March 1, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.


Aldermen were divided on Monday in their response to Mayor Fran Kilgariff's call to close Old Timers Camp, site of the recent stabbing murder of a 22 year old woman and the double bashing of another young woman, all in the one week.
Alderman Melanie van Haaren said she "100% supported" the call, "it's timely and will be welcomed by the community".
She said council should have a formal motion to back the mayor.
Ald Robyn Lambley moved such a motion, but as debate, brief though it was, pointed to some of the implications of the mayor's call, she withdrew it.
Ald Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke suggested that support for the motion would set a "double standard": council had not objected to the creation of a short-term accommodation facility for bush visitors just across the road on Len Kittle Drive.
She also asked the begging question: "What do you do with the residents?"
Ms Kilgariff, in the media release announcing the call, had suggested "it would not be too difficult to relocate [the] residents".
The release said the camp had "eight houses, three sheds and approximately 40 people recorded as residents".
"I would hope through the closure the aged residents would have access to a better quality of life, and possibly even be relocated to the Old Timers Retirement Home," said Ms Kilgariff in the release.
Ald Samih Habib drew on his taxi-driving experience to describe the reality of the camp: "There are so many people camping around the houses.
"Without a solution for them you don't solve the problem. Where are you going to put them?
"If you're happy with them in your backyard, I'll support the motion."
Ald Jane Clark was concerned that council did not have enough information to make a decision on the motion.
She was also concerned about "due process", following the drawn out controversy over the closure of the Laver Court Laneway (which will now stand).
Ald Meredith Campbell echoed concern about due process and asked if the residents of the camp had been asked for their thoughts on their "destiny"?
She also wanted to avoid a "divisional debate" and was reluctant to endorse the mayor's view.
Ald Murray Stewart saw it as a "freedom of speech" issue and said the broader debate should continue "unhindered" by council taking a formal position on the matter.
Ald Koch by this time had quite a list of objections to supporting a formal motion: "It's not our job, it's not on our land.
"The current taskforce is addressing the issues and until implementation [of its recommendations] we won't see what's going to happen."
He said council would do better to lobby government to "cough up" for increased security for the Old Timers retirement village next door.
"We are right to expect town camps to be integrated into our system," said Ald Koch, but he also urged caution because of the town council's MOU with Tangentyere Council.
At this point Ald Lambley withdrew her motion.
Ms Kilagriff thanked aldermen for their support but said it would be "an advantage not to have a council view" on the matter.
The Alice News later asked Ms Kilgariff how she reconciled her call for the closure with the work of the town camps taskforce implementation committee, on which she sits.
She said it was "early days" and she hadn't talked to the committee about the camp.
She said she hoped the old people of the camp could go to better accommodation - either the Old Timers retirement village or Hetti Perkins.
Younger people might "go back to their communities" or "there's always public housing", though she acknowledged the lengthy waiting list for the latter.
There was time to come up with solutions because the closure would be "a long process", involving the Territory Government.
The land is owned by the government and leased to the housing association that runs the camp.
What were the implications for council's MOU with Tangentyere Council?
Ms Kilgariff said she had phoned CEO William Tilmouth.
"He said what I was going to do was a matter for the committee of the camp."
On Tuesday Ms Kilgariff had yet to speak to the committee but intended to.
In a town already in crisis over the shortage of accommodation for its increasing Aboriginal population, was it logical to call for the closure of one of the options?
Ms Kilgariff said her concerns were for the security and safety of the residents of the retirement village and of older people at the camp, a "dangerous place" where they lived in "unlivable conditions".
Those issues "should be at the forefront", she said.


For a town aspiring to the title solar city the renewable energy scene is uncoordinated and far from user friendly.
Take a simple question, for example: how much would it cost to equip every one of the 9600 dwellings in Alice with a solar power unit?
That depends.
If you're paying at the rtate the Centre for Appropriate Technology' Bushlight project charges the taxpayer, the amount would be $2.4 billion.
If you're guided by the Desert Knowledge blurb on the yet to be chosen solar power display, the cost would be $583 million - a quarter of the Bushlight price.
Join the club.
The Alice Town Council's solar city bid, that presumably contains this kind of information, is a secret document although it cost the taxpayer more than $200,000.
Of the two local renewable energy businesses in town, one didn't know when we asked the price of an average domestic solar power unit, and the other didn't return our call.
The Power and Water Corporation quote $15,000 to $20,000 as a "typical" cost for domestic "PV solutions" with a payback period exceeding 50 years.
There are just six rooftop systems to date in the Territory, with two in Alice Springs.
Origin Energy in South Australia says units for an "average house" cost $30,000, with the possibility of installing them incrementally.
They quote the payback period as 12 to 20 years.
They have installed 400 systems on roofs in South Australia, with the demand increasing sharply in the last six months.
The Alice News asked some major players in the local game pretty fundamental questions, given the global hand wringing about global warming:-
¥ How many square metres of photovoltaic panels would be needed to supply all the electric power needed in Alice Springs?
¥ What would be the cost of these panels, and the hardware such as batteries and converters required to produce that power?
¥ What is the annual cost of the current power generation in Alice Springs?
¥ Are PV systems adequate to run large buildings such as schools and offices?
Desert Knowledge Australia said it "facilitated" the parties that got together to develop the solar cities bid but DKA is not an expert on photovoltaic power.
"DKA brings the experts together."
This is not withstanding the fanfare last week over their $2.55 million "solar technology demonstration facility".
Ruth Brown, from CSIRO, the town's longest established and most esteemed scientific organization, replied thus:- "We didn't have much input into the solar aspect of the submission.
"We are involved with the research and monitoring.
"Power and Water or Alice Town Council should have those figures."
All the town council would release about its bid - yet undecided - was just one of the more than 500 pages.
Explains media officer Fionn Muster: "The remainder of the bid is confidential, due to private information provided by several parties."
And that one page reads like the pitch for a movie about the public service, co-scripted by Franz Kafka and Woody Allen.
Our vision is to create a model of cooperation between government, business and the community to achieve:-
A community conscious of its unique environment and precious natural resources.
A community empowered to make informed and intelligent use of energy and water.
A national and international showcase for sustainable living and the use of solar energy.
The Alice Springs Consortium, with the support of Solar Cities, can achieve this vision by:-
Establishing market conditions to encourage the widespread use of solar energy and the proactive and significant conservation of energy.
Providing access to information, enabling technology and services to support these market conditions.
Encouraging and supporting changes in community behaviour through increased awareness of energy issues.
Together we will embark on a four-step journey to become:-
Energy Wise: Engaged in a debate about energy efficiency and solar power.
Energy Savvy: Aware of the need to conserve energy and the things we can do to contribute.
Energy Committed: Prepared to make changes in our lives to conserve energy.
Energy Champions: A model for the rest of Australia and the world to follow. The News asked Bushlight's Grant Behrendorff, who headed the bid team, why all the reasons we're putting forward are good intentions in the future, rather than renewable energy achievements in the past.
Was it because the latter are very thin on the ground?
"The purpose of the bid was to show how we could make best use of the available funding to demonstrate and trial solar technologies in Alice Springs," Mr Behrendorff explained.
"So the document is predominantly forward-looking.
"If we are successful, a solar cities team will be created consisting of three or four people (perhaps more from time to time) who will be responsible for implementing all of the various initiatives and fulfilling the monitoring and reporting requirements of the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO).
"It is envisaged that a shopfront of some sort will be created that residents and business people can visit to talk to the Solar Cities staff and find out about how to participate in the various initiatives if they so choose," says Mr Behrendorff.
"Our bid document drew heavily on the region's past achievements ... solar systems installations around Central Australia; use of solar power by cattle stations in this region for many years; the very high historical uptake of solar hot water systems in Alice Springs; COOLmob; Bushlight; the solar technology demonstration facility at Desert Knowledge Australia; large-scale PowerWater photovoltaic installation at Kings Canyon; and others.
"Most consortium members including NT Government, town council, PowerWater, Chamber of Commerce, Tangentyere, Desert Knowledge CRC put all of their time into the bid at no cost to the consortium.
"Most consortium meetings were held outside of business hours, enabling the cash budget to be mainly spent on specialist technical and financial consultants. "We would have liked a bigger budget - some other consortiums spent more than five times this amount on their bid," says Mr Behrendorff.
"I volunteered my time as chairman of the consortium.
"The Centre of Appropriate Technology contributed to the development of the bid but did this in a voluntary capacity also."
It is not clear why the Federal Government is six months late with its announcement of the remaining two solar cities.
Adelaide, Blacktown (a Sydney western suburb) and Townsville have already been nominated, sharing $45m in the initiative announced by Prime Minister John Howard in 2004.
Rumoured to be still in the running for the two cities yet to be announced, and sharing the remaining $30m, are Alice, Perth and Kalgoorlie.
Meanwhile the "solar technology demonstration facility", to be built at the Desert Knowledge Precinct south of The Gap, will have a renewable energy capacity equivalent to taking about 25 cars off the road.
DKA CEO John Huigen says technologies could include solar concentrators, solar water pumps, combined heat and power systems, organic rankine cycle (ORC) generators, and flat plate photovoltaic panels; both fixed arrays and those which follow the direction of the sun.
"The facility will produce 312,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is enough to supply about 42 homes in Alice Springs."


There are staff and some students at the three campuses of Nyangatjatjara College, the secondary school for Indigenous students of the Mutitjulu, Impanpa and Docker river communities, but its boarding facility, based at Yulara, is closed.
The boarding facility cost $2.5m and was opened just 18 months ago.
The college was operated until last year by the Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation, now in administration, although that is being contested in court.
Administrator Eamonn Thackaberry says the boarding facility is closed due to non-compliance with fire regulations.
He would not confirm that it was closed in Term Four last year, nor respond to further questions about why fire regulation compliance was not attended to in that time, referring the Alice News to the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations (ORAC).
A spokesperson for ORAC said it is "likely the boarding facility will take four to six months to be brought up to the required standard - fire engineer assessment and report alone will take about five to six weeks, and then the job will have to be tendered, building work done and certified".
The spokesperson did not answer questions about fears that the college would be shut down permanently, nor about consultation with parents, for instance over the ongoing closure of the boarding facility, saying only: "The Acting Principal and teachers have met with parents and students, and with the communities. Care is being taken to keep the communities informed on school activities."
Nor would the spokesperson comment on reports of increased social problems in the three communities, including two suicides by teenage girls in the past few months.
Questions about numbers of students enrolled, their ages, and their progress were also not answered: "This is internal information."
The spokesperson said the college is currently staffed by "an Acting Principal, Senior Teacher, house parents (who provide other support while the dormitories are not available), a Recreation Officer, contract cleaning, and admin staff."


Todd River Downs is as remote and inhospitable a place as any in the world, 200 km east of Alice Springs, perched at the northern edge of the Simpson Desert, boiling hot in summer, and now several years into a cattle killing drought.
Instead of getting desperately needed steady rain, last month 200mm - eight inches - dumped on the station in a matter of hours, cutting the sole road to it.
Kevin Pick has been there for half a century and he wants stay until he dies.
He lives in three tin sheds and a caravan, has no running water, no air conditioning and a diesel generator he rarely bothers to fire up.
It's rough but it's home - a home Kevin's been fighting to keep for a quarter of a century, in a range war whose latest weapons are high calibre rifles fired from low flying helicopters, wiping out much of his meagre cattle herd.
Other ploys are stopping authorities from fixing the road to his front gate, and prohibiting the use of his cattle brand, effectively destroying his business.
"They want to get me off my place," says Kevin.
"But I'm not going."
"They" - absurdly - are the very people supposed to help him and his extended family.
It's the Central Land Council (CLC), set up by the Federal Government under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT) in the seventies to reverse black - white injustice. There is hardly a man in Central Australia who better embodies black - white harmony.
Kevin's father Taffy was a Welsh coal miner who came to Australia in the Depression to mine gold at Arltunga, east of Alice Springs, just to the south of Todd River Downs.
Later Taffy grew fruit and vegetables for the young town of Alice.
In World War II he fought the Germans in Europe and the Middle East, was captured and escaped three times.
Kevin's mother was Ada Smith, an Arrernte woman born at the Arltunga gold fields.
Her large family spans the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, from the former Santa Teresa Catholic Mission, now the Ltyentye Apurte community, all the way through to where the Arrernte lands abut the Warlpiri region at Papunya, 200 km west of Alice.
This family network expanded more than it otherwise would have because of an error by military authorities: they advised Ada that Taffy was "missing believed killed in action".
She started a new family, with Taffy's ultimate consent when he returned from the war, agreeing to a divorce but keeping close links with the huge clan.
Brown skinned Kevin, with his thoughtful blue eyes, now has hundreds of "rellies".
Some live in outstations, tiny, remote bush communities, and have English as their second or third language.
Natalie Ross and Cheryl Shembri are nieces. They live in Alice suburbs.
As kids they spent many a school holiday on "uncle Kevin's" block, having the run of its 2000 square kilometres.
Eileen Hooson, who lives on an Alice town camp, is Kevin's step-sister.
Eileen is an experienced administrator working in Aboriginal organisations, and a prominent activist for Aboriginal causes.
All three women have thick folders of correspondence: with the CLC, Territory departments and Federal Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs, helping Kevin fight his fight.
Formidable as the three women may be, they're pitted against a land council with a staff of more than 100, a budget of more than $5m, and a legal department with several lawyers.
More frighteningly, land councils can operate in secrecy to an extent government departments can only dream about.
For example, land councils are exempted from Freedom of Information provisions.
They answer to nobody but the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs - sitting in Canberra 2000 km away.
Natalie, Eileen and Cheryl say the CLC can dictate to NT Government departments - and is using that power to increase the pressure on Kevin to get off what he considers his land.
For example, the road to the station hasn't been fixed for a long time.
Kevin isn't allowed to build a house on the station, although the foundations were put down decades ago.
On June 21,1989 the NT Department of Lands and Housing told Kevin: "As you are aware, the land contained in your Grazing Licence is under Land Claim ... and as such, this Department is unwilling to approve your request to carry out improvements."
Authorities, on demand from the CLC, have stopped him from using his cattle brand.
Without it Kevin can't sell his cattle, forcing him onto welfare last year - for the first time in his 67 years.
And the CLC hired the chopper-borne marksmen: Kevin says half of his herd of 400 now lies rotting and flyblown in the red dirt of Todd River Downs.
Kevin's has lived there since 1951, first with his uncle, Willy Smith.
In 1984 Kevin took over the grazing license.
Under the Land Rights Act the CLC managed to secure Aboriginal freehold title to about half of Central Australia.
It was able to claim "unalienated" Crown land and existing Aboriginal reserves.
Excluded from claims was "alienated" land, such as covered by freehold and leaseholds, including pastoral leases.
Tragically for Kevin, he and uncle Willy never succeeded in getting a pastoral lease and always operated under a grazing license.
The fact that both of them were illiterate no doubt had a lot to do with this.
Grazing licenses did not automatically protect their holders from land rights claims.
However, the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who schedules land under the Land Rights Act, could have knocked back the claim over Kevin's land.
Well before the claim was lodged, former Land Commissioner Judge Toohey wrote in Seven Years On: "Where the holder of a grazing license will suffer serious detriment, the Minister might well decide that he is not satisfied that there should be a grant of the land."
Yet the Minister, Robert Tickner, granted the claim, although the report to him by Land Commissioner Justice Olney had this to say: "[Mr Pick] will clearly suffer substantial detriment in the event of the land comprising grazing license 2144 being granted to a land trust unless such grant is made conditional upon the right of Mr Pick to retain the possession and use of the land for a reasonable period."
If a grant were made, Judge Toohey said, the Commonwealth should pay compensation "for the loss of the grazing license including the value of any improvements thereon."
Kevin has not seen any such compensation money, although he says the CLC has hinted that he could get some if he walked off the land.
But at the time the CLC's claim over his land was put together, Kevin thought he had no cause for anxiety: all he needed to rely on, he believed, were the assurances from the traditional owners that he could stay. They were his family, after all.
The CLC in 1990 lodged the claim on Kevin's block, and a similar sized one to the east, just over 5000 square kilometres, small beer in the land rights stakes.
The claim was granted although key traditional owners, some now dead, had made it clear that Kevin's interests needed to be looked after.
On April 23, 1990 they sent a letter to the CLC, Mr Tickner and to the Territory Department of Lands and Housing.
It was signed by seven members of the Johnson family, two from the Hayes family and one McCormack.
It said in part: "Us Johnsons of Little Well are worried about the claim for Kevin Pick's country.
"He has been there a long time and is part of our family and it is his country.
"He has had a grazing license with the government for a long time and we want him to keep that land.
"We don't want to take this land away from him and want to withdraw the land claim over our traditional country which is on Kevin's grazing license before the land claim for the rest of our traditional country. Thank you."
It's a communication that David Avery, Manager - Legal Services for the CLC, is apparently ignoring, notwithstanding the fact that the letter was put before Land Commissioner Judge Olney during the hearing of the claim.
Edward and Gregory Johnson, who co-signed the letter, also gave evidence in support of the claim.
But Judge Olney, in his report in 1991, said the two men knew what was in the letter and "the fact that they now express a view different from that expressed in the letter is of no real relevance".
He said much of Todd River Downs is "Johnson country" - putting beyond doubt that the letter has the highest authority in Aboriginal terms.
He said "the problem of what is to become of Mr Pick and Todd River Downs is one which can only be resolved by constructive negotiation carried out in a spirit of goodwill.
There is clearly little "spirit of goodwill", prompting 18 prominent Aboriginal people, in a letter in January 2005, to complain about the CLC's "hostile, prejudiced, unfair and unsympathetic" attitude towards Kevin.
In a letter dated August 11, 2004 to the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment Mr Avery referred to Kevin as a "squatter" on the land trust and that he has "no legal rights to occupy any part of it."
Mr Avery quotes from a letter the CLC had sent to Kevin in October, 2002.
It claims the CLC has no "instructions from the traditional landowners to negotiate any arrangement with you".
Mr Avery repeatedly makes allegations that Kevin's land is overstocked: "Clearly something has to be done about that land degradation as a matter of urgency."
A number of traditional owners signed three official government forms, "Owner's Permission to Use Run", demanding the return to Kevin of his brand.
The CLC's response: The forms weren't valid because they didn't carry the land trust's seal.
Kevin denies any wrongdoing, saying the sorry state of the land is a result of the drought.
Neighbours' land is equally affected, he claims, including a cattle station owned by Aborigines and managed with the assistance of the CLC.
"Everybody's fighting the drought," says Kevin. "I'm fighting the land council as well."
He claims he's been tricked by the CLC which solicited his written consent to cull feral camels and horses.
Kevin says he signed the document having been told what was in it - being illiterate he couldn't read it.
In fact that letter apparently referred to shooting cattle as well, something for which he would never have given his consent.
The CLC declined to answer questions but issued a statement saying "the CLC is not concerned about Mr Pick living on the Land Trust for as long as he likes, but it does have ongoing concerns about serious land degradation caused by overgrazing".


The Art ~ Land ~ Culture Ideas Incubator, to take place in Alice next week, sounds weighty but the core idea is simple: the arts have something to offer when it comes to bringing vitality to our public spaces.
It's an idea whose time has come: there are plans afoot for a major redevelopment in the CBD, being led by the town council; the council has a public art policy, with a 2% allocation from future major capital works projects (though there's still no plan for public art at the Civic Centre); the Territory Government has public arts funding, with the first grants having been made; and the Uniting Church is in full stride with its own revitalisation plans for its properties in the CBD.
While all of this is is likely to be concentrated in the CBD the incubator has a much broader scope.
The incubator itself is not directly concerned with particular art works although Art~Land~Culture has a program of visual art and performance, called Shifting Ground, scheduled for May 4-18 at venues around the town, including the Desert Park, the Cultural Precinct, JBirds Place, the Uniting Church grounds, the Town Council lawns and various shop windows.
The incubator's focus is more on processes of cultural development and planning, developing relationships between people working in different disciplines, and broadening the understanding of people in different levels of government about what the arts can offer to public planning and public spaces.
Specific projects that arise out of these relationships and processes could relate to spaces in town, or to spaces on land or communities hundreds of kilometres from here.
The two day program is not one particopants can drop in and out of: it's open only to invitees who commit to the duration.
Says organiser Kieren Sanderson of Watch This Space, which is hosting the incubator: "I pushed hard against it being another talkfest, where people leave with amazing ideas that then disappear into the ether.
"Instead it's a process that will work towards answering a basic question: How can we create innovative programs that rethink the way public spaces are being developed?"
Tracy Spencer of the Uniting Church will be taking part.
The church has already kicked off a public space project with its Story Wall - the white wall that forms the northern boundary to the church grounds and can be used as a projection screen.
Following a couple of events last year, there'll be further screenings in the evening of March 8, as part of the incubator program. The official launch will come with the Opal Indigenous Youth Film Festival later this month.
Says Rev Spencer: "The church's thinking about the wall is around three words - welcoming, connecting, encountering.
"We want the Central Australian community to see itself reflected on the wall, both through the content of the screenings and in their production - Central Australian stories by Central Australian people so that we learn and understand more about each other and feel proud of who we are." Rev Spencer says the wall will also be an important tool in the local conversation with tourists.
"I hear tourists all the time in Adelaide House trying to sort through the stereotypes, especially about Aboriginal people, which is one reason why it will be good to launch the wall with the Indigenous youth films." She says balance and diversity in the program will be achieved across the year.
The screenings are necessarily short, starting after dark and finishing by 9.30pm, out of sensitivity to residents and other users of the mall.
"We want each program to be enough to stimulate conversation but not so much that people are overwhelmed and all their questions seem to have been answered."
A small curatorial group is being formed to make decisions about programming, with key criteria being cultural sensitivity, heritage and a voice for youth.


NT Transport Minister Delia Lawrie continues to be dogged by controversy over road funding.
Recently Canberra diverted $750,000 from the East-West Highway (Outback Way) project vital to Central Australia's economy because Ms Lawrie failed to come up with matching fund from the NT.
And now Federal member for Solomon, David Tollner (CLP) says the Territory Government has failed to use guaranteed Federal funds of $13.7 million to upgrade Darwin's East Arm Port access road, Tiger Brennan Drive, despite the monies being available since 2004. Mr Tollner says the Territory Government now estimates the total cost of the project has blown out to $64 million, some $36.7 million higher than the original project cost of $27.3 million.
But Ms Lawrie, who is meeting today with Transport Minister Mark Vaile, says Mr Tollner's comments "make it very clear that his Government will fund the project, but closer to the election.
"The costs have increased due to increased scope and increased construction costs.
"The increased scope is largely due to the need for grade separation over railway lines.
"The increased construction costs are in line with Australian Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics construction indexes."
CLOSE EYE While Ms Lawrie claims the NT government "has provided all necessary project costings and documentation required for the Commonwealth to fund the project," Mr Tollner says he suspects the NT Government may not have the matching money and he will be keeping a close eye on what documentation she will present to Mr Vaile.
Meanwhile, the NT Cattlemen's Association has challenged the validity of repeated claims from Local Government Minister Elliott McAdam's office that the NT Government's proposed local government boundaries revamp will mean more money for rural roads. "The information we've received clearly states that, under this new local government regime, no more money will be available," says NTCA President Roy Chisholm.
"What's the true case here? We call on the government to table the documentation that verifies more money for Territory roads."
He says the NTCA welcomed this week's demand from Independent Nelson MLA Gerry Wood for bush residents to be given the full "nuts and bolts" on what the changes mean in terms of rates and roads funding.
Mr Chisholm says the community is in the dark because there had been no consultation on the proposal.
"Regrettably, Gerry Wood has been a lone voice so far on this critical issue.
"Where does the Opposition stand on this aggressive assault on the pastoral estate?
"We've heard nothing from them so far."


"There aren't enough good cover bands," says Bill Davis, musician and music producer.
"There are so many great songs out there, not everybody has to write their own!"
But Fly 990 has the best of both worlds, with their set consisting of covers and original songs by NoKTuRNL who make up one half of the band.
With two acoustic guitars, and drums if needed, Fly 990 perform an eclectic mix of the songs that you wouldn't normally hear from a local cover band.
I've never heard these guys before.
I didn't manage to get an interview with the band due to "conflicting schedules", so I am guided by what I was told by manager Matthew Guggisberg when trying to organize the interview.
The quote - yes that's my dad. I think the words stand alone but they weren't said in regard to this band at all! No, the photo isn't even mine, it's a professional shot, and I was emailed it.
Yes, I'm writing a cover article!
Not even an original! Have I been reduced, in my role as Ôjunior reporter' to writing a press release - a mere cut and paste?
That's not what I'm about. I want to be writing about what's actually going on, and who's going hardest around town, not be fetched by someone's manager to write a rave review, especially when I've never even seen the band!
I feel reduced by even having to retaliate (no hard feelings boys, I'm sure you put on a good show.)
Sadly it was "KnockBackTuRNL" for me this week. In actual fact, I have listened to a few tracks that were recorded recently at Redhouse recording studio and I know that NoKTuRNL are very accomplished musicians.
No doubt they cover songs like a cut and polish covers a Mustang.
I was told by Matthew that the name, Fly 990, is the number plate of NoKTuRNL's German bass player David Lang's old model Opel Kadett sedan. Fly 990 perform regularly at the Firkin and Hound in Alice Springs, with other occasional performances at Lasseters Hotel.
They have also performed at Melanka Party Bar and will perform this Saturday at The Masquerade Ball. For more information regarding Fly 990 or NoKTuRNL contact ...
It's not a press release, really.

ADAM CONNELLY: My kingdom for a beard!

The Territory is a unique place.
No one really has to tell you, the local reader, that. But if you haven't figured it out, simply turn on an outside light at night and wait for the dozens of little monsters that will come running. Bizarre critters the likes of which I have never seen.
But it isn't just the flora and fauna - the Territory is socially unique as well. We even have terms that describe these social idiosyncrasies. "Territory Time" is one such term.
Territory Time is the term that perfectly describes Einstein's theory of relativity. Einstein said that time and space can bend. If you can bend time back around itself, you can, in theory, get to a place before you left.
Never before in my life has eight o'clock been bent so far before. Sometimes eight o'clock can be bent as far back as nine thirty!
Territory Time is the bane of the event organiser's existence. However most of the people who live here love the concept and wouldn't live by any other. It affords us a flexibility other parts of the country don't have.
When I was living in Sydney, eight o'clock meant eight. The glares of the host if you popped by at quarter past ensured you'd never willingly turn up late again. Weekends filled to the brim with children's birthday parties means that time is of the essence. "Hurry up and have fun Harry É you have three more parties today and mummy needs a drink." "Territory Formal" is another term of our one-off lifestyle. The fact that it's too hot or too much hassle to put on a suit means that the inventive boffins of times past simply changed the rules of the social engagement to suit. Or more aptly not to suit.
Here in the Territory a man can wear shorts and a short sleeve shirt to a gala dinner. How brilliant! Never will a man have to be uncomfortable for the sake of fashion.
Territory men are men! Straight or gay, creative or practical, men are men. Look at one of the florists here in town. A man with a curly mullett and a handlebar mustache. He can tell you about violets one minute and Valliants the next.
I sometimes find myself feeling a bit less than the acceptable level of masculinity here in the Territory. Sometimes, I find that when I'm talking to mates that there is the occasional look of derision.
I don't know nearly enough about the Finke or Chevy engines and I don't own a dog or sport a tattoo.
This is only an occasional look.
Most of the time I have been able to bluff my way through and at least look as though I have some interest in the subjects of the pub conversation. It's not that I'm uninterested. Far from it. It's just that I haven't taken a Territory-sized interest in these subjects before.
The ability to bluff my way through conversations has helped. As has wearing a beard. My beard is probably the most outwardly blokey thing about me to be honest.
Beards say one of two things. They say "there is a man". Or "there is a grandmother". Either way in blokey circles they afford some level of respect.
In a week's time however I won't have this luxury. I am shaving off the beard, the loyal servant of my ridiculously boyish face for more than a decade.
I am shaving it off for the World's Greatest Shave, which raises money for the Leukemia Foundation. (If you'd like to pledge for this great cause, log onto and enter my name.)
You can't really back out of doing something that raises money for sick kids, can you? So it's coming off. My face will be naked, exposed and frightened. Like a baby seal on a beach full of birds of prey, I will not have this hairy Ôfoot in the door' to manly conversation and I'm a little concerned that those looks will become more frequent.
There really are only a couple of things that could help. A big tattoo, which would probably be far too painful, or a combination of a big dog and a crash course on bush mechanics. Gulp - I'm in trouble.

LETTERS: "Shutists" descending on Alice.

Sir,- You may be aware of the informal worldwide interest group The Nevil Shute Norway Foundation ( ).
Many of us "Shutists" are descending on your town from all around the world in April (22 to 27), for the Fifth Biennial Nevil Shute Norway Foundation Conference ( ) We are very interested in hearing from any townsfolk who may have a recollection, or passed on story or memento of Nevil Shute's visits to Alice in January 1949, and later in June of 1952.
We know from Shute's own log of his visit in 1949 that many of the people he met and places he visited in Alice were then used by him as characters and local colour for his book "A Town Like Alice".
Shute was also an associate of the pioneering English aviator Sir Alan Cobham who also flew himself to Alice much earlier, on 1st September 1926. We welcome any information relating to this visit too.
We still have some places at the conference left, so welcome any of your readers to join us too!
Please direct any response to . A postal address in the UK can also be provided.
Philip Nixon
Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Nurses: limit overtime

Sir,- Last week the Territory Health Minister Chris Burns was confronted in parliament with proof that Territory nurses were working up to 19 hours a day.
He ducked for cover stating, "The oversight of nurses and the number of hours they work is the responsibility of the director of nursing in each institution."
This was nothing more than a cheap shot at the Nursing Directors and a failure of the Minister and the Health Department bureaucrats to accept responsibility for the state of the health system in the Territory.
If properly staffed with nurses, the hospitals would not need to have large amounts of overtime in order to provide a decent health service to Territorians.
Nurses from around the Territory have come forward with horror stories highlighting how severe the staffing problems really are.
Some have gone so far as to provide proof in the form of their pay slips, which were then tabled in parliament.
If Minister Burns seriously believes that the overtime is being worked unnecessarily, he should issue a directive limiting overtime, and then we will all see how the health system copes when no nurses are available to pick up the shift shortfalls.
Yvonne Falckh
Branch Secretary
Australian Nursing Federation (NT branch)

Dunnies don't count

Sir,- Claims made by the Minister for Infrastructure, Delia Lawrie, in parliament last week, that the Martin Government is delivering a record Infrastructure Budget are false.
To get that figure the Minister has rolled expenditure on minor new works, repairs and maintenance into the Infrastructure Budget.
This type of accounting trick is typical of the Martin Government. This means that leaky toilet cisterns, painted ceilings and window washing are being claimed by government as capital works expenditure. It is simply dishonest. The government has a duty to honestly tell Territorians how much they're spending on real construction, rather than beefing up the figures with non-infrastructure expenditure.
The truth is that in both estimated cash expenditure and total capital works, the Martin Government has made a substantial cut this year. Last year the cash budget was $192m, this year that cash commitment has been cut to $166.5m.
Last year the total for capital expenditure was $333.8m, this year it has been cut to $303.2m.
Terry Mills,
Shadow Treasurer

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