon said this week: "Mr Brough should be proceeding with the recommendation from the NT Government forthwith." (See report this edition.)
The Native Title Registrar is required to keep a register of ILUAs which under the Act need to be "available for inspection by any member of the public during normal business hours."
However, this does not apply "if the parties to an agreement ... do not wish some or all of the details to be available for inspection by the public."
There has clearly been a request from the NT Government to keep secret the deals about the 20 parks because the Native Title Tribunal has denied the Alice News access to the ILUAs.
The NT Government has also failed to answer questions from the News, including who the signatories are (the News understand it is the Central Land Council), and what deals have been struck.
There has been no public consultation about the ILUAs and, unlike in the case of Yulara and Darwin, the NT Government did not contest in court any claims to native title rights over the parks.
The government says on its web site: "Some land will be granted to Indigenous groups as freehold and this will be immediately leased back to the Northern Territory Government for use as parks for a minimum term of 99 years."
The government says some areas are currently Crown land, or land held by the Northern Territory or the Conservation Land Corporations.


The mood of the public at town council meetings over 2006 showed an expectation gap between the townspeople and their local government. At one and the same time it seems people don't want council to act over their heads and do want council to lead. A defensive councillor might say that's an almost impossible tightrope to walk while one with bigger shoes might want to rise to the challenge, be tuned in enough to know just when and how much to consult, when and in what direction to lead. Much of the burden of community expectation falls on Mayor Fran Kilgariff as the only full-time elected member. Her relationship with voters has been complicated by her decision to stand as a Labor candidate in the last Legislative Assembly elections. Expectations now are that she will be much more of an "insider" than appears to be the case, at the same as less likely to be a strong and independent advocate for the town.
In this article KIERAN FINNANE looks at Ms Kilgariff's record of leadership and at what we can expect in the future.

Mayor Fran Kilgariff's new office in the Civic Centre is large and comfortable but unpretentious.
Desk and even chairs are covered in letters and reports. When necessary in an interview she'll take out any one of a number of hand-written notebooks or official files to refer to.
No one would doubt her diligence and she is also appreciated for bringing personal warmth and dignity to her role as town leader.
The windows of her office look out directly onto Todd Street where the passing parade is a constant visual reminder of the varied face of her constituency.
Although a born and bred local that constituency can still surprise her.
She confessed to being surprised by the "strength of opposition" expressed at the recent Development Consent Authority hearing into the "dongas solution".
She was confronted in that meeting by rural resident Mal Crowley.
He wanted to know why the town council hadn't made representations to the DCA regarding the Len Kittle Drive site for the proposed short-term accommodation facility, why they had confined themselves to objecting only to the Dalgety Road site.
Rural residents are rate-payers too, he said.
Trouble is, from Ms Kilagriff's point of view, they hadn't made their concerns known to council. Council wasn't going to take the initiative to find out what the rural residents were thinking.
"We received representations from people in the Dalgety Road area in October before the matter went to the DCA," Ms Kilgariff told the Alice News.
"Council felt it was necessary to pass on those concerns to Mal Brough, which we did. That formed the basis of our submission to the DCA.
"We did feel the DCA process was the correct and only way for the issue to be finalised. "It offered adequate community consultation, a way for people who had fears or reservations to express them."
The answer is in keeping with council's track record on the dongas debate Ð at all times reacting, rather than taking the initiative, leading. Why?
"Council was not in the loop," says Ms Kilgariff, "we found out about the dongas from the media.
"This lack of consultation at the outset has fed the perception that council is powerless, but the fact is we have our say, we are in there on the taskforce and implementation committee."
But the implementation committee gave in principle endorsement to the Dalgety Road and Len Kittle Drive sites, at odds with council's ultimate position on at least the Dalgety Road site. Something's not working.
Says Ms Kilgariff: "It comes down to who is providing the money. The Federal and Territory Governments obviously want to be able to manage where their money goes."
And this admission: "It came up very quickly, council was playing catch-up for a while."
How can council stop playing catch-up?
"By being part of the committee, reflecting community views."
In the matter of reflecting community views, wasn't council's submission to the DCA hearing minimal and shallow?
"As council's representative I spoke to our submission, that was as far as I could go.
"We didn't consider the reports in council, preferring to leave it to the process as the appropriate way for matters to be decided."
And so we are back at the beginning, with the Federal and Territory Governments calling the shots from afar and council jumping.
Ms Kilgariff emphasises the need for visitor accommodation Ð "there are people who humbug but there are also people who come in for health care and need a safe and secure place to stay" Ð but the need has been around for quite a while.
The Alice News quoted Tangentyere Council on the "urgent need for camping areas for bush visitors" on June 30, 2004 and no doubt it wasn't new even then.
Yet nothing was done.
Ms Kilgariff mentions "being proactive with respect to municipal services in town camps" as evidence of council's initiative.
In fact this has been forced on the council.
Up until Mal Brough's "normalisation" drive the council was complacent with respect to the town camps, hiding behind an ineffective memorandum of understanding with Tangentyere Council, believed to have had a budget, courtesy the Federal Government, as big as the town council's. (See our web archive, September 28, 2005, ÔIt's crunch time for town camps', dealing with litter, dog control, camps for bush visitors and the Ôreturn to country' program.)
Ms Kilgariff cites also the dry town initiative as one which did come from council. And reiterates council's support for some kind of alcohol ID card.
The declaration of the dry town will be accompanied by a "strong media campaign, and will have to be accompanied by a police blitz, with increased numbers [of police officers].
"Perhaps we need a dedicated unit whose sole responsibility is to enforce the dry town."
She has confidence in its enforcement: "It has more teeth than 2km law: there's the alcohol court, prohibition orders."
Council has "embraced CCTV in the CBD", with an immediate commitment of $100,000.
Again, a decision foisted on council, this time by angry lobbyists.
On dealing with urban drift, apart from chairing a research project (see last week's article on council plans) Ms Kilgariff points to council's partnership with the native title holder body, Lhere Artepe, which has yielded the cultural protocols on the do's and don'ts for visitors to Alice.
There's also the relationship between day patrol, council rangers and the police for river patrols.
"They're effective in moving people along, but people come back. It's like moving a rock uphill to keep the river free of campers."
And: "Programs like patrols in the riverbed are subject to the availability of staff."
Ongoing vacancies in the ranger workforce (two out of five, with negligible response to advertising) are the same as "the staff problems everybody has".
SKILLED "It's hard to get a skilled workforce, hard to compete with higher wages elsewhere."
What about recruiting Indigenous workers, what efforts are being made there?
"An integrated day patrol / warden patrol is being discussed as part of implementation strategy but the discussions are not well advanced."
Given that a joint ranger program was the second top priority for action of council's MOU with Tangentyere, signed in late 2000, the complacency tag seems fair here as well.
Ms Kilgariff continues to hold up council's good relationship with Tangentyere as some kind of reassurance.
"To get anything done you need to be on good speaking terms with Indigenous organisations. If you try to go it alone, you don't get anywhere."
But at the risk of being repetitive, where is the evidence of the good relationship having gotten somewhere?
Last year at the NAIDOC forum she suggested that Alice Springs would in future become an Indigenous town, prompting an outcry.
The Alice News asked her to comment again on that picture of town:
"It's a matter of fact that the number and proportion of Aboriginal people in the town and across the Territory is rising.
"People in Alice Springs are apprehensive about anti-social behaviour, litter, drunks, they're afraid there'll be more of the same.
"It's the biggest economic issue we have: how to get Aboriginal children into schools, to become educated productive citizens. It's not necessarily a negative thing.
"Betty Pearce [senior native title holder] quoted a 1991 study, that the black dollar then made up for 30% of our economy. I suspect it is much bigger now even though many indivdiuals may not be productive."
Ms Kilgariff is heartened by the "high priority" the Education Department is giving to Indigenous education.
"Things are happening" Ð programs in the town camps; the Clontarf Academies, using football as a lure; the Polly Farmer Foundation out of school program mentoring Indigenous boys and girls "with a spark in their eye".
Says Ms Kilgariff: "Indigenous leaders need to take part in the life of the town, by running for a seat on the town council, for instance.
"We all need to learn to live together, to show tolerance of each other on both sides, although I don't mean tolerance of anti-social behaviour."
Ms Kilgariff is hopeful that with local government reform creating "better resourced and governed communities with opportunities for economic development, people will feel they can stay in their communities".
She says she lobbied the Federal Government in support of changes to the Land Rights Act that would allow individuals to lease land on Aboriginal communities "to enable people to set up their own enterprises, individually owned, the same as people in town".
And council has supported reform of the permit system on Aboriginal land, to allow open access to major communities.
Ms Kilgariff was out of step with a majority of aldermen in their recent push to get the Territory Government to consider a youth curfew, though she appeared just as annoyed as any of them with the brush-off letter that came back from Minister Delia Lawrie.
A conversation she has since had with Ms Lawrie has made it "very clear they are not interested in a curfew but are intersted in a youth night time stragey, involving transport and safe-keeping".
She says a curfew "or anything like it" would require legislative changes at a Territory level, explaining council has not got the power to detain people, only to move them on as they do with illegal campers.
So hasn't the controversy stirred up by council on this issue been a waste of time?
"The aldermen who proposed the curfew were passionate about a youth night time strategy. At this stage we won't have a curfew, but there is now a coordinated strategy, the debate has moved things along, added an incentive."
Moving into less fraught spheres, Ms Kilgariff nominates "rejuvenation of the Mall" as "one of our big projects".
"We are asking the Territory Government for permission to spend $400,000 that's been sitting in the bank for a number of years, originally set aside for urban beautification of the Todd."
The sum should help kick off the planning and design stage of the rejuvenation work which will go "from the river through to Yeperenye".
"Hopefully it will happen this year," says Ms Kilgariff, although the early life of the $400,000 doesn't give great cause for optimism.
It was intended to "kick off" a grand enhancement scheme along the river banks, reorienting the town's focus to the iconic natural feature at its heart.
The scheme foundered at concept stage, with an unresponsive consultant, and got put into the "too hard basket".
There's another tidy amount sitting in the bank, $8m for an aquatic centre, promised during the election campaign that was supposed to take Ms Kilgariff into the Legislative Assmebly.
"We are working very hard on getting the extra millions we need for the aquatic centre we want," she says.
That work has involved applications for grants and to philanthropic organisations, and lobbying Federal Ministers, five in all.
"If there's no answer in a few months' time, we'll go ahead with what we've got.
"We've got to weigh up the escalating costs while we wait against the need for extra funding."
A big picture project on which she's been active has been the development of the Outback Highway, renamed the Outback Way, involving cross-border collaboration with four other councils Ð those of Winton and Boulia in Queensland, Laverton and Warburton in WA.
A recent setback for the Northern Territory section of the way was the Territory Government's failure to match the full amount of the federal allocation, which saw the Territory lose $750,000 to WA.
Ms Kilgariff says she was "very disappointed" with this outcome.
"I recently travelled the Docker River road Ð it's crying out for maintenance and rebuilding. It's well below the standard across the border."
She remains upbeat about the next round of lobbying to start in Canberra in March, following up a submission to the Federal Government for $93million over five years with a 5:1 ratio (Federal to State / Territory and local funds).
The News asked her about how the loss of the $750,000 reflected on her relationship with the Territory Government.
"It would be naive to expect that anything would come to Alice Springs as a form of patronage.
"The council and myself lobby the government all the time, but we wouldn't expect results on the basis of any relationship of mine.
"We'd expect results because the NT Government realises that Alice Springs is the second biggest town in the Territory with big needs and issues."
On her political future Ð will she or won't she stand for re-election as mayor, will she or won't she run again for the Legislative Assembly Ð Ms Kilgariff remains non-committal.
Success or failure to win support in either role would be a fair measure of future direction for the town.
Unless she undertakes a fairly radical make-over, success will mean more of the same, where she acts as a well-intentioned go-between in a scenario driven by external forces Ð Federal haste, Territory (Darwin) arrogance and a tidal wave of Aboriginal migration from remote communities.
If she fails to gain support, it will probably mean that a backlash against all of the above has captured the agenda, but the jury is out on whether that would make Alice Springs a better place to live.


Now that Delia Lawrie has knocked back a demand by the Alice Town Council for the introduction of a youth curfew, could the council introduce an appropriate measure of its own?
The answer may well be yes and no Ð depending on how the proposition is put.
And that in turn would be a good indication of the council turning over a new leaf, actually doing something instead of passing the buck.
The council's in-house solicitor, Chris Turner, explains how the Local Government Act regulates the formulation of by-laws.
He says they need to relate to functions set out in the Act and "cannot be inconsistent with their parent Act".
There are 64 functions, ranging from animal control to parking, public conveniences, "roads - sealed" and so on.
Among them is "Control of Public Places" and on the face of it that would include restraining individuals causing a major nuisance in such a place.
Not so, says Mr Turner: "If the intention wasÊto enable Council to make by-laws restricting the freedom of association and movement of young members of society, it would haveÊgiven a far more specifically framed function to local government."
But the the functions for which the council can pass bylaws also include "Public Safety and Security"; under "Health Services" it mentions "Preventative Services"; and there is "Child Care".
The issue, it seems, is then one of focus, or spin.
While the government may well turn up its nose at "restricting the freedom of movement of young members of society", even if they are children roaming the streets in the middle of the night, it would surely have no problems with taking these children to a place of safety, even against their will.
The question arises yet again: Does the council want to make a difference or does it want to pass the buck.
"In my mind [Ms Lawrie] has committed to setting up what is required," says Deputy Mayor Robyn Lambley, a main advocate for a curfew.
"We're happy to sit back and observe how effective the new [NT Government] commitment of funding and resources is. If in 12 to 18 months' time it's not working, we have a good case from lobbying even harder."
By then the lights may still be on, but will there be anyone at home?


The remarkable length of Warren Snowdon's political life is matched only by its enduring focus: the championing of Aboriginal advancement.
He arrived in the Territory 30 years ago as a schoolteacher.
Three years later, in 1979, he joined the Australian National University as a researcher. Working with the legendary Nugget Coombs he says he had "some influence" on government responses to black disadvantage.
Although today the relevance and benefit to the community of the now numerous Aboriginal organizations are often doubted, Mr Snowdon continues to stand behind them, as he still supports the widely discredited CDEP "work for the dole" scheme.
He says it still has wide support from Aboriginal communities across Australia.
For most of the past two decades Mr Snowdon has been a Member of the House of Representatives for the Labor Party. Prior to his political career he also worked for the Central Land Council. For two and a half years, between stints as an MHR, he was running his own consultancy contracting to "major companies".
Mr Snowdon now holds Lingiari Ð all of the Northern Territory except Darwin Ð with a comfortable 58% of the vote, winning an absolute majority for the first time in the 2004 election. In this year's Federal election he will be standing for his seventh term.
No one else has sought preselection this time around.
Mr Snowdon is also the president of the Territory Labor Party and a prominent and outspoken Alice Springs citizen.
His job with the ANU, in the Central Desert and the Pitjantjatjara Lands nearly a generation ago, was "looking at the impact of government programs on traditional Aboriginal socialization and the interaction between public policy and Aboriginal people".
It remains Mr Snowdon's preoccupation.
With Mal Brough, the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, now in the driver's seat, and a nation repulsed by the same old stories of sickness and poverty, and the new ones of domestic violence and child abuse, there is a clamor for a new approach emphasizing self-help.
But in Mr Snowdon's view Aboriginal misery is rooted in the need for better public policy: he says governments will need to better engage with Aboriginal people, use resources better and probably need to spend more money.
Not surprisingly, Aboriginal issues figure prominently in Mr Snowdon's line-up of election issues in Lingiari, added to nuclear waste, health, education, especially early childhood education, aged care, cost of living in remote Australia, skill shortages, climate change and water, world trade, the war in Iraq and the "abusive" treatment by the USA of Australian citizen David Hicks.
Mr Snowdon spoke with editor ERWIN CHLANDA, starting with issues rocking Alice Springs right now.

NEWS: What do you think about the dongas for transient people?
SNOWDON: I don't think they are a smart idea. We need to look at the way decisions are being made about the dongas. I have not been briefed. In the first instance we need to look at providing a better quality of life for people on their home communities. The dongas should go to bush towns where they are needed.
The dongas aside, there is a need for the development of appropriate short term accommodation options for visitors to ease the pressure on town camps.
NEWS: Alice Springs Mayor Fran Kilgariff is a member of the Labor Party, contested for Labor the Assembly seat of Greatorex in the last NT election, and in many people's view, being a Labor Party pal of the Chief Minister's, is hopelessly compromised as the defender of the town against the government's Berrimah Line mentality. What do you think?
SNOWDON: It's the biggest lot of codswallop I've heard in a long time. There are many people who sit on councils including the Alice Springs Town Council who have political affiliations, often to the CLP, and it has been ever thus. That's their right. That doesn't compromise them in my view. They still have their ability to carry on in their jobs.
Fran Kilgariff is not compromised and I suspect that those who put this view are doing so because they have their own political agendas. Fran operates with the highest amount of probity and I've got great admiration for her.
NEWS: Is the NT Government neglecting Alice Springs in favour of Darwin?
SNOWDON: I don't think that's the case particularly although, I maintain a view that the NT public sector is still focussed on the area north of the Berrimah Line. We need to get more of a focus not only on Alice Springs but outside of Darwin. That needs to happen. I don't think that's because of particular decisions taken by the government but it's the way in which governance and government administration have emerged in the NT. The current government is trying to fix that, for example by emphasis on high school education in the bush. The proposals for local government [nine shires replacing more than 60 councils] are another example.
NEWS: What does the NT Government need to do in Alice Springs? What's your view as the president of the NT Labor Party?
SNOWDON: Let's get that clear. As president I have no influence over the NT Government nor do I seek it. The people of the NT would be most concerned if I unduly influenced policies of the NT Government just because I'm the president of the Labor Party or because I'm a member of the Federal Parliament.
However, like any other citizen of the town I have an interest in insuring that we have the best possible access to services and that our infrastructure is up to scratch and that our town is well looked after. NEWS: As an Alice Springs resident, what would you say the Martin Government has achieved for the town?
SNOWDON: The hospital is running better than at any time in the recent past and there is Desert Knowledge, the establishment of a home for CDU at Centralian College, and for the footie followers the grandstand at Traeger Park.
Here is a list of some NT Govt expenditure in and around the Alice in recent times:-
$30m Desert Knowledge Precinct
$43m sealing on Namatjira Highway (the Mereenie Loop Road)
$8.1m Alice Springs Pool Redevelopment
$2.1m Stuart Lodge for emergency short term accommodation
$20m Relocation of Power generators
$10m Town Camp Taskforce
$8m Flynn Drive Renal Unit
$8m Middle School Centralian College
$4m Traeger Park Redevelopment
$3m Tanami Road this year
$2m Plenty Highway this year
Plus considerable refurbishment of the Alice Springs Hospital to fix up the mess at the hospital left by the CLP.
[The Alice News invited Mr Snowdon to double check these figures because some of these expenditures, at least in part, are apparently for some years in the future.]
There is a lot of energy going into addressing the social needs of our community, including issues to do with anti social behaviour and substance abuse as well as developing the region's economic opportunities.
We could all do with a lot more money and we need to continue to urge the NT and Federal governments to focus on the needs of Alice Springs and the people living in the bush generally. Those of us who live in Alice Springs, there may be some who think we're badly done by but I can tell you there are people a lot worse off in other parts of the Northern Territory,. NEWS: Some two years ago Clare Martin asked the Federal Government to schedule our national parks under the Land Rights Act and so transfer them to Aboriginal ownership. 7000 people signed a petition to block that and to this day Mr Brough hasn't done what the Chief Minister wants. It appears he's taking the view that the parks are no longer a land rights issue.
In fact the Land Commissioner, Justice Olney, has knocked out land claims over the major parks in The Centre some time ago. Mr Brough seems to be saying to Ms Martin if you want to hand over the parks do it under your legislation. Leave me out of it. What do you think?
SNOWDON: I think Mr Brough should be proceeding with the recommendation from the NT Government forthwith.
NEWS: Well, he hasn't done so.
SNOWDON: Sure. He's the person responsible for not doing it and he should get off his backside and do it.
NEWS: What's your view about the alcohol card?
SNOWDON: Looking at the alcohol management at Groote Eylandt it's made a significant difference in alcohol consumption, the behaviour of people towards each other and the general demeanour of the community.
The number of people before the courts has dropped dramatically. We need to look at what's best for us, not the people of Groote Eylandt, but I can tell you there it's worked a treat.
However, such a card would only work for the Alice if there was broad community support.
NEWS: Tangentyere is mainly funded from Canberra. It doesn't disclose its budget but it is said to be equal to that of the Alice Town Council, around $19m a year. Is Tangentyere doing its job?
SNOWDON: Tangentyere Council was set up to accommodate people who weren't being recognised and couldn't enter the town.
They were responsible for getting the special purpose leases for the town camps and setting up places for people to live. The dynamic is changing but Tangetyere's role will continue to be significant.
They have achieved outstanding results for people for whom they've been set up under extremely difficult circumstances.
NEWS: Yet most people in Alice Springs would see the town camps as places of chronic unemployment, bad health, crime, shocking living conditions and horrendous domestic violence.
SNOWDON: That's primarily a result of poor government funding. As a result they suffer from chronic overcrowding with the attendant issues. When these places were set up they had real difficulties in attracting government funding.
And people in Tangentyere will tell you that over the three decades that they have been operating, a continuing problem is changing government policy and a lack of funding.
In 2005 the town camps required an additional 56 four bedroom houses to meet the then needs of residents. These houses have not been provided.
NEWS: Some would say that many of the conditions in the camps could be remedied by self help, for example, picking up rubbish and keeping houses tidy.
SNOWDON: Research by Tangentyere addresses many of those issues.
But it is clear that while self help has a place there must be an understanding of the basic issues to do with overcrowding and what that means as well as things like education and employment options for people who live in poverty.
NEWS: What does Tangentyere say?
SNOWDON: I do not have access to most recent research but I understand that it highlights the under estimation of the population statistics for the camps and the large number of itinerant visitors that they attract and the chronic overcrowding
NEWS: What's your view?
SNOWDON: That reflects my general understanding of the state of play and I think they do a remarkable job under very difficult circumstances.
The prospect of overcrowding in those town camps as a result of visitation as well as the basic demography of the camps makes it very difficult.
And the simple fact is that Tangentyere has not had the resources to provide for the housing needs of their camp communities.


"Barista" is the rather nice word for the person who makes your coffee using an espresso machine, but it can be pot luck whether the coffee itself matches expectations.
In part it's down to the coffee bean used and in part also to the machine, but together they account only for 25% of coffee quality, according to Bill Comley of Alice Coffee Services. 75% is down to the barista, he says.
And that's why Bill's involved in organising local participation in the Australian Barista Competition, run by the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA).
"We're about promoting better coffee than the average cup of swill that's produced," says Bill.
It's the second year that locals have competed, with six putting their hands up to date.
"That's more than they had in the entire South Australian competition this year," says Bill with pride.
Last year's entry by nine baristas was equal highest in the country, second only to Melbourne.
The ASCA is right behind the Alice comp, with two world- and three Australian-accredited judges flying in for this Sunday's event (Feb 18).
Two local judges are also coming on board: Dalton Dupuy, the man behind Duyu Coffee who roasts his own beans right here in town, and Anna Kenny, a lover of fine food and an anthropologist, so "with good analytical skills", says Bill.
COMPETITION The competition, at the Convention Centre from 10am, will be open to the public although there's not a popular vote.
Competitors will be judged on more than the flavour of the cup they produce: judges will also be looking for knowledge, skill, professionalism, technical aspects, presentation, and creativity when it comes to speciality drinks.
Top flight espresso machines will be flown in for the comp, the same ones used for the nationals, worth $15,000 to $18,000 apiece.
The competition remains steadfastly independent, refusing coffee industry sponsorship, and the judges will fly to Alice Springs at their own expense.
Local judges pay to participate, with funds going towards competition expenses.
The winner gains free entry into the Australian finals, with airfare and accommodation in Adelaide thrown in.
Isn't this a lot of hype for just a cup of coffee?
A true coffee lover wouldn't ask that question, knowing that their favourite drink is much more than a caffeine hit, and its production, a refined art.
As well, Bill points out, coffee is the second largest agricultural crop in the world and the industry employs 200 million people internationally.
He hasn't got figures for Central Australia but does know that there are over 80 espresso machines in the region, worth around $5500 apiece. His business brings in around 500 kilos of coffee a month.
He says there are a lot of issues in the industry, from fair trade to barista wages. The hospitality industry is generally low paying and the ASCA is working on an accreditation and licensing scheme to raise the profile of barista skills.
"If a barista gains accreditation he or she would be in a position to ask for higher wages," says Bill.

'Coup de grass' at Olive Pink. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.

A media release from Tourism NT (29/01/07) enthusiastically states that "lush green vegetation has carpeted the desert landscape" in response to recent rains.
Sadly, the vast bulk of this vegetation in and around the environs of Alice Springs is artificial, in the sense that it is comprised principally of the introduced buffel and couch grasses.
These days one has to travel a considerable distance from town before entering into bushland consisting mainly of native species.
There are a few isolated spots close to town where the green tide of invasive non-native grasses has been turned back, most notably at the Alice Springs Desert Park (an impressive effort) and some individual rural blocks.
Recently the Olive Pink Botanic Garden has joined the ranks where buffel grass has been effectively controlled over five hectares of level terrain (the adjacent hills are another matter).
As the person with arguably the longest continuous experience of "buffel-busting" in Central Australia (starting about 1971, aged seven), I had the honour of administering the "coup de grass" to the final extant population of this species at Olive Pink in early January.
This was the culmination of years of effort put in by the late Frances and Clarry Smith, and also by Audrey Hill (together with inmates from the Alice Springs Correctional Facility), and Angela Canadia, a volunteer from Canada, to name a prominent few.
Six years ago virtually the entire grounds was smothered by this weed.
While there are still a few small patches of couch grass to be controlled, the grounds of Olive Pink Botanic Garden are now dominated by a range of native grasses, ephemeral herbs and herbaceous perennials.
This may be the first time (with one or two possible exceptions) that the native groundcovers have dominated this patch of dirt since the 1920s.
A photo taken from Meyers Hill in the early 1930s (then known as Nannygoat Hill) overlooking the grounds toward Heavitree Gap reveals a bare terrain completely devoid of vegetation except for trees.
This was a time of drought but also was the era of camels, cattle, donkeys, horses, rabbit plagues, and goats. There still exists an old Dead Finish tree at the base of Meyers Hill that shows a distinct browse line; almost certainly due to goats (it's hard to imagine what else would eat such spiky foliage).
When Olive Pink took up residency as honorary curator of the Arid Region Flora Reserve in 1956, photos of that period reveal a sparse vegetative cover across the grounds; and of course it was soon afterwards that the major drought of the 1960s commenced in earnest.
There may have been some recovery of native plants there when the drought broke in January 1966.
In the wet period of 1973-75 (the last years of Olive Pink's life), there may also have been a good cover of native plants at the Flora Reserve at the time; however, this was also the period that prompted a massive expansion of the introduced grass species that have now come to dominate the local area.
For the first time in decades one may now gain an appreciation of what some of the natural vegetation of the town area may have been like prior to European settlement.
One welcome benefit is that, while many are bemoaning the proliferation of feral spotted turtle-doves in town, the native grasses at Olive Pink Botanic Garden have set seed.
In turn they are attracting a flock of native diamond doves to feed off them Ð keep in mind this is about one block or so away from the CBD.
[Alex Nelson is employed at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden.]


Hip Hop gig at the Todd Tavern
Went down there an' saw some blokes rappin'
And it was all happ'nin'.

(Yeah bro - cos Darcy's bustin rhymes for the paper, but it's much harder than 'Dan n Dee' made it look last Saturday night.)
It must seem hard to believe that every show or concert that I've reported for the paper has been Ôexcellent'.
Well, if there's a bad show I will tell you about it, but this one was absolutely no exception!
I went in and nobody noticed the Ôjunior reporter' because nobody took their eyes off the stage! Two blokes were completely occupying that stage just by their pure intensity, spitting rhymes with such vigour and passion, you would've thought that Australia was the homeland of hip hop.
There was nothing wannabe about their rapping style; it seemed to come completely from the heart, not just an attempt to recreate Urban American lifestyle in their lyrics.
They were rapping about their home in Old Eastside, cruising with mates, being Ôtoo shame' to hold a girl's hand at the age of twelve.
For the main part of the show, it was local rapper Mc Dee and his American producer/co rapper Dan the Underdog. It was great to see different culture clubs coming together and hearing them rap about issues that were relevant to both Aussie and American life. "That bloke with the plaits had lots of charisma!" said Marge Earl.
It was true, McDee was the loud, in-your-face, ÔAussie accent one', arms in the air, Dan the Underdog just chilled next to him with a microphone, an oversized t-shirt, corn rolls, a quiet grin and the occasional hand gesture.
"There was lots of arm waving," said Marge, "I got a bit dizzy".
The highlight was seeing Jacinta Castle get up for the last song of the McDee set and hit the high notes Ôjust like Lauryn Hill'.
The serious drinkers turned sharply away from their glasses and stared, mesmerised, towards the source of their distraction. The not-so-serious moved closer to the stage, everybody seemed pop-riveted.
"She seemed just like family up there!" said Marge Earl. Alas alack, by the time Jacinta returned for her set with Leon Spurling the big hand was on the six and the little on the ten and the security guards were closing in from all corners to get rid of the junior reporter. I was told, however, that Jacinta took it even higher, perhaps to that castle in the sky.
Both the Dan n Dee EP and Mc Dee LP are available from Chatterbox and somewhere in Giles Street, just ask.

ADAM CONNELLY: A tissue, a tissue, we all fall down.

It's fair to say we've had our fair share of strange weather lately. The weird, wet stuff that's been falling from the sky combined with the glorious sunshine has made the place look nothing short of incredible.
I have a question for which I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. Should we be feeling guilty? Should we not be so pleased by the fact Alice Springs looks so lush when other places around the country look so barren? Or should we politely think "well, lucky us", smile to ourselves and keep quiet?
I was talking to a friend in Shepparton this week. She said that she was driving out of the town through rural Victoria and the landscape reminded her of Alice. The way Alice used to be. Dry, red and dusty.
If you're a fan of the Centre, it doesn't sound all that bad except we aren't trying to grow peaches and raise sheep.
Here in Alice, you would be forgiven for thinking that Darwin had come south for a holiday and brought along his mates Cairns and Broome. Packed its garish barbecue shirts, its Bermuda shorts and its alcohol-inspired superiority complex and set up camp.
This has meant for the first time in some people's memory of the place, the Centre looks green and lush. Well as lush as a desert can.
The drawback is that these plants and flowers that are sometimes only seen in wet conditions love to pour their pollen and seeds into the air like a ticker tape parade in Sydney. This combined with the winds and dust that have battered us in the last couple of weeks and all of a sudden the beautiful conditions many love at the moment are a hellish nightmare for those who suffer from the dreaded hayfever.
So many of you suffer (and I mean suffer) from hay fever. I feel really blessed that I am not one of the sneezy sub-culture.
Walking through the Todd Mall on a weekday afternoon I saw a slew of people heading to the chemist, consumed by the need for relief.
"Can I help you sir?"
"Antihistamines! Now! Lots of them!"
Like moderately irritated zombies the masses steadily converge upon the purveyors of anything anti-inflammatory.
In fact walking through the mall on a particularly dusty day looks as though the entire town has just watched one very sad movie. Blotchy eyes and sniffling.
Like you're all pining for Bambi's mother all at once!
Mind you, I'd not like to watch a movie, sad or otherwise with these people. All that sneezing would drive me insane.
I've never been all that interested in the stock market. It really doesn't interest me. But for the past couple of weeks I have thought about putting some savings into a few hundred shares in the company that makes Telfast. I think I've worked out how to make my millions. Instead of a blue chip portfolio, I'm going to employ a blown nose portfolio. It consists of a strategic blend of antihistamine, tissue and eye drop companies.
The purchases here in Alice Springs alone could buy me a yacht in the Caribbean.
For those of you suffering through another season of dusty, sneezy discomfort, it's not that funny. The only solace being that in a few weeks everything should die down and you'll be able to go back to your normal life. Until winter and the flu season.

LETTERS: 'Citizen Patrols' may have to take law into their own hands

Sir,Ð This is an open letter to the Chief Minister:-
The past few days have seen some decisions from your government that can only confirm their complete and utter disregard for the opinions of the citizens of Alice Springs.
Delia Lawrie's decision to knock back the request from the Alice Springs Town Council to introduce a youth curfew displays a degree of arrogant paternalism towards the citizens of Alice that is almost beyond belief!!
In her wisdom the Minister has decided that a "youth curfew" would risk "criminalising" a certain section of our youth!!
Personally, I would have thought that sending a child home to bed or taking them to a place of refuge before they could get into trouble would be the best way of making certain that they were not being criminalised!!
All that was being proposed, with our youth curfew was the right to get youth off the streets before they get into trouble!! Nobody wants them charged, or locked up.
It's called "crime prevention", by far the best form of policing.
Unfortunately, over the weekend [of Feb 3-4] in Alice there have again been gang bashings.
These bashings took place over a period of several hours in front of a 24 hour bakery popular with local youth.
The fact that this gang was able to operate over a period of several hours without being moved on surely demonstrates completely inadequate policing!!
Despite recent assurances from the Police Minister on police numbers, and despite the recent appearance of traffic police everywhere, the most basic area of police work is being under funded and under staffed.
The cynical use of extra traffic cops is used to cover up the woeful inadequacies of the current force, in particular the totally inadequate numbers of police patrolling our streets at night.
If a "youth curfew" had been in operation last weekend, and there had been enough police on duty to enforce it, children would have been sent home. No incident would have occurred.
But no, gangs were left on the street!
As is their "right", according to Minister Lawrie!! Now we have battered and bruised bodies and further to that, youth that have to be hunted down and charged. Yes, criminalized.
This action is also going to take up far more police time and resources than a simple "Move it on" was ever going to cost.
By knocking back our curfew proposals, Minister Lawrie is clearly indicating that she has the answers.
Well, Minister, where are they?
We rely on our police force to keep us safe while we lie sleeping in our beds.
We rely on our police to keep our children safe when they go out at night.
These are the most fundamental reasons for employing a police force.
If something is not done in order to allow our police to carry out this most basic of functions, then it is only a matter of time before we lose some of our children on the streets.
We are asking you to act upon these matters with the greatest of urgency.
Get police numbers and patrols to an adequate level.
And unless you have a better answer, hastily revise your decision on a youth curfew.
Failure to do so will leave the citizens of Alice with no other choice than to take matters into their own hands, possibly running their own Citizen Patrols!! A situation which I'm sure, you would agree will be of the utmost embarrassment to your government.
Steve Brown
Chairman, Advance Alice

Outrageous norm

Sir,Ð Regarding: "The "dongas solution" is looking more and more like a dud" (Alice News, Feb 8). It is looking like a dud because it is a dud.
There is no doubt that the problem of urban drift exists and should be addressed.
What is not understood by the planners is that there is a simple reason for rejecting the idea of these dongas beyond the objections raised to date. The "dongas solution" is yet another attempt to produce a solution to a problem that cannot be solved by human design.
What Hayek called constructivist rationalism Ð the idea that the planners can design solutions to this kind of problem Ð cannot work.
Spend time in remote Aboriginal communities if you doubt this.
Perhaps the most important question this country faces is how we treat the people living on remote Aboriginal communities.
This is not an abstract question. It deals with the lives of individual human beings.
Once the planners discover the problem of petrol sniffing, the individual petrol sniffer is doomed.
Does anyone believe that the planners and politicians who have failed over and over again to understand the nature of the problem can do anything?
Of course not.
It is precisely because the planners have failed over and over again that the "dongas solution" should be rejected. It cannot work.
Brian Stacey, the Commonwealth government's man at an earlier public meeting (which the planners now want abandoned, stated that the money would go elsewhere if Alice Springs continued its whingeing.
Mr Brough should be honest enough to say exactly what it is that will convince him that the people of Alice Springs and remote communities do not want this designed solution. Constructivist rationalism does not work.
We have now reached the situation in Alice Springs where Mayor Fran Kilgariff is correct Ð Alice Springs is an Aboriginal community.
The single most brutal fact about these places is that the madness, the pain, the outrage is so persuasive that they become the norm.
The suicide by hanging of a seventeen year old petrol sniffer, the rape of a six year old boy, the deaths, the illness, the lack of hope would be met with outrage in the suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.
Instead these things become the norm, destroying the humanity of those people Ð Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Ð who live on these places.
We have reached that position in Alice Springs where we are prepared to accept the outrageous as the norm. And the greatest outrage is the attempt to solve these problems by design.
Alice Springs can have little hope as the planners get ever more desperate to do something, to do anything Ð not to deal with the problems - but to be seen to be doing something.
We must recognise that the future of Alice Springs is in our hands Ð not those of the planners and politicians who have declared themselves irrelevant.
As we accept meekly the imposition of "grog cards", we should remember that it is our meekness that will create our future.
Chris Carey
Alice Springs

Emirates grog licence

Sir,Ð I read with interest your article about grog licences / proof of identity for grog purchases in the Alice Spring News (Feb 8 edition) online.
The United Arab Emirates, where I am currently temporarily residing (live in Alice Springs usually), has such a system that seems to be administered fairly well. Given that the UAE has an 80% expat population and anyone who buys grog is expected to have a licence, it should be a breeze to implement in the Territory with a paltry 175,000 population.
The key difference between Australia and the UAE is that there are many, many more grog outlets in Australia.
At Al Ain, for example, there are four major bulk grog outlets and three hotels where you can get alcohol with a meal. Al Ain has a population of 400,000 people.
[A licence system] could work inÊthe NT if linked to computers throughout grog outlets where a track could be placed on the amount of grog individuals purchase each day. Licences for trouble makers could be suspended or revoked.
Robin Henry
Alice Springs

People living out here!

Sir,- We are angry about the CLP's failure to recognise Territory communities facing the threat of nuclear waste.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion recently supported comments made by the Federal Science Minister Julie Bishop, who dismissed concerns about the impacts of nuclear waste, claiming that "all the sites in the NT are well away from houses" and "some distance from any form of civilisation".
But while none of these targeted sites are suburban, neither are they far from civilisation.
The Mt Everard site is just across the road from the Werre Therre community, only 40km from Alice Springs, with houses as close as 3km. And the Fishers Ridge site is totally surrounded by the Utley's cattle station, only 3km from their house.
The senator's comments deny not only the valid concerns of local communities - they deny their very existence.
It must be down to ignorance. The Science Minister has yet to visit the sites. Senator Scullion might have driven past, but he's never met with the communities and individuals whose homes border the dump sites.
We urge both Nigel Scullion and Julie Bishop to visit the sites, meet with locals and see first hand the implications of the federal government's policy.
And last week's cyanide accident that temporarily closed Stuart Highway north of Tennant Creek is one more reason to oppose an NT nuclear dump, raising concern about transport of radioactive materials through the Territory.
A Commonwealth radioactive waste dump, as proposed for the NT, would entail radioactive materials being transported thousands of kilometres to reach any of the proposed locations. This is the second major transport accident in the Territory in the last few months that has occurred along a potential transport corridor for the dump, the other recent incident being the derailment of eleven carriages of the Ghan passenger train last December.
Instead of transporting toxic waste thousands of kilometres to be dumped, it should be kept close to the point of production, where there are experts trained in monitoring it and dealing with any incidents.
Cyanide is an extremely toxic material, and accordingly is strictly packaged, regulated and controlled. If an accident of this scale, including release of materials into the surrounding environment, can happen during a cyanide transport, then there is potential it could happen with radioactive waste.
The Police Commander who attended the Ghan accident last December said "it took some time to get to the train crash site" and "emergency crews were glad the accident did not happen on an even more isolated part of the railway track". If there is a radioactive waste accident in a remote or less accessible area of the NT en route to a dump, how long would it take for trained experts to reach the scene? These delays could result in severe environmental contamination.
Natalie Wasley, Arid Lands Environment Centre
Justin Tutty, No Waste Alliance
Val and Barry Utley, Yeltu Park Station

ANZAC in May???

Sir,- My wife recently obtained a copy of the Alice Springs Town Council 2007 calendar. This is always a great calendar with all the public holidays, school terms and local events in it.
One thing I am curious about though is the date that they have for ANZAC day's public holiday. For as long as I have known it is marked on the 25th of April.
Seems neither the council, printers or proof readers believe this should be the case in 2007 as it is marked as the 24th of May! ÊOur ANZACS would be mortified about such a mistake!
Mark Schild
Alice Springs

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