October 25, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Solar city hits straps. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Next time the World Solar Challenge goes through Alice Springs, the town will be proclaiming itself a Solar City.
Its status will be confirmed by having Australia’s biggest solar energy power station, expected to be up and running along with the rest of the Solar City consortium’s projects by 2009.
But will solar Alice be a greener Alice?
The project plans to replace 5% of energy generated by fossil fuels.
This will be achieved by a combination of solar energy generation and greater energy efficiency.
Chair of the Solar City Consortium, Grant Behrendorff, says 5% to the layman may not sound like a great deal, but within the energy industry it is considerable.
Alice has an energy consumption of 240 GW a year, which will be reduced by 10 GW a year: “That’s a lot of energy,” says Mr Behrendorff.
Solar energy generation will be achieved by a combination of technologies.
The consortium aims at removing barriers to a greater take-up of solar hot water systems.
Alice already has 60% of households with solar hot water. One barrier to further take-up is the longer time it takes to install solar hot water, compared to installing electric systems.
“If your electric hot water system breaks down today, you can get it replaced tomorrow,” says Mr Behrendorff, “while a solar system will take a number of weeks.
“So we intend to make loaner systems available to tide people over until their new solar hot water system can be installed.”
The consortium also hopes to see 225 rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems installed by Alice households.
These generate energy which is fed into the grid, the value of which is taken off the householder’s energy bill.
A major barrier to their take-up at the moment is the cost of the units (approximately $13,000 for a 1KW system, fully installed).
The consortium aims to reduce the cost by more than 50% and to also provide, for the life of the project, a more attractive buyback tariff for the energy generated (received as a lower energy bill for the PV householder).
Doesn’t this create a somewhat artificial environment for the new technology?
Yes, says Mr Behrendorff, but other green technologies, like hybrid cars and “clean coal”, are also being assisted in this way, driven by the environmental urgency to come up with solutions for reducing greenhouse emissions.
Four iconic solar installations will put the Solar City stamp on the urban landscape of Alice Springs.
These will be located at the Araluen Cultural Precinct, the town pool, the sewerage farm, and the airport.
While the technology is not new, Mr Behrendorff says the applications are all innovative.
He says solar-powered air-conditioning at Araluen will be the first of its kind in Australia.
“We are having to go overseas to get the kind of system we need,” he says, “ and even there they are not at all common.”
Solar heating of the water in the town pool will “a first, as far as we know” for a large pool.
“There is some technical risk associated with it. That’s partly why Alice Springs was chosen by the Federal Government as a Solar City, because of the innovation and the risk-taking in our bid,” says Mr Behrendorff.
“We’re breaking down barriers, proving that things can be done.”
A solar power station at the Ilparpa Valley sewerage plant will be the largest power station of its kind in Australia, similar to the one at Hermannsburg, but two to three times larger.
It will also be the first time in Australia that a solar power station has been connected to a large grid (the interface between a power station and a large “stable” grid or a small “weak” grid is different).
Another plus, says Mr Behrendorff, is the synergy between the power generation and the evaporation ponds used to treat the sewage. The heat given off by the generation will be fed into the ponds, assisting their evaporation and their microbial processes, making them more efficient.
There will be a smaller but “unmissable” solar power station at the Alice Springs airport.
Its precise use is yet to be finalised but its placement will add to the branding of Alice as a Solar City for incoming visitors.
In town, a Smart Living Centre will provide a one-stop shop and showroom for all enquiries concerning solar energy and energy efficiency.
A search is on for a suitable location at the moment and the centre is expected to open in February.
Householders will be able to volunteer to take part in a smart metering trial, where they can opt for low tariff energy use in off-peak hours.
“This won’t suit everyone, but will be attractive to some householders,” says Mr Behrendorff.
Householders will also be encouraged to have energy audits to help them work out ways to become more energy efficient.
Apart from new light globes, solutions include painting your roof white and installing insulation.
Energy audits for larger users, including commercial users, will require bringing in external specialists.
The consortium will assist with this, achieving savings by coordinating several audits per visit.
There will also be incentive schemes attempting to induce long term behavioural change in consumers.
For example, if a household demonstrates that they have reduced their energy consumption by 10% over 12 months, the consortium will offer a further 10% off their energy bill.
Likewise, if they reduce consumption by 20% over 12 months, the consortium will match it with a 20% discount on their bill.
“A number of studies show that people can be very enthusiastic at the start of energy-saving schemes, but with the structure of our scheme we are trying to get people engaged over the longer term,” says Mr Behrendorff.
Greater gains are expected from energy efficiency than from the photovoltaic installations.
The Federal Government Solar City grant of $12.3m will be spent over six years.
What is the vision after that?
By then Alice consumers are expected to have become “energy champions” and the industry and infrastructure to have been given enough of a kick start to be self-sustaining, with the town “a model for the rest of Australia and the world to follow”.
Mr Behrendorff says Alice is unique among the Federal Government’s Solar Cities for being driven by a community-base consortium. 
The three major partners are the Town Council, the Territory Government and Power and Water Corporation, joined by Tangentyere Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Desert Knowledge CRC and the Arid Lands Environment Centre.
Having all these partners at the same table and under contract to work together on this project makes it a very powerful group, says Mr Behrendorff.
Their contributions as well as the participants take the Solar city budget to $40m (more cash than in-kind, says Mr Behrendorff).
Mayor Fran Kilgariff has recently spoken of $100m worth of activity in solar energy related initiative sin the Centre.
This figure refers to Solar City ($40m), Bushlight ($40m), the Solar Technology Demonstration Facility at the Desert Knowledge precinct ($3m), remote power stations (some $10m and growing).

Minister snubs MLA from his own party. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The NT Government’s stonewalling of issues surrounding the controversial sewage reuse scheme has reached new heights.
Alison Anderson, the Member for MacDonnell, says the Minister responsible for the Power and Water Corporation, Kon Vatskalis, is denying her information she is seeking in order to clarify issues raised by the Alice Springs News over several months.
Ms Anderson, a government backbencher, asked why the Power and Water Corporation (PWC) had been granted an apparently excessive timeframe by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to build a minor sewage recycling facility, stopping or reducing the discharge of only partially treated sewage into public land.
Ms Anderson also asked for a copy of a PWC report setting out circumstances under which the corporation will continue the discharge, even after the completion of the facility.
Ms Anderson says although both the main sewage plant and the recycling facility are in her electorate, south of The Gap, Mr Vatskalis did not answer her questions.
The Alice News asked Ms Anderson to intervene when the newspaper, on October 12, was denied a copy of the “wet weather discharge plan” provided by PWC to the EPA, showing “modeling of a wet weather discharge regime”.
The News told Ms Anderson: “In essence PWC wants a license from the EPA to continue the otherwise illegal practice of discharging partially treated sewage into public areas, such as St Mary’s Creek, even when the water reuse scheme is completed.
“We still don’t have a copy of that plan.” 
We raised with Ms Anderson the question why the pollution watchdog, the EPA, extended from two years to four a license for PWC to pollute.
The first discharge license granted to PWC by the EPA ran out at the end of 2005 – a more than generous time frame, two years, to complete a simple project.
It is a six kilometer pipeline, ending in ponds where the partly treated effluent seeps into the ground water, is cleaned on the way down by seeping through sand, and pumped back to the surface to irrigate a horticultural plot.
(After six years of planning the government still does not have an “end user” for the recycled water.)
In reply to her enquiries Ms Anderson was sent an email the Alice News had received some three weeks earlier, and most of which we had published.
We wrote to Ms Anderson that the email failed to give a direct answer to our question, except that the permission to extend overflows was based on “Power and Water’s original estimate of the time required to complete the project”.
In other words, whatever PWC asked for, it got.
We put this to Ms Anderson that such a privilege would hardly be extended to any other polluters: “The EPA (an NT Government instrumentality), in dealing with the polluter, the PWC (also an NT Government instrumentality), and in consultation with NT Health (also an NT Government instrumentality) is guided by the assertions of the polluter when ordering measures to stop the pollution.
“Has the EPA obtained independent advice, for example, on how long it would reasonably take to stop the pollution (namely, by building a pipeline)?
“Obviously not.”
But Mr Vatskalis remained mum both towards the Alice News and his own party colleague.
Meanwhile Natural Resources Minister Delia Lawrie this week announced the first stage of a Water Allocation Plan for the region ensuring that no more than 25% of accessible groundwater is used during the next 100 years”.
“There is a plentiful supply of underground drinking water in Alice Springs, but experience in southern states has shown we must act now to protect the supply,” says Ms Lawrie.
“The water plan will allow residents and farmers to continue using water at a sensible and cautious rate.”
She says: “The water plan is still in the early stages and a long term Alice Springs Water Advisory Committee will be formed to oversee its implementation.”
Terms of reference under which it will operate are being drawn up and Government is seeking nominations.

Looking back on the brawl. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Pioneers Football Club, which proudly turned 60 this year, is in an intense phase of soul searching.
Anything like the notorious brawl at the end of the grand final six weeks ago, which landed 14 club members before the league’s disciplinary tribunal and several of them in a court of law, must be avoided at all costs, says the softly spoken club president and ex-player, Harold Howard.
Mr Howard spoke to the Alice Springs News after the tribunal’s hearing on Monday night was unexpectedly cancelled.
“I hope [such a brawl] doesn’t happen again. None of us want to see it happen again,” he says.
Yet he concedes that “tensions are high” between the Eagles and the premiership winners, two years in a row, Wests.
“It’s been a pretty big deal for us.
“We’re obviously going to sit down and talk at our AGM.
“Things will be put in place to stop this from happening again.”
The mass brawl came as a surprise: “The two teams have been pretty close in the last five or six years.
“It’s always a tough game.
“Both clubs have played hard and fair footy,” says Mr Howard.
“Two grand finals in a row now we’ve had players sent off.
“I’m not saying it cost us the games but it obviously didn’t help our cause.”
Mr Howard says the brawl was no more serious than what goes on in sport all around Australia.
He puts the blame for the escalation of the response squarely on the publicity the mass fight received, mainly through the world wide website YouTube.
An amateur video of the brawl placed on the site by the Alice News had 76,285 viewings and attracted 439 comments before the News pulled the graphic footage the day before court hearings started.
Some of the comments were “disgusting”, says Mr Howard.
“You wouldn’t talk to your dog like some of the things that were on there.
“Westies came out and said this is not the way the Westies footy club thinks about Aboriginal people, but unfortunately, a lot of stuff on YouTube came from Westies footy club, because they knew too much about the incident.
“Alice Springs has an Aboriginal and a non-Aboriginal population.
“Considering the things that are going on in Alice Springs now, we just don’t want to add more fuel to the fire.
“We’re the mugs here.
“It’s been portrayed in the media that we started the whole lot, that’s the way it’s been put out there in the papers, and on YouTube.
“It looked terrible for us.”
Mr Howard says Pioneers have been “an honorable club for 60 years.
“We don’t deserve to be treated that way.
“The other club released that [video] stuff ... there is nothing we can do.”
Mr Howard says videos are clearly the main evidence before the tribunal.
“There were four – four that I was shown,” he says.
“The videos show Pioneer people striking but there’s a few Westie blokes involved in there too.
“They only see Pioneer blokes strike Westie fellows, but they’re all involved in it, one way or the other.
“I think there should be more Westie people brought up [on charges], 14 to one, that’s totally unfair.
“We got a bum steer, I reckon, we got shafted.”
Has this imbalance been raised?
“We were going to do that tonight,” said Mr Howard.
Will Pioneers fight the charges?
“Definitely. The Pioneer footy club is behind all the players and officials.
“We stay strong as a club. We need to do that.
We need to look after our players and officials, our life members, whoever was involved in it, and we stick by them.”
Shortly after the tribunal hearing set down for Monday evening had been due to begin the Australian Football League Central Australia (AFLCA) announced that the hearing, and possibly the following one, had been cancelled “because of circumstances beyond our control”.
On Tuesday the league said the hearing was postponed “due to the general manager having problems beyond the control of the AFLCA”.
The hearing will now be on Monday next week.
The puzzling cancellation infuriated the accused, all of whom had turned up, from ex-captain Graham Smith, who came all the way from Tennant Creek to face the charges, to Owen Cole, as the head of Centrecorp one of the town’s most prominent businessmen.
“We as much as anybody would like to see the end of it,” says Mr Howard.
“We need to get on with it, preparing for next year. Get some closure.
“We’ve had a lot of meetings since that brawl to get to today. We are disappointed [the hearing was cancelled], as everyone else is.
“It’s a lot of effort, for us and for people who are helping us out, our advocates.”
Under league rules the accused are not permitted legal representation, but can be helped by an “advocate” when they face the tribunal.
Apart from the abrupt cancellation Mr Howard is pleased with the way the league has handled the issue: “We asked the AFLCA for an investigation by a person from outside Alice Springs, and they did that, they brought in Alan Roberts.
“That was a good and fair thing.”
The worst outcome of the tribunal process would be a ban on the club, such as was imposed on Souths for all of 2006.
“As the president of the Pioneer footy club I wouldn’t like to see us put out.
“That would be the worst case scenario.
“And I don’t think we should be.
“There is equal responsibility here, not just the Pioneer footy club,” says Mr Howard.
The second grave consequence may be that Alice Springs, currently tipped to be the home ground for the Territory team when it joins the national competition, may miss out on that privilege.
Mr Howard suggests that without the avalanche of publicity there would hardly have been much of a fuss about the brawl.
“It happens all over Australia.
“This one has obviously been put out there, as the worst things that’s ever happened in football in Australia. And that’s not right.
“These brawls happen all the time,” says Mr Howard.
“Is it the focus on Alice Springs? I don’t know.
“I couldn’t say what needs to be changed at the moment.
“Obviously we’re going to talk to the AFLCA about it.
“But it has been blown way out of proportion, because things like this happen, not only in Aussie Rules, and all over Australia.”

Resort getting into STEP. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Reform of CDEP is “appropriate in Darwin, appropriate in Alice Springs” but needs a case by case assessment in remote communities, says NT Employment Minister Paul Henderson.
The scheme “has been in place for a long time.
“In some communities, it probably has become a goal for young people rather than a pathway to a career.
“We need to work with CDEP to make some change,” said Mr Henderson during this month’s Legislative Assembly sittings.
The NT Government, in line with national Labor leader Kevin Rudd, supports “transitioning people into full-time jobs … where there is a market economy,” he said.
“But at Titjikala, Ngukurr, Milingimbi and Maningrida, there needs to be more consultation, common sense applied, slow down.”
Speaking to the Alice Springs News earlier this week, Mr Henderson said Indigenous people moving from CDEP to Work for the Dole or STEP programs are worse off by some $60 a week and queried how that can be good for the Indigenous families the Federal Government is professing to be concerned about.
He said each community needs to be a subject of a jobs audit so that governments know exactly what jobs are out there. The Federal and Territory Governments between them can only convert to “real jobs” about 2000 of the 8000 jobs being done by CDEP.
What’s to happen with the remaining 6000 CDEP participants? he asked.
He said major private enterprise employers, from the mining, tourism and pastoral and horticultural sectors, need to be engaged.
Some remote communities are indeed located near labour markets, with Mutitjulu the prime example.
Things are improving at Mutitjulu, he claimed, citing some 15 people now working “every day” at the Ayers Rock Resort.
This has come about not as a result of the Federal Government’s intervention and its particular focus on Mutitjulu, but rather as a result of Voyages’ corporate efforts, he said.
A spokesperson for Voyages told the Alice News that the number of Mutitjulu residents employed by the resort fluctuates and at present stands at eight.
They are working full-time on landscaping the grounds at the resort.
A STEP (Structured Training Employment Pathways) contract was put in place between the resort and the community in August last year. It aims to get 37 Indigenous staff at the resort, in a mix of full-time, part-time and apprenticeship positions.
The current staff began work on a respite centre in the community, a project of the Mutitjulu Foundation, created by donations from Voyages’ guests, matched dollar for dollar by GPT, which owns Voyages.
The centre was opened on September 13 last.

Rumour or reality for Anzac? By KIERAN FINNANE.

After a meeting with Education Minister Paul Henderson on Monday, Anzac Hill High is none the wiser about its future beyond 2008.
School council chair, Faith White, said the council was told what Mr Henderson had earlier told the Alice Springs News: Anzac Hill, the same as any of the 159 government schools in the Territory, does not have “carte blanche” for its future.
Middle schooling will be fully rolled out there next year, as it will in secondary schools throughout the Territory, but Mr Henderson cannot say what will happen in 2009. 
That the school may then be used to create a “youth intervention centre” is being treated as a rumour but is not being ruled out.
Mr Henderson told the Legislative Assembly earlier this month: 
“The call from the people of Alice Springs is [for] a more proactive intervention and a facility, a centre, in Alice Springs to engage youth who are on the street undertaking antisocial behaviour and finding a way to provide interventions for these kids to turn them around and get them back into school and back into the community.
“Now, a lot of work is being undertaken across government looking at what this centre may actually look like, how it would operate, where it would run from. No decisions have been taken yet on any of these things.
“Government is looking at all of the facilities that government owns in Alice Springs. As taxpayers, I think the people of Alice Springs would expect that we look at the best use of those facilities, and a lot of work is being done to that regard.”
The “youth intervention” project is being driven out of the Chief Minister’s Department, not the Education Department, Mr Henderson told the News.
If there were to be changes for Anzac Hill High, Mr Henderson promised an open and accountable discussion, but would not be drawn on a timeframe.
Ms White said the school council did not ask for a timeframe.
She said the council would endeavour to ensure Anzac’s future by building on numbers of enrolments and good educational outcomes.
She encouraged parents to think about enrolling their children at the school, for its advantages as a small school, with committed, caring staff and proven excellence in some areas. She pointed to recent awards for its achievements with the Accelerated Literacy program and its Excellence in Family School Partnerships award.
Around two thirds of Anzac’s students are Indigenous and many students are from long-term Alice families: “We’ve got a good group of kids there, they all mix in together,” she said.
Both the Member for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson, and Member for Braitling, Loraine Braham, questioned Mr Henderson in the recent sittings about Anzac’s future.
Mrs Braham asked the government to put on the public record its “real intention” about the school.
And Ms Anderson urged openness and transparency.
“Our teachers are important people; they are there to teach our children and not to stress out over whether the school is going to be closed down … As a government, we must allay all these fears.
“If it is scaremongering, we must assure the people of Alice Springs this will not happen.”
Meanwhile a small gathering of Indigenous parents at Sadadeen Primary School were joined by just as many senior Alice Springs educators (from general manger to principals) and Education Minister Paul Henderson himself to launch a “campaign” to boost school attendance by Indigenous children. The campaign comprises postcards, stickers and posters as well as free call 1800 numbers for notifying absences.
Bringing home the importance of attendance, Mr Henderson told parents that if their child missed a day’s school per week for all of their compulsory schooling, they would miss out on two years of education. At least 80% school attendance is required for learning to progress, he said.

Snowdon road money mainly in the Top End.

Only $28 million has been specifically allocated to Central Australian roads out of an $81 million funding program announced by Labor on Monday.
The package, announced by Labor’s Transport spokesman Martin Ferguson and Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon in Alice Springs, will comprise $52m from the Commonwealth with the difference of $29m coming from the NT which, according to Mr Snowdon, “is a fine example of how, when Federal and Territory Governments work together, the whole community benefits”.
Mr Snowdon said this “would provide both a solid foundation for regional economic development and safer and more reliable inter-community links” and “will benefit pastoralists, the tourist industry, mining and remote communities”.
Significantly more than half of the funding package, some $50m, has been allocated to roads servicing regional and remote areas in the northern half of the NT, including $20m for a high level crossing of the Daly River, $15m on upgrading the central Arnhem Road, and $5m (or $6m) for a bridge across the MacArthur River at Borroloola.
In Central Australia $10m has been allocated to the Plenty Highway and $4m for improvements to the Maryvale Road.
Mr Snowdon claimed: “The massive boost to funding of strategically important roads in the Territory highlights the absolute lack of support for these roads and other infrastructure and services from the Howard Government’s eleven years in office.
“One of its first acts when it was elected in 1996 was to scrap a similar programme set up by the previous Labor government and since then there has been all but nothing from John Howard’s tired and visionless government.
“This is a positive partnership that offers a down payment on the Territory’s future and security for communities, tourism and mining alike,” Mr Snowdon said.

LETTERS: Drowning under the dust, the mud, the blood and the beer.

Sir,- As I write to you my posture is deliberate and confident. My mind is sharp therefore my words will be more definite than ever before. 
In 2004 I believe this country failed to send a protest message about our involvement in the Iraq war.
Our vote could have potentially seen a better and more stable world for us all.
This Federal election presents a unique opportunity to vote for or against an issue that will directly affect the life and the future of Central Australians and its Indigenous people. 
The non-urban Indigenous culture is hierarchical. 
There is a dominant class, essentially male, that rule over the under-class who unfortunately are in the vast majority.
The dominant class, who are educated, have formed and built corporations and have infiltrated many of the community councils. 
They have utilized the pathetic circumstances of their brothers and sisters to line their own pockets and to shore up their power base. 
History clearly illustrates that powerful images of the impoverished are cash cows for those who choose to use them.
For those who are subject to this manipulation their lack of health, educational and social circumstances leave them totally vulnerable to dictatorial suggestion and profoundly corrupt practices. 
A stark example of this shameful manipulation was on display for all of us to see when recently the Tangentjere Council and its leaders recommended to its followers to shun a $60m offer which was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the town camp residents to avail themselves of living circumstances which the rest of Australia take for granted. 
I firmly believe this shameful direction was given because the $60m was not going to the council that has so obviously failed them. 
I further believe that the leaders feared support of this offer would have seen the dissolving of the lopsided influence they have over their own people’s lives.
This was a victory for greed and a wholesale defeat for the notion of need.
The Labor Party at both the NT and Federal levels has disgracefully utilized this hierarchical structure for political purposes. 
The party’s immorality when it comes to Indigenous affairs knows no boundaries. 
The Federal and Territory Labor parliamentary wings, not wanting to be wedged on this issue, voted for the emergency response.
But their actions on the ground have been deliberately obstructionist and oppositional, pitching opposing perspectives toward and with these thuggish vote-organising Indigenous organisations. 
By any standard or measure the permit system, which has led to Indigenous segregation and the CDEP scheme which is nothing more than a Government funded patronising sheltered workshop system, have failed Indigenous people.
For anyone outside of these organisations to suggest otherwise, you would have to question whether they are yet another white “do-gooding” opportunist or whether they have arrived here in the Territory on the latest space ship. 
Quite simply, votes for Labor are votes for the gravy train whose drivers are the educated Indigenous fat cats. 
Meanwhile those same votes will again consign the subservient majority of Central Australian Indigenous citizens, particularly the women and children, to a life drowned under the dust, the mud, the blood and the beer.
Alison Anderson, I have found your stance on this issue to be both brave and admirable. 
All that’s left for you to do now is to do what I have done – become an Independent and resign from the party which has detached itself from core values such as racial integration and true get-off-your backside self-determination.
Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

Sir,- It was with astonishment that I read Rev Tracy Spencer’s letter in last week’s Alice News in which she stated that the Synod of the Uniting Church meeting in Darwin condemned the recent Federal Intervention into the Northern Territory.
Leaving aside for the moment the separation of church and state, what exactly are they condemning?
Are they condemning the voluntary health checks and the focus on children who not only are not attending school but are not even registered in the education system, who are being raised in such toxic squalor and on such a miserable diet that a future of kidney failure and premature death awaits them, who live in constant fear of human predators?
Are they condemning the resumption of leases for five years so the dilapidated infrastructure on remote communities can be rebuilt? Is it the revoking of the permit system of less than one percent of Aboriginal land to facilitate this rebuilding that is being condemned?
Perhaps they are condemning the rollback of CDEP and the welfare to nowhere road that this offers. “Sit down money” says it all.  Who in the world will ever stand up when paid to sit down?
Surely they are not condemning the crackdown on drugs, alcohol and pornography, as imperfect and inconvenient as that crackdown is.
Returning to the separation of church and state, I fear we are skating onto thin ice when religious organisations enter the political debate. The Select Brethren are reportedly making waves on the east coast again, and internationally we have the terrible specter of the Jihadists, the Zionists and the Rapture Evangelists tearing each other’s eyes out and dragging the world into their bitterness.
The letter mentions the need for respect and adherence to the twin pillars of dignity and human rights but skirts accusations of betrayal.
Prior to the Intervention the dignity and human rights of so many of those living on moribund remote communities and in squalid town camps were in the toilet. It would have been a continuance of betrayal not to intervene.
Of primary importance now are all Territorians pulling together so the Intervention can be made to work. It can be made to fulfill its promise to provide scope for lives to be lived in dignity and with full access to a healthy, educated and productive future.
Any lesser outcome will diminish all of us.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Sir,- The Todd Mall Markets have been running for a long time and is managed as a non-profit organisation.
For all those years we have supported local charities, such as the Flying Doctor service and Red Cross, through to individuals that need a helping hand.
Each year the committee looks for appropriate “targets” and always helps local Alice Springs events.
As an organisation we pay rates to the town council and, in turn, the stall-holders pay us a stall fee each market.
Next to advertising costs we have no expenses (committee members work for free) so the thousands of dollars left over are given back to the local community several times a year.
Tourists and locals alike, shopping and spending money at the Todd Mall Markets, directly contribute to the well-being of this town.
Everyone is a winner at the Todd Mall Markets. Every Sunday the Todd Mall Markets are on and most of the local traders in the mall are also open for business. The town is alive on a Todd Mall Market day!
Lately, the town council health inspectors have been very active inspecting and helping our food stall-holders to comply with all rules and regulations.
We can’t thank them enough for their assistance - they are doing a great job and, again, everyone is a winner.
At the Todd Mall Markets you will find that the stall-holders are made up of all classes of Central Australian society, people that have something to sell or a service to provide for locals and tourists alike. It’s all positive!
Come and have a look for yourself and see what’s there and who is selling it.
There are four markets left for this year - November 4, 18, 25, and the Christmas market on December 2.
Willem de Gunst
Todd Mall Markets Committee
Alice Springs

Sir,- Why is the NT Government using taxpayers’ money to fund election material?
Last week I asked the Chief Minister: “How can you justify the use of government funding to influence voters in a Commonwealth election; and how much do you intend to spend?
 “Territorians are getting a flood of election material which should be authorised by the party or individual concerned.
“These flyers are printed and authorised by the NT Government - obviously being funded by you and me.
“Is this a legitimate use of our money?”
These are simple questions but there was no direct answer from the Chief Minister.
Loraine Braham
MLA for Braitling
Alice Springs

Sir,- Recently I received a letter from my pen-friend in Latvia, and was amused by her observations about politics in her country.
I think she is worth quoting, so here is her description as written verbatim in her halting English: “You wrote that you had to go to court for not voting.
“That surprised me because, in my opinion, this is the human right to decide to vote or not.
“Luckily we don’t have such law, otherwise I would have to go to court more than one time.
“Even last time I went just because to leave less chance to win the parties those are interested in Latvia as a part of Russia or to bend to its will.
“So I voted for less unpleasant party, besides we can strike out persons we don’t like.
“It seems that people who enter our parliament (calls Saeima) get sick with some special infection, they changes sometimes dramatically.
“You just look on person and can’t recognize the person you knew earlier.
“Actually the name of the virus is – Money + Authority.”
In response I quoted observations of Australian politics written by another woman: “It is not dishonesty which brands the Australian politician.
“He is either brainless on matters of State because of lack of experience, or he is in the bondage of salary and party, and dare not use his brains if he possess any.”
Further: “Because of the types of men elected to membership in the State and Federal Parliaments, the most shameful scenes ever witnessed in a civilised country constantly disgrace almost every session, making it impossible for any self-respecting citizens, with any sense of justice or honesty of purpose, to contest elections.”
These acid comments were written by Jessie Ackerman in her publication “Australia from a Woman’s Point of View” published in 1913.
Democracy in Latvia today is slightly older than was federal politics in Australia as described by Ackerman almost a century ago but it seems that it is much the same anywhere at any point in time.
One is inevitably reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous maxim recorded in Hansard from that most venerable of parliamentary democratic institutions, The House of Commons, in 1947: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.
“Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Alex Nelson
Alice Springs

Sir,- Last Thursday at 8.55am I was driving out of Sunset Court, turning left onto South Terrace. To my surprise there was a vehicle traveling rather quickly towards me on my right.
So what, you may ask? Surprise? Why?
Well, it was a clearly marked Australia Post delivery van driving along the footpath!
Mr Postmaster, could you please advise your van drivers that it is not the done thing to drive along the footpath in an area where there are often young families walking their children, not to mention other legitimate footpath users.
But that’s not all.
A mere five minutes later I had turned left from the highway onto Larapinta Drive when I was confronted by an Alice Springs Taxi’s mini cab which was also driving along the footpath!
My guess is that he had driven north along Bloomfield Street wanting to beat his mates to a fare, he then drove along the footpath and eventually onto Larapinta Drive - a mere short cut!
Perhaps the proprietor of Alice Springs Taxis would also like to chat with his boys and girls.
I would have thought that these people are professional drivers and therefore would obey the law.
Perhaps the almighty dollar is the law - or am I simply an old fuddy-duddy who ponders the consequences of a serious injury caused by this type of irresponsible driving by so-called professionals?
Next time I will ensure I get number plate details and ring the police immediately.
Milton Blanch
Alice Springs
ED - Australia Post’s Kathleen Van Haeften said when invited to comment: “Australia Post does not condone unsafe work practices in any form and will look into this incident.”
Alice Springs Taxis declined to comment.

SPECIAL COMMENT: Literacy going backwards for remote kids.

Sir,– National testing (MAP) shows declining remote educational outcomes. The Territory Government says that kids are not attending but that is not new ... and schools are supposed to get kids to school anyway.
The decline in outcomes has happened at the same time as a lot of new money has been put into remote schools – salaries, staffing, housing etc.
Two factors are apparent:
(1) NTDEET has become Darwin-driven, which is OK if the decisions and programs from Darwin work, but one in particular (Accelerated Literacy) has been a disaster.
(2) Accelerated Literacy (known in the bush as accelerated illiteracy) is a federally inspired program introduced a few years ago with great fanfare.
It was going to leapfrog a whole generation of remote students into sound literacy – you don’t hear much about it doing that now.
The program is based on the idea that if you learn to read one novel really well then you can read others (a process called transfer).
So students spend several months focussed on the single novel (why has attendance fallen??).
Problem is that remote kids hate it and those who memorise the single novel (Aboriginal kids are good at ‘reading’ a memorised book – even one held upside down) actually can’t pick up another and read it.
This program ousted a much more promising one based on choosing something that the kids were interested in such as a footy match and then talking / reading / writing / researching that event.
This is a program called language experience within First Steps, a West Australian program, and the Ann Morrice literacy cycle is similar (see online).
Bush teachers are now much more controlled in what they do.
They have no flexibility and must teach inappropriate programs like accelerated illiteracy.
The cluster principal model for small schools ensures they comply even though they can see the futility of this program, and many teachers are leaving out of sheer frustration with it.
To their credit some Alice Springs based schools, such as ASHS, have resisted implementing the program, but they have the relative autonomy to do so.
Bush schools do not.
As to how this disaster happened, the Accelerated Literacy (AL) program is an example of our government putting politics before education.
The Curriculum Branch in NTDEET did not wholeheartedly support AL.
They doubted the literacy theory it is based on and knew that it was such a resource hungry program (in training teachers to use it) that they would need to stop most of their other programs that were producing results, albeit slowly.
But the government had political needs, ie a quick fix that would reassure the electorate that it was setting about improving outcomes. It needed a big new program.
Syd Stirling (then Education Minister) made a lot of grandiose claims for AL supposedly based on “trials” which have since been discredited.
So the government went for AL against the advice of many of their educational advisers.
They may have achieved some political points at the time but they have done tremendous damage in the longer term, as the national benchmarks tests are now revealing.
Lena Milich,
Alice Springs

ED - The Alice News offered NTDEET a right of reply.
Paul Newman, General Manager Schools Central Australia, provided the following:
In NT urban locations, achievement of national literacy and numeracy benchmarks is comparable with achievement in all other Australian jurisdictions. 
In remote and very remote locations, the achievement of the 2006 national reading benchmark by primary school aged children has also increased. 
Furthermore, the number of Indigenous learners achieving the Northern Territory Certificate of Education increased from 58 in 2003 to 124 in 2006. 
While much remains to be done, these results are not symptomatic of a decline in remote educational outcomes.
There are four DEET-endorsed literacy approaches. 
Accelerated Literacy is one of these approaches, and schools determine which approach they will implement.
Achievement of excellent educational outcomes continues to be a priority for the Department of Employment, Education and Training. 
To this end, the department works closely with schools throughout the Territory to ensure appropriate literacy and numeracy skills programs are in place.
Accelerated Literacy is a high-expectations approach to the teaching of reading.
It provides teachers with a structured framework and is most successful when
• allied to a whole-school commitment to literacy across the curriculum,
• whole school professional learning,
• explicit teaching,
• and high teacher expectations.
Preliminary research indicates that addressing the needs of ESL learners, and on-going professional learning in remote locations is an enormous challenge.
However, teachers are committed to improving outcomes.
Schools that have successfully implemented Accelerated Literacy are now showing evidence of literacy improvement in a range of areas.
These include  improved achievement of national literacy (and numeracy) benchmarks.
Accelerated Literacy is being implemented in schools across a range of Australian jurisdictions. 
It was successfully trialled in the Northern Territory in Alice Springs in the 1980’s. 
Since those early days, the program has been further developed.
It has been introduced to over 60 schools across the Northern Territory.

ADAM CONNELLY: It’s big and it’s cheesy.

Andrew Jackson was America’s seventh president, an imposing character and a political giant.
In today’s age of poll led politics and 10 second sound bites, Jackson is a reminder of a time when the leaders of nations were statesmen. Jackson is the only US president to have been a prisoner of war, having been captured by the British. He oversaw the admission of two states to the union and appears on their twenty dollar bill.
He was dubbed “Old Hickory” in reference to his toughness and believed that his cabinet should be shuffled around every so often to avoid corruption.
While Jackson was in the White House he threw public parties. He was of the firm belief that the public should be able to talk to the President. Soirees were held that were designed to make the White House feel like the people’s house. Anyone could come and many did.
At his last public party, Jackson had a huge block of cheese weighing in at over 630 kilograms brought into the White House and the entire thing was consumed in less than two hours.
Things have changed since the days of Andrew Jackson. Can you imagine George W. Bush opening the doors of the White House for a public party?
In today’s world there would be a dozen metal detectors to get through, assuming the three background checks were executed and passed with flying colours.
The whole process would be orchestrated for maximum press coverage and any questions you might want to ask would have to be submitted in writing three months prior.
Other things, too, sure have changed since then. The United States now has 50 states to unite and none of them have African slaves working the cotton fields. One thing though has remained the same.
For thousands of people all over the globe the answer to the problem of getting more people to show up to something lies in the building of big things.
Jackson had his cheese. People came from miles to savour some of the big cheese.
Lined along the national highways of this country big things entice the tourist to come and gaze at the wonder of the oversized thing.
I’ve visited my fair share of big things in my time.
I’ve seen the big merino in Goulburn, the big trout in Adaminaby, the golden guitar in Tamworth, the big banana in Coffs Harbour, the big prawn in Ballina, the big Ned Kelly in Glenrowan.
I’ve seen the big spud in Robertson and the Anmatjere man in Aileron - plus a fair few more. They are littered across the landscape of this country and people for one reason or another come to see them.
It doesn’t even need to be so audacious or on a community scale.
Individuals employ the same techniques. Have you ever visited a person’s home not because you particularly like them but because they were showing the footy on their massive plasma screen television?
The people of Alice Springs on occasion bring up a need for a big thing to increase the tourist market.
I’m not sure if CATIA has an official position on the construction of a big thing, but around the bars the conversation takes place.
I have a couple of ideas.
What do you think of a big green VB can?
It’s very Alice Springs and for the practical among us it could be hollow. We could fill the big green VB can with all of the other green VB cans that you can find around town and when full the council could put it on the back of a truck and cash in the cans in South Australia. T
he money earned by the initiative could go towards funding the pool roof.
Or maybe we could design a big wooden horse on big wooden wheels that from time to time we could fill with police and soldiers and doctors as a gift to Central Australian communities.
Just a couple of ideas.

Prime development with the lot – except for water. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

It’s a mystery.
On the Willowra Road, about 45 kms from TiTree, is an outstation called Yanginj.
It has five brick homes and two large metal clad ones.
They’re all empty and apparently have been for years.
Given that there is a dramatic shortage of housing, especially for Aborigines, that makes it a very irritating mystery.
It’s around $3m worth of real estate doing nothing.
Alice Springs retiree John Hagan, a former pastoral inspector and the manager of Brunchilly Station for 26 years, provided the Alice News with the photos on this page.
He visited Yanginj a couple of weeks ago.
Mr Hagan says the buildings are still in good repair.
Most had a solar hot water system.
Some of these have gone now.
And so have the residents, all of them.
The best guess is they left because they had no water. Locals say the Power and Water Corporation, which won’t comment on the matter, apparently got it wrong: there is no adequate bore and the community relied on a soak which has dried up.
So who’s to blame? Who spent taxpayers’ money on this folly?
“Just confirming we don’t manage this outstation,” says the Department of Local Government, Housing and Sport.
“So sorry can’t help you out with your questions this time.”
The TiTree based Anmatjerre Council isn’t in charge either, says its project officer, John Major.
He says Yanginj is still one of the council’s wards, but is currently unrepresented – because it’s empty.
“I recommend that you speak to the Central Land Council in Alice Springs if you want more information on this,” says Mr Major.
“There would be people at the CLC who would be able to answer most of your questions.”
The CLC is usually tirelessly castigating governments for failing to provide adequate housing for Aboriginal people.
But, alas, it too didn’t bother to reply to our request for comment.

Freedom just another word ...

Artist Tony Wade, showing his second solo exhibition, this time at Watch This Space, spoke movingly about his work at the opening last Friday.
A prisoner at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre, Wade has discovered a way to escape a life of boundaries:–
“Out at the prison we have the boundary fence, the interior walls and fences, gates and doors and the padlocks and keys. We even have little yellow lines on the floor that cannot be crossed.
“In a world full of boundaries I was lucky enough to find the one thing that had no boundaries. And that was art.
“Art has been my saviour. When I paint, I feel boundless and free and this is a marvellous thing for me to have in my life.
“You won’t find anything depressing in my art, it’s a celebration of freedom.
“Painting has stopped me from becoming institutionalised and it has added some balance to my life.
“My art is a little different from what you may be used to but it is an expression of my life.
“It is a reflection of my First Fleet convict heritage and the culture that comes from that. It is the land around me as I see it and it is about what I remember from the outside world.”
The exhibition is on until November 11.

Have tent, will travel: Bush by bus. By veteran bush walker GWEN HEWETT.

Veteran bush walker Gwen Hewett continues her adventure series from Marble Bar ... where a surprise is in store. The first sequel appeared on our October 11 edition.

There is no marble here.
The extraordinary rock is actually jasper and it is the mottled effect that misleads.
The magnificently restored courthouse here is a reminder of the glory days of gold mining in the late 19th century.
The Old Tin Shed Hotel has not been altered - a refreshing “blast from the past”.
Of particular interest is a wall of memory, recording early residents’ names, ages, occupations and sometimes the cause of their deaths.
A museum at the nearby Comet gold mine, now idle, displayed the beauty and variety of mining endeavors.
This locality was the home of mining magnate, the late Lang Hancock.
Bumping and bouncing on the dirt tracks again, we headed for the Karajini National Park in the Pilbara region.
The grandeur of these gorges with their sheer, vertical chasms gouged out of the land over millions of years with colours of iron red, dazzling in the sunlight, is amazing.
At one point four gorges meet, a truly unforgettable sight of immense beauty. 
Camping in the Pilbara amid the spinifex without a camp fire was a bit daunting, and next to us a group of not so hardy campers packed up and left because of the cold.
Not us though - “THE RECYCLED TEENAGERS’’, as we were named by the tour leader.
Pan-fried steak went down very well, as did an early night, especially since (little did we know) that the following day’s travel was to be very long.
Although all on board are members of an Adelaide bushwalking club, the trip was not a walking tour.
However, every opportunity to walk was taken, and the gorge walks were especially welcomed by the more hardy walkers.
Nixon the guide dog was a strong performer, but not in the gorges. He endeared himself to everyone and, though no one approached him when he was in the harness, he proved to be a good traveller and companion.
A slight detour into the mining town of Tom Price had us on the look out for the highest mountain in Western Australia. At 1004 metres, it was well worth the scramble up the track to see the vast open cuts in the range.
A slight glitch occurred when something broke on the trailer as it was being attached to the bus and this delayed us for several hours in the town.
As Rabbit Flat could be called an oasis in the desert, so could the town of Tom Price, but what a difference. No shortage of water here, leafy and green, very welcoming to the miners and their families.
As our Happy Hour supplies needed replenishing, this was the place to do it. No restrictions or limit per person here as in Alice Springs and Broome. Imagine the response when it was learnt that cask wine was available at half price. Several shopping trolleys transported the life saving, medicinal elixir to the cargo hold of the bus.
It now eventuated that the long day’s travel was followed by a very short night’s sleep.
Leaving the Pilbara, the land became flatter again and we were back in cattle country, not unlike the Tanami region.
As we neared the coast on our way to Exmouth, red sand dunes appeared again and, as darkness fell, our driver - every so often - had to slow down for wandering stock (surprisingly sheep, not cattle). Although no campfire at Exmouth, there were some home comforts at the caravan park, and the nights were a little warmer on the coast.
The first impression was the flatness of this region. Yet a few kilometres down the coast where we took a cruise up the Yardie Creek through a high gorge, we learnt that the Cape Range National Park is not far from the coast.
The famed Ningaloo Reef is the main attraction here. It is said to be equal to or better than the Great Barrier Reef. 
The ocean was crystal clear, a stunning shade of aquamarine; and the reef is a magnet for scuba divers, but it is such a long way to come by road. A joint Australian and American naval base is here as well as an Airforce base.
NEXT: Heading inland.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.