December 6, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Camels: threat or opportunity? By KIERAN FINNANE.

A dry summer could again see wild camels rampaging through remote communities in the south-western corner of the Territory, and across the border in the far north-west of South Australia.
Last summer rain arriving in late January dispersed the animals onto pastoral leases south of Alice Springs where landholders dealt with the problem by culling.
Tens of thousands of camels were reported to be tearing down fences, consuming and contaminating drinking water, and stripping bare natural vegetation.
Glenn Edwards, the Territory Government’s principal scientist for biodiversity conservation in Alice Springs, is heading up a research project for the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, looking at how to manage camels at a national level.
The project will present its conclusions towards the end of 2008.
Meanwhile, this summer there could again be management issues like the ones that occurred last summer, says Dr Edwards.
“These were not unprecedented but received a lot more publicity than they have in the past.
“Years of below average rainfall since 2001 came to a head, with a lot of camels running out of water and food, and moving into Aboriginal communities in the western desert, principally looking for water.
“Our best information is that the highest density of the camel population is in that area,” says Dr Edwards.
“The situation was relieved when some pastoral leases south of Alice Springs got rain, enough to green up the pasture and partially fill dams. Camels moved in en masse.
“This triggered a demand for camel culling. A lot of pastoralists undertook culling on their own. A pet meater from Darwin got involved.
“The Central Land Council undertook serious negotiations with Aboriginal communities, to garner support for a cull.
“It’s general knowledge that Aboriginal people see feral animal issues through different eyes.
“By and large they don’t like to see animals shot and left to waste. They’d like to see the animals used for something, such as pet meat.
“Their view will have an impact on what we do nationally.
“Most of the camels in the NT are on Indigenous land.”
A spokesperson for the Central Land Council says education campaigns assist in changing the resistance to culling.
The CLC is about to engage a camel education officer, funded by the Indigenous Land Corporation.
 “Nonetheless, it still leaves the problem that no funding is available to tackle an expensive problem.
 “That problem is now exacerbated by rain which has dispersed the camels more widely and made targeted control methods even more uneconomical,” says the spokesperson.
 Dr Edwards says pastoral properties are protected to a certain extent by fencing and by human activity.
“Camels appear to be suspicious of people, and when they can they keep to the true desert country. 
“But now numbers are at such a level that they are moving onto lands where they’ve not been before. They’re having an impact on their own resource as well as that of native animals.”
There has been some reduction in numbers from culling, which continues.
Within the last fortnight there have been culls from a helicopter on the South Australian side of the border around the Simpson Desert area and on some pastoral properties.
Dr Edwards is asking for information on how many animals have been removed as well as on how long it took to do the job.
“We need to enumerate all the costs and scale them up to have a realistic figure of what we are up against when we go to a national scale.”
The last population estimate for camels in the NT was done in 2001.
The count from a plane showed a minimum of 80,000 animals, extrapolated to a national figure of 300,000.
NT surveys over two decades show that the camel population has been doubling every eight years.
“The current population would  be over one million even though the series of dry years may be slowing down their reproduction rate,” says Dr Edwards.
“But one million is enough to be a cause for concern.”
Apart from culling the DK CRC is also looking critically at:
• slaughter for pet meat;
• slaughter for human consumption;
• fencing off critical habitats to keep camels out;
• the economics of all of the above.
Dr Edwards and Stuart Kenny of the NT Cattlemen’s Association agree that continuity of supply is critical for the camel meat industry to take off.
Mr Kenny also sees supply of labour as an issue.
In 2002 the Territory Government paid for a study looking at the feasibility of building a multi-species abattoir in Alice Springs, that could handle camel carcasses. 
Completed in 2003, the study costed such an abattoir at $3m, without land.
Today more would be required to set up an abattoir to export standard, says Mr Kenny. 
“We have given the feasability study to numerous investors.
“We constantly get contacts from people in countries around the world and around Australia who are interested in looking at a multi-species abattoir in Central Australia.
“But a major concern for any investor is continuity of supply.
“The majority of animals are on Aboriginal land.
“And the meat industry is labour intensive – it’s difficult to get trained staff.
“We would support the establishment of an abattoir as a viable stand-alone operation. It must be commercially viable.
“And at present, the key thing is many commercial operators from around Australia have looked at the prospect and turned away.”
Dr Edwards says he “wouldn’t like to second guess how the CRC analysis will turn out”.
“There is currently a party interested in an abattoir but continuity of supply is a sticking point, more so than the availability of labour,” he says.
“The livestock industry ensures continuity of supply by farming animals.
“If markets were established and the industry took off, we coud see camels being farmed, perhaps with cattle, perhaps replacing cattle.
“But from my perspective the markets haven’t been developed. You hear they exist but nothing much seems to happen as a result, and at the moment live export seems to have fallen away.
“And farming would still leave the question of who would deal with the wild animals.
“The pet meat industry is looking for another source of protein – roo meat is in short supply and has also become more valuable.
“Continuity of supply could also be a problem for the pet meaters but perhaps they could work with a portable abattoir.
“There have been pet meaters operating out of Warburton in WA, taking quite a few animals out of the system.
“The margin is slim and I understand there are not a lot of returns going back to the community, but on the other hand the community is getting cost neutral management of a pest animal problem.
“From what I know it’s working reasonably well.”

Half a million wasted. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Commercial opportunities offered by feral camels, and the pressing need to control their growing numbers, make assertions that there are no employment opportunities in the bush appear absurd.
Australia has one million feral camels, doubling in numbers every eight years, potentially a resource worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
They are big, strutting beasts, a source of low cholesterol meat, entirely naturally and organically gown.
Most are on Aboriginal land, co-existing with some of the developed world’s most crushing unemployment.
Yet a “camel farm” set up with half a million dollars of public funds is failing to produce, while the pastoral industry says lack of reliable supply is hampering the growth of the industry (see main story).
The farm, near the Mereenie oil and gas region west of Alice Springs, appears to have achieved little more than national media publicity for the oil company Santos, which provided minor financial support.
What appeared to be an opportunity for tackling both Aboriginal poverty and land degradation, so far is a fiasco that has cost the taxpayer half a million dollars, with little to show for it.
The players are:-
• Santos Limited, the operating partner of the Mereenie oil and gas consortium, obliged to pay royalties to traditional owners, and dependent on their consent for exploration and production.
• The Federally funded Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC).
• The Central Land Council (CLC), a Federal Government instrumentality.
• The Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (formerly DOTARS).
• Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre at Hermannsburg, servicing some 40 outstations, and the local manager of the CDEP “work for the dole” scheme.
Together they had set off to create the Undurana Camel Farm for the Impu family in November 2005.
Two months later things were starting to go pear shaped.
Peter Byrne, Tjuwanpa’s general manager at the time, accused Santos of self promotion in the Alice Springs News in December 21, 2005.
Far from being the main instigator and support of the Camel Farm, Santos was a late partner in the project, “coming to it reluctantly and only under pressure from CLC during the renewal of the lease negotiations,” said Mr Byrnes.
“Prior to this Santos had virtually no dealings with Tjuwanpa and only a minor involvement with a small number of outstation people.
“To this date ILC / Santos has not accounted for this money to Tjuwanpa ... for the Camel Farm development with the ILC.
“Santos tactics in their negotiations with Tjuwanpa at times amounted to what I can only describe as bullying especially in relation to their ‘requests’ for continued plant and machinery support from Tjuwanpa for ‘their’ pet project, regardless of the cost to Tjuwanpa and our obligations to the other 40 outstations that Tjuwanpa has under Federal funding conditions.
“Tjuwanpa thinks Santos is just another ‘book up’ bad debt.”
Cut to today. 
The ILC, which spent $190,000 on the project, has no current knowledge of the project’s success or otherwise.
“It was a one-off grant for fencing and yards, and it was before my time,” says Richard Preece, the ILC’s Central Divisional Manager.
Tjuwanpa’s current general manager Jane Rosalski says the organization is “no longer involved in that enterprise” because it is now a “stand alone private enterprise”.
The CLC did not respond to a request for comment from the Alice News.
The benefit of $176,000 in training money from DOTARS is unclear, according to an insider.
“I don’t believe the Undurana Camel Farm is as successful as it was hoped to be,” says the insider.
Have they sold any camels?
“I don’t think so.”
Meanwhile Santos prefers to stick to spin rather than straight answers.
We sent its “principal media advisor” Mr Byrne’s comments, which are as relevant today as they were two years ago.
Santos: “Our involvement in the project is consistent with Santos’ commitment to support communities in the areas in which it works, including the Aboriginal communities.”
How exactly are you supporting them?
No answer.
Santos: “This year Santos has worked with Anselm Impu (Traditional Owner and patron of the farm), the CLC and others in the camel industry to continue to develop the project.”
What exactly is being done to develop it? How many people have full-time paid employment and for what periods?
No answer.
Santos: “Camels have been mustered and / or trapped. There is a significant number behind wire.”
How many? How many have been sold?
Santos: “The farm has no set timeframe to sell camels.”
Santos (no doubt the Quote of the Week): “There are also a significant number of camels outside the fence that can be mustered once a market has been secured.”
Meanwhile the familiar strategy is emerging by which the bureaucracy and Aboriginal organizations find reasons for not doing something.
This is the camel industry song sheet:-
• The future of the industry depends on the market.
• Aborigines don’t want to kill camels because they appear in the Bible (the situation with donkeys is similar).
• Ships transporting stock are designed for cattle; camels are too tall.
• Landowners are not screaming, so you can’t get enough government money for mustering camels.
• It costs $60 per head to shoot camels and let them rot on the ground.

Land degradation has long history. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Degradation of the environment in Australia had already been “a long process” before the white man arrived: “You could say we just got here in time to get the blame,” says eminent Central Australian botanist Peter Latz.
The continent is missing its big animals, and this is all to do with fire and soil and human impact over eons, he says, simplifying the thrust of his new book, The Flaming Desert.
Mr Latz (pictured) previously wrote Bushfires and Bushtucker, first published by IAD Press in 1995, which has sold close to 10,000 copies.
He embarked on writing his latest book some 10 years ago in an attempt to answer a few dogged questions about our “weird” continent.
“I wanted to know why, when we have the largest area of native vegetation on this planet, we also have the world’s worst record for mammal extinctions.
“Why I can never predict what I’m going to find in a spinifex community, or where I’m going to find it, even though it’s the most common plant community in Australia.
“How come Australia has only a few roos eating the grass – the explosion of camel and buffalo numbers show that the land can support larger animals.” 
For answers, you’ve got to read the book, says Mr Latz: “It’s a long, complicated story but I hope I’ve also made it interesting. It’s very much for the general reader.”
In the beginning the writing was like having a giant jigsaw puzzle to complete without a picture to guide him, he says.
Now, even though some pieces are still missing, he’s got a “pretty good idea of the total picture”. 
Pressed, he gives this glimpse: “Getting rid of vegetation caused soil movement and changes on a landscape level.
“The hand of man had a significant role.
“Wherever man goes he changes the landscape to suit himself.
“In some ways it would be racist to think that only we [the settlers] with our bulldozers have had an effect on the landscape.
“We know we have had a dramatic impact in 200 years but we’re looking at the end of a long process.
“Australia’s keystone animals were gone before we got here – we are seeing the end of the downhill slide with feral animals beginning to take over.”
So why did the keystone animals disappear – were they hunted to extinction? 
Mr Latz argues that it was fire management practices that reversed the proportion of shrubs to grasses.
“Most of the mega fauna ate shrubs, not grasses.
“If they’d been hunted to extinction we would have got more shrubs and less fire.
“But what happened was the other way around.
“Fire got rid of the shrubs and the mega fauna died out in consequence. 
“That’s a very simple explanation and if that were sufficient I would have just written a paper.
“I wrote the book to give an adequate explanation of what I think happened. “
Indeed, Mr Latz explored some of these ideas in Bushfires and Bushtucker but without providing enough evidence to necessarily convince.
He says the book is highly relevant to our current understanding of land management and climate change.
“Our fires probably produce more carbon dioxide than all the vehicles in Australia.
“Yet about 80% of the Tanami Desert has burned in the last couple of months and there’s hardly been a mention of it.”
At the end of the book Mr Latz talks about what Australians need to do to better manage the land.
In Central Australia that includes improved fire management on Aboriginal lands.
The political sensitivity of a critical assessment of Aboriginal land management practices has made it difficult to find a publisher for The Flaming Desert.
One major Australian publisher did quite a lot of work on the manuscript before pulling out.
“Yet most Aborigines I’ve talked to about my ideas have said, ‘Yeah, of course!’,” says Mr Latz.
“Why would Australia be such a special place that when humans, black and white, came to it they would change their behaviour, and not alter the landscape to suit their needs?” 
In the end Mr Latz has published the book himself.  He gives credit to Anstee Nicholas as editor and motivator.  Elliat Rich has done the book design.
And it has received ringing endorsements from author and journalist Nicholas Rothwell, and Stephen Hopper, who in Mr Latz’s view is  “one of the best botanists in Australia” and is the present director of the Kew Botanic Gardens in London.
The book will be launched at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden on December 19, 5.30pm.

What did the bush vote mean? By KIERAN FINNANE.

What can be read into the numbers behind the Lingiari vote this election?
At a time when the issues in the electorate seemed sharper than ever, thanks to the former Federal Government’s intervention in Aboriginal communities, there was a lower voter turnout than in the preceding election: 64.59% compared to 77.71%. (National voter turnout this election was 85.65%.)
Of this smaller turnout in Lingiari, there was slightly higher proportion of informal votes: 5.11% compared to 4.94% in 2004.
The ALP’s significant victory in the electorate, with 56% of the vote, was achieved in the bush (Alice, as the electorate’s major urban centre, gave them 44.62%, down from 51.19% in 2004).
The total ALP vote in Lingiari is well ahead of the national ALP vote (43.64%) and even further ahead of the national non-metropolitan ALP vote of 39.86%.
Conversely the CLP vote in Lingiari trailed behind the Coalition vote nationally: 33.09% compared to 41.90% (in the non-metropolitan areas 44.52%).
CLP candidate Adam Giles was widely thought to be a more credible candidate than Maisie Austin, whom the CLP fielded in 2004.
He fought hard, devoting himself full-time to campaigning over four months. But he polled less well than Ms Austin, who won 38.36% of the vote in 2004.
Alice gave Mr Giles 55.37%, while it gave Ms Austin 48.8% in 2004.
As Mr Giles’ campaign with its “no more sitdown money” slogan was centrally focussed on the former Federal Government’s reform agenda in Aboriginal communities, it would seem fair to say that this agenda got a decisive “no” vote from the communities directly affected.
In remote areas the ALP’s Warren Snowdon got as much as 97.97% of the votes in the Sandover area (remote mobile team 15), over 90% in three other Central Australian areas, and over 80% in two further Central Australian areas.
In all of these areas there were positive swings to Mr Snowdon, from 2.12% to 19.34%.
His worst result of 71.78%, which represented a swing away from the ALP of 7.02%, was achieved in the area that includes Hermannsburg.
As the Australian Electoral Commission will not release booth by booth results for the remote areas (for fear of compromising voter anonymity) it is not possible to say whether Hermannsburg, visited by former Prime Minister John Howard during the campaign, was principally responsible for this swing.
It is also not possible to see how MLA Alison Anderson’s pro-intervention campaign, conducted before the federal election was called, impacted on the vote.
Her home community of Papunya, for example, was included in polling by remote mobile team 18, which also took in Yuendumu, where the ALP as well as some residents agitated strongly against the intervention.
This area as a whole gave Mr Snowdon 92.33% of its votes, a swing of 13.63%. 
It would also have been interesting to look at booth results for the communities of Mutitjulu, Imanpa, Aputula (Finke) and Titjikala, where intervention measures are most advanced.
The first three were part of an area that returned 92.38% of the vote to Mr Snowdon, a swing of 13.85%.
On possibly a different theme, though they did campaign against the intervention, the Greens succeeded in increasing their proportion of the vote in Lingiari.
House of Reps candidate Emma Young attracted 6.67% of first preference votes, compared to 5.58% to their candidate in 2004. This compares with a national Greens vote of 7.53%, and 6.55% in the non-metropolitan areas.
However, Ms Young’s percentage represents only 2411 votes, just 11 more than were received by the 2004 candidate, and way off the doubling of their vote that the Greens aspired to achieve in the Territory.
The Greens candidate in Solomon got 9.02% of the vote.

Intervention just one of the issues, says Anderson. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Remote voters did not only have the intervention in mind, says MLA Alison Anderson who campaigned for a Labor victory in Lingiari.
“One old lady in Alcoota asked me if Adam Giles was related to John Howard,” she says.
“When I said he was [on that side of politics] she said she was not voting for him, because Howard sends people to Iraq, to war.
“Her vote was based on what she had seen about the war on TV.
“Others asked me, ‘Are we voting for Warren so we can get Rudd in?’
“That was what they wanted.”
Nonetheless, the returned Member for Lingiari was campaigning on essentially anti-intervention issues.
“He campaigned on bringing back CDEP and the permit system,” says Ms Anderson.
“CDEP, that is the people’s comfort zone and they rewarded him for it.
“People felt their job opportunities were in CDEP.
“But I applaud what Warren has said publicly, that there will not be cost shifting by government to CDEP for real jobs in delivering government services in communities.
“CDEP will be returned but in a reformed state. I really support him in that.
“The big challenge for us is to find other job opportunities in communities, beyond the core jobs in services, art centres, shops.”
Ms Anderson says she continues to strongly support the intervention.
“We need to give it time,” she says.
“No government program gets assessed at the end of six months.
“It needs 18 months, two years.”
She says news that the shop in Titjikala has increased its earnings by $20,000 a month is a vindication of quarantining: “That means more money is going on feeding children.”
She is hoping to arrange for the new Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, to visit Central Australia soon.
“NPY women, Papunya women and I presume women from Yuendumu and Hermannsburg will all want to meet with her,” she says.
She expects a new spirit of cooperation to mark the relationship between the Territory  and Federal Governments.
And if she appeared to be out on a limb in the Martin Government and got national attention for her criticism of “urbanised saviours” in the wake of Marion Scrymgour’s controversial Charles Perkins Oration, she say that is behind her now.
She says she and Ms Scrymgour have talked and have agreed to focus on going forward in the areas of education, training, employment and family and community services, all of which are Ms Scrymgour’s portfolio responsibilities, together with Indigenous affairs.
“We have to leave some kind of legacy,” says Ms Anderson.
“I want my legacy to be greater safety for women and children on communities as well as improved education.”
And Ms Anderson also wants to see a renewed focus on what will drive Alice Springs forward, taking the region with it.
She wants to have a conversation with the town and its representatives about “what will make Alice Springs more attractive – something really special”.

Blitz on grog excesses yields results.

Tougher police surveillance is driving drinkers to look for hiding places – such as the Coolibah swamp either side of the Sadedeen Connector Road, near the Charles Darwin University (circled).
Police ordered the grog tap to be turned down in Tennant Creek on Sunday after 18 hours of alcohol-related “heartache and violence”, while in Alice they patrolled the town camps, destroying 285 litres of illegal alcohol.
Anda traffic blitz in Alice turned up 25 drunk drivers out of a total of 28 driver apprehensions. 
The arrests included a 15-year-old boy driving with a blood alcohol level of .140 per cent and a 16-year-old boy who had a blood alcohol level of .150 per cent.
The highest overall reading for the weekend was that of a 19-year-old male with a reading of .232 per cent.
Thirteen of those arrested were also either unlicensed or disqualified drivers.
Superintendent Sean Parnell said the results were astonishing, especially after the publicity generated by the previous weekend’s campaign: “It’s still incredibly disappointing that people still aren’t getting the message.
“Our traffic police will be out there and if you drink and drive, you will be caught.”
In Tennant an influx of money from royalty payments coinciding with home delivered alcohol hampers had caused “considerable heartache and violence prior to the restrictions”, says Senior Sergeant Megan Rowe.
When takeaway liquor restrictions were imposed on high alcohol content drink the calming effect was dramatic, with only one alcohol related incident reported to police, compared to 53 in the 18 hours before the restrictions.
Sgt Rowe said that despite some suggestion that restrictions result in binge buying on the following day, previous policing outcomes had not shown this to be the case.
“Restrictions give the whole community a break from violence and alcohol related offending.”
Meanwhile, in Alice’s town camps, where the consumption of alcohol has been banned, police conducted a three-day special operation targeting drinking.
At the start of the campaign, police conducted name checks at liquor outlets, which resulted in a warrant arrest. Police then began patrols of the camps where large amounts of alcohol were found and tipped out.
On Thursday night  police targeted Amoonguna and Warlpiri, Hoppy’s, Karnte and Indarpa Camps.
On Friday night they again targeted Warlpiri and Hoppy’s Camps as well as Hidden Valley, Larapinta Valley and Abbotts Camps.
Then on Saturday night they targeted Trucking Yards, Hidden Valley, Abbotts Camp, Little Sisters, Larapinta Valley, Old Timers, Indarpa and Karnte as well as Ilparpa Camps.
On each of the first two nights police seized and destroyed large quantities of alcohol throughout the camps. However, there was significantly less found on the third night. During the three nights seven people were arrested for various offences including four for drink driving, two for outstanding warrants and one traffic summons.
Five were also taken into protective custody. Three traffic infringement notices were issued and 285 litres of alcohol were destroyed.
Police say they will continue to pro-actively patrol and monitor the town camps to counter drinking and the supply of liquor into the restricted areas as well as counter anti-social behaviour at the camps.

Buffel grass increasing flood risk in The Alice? COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.

The systematic introduction and spread of buffel grass in Central Australia has largely parallelled my lifetime in this region, and I have followed the debate about its “pros and cons” for many years.
The major impetus for its introduction was the terrible drought of the early 1960s, when the frequent severe dust storms that plagued the Alice prompted research into trialling several plant species for dust suppression.
The trials demonstrated that buffel grass was by far the most adaptable to local conditions, subsequently being sown widely across the region for erosion control and improved pasture for cattle.
For the purposes for which it was introduced, buffel grass has been spectacularly successful – too successful as it turns out, as it now poses its own very severe risk to the natural environment. Wherever it has established, buffel grass characteristically dominates the environment to the exclusion of most of the native vegetation by outcompeting it and/or destroying it from generating very hot fires.
To my knowledge, buffel grass has only ever been sown on flat or low-lying areas, never on rocky hillslopes.
However, it has spread unaided rapidly on hilly country, especially (as I have noticed) in the vicinity of Alice Springs. Buffel grass particularly favours hillslopes consisting of gneiss and schist rock, such as the north flank of the MacDonnell Range and the hill country surrounding the Alice.
In 1997 I first noted just how extensively buffel grass had taken over the north flank of the MacDonnell Range near the Alice – in 1980 it was predominantly spinifex (now reduced to remnant populations). I felt that this rapid shift in the main plant species composition must have exerted a profound influence on the environment.
However, it is only in the last year (due to the location of my work) that I have had the opportunity to observe at close hand how buffel grass may be having an effect on the hillsides, and what I have seen is disturbing.
My suspicion is that hillslopes dominated by buffel grass tend to shed more water during heavy showers, even if the total rainfall is quite small. For example, I have twice noted that showers of only 12 to 13mm (1/2 inch) have generated significant stream-flows from rocky slopes dominated by buffel grass, flows that appear to be no different from slopes with minimal vegetative cover of any kind. By contrast, a good cover and mix of native plant species on sloping ground seems to be more effective at impeding water flow.
As in other soil types where it grows readily, buffel grass on hillsides comprises probably more than 90 percent of the groundcover vegetation; however, the individual grass clumps are mostly widely separated with a lot of bare soil between them.
It was last January that I became aware that a species of termite prevalent in the hills is very partial to the consumption of dry buffel matter (ie, dead foliage and stems, also seeds), in sharp contrast to the behaviour of other termite species on level ground. During one rainy overcast day I noted that all buffel grass clumps – small or large, dead or alive – on a hillside had very strong termite activity associated with them. I have never seen anything like it before in my life.
This suggests that the populations of these insects are abnormally high as a consequence of the increased food supply they gain from buffel grass; in turn the termites are probably consuming much more of the natural leaf litter on the soil and exerting a stronger grazing pressure on any surviving native vegetation, perhaps leading to more soil exposed to the elements.
Their burrowing activity may also be a contributing factor to loosening the soil on the hillsides – it is certainly the case that buffel grass clumps on the hills have a significantly tenuous hold on the soil compared to equivalent-sized plants on flatter terrain.
My observations pertain directly only to a couple of hillsides where I work; however, these hills are essentially the same rock composition as all the hills north of Alice Springs.
If one travels north of town it is easy to see that the hills are cloaked in buffel grass. This also happens to be the catchment area for the Todd and Charles rivers – about 500 square kilometres – that funnels through Alice Springs.
If my small observations are extrapolated on a landscape scale, it seems to me that the flood risk for Alice Springs is exacerbated as a consequence of buffel grass dominating the hills to the north of town. How ironic, given the primary reason for its establishment. I suggest this ought to be investigated as a matter of priority.
As buffel grass is a native species of Africa and the Middle East, it is appropriate to describe its introduction into Central Australia as a case of letting the genie escape from the lamp.

Australia’s "big noise" in Paris: Aboriginal art at Quai Branly. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The incorporation of eight commissioned works by Australian Aboriginal artists, including two from Central Australia, into the architectural fabric of the new Musee du Quai Branly in Paris is frequently mentioned as a milestone in the international recognition of Aboriginal art.
Indeed the commission is the largest permanent installation of Aboriginal art outside Australia.
In the wake of the opening of the museum in 2006 a frequently reproduced photo showed people walking through a corridor strikingly adorned, on walls and ceiling, by the bold black and white motifs of a painting, massively enlarged, by Ningura Napurrula, a Papunya Tula artist.
When I had the opportunity recently to visit the museum I looked forward to experiencing the art in this way for myself.
I was amazed then to find that this corridor is inaccessible to the general public.
It and the other spaces adorned by Napurrula’s art form the first floor of the administration building, off limits to the public, alongside the museum proper.
The small administration building is of an elegantly simple design, four storeys, rectangular, large windows making for considerable transparency.
This allows the visitor to look up, from the street, and be able to discern the presence of the Aboriginal art on the ceilings (just as you might admire the painted ceilings through other Parisian windows).
On a return visit at night, I found the first floor well illuminated and Napurrula’s work more clearly visible, but the second and third floors were dim.
The ceiling of the second floor bears a beautiful work, densely dotted like a starry night, by Gulumbu Yunupingu (Yirrkala, NT), while the third floor ceiling shows work by Tommy Watson (Irrunytju, SA).
None of these spaces are accessible by the general public and Watson’s work on the third floor is scarcely visible at all from the street (with this ceiling apparently much lower than the others).
In my observation the view through the windows of the administration building did not appear to attract any attention from visitors to the museum.
The ground floor of the admin building is taken up largely by the museum’s book and gift shop.
Its ceiling bears work by Maningrida artist John Mawurndjul. And in one corner of the bookshop is a massive wooden pillar also painted by him.
Facing the street at the rear of the site, looking away from the museum and its grounds, is a beautifully elegant design by Judy Watson, acid-etched into the glass wall of the building; and inside is a sequence of photographs, Cloud, by the late Michael Riley, both urban Aboriginal artists.
These works were not lit when I returned at night (though perhaps are when the museum is actually open).
Another striking work by Watson is apparently above the staff entrance to the building, while work by the late Paddy Bedford (Warmun, WA) is hidden away in a service corridor, opposite the freight elevator, which seems a terrible waste.
However, the work of Lena Nyadbi (also Warmun), a rhythmically repetitive design of spearheads and ritual scarring, is rendered in relief to great effect on the façade of the building.
There was no obvious attempt by the museum to draw attention to the presence of the Aboriginal art installation in the administration building. On a small plaque near Mawurndjul’s pillar there was acknowledgement of the collaborating institutions which made the work possible, but no plaque that I could see that credited the work to its artists; no poster or brochure that pointed to it.
When I asked at the ticket counter for directions to where the Aboriginal art installation could best be seen (the museum is vast), the ticket-seller was uncertain. He asked a colleague and she knew that it was in the administration building but said it was inaccessible to the public. She didn’t point out the exception of the bookshop, nor the work that could be seen clearly from the street.
I report all this because of the gap between the excitement in Australia (if not hype) around the commission of Aboriginal work for the museum, and the ongoing mention of it as a milestone, and the reality of the experience of it for a (non-expert) visitor to the site.
I visited Musee du Quai Branly for the first time with two Parisians for whom it was a second visit. They are well aware of and interested in Australian Aboriginal art but on their first visit they had not become aware of the Aboriginal art in the administration building at all.
Of the half dozen Australian friends I have spoken to who have visited the museum – all like me with a keen interest to see how Aboriginal art had been deployed in the architecture – none had been aware that the work was not in the museum proper nor that the majority of the work would be inaccessible to them.
The publicity around the commission of the work talked about the acknowledgement of Australian Aboriginal culture as a living culture. In the museum proper a small collection of contemporary painting on canvas from Central Australia is evidence of this for those who think about it, who notice the attributions (not available for much of the work on display in the museum) and the dates of the work (the 1990s) or who make the connection between the use of materials and contemporaneity.
Apart from the canvasses, there is also a collection of fascinating barks from the Top End (including a few contemporary pieces, among them a marvelous ‘Rainbow Serpent’ by Mawurndjul) and a small array of wooden artifacts.
Appreciation of the barks suffers from the dim lighting that is used for many of exhibits in the museum, as well as a crowded presentation, while the wooden artifacts (shields and spear-throwers) on both of my visits were in complete darkness.
I had heard complaints from other Australian visitors about the dim lighting of the paintings, but on my visit I found them to be adequately lit, especially relative to the barks.
As in the rest of the museum, there is minimal information on the identifying labels alongside works. For those interested, there were audiovisual materials available.
For the Australian exhibits these were very limited (my two visits were inadequate to allow comparison with audio-visual material for other exhibits). The most “in depth” information was a filmed interview with John Mawarndjul (though it was not absolutely clear, via for example a simple head title for the piece, that he was indeed the subject; I was relying on my memory of a photograph of the man).
The short film showed the harvesting and preparation of bark and the artist at work. In mostly voice-over (subtitled in French) he spoke succinctly about the spiritual motivation of his work and also about innovations in his work. The interview did not, however, situate him in the broader context of his community, nor of Australian Aboriginal art, nor in the context of ‘mainstream’ Australia.
Interestingly, there was roughly as much information available on the collector of the early barks, Karel Kupka, as there was on Mawarndjul.
Disappointingly, there was no information at all about artists in Central Australia. The uninformed viewer learnt nothing about the early history of painting on canvas for these artists, nothing of the extraordinary outpouring of art from the central deserts over almost four decades, nothing of its role in contemporary Aboriginal life and in contemporary Australian culture.
Given the wealth of material the museum could draw on this is hard to explain.
The missed opportunity of providing context is not confined to the presentation of work from Aboriginal Australia. It is a hallmark of the museum, in an apparent choice to not mediate the reception of the art and artifacts on display.
The name of the museum reflects a reluctance to state its self-concept: Quai Branly is simply name of a section of the quays along the river Seine where the museum is located. In the Parisian ‘what’s on’ guides, the museum is given a subtitle – “musee des arts premiers”, museum of the first arts – but nowhere in the museum did I see this subtitle employed.
There is a dedication plaque that talks about the desire of former president Jacques Chirac (a driving force behind the creation of the museum) to celebrate the creativity of non-western cultures; and as you move up into the exhibit area there is an introduction to the museum that talks about France’s five century engagement with the peoples whose cultural artifacts are on display.
Thus the colonial context for no doubt much of the collection is glossed over. It’s as though the subject is all too complex and sensitive to be tackled head on, so the choice has been made to say nothing.
It’s left to the objects themselves and the way they are presented to speak. I found an eloquent image in the massive central core of the building, a transparent column rising through the floors, displaying an extraordinary collection of musical instruments, densely packed on shelves, with here and there a small table covered in a white cloth where museum staff must from time to time attend to one of the exhibits.
I couldn’t help but think of colonial pillage and also of a charnel-house. It was impressive but mournful, made the more so by the mutism of the museum in its regard.
The visitor moves around this core on a spiraling walkway, the one space in the museum which makes an assertive attempt to orientate the visitor to what they are about to see. Laser texts flickering on the walls urge you to walk in the steps of “the other”, to see the world through the eyes of “the other”. At one point there are projections on the floor of a heaving ocean for you to walk through, the idea being, I suppose, to wash you clean of preconceptions.
I loved this walkway for the way it moved me from the banal world of the exterior – getting to the museum, buying my ticket, putting my bag in the cloakroom etc – into a mood of anticipation, curiosity.
But it also set me to wondering about just who this “other” was supposed to be and about how the museum was going to tackle this thorny question.
The collections reveal an assumption that “the other” is to be located throughout a somewhat amorphous non-European world and in a vague time zone (labels give information about when objects were collected and often by whom, but nothing about from whom or how).
I longed for the people of this world and its past to step forward  (to step in from the streets outside in what is an increasingly multicultural Paris) and tell their stories, to breathe glorious and terrible life into all these relics in glass boxes. (There is a program of cultural activities at the museum, but the experience of most overseas visitors will be limited to the permanent collection.)
I also longed for the ethnographic eye to be turned on Europe itself.
With every other inhabited continent in there, why not Europe? Is there a reason, other than political, why not?
I wanted something to break down or break out of the uncomfortable ethnocentrism and mutism of the place.
But then perhaps that is as much what is on display as anything else.

Two Alice story writers among Australia’s best.

Two Alice Springs writers have had their short stories included in The Best Australian Stories 2007, edited by Robert Drewe and published by Black Inc.
They are Jennifer Mills and Melissa Beit.
Mills’s story, “Reason”, earlier this year won first prize in the Alice Springs News short story competition (published June 7).
The competition is  mentioned by Drewe in his introduction as among the  “varied and perhaps unexpected” opportunities contributing to a never more “story friendly” environment in Australian publications.
The crunch for writers comes with the publishing industry’s reluctance to commit short story collections to book form, says Drewe.
Beit’s story, “Nothing to fear”, about a young woman coming to understand her fears during a kayaking expedition, won runner up in this year’s Australian Women’s Weekly / Penguin short story competition, the richest short story comp in the country.
As runner up Beit took home $5000; first prize was $10,000.
Mills’s inclusion in the anthology was yet another feather in her 2007 hat.
She has just won a commended in the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize, announced on December 1.
She earlier won a commended in the Bruce Dawe poetry prize; she won first in the Vignette short story competition.
And Mills came first as well as second in the Alice News competition.     K. Finnane

Fine French farce for FTroupe. By DARCY DAVIS.

Actor / director /performer / drama teacher/ Neighbours’ star, Steve Kidd has struck out on the Alice performing arts scene for the last time in 2007 with his adaptation of the French farce, A Close Shave by Georges Feydeau.
The play is about a man, St Florimond (Kidd), who gets tangled up in the dramas of having multiple love affairs.
Angele Champignol is married to a famous painter and is one of St Florimond’s flings, but things go a bit pear shaped when a police sergeant arrives to arrest husband Champignol for not attending when called to meet with the army reserve.
And in typical farce style, things get a lot worse before they get any better.
“Apart from getting staff and former students involved, our intention was to bring on the Christmas cheer and have a light, funny play to get people in the spirit, having a good laugh and enjoying themselves,” says Kidd.
The team putting on the show are calling themselves the “FTroupe”, the “F’ referring to  the Fred Mckay Centre at the entrance to St Philip’s College where they are staging the show.
“I think it’s a good venue,” says co-director Nyree Davis, “and we want to bring more creative flair to this under-utilised space in town.” 
Other ‘FTroupe’ talent includes co-director Kris Kidd, Jess Yates as Charlotte the French maid, Cassie O’Bree as the Italian aunty, Dave Armstrong, Graham Goodman, Tracy Hurst as the police officer, and Miriam Bond and Laura Pollitt who are both playing dual roles.
Leise Gordon has arranged the score for the play and given it a suitably light and off beat feel.
“One of the reasons for doing the play is because there aren’t many opportunities for experienced adult actors in Alice Springs,” says Davis “and we can’t just let the kids bathe in the spotlight!”
“It’s been a lot of fun” says actress Crystal Pollit, “a nice and intimate group and a fun play with a lot of energy.”
If the rehearsals are any indication, A Close Shave looks set to be an engaging, light hearted and funny experience, most particularly the scene where St Florimond attempts to paint a portrait of the army captain.
“Sometimes it’s so silly, it’s hard not to laugh backstage,” says Jess Yates.
“I think people will just enjoy the chaos that ensues in the story,” says Steve Kidd. “The characters are pretty out there and I think they’ll enjoy the anarchy as St Florimond digs a bigger and bigger hole for himself.”
Performances of A Close Shave, this Friday and Saturday,  December 7 and 8, at 7.30 pm.

LETTERS: Tiger, Qantas flying off the handle.

Sir,- I suppose one should not really be surprised. Since Ansett has left the scene there was no way Qantas would improve their attitude.
To say that “this is not in his job description” just shows the arrogant attitude of Qantas management but, coming from Sales and Marketing,
I would think that maybe Mr Borghetti really has no idea as to what happens in a place like Alice.
He would have no idea as to what it would be like not being able to afford to pay the fare, to only having limited choices, or to have to drive 12 hours north or south.
But what can one expect from a company that has been nursed and pulled up by the government, they were made bullet proof way back.
If they had a problem and were not making money (which happened many times) they would call “foul” and run home to mummy  (the government) crying that Ansett did this or that.
They never could handle direct competition - Reg caught them on the hop each time.
I can still recall when one year they made a profit by selling off assets.
As Reg Ansett said at the time, if they had been a private company they would have gone to the wall several times; but no, they always were made to look good, despite those within the government that said Qantas should not be allowed to go on like this.
To say that he is not here to “assist the competitor” - Hell, how many times in past years did Ansett and Qantas assist each other in the Alice?
It was a known fact that if we (Ansett) or Qantas had a technical problem, then each airline would do what they could to assist the other.
It may have been a problem with lifting baggage or passengers on a hot day.
The stairs may have broken down, a flat tire, or maybe a more serious problem. No matter what it was the approach would be made and it was rarely refused.
But now that they have things their own way and do not have the “superior” competition they had back then, they now are showing their true colours.
I know that assisting each other was more of a Territory thing. Both of the airlines back then knew that it was a case of ‘you help me and I will help you’ - it would always be repaid in one way or another.
Of course there were times that things were done on a payment basis, but this was not always the case. A lot of times it was “ not a problem mate, owe you one, catch up with you later”.
I might add that a lot of the decisions to assist were made by the locals.
They knew the scene and what it meant to be able to get things done in such a way that the customer was looked after.
There were many times aircraft went out on-time due to the assistance given by the other carrier.
How many people can look back and recall boarding an aircraft and seeing the other company’s stairs or equipment loading the aircraft?
It never hurt the image of either company. the end result being that the customer was looked after and the company’s image was still okay.
Of course now their attitude has them in another bind - they are caught up in a price fixing scam.
As the old saying goes, “give them enough rope and they will hang themselves”.
It was a sad day when Ansett stopped operations. Not only did a great airline disappear, but the competition also stopped and the big loser was the Alice.
Even back then Alice may not have been treated fairly but at least the competition kept them honest.
So I agree with the boycott.
It is time Qantas is told that consideration be given to the people of Alice.
Surely there could be some incentive fare for living in the Territory, after all it is supposed to be “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd”.
One of the co-founders of Qantas, Sir Wilmot Hudson Fysh, said back in about 1919: “We were convinced of the important part aircraft would eventually play in transporting mail, passengers and freight over the sparsely populated and practically roadless areas of western and northern Queensland and North Australia.”
Well, things have changed but but there are still a lot of “roadless areas.”
So, Qantas, how about giving “The Territory” a Fare Go!  Cut them a special deal, or at least assist others to do so. Who knows, it may even impove your image.
James Cleary
Denver,  Colorado, USA

Sir,- This letter has been sent to Chief Minister Paul Henderson and all NT Government members:
On this festive occasion, I would prefer not to spoil the party but am obliged to ask a question about the Tiger Airways debacle on behalf of the community of Alice Springs:
1. How did Dyson Cobb & Co Bus Company, with no airline or airport handling experience, end up with a contract for handling Tiger Airways at Alice Springs airport and why did it rely entirely on Qantas to provide its airside ramp services - with no fallback position?
2. Why was Qantas blamed as the scapegoat when it was an innocent bystander under no obligation to provide anything to Tiger and used as a smoke screen to cover-up incompetence, or at best naivity, and a case of jobs for the boys that came unstuck?
3. Apparently seven local companies were invited to tender except the one – Aboriginal Aircraft Maintenance & Services (AAMS) - with all the airside ramp equipment, expertise and experience, willing and most capable of doing the job, even up until the last minute.
This is, on top of Virgin pulling out and JAL charters being cancelled, the latest setback for Alice Springs tourism.
Think of all the people whose holiday plans have been thrown into chaos, all the tourism operators and accommodation houses that are now getting booking cancellations – all for the sake of a company totally unprepared for the job that should never have been invited to tender, let alone be awarded the contract.
Sitzler Construction or Ross Engineering might as well have been included in the ‘privileged few’ and done just as well – certainly no worse.
To avoid a repetition in future, I recommend that there be an internal enquiry into the part played by Alice Springs Airport in compiling the ‘privileged few’ list that facilitated the appointment of a bus company, and why AAMS – a wholly owned and controlled Aboriginal company - was not included.
Ross Pollock
Airline and Tourism Consultant
Alice Springs

Sir,- Qantas and Jetstar are once again holding the people of Alice to ransom.
 I cannot believe when there’s an airfare price war going on in every other city in Australia, the people of Alice are still being served up the most expensive prices.
The negative flow-on effect this has on the Alice for attracting skilled staff for employment and for promoting tourism and business is enormous.
I know if I could fly to the Alice from Adelaide for the same price I can go to the Gold Coast or Darwin, I would not hesitate to holiday there more often.
We always get told how competition is good. What does it tell us about Qantas’ and Jetstar’s attitude to the people of Alice Springs?
Darren Kay
South Australia

Sir,- Your article in the Alice News (November 29) about Tiger Airlines is absolute rubbish.
As a professional business starting up they should have been ready to service their Alice Springs customers.
I say Tiger cannot be trusted and they should stop blaming Qantas for their own short-comings in providing their promised service and letting down their customers.
Qantas provides a very good service for a town of 26,000 people.
If Tiger wants be a real competitor in the airline industry then they should provide the Alice Springs community with a competitive service to all the destinations that Qantas fly to from Alice Springs.
Just for the record Tiger has a ground handling agent for their aircraft in every other destination in Australia but excluded Alice Springs because of the lack of available staff here.
I was also asked to handle their flights but had the same concerns, as with three flights a week it is just not viable.
As a person who has worked with the airline industry for 21 years, through the times of Ansett’s demise and the like, there is a lot more to this story than just taking the easy way out and blaming Tiger’s business competitors.
Steven Brouwer
Alice Springs

Sir,- The Territory Opposition is calling on the Henderson Government to follow the lead of the incoming Rudd Government and cut the number of jobs in Territory ministerial offices. The Rudd Government plans to slash the number of ministerial staff from 477 positions to 334.
Paul Henderson has inherited more than 90 staff in ministerial offices in the Northern Territory Government.
The comparative figures are particularly instructive – Kevin Rudd believes his Ministers should be able to service the needs of about 20 million Australians and manage a $237 billion budget with 334 ministerial support staff.
Today, the Territory Labor Government has more than 90 ministerial staff to oversee the operation of a $3.1 billion budget servicing about 200,000 people.
With 100 times the number of people to cater for and a budget that is 80 times larger, Federal Labor will have less than four times the number of political staff taking from the public purse.
The numbers don’t add up and it’s the Territory taxpayers footing the bill for a bloated ministerial bureaucracy.
This problem also flows into the wider NT Government public sector.
The number of highly paid senior executives in the public service has skyrocketed under the Labor Government and the total number of public sector employees has now passed 16,000.
Former Treasurer Syd Stirling admitted there was problem yet failed dismally in his stated goal of reigning in public sector numbers.
The Opposition will bring a different attitude to Government.
Policy is being developed to reinforce a central purpose: public service ahead of the service of political objectives.
Terry Mills
Deputy Opposition Leader

Sir,- Why is the NT Government hesitant to take the most necessary step of introducing mandatory reporting of domestic violence?
What about the case of the 27 year old Aboriginal woman who attended a health clinic 29 times over many years before she was murdered by her partner in May 2005? She would not be the only victim who cries out for protection.
I welcome the new Domestic and Family Violence Act to be debated next week in parliament as it expands the range of people able to seek protection, including aged family members and children. It will be more efficient for police to obtain an order particularly out of hours and in remote and regional areas, and provides legal protection for health practitioners who feel compelled to report suspected cases of domestic violence in spite of privacy obligations.
However, the new act fails to take that final step of ensuring victims, who are unable to make a report, do receive protection.
The coroner in the horrific case from two years ago recommended the government consider mandatory reporting. Two years later and we have new legislation but the government says it is still thinking about mandatory reporting.
How many people will continue to be victimised whilst the government dawdles? I call on the government to make reporting of suspected cases of domestic violence, as it is for child abuse, mandatory.
Loraine Braham MLA
Member for Braitling

Sir,- The new Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, has the perfect opportunity to pull back from the brink of disaster on Labor’s ill-considered council amalgamations.
I urge Mr Henderson to listen to the concerns of ordinary Territorians, stop the process now, engage in genuine consultation with Territory rate payers and then put his proposal for reform before the people at the next Territory elections.
In his first interviews as Chief Minister, Mr Henderson claimed he would be reaching out to all Territorians.
Well, to date the Martin Government has steamrolled over objections from the Cattleman’s Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Minerals Council, Territory Construction Association, the Australian Trucking Industry Association, the NT Business Council, the Northern Land Council, the Alice Springs Town Council and the Darwin City Council.
Further, thousands of ordinary Territorians have voiced their objections to the forced council amalgamations. If the new Chief Minister is indeed intending to reach out to all Territorians, then he has no choice but to halt these forced amalgamations.
The Martin Government had no mandate for the forced council amalgamations, nor does a Henderson Government.
Labor hid its intentions before the last election and is attempting to rush them through before the next election.
That is fundamentally undemocratic.
The Minister for Local Government, Elliot McAdam, has slipped into a state of denial about the level of opposition to the ill-considered amalgamations.
The new Chief Minister shouldn’t make the same mistake.
Matt Conlan
Shadow Minister for Local Government

Sir,- In our continuing grog wars there have been endless arguments over countless proposals and now it’s Thirsty Thursday’s turn to speak her piece. Will we have take-away grog free days in Alice by this time next year?
The answer is probably yes since supply is considered the best point of attack. This ignores something I feel to be self-evident - demand faced with a lack of supply will create that supply.
It may mean crossing a state line or a legal line, but an unsatisfied demand will find a way to get what it wants. Alternatively, remove demand and supply becomes irrelevant.
Consider that after forty years of a War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively on supply, jails and cemeteries around the world are full to overflowing, an international trade worth millions (if not billions) of dollars has been created, and once-sovereign nations from South America to Central Asia are now war-torn narco-states.
Meanwhile the demand for drugs continues unabated and the reasons for that hardly get a mention.
Thirsty Thursdays will penalize the responsible while most chronic drinkers will simply pass the day in the pub spending an even larger percentage of their money chasing their particular dragon.
Grog runners will reschedule their run for another day. In short, this regulation would inconvenience many while achieving very little.
It is education through peer pressure and sensitive advertising that will finally alter behavior. It’s slower than hammering the take-away outlets, but it will win the day if we make the effort.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Sir,- In response to Jane Clark’s letter (Alice News, Nov 29) I have to ask how she came by the belief that the majority of locals support a two day ban on the sale of take away alcohol.
I feel this statement is a misguided fantasy, maybe the majority of people who share her cause support the idea but, while there would be members of the community who support a ban, I doubt very much that they would be in the majority.
Maybe we need a local referendum to decide if this is the wish of the majority of the community, especially when the effect of such a ban on dealing with the alcohol problems of a few have been proven to be a failure when tried in other areas (eg. Tennant Creek’s Thirsty Thursday), and is out-weighed by the known negative effects on the community as a whole.
As Jane Clark states, tourists can drink in pubs and clubs (ie. those who are staying longer) but what about the multitudes who are travelling through who wish to purchase takeaways, as the town will lose many more valuable tourist dollars.
What about station people, miners and the multitude of other people who work out bush that would be inconvenienced by such a ban, by having to plan their long trips to town around when they can purchase supplies of alcohol?
What about the local business retailers and their employees who sell alcohol; and don’t forget the transport companies and other businesses and their employees who would be affected by such a ban, all losing income - I am sure they would not be in favour of such a ban.
What about the aged pensioners and those members of the community who have limited mobility, for whom existing alcohol bans have been demonstrated to have an adverse effect?
What about occupants of residential dwellings and businesses who would be affected by a rise in break-ins by problem drinkers, stealing what they would normally buy; indeed, what about the problem drinkers who would suffer a rise in criminal convictions, all as a result of cutting the supply without treating the addiction?
I am sure they would not be in favour of such a ban.
Whoops, did I just hit the nail on the head, why don’t the “ban everything brigade” of the community advocate for something effective that is known to work, like more alcohol rehabilitation programs for the greater minority of the community who have an alcohol problem?
I would not be surprised that the cost to the majority of the community for such programs would be less than the cost of banning sales of alcohol. The ban brigade’s method is to punish all for the indiscretions of a few, let’s treat the sick without quarantining the whole community!
Clem Wheatley
Alice Springs
Sir,- Here I go again. I am absolutely disgusted regarding the stoush over Pitchi Richi. God knows I am no greenie but not to preserve what Leo Corbett created out there borders on the criminal. This will make a beautiful small park and would attract visitors from all over the place.
Leo was well known even if people thought he was a bit ‘odd’. Does anyone realise that he almost single-handedly stopped a quarry eating into Heavitree Gap, just behind Johnny Ronberg’s Caravan Park?
An irresponsible department had given a licence to mine the side of the hill for metal, would you believe. The scar is still visible today. If not for Leo the Gap would be twice as wide today.
Leo was the first practical conservationist in our midst and his legacy should not be forgotten.
Hermann Weber
Clare SA

Sir,- I agree with a lot of what Steve Brown and the Advance Alice group are striving for; however, I think he has misunderstood the point of my letter (Alice News, November 15).
The issue with water is the greenhouse gasses generated in pumping it from ever greater depths and over longer distances, not its availability.
The second point is that more than water is needed to grow fruit and vegetables.
The climate, which is an amalgam of temperature, rain volume and pattern, and dryness (evaporation rate and wind), has to support plant growth. Irrigation addresses only one of these factors.
So, in planning to expand opportunities in Centralia, global warming has to be factored in to the risk analysis for any business venture.
There may well be technical fixes for some of these problems. We aren’t short on ingenuity and know-how. How we plan for these problems will demonstrate our capacity to be a real desert smart town.
Steve Brown is also correct about the serious lack of investment in infrastructure development by past governments.
Perhaps if the previous Federal government had shown more leadership on the issues of global warming and sustainability, Australia would be in a much healthier condition.
To make sure we have a town our kids can live in at the end of this century means we have to plan now to assess and take notice of all possible risks as well as potential opportunities.
Dismissing or ignoring global warming doesn’t help us to be desert smart.
Peter Tait
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: Selling my kidney for the plane fare home.

It could be argued that the Wizard of Oz was a benevolent man trying to make a society full of strange evils round every corner a better place.
You could argue that when this roly-poly little man came to Oz he saw a place he loved being overrun by wicked witches and he wanted to do something about it, to make this magical place better. 
I don’t think that was his motive.
It could just as well be argued that he was a power hungry little man who wanted to be God but eventually couldn’t deliver.
He was a David Koresh character - a man with an incredible messianic complex that sucked in hoards of followers into a dangerous cult.
Do you feel like that has happened here in Alice Springs of late? I feel as though I have put my faith into a false idol. A golden calf. A messiah which promised freedom from bondage.
A messiah which promised to make my life whole.
But instead of a land of milk and honey I have been left alone, dejected and bitter.
What makes it more painful an experience is that the messiah has genuinely changed the lives of others. People in Darwin are giving thanks at the feet of the icons.
People in Melbourne are preparing offerings to their saviour.
We here in Alice Springs have been forsaken. Our deliverer has turned his face and we are to walk in the wilderness for another three months at least.
For those whose stompin’ ground isn’t Alice Springs, the crappiest thing about living here is getting home.
With Christmas fast approaching the promise of a reasonably priced plane trip home was as sweet a sound to the ears of the non-local as “my shout” is to locals.
Tiger Air was to be the solution to Alice Springs’ biggest problem. (OK, not the biggest but close).
And we rejoiced with the sounding of trumpets and the killing of the fatted calf when we heard the good news of their coming.
I don’t know who is to blame. Is it Tiger?
Is it Qantas? Is it the Alice Springs Airport or the government? I don’t know.
But I’m now considering selling my kidney for the plane fare home.
Anyone interested in buying one in fairly good condition should contact the classifieds section of this paper. (Only one owner, promise!)
With egg on our faces we have been forced to grovel at the feet of the only airline that comes here.
The ugly stepmother who, like in the fairy tale, makes us work till we bleed for the scraps at the table.
It has made for a strange feeling around the place. Tiger coming, then not.
The Federal Government being overthrown in the closest thing we’ve seen to a people-led revolution since the “It’s time” campaign.
Then citing the coalition government’s handling of the Territory, the Chief Minister resigns her post the day after the coalition government is ousted. Did anyone else find that strange?
Then without a word from the public the head of the government in the Territory is handed to a man from Tasmania.
Paul Henderson is from Tassie. Are we OK with that?
Australian’s aren’t good at change. We like change to be slow, gradual and contemplative. Upheaval makes us queezy.
The thing is though, if you stand still for a moment, close your eyes and breathe, you will realise that you feel just like you did three months ago.
You’re still paying tax, you’re still paying a mortgage or rent.
You’re still living in an over-governed town and it still costs you your organs to get home for Christmas. Things haven’t changed at all.
It’s summer and just like the bugs outside, the landscape hasn’t changed, the buzzing just got a bit louder.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.