October 18, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Intervention poll focus. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The debate about the employment programs CDEP vs STEP is likely to dominate the election campaign in The Centre.
The question is, will we have a harmonious and prosperous society, or will we descend further into race hatred and ultra violence.
Some 15,000 participants (half each on CDEP and Newstart), plus their families are directly involved, up to a third of the Territory’s population.
Everybody will be sharing in the mayhem if the new government gets it wrong.
Battles are raging on several fronts.
The Howard government – in matters of reforming Aboriginal policies it should perhaps be called the Brough government – is scrapping CDEP after three decades of mostly failure and rorting.
The Federal Opposition, which might be the government in a few weeks’ time, wants to salvage CDEP by reforming it.
This is despite Labor’s stubborn resistance over decades to changing the system, co-founded by MLA for Lingiari Warren Snowdon (ALP) 30 years ago.
Some administrators of the old scheme are screaming because they are too lazy to adapt to a new situation.
Fat cats in Aboriginal organizations fear a reduction in their power.
Governments of both persuasions in the NT, whenever they are in power, love CDEP because it conceals real unemployment.
It helps them to perpetuate their fairy tales about the Territory jobless rate being around 4%, instead of in the double digits, as we will witness by mid next year when – if – CDEP is abolished.
Employers ranging from the Territory to local governments, Aboriginal organizations and private enterprise are using CDEP for cheap labor without, mostly, providing solid careers, nor offering “real jobs” (Mr Brough’s slogan) with real pay.
The head of a significant Aboriginal employment organization in The Centre has further concerns.
In the current overheated atmosphere he doesn’t want to be named, but he’s well known to the Alice News, is Central Australian born and bred, understands some of the local Aboriginal languages, and has experience in a variety of fields.
Let’s call him Fred.
He says there are 600 CDEP participants in Alice Springs, all idle or grossly underemployed.
So why can’t the town’s fast food outlets get staff, and why can’t the supermarkets get shelf stackers?
Why do employers have to bring in staff from Asia?
We asked Tangentyere (more than 200 participants), Arrernte Council (160) and Ingkerreke (200) how many hours on average they worked, and on what jobs.
Tangentyere and Arrernte Council did not respond.
Ingkerreke said participants are involved in community development work (such as municipal services, cutting grass, fencing); developing enterprises (such as a chook farm and cross cultural tourism); and training. They work an average of 15 hours a week.
Fred also thinks there may be a sinister plot behind Labor’s efforts to salvage CDEP.
Does the NT government want to use the program to prop up its nine proposed shires?
Outside the main population centers they will get hardly any traditional local government income, as Aborigines in bush communities, where they don’t individually own any land, wouldn’t be paying any rates.
So is there a plan to staff local government with CDEP workers, paid for by Canberra, which would further supply “on costs” for materials and equipment, as it’s customary with CDEP?
Nice work if you can get it, says Fred.
The example of the luxury tourism complex at Titjikala, 120 km south of Alice Springs, is a useful guide through the maze of Aboriginal employment options.
Gunya Tourism managing director Paul Conlon has just shut down the venture after three years because CDEP (Community Development Employment Program) has been replaced at Titjikala with STEP (Structured Training Employment Pathways) and Work for the Dole (WfD).
Mr Conlon says CDEP workers in the resort were getting more money than they are now under WfD.
He says a typical worker made $150 a week from the resort on top of the government benefit, which is $240.38 under both schemes. 
Under CDEP there was no reduction of the benefit, resulting in a take-home pay after tax of $367.88.
But under WfD the benefit gets reduced once extra money earned exceeds $31, and the take-home pay shrunk to $308.38.
“The Government has inadvertently created a huge disincentive to work to Australia’s most marginalized people,” says Mr Conlon.
“I would see government’s role as providing as much incentive as possible to Indigenous people to move from welfare to work.”
And that’s the nub of the argument, says Fred: CDEP is welfare, not work.
“Why should a business be dependent on a welfare payment, especially a business charging about $1000 a night a room?
“Is this the way of building a sustainable economy?
“It’s an artificial environment,” says Fred.
“This is what governments have done for a generation.
“And when it’s not sustainable and performing poorly, they pull the pin.”
Fred says Gunya Tourism allowed individual jobs to be performed by several people, all of them on taxpayer funded CDEP: When one didn’t show up, someone else could substitute.
So for the so-called private enterprise to function it needed a small army of CDEP participants, all paid by the taxpayer, and turning up when they felt like it.
That’s hardly the way to prepare people for “real jobs,” says Fred.
In fact it’s yet another manifestation of CDEP’s “dead end” character.
Fred’s organization has embraced the new regime, although not without reservations.
He says the local version of STEP has significant advantages:
• The participants are employees from day one. CDEP participants are not.
• Under STEP workers receive a negotiated wage, subject to the fairness test, which includes the government benefit of $240.38 a week.
• They work full time, no less than 30 hours a week. CDEP can be as little as five hours.
• There are clearly defined and government monitored training and development objectives: “They must meet the defined target of the training,” says Fred.
• The preferred duration is one year – not the never never, with no rigorous examination of results, as is the case with CDEP. Extensions for up to three years can be obtained from the government.
• As is the case with CDEP, the employer can get - per participant - wage subsidies of $4000 in the first year, as well as incentive payments of $7000 in the first year and $4000 in the second.
• Under the national STEP employers must keep on the employee after the end of the scheme. That requirement is relaxed under the STEP ERS variety.
While under STEP can be compared to mainstream apprenticeship or traineeship, STEP ERS is best compared with CDEP but has far greater limitations on external income, participants are on the dole, show up on the dole stats and are paid by Centrelink, not a CDEP organization.
Fred says the escalating debate about the role of CDEP in the world of Aboriginal arts is another case in point: He says it’s an often lucrative industry yet sometimes getting generous public funding.
Why should a catch-all welfare program such as CDEP be harnessed to support Aboriginal arts?
Why, asks Fred, should people who win major awards, worth tens of thousands of dollars, be on CDEP?
John Oster, of the Alice-based Desart, says in a statement that “representatives of the $500 million Indigenous art industry” want the Federal government to set up an Indigenous Arts Worker and Art Practitioner Program with funding “consistent” with support provided through the CDEP program.
Its demise “is placing many art centers under threat,” says Mr Oster. 
“This may be an unintended outcome of the [Brough] intervention, but it will have a devastating effect on many art centers and their artists.”
The suggested scheme, targeting arts workers not artists, seems similar to STEP:-
• A base rate of pay should be paid to individual arts workers by the government.
• Art centers should make matching payments to bring salary levels up.
• Incentive payments should be paid to employers to encourage their ongoing commitment to employing Aboriginal people.
Speaking with the Alice News Mr Oster said the artists usually pay 40% of their revenue from sales to the arts centers supporting them.
In that way the artists are “investing” in their industry Australia wide to the tune of $15m a year - three times the amount supplied by the government.
Aboriginal art is no less a national icon than the Australian opera which gets more than $10m a year in Federal subsidy, says Mr Oster.
Again, Fred argues that it should not be a welfare measure that props up the art movement.
He says he knows of one center that gets $100,000 in subsidy and turns over $600,000.
If Aboriginal art is iconic, and there are good reasons to think it is, then surely there are authorities assessing the value of icons to the nation.
These authorities should make a recommendation on those criteria, and the government should act accordingly.
CDEP, STEP and WfD are initiatives to get individual people out of their misery.
CDEP has been, broadly speaking, a sustained disaster, says Fred.
STEP, STEP ERS and WfD, with their project based, case by case approach, its deadlines and rigorous monitoring, appears to be on the right track.
Fred says a case in point was a recent project by ITEC, an Alice Springs company in the burgeoning Aboriginal employment industry.
The job was to paint all houses in a community under the WfD scheme.
Participants were required to do the work under the mutual obligation principle, or else lose their dole.
Five men worked Mondays and Tuesdays, and a second group of five Wednesdays and Thursdays. They were under a competent, paid supervisor.
The groups were small enough to be taught properly.
The program ran for six months on a budget of $20,000 – or $2000 per participant – to pay for the supervisor (who was doing other work on the community), a car and expenses.
“The people loved it,” says Fred.
“They saw the houses getting painted.
“There was a measurable outcome.
“And there was complete accountability.”
That’s a lot more than can be said for most of the CDEP projects in the past quarter of a century.

Dirty secret. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Power and Water Corporation (PWC) is still withholding information about how often it expects to release sewage into public areas, such as the Ilparpa Swamp and the creek alongside St Mary’s Children’s Village, even after its $10.4m “water reuse scheme” is completed.
And the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is keeping mum about why it extended by two years permission for the PWC to pollute – normally an offense under the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act.
PWC was required by EPA to draw up a “wet weather discharge plan” showing “modeling [of a] wet weather discharge regime”.
PWC is not responding to requests from the Alice News for a copy of the document.
Meanwhile the PWC has corrected information it gave the Alice News two weeks ago, when we were told “the water reclamation plant is able to produce up to 6ML [that’s six million litres] per year of treated water.”
In fact that’s the capacity per day.
According to the Berri Irrigation Service in South Australia’s Riverland, dealing with water pumped from the Murray River, irrigation required by different crops can vary widely.
For example, the stock fodder lucerne needs 10 to 15 million liters per hectare per year, while grapevines need four to six million.
Currently the EPA is allowing 600ML to be sent down the new pipe – when it is finally completed.
The NT Government plans to develop 100 hectares of horticultural land over five years at the Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI) site on the South Stuart Highway, where the reuse pipe ends, six kilometers from the sewage plant.
The sewage is partially treated when it leaves the ponds, is sent underground at the AZRI site, and pumped back up after being filtered by the sand on its way to an underground basin.
Meanwhile the Alice Springs environmental lobby GetUp has serious reservations about the reuse project (see Letters to the Editor this edition).

René Frederick Burger, guru and lark, passes away.

René Frederick Burger of Jersey City, New Jersey, who worked at Pine Gap in Alice Springs for 20 years from 1975, passed away in Gilbert, Arizona, after a long illness.
He is survived by his wife Jeanine Theresa (Fazio) Burger, of Brooklyn, New York (they were married on Valentine’s Day 1956 in Los Angeles, California; she was a grade school teacher at OLSH in Alice Springs); by his one son, Michael and his wife Michele in Gilbert, Arizona; and by two daughters, Michelle in San Diego, California and Victoria in Adelaide, Australia.
He is also survived by his brother Robert, of Long Island, New York; and nine grandchildren - Amanda, Jacqueline, Hannah-Leigh, Charley, Joey, Ollie, Candis, Wilkin, Nicole, and two nephews, Mark and Robert Jr.
René was born on November 7, 1928 to Frederick Clinton Burger and Helen Marie Burger.
René was a resident of Gilbert, Arizona, for the past seven years and a former resident of Adelaide and Alice Springs for 22 years.
To René’s former colleagues and peers he was known as “Burgee”, or just by “René”, and they regarded him as an academic in electronic engineering.
He loved coaching men’s baseball teams, and had a competitive spirit.
At work René was a doctrinaire, an expert in his field of electronics, but was also a consummate humorist, too.
He had a funny side and would often give a line that would tickle you.
Technically, he was known for his original methods.
He has written manuscripts not for the public eye.
While a resident in Australia in the 1980’s, and after the city of Sydney had many unsuccessful attempts to resolve power outages there, he picked up the phone and called the city engineer and walked him through a step-by-step process on how to stop its rolling black outs.
It worked, and the continuous power surges were averted!
He should have received a ceremonial presentation of Sydney’s city key for that!
Because of ingenuity of this sort, and of his professorial decorum, he was dubbed a guru and teacher to the many contemporaries he would mentor
After his start in the US Army in July 1947, his career began as a television repairman at the age of 22.
He was employed by a radar technologies company called Gilfillan, which led him to design and mount the world’s first satellite communications receiver atop the Empire State Building in 1950.
In his 45 year career he didn’t stray too far from the field of electronics.
In 1959 he was hired as an electronics engineer for a company called TRW, an American corporation involved in aerospace systems, mostly of a defense-related nature (acquired by the Northrop Grumman Corporation in December 2002).
In 1962 he worked on the big island of Hawaii in the field of radio and satellite communications.
In the early 1970s he participated at Cape Canaveral in the Pioneer 11 mission to the outer solar system planets launched on April 5, 1973.
In 1975 he and his family moved to Alice Springs until his retirement in 1997, subsequently moving to their vacation home in Adelaide which they had acquired in 1990.
He spent 20 of his 35 years with TRW at Pine Gap where he was believed to have been involved in secret operations during the cold war and post-cold war era, including Desert Storm, but all in concert with the National Security Agency and the CIA.
He was a loving husband and father who put up a good fight against prostate cancer.
He will be sorely missed. We love him!
A “Celebration of Life” gathering took place recently at Mesa, Arizona, when an Honor Guard conducted the flag folding ceremony on behalf of the US President.
A bugler sounded the 24 notes that tap deep emotions from America’s most famous bugle call. It beckoned us to extol René as a patriot who served our country with honor and valor.
The family may receive written condolences at PO Box 2016, Gilbert, Arizona 85296.
You may send an on-line tribute by logging on to, a perpetual memorial website with Guest Book entry including photos celebrating Rene’s life.
[Contributed by Mike Burger and family.]

LETTERS: Education: costs up, performance down.

Sir,- The Territory Government’s education policies are failing too many primary school students.
The latest reading, writing and numeracy achievement tests confirm a pattern of stalled or declining education outcomes for primary school students.
The test results for Indigenous children in primary school are particularly alarming with many already poor results declining even further during the past four years.
The fall in education outcomes are not confined to Indigenous students, with writing achievement falling sharply across the board for non-Indigenous students.
In fact, writing achievement for non-Indigenous Year 7s has declined from 90.2% in 2002 to just 78.9% in 2006.
These poor results have occurred whilst the Education Department’s budget has increased from $513 million in 2002-03 to $649 million in  2006-07.
The Territory uses an approach to curriculum described as an Outcomes Based Approach, an method abandoned by comparable countries as a failure long ago.
We need to discard this one-time fashionable education theory and replace it with a more traditional standards based approach.
A syllabus based approach will give teachers more time to focus on students.
Primary school teachers’ efforts are being undermined by a cluttered curriculum and there should be a cleanout of the many unnecessary burdens upon their time.
Few parents understand the gobbledegook in school reports.A standards based approach will allow for plain reporting.
Our kids are as capable as any other but until there is a return to a syllabus detailing what should be taught and a uniform marking system, many students will struggle unnecessarily.
Meanwhile the government’s refusal to establish a Board of Inquiry to fully  investigate the allegations of child abuse about former Labor Senator Bob Collins marks a profoundly disappointing day in the history of the Territory Parliament.
The Martin Government spurned a real opportunity to help the alleged victims of Bob Collins through the pain they had endured for many years.
At the same time a Board of Inquiry would have assisted the Parliament in confronting the weeping sore of child abuse in our community.
That sore will now fester amongst the victims and potentially in the wider community for generations.
I think it’s fair to say the Martin Government put the interests of the Labor Party before the interests of Bob Collins’ alleged victims.
Terry Mills
Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Sir,- The Minister for Employment, Education and Training should be supporting Anzac Hill High School and ensuring this successful school continues.
The answer to my question last week about the future of the school after 2008 indicated that he has rolled over to the proposal to change its use to a youth intervention scheme.
You would have thought the Minister who is responsible for this school, and who often speaks glowingly of its achievements, would be doing what the previous Minister for Central Australia did.
Stand by your school, Minister!
Loraine Braham
Independent Member for Braitling

Sir,- Chief Minister Clare Martin has responded to a letter from Advance Alice which raised concerns about further restrictions on alcohol, particularly the thirsty Thursday concept.
We feel more restrictions will have no positive influence on the problems but have a very definite negative impact on the general warmth and ambiance of Alice Springs.
We will be sending our visitors a message that we are an uncaring,  unwelcoming community. 
At the same time we would be inconveniencing some 99% of the population because of the misbehavior of a few.
We should curb anti-social problems penalising, rehabilitating and a “zero tolerance” attitude towards those few who insist on disrupting our community.
It is the feeling of Advance Alice that [Ms Martin’s] follow-up to the protest at the parliamentary sittings in Aprila has been well intentioned and, to date, quite effective, particularly in the area of policing.
We warmly congratulate you on your efforts, but there is a very long way to go not just in curbing anti-social behavior but in restoring people’s faith in Alice Springs.
Ms Martin’s response is disappointing. She says in order to achieve results in the control of the negative impact of alcohol we must “wear some inconvenience”.
The feedback from our members in the tourism industry is that this inconvenience is imposed on the people who bring money to this town.
Our members report a 30% drop-off in visitation as well as forward bookings.
We have to be careful not to give people the wrong perception.
On the one hand tourists can’t get alcohol when they want it, on the other they can see drunks first thing in the morning on Billygoat Hill.
Ms Martin claims “humbugging and harassment have declined”.
We had a nice little holiday from it when the dry town legislation came in, but now the anti-social behavior is clearly back again.
I would also like to respond to Ian Whittred (Alice News, October 9) who makes disparaging comments about Advance Alice, accusing us of bringing Alice Springs into disrepute.
Advance Alice is made up of people deeply committed to Alice Springs and its future and come from all walks of life, and yes, in different colours.
We don’t see colour, we see people.
Mr Whittred seems to be a supporter of the Jaws Syndrome. As in the movie Jaws he’s suggesting it’s better to risk people’s lives in the water than to miss out on putting a dollar in your pocket.
It wasn’t Advance Alice members who made our streets unsafe, who broke into our homes and stole our cars, who bashed tourists and drove them from our town.
And it certainly was not Advance Alice members who created the mayhem at our footy final!
It was Advance Alice members who said enough is enough.
Steve Brown
Advance Alice Inc.

Sir,- A key feature of the public meeting on climate change (Oct 23, Andy McNeil Room) will be the topic of all talk and no show on environment topics by our governments.
Thus GetUp Alice Springs support your publication’s pursuance of Power and Water Corporation over the water reuse debacle.
The problem of waste water in Alice Springs goes back many years. 
These concerns were brought together at a May 2000 public workshop that set the direction of the Urban Water Management Strategy. 
In Jan 2003 Minister Vatskalis announced all effluent overflows to Ilparpa swamp would stop within three years and $6.3m funding was announced the following month.
Subsequently the NTG has been trumpeting the project as a huge success.
In May 2006 it was one of the finalists in that month’s NT Research and Innovation Awards Desert Knowledge Research category.
Maybe they will put it up again in 2009 when it actually does something!
Meanwhile the Water Efficiency Study which dates back to 2000 has also been well funded and trumpeted but failed to come to anything. 
If it had been enacted, the enormous cost of the reuse project [now $10.4m– ED] would have been avoided: Water efficiency means less down the sewer. 
The likelihood of an agribusiness company taking up a lease to take advantage of the water reuse project at AZRI was always miniscule without massive government subsidy. 
The Federal subsidy to agribusiness was cut earlier this year by removal of their tax concessions. 
Subsequently their stock value halved and new projects have ceased.
This, plus the likelihood that freight costs will escalate due to oil prices, makes commercial growing unfeasible.
The Centre has a multimillion dollar annual need for fresh food and firewood. Using our water for these local commodities would appear to be the highest priorities. 
We suggest the government call for tenders from local community groups and businesses to take up small concessions (1 hectare plus 5 ML water a year) at AZRI to establish pilot plantings.
Success in one or two of these projects would enable the public’s water to bring about multiple public benefits.
David de Vries
GetUp Alice Springs

Sir,- The recent Synod meetings of the Uniting Church in Darwin has issued a very strong and clear statement condemning the Intervention, based on first hand and researched reports the Synod heard from its members about the effects and responses of the Interventions in various NT communities, as well as on an ethic of respect for the human rights of all persons and a sense of betrayal from our Federal Government on this matter.
The church committed itself to taking whatever stances could be made at a local level to advocate for it, and to stand in solidarity with those affected by the Intervention practices.
The Synod prayerfully hopes that the actions foreshadowed in this statement will work quickly to restore dignity and human rights to all Australians. Shalom.
Rev Tracy Spencer
Alice Uniting Church

ADAM CONNELLY: Who’s going to pull what rabbit out of which hat?

I used to tell people at parties that I was an account manager for Woolworths.
That was a lie.
I struggle to manage my own accounts let alone pull a salary to do it for others. So why did I lie?  I know that there are people who work for a certain installation just out of town.
They aren’t allowed to tell you what they do for a living.
They generally tell you that they are a cleaner or a gardener or a baker. That’s a fair enough untruth.
I’d rather someone tell me that lie than go to prison for answering my question. I’ve never been part of an organization that requires security clearance.
The closest I’ve come to that is a “working with children assessment”.
But saying those two things in the one sentence is like comparing neurosurgery to aura cleansing. So why the lie?
I’ve never been a fan of the question “So what do you do for a living?”
It’s not that I’m ashamed of the jobs I’ve done, it’s just that I seem to have done jobs that aren’t particularly regular.
I have rarely done a job you might find in the paper.
The work I have done isn’t advertised in Centrelink.
I have worked in a morgue. I have been a comedy magician and juggler. I’ve worked as a clown and now I work on the radio and write a column for the Alice Springs News.
I like the work I have done but I don’t want to spend the next five minutes of the conversation talking about how “incredibly interesting” is my job.
Call me a boring Barry if you must but at the end of the day I’m more interested in finding out about you.
No, I don’t want to show you a magic trick, tell you a joke or “do my radio voice”.
I want to have a cool conversation about something remotely interesting and I’d rather not talk about work at a party.
My favorite past job was being a magician. OK, OK, here’s a magic trick.
Think of a playing card. Are you thinking of it?
Concentrate on the card in your mind. It’s the Queen of Hearts!
OK, that’s a pathetic trick but the one in 52 of you who thought of the Queen of Hearts are pretty darned impressed, right?
I loved being a magician. Not because I was able to amaze an audience, confuse a crowd or even perplex people but because I got paid to go to parties, from the backyard 21st through to the top end of town corporate soirees.
I got paid and people wanted me there, two things that don’t often happen at parties now.
Magicians are a funny lot. I found many of them took up the craft because they like the power of fooling you.
Lucky for me that wasn’t the reason I got into being a magician.
To me the magic was an excuse to approach guests at the party - for others it was their life.  I had colleagues that pored over old secret books and DVD’s you can only get by knowing the right people.
They spent days in the shed coming up with the perfect device for the perfect trick. I wasn’t so committed.
But the one thing every magician knows is the art of misdirection.
Most magic is based on making the audience look at something in order to do something else without them noticing.
If I point at my left hand chances are you’re going to look at my left hand.
That frees my right hand to do whatever it wants.
If I say, “pick a card”, through misdirection you will pick the card I want you to choose. Magicians are brilliant at this skill. They have to be.
So are others. It’s election time and the real masters of misdirection are those in the political world.
Canberra makes Copperfield look like an amateur.
No matter what side of the political fence they reside the spin and slight of hand will be unbelievable in the next few weeks. (Actually, I’ve got a feeling that it will be quite believable).
They will tell you that government spending will increase interest rates one minute and promise hundreds of millions of dollars for marginal seat funding the next.
They will tell you that a fresh set of ideas is needed for the nation to grow even though the nation has been growing at a rapid rate for the past decade.
Far be it for me to tell you how to vote in the upcoming election but here’s Adam’s advice.
If in the next few weeks the politicians point to their left hand make sure you have a quick look at what they’re doing with the right.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.