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

Save Pitchi Ritchi. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The way may yet be open for the Heritage Advisory Council to recommend the nomination of Pitchi Richi Sanctuary for heritage listing.
To date the council has declined to accept the nomination of the town’s first man-made tourist attraction and has refused to specify its reasons, despite what would appear to be strong claims for listing (see last week’s report). 
Chair of the council, Brian Reid, made this statement to the Alice Springs News:
“Should the [council] feel it has underestimated community value/support for Pitchi Richi or new information come to hand then of course it would be grounds for it, or it being asked, to reconsider.
“The [council] next formally meets in December and it is very likely Pitchi Richi will be discussed.”
Hundreds of visitors took advantage of the sanctuary’s open day on the weekend, organised by the lobby group Heritage Alice Springs and owner Elsa Corbet.
Heritage Alice Springs had letter-writing materials available and a number of visitors sat down then and there to fire off letters to Minister Delia Lawrie, urging listing for the sanctuary.
Listing would add another layer of complexity to the fate of the magnificent 12 acre site, home to early environmentalist Leo Corbet’s collection of geological specimens and pioneer artifacts, and to a treasure trove of work by the Victorian sculptor William Ricketts.
The land is owned by the Territory Government and is covered by five special purpose leases due to expire in 2027.
When Leo Corbet died in 1971 he left a will giving wife Elsa Corbet a life interest in the property, after which it would be gifted to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (Missionarii  Sacratissimi Cordis, MSC) for the general purposes of their mission at Santa Teresa.
Mrs Corbet is now 81 and is planning to leave the property.
Mrs Corbet’s solictor, Peer Schroter of Povey Stirk, says there are a number of questions about the will, including whether the gift is still valid, given historical changes regarding the order, the mission and their work at Santa Teresa.
“My view is that it is still valid,” says Mr Schroter, “and that it could be applied to another of the order’s purposes.”
However, the terms of the leases require the sanctuary to be operated as a tourist venture; any changes regarding the leases require government consent; and further, the will stipulates that if Mrs Corbet surrenders her life interest in the land, she be paid a small annuity by the beneficiary of the gift.
Will the missionaries want to take up their gift?
Mr Schroter has written to them on behalf of Mrs Corbet and they are considering the issues.
The Alice News spoke to Andrew Ballesty, MSC’s Provincial Bursar. He says the order has previously considered the legal issues surrounding the gift and a proposal by the order for their resolution has remained unresolved.
He says the renewed communication on behalf of Mrs Corbet is still under consideration.
If the MSC do not take up the gift, the will specifies that the lease be sold and the proceeds distributed to a number of beneficiaries.
This too would require government consent.

Story Wall is political: aldermen. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The StoryWall in Todd Mall came under attack in Monday’s Town Council meeting for taking a “political bent” which is “dividing the community”.
Alderman Murray Stewart raised the issue, saying that this was not “the vision” he had of the StoryWall when he voted for council to support the venture.
He asked for clarification about the future direction of StoryWall.
He said he supports the right of people to express their views but there is a “time and place for grandiose statements about politics”.
This is not what Ald Stewart wants to see “in a major tourist zone”.
The focus should be on “entertainment” and “positive displays of good news”.
Ald Meredith Campbell asked for examples of events at StoryWall that have concerned him.
Ald Stewart gave two examples: one, last Thursday’s “open mic” reading of creative responses to the Federal Government’s intervention in Aboriginal communities, organised by the small local publishing group, Ptilotus Press, with support from the NT Writers Centre; the second, an event on an unspecified date about the “stolen generations”.
Ald Robyn Lambley said she had “similar concerns” to Ald Stewart’s. She initially thought StoryWall a “brilliant idea” but her “attitude has changed over the last few months”.
She said the change was prompted by a letter to the editor in the Alice Springs News by one of the drivers of StoryWall, Rev Tracy Spencer, a Minister with the Uniting Church.
The letter, concerning the Federal intervention, showed the Rev Spencer to have “clearly very left wing” views, said Ald Lambley and the StoryWall “promotes her views”.
Ald Lambley urged council to be “very cautious” about being seen to support StoryWall.
Ald Lambley said she would be surprised if “pro-intervention” people were present at last Thursday’s event.
“I should have checked,” she said.
Neither she nor Ald Stewart were present at the event.
Ald Melanie van Haaren, who has never been to a StoryWall event, also expressed concern about StoryWall’s potential for polarisation of the community.
She recognised the freedom of speech and use of public space issues but felt that the “original intent” of Storywall should be revisited, given its location in a “high profile area with tourist traffic”.
Ald Samih Habib thought council should not be “subsidising promotion of political views”. 
Ald Campbell, seeking to cool the debate, pointed out that last Thursday’s event was not organised by StoryWall, although she also suggested that it “had nothing to do with StoryWall”.
In fact, StoryWall organisers gave consent to and supported the event.
Ald Campbell said the screenings of locally produced films on a Friday night, some of which she has attended, are “not all that [politically] challenging”.
Ald Koch said he had attended two StoryWall events and “neither offended me”.
But he said he would  be concerned if last Thursday’s event “was under the auspices of StoryWall”.
CEO Rex Mooney said council’s financial contribution to StoryWall was a one-off grant for equipment.
Ald Koch: “That doesn’t give us the right to determine what it is used for.”
Mr Mooney said the money had to be used for the purpose for which it was granted. 
Ald Koch was concerned that aldermen may be “jumping the gun” in suggesting that StoryWall had become “a political forum”.
He suggested that some issues are inevitably “controversial”.
Ald Lambley urged that council should “protect” itself with a disclaimer.
Discussion  concluded with Craig Catchlove, council’s director of corporate and community services, undertaking to find out whether last Thursday’s event had been conducted under a separate permit or under the auspices of StoryWall.

Their next trick: witch burning? COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

So Aldermen Murray Stewart, Robyn Lambley, Melanie van Haaren and Samih Habib want to shut down free speech in Todd Mall.
They indicated that during the town council meeting on Monday, following an artists’ public discourse at the Story Wall about the Federal intervention.
They four say they believe in free speech, but ...
With freedom of speech there are no buts, you either have it, within the confines of the law, or you don’t.
What some of the artists put forward may have contained factual errors and expressed sentiments reasonable people would not agree with, given the facts of the intervention.
As one of the few newspapers around the nation providing comprehensive first-hand research about the actions following the Little Children are Sacred report, the Alice Springs News would possibly disagree with some of what the forum participants said.
But we will defend to our last breath their right to say it.
Ald Lambley noted in council that she had heard Kieran Finnane being interviewed about the reading.
Kieran, the chief reporter of the Alice Springs News, is a member of a group of writers who, largely with their own resources and perseverance, formed a small publishing house in Alice Springs, called Ptilotus Press.
It has published three books of poetry and fiction by local writers, enhancing the understanding and enjoyment of this marvelous region.
Ptilotus Press was the sponsor of the event at the Story Wall, and Kieran’s role was to promote it in an interview with the ABC last Thursday morning.
As the managing editor of the Alice Springs News, I am making this declaration of her interest, and of her every right to take part in a function of that kind.
The main feature of the event was that it had an “open microphone” – anyone, including Aldermen Lambley, Stewart, van Haaren and Habib, could have contributed, providing it was in a creative form.
Significantly, none of them did. Nor do they appear to have made it their business to gain first-hand information about the event.
No-one was excluded from participation, no matter how how left or right their political stance may be, how right or wrong their views may have been, as it is proper in a democratic country, and especially in Alice Springs which is blessed with an outstanding variety of views. 
This notion was supported by Aldermen David Koch and Meredith Campbell. We applaud them.
If the four Aldermen are worried about free speech being bad for tourism, maybe they they should have a look at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London.
Or go to any of the thousands of places around the free world where people speak their minds, in a civilized manner, and unhassled by officialdom.       

New house an expensive dream. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Slow land releases are adding to the housing affordability issue in Alice, says southern delegate of the Real Estate Institute of the NT, David Forrest.
He says the Territory Government’s opinion seems to be that the release of too much land would affect property values.
Territory Housing Minister Elliot McAdam says his government’s land release strategy “strikes the right balance”:
“It meets housing demand and doesn’t undermine the investment many people have already made by purchasing their own home.
“Wholesale land release is not economically responsible.”
Says Mr Forrest: “I don’t know where they are getting their information from but it is not from the industry.
“I can’t recall being asked by government for opinions on land releases. We get told, we don’t get asked.”
There is room to move on property values, he argues, because the value of a new home built on newly released land is well in excess of the median house price of $307,000.
The median price for a block smaller than 800 sqm in the September quarter was $94,000. The cost of a new 200sqm house on such a block, with building costs currently ranging from $1650 to $1800 per sqm, would be between $424,000 and $454,000.
The median price for blocks greater than 800sqm was $150,000. After prolonged inactivity seven of these blocks and three smaller blocks sold in the September quarter.
“There needs to be competition between subdivisions,” argues Mr Forrest, “the consumer does not benefit through lack of competition.
“The Real Estate Institute of the NT and the industry are arguing for more land releases.
“The last release from the government was 40 blocks in Larapinta and they say that covers the need in Alice but not everybody wants to buy in that subdivision.
“People want a choice.
“The infrastructure is only being put in at Mt John’s Valley now – that could have been done years ago.”
In fact the headworks tender has just been called, with construction expected to begin early next year. The release of the land is pending conclusion of negotiations between the government and native title holders. It is expected to deliver 70 more blocks.
Mr Forrest says housing affordability is not as big an issue in Alice Springs as it is in Darwin or in Sydney, for example.
“Alice Springs and the NT are at the most affordable end of the national situation.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics latest figures on housing costs show the NT as dearer than Tasmania and SA but cheaper than the other states as well as the ACT and cheaper than the Australian average in terms of the mean (average) housing costs to home owners with a mortgage.
In the NT this mean cost for 2005-06 was $276 per week (median cost, in the middle of the range, was $257); the Australian average was $338 (median $296).
(The ABS figures for the NT exclude households in the “very remote” collection areas, making up 24% of the NT population).
The mean value of dwellings in the NT was the third lowest in the country at $338,000 (median $320,000), compared to the national average of $461,000 (median $380,000). Tasmania’s mean was the lowest at $318,000, while NSW’s was the highest at $599,000.
However, NT rents are more than the Australian average and are the third highest in the country. 
For renters from a private landlord the mean cost was $248 (median $242), higher than the Australian average of $223 (median $200), and the third highest in the country, behind only NSW ($258, median $230) and the ACT ($280, median $293).
REINT September quarter figures showed rents in Alice Springs to have increased considerably over the preceding 12 months.
A three bedroom house rental had climbed by 20.3% (but in the Northern Suburbs of Darwin they’d climbed by 41%).  
Rent for a three bedroom unit in Alice was up by 23.6%; a two bedroom unit, by 20%.
According to ABS figures, mean rents in Territory public housing were the third cheapest in the country at $86 (median $79), with the Australian average at $100 (median $82).
Territory house owners with a mortgage were spending 14% of their income on housing in 2005-06, the lowest figure in the country by three percentage points. The Australian average was 20%.
Renters from a private landlord were spending 17%, on par with WA, Tasmania and the ACT, and below the national average of 19%.
Public housing renters were spending 13% of their income on housing, the lowest proportion in the country by two percentage points and below the national average by four.
The Territory has the highest proportion of renters in the country, 38.6% of households, compared to a national average of 29.5%. NSW was the second highest with 31.9%, while Tasmania had the lowest with 26.1%.
The Territory’s figure is influenced by a high proportion of public housing renters, estimated (with a relative error of 25-50%) at 10.7% of households, the highest in the country by 2.7 percentage points (ACT), and much greater than the Australian average of 4.9%.
In the private rental market September quarter figures showed vacancy rates to be at crisis levels: 1.8% in Alice Springs, below the benchmark figure of 2% considered to reflect a crisis in availability, according to the Real Estate Institute of Australia.
But Alice is better off than the other Territory urban centres which have vacancy rates below 1%.
According to REINT, “Many agents are reporting vacancy rates as low as 0% or 0.2%.
With the NT continuing to grow the availability of housing and units in the NT is only going to become a much larger problem.”  
Mr McAdam says the Territory Government has “a robust plan to secure housing affordability that takes in strategic land release, home purchase assistance through HomeNorth, generous stamp duty concessions and a targeted social housing safety net”.
Of the 39 blocks in stage two Larapinta, sold by the government last week, six will be reserved for first home owners, and one multiple dwelling block will be set aside for seniors public housing. 
The Alice News asked Mr Forrest what the industry can do?
“There’s not too much REINT can do to address the issue of housing affordability, other than to call for more land for the development of houses, units and flats.
“That’s the best we can do.”

Looking back on the footy brawl. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

When Bev Ellis and her husband Brooke drove through the gates of Traeger Park in 1992 they were confronted with racism and football.
It was the Victorian couple’s first day in town, and it was grand final day.
They asked the man on the gate for a good place to park their car and watch the game.
He said whites go that way and blacks the other.
They parked their car with the blacks, under a gumtree, where the “hill” now is, and “we were smitten with the speed and fantastic standard of play”, recollects Ms Ellis.
Today she is embroiled in the town’s most vehement controversy involving football and racism, the 2007 grand final brawl.
The owner of Dymock’s bookshop, who became known, after Brooke’s death, as “that strange lady doing the knitting on the grandstand”, as she describes herself, 18 months ago became the president of the AFL – Central Australia (AFLCA).
The vicious aftermath of the brawl is calling on every ounce of her resoluteness and diplomacy.
• Six people are before a court of law.
• 15 people have been charged before a football tribunal, all except one from Pioneers.
• 14 were found guilty.
• Three people copped life bans from the league.
• Sentences can be appealed.
• The league received a letter from Pioneers on Monday and the board is due to discuss it today. No details are available.
Asked whether she had received any acknowledgment of guilt, from either side, Ms Ellis makes it clear she won’t give any but the most general of comments.
“I don’t want to inflame the situation,” she says.
“The board as a whole thought the actions were particularly serious.
“We have a duty and a responsibility to players from all clubs.”
The world saw the brawl on YouTube, with a sensational 76,285 viewings.
The footage had been obtained and uploaded onto its web site by the Alice Springs News, and later was also used, without permission or acknowledgement, by the Murdoch press.
About half of the 439 YouTube comments posted by people concealing their real names contained virulent racist slurs, from both sides of the racial divide, which laid bare intolerable attitudes beneath the benign surface of Alice Springs.
Ms Ellis says the enquiry into the brawl was set in motion, virtually, while the punch-up was still in progress.
She was with Tony Frawley, general manager of the AFLNT, at the end of the game, and both saw the fight.
While fists were still flying Mr Frawley agreed to help sort out the mess and later helped negotiate the involvement of “one of their most senior investigators” from the national league, Alan Roberts.
For many, including the public, the process seems to be too slow but, says Ms Ellis, “thoroughness is probably more important than speed”.
The issue isn’t over yet: no decision has been made on whether or not to punish either club involved in the brawl.
There has not been any public expression of apology by the people who dragged their town and their sport through the mud.
Pioneers, in a media statement, alleged the AFLCA process was “biased and fundamentally flawed.
“AFLCA breached their own by-laws” – no details are given – “and chose to ignore our concerns, forcing us to withdraw from the process that had all the hallmarks of a kangaroo court.”
In defiance of logic the club says it will lay a “racial vilification complaint” against Alice News managing editor Erwin Chlanda (whose name is misspelt in the media release) “who originally put the footage on YouTube”.
These harsh words make little sense in the context of what unfolded.
Pioneers asked for an independent investigator. They got one.
Why did Pioneers ask for the hearing to be conducted under the exclusion of the media?
Would scrutiny by the media not have helped in preventing irregularities, which Pioneers are alleging?
Why did the league grant the request to keep the media out?
Surely, the town had every right to information about the cases put forward by the prosecution, and the defence, about a matter that has sparked a great deal of disgust.
This is one of the questions about which Ms Ellis isn’t giving an answer in an interview with the Alice News, except: “I understood Pioneer representatives had asked the general manager” to exclude the media.
According to Scott Taylor, of the AFL headquarters in Melbourne, the national league holds some 30 tribunals a year.
All of them are open to accredited media.
Ms Ellis says it’s a delicate question whether one or both clubs should be penalized for the conduct of spectators.
But she says clubs need to bear “full responsibility” for players and officials.
Nine of those convicted by the tribunal were players or officials – all from Pioneers.
It seems clear that the open contempt Pioneers are showing for the league, and the tribunal process, are matters which the league will take into account when deciding whether or not to fine the club.
Suspensions of whole clubs are not unusual: Souths copped one, lifted after one year, as penalty for a minor brawl and administrative shortcomings – nothing remotely as serious as the 2007 grand final melee.
Souths had not paid their fees, not attended sufficient meetings to show they had a working committee, and spectators were unruly and abusive.
After one year the ban was lifted when they “were able to show us that during that 12 months they formed a very strong committee, and were working closely with AFLCA.
“We gave them every assistance,” says Ms Ellis.
She says all connected with the 2007 brawl, including onlookers, and all of those charged, had been invited “to come forward to put their point of view.
“The investigator asked for it.
“Not many came forward.”
As a result the core evidence came from four lots of video footage, from the ABC, a private recording (put on YouTube by the Alice News), Channel 7 and some footage – not of the fight – from CAAMA, which is headed up by one of the three men getting a life ban, Mr Cole.
CAAMA’s CEO Jenniffer Howard says the match had been filmed by a young cameraman.
He stopped shooting when the match had ended and “thought it was not appropriate to film” the brawl.
Ms Howard says the cameraman had said to her: “Maybe I should have filmed it.”
He resumed shooting when the brawl was over, but got only people on the oval, dispersing.
Ms Howard says she had the tape and camera checked by technicians and no fault was found.
Says Ms Ellis: “The tribunal took statements from people who came forward, but the prime source of evidence came from viewed footage.
“The three videos were shot from three different angles,” providing clear pictures of the alleged offenses.
The tribunal consisted of solicitors Charles Martel and David Avery, and YMCA director Reg Hatch.
Mr Avery’s presence begged some questions: He is the senior lawyer of the Central Land Council (CLC), which is the three-fifths shareholder of Centrecorp which has Mr Cole as a director.
Pioneers president Harold Howard works for the CLC, and other Pioneer members quite likely have connections with it.
But Ms Ellis defended the appointment of Mr Avery.
She says: “Mr Avery has nothing to do with AFLCA nor the Pioneer Football club.
“He is one of our most exerienced tribunal members.”
The three tribunal members made all judgments unanimously, says Ms Ellis.
About a dozen people are on a panel from which the league can select tribunal members.
Charges were laid under the Laws of Football, which is a national jurisdiction, and under the Code of Conduct, set down by the AFLCA.
The tribunal decides whether people are guilty or not, and if so, sets a penalty under the Laws of Football.
The league fixes the penalties under the code.
There are minimum penalties but the league can increase them, as it did with the three life bans.
“Somebody could have died,” says Ms Ellis.
For the purpose of penalties under the Law of Football, prior convictions were not taken into account.   
Under the code they were.
The disastrous events could not have come at a worse time for Aussie Rules, not in the least because of the burgeoning football (soccer) competition .
The AFLCA is expanding the competition, taking in country sides next year, being progressively licensed to join the main game.
To obtain licenses (none have been issued so far), applicants must convince the league that they can field an A-grade and an under-17 (not necessarily a B-grade) side every week, that coaches are fully trained, and that they have a working committee.
Ms Ellis expects that up to 10 licenses will be issued, including for current town sides.
Many peripheral issues need to be dealt with, not in the least where players will stay when in town, or whether same-day transport home is made available for them.
Ms Ellis sees an expanded league, embracing bush and town sides, as having – potentially – extraordinary benefits not only for the sport, but also the town and racial harmony within it.
It’s a dream, now more remote, of bringing back the time when footy was a family day out, as it was 15 years ago when she and Brooke saw the grand final on their first day in town.

Democracy decays. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Territory government’s complete disregard for democratic principles reached new heights recently.
MacDonnell MLA Alison Anderson asked fellow Labor member and Essential Services Minister Kon Vatskalis a question.
He didn’t give her an answer.
Ms Anderson got a taste of what most journalists in The Centre are putting up with, except those who think their job is running government handouts, obediently being kept “on message”.
The denial of information is now cynical, systemic, deliberate and pathological. Nothing is gained from it in the long run, least of all by the Chief Minister, whose golden girl image has turned into one of a petulant loser.
Her incompetence and inaction has now lost Ms Martin control over half the Territory to the Federal intervention, and may cost her more than that, with Paul Henderson and Syd Stirling reportedly panting for her job.
It’s not a pretty sight.
The government just doesn’t give answers to questions it doesn’t like, and hang its early promises of being transparent and accountable: it’s government by hired minder, not elected minister.
This is how it works – or rather, functions, because working, sure as hell, it isn’t.
All Ms Anderson wanted to know was how often and under what circumstances the Power and Water Corporation (PWC), owned by the government, will be discharging into public places sewage that is only partly treated. It’s the kind of thing for which you or I, if we did it deliberately, repeatedly and unrepentantly, would surely be sent to jail.
The question had been put by this newspaper to Ms Anderson because we couldn’t get an answer from PWC nor Mr Vatskalis, and the location of the poo discharge is in Ms Anderson’s electorate.
We don’t lie awake at night to come up with a question of this kind.
The examples in this comment piece are from the last four weeks. We could give hundreds of similar examples for the Martin Government, from about a year after it came to power, when you could no longer, as a matter of course, talk to the ministers, and the minders moved in.
This story arose from ongoing reporting about a long-delayed scheme whose cost blew out from $6m to $10m, known as the Water Reuse Scheme.
Note the euphemism? It’s actually an Effluent Reuse Scheme.
Names are an important thing for the Martin Government – when something goes wrong it gets a new name.
The Mereenie Loop Road, notorious for its delays caused by the government’s inability to extract rights for gravel and water from the Central Land Council (remember the empathy with Aboriginal people that would make for better working relationships the ALP claimed to have before the 2001 elections?) is now called the Red Centre Way.
We’re still not getting gravel and water but the name sounds so much better. Doesn’t it?
I digress.
The PWC poo scandal is not a figment of our imagination.
The “wet weather discharges” (see, no mention of faeces) will be permitted under a special permit by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) which is dealing with the issues “in consultation with the Department of Health”.
Both, of course, are instrumentalities of the NT Government.
As Mr Vatskalis and PWC heavies remain safely behind the door as the discharges hit the fan, we’re asking minders for a copy of the “wet weather discharge plan” from the PWC to the EPA, showing “modeling [of a] wet weather discharge regime”.
The minders’ answer: “Public access to this document will need support from the licensee PWC.”
And the PWC, surprise, surprise, doesn’t support being open with the public.
End of story.
It’s not that the regime isn’t prepared to make statements.
They just don’t answer questions unless they are designed to make them appear in a rosy light.
“Email me the questions and I’ll give you some lines,” is a standard reply, from the minders, not the ministers.
We had the following exchange with Gabrielle Parker, Senior Advisor, Corporate Communications, Marketing Communications, Tourism NT, last week.
Tourism NT is another new name. It used to be the Tourist Commission.
Question: What was the respective annual revenue for the past five years from tourism in Alice Springs, Ayers Rock Resort and Central Australia, respectively?
The non answer: “Information on the annual revenue of tourism operators is commercial in confidence information, however you can gain information regarding Central Australian tourism in our regional tourism snapshot available online.” That snapshot gives only a three year average, which is as perfectly useless for news reporting as it would be for commercial planning.
Q: What were the budgets for Tourism NT in the past five years? 
The non answer (in summary): “Look it up on the net.” Last year it was a whopping $40m; only half was spent on marketing. That’s $200 per head of population. Tourism Queensland, population 4.2m, gets $50m a year (made up of $41.6m budget and $8.1m special purpose funding). That’s $11.90 per head of population. In other words, Tourism NT gets 17 times as much, per head of population.
Queensland annually makes $8.4b from tourism, the Northern Territory, $1.5b.
Measured as bang for buck, Queensland gets $168 for every dollar it spends on its government tourism promoter. The Territory gets $37.50 – less than a quarter of Queensland’s figure.
Q: What is the cost of the Brolgas generally and the dinner in particular to Tourism NT?
The non-answer, as the question was specifically [a] the Brolgas in total, [b] the dinner in particular: “The Tourism NT budget for the 2007 Brolga Northern Territory Tourism Awards is $100,000. Sponsorship and tickets sales to the awards ceremony also contribute to the cost of the industry awards.”
Q: What services does the Centralian Advocate provide as a “major sponsor” of the Brolgas? Given our superior circulation (50% better), vastly better production values, local (not overseas) ownership and sustained informed coverage of the tourism industry for 14 years, why have we not been offered a sponsorship opportunity?
The non-answer: “All sponsorship agreements relating to the Brolga Northern Territory Tourism Awards are commercial in confidence.”
End of story. 
Here’s another one: Former Alice town council CEO Nick Scarvelis and his master, Local Government Minister Elliot McAdam are clearly making the most ghastly hash of the proposed nine shires (Alice News, Nov 8).
We’ve been chasing either men for a fortnight.
First Mr Scarvelis was interstate but would contact us upon his return.
Then Mr Scarvelis became unavailable.
Could we speak with Mr McAdam?
No, he was traveling the region, campaigning for Federal Labor candidate Warren Snowdon, we were told.
That’s not what Mr McAdam is getting paid for.
Maybe we could speak to him this week?
On Monday we got – you guessed it – an offer of lines from a minder.
“Unfortunately I’ve been unable to get time in the Minister’s diary today due to his cabinet commitments.
“However, I am able to contact the Minister throughout the day by email so if you would like any further questions answered in addition to the information Nichole Taylor gave you please feel free to email me and I will forward it on to the Minister and provide you with his response.”
No, thanks.

Night curfew and community service keep six young vandals out of courts. By KIERAN FINNANE.


Children aged 12 to 14 who went on a rampage of break-ins, theft and damage to six CBD businesses in early May are now undertaking community service, with most of them required to do 100 hours’ worth.
All of the youths are on curfew from 7pm to 7am, meaning that they can only be on the streets in the company of a responsible adult.
In previous articles the Alice News has reported on three and four young people being involved in the rampage, but there were in fact six, according to Seargent Mal Guerin of the local Juvenile Diversion Unit.
“Juvenile diversion” attempts to keep young people out of the courts while involving them in “restorative justice” – making amends for their offence – and seeking to head off future offending.
To date the youths have done some hours of service helping with track maintenance at the motocross complex at Ilparpa, and some with Incite Youth Arts, helping with activities during the recent Alice Desert Festival.
This involved setting up and packing down equipment, distributing programs at other festival events and keeping the Incite performance area in the mall free of rubbish.
All six youths are attending school, required as part of their diversion until the end of the year.
There are discussions about further hours of community service which could assist a school.
The diversion of the youths began with their attendance at a Youth Justice Conference on September 5, where victims of the offences and parents and guardians were also present.
In this case, the conference involved 27 participants.
During the conference both victims and parents were given the opportunity to tell the youths how their “offending behaviour” had affected them.
The offenders had the opportunity to reply.
According to Sgt Guerin, three of four victims attended the conference. Two accepted the process, urging the youth to understand how they had hurt the community and how they must make restitution to the community. The third was less supportive of the process and was of the view that the offenders should be sent to Don Dale, the juvenile detention centre in Berrimah.
One of the youths was very withdrawn during the conference, only speaking when prompted, says Sgt Guerin. The others gave a clear account of events on the night and apologised.
One in particular spoke very well and the sincerity of his apology was noted. This youth is responding excellently to the diversion program.
Two of the youths are struggling with fulfilling the requirements of the program: “We are revising what we’ll do with them,” says Sgt Guerin.
One is consistently breaking curfew and he may be placed before the courts. Other have occasionally breached their curfew.
“We do regular checks,” says Sgt Guerin.
If the youths reoffend while on diversion or if they fail to fulfill their obligations they will have to go before the courts for the original offence.
If they reoffend after diversion is completed, depending on the seriousness of the offence, they would be reassessed for further diversion.
“But we would have to escalate the program because what we did didn’t work the first time,” says Sgt Guerin.
Successful diversion has a lot to do with parental help, he says, and many offending youths don’t have that.
When they haven’t got parents behind them, the unit tries to enlist support for the youths through other agencies.
The Alice News has been regularly reporting on the fate of these young offenders since they were first apprehended.
See our earlier reports and letters to the editor, May 10, June 7, August 9.
Meanwhile, a public meeting was held on Tuesday night to look at establishing community patrols in Alice. The initiative has come this time from Neighbourhood Watch with Advance Alice involved in the discussions.
A media release describes the the program as based on a “highly successful” New Zealand model, with volunteers acting as  the “eyes and ears” of the community and “prepared to act responsibly by documenting and reporting any/all suspicious activities”.
“All community patrollers are subject to police background checks prior to being accepted as patrollers.”
The Alice Springs Town Council too is concerned about juvenile crime and have asked Superintendent Sean Parnell of the Alice Springs police to speak to the council’s next meeting on November 26.
Council have also pressed the Territory Government for a review of their youth strategy. CEO Rex Mooney said at Monday’s committee meeting  that council had sought a meeting with Minister Marion Scrymgour during the last Community Cabinet in Alice.
She was unavailable but will meet with council next time she is in town, said Mr Mooney.

Alice’s Gen Y hard at work. By DARCY DAVIS.

In a teen’s life, with money comes independence, and with independence comes freedom, so jobs are crucial.
I talked to some local kids about their jobs and the importance of having a job when you’re a teenager in Alice Springs.
Do you have a job?
“Yes, I work at Afghan Traders,” said Toddy Shilton, 17.
“It’s a great job, they’re a great bunch of people – I’ve never had any problems.”
“I’m a professional legend,” said Al Coleman, 15.
Full time or part time?
“Medium time,” he replied.
Cool job, I thought. What are you the rest of the time?
“Nah, nothing,” said Rett Haynes, 16 “I had a job, but I quit ‘cos of family reasons, it’s quite a heart-breaking story – I won’t tell you about it though.”
“I work at the cinemas,” said Anna Brooke, 17.
“The pay’s not that good, but if you’re 17 you get extra.”
“I answer phones at Alice Springs Taxis,” said Miriam Maceba (not her real name but one from her country of birth), 17.
“It’s pretty fun, except for when the phones are down and you have to use the radio system – that’s mission impossible.”
“I actually have two jobs” said Thabu Mbeki (not his real name, and taking his cue from Miriam), 16.
“I stack shelves and I just started work at Lasseters [casino], setting and packing up tables and I like the work.”
“I’d work in reception if I worked at Lasseters,” interrupted Miriam.
I was surprised at the level of diversity in the jobs of these kids – I was expecting more low-payed franchise work, but most of these jobs seemed a few steps up from your average teenage employment.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that there is a high demand for workers in Alice and the younger people reap the benefits of choice.
So how do these kids land jobs?
“I got the Lasseters job through the cuisine course I do at school,” said Thabu. “Our teacher recommended me and a few other students in our class.”
“I got the Alice Taxis job through a friend of my dad,” said Miriam. “Family connections are handy.”
“There’s certainly no shortage of work for kids in Alice,” said Rett, “if you’ve got the time, businesses will snap you up to do as many hours as you can.” 
Will their current work lead to further opportunities in the same field?
“Afghans will be good retail experience for jobs in the future,” said Toddy, “but the general communication and people skills that I’ve picked up on the job will be valuable life assets.”
“I would consider being a receptionist in the future so I guess this phone answering job would be good experience,” said Miriam.
Are you good at answering phones? I asked.
“Not good at it,” she replies, laughing, “but I do it.”
On the surface of it, a philosophical outlook, these contemporaries of mine can see the benefits of getting a job and sticking to it. It might not be perfect, but they’ve got money in their pocket, they’re running their own vehicles and paying for those items of “need”.
The abundance of employment opportunities in the Centre makes us, Generation Y, a prosperous and fortunate lot. This abundance would be envied by many in other places …don’t tell anybody.

LETTERS: Town rallies to save Pitchi Richi.

Sir,- The time has come to be galvanised into action.
Pitchi Richi has been part of the history of Central Australia for several decades. During the 60’s it was a show piece of the Alice.
Now the Darwin dominated Heritage Advisory Council has declined to accept the nomination of Pitchi Richi for heritage listing.
This means the site could be sold and redeveloped.
Turner House was bulldozed during the night, Marron’s Newsagency the same. The Reiff Building was refused heritage listing - it no longer exists.
How many other buildings have gone? Beyond a handful of sites the visible history of our town has been bulldozed.
Let me jog the memories of those of you who have been away from town for a few years.
Pitchi Richi sits on a 12 acre site south through the Gap.
It was originally founded as a bird sanctuary. It is home to pioneer artifacts; there are geological specimens, not to mention a collection of William Ricket’s sculptures.
OK, we are not talking pyramid age, but just think how much culturally deprived we would be if the developers had have moved in on the pyramids when they were only 60 years old!
Apparently the Advisory Council showed so much interest in this site that only about half of them bothered to travel from Darwin to view it.
It is not too late to save this piece of Centralian history. If we sit on our hands the site will most likely become yet another tourist development.
Let the tourists see our history - not sleep where it used to be!
I urge Heritage Minister Delia Lawrie to please intervene and save Pitchi Richi.
Milton Blanch
Alice Springs
Sir,- Noting your current story on the Pitchi Richi Sanctuary recalls our visit there and to the William Ricketts Sanctuary in the Dandenong Mountains in 1966.
My family and I actually met and talked to Ricketts in the latter location. During that conversation, he disappeared for a few minutes and returned with a small sculpture which he gave to us, gratis.
When we returned home after our tour of duty, I mounted it - it still hangs today in our home in Chesapeake, Virginia, along with other mementos of our life in Australia.
In view of your interest in the general subject, I thought this tidbit may appeal to you.
You probably won’t be surprised that I recall little of our conversation with Ricketts 41 years ago, but I know he spoke almost reverently of his desire to visit America and his love for this nation and Americans.
I do remember that he especially wanted to visit Philadelphia, which he described as “the city of brotherly love”.
That is a rough translation of the name “Philadelphia” from the Greek. This seemed to fit in with his philosophy of the universality of man. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Philadelphia, like many US cities at that time, was heavily crime ridden.
I don’t know if he ever was able to fulfill his wish to visit America. Perhaps you may have information about his travels in later years.
Dave Sullivan
Chesapeake, VA

Sir,- l am so saddened to hear that Pitchi Richi has not been considered for heritage listing.
I visited this wonderful place sometime in the early 1970’s and was immediately enveloped in the most wonderful feeling of being somewhere in the “beginning of time”.
I can’t adequately express my feelings because I don’t think there are words with which to do this, I just know that my heart will break if these beautiful carvings are lost to the coming generations - they are the most beautiful that I have ever seen.
Please fight hard to keep this truly unique part of Alice Springs and her history for all Australians.
Marion Greentree
Windsor NSW

Sir,- In response to Ian Whittred (Alice News, Nov 1), he seems to have missed the point I was making in my first letter (Oct 18).
I wasn’t actually claiming there are sharks in the Todd; rather I was attempting to draw a comparison of the morality of the two situations between the Alice and “Jaws”.
In the Jaws movies the people were not told of the presence of sharks so they wouldn’t be scared off and business could keep raking in their dollars, which eventually backfired horrifically.
Yes, they’re just movies but there is, however, a comparison for our town.
If you avoid raising the existence of bashings, robberies, abuse to visitors and locals, put your head down and pretend it’s really not that bad - and it’s mostly happening to Aboriginals – then doesn’t that display the same kind of blind, greedy stupidity that was evident in the Jaws movies?
Advance Alice is not running a fear campaign; we are not bashing anybody! However, we are out there demanding that our streets be cleaned up and that our town be made safer for visitors and ourselves.
Mr Whittred, try telling the hundreds of victims who make up the crime statistics (that you seem not to want to recognize) that it didn’t really happen to them.
Aboriginal people are also part of the community of Alice Springs and are entitled to every bit as much protection as the rest of us.What happens to them happens to all of us.
As for scaring our visitors away, Advance Alice works very hard at promoting our town; however, while problems with violence and anti-social behaviour continue then we are beating our heads against a brick wall.
Word of mouth is still by far and away the most effective form of advertising. One can run a million dollar campaign advertising the wonders of Central Australia, generating a huge influx of visitors to our town but all that can be undone swiftly by word of mouth from just a few people who suffer negative experiences in our town.
Bad news travels like wildfire, and the small budget that the Alice has for advertising cannot compensate for the media coverage that one adverse event receives.
Every bashing or robbery is a “million dollars” in negative advertising and that is why it is essential that we don’t close our eyes to what is going on.
We must “out’ the problems and resolve them even if you, Mr Whittred, have no concern for the safety of individuals visiting or living here, because it makes very good economic sense to do something about cleaning up our town.
Steve Brown
Advance Alice

Sir,- I am a friend of David Underdown, whose father owned the old Alice Springs Hotel. I am trying to contact David and would like to know if anyone could help me.
David and myself were in the military in the early 70’s and shared a house in Hospital Road, Concord, in Sydney after our military service.
Nicholas Lord

Sir,- The article on the Water Plan (Alice News, Nov 8) mentions the use for a dam as flood mitigation since catastrophic flooding is “growing more likely with climate change”.
While some increase in heavy rain events is possible with climate change in Central Australia, an overall reduction in rain and increase in temperature and evaporation is far more likely.
Thus other plans mentioned in the article seem not to factor in climate change.
Use of a dam in the “portfolio of water supply options” would seem not to take the overall reduced rain and increased evaporation into account.
The “opportunity to become a producer of ‘fruit and veg’ ” also seems to be optimistic about the impacts of increased temperatures on plants.
Saving water as a core plank of the strategy recognises that this is a key factor in reducing the greenhouse emissions that come from pumping water out of the ground and into reservoirs for use in town.
The abundance of water in the aquifers is secondary.
We all need to learn to factor climate change impacts into all planning that we do from now on.
Peter Tait
Alice Springs

Sir,– Power and Water go together.  One of the greatest usage of power in this town is to pump the water from the Roe Creek borefield.
Your article on (Alice News, Nov 8) concerning the recently released Alice Springs Water Resource Strategy, indicated that this Strategy report concentrates on saving water and that this is odd (because the Centre has a great opportunity to become of producer of fruit and veg).
I don’t think it is odd to want to save water. I think the Water Resource Strategy takes a responsible view of “mining” our precious potable water, and the deeper below ground the level is, the more power it demands. 
When the Roe Creek borefield runs out and we have to use Rocky Hill, it will take even more power.
Many people are aware that our demand for energy is increasing, not decreasing. 
Given that our power source is from fossil fuels, this is not good for greenhouse gas emissions.
It is a hard balancing act for governments to reduce the demand for power and water but not stifle development. 
The question needs to be, is it sustainable development? 
Obviously in the case of mining, be it water or minerals, the answer is no, so the sooner we start to work out a sustainable way forward, the better.
Mandy Webb
Alice Springs

Sir,- Warren Snowdon’s performance on Stateline last Friday night revealed that what Kevin Rudd is saying about the NT intervention will not be the case if Labor is elected.
Mr Rudd said on the ABC’s 7:30 Report earlier this week “we don’t intend to roll it back at all” but now Mr Snowdon has said that “CDEP will be there, permits will remain, absolutely, I’ve talked about this before to various people”.
Mr Garrett was right when he confided in comments to a journalist that Labor would roll back its ‘me too policies’.
Labor will abandon the Howard Government’s anti-welfare, real jobs approach to Aboriginal communities. They will reintroduce CDEP and prevent the quarantining of welfare payments, allowing cash to go to grog, gunja and gambling.
They will reintroduce the permit system for Aboriginal townships so they will continue as closed communities without economic activity and where thuggery prospers.
How can Rudd call himself an economic conservative when all he wants to do is prohibit the development of local economies and park people in welfare?
Labor says it will review the intervention in 12 months time. This is Labor’s exit clause as clearly they have no intention of upsetting vested interests. The 12 month review is Labor’s exit plan for the intervention.
Rudd’s “Rollback” is about parking people on welfare in the pursuit of votes.
It was the Howard Government that made the tough decision to introduce the intervention. Federal Labor would never have rolled over the top of the hopeless NT Labor government.
Making the decision to intervene in the Northern Territory was tough, but it’s even tougher to implement it. That’s where you need conviction and leadership to make the changes to build economies, create jobs, improve health levels and get children educated and protected.
Implementation is going to be even tougher and only a Coalition Government will see it through.
Meanwhile, students from right across the Territory will be eligible to apply for bursaries under the Coalition’s plan to help students who have to relocate for tertiary or vocational study.
A re-elected Coalition Government will provide 1000 students from remote Australia per year with $4000 bursaries to help them participate in higher education – either university or vocational education and training.
The bursaries will be exempt from tax, and students will only be able to receive a bursary once.
Our plan recognises that students in remote areas often face an insurmountable barrier to continuing their education: the tyranny of distance.
Adam Giles
CLP candidate for Lingiari

Sir,- l like the newspaper very much and wish you a happy Christmas.
Beverly Parrett
London UK

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