July 5, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Alice Show: Bigger, better. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

If you meet someone just once a year it is likely to be at the Alice Show, and with 19,000 people attending, there is no doubt it is the town’s premier social event.
But few realize it is also big business, although run by a core group of just a dozen volunteers.
The event turns over $300,000 a year from gate takings and stall hire.
Of course, all profits go toward improving show facilities.
And according to show society president Brad Bellette, the Showmen’s Guild considers The Alice to be one of the nation’s most profitable venues.
“The big rides turn over between $50,000 and $100,000 on the weekend,” says Brad.
“This is why we’re getting million dollar rides.”
He estimates 8000 people come from bush commuities.
“I’ve heard stories of people saving up to $3000 to come to the show.”
But it’s the little things that make the show great.
For example, chook entries this year are up from 60 to 150, “and we’ve got chooks with heads that look like they’ve exploded,” says the irrepressible Brad whose day job is running an advertising agency.
“And we’ve got turkeys for the first time in about five years.”
Cooking entries have doubled, and photography, with 340 entries, is up on last year which was a record.
“We ran out of programs,” says Brad.
 “We never run out but we did this year.”
The website,, got 12,000 hits in May and up to mid June, a further 11,000.
On the other hand, the cat section has become extinct.
“There are fewer breeders now, and the cat steward wanted to go on holidays for five weeks,” says Brad.
Is is because cats eat native wildlife?
“Cats are no longer politically correct,” chips in Brad’s partner Kate Merry, decisively.
She too cancelled her last few weekends to work on the show.
Cattle are going to be up.
Talking of which, Brad’s had a bit of stern talking to from the “girls organizing the cattle section”.
He advertised a “campdraft” on the telly.
There’s nothing like it, he was told by Rebecca Cadzow, from Mt Riddock Station, who stages the Bronco Branding, which is what in fact the event is called.
Never heard of it?
On the second show day, Saturday, be there at 1pm in the ring near the cattlemen’s bar, and see it all happening.
There are four competitors in each team: the catcher on a horse, and on the ground, the front leg roper, the hind leg roper, and the brand runner.
They’re all in a pen with a small mob of cattle.
In the middle is what’s called the panel.
It looks like two triangles placed end to end.
The catcher lassoes a beast with a rope tied to a sturdy bronco collar worn by the horse.
The catcher then maneuvers his mount so that the rope slides up one side of the panel and drops into the slot between the two triangles.
He, or rather, his horse then drags the beast to the panel where it is pretty well immobilized.
Now the leg ropers (front and hind) swing into action, stopping the beast from kicking.
The brand runner comes running and does his bit.
This is normally followed by the removal of the testes (in the case of male cattle), using a sharp knife, a robust procedure performed without anesthetic.
If you’re now tempted to dial the RSPCA, don’t.
The branding iron, at the show at least, is dipped in paint, not in hot coals, and testes are left in place.
And the bit with the rope does not hurt the cattle, Rebecca assures us (she’s not saying the cows are actually looking forward to it): “That’s how it was done in the old days,” she says. 
The 13 Bronco Branding teams from as far as Katherine, Supplejack Station near the WA border and Oodnadatta in SA must process three beasts in under 10 minutes.
They get points for being faster and lose points  – animal lovers, please note – for rough handling.
A second event, team penning, also starts in this time slot, from 1pm Saturday, so don’t skip the second show day! 
Three riders have to “cut out” (animal lovers: no knives are involved) three designated bullocks from a mob of 40, and push them into a pen, in no more than two minutes.
The fastest win.
Brad’s over the moon about the renewed strong links with the pastoral community.
“We’re forming a strong relationship with the cattle people again,” says Brad.
“For a few years they and the show weren’t talking to each other.
“Eventually, what we’d like to do is hand over half the ground to them to organize events, because it’s a big part of our show.”
The small core organizing group is occupied with the show most of a year, becoming more frantic the nearer it gets.
But on show days a huge number of locals are involved.
For example, AFL teams Pioneers, Federals and Rovers Souths taking care of the gates, equipped with EFTPOS facilities for the first time.
The cricket club runs the Members’ Bar under the grandstand.
That and the cattlemen’s bar at the other end of the grounds are the only places where you can drink.
“The days of brawls outside the several bars are over,” says Brad. “It’s a family show.”
Still, there is security at the gates “not that we ever have a problem”.
Having the entertainment in the crowd and not in the arena has worked fine last year, and is being taken to new heights.
Says Brad: “The diving pigs are back, there’s a Western show in the food court (now fully tiled), an 11 year old balloon girl, stilt walkers, performers – you name it.”
And the horse events are now close to the grandstand, affording the crowd a much better view.

Blind eye on camps rubbish. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Just one person is in charge of enforcing environmental health in the 19 Aboriginal town camps of Alice Springs, notorious – in part – for the squalor of many.
Mountains of rubbish, including food scraps and containers, and empty beer cans, are strewn about several camps, or piled up for extended periods, not just inside the camps, but in some areas spilling out onto public land.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Chris Burns has given this account of how the “policing” of this obvious health hazard has been carried out since 2005 when the town council handed the responsibility back to the government.
Before this transfer, when the town council was in charge, the problem was just as great.
The spokesperson says: “Until 2005, the Alice Springs Town Council was responsible for an Environmental Health Service for the whole of Alice Springs.
“In 2005 ASTC asked the Health Department to take over the service.
“The ASTC does not currently provide a rubbish collection service nor any other housing related service to the town camps.
“The cleanliness of houses in town camps inside and outside, that is the yard area, is the responsibility of residents – as it is for all public housing residents.
“Reinforcement of this, if necessary, is the responsibility of the tenancy and property managers [Tangentyere Council] and the landlord or leaseholder [the various Aboriginal housing associations].”
The response from Dr Burns’ office was given to a specific enquiry from the Alice News about Hidden Valley town camp.
The spokesperson says: “Tangentyere Council retains control over Hidden Valley Town Camp.
“The [government’s] Environmental Health Service works co-operatively with Tangentyere and will attend when invited by Tangentyere. The Environmental Health Service pays Tangentyere to employ an environmental health worker.
“This position is based on completion of a VET course at Batchelor College.”
We asked the spokesperson how often the department had been invited to “attend” by Tangentyere.
She said: “I’m advised that the Environmental Health Service has had numerous contacts with Tangentyere since the Department of Health took over the service in June 2005, including assisting with the ‘Fixing Houses for Better Health’ Surveys, which included the Hidden Valley community.
“I’m advised there have been no requests from Tangentyere to assist with public health issues at Hidden Valley during that time.”
The News has visited Hidden Valley several times in the past three weeks, upon invitation from residents there, and despite being warned by a Tangentyere official of possible prosecution for trespass. 
After making enquiries for a report published in last week’s issue, Tangentyere cleaned one yard, but nothing appeared to have been done to the yard next-door.
Outside the yards a large amount of litter remains strewn around, as has been observed for years by Alice News reporters.
We were also told by residents of the two houses that they had asked Tangentyere for rubbish bags and rakes, but none had been supplied.

Grog war hard, but that is no reason to quit. COMMENT by KIERAN FINNANE.

Whatever the difficulty facing the Federal Government’s plans to ban alcohol in Indigenous communities or Alice Springs’s own alcohol management plans, it does not lie principally in the presence of on-license premises around town – pubs, restaurants, clubs.
Tangentyere Council leaders were quoted in the latest Weekend Australian on difficulties related to the Federal Government’s grog ban plans.
The journalist, Ean Higgins, presented arguments attributed to William Tilmouth that Abbott’s Camp’s dry declaration was hard to police and, in any case, there are three drinking establishments outside the camp only a short walk away.
The article had already painted a pictured of such a drinking establishment, the “jam-packed Riverside Bar, a smoke-filled setting composed of white bouncers and barmen and exclusively black patrons”.
What the article overlooked was:
•  the laws that govern the service of alcohol to intoxicated patrons in  “drinking establishments” and the possibility of recourse to authorities and penalties to licensees if these laws are broken.
• and the fact that the overwhelming majority of alcohol flowing in the Territory comes from takeaway outlets, not on-license drinking.
According to the recently released Northern Territory Alcohol Consumption and Related Attitudes: 2006 Household Survey, almost half of all alcohol is usually purchased at supermarket bottleshops and another quarter at hotel bottle shops.
Hotel bars accounted for less than 3% of the usual source for purchases.
The survey also asked respondents where they usually drank alcohol: the predominant response was at home (63.7%). Less than 10% reported usually drinking in pubs.
While 13% of respondents identified themselves as Aboriginal, the survey was not conducted on town camps or remote communities (they are to be surveyed separately in the near future).
However, the central focus of the grog debate over the many years that it has raged in Alice has always been with takeaway liquor.
We also know, from research conducted at  the Alice Springs Hospital, that the most common location for stabbing injuries – as one example of worrying violence connected significantly to alcohol consumption –  is town camps or homes. (See Alice News, December 7, 2006).
Further, the Federal Government’s intention to stem the “rivers of grog” is focussed chiefly on a total ban in communities and on grog running to communities, where the presence of nearby  “drinking establishments” is uncommon.
So the central point of the Weekend Australian’s article, that there is a disconnect between the Federal Government’s plans on this issue and what’s happening on the ground, is not well sustained by the “evidence” the article then advances.
If we’re looking for reasons for why plans may not work, at least let them be able to stand up to a bit of scrutiny.
Otherwise, let’s stay focussed on the main game – protecting children.

Howard’s Heroes in bad timing at Amoonguna. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“We’ve been chewed up and spat out so many times, you’d think people would lose their taste for Amoonguna!”
This was the colourful take by Marie Elena Ellis on two separate Federal Government moves that have angered the community.
Ms Ellis is a traditional owner – “I’ve lived here all my life on my grandfather’s country” –  and is on the community’s health council, school council and “council council”.
She works as the aged care coordinator, attending to the needs of 19 elderly people, and is also studying early childhod education at Batchelor Institute.
Her two teenage children board at St John’s in Darwin, but meanwhile her seven chihuahua pups keep her busy.
She’s got an excellent sense of humour but on Monday she was angry.
On the Friday before, as council officers were reluctantly closing the door on their CDEP (work for the dole) program, having lost it to a rival bidder, they were told a Federal Government survey team, as part of the Prime Minister’s emergency measures in Aboriginal communities, would be visiting on Monday.
“We wanted to have our own CDEP under our control, to create jobs for people here in this community,” says Ms Ellis.
“Now that we’ve built it up, everybody comes to get a slice of the cake.”
The council claimed victory of sorts when the survey team visit was postponed till today (Thursday).
“We’ve stood up as a community, we’re not happy with steam rolling,” said Richard Lesiak, the council’s deputy CEO, who blamed loss of the CDEP program on the processes, or lack thereof, of the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR). 
A DEWR representative was to be on the survey team but wasn’t welcome, said Mr Lesiak.
“DEWR has no credibility in this community,” he said.
“We don’t approve of back door dealers, back stabbers like DEWR coming here,” Ms Ellis reiterated.
The council started running CDEP 12 months ago.
They’re proud of what they’ve achieved: the art centre, located in the old store which they’ve renovated using mostly community labour, has opened its doors and sales are going well; the market garden supplies the store, the aged care program and what’s left is sold to Afghan Traders in town; they’re running the aged care program, and have got people working at the clinic; they’re running a bus service as a business between the community and Alice Springs.
Yet, said Mr Lesiak, “DEWR said they’ll give our CDEP to someone with a higher ranking.
“No one has been here over the 12 months to see how we were running it.”
Lingiari CLP candidate Adam Giles heads up DEWR in Alice.
Mr Lesiak said Mr Giles was asked how the CDEP program had been assessed.
“He said it was a normal assessment,” said Mr Lesiak.
“In a normal assessment people visit the community. No one has been here.
“We have put it in writing to the Minister, that this was not done with due process.
“We just got the standard reply – they’re the rules.
“But where’s the benefit to the community?”
Mr Giles referred the Alice News’ questions to a departmental spokesperson.
She said obtaining funding for CDEP over the next financial year was subject to a competitive process and Ingkerreke Outstation Resource Services, based in Alice, was judged to better respond to the criteria.
“Amoonguna met the criteria but other providers were more highly ranked.
“We were looking for the best activities for communities, to develop employment-related skills.”
The spokesperson said the process only looks at submissions from providers in relation to specific criteria, plus supporting material.
“We don’t visit providers.”
So a better submission writer might get the job?
“It’s about demonstrated claims against criteria. It’s about whether they’ve got employment outcomes.”
Ingkerreke has a three-month contract to provide CDEP at Amoonguna.
Participation is voluntary.
Clients who don’t want to participate, can liaise with Centrelink individually, according to the DEWR spokesperson.
Mr Lesiak said the council led the community to agree to a lifting of the remote area exemption.
This required that everyone able to work or prepare to work was involved either in CDEP, a training or study program, or in employment.
If not, they were to be penalised, under Centrelink rules,  by a loss of benefit payments.
Mr Lesiak said this did not happen once in the 12 months, despite the council’s protests.
“The community wanted that to happen. There were people here who didn’t want to work and they were still getting paid. That didn’t encourage people to work.
“We started protesting in September, October, kept telling them, sending emails, letters, asked for meetings.
“We got a meeting but no action.
“We don’t know why. They beat around the bush.”
Despite all this, wouldn’t the community benefit from the Federal Government’s declared new determination to get things right?
Maybe, but the community want to be asked first and indeed, the council was to organise a community meeting before today’s visit by the survey team.
“This is one of the better functioning communities,” said Mr Lesiak.
“The housing authority sees us as a model.
“We didn’t even realise we were on the government’s list.”
He said the council has been clamouring for a police presence for years.
And “there’s probably a lot of things that could be done for alcohol and drug abuse”.
“We’ve haven’t been funded for any alcohol and drug program since this council has been in place.”
He said the council’s sport and rec officer has been running an AA program in his own time.
Ms Ellis said drinking in the community is done in people’s own yards “where they have their own parties”.
“People stand at the fence, identify themselves and they may be invited in. There are no gate crashers here.”
While they’re may be too much alcohol consumed by some residents, she doesn’t see that it creates problems for others.
“The trouble comes from outsiders who come in here and run amok, driving their cars, spinning them round, it’s unsafe.
“We’ve got a lot of children here. We don’t want drunks coming here, spinning their cars, it’s terrifying for kids.
“We need police for that,” said Ms Ellis.
But in other regards the children of Amoonguna are safe, she said.
“Children in this community have got us, their parents and carers, that’s the only protection they have.
“We wish for our community to be a safe community.”
And that’s where CDEP comes in.
“CDEP puts food on the table for the kids,” said Ms Ellis, “it gives people pride when they’ve got employment, and it works for the whole community, it makes it clean and safe.
“Look at this community, it wouldn’t look like it does now if it weren’t for CDEP.”
Indeed, on Monday morning Amoonguna was spic and span, with all the pleasant atmosphere of a country town, just as it was when the Alice News last visited, at the end of March.
Ms Ellis is sceptical about the Federal Government’s emergency measures: “Before the election was due the Howard Government didn’t give a toss about the first Australians.
“Brough has never come here to see how we work, and it’s only 15 minutes drive from Alice. He should come here to see how a community should operate.”

Best ask grannies.

Merrill Bray says she’s talking to other Aboriginal women about organising support for “grass roots” mothers and grandmothers to talk publicly, “from their hearts”, about what they are suffering and what help they need.
Speaking to the Alice Springs News from her single bedroom home where she paints and writes, Ms Bray said: “I’ve got a home, I’m educated, I’m all right. I can’t speak about other people’s pain.
“They need to express their own needs and wants before you truly understand their problems, not have other people speaking on their behalf.”
Her idea is to provide a supportive environment and to help the women prepare for meeting the media and government, so that what they want to say comes out clearly.
“As an Aboriginal person I am truly disgusted with the way these self appointed, self elected delegations of so called Aboriginal leaders approach the media and speak on matters concerning all Aboriginal people,” she said.
“These people have jobs, are well dressed, well fed, well educated, cashed up, home-owning Aboriginals whose children and grandchildren are well protected and have a comfortable warm bed to lie in at night and food to fill their stomachs three times a day.
“They had their hearts in the right place at first but they have lost their way.
“What they do now doesn’t reach the grass roots people they were supposed to help. How can these people truly be trusted to represent or speak for another person’s suffering?
“Where are the grandmothers and the grandfathers and the children of the grass roots people who are suffering?
“Shouldn’t THEY be the ones to form a delegation that approaches the media and the government in Canberra?
“I feel that if the grandfathers and grandmothers were offered the chance to go and represent themselves and their children as an Aboriginal delegation they would immediately accept.
“And somehow I suspect they will not be speaking of Trojan horses,”
referring to the expression used by Pat Turner, of National Indigenous TV, in a widely reported statement accusing the Federal Government “of using child sexual abuse as the Trojan horse to resume total control of our lands.”
Ms Bray says a story from Greek mythology would not be understood by “grass roots people”, and shows the commentator to be out of touch.

Council value for money? By KIERAN FINNANE.

Melanie van Haaren could not get support from her fellow aldermen or Town Council officers for a review of the council’s operational efficiency.
The outspoken alderman, who voted for the 10% boost in council revenue from rates, said it would have been “irresponsible” not to do so.
But at the same time she raised the possibility of an efficiency review.
“Having voted for an increase, I thought we needed to have a thorough review of the way in which we are operating, even to the extent of getting an expert in.
“It got knocked on the head.
“Aldermen felt council was doing things as well as we could, that a review would be a wasted effort.
“But in any environment after a while ad hoc processes and certain cultures develop, it’s good to take stock. I will pursue a review.”
Ald van Haaren says council had no choice but to increase revenue-raising in some way just “so we can do core business and survive”.
Ald David Koch, while he didn’t support an efficiency review, says he has asked for figures on  the cost to council of looking after parks and gardens, which the Alice News has calculated is three times what private enterprise would charge. (See June 21 issue).
Says Ald Koch: “We want to know where the money is going. Our accounting system doesn’t split up the cost.
“I have asked Rex [Mooney, CEO] to look at it, so we can get a breakdown that is specific enough to analyse.
“There’s a tendency to streamline budget reports so that there are fewer overall costs to look at.
“I’ve asked to get a report to see how much we are paying per square metre.
“I’m sure we’ll get it fairly soon, within the next couple of rounds.
“I’m not surprised that we are not as efficient as private entreprise but on the other hand we cope with different things and expectations.”
Like what?
“Cleaning up after market days” was the example Ald Koch offered.
Ald van Haaren  says she didn’t hear Ald Koch “mention one word about getting figures on parks and gardens”.
Similarly, council’s finance director, Bob Mildred, says he is “not aware of officers being requested to provide a break-down of expenditure on parks and gardens”. 
Mr Mildred says it would be counter-productive to re-visit past expenditure to do this but in future council “intends to keep more detailed records of particularly the labour costs associated with various areas of work carried out by depot staff”.
Ald Koch was one of three aldermen who voted against the rates revenue rise, joined by Robyn Lambley and Samih Habib. 
But Ald van Haaren says he was “a mover and shaker behind the revenue increase, then when it came to the vote, he said you guys take the bullet, I’ll vote against it”.
“That’s very shallow in terms of leadership,” says Ald van Haaren.
She maintains her concern over the “enormous financial burden” of the Civic Centre.
The money – around $600,000 – going into paying off the loan “could be channelled into other areas”.
“The financial benefit [from the construction] was to a few and quite short lived, while [the cost]  has compromised council for at least 15 years, in terms of flexibility.
“We will be constantly pushed for funds to do things that we simply can’t ignore, that the general public will not allow us to ignore, where we can’t cut corners.
“One of the arguments for the Civic Centre was that the public would benefit from an iconic seat of local government.
“I don’t know about the other aldermen but I can’t get into the building, I haven’t got a key.
“I’m damned sure tourists and locals are not using its facilities.
“The design is very unfriendly and I don’t like the new chamber. It does not feel like we are more engaged with the public.”
Mr Mildred says the Andy McNeill Room is used by the public “almost every day of the week (including some weekends) and sometimes more than once on the same day”. 
He says the other facilities in the Civic Centre, such as the large reception area behind the chamber, the courtyard and the conference rooms, “are mainly used for council functions or staff meetings but many of these meetings involve other organisations, for example, sporting bodies and other levels of government”.
Despite her misgivings about the Civic Centre, Ald van Haaren says its construction appears to have been well managed.
“A document has been tabled on what needs to be done to finish it off. I understand that it will be at no further cost to council.
“It is not expected to be over budget and in this respect the project was well managed. The principle is about whether you agree with spending $12m on 40 offices.”
Staff costs absorb a quarter of council’s budget and are the most significant factor in increasing operating costs.
Ald van Haaren says aldermen do not examine paid positions.
“I am not suggesting that we have too many staff but in reality no alderman knows the details. We are very reliant on the CEO to manage that.”
Ald Koch says he’s aware of “what 90% of our people are doing”.
“I believe a majority of council’s paid positions are productive.
“Some people see staff as assets, some as overheads. I believe in a compromise.
“I couldn’t come up with a list of positions to cull.”
Aldermen declined to support a local rate for Todd Mall properties which meant that other areas had to be identified to raise $30,000.
Mr Mildred says $10,000 will come from each of these programs:  footpaths, road resealing and grants by council. 
These items will be reviewed as part of the September review of Estimates. 
Says Mr Mildred: “I believe that council operates with a high level of efficiency and, unless directed by [the aldermen], an operational efficiency review would not be implemented. 
“Council is continously reviewing its internal systems and controls and it would be disruptive to impose a review on staff who are performing well. 
“Perceptions from outside of council often do not take into account the extreme amount of work that council performs to assist in maintaining sports facilities to the requirements of individual sports, dealing with natural disasters, dealing with emergencies and other events at short notice. 
“It is not always possible to compare council with commercial enterprise.”

Jane prods ALP, Matt hits static. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

[PLEASE NOTE: Mr Conlan was preselected by the CLP on Tuesday evening.]

An 8HA SunFM radio announcer who wants to become the next Member for Greatorex has had a rocky start to his campaign.
The station’s chairman, Ren Kelly, has suspended Matt Conlan from presenting Territory Today until the by-election, following the resignation of Richard Lim, is declared.
At that time a decision would be made about any further involvement of Mr Conlan with the station.
Mr Kelly says he was unaware of Mr Conlan’s intention to stand until he heard him making the announcement on air.
Meanwhile three town council members have shown interest in contesting the seat.
Alderman Jane Clark told the Alice News she is seeking preselection for the ALP.
Alderman Robyn Lambley had offered herself to the CLP, according to an insider, but withdrew this week, leaving Mr Conlan as the only applicant.
He clearly has the support of Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney, whose minder rang the Alice News on Monday morning about Mr Conlan’s intention to announce his candidacy on air, and later that day, to advise that he would be campaigning at the post office.
(The CLP’s local branch was due to make a decision late on Tuesday, after the deadline for this edition. The preselection result was published in our online edition yesterday.)
The CLP’s local branch chairman and also an alderman, David Koch, dropped out of the race after having his preselection nomination signed by members last week. 
He said Ms Lambley would have made a very good candidate, with a proven record in community affairs.
Mr Koch is the deputy mayor and has announced previously he will be seeking the top council job next election.
“My place is in local government in Alice Springs,” he said this week.
The current mayor, Fran Kilgariff, who unsuccessfully contested Greatorex against Dr Lim in 2005, would only say “no comment” when asked last week if she was standing again.
Ms Clark’s intention seems to be more to reform the Labor Party than to join its parliamentary wing.
She says if she doesn’t get preselected she may stand as an independent.
And she says even if defeated her bid to get elected would be good training for a future tilt at becoming an MLA.
Ms Clark spoke to Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
NEWS: Aren’t you doing what Mayor Kilgariff is getting a lot of stick for, being unclear whether she wants to serve the Darwin centered government or the people of Alice Springs?
CLARK: The NT is out of touch. In NSW and Victoria people can serve in both local and state governments at the same time. It’s not seen as a conflict of interest.
NEWS: You want to join a government that’s broadly on the nose in Alice. Would that not harm your image as a representative of the people of Alice Springs?
CLARK: No, it definitely would not. I’m merely showing my interest in getting further involved in the issues of Alice Springs. Toeing the party line would have to be discussed closely. There is a risk of losing freedom, a degree of punch, when one runs for a party. Peter Garrett and Cheryl Kernot are examples of this.
NEWS: The Martin Government isn’t known for giving its members free rein.
CLARK: I’m struggling with this. I may run as an independent, or not at all. I support Labor political ideals, but the election is about issues facing Alice Springs.
NEWS: The NT Government is widely perceived as being hostile to Alice Springs.
CLARK: I think there needs to be debate about this. Most of my friends are Labor voters and members. But that doesn’t mean I need to be a yes man. The party would be a lot better if people would question it. I’m not desperate to have support of the party. I’m standing for preselection but on my terms.
NEWS: How do you like your chances?
CLARK: I might come back next time. I’m disappointed. I’ve been here since self government. I was outraged at the CLP, how it ignored social policy. After the first Labor win I thought welfare issues would be brought to the fore. [The Martin government] has now had long enough to turn the ship around. It has not happened. We’re getting more of the same. We need to stand up and speak out for the youth, hospitals and schools. Support services in Alice are poor.
“I know other Labor Party people who are saying this in this electorate as well. I’m not sure whether I’ll have my name on the ballot paper, but I’ll either be knocking on doors, or writing to the media, or running interference when I see a stunt. Running as a candidate in an election is not always about winning the seat, it can be about the old Australian Democrats charter of “keeping the bastards honest”.
[Ms Clark’s blog is at]
Mr Kelly told the Alice News: “8HA and Sun FM maintain a policy of fairness and impartiality in all programming, news and editorial, particularly in relation to any election or similar promotion broadcast material.
“This policy will be strenuously upheld during pre-selection and election campaigning for the by-election for the seat of Greatorex whenever that may be.”

Brough briefs: ‘Here for the long haul.’

KIERAN FINNANE picks the eyes out of the multitude of media statements made in the last week by Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough and chair of the NT Emergency Response Taskforce, Sue Gordon.

• The Territory will be the major beneficiary of the Commonwealth’s $1.6b allocation for Indigenous housing but, of course, “not doing it the same way it’s been done before”.
Houses will be more affordable, more suitable and there’ll be changes to the way houses are managed.
The Commonwealth’s Aboriginal housing budget was under spent last year by $60m.
“As a Commonwealth Minister I would rather be ridiculed for an under-expenditure than put money into housing at half a million dollars a house, have them last seven years, the wrong people be living in them, no maintenance and no rental being collected. That’s just not acceptable.”
• Changes to land title on Aboriginal lands will only affect “built up” areas where there are publicly funded roads, common areas, buildings, sometimes pools, and housing.
This is to remove all impediments to quickly change the environment in which people live.
• The Commonwealth is well aware that the Territory can’t afford to employ 70 more police. This is being further discussed by the Federal Cabinet.
• Chief Minister’ Clare Martin’s “20 year plan is not going to cut the mustard for the children that are going to get hurt tonight”.
• Governments are “required by law, and I think morally, to insure that the proper and adequate schooling is provided to [Indigenous children].
“In fact, I would argue more than adequate, it should be a superior level of schooling to assist these people who are so far behind the eight ball before they start.”
The money for schooling for 11,000 Indigenous children is provided to the Territory, yet 2000 are not enrolled and of those enrolled only 65-70% attend at some stage.
The Commonwealth is not committing to providing more money for education but Mr Brough asks, “where the heck has the money gone?”
The Commonwealth “is going to hold people responsible when money has flowed and that money has not been spent on the first Australians”.
• The army are “not rolling in there with tanks, they’re not rolling in there with weapons, they’re rolling in there with communications and with assistance”.
The army are “not occupying any lands. Let’s not use the words occupy. They are there as logisticians, they’re there with such things as meal preparation where necessary, for communications, for tentage and for transport. They’re there to support. They may have other roles further down the track to do with engineering tasks.”
• “For those who have made the allegation that this is a six-month wonder, can I reassure them it is not. We are here for the long haul.”
• Dr Sue Gordon said the taskforce agreed that the number one priority for the operation was to facilitate safe, more stable communities.
The taskforce agreed that an early priority was to tackle the high levels of alcohol abuse and violence in these communities.
The emergency response should avoid becoming another form of passive welfare: local communities and parents had to assume their share of responsibility. 
The local labour force should be engaged to contribute to community clean ups as soon as practicable – as would occur in any other emergency. To this end the Government should remove remote area participation exemptions in the prescribed communities to ensure all adults who were able to work make a contribution as part of their welfare conditions.

Subject to providing safety as the first order priority, the taskforce requested the government to come back to the taskforce with details of proposals for the complementary parts of the emergency effort – before implementing them.
The taskforce agreed that regularising school attendance would help start the process of breaking the long term cycles of despair for the children themselves and was a critical measure of the level of neglect of children by adults in the community.
The taskforce emphasised that the proposed health checks are vitally important and agreed they should be implemented after the police presence is in place.  It asked that health teams include not only medical practitioners but child protection officers and interpreters.  It also called for a community education campaign to gain wide support for the health checks.
• The “operations commander” of the taskforce is now Major General Dave Chalmers, after the withdrawal for personal reasons of Shane Castles, a career police officer.  Major Chalmers headed up the Australian relief operations in tsunami-affected Sumatra.
“He is dedicated to the task and will remain on the task for as long as necessary.”
• Volunteers registering their interest to help the Commonwealth’s emergency plans include “clinical psychologists, public health physicians, medical practitioners, consultant psychologists, paramedics, locums, retired New South Wales police officers, maternal and child health nurses, registered psychiatrists, pharmacists and even CEOs of current Queensland local government areas, registered nurses and former police officers that have worked in remote areas.
“We will be make further formal requests for assistance from the public in the form of both ... professional positions and volunteers where they have the right skills bases to make the necessary difference on the ground.”

A stitch in time. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

You might like to file this one under “live and learn”.
In the late ‘seventies Territory Health Minister Ian Tuxworth was agonizing over how to get a handle on the “Aboriginal problem”.
He put to Chief Minister Paul “Porky” Everingham the view that five things are fundamental to a well-running community: water, sewage disposal, good housing, health care and education.
They told Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser they could put all hitherto homeless Aborigines in the NT into houses for $250m.
Fraser gave them $25m. His treasurer was John Howard.

Muslim cameleers were ‘exceptional explorers’.

1936 expedition by camel train to Docker River. Photo courtesy H. V. Foy.  RIGHT:  May and Said Mulladad, c. 1930s. Photo courtesy Satour family.
Alice Springs has yet to get a confirmed spot on the itinerary of a major exhibition on Muslim cameleer heritage, despite the iconic status of that heritage in the Centre.
The exhibition is the brainchild of local anthropologist Anna Kenny, who has jointly curated the show with the South Australian Museum’s Philip Jones.
It has had financial backing from the Territory Government, the South Australian Museum, Visions Australia (to enable it to tour) and the National Archives of Australia. The SA Museum and Visions between them have put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the show and its tour.
Ms Kenny says the only exhibition venue in Alice Springs big enough to take the show is the Araluen Centre.  She says she first approached Araluen about two years ago.
Curator Kate Podger (recently appointed) says the exhibitions calendar for 2007 is fully booked and 2008 is also fairly full.
However, she intends to meet with Ms Kenny shortly “to see what we can do”. – Kieran Finnane

The cameleers who famously pioneered Central Australia were not only from Afghanistan but also from parts of British India, today’s Pakistan and modern northern India; what they all had in common was their religion, Islam.
Thus a major exhibition celebrating their lives and contributions, which opened in Adelaide on June 8, is titled Australian Muslim Cameleers – Pioneers of the Inland, 1860s-1930s.
The cameleers arrived in Melbourne in the 1860s aboard steamships from Karachi with the first 24 of the camels that now range in pest proportions across the Territory.
They were integral to the exploration and settlement of Central Australia.  With their camel teams, they helped construct the Overland Telegraph line and the railway, as well as deliver vital supplies to miners and pastoralists.
There are over 100 exhibits in the show.
Curator Anna Kenny says the idea came from her knowledge of the history of cameleers in Alice.
To that she has added six years of research, visiting state libraries, archives and museums around Australia to identify relevant art, photography, objects and documents.
An early project to make a documentary received wide support until broadcasters’ interest diminished following events of September 2001. Ms Kenny, however, persisted.
She says it has “become more necessary than ever to clarify and describe Australia’s long-standing Muslim heritage”.
Among the artwork on display is a painting by Albert Namatjira. It has his  “typical gum trees”, one of which has carved into it the word “Salam”, meaning  “peace”.
There are also paintings and sketches from the 1860s by artists such as William Strutt, Nicholas Chevalier, Helen Hambidge and Sam Byrne.
The first contract between explorers Burke and Wills with the cameleers is shown. It is written in Dari, a Persian language. 
Rarely given credit for their exploration and achievements, there are expedition diaries on display that confirm the status of the cameleers as exceptional explorers. 
There are objects made by Indigenous people using camel hair: a hair spindle from the 1800s and a camel hair belt.
Many of the cameleers married people in the Alice Springs region.
“Muslim and Aboriginal families have a very personal connection to Alice,” says Ms Kenny.
There is a photo of one of Alice Springs’ forefathers, Charlie Sadadeen, and another of a famous female cameleer, May Mulladad, with her husband Said. 
In the photo she is wearing a rupi coin brooch, which is on loan to the exhibition.
The cameleers were initially accepted by Europeans, says Ms Kenny,  but when the white Australia policy was introduced with Federation, their situation became problematic. Tensions developed over access to water and grazing. 
Australian Muslim Cameleers will travel to Broken Hill Regional Museum, the National Library of Australia in Canberra, Albury Regional Museum and finally, hopefully, to the Araluen Centre.

LETTERS: Public, not public servants, should plan future of Alice.

Sir,– The following is an open letter to the Chief Minister, Hon Clare Martin from Advance Alice:–
We congratulate your government on the concept of a forward planning body for Alice Springs and appreciate your efforts as a driving force in its establishment.
Advance Alice would like to raise with you some concerns we hold in regards to your re-constituted planning body, Moving Alice Forward. However we hold some serious concerns about both the lack of transparency and that it appears to be almost entirely public service based!
We see this as a major flaw, denying the general community a voice in our future.
It makes our future planning dependant on a slow moving bureaucracy whose complete lack of vision and imagination is solely responsible for the present planning crisis in which we find ourselves.
This is certainly not going to be resolved by a few short sighted, frivolous schemes such as improving our streetscapes, putting in car parks, restaurants and make believe Solar Villages!
Future planning for Alice Springs needs to take in issues such as:
• power and water supplies;
• provision of developed cheap housing blocks;
• provision of accommodation for single people, as in hostels;
• a planned town centre;
• land development – rural, semi-rural, industrial and horticultural;
• the full development of our international airport and the denial of any such facility at Ayers Rock;
• making available low interest development loans for project development;
• an Aboriginal cultural centre as a major tourist project – the size and scale of the Wildlife Park;
• recreational facilities, such as a recreation dam;
• tourism, film and mining development; and,
• the attraction of new industries with a view to creating an economy capable of sustaining major losses, such as a withdrawal of the Pine Gap facility.
Chief Minister, many public service bureaucracies find it in their interest to restrict spending, either through pressure from their northern bosses, or as with the Power and Water Corporation, in the interest of appearing to be profit making.
This, together with a powerful local lobby with a heavy crossover into the public service, hinders, slows down or stops all but the minimal growth for Alice.
It has actively worked at strangling land development in Alice Springs, for the purpose of artificially inflating land prices.
You end up with a powerfully good reason for why planning for Alice’s future growth should not come out of the public service.
Chief Minister, Advance Alice would like to challenge you to set up an future planning body for Alice made up entirely from the community, with heavy representation from business and long term locals, to counteract the constant reinvention of the wheel.
No high ranking public servants !
This board should hold regular public meetings, with submissions to be accepted from the floor.
The board would then submit their summaries, to your department on a regular basis.
Chief Minister, by approaching planning in this manner you would give a voice back to the people.
In doing so, you would go a long way to soften much of the underlying anger towards your government so clearly demonstrated to you at the Sittings in Alice Springs.
Chief Minister, we are asking you, as a politician and a representative of the people, to return to the people what is rightfully theirs – a say in their own future.
The recent release of census figures from 2002-2006 showing a population decline of some 1200 are a disaster for Alice Springs.
The figures surely demonstrate a complete failure by government, a failure to capitalise on the many and varied opportunities offered by Alice Springs  and its unique environs.
We have constantly been assured there is no urgent need while the Territory’s purse has been drained to support the life style and expectations of our brothers and sisters in the North.
That has led to the calamitous situation in which the Alice now finds itself.
The question begs, should all towns outside of Darwin also be included in the Federal Government takeover.
Steve Brown
Advance Alice     

Make most of Federal $$

Sir,– I have written to Police Minister Minister Chris Burns to flag an obvious funding opportunity to establish a 40 strong ACPO (Aboriginal Community Police Officer) unit in Central Australia. 
This initiative will, as discussed previously, lead to long term and sustained reduction in criminal and antisocial behaviour, as well as inject much needed economic and social benefits to Aboriginal families, a strategy in itself to improve the quality of life for this nation’s first people.
I hope that you swiftly take advantage of the current strength of Federal resolve to do something to address the issues, and push for this customised NT approach to contribute to achieving the desired outcomes. It will achieve bipartisan and community support like no other on the drawing board at the moment.
Melanie van Haaren

Howard’s finest hour

Sir,– One of the many times I have felt proud to be living in Australia was watching the troops in Mutitjulu and Kintore last week.
John Howard you don’t have to say sorry now, this was your finest hour.
Angus McIvor
Alice Springs
Unhappy Territory Day

Sir,– How do you like having a maniac or more, firing pyrotechnics just outside your window for several hours a couple of nights in succession?
How do you like the atmosphere poisoned by the smoke etc?
Is that a civilised way to celebrate something?
Do those who engage in that activity, burning money, consider the other people, the dogs, the cats and the birds and all other animals?
I lost a lovely dog because of such activity.
Territory Day is not neccessarily a happy day for NT residents. What are the benefits? As from that date (July 1, 1978), the cost of real estate escalated so much, that many have enormous difficulties in buying a home.
Prior to that date, the Commonwealth was keeping such prices to a very low level. They were bearing the cost of development.
I suggest in the future, all those who have money to burn, be directed to such allocated places outside the town.
As the matter stands at present , it not a civilised way to do things.
Kon Tsiaprakas
Alice Springs

Treadlies still deadly

Sir,- The current Board and Management of Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and Support Services (ASYASS) would like to advise that the Deadly Treadlies bike-rebuilding program has not been concluded.
It is, however, in definite need of a substantial injection of funding.
We would like interested parties to know that we are working towards sourcing funding to ensure the continuation of what is agreeably a positive and valuable program for the young people of Central Australia.
Deadly Treadlies as a youth development approach has many valuable outcomes including crime prevention, addressing substance misuse, family connectedness, skills development, improved self worth to name but a few.
If anyone has any concerns or queries regarding the future of Deadly Treadlies, we encourage you to contact the Alice Springs Youth Accommodation & Support Services (ASYASS) directly.
Tony Hand        Chairperson – ASYASS
Tracey McNee
Manager - ASYASS

Genies of the Alice

Sir,– My wife and I have not long returned from a fortnight’s holiday in the Alice Springs during which time we admired the town, its surroundings and its shops – the awesome grandeur of the Range, the majesty of the huge river gums and the delicate beauty of the ghost gums.
Perhaps your readers may be interested in our impressions.
Because I have a poor knee, an electric gopher was hired for me from the Red Cross. As Alice Springs has excellent concrete footpaths I was able to explore the town.
I viewed Todd Mall and the Gap from Anzac Hill, I visited the RSL War Museum and ‘shouted’ friends to an excellent meal there.
I read the explorer diaries in the brilliant library.
I saw the grave sites of early pioneers, of Namatjira and Afghan cameleers.
And then there was a change – not the weather, it was pleasant all the time in early June.
On my final day of gopher use, in the early evening, I was making for home with a tour three kilometres before home base, when there was a minor disaster – simultaneously a tyre and the battery went flat.
I truly contemplated a slow return pushing my electric conveyance; and then, as if the magic bottle had been rubbed, appeared not one genie  but two in the form of two powerfully built young men, unknown to each other to each other or either to me, one a council employee and the other a transport officer.
One muttered, “Having trouble mate?’ In very quick time the defunct gopher was loaded into a ute, the door opened for me, we sped off for home base and me and my gear were safely delivered. Very few words spoken. 
And so it is that among all my pleasurable experiences in Alice Springs none are more cogent than this simple act of courteous consideration – of such stuff the human race is improved.
I was inclined to return the favour, in some form – after all one good turn deserves another. 
After attending the Steiner School Annual Fair and watching the efforts made to train children to be good citizens I was inspired to donate to the school building fund. My good wishes to Alice Springs and all its people.
Peter Pechey
Glenmorgan, QLD

Waste charges for rural residents

Sir,– The “waste management charge” was developed by the Town Council as one of three components of a charge relating to waste management services provided by council to all ratepayers. 
At one time it even appeared on rate notices as a separate charge (from the other waste management charges).
So the charge (per weekly service) applied to ratepayers north of the Gap comprises of an amount relating to the kerbside collection, an amount relating to the disposal, and the “waste management charge” amount relating to other (community) waste issues such as litter collection etc.
The amount relating to the kerbside  collection cannot be applied to
ratepayers south of the Gap, because no collection service is provided, and the amount relating to the disposal cannot be applied, as ratepayers south of the Gap pay that at an inflated premium over the weighbridge, which leaves the “waste management charge” on the rate notices of ratepayers south of the Gap.
If this is not how council officers now see it, it is imperative that they explain why, and when and how it was changed.
Ratepayers north of the Gap now have an indisputably legitimate case to ask for their waste management charges (of $153) to also be reduced by $6.
The further issues of the inequity of charges for rural ratepayers have not been at all addressed by the director’s report or the decisions of council [at its last meeting]. 
ASRAA Inc. request that they are addressed, preferably sitting round a table, with council honoring its longstanding and documented undertaking to engage rural ratepayers on such issues.
And for the benefit of anyone in council with a short history or memory, one of the principal reasons a waste collection service was rejected when “offered”, was that rural ratepayers did not want the service “cross subsidised” by ratepayers north of the Gap, as it inevitably would have to be.
Rod Cramer 
Chair, Alice Springs Rural Areas Association Inc

Get it right, Minister

Sir,– Contrary to the Minister for Education’s claims in the Estimates Committee hearing, Croc Festival organisers certainly did approach the NT Government for financial support to hold the festival in Alice Springs.
The Minister claimed he never received a request for funding.
However, the organisers met with the Department’s CEO in 2006 and later received a letter in March 2007 declining funding support.
The Minister should have checked his information with departmental staff before making misleading statements.
The Minister also claimed the organisers had received $600,000 from the Federal Government for an Alice Springs event.
Wrong again, Minister.
Croc Festival has a long history of success in the Territory, instilling in youth the benefits of attending school, leading a healthy life, and working towards positive life goals.
I say to the Minister and members of government, if you have never attended this festival don’t judge and bag the organisers.  You don’t know what you are talking about.
Given the problems facing youth in Alice Springs, coupled with the current intervention by the Australian Government into Aboriginal communities, it is an indictment on the NT Government that they not only refuse such a positive program, but they cover their inaction with misleading information.
I urge all schools to lobby their local member to support this festival, and I suggest the Minister come clean and correct the public record to undo the mischief caused by his misinformation.
Loraine Braham
Independent Member for Braitling.

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