February 7, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

... and now there are six


In an unprecedented move in local government elections in Alice, Alderman Jane Clark has announced her “preselection” by the NT Greens as their candidate for mayor. 
The town council is conventionally expected to be free of party politics, even though some aldermen, such as mayoral candidate David Koch and indeed the outgoing mayor as well as former mayor Andy McNeill, are or have been strongly associated with political parties.  
Ald Clark is the sixth candidate to throw their hat in the ring, joining fellow aldermen Koch, Meredith Campbell, Murray Stewart, Melanie van Haaren  and the sole non-aldermanic contender, Damien Ryan.
She says, if elected mayor, she would commit to stay the full term. She is not sure yet whether she will also run as an aldermanic candidate: “We [the Greens] are still talking about that.”

She ran for the Greens in Greatorex at the last Legislative Assembly elections, having at first stated her intention to seek pre-selection for Labor.
Ald Clark owns a business in the IT industry, and has owned local restaurants and a therapeutic health centre in the past.
She has been an alderman for four years and is an executive member of the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT).
She is currently working with LGANT lobbying the federal government for 1% of Commonwealth taxation to be distributed to local government.
LGANT is also involved with negotiating with the NT Government on issues relating to local government reform.
In her responses to the 18 propositions in the Alice News internet survey, What Alice Wants (see summary this page and preliminary results starting page 5 this edition), she asks where are the local MLAs on many of the issues; supports a stronger focus on council’s core business in order to make our tourist town more attractive; using the mayor’s role to press for greater water efficiency; the introduction of kerbside recycling, removing the casino causeway as a flood mitigation measure; more constructive relationships with Aboriginal interests, especially via the new shires; and a liquor free day.
She would like to see council take over local planning. And she is the sole candidate to support the handover of national parks to Aboriginal traditional owners.
Mr Ryan, Alice born and bred, won’t be drawn on the performance of the present council, retiring Mayor Fran Kilgariff, nor the NT Government.
He says he doesn’t belong to any political party and wants to keep politics out of the council.
“I’m not getting into a political fight,” he says.
“I’m not pulling a fight with anyone in a government position.
“I want to get my own message across.”
Mr Ryan says the council needs to be able to liaise with governments.
“If the door is shut you can’t do anything.”
He claims to have the background and connections for fruitful relationships.
He started in business as a “traveling salesman” in the far-flung Central Australian outback 35 years ago and now has a major photo shop and other interests.
Mr Ryan is a member of the Central Australian executive of the Chamber of Commerce, and vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce Northern Territory. 
He has worked as a member of the advisory committee for the last three Alice Springs Masters Games.
His passion, he says, is being a life member and vice-president of the Finke Desert Race committee: he started the conversation with The Alice News about his candidacy by announcing that the race already has “early bird” entries from 12 cars and 230 bikes.
Mr Ryan says the town has a great opportunity with a new council, mayor, police commander and senior bureaucrat.
In his responses to the Alice News survey, Mr Ryan calls for the development of 100 blocks of land a year, for a flood mitigation dam doubling as a recreation lake, objects to the transfer of town planning to the council, says the ownership of national parks should stay in public hands, and rejects stringent restrictions on take-away liquor.
Alderman van Haaren is pushing for a far more resolute and independent attitude towards the NT Government.
She says about the relationship with Darwin: “It’s like the girl with the curl: when she’s good she’s very good, when she’s bad she is horrid.”
Declining to name names, Ald van Haaren says: “Political affiliations have hampered progress on, for example, anti social behavior and everything that fell out of that.
“We were too polite, too soft, too fearful of creating division with the NT Government.
“There should be no political bias in council,” says Ald van Haaren. 
“We don’t need a Berrimah Line puppet at the helm.”
Like Mr Ryan she is committed to going the full term.
“I am not interested in any other political office. My concerns are the town and the people.
“Given the town is so dependent on support from both governments, we were wrong leaving the federal government out of the loop far too much.
“I’ve constantly lobbied to visit ministers in Canberra to make them aware of the consequences for the town of their federal policies.
“I did not make headway with the current council on this.
“A good rapport with the federal government is more important than with the NT Government, given the challenges faced by Alice Springs.”
In reply to the News web survey, Ald van Haaren supported community use of the civic centre, said no to a lake, wants to benefit far more broadly from local people whose expertise she describes as world standard, calls for protection of the town from major floods, and says top public servants shifted to Darwin must come back.
She says town planning should stay with the government, parks should remain public property, council rangers should get much wider law enforcement powers, and booze should be harder to buy in order to rein in anti-social behavior.

Survey surprises

The preliminary results to the Alice News survey, What Alice Wants, have some expected and some surprise findings. (See pages 5 to 7.)
Out of some 150 responses, an overwhelming majority (91%) want to see public conduct standards created and enforced.
Strong majorities (over 80%) want serious action on flood mitigation, the development of local horticulture, the return of senior public servants to town, town planning placed in the hands of the town council, and improved public toilet and ablution facilities, including in shopping centres.
These results are to be expected, but will governments take note?
Surprising, given the drawn out controversies over the issues and assumptions about popular opinion, are the significant majorities wanting stringent liquor restrictions and the creation of camps for bush visitors (together with a clamp down on illegal camping, littering and public drinking).
Surprising too is the nearly 50% indifference to having tourist promotion in the hands of locals. That’s a significant disconnect between the public and the town’s number one industry.

Have your say!

The Alice Springs News web survey "What Alice Wants" has so far yielded 150 replies, each answering a majority of 18 propositions connected to the town council elections for a mayor and eight aldermen next month.
Readers put forward these subjects to us over the past few months in letters, emails or in personal conversations.
We obtained answers late last year from mayoral candidates Murray Stewart, Meredith Campbell and Dave Koch. These interviews are published in our December 13 and 20 editions last year, or see them on our webite
Today we bring you the responses from Damien Ryan, Melanie van Haaren and Jane Clark who put up their hands recently. And the graphs show what you, the public had to say to date.
The survey will remain open until 5pm on Friday, March 21, and we’ll publish the final results on March 27, in the issue immediately preceding the elections.
If you haven’t done so yet (and each computer is admitted once only) you’re welcome to log on and and have your say on the running of the town. Just click on the link at the top right hand corner of our home page!

PROPOSITION 1: Convert the Civic Centre to a place where visitors are welcomed. It should include a museum celebrating Central Australia’s natural beauty, its art, ancient Aboriginal culture, and the pioneering skills of living in a remote area. This would include expanded space for Tourism Central Australia, and facilities for social and other functions for visitors and locals alike. Move the majority of the town council bureaucracy to office accommodation elsewhere in town.

143 public responses.
I agree. 44.1%
I don’t agree. 44.1%
I am indifferent. 11.2%

DAMIEN RYAN: Our Town has great facilities already to cover these issues, the Desert Park, National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame at the old Gaol Site, Strehlow Research Centre, Transport Hall of Fame and many others. Moving the town council management to other offices would be fiscally irresponsible. Tourism Central Australia has already spoken about redeveloping their facility.

MELANIE VAN HAAREN: From the very outset I have been one of the strongest advocates for any new council building to be for a multi purpose use, and an asset to the community. I am very disappointed with the outcome of the debate and with the building whose use now is limited. It has a culture of exclusiveness rather than inclusiveness.

JANE CLARK: A move of this nature would cause considerable upheaval particularly when you look at our comprehensive IT systems.  To uninstall that infrastructure and move it elsewhere would cost an absolute fortune and be a waste of ratepayers’ money.

PROPOSITION 2: Open up cheap residential and industrial land. Create powerful incentives for people and industries to move here. We need affordable accommodation for people working here, and for first home buyers.

146 public responses.
I agree. 54.8%
I don’t agree. 39.0%
I am indifferent. 6.2%

RYAN: I welcome the recent announcement by the NT Government to let the headworks contract for 70 residential blocks in Stephens Road and other land releases. We need 100 new blocks a year, commercial, industrial and residential land, to help reduce the labour shortage, continue the growth of our town and to attract families to Alice Springs. From this there is a flow on effect to our building industry and general business.

VAN HAAREN: We must encourage population growth. In a number of areas we have not worked hard enough. Cheap land would need to be part of a package. Council’s capacity to provide land and more accommodation would be zero, but we could tap into schemes of the Department of Immigration, making the town more attractive for migrants. We should look to both other tiers of government for development of industry.

CLARK: Whilst I agree we need affordable housing, this responsibility rests with the NT and Australian Governments.  I suggest readers go and have a chat with our silent MLAs on this issue.

PROPOSITION 3: Build one or more recreation lakes within a 100km radius of Alice Springs, which can also be integrated in the water supply.

142 public responses.
I agree. 42.3%
I don’t agree. 52.8%
I am indifferent. 4.9%

RYAN: Having lived in Alice Springs all my life I have always thought a lake would be fantastic, but the town council is not in a position to undertake such a development. Our council should be lobbying both Federal and NT Governments to identify a suitable site that would facilitate a flood mitigation dam, provide recreation facilities and water conservation while recognising indigenous cultural sites.

VAN HAAREN: This would not be high on my priorities. I would prefer to put our energy into taking care of the water holes we already have, ensuring they are attractive destinations.

CLARK: Lovely fantasy, environmentally questionable and I feel the expense and environmental impact would be too much. Also, this is in the realm of NT Government, not local government. Ask your MLA.

PROPOSITION 4: Put tourist promotion into the hands of locals. For example, Tourism Central Australia, who know the game, and get bang for buck.

144 public responses.
I agree. 49.3%
I don’t agree. 6.9%
I am indifferent. 43.8%

RYAN: Tourism Central Australia (TCA) has embarked on a new plan with Tourism NT (TNT) whereby TCA will be provide a closer liaison between local operators and the TNT to reinvigorate Central Australia as “the real outback”. This will incorporate all of Central Australia including the Barkly area now to be represented by the three new shires. The council will support TCA in their endeavours to spread the word of what a terrific place this is. Alice should be on every visitor’s itinerary. I will ensure that council takes a greater interest in our tourist industry.

VAN HAAREN: I agree there is no better person to promote Alice than a local, but we would have to be assured we would get adequate funding from the NT Government.

CLARK: We need to do a better job with regard to public toilets, parks, shade, parking and litter.  A clean town makes tourists feel welcome.  This is our core role and it needs focus, focus, focus. 

PROPOSITION 5: Double the available water supply, including through recycling.

142 public responses.
I agree. 43.7%
I don’t agree. 45.1%
I am indifferent. 11.3%

RYAN: In the same manner that the community will benefit from the education of solar power utilisation with the new Smart Living Centre, I would support a program of information that would show the benefits of water conservation. I would encourage Power and Water to continue their development of use of recycled water in recharging of the water aquifer and where appropriate to develop other direct recycling.

VAN HAAREN: I wouldn’t support limits placed on us because of their restriction of growth [for example, caused by the shortage of water]. Along with other environmental issues this is an area on which the council should form an advisory committee. Given our Solar City Status we cannot afford to make anything other than the best decision relating to these matters. We are in the world spotlight. There are international experts sitting here in Alice. The council needs to tap into them.

CLARK: The Mayor needs to seriously ensure that NT Government pushes the Power and Water Corporation to fix leaking water pipes and implement the recommendations of the Water Efficiency Study.  I would also support a tiered pricing scheme and grey water reuse incentive schemes.

PROPOSITION 6: Move the power station, the garbage dump and the sewage plant well outside the town.

145 public responses.
I agree. 73.8%
I don’t agree. 13.1%
I am indifferent. 13.1%

RYAN: The matter of the location of the power station and the sewerage plant are not within the Town Council’s responsibilities; however I would be working to encourage the NT Government to move the power station to Brewer estate expeditiously. The sewerage farm currently meets the needs of the municipality. The Alice Springs dump has not reached capacity and at this time it would not be economically prudent to make any other arrangements. The new council should start planning to identify a new site to meet future needs.

VAN HAAREN: Excellent idea. But all of this comes at a cost and we should be planning and lobbying for the funding right now.

CLARK: The power station and sewerage are NT Government issues.  We need to plan for a rubbish dump away from town but not so far that transport costs blow out.  We also need to implement kerbside recycling.

PROPOSITION 7: Develop, in collaboration with private enterprise, tourist facilities in the West and East MacDonnell National Parks.

143 public responses.
I agree. 46.2%
I don’t agree. 46.9%
I am indifferent. 7.0%

RYAN: [I expect] the new town council [to] welcome the establishment of the MacDonnell shire and [to explore] the opportunities for tourism and other commercial development in the East and West MacDonnells. I will ensure that we work in close harmony with the new shire and TCA to promote the destination.

VAN HAAREN: I would support the principle, bearing in mind whatever we do needs to be first class and preserve the natural beauty of the ranges and their environs.

 CLARK: This is a great idea to put forward to the NT Government and private industry. I can see the Mayor in a pivotal negotiation role here.

PROPOSITION 8: Leave all national parks in public ownership but set up an Aboriginal park management advisory body.

144 public responses.
I agree. 72.9%
I don’t agree. 15.3%
I am indifferent. 11.8%

RYAN: All parks, Federal and Territory, are owned by the people. The parks should remain in public hands, and be managed with help from an independent management advisory board.

VAN HAAREN: I believe there should be a dual management approach which includes traditional owners but the parks should remain the property of all Australians.

CLARK: No, in recent months I have seen wonderful examples of tourism enterprises opening up as a direct result of the National Parks handed back to traditional owners. Rainbow Valley Cultural Tours is one which comes to mind where traditional owners (young and old) share their stories and show tourists the pristine 5000 year old rock art on their own homelands.

PROPOSITION 9: Put in place flood mitigation that will reliably save the town from catastrophic loss of life and damage resulting from storms increasingly likely to occur because of climate change.

143 public responses.
I agree. 84.6%
I don’t agree. 10.5%
I am indifferent. 4.9%

RYAN: I agree that there should be a flood mitigation program in place. As discussed in Issue 3, a dam to help mitigate a 1 in 100 year flood would meet a number of criteria including recreation and water conservation. We’re not going to get two dams.

VAN HAAREN: It is incumbent upon the council to ensure this town is safe and that needs to include being safe from flooding. Given the mammoth task this would need to be tackled in conjunction with the NT Government which would need to take the lead role.

CLARK: Firstly, I advocate for removal of the casino causeway which has caused a back up of flood waters time and time again.  Secondly, we need to understand the river and manage it much better.

PROPOSITION 10: Create farmlets at Rocky Hill, near the new gaol and on Arid Zone Research Institute land so that small fruit and vegetable growing enterprises can be created, both for the local and interstate markets.

140 public responses.
I agree. 83.6%
I don’t agree. 7.9%
I am indifferent. 8.6%

RYAN: I would see the council as taking advice from Desert Knowledge (CRC), CSIRO and Arid Zone research who have the knowledge to ascertain if such developments would prove viable. The NT Government is the agency that would then be responsible to react to that advice and the recommendations of council.

VAN HAAREN: Wonderful idea. It’s in keeping with the Centrefarm project at TiTree. One can see from that development that benefits are more far reaching than just provision of produce. It involves training, employment, a sense of community and pride and independence.

CLARK: I would certainly be happy for this to happen at AZRI especially when you consider that we could use reclaimed sewerage water.  But, once again, all this is in the jurisdiction of our local neighbourhood MLAs – I hope they are reading.

PROPOSITION 11: Achieve greater autonomy for The Centre by bringing senior bureaucrats back to Alice Springs.

140 public responses.
I agree. 80.7%
I don’t agree. 9.3%
I am indifferent. 10.0%

RYAN: Alice Springs needs to have its own senior area departmental heads based here to better reflect the unique situation of Central Australia. It needs the expertise of senior officers of the NT Government who are aware of local issues and solutions.

VAN HAAREN: Definitely, I’m 150 per cent behind decentralization of the NT Government’s public service. The shift of senior positions to Darwin has had one of the most negative impacts on Alice Springs in the past 10 years. We need to reverse that immediately. It has not only taken our most senior, and therefore prosperous families from the town, it has disempowered us and removed our control over our destiny.

CLARK: The best way for Alice Springs to get a fairer share of funding and services is to have significant senior public servants living here so that they have to face the same issues locals do.

PROPOSITION 12: Place the responsibility for town planning in the southern region of the NT with Alice Town Council, together with appropriate funding from the NT Government.

140 public responses.
I agree. 81.2%
I don’t agree. 13.6%
I am indifferent. 4.3%

RYAN: The current position with the council having two of the four representatives on the Development Consent Authority with an independent chairman offers the best option for the fair consideration of all applications for building and land sub division of town planning.

VAN HAAREN: I do not support this. Currently we are better served by harnessing resources and expertise, such as town planners and engineers, within the NT departments. Council costs would go up. There are already moves in council to charge unreasonable fees to progress through the council applications for development.

CLARK: Yes. As Alderman I supported a motion to have Council take over planning – this was defeated. Planning Minister Lawrie laughed when this was suggested. Having planning in our scope would provide more work for a more focussed council.

PROPOSITION 13: Set up an Aboriginal cultural centre, featuring bush foods, corroborees and other entertainment and educational elements alongside the Desert Park.

140 public responses.
I agree. 69.3%
I don’t agree. 17.1%
I am indifferent. 13.6%

RYAN: I would lobby for council to encourage Desert Knowledge to look into this great tourism opportunity.

VAN HAAREN: I can only imagine something like that would bring great kudos to Alice Springs. Such a facility would be of international repute.

CLARK: I would like to see this and also include a centre which tells the story of the Stolen Generations from all angles using film, oral histories, art and new media.

PROPOSITION 14: Seek better cooperation with Centrecorp and other Aboriginal interests.

139 public responses.
I agree. 71.2%
I don’t agree. 10.8%
I am indifferent. 18.0%

RYAN: It would be my intention to work with all commercial and government organisations in the development of opportunities for business enterprises in our town.

VAN HAAREN: I certainly would like better relationships and partnerships entered into in relation to specific projects, for example cleaning up Billygoat Hill, in cooperation with Lhere Artepe. We need something better than the airy fairy Memorandum of Understanding with Tangentyere about camping in the Todd. This never got down to tin tacks. We need agreements and protocols that are tangible and enforceable.

CLARK: Council needs to greatly improve cooperation and negotiation skills, particularly with the new Shires being developed.  We will have the opportunity to improve services, revenue and promote social change if we work constructively.

PROPOSITION 15: Require shopping centers to have public toilets. The council should provide further public ablution facilities around town, including showers.

140 public responses.
I agree. 81.2%
I don’t agree. 10.7%
I am indifferent. 7.1%

RYAN: Public toilets and showers are currently available in civic centre and other facilities are available at some shopping centres. Council would lobby the NT Government to include a provision in the building by-laws for inclusion of public toilets in new developments when considered by DCA for all new developments.

VAN HAAREN: I agree. We need better access to toilets and more showers for the use of tourists and others. I would like to see them clean and comfortable. There would need to be a fee for the user. We need more facilities for breast feeding mothers.

CLARK: Yes to everything. We need to replace some of our ablution blocks (eg the ‘Todd River Tardis’ at the end of Parsons St) and also invest in more portable ablution blocks and parenting rooms for public events.

PROPOSITION 16: Create and enforce public conduct standards.

141 public responses.
I agree. 90.1%
I don’t agree. 5.7%
I am indifferent. 4.3%

RYAN: Council would be reflective of community concerns and I would support a co-operative partnership of the NT and Federal Governments to ensure that the police and other agencies have the where-with-all to meet the changing needs of the community. Those agencies need to have the budget to have sufficient police with the right equipment to meet this demanding job.

VAN HAAREN: I 100 per cent agree. I am lobbying for bylaws that will result in less anti-social behavior. There should be no camping in the Todd. We give mixed messages allowing agencies to avoid addressing the issue of homelessness. Rangers need to be able to move people on if they are creating discord or are drinking in designated zones. The Mall would be an obvious example. Council workers should be authorized to confiscate liquor drunk in breach of the dry town legislation. I don’t agree with the Police Association that this is exclusively the job of the police. The council should seek out a contractual arrangement, signed off at the highest levels, whereby police must prioritize responding to a council ranger’s call for backup or, if a breach in legislation has been reported. This would require the police dedicating resources to enforcing the law, rather than the current situation where dry town breaches are given minor priority. Otherwise we’ll never get there.

CLARK: The standards already exist in our legal system and by-laws.  The weakness comes in the area of needing a police force committed to community policing strategies.  

PROPOSITION 17: Create two camps for visitors from bush communities, whilst strictly enforcing laws against unauthorized camping, littering and public drinking.

138 public responses.
I agree. 79.7%
I don’t agree. 17.4%
I am indifferent. 2.9%

RYAN: The community and Indigenous representatives rejected the proposal to build town camps on the north and south ends of Alice Springs. It is obvious that a solution is needed to meet the needs of visitors from outlying bush communities. The newly elected council will have to be the facilitator of all interested parties including the elected members of the new MacDonnell and Central Desert Shires to find a suitable solution.

 VAN HAAREN: I do not support the establishment of any more town camps. I support the normalization – a term coined by former Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Mal Brough – of the present town camps. The housing deficit for low income earners needs to be addressed.

CLARK: I am in favour of hostel style accommodation. However, we need to consult further with the visitors from communities about their needs in town, so that it is a positive experience for all.

PROPOSITION 18: There should be stringent take-away alcohol restrictions to reduce harm to a large segment of our community, and to curb anti-social behavior.

139 public responses.
I agree. 77.7%
I don’t agree. 20.9%
I am indifferent. 1.4%

RYAN: The layer on layer of restrictions has been ineffective and harks to an era of prohibition. I would fully support a system where the small number of problem drinkers were [held] responsible for their own actions without penalising the greater population. Our recognition of Alice as a tourist hub requires appropriate liquor trading hours. Council cannot affect liquor regulations but can be reflective of the community.

VAN HAAREN: I believe that if you reduce the supply of alcohol it has an effect on the consumption. The biggest prob
lem for Alice Springs is excessive consumption. Restrictions are an impost and sometimes penalize the wrong people, but at the end of the day the only way we can overcome the problems is making it harder to buy grog.

CLARK: I support a liquor free day as a way for the whole town to stand in solidarity against the waste of life caused by liquor abuse.
this week,
is "endorsed" by the Greens, which puts her out of step with convention of keeping party politics out of the town council, although some aldermen, such as mayoral candidate David Koch, and indeed the outgoing mayor asal parks, and has her facts wrong, asserting that one parks, Rainbow Valley, has already changed hands.

LETTER: Govt. minder, Advance Alice boss in fiery clash. WARNING: Some language in this letter may offend.

Sir,- There has been much discussion recently about the need for change, a new approach by our town council, taking on a much broader role, seeing itself in a corporate role, as the operator manager of our town, in all its aspects.
In a recently published letter I spoke of a meeting I had with the new Chief Minister just prior to Christmas.
In that meeting Paul Henderson was discussing, in a congratulatory fashion, the retirement of our most senior public servant, John Baskerville. 
A point was raised about the difficulty John had had in getting necessary decisions about Alice Springs made by a disinterested senior public service in Darwin.
It was put to the Chief Minister that we, the people of Alice, would like to see the senior position in our end of the Territory upgraded, given more independence and decision making capacity.
He was quite amiable to that idea, going on later that evening at his official Christmas function to announce in public his acceptance of that concept.
In my letter I went on to say in light of the above that it was time for the council to “seize the town planning role for Alice Springs, because of the NT Government’s dismal failure in that area”.
Well, didn’t that get a response!
Last Friday afternoon I received a loud and abusive phone call from the Chief Minister’s advisor, John Gaynor, reading my letter to me over the phone at the top of his voice, allowing no room for explanation.
He informed me that he (John Gaynor) does not set up meetings or invitations to official functions with Ministers so that I can use information gained for my own political ends, yelling at me: “The Chief Minister never said anything about handing over planning”.
This, of course, is quite accurate, he didn’t and that is why I used the word “seize”.
I’m not sure where Mr Gaynor went to school. By my understanding, the word “seize” intimates the use of a certain amount of force, certainly not a word you would associate with a voluntary action.
It is not amusing that a senior government bureaucrat would seek to use his position to blackmail and cajole a member of the public into not expressing a point of view!
It is even more amazing that the NT government should find so frightening the idea of Alice Springs controlling its own planning, like just about every other town in the country!
Why is the NT government so intent on keeping planning for the future of Alice Springs in Darwin?
What possible reason other than the wheeling of petty power could there be for a Darwin-based government hanging on desperately to planning control of a town 1500 kilometers to the south?
Could it possibly be that the tight reins on planning in Alice successfully stifles development here?
Does this have anything to do with leaving more money to spend on football, V8 car racing and wave pools in the Top End?
I am a builder, and I was on a building site at the time of Mr Gaynor’s loud and abusive call.
I thought it only fitting to respond in my best building site fashion, also at the top of my voice, as I needed to be heard above Mr Gaynor. 
I told him should he feel the need to ring me again in such a manner, I would immediately attend at his office to discuss the matter face to face! 
Mr Gaynor very rudely hung up.
Amusement aside, this hardly bodes well for a changed attitude towards Alice Springs.
It was under John Gaynor’s stewardship of the office of the Chief Minister in Alice Springs that Clare Martin was left hung out to dry, speechless and in shock, before an angry crowd of 500 plus people outside the Convention Centre last year.
The office’s perception at the time could be summed up as Alice has no problem at all, it’s all just media hype, and uncalled-for criticism.
Mr Gaynor now apparently thinks the role of the meetings he sets up are not to lend an ear to community concerns, with some intent to solving vexing issues.
Rather it seems meetings and invites to special functions are an exchange for silence, for the honour and privilege of being seen out hobnobbing with those in power.
Further to this appalling attitude, on the same day the Chief Minister’s office also rang a new mayoral candidate offering its support.
Somewhat inappropriate, don’t you think? Political interference in our council elections!
Surely, if this office spent as much time listening and doing something useful as it does issuing propaganda and attempting to stifle criticism, it might actually achieve something worthwhile, and then perhaps the criticisms would stop.
Nothing could give a better example of why Alice needs change in the sort of people who are representing it.
Take a long hard look at town council election candidates - do they have the intestinal fortitude to stand up against a government intent on stifling our development?
I call on the Chief Minister to distance himself from the petty antics of this office.
I call on the Chief Minister to sit down as a genuine politician and work out issues with the people of our town, not the government agencies, and map out a way forward that’s acceptable to the people, not the people of Darwin or Katherine or Gove but to the people of Alice Springs.
After all, its our bloody town!
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

[ED: Mr Brown is the head of the influential and vocal lobby, Advance Alice. The Alice News put his allegations to mayoral candidate Damien Ryan who said Mr Gaynor had “wished me luck,” but it was clear that Mr Gaynor had spoken not on behalf of the Chief Minister, but “in a personal capacity”. Mr Ryan stressed he is not a member of any party and does not want any political interference in town council matters.
Meanwhile Mr Gaynor, a Senior Ministerial Advisor in Alice Springs, has released to the Alice News what he describes as a file note he had written about the conversation with Mr Brown.
The note says in part:-
John: Steve, I’m calling ... about a statement you make that the Chief Minister made a statement about reviewing decision making in Alice Springs, which is true, he did say that, but you insinuate or imply, through the following paragraph that it was in some way connected to planning.
Steve: That’s not what it says at all.
John: l know what it says, that’s exactly what it implies, I have it in front of me, I’ll read it to you.
Steve: John, don’t read it to me, I know what it says, I wrote it, John.
John: Well, Steve, you say just prior to Christmas, Chief Minister Paul Henderson indicated he was not averse to Alice Springs having a more autonomous role, with more decision making made here.
The Chief Minister did make a commitment to review public servant decision making in Alice but that was in relation to an issue raised by Bronte Evans relating to John Baskerville’s retirement ... You go on to say that “the new town council must sieze this opponunity to take on the planning.”
At no stage at any time did planning get raised in that meeting.
Now for you to write a public letter referring to a discussion you had with the Chief Minister and l’d say mislead for your own personal and political agenda, I think that’s not within the spirit of having meetings with the Chief Minister, or me arranging for meetings like that to take place.
Steve (interrupting and screaming): Look John, as per usual you’ve totally misinterpreted whal I fucking said, you’ve got a fucking chip on your shoulder, and lf you ring and make fucking phone calls like this again l’ll fucking come down to the doorstep of your fucking office and I’ll fucking well punch you in the nose.
John: l don’t have to listen to this ... at which stage I hung up the phone. 
Mr Gaynor also commented: In respect to my conversation with Damien Ryan, indeed I did congratulate him on his decision to stand.
In my personal opinion, to have a thoughtful, successful, and competent businessman stand as a candidate for the forthcoming Alice Springs Council election bodes well for the future of Alice Springs.
It was not an endorsement by the NT Government.

Darwinites born to rule the Territory. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.

The demise of Jodeen Carney’s leadership of the CLP seems as inevitable as night follows day.
This is not an opinion borne of hindsight – through the history of the NT Legislative Assembly no political party, whose leader was a member for an electorate outside of Darwin, has been led successfully.
In fact this pattern was established in 1965, during the former NT Legislative Council, when Colonel Lionel Rose, the Member for Alice Springs, became the founding leader of the North Australia Party; however, in the elections of October 1965 he was defeated by the ALP’s Charlie Orr, the only time that Labor has ever won an urban Alice seat.
The next political leader based out of Darwin was the CLP’s Dr Goff Letts, the Member for Victoria River. As the majority leader of the newly-formed NT Legislative Assembly, Letts was at the forefront of the campaign for self-government but lost his seat in the 1977 elections.
The ALP’s first leader outside of Darwin was Bob Collins, the Member for Arafura, who took on the role in 1981. Despite being widely regarded as the best debater in the Legislative Assembly (unsurpassed to this day), Collins nevertheless led the ALP to arguably its worst defeat in 1983 – the CLP took 19 seats to Labor’s six.
This was Collins’ only attempt as leader to win office for Labor, as he stood aside to run for the senate in 1987.
The CLP’s Ian Tuxworth, the Member for Barkly, became chief minister upon the resignation of Paul Everingham in December 1984. Tuxworth relocated his family to Darwin in order to cope with the pressures of the job while still representing Barkly but this did not save his tenure from becoming disastrous, and he resigned in May 1986 thus becoming the only chief minister never to have run for election while holding that office.
Tuxworth subsequently became the inaugural leader of the NT Nationals, retaining his seat of Barkly in 1987 but losing office in 1990 when he sought to switch to the Top End seat of Goyder.
The next out-of-Darwin political leader was Labor’s Brian Ede, the Member for Stuart. He led Labor to a substantial defeat in 1994, narrowly retained his own seat, and – like Bob Collins – only stayed at his party’s helm for one general election.
Ede’s successor was Maggie Hickey, the Member for Barkly since 1990 after Tuxworth’s departure. In 1997 Hickey suffered the ignominy of leading Labor to one of its worst electoral defeats, and – just like Collins and Ede – led her party for one general election.
One might argue on a technicality that the hapless former CLP leader Denis Burke, who took his party to two elections defeats in 2001 and 2005 respectively, as the then-Member for Brennan (in Palmerston), also fits the bill as a failed political leader outside of Darwin.
Clearly Jodeen Carney is in good company but there is another aspect to her leadership that emphasizes the point I make – she was the third lawyer to lead the CLP after Paul Everingham and Shane Stone. Both Everingham and Stone started off as residents of Alice Springs, and both moved to Darwin where, as members representing urban Darwin seats, they led the CLP to its two greatest election victories (1983 and 1997).
Jodeen Carney has broken with “tradition” by remaining a resident of the Alice and, at present, is one of only two opposition leaders never to have led a political party in a general election in the Northern Territory.
The other one is none other than re-instated leader Terry Mills but, given the undertaking by Carney not to challenge for the leadership before the next general election, it is Carney that looks set to hold a unique position in the history of failed political leaders in the NT.
None of this is to say that there have been no failed political leaders from Darwin itself but the issue here is that there has not been one political leader from outside of Darwin whose career in that position can be described as a success.
As in the past, so too does the future look grim for political aspirants outside of Darwin. Obviously the CLP, with only four members, has no one else to choose; for example, Matt Conlan, the Member for Greatorex in the Alice, is a political novice.
However, what is more telling is that no-one from Labor out of Darwin inspires any confidence as potential leadership material – indeed, there are very few from within Darwin that could reasonably be considered genuine political leadership material, despite Labor’s overwhelming 19 seat majority.
In 1984, after the CLP government had increased the number of Legislative Assembly electorates from 19 to 25, the federal finance minister Senator Peter Walsh took Paul Everingham to task for wasting taxpayers’ dollars on such extravagance. Everingham apparently responded by pointing out how little talent there was in the existing pool of politicians so there was a need to increase the numbers in order to broaden the choice of potential ministers available.
It would seem much the same criticism applies today although the prospect of further expanding the number of politicians would be enough to give any reasonable person heart seizure – the real issue not being addressed is the nature of political representation.
For as long as we continue to persist with one member electorates, the apparent weaknesses of government in the Northern Territory will be exacerbated over time, regardless of which party holds office.
Unfortunately we do not have any politicians with either the vision or the caliber to undertake this debate in the interests of the Northern Territory as a whole.

Mills working on alliance with Nats in Queensland. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A CLP government under the leadership of Terry Mills would decentralise decision-making in the Territory, moving, for example, the relevant parts of Tourism NT back to Alice Springs. 
And the CLP opposition under Mr Mills will formalise its ties with other liberal (small ‘l’) forces around the country, especially those in northern Australia.
But Mr Mills doesn’t go as far as suggesting the party will amalgamate with another.
He says a “strategic alliance” with other conservatives will strengthen the drastically weakened NT party’ s intellectual resources for developing policy fixes for the many problems the northern states have in common.
He has already had discussions with the Queensland Nationals’ Laurence Springborg and these will be on-going.
Mr Mills returns to the leadership after a previous stint during the CLP’s first term in opposition.
He describes this period as “the best and worst of times”, speaking for the first time in public of the “destructive elements” that “white-anted” his position.
He chose not to identify them at the time “in the interest of the party”.
“They thought they could do it better so I stood aside.
“The result speaks for itself.”
It’s clear that the former leadership team that led the CLP to decimation – Denis Burke and Stephen Dunham – are who Mr Mills is referring to even if he declines to confirm this.
The “best” of the experience is that “it made me stronger”.
Nobody comes to a position of leadership without personal cost, he says. His past experience has been valuable in preparing him for the challenge ahead.
He says his so-called “coup” or “plot” against former leader Jodeen Carney is an “inflated” view of the situation. He says the situation was resolved amicably (though “amicable” is not really the tone of Ms Carney’s statement on the matter) and describes her performance as opposition leader as “outstanding”.
Ms Carney said in a media statement that she believed she was the best person to lead the CLP and that she would not become Mr Mills’ deputy in his proposed “job swap”.
However Mr Mills argues that “if we don’t take the fight up to the government in the place where we have the greatest chance of winning seats we’ll define ourselves as permanently in opposition”.
In his view, this can’t be done long distance.
It isn’t just a matter of geography –  “we had a Chief Minister [Ian Tuxworth] based in Tennant Creek”.
“It’s a matter of resources.
“The CLP at present has very limited capacity and resources.
“I am the only member north of Katherine, alone in holding up the opposition’s voice in a region where every single seat is in the hands of Labor.”
The authority and resources that the office of opposition leader carries with it will help him do this more effectively.
Ms Carney, in her media statement, rejected the view that “a person with an electorate in Alice Springs cannot be the Leader of the Opposition or, indeed, the Chief Minister”.  However, she has ruled out challenging Mr Mills for the leadership before the next election.
Mr Mills says taking the fight up to government is a mission he pursues every single weekend with the “grass roots communities” of the Top End while Ms Carney, “because of the quality of her representation in Alice Springs”, could rarely be in Darwin on weekends.
“It’s easy to see this as an insult to Alice Springs but it isn’t,” says Mr Mills. “I see it as a necessary move on the road towards addressing the core problems affecting Alice Springs which are due to a Labor Government.”
How’s that?
“Basically it’s because Labor doesn’t accept that individuals are responsible for their actions.
“They think society is responsible and so they fund a lot of loosely targeted and often extravagant social programs.
“They talk about getting tough, for instance with irresponsible parents, but it’s only a shift in rhetoric.
“It’s never followed up in action.”
He gives an example: the failure to fine parents for not sending children to school – the Act provides for a $200 fine but the provision has never been used.
A local example: a “tough love” youth camp at Hamilton Downs. Mr Mills says there’s talk but “you just don’t get the feeling that it will ever happen.
“I believe it is people rather than policies and programs who make the real difference, I believe in freeing people up to decide on things and run things themselves.
“There are people in Alice ready to run with a ‘tough love’ camp.
“Government should move swiftly to help them with resources.”
Likewise with economic development, government’s role should be as facilitator, decentralising decision-making to the place where the action is to be undertaken.
This would see the shift of Tourism NT’s operations concerning Central Australia to Central Australia.
“I’m not a centralist. I believe in taking shackles off individuals, increasing their autonomy and creativity by putting power in their hands.
“This applies in education too. I would increase the decision-making at school level where creative solutions are needed on the ground, rather than take a ‘we know best’ attitude.”
But people with vested interests can resist necessary change, can’t they?
Mr Mills says leaders should stay the course with policies and reforms they have put to the people during an election, even if opposition develops.
But if reform programs are developed after an election – he cites Labor’s local government reform as an example – they have to be done in a manner that “takes the people with you.
“I agree that local government reform was needed but the government had to stand up and win the argument.
“There’s been great difficulty in getting the Minister to front the people.
“If I didn’t have a mandate for a program I would be out there front and centre, not letting a highly paid consultant do it for me.”
Not surprisingly Mr Mills believes the Commonwealth’s welfare reform must continue and is concerned that the substance of the intervention will be whittled away by the new federal Labor government to become “yet another cause for discouragement of good Aboriginal people”.
He believes the permit system “ultimately must go” but this would be a case of taking the people with you: “You have to win the argument, that there are advantages in us being better connected to each other.”
One advantage would be a mutually beneficial alliance with traditional owners to free up land around the Territory’s urban centres. 
“Government has got to release land in order to achieve affordable housing.
“Combined with incentives for families to move here this could lead to a boom in Alice Springs, a chance to really grow the community and economy.”

Farewell William Trevor Stephens. Eulogy NOEL HARRIS.

I last saw Trevor the day I left on holidays never thinking that I would not see him again, a message to all people here today: make the most of your parents or grandparents while you have them as nobody ever knows when they will not be here any more, and a reminder to us all to live life to the full like there is no tomorrow.
Trev, you have achieved big mobs since we met in 1998. Although you had difficult health issues you did not let any of this get in your way.
You impressed me so very much with your friendly and positive attitude and punctuality that you were the proud recipient of my long and successful coach’s incentive award in 1999.
Your kind and unselfish thoughts in the late nineties led you to nominate me as a torch bearer  for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – a very proud and memorable occasion for both of us.
Again last November you nominated me for the Australian of the Year awards, both in the Senior Territorian and Local Hero awards, I now have a lovely framed award proudly up on my wall beside my Olympic Torch, thanks very much to you again, dear Trev.
Those special talks we had regarding difficult times helped me remain positive, and once you asked me why do I persist. My answer was it was because of people like you that appreciate my many hours and years of time and knowledge that keeps me passionate about helping people of all levels of health and well being.
You made special visits just prior to Christmas  every year since we first met, with a fine bottle of red wine as a thank you for my continual assistance. I still have some of your wine that will be used today as a toast to you Trev – one of nature’s gentlemen.
As we both walked through the new works in the Ghan Railway property just the same morning that I left town for three weeks holiday,  nobody knew that in this very same area you would be taken from us just two days before my return to town in such a tragic way. Trev I am having a sign made as a memorial to you on this property with the wording “Trevor Stephens Discovery Walk”.

Alice 1/8th of population, 1/8th of NTCE top scores. By KIERAN FINNANE.

With eight Alice students among the Territory’s Top 50 NTCE achievers last year, Alice had its fair share of success – one-eighth of the top scorers for one eighth of the population.
St Philip’s College had one student among the Territory’s Top 20 (actually 29) and Centralian Senior Secondary College had two.
St Philip’s Sashika Richards was Alice’s top student, with an NTCE score of 94, earning her a TER (Tertiary Entrance Rank, the score on which universities base their intakes) of 99.6.
Centralian’s David Johnston and Emily Ryan each had an NTCE score of 90. They earnt TERs of 97.9 and 93.55 respectively.
These students were joined in the Territory’s Top 50 (actually 58) by Jane (Katherine) Bowering from St Philip’s, Carl Muir and Georgia Steller from OLSH College and Jack Talbot from Centralian.
Carl was OLSH’s top student earning a TER of 97.15.
Casuarina Senior College in Darwin produced the Territory’s top student, Kelly Beneforti, with an NTCE score of 99, and the college dominated the Top 50 with 29 out of the 58 placements, followed by Darwin High with 18.
Casuarina also produced the top Indigenous student, Brooke Ottley, who achieved a NTCE score of 86.
At Centralian College 25 out of 26 Indigenous students earnt their NTCE; St Philip’s saw two Indigenous students obtain theirs, with one, Amanda McLean earning a TER of 84.8; and OLSH had three Indigenous students completing their NTCE and now looking at further study.
There were 126 Indigenous students among the record 985 students who received an NTCE in the Territory.
That’s nearly 13% of the total, still well below population parity (around 29% of Territorians are Indigenous, while around 37% of Territory school students are Indigenous).
Alice students earning perfect scores in individual subjects were  Eddie Tikoft in Physics and Nicole Zimmerman in Computing, both from St Philip’s; Ryan Bailey in English Communications, and both Lhiani Payne and Staci Trindle-Price in Australian Languages, from Centralian. OLSH did not provide information in regard to perfect scores.
In the Territory 39 students achieved perfect scores. Alice’s five account for one eighth of those.
St Philip’s had six students earning TERs over 90 and a further 10 over 80; Centralian had four students earning TERs over 90 and a further 12 over 80; OLSH did not provide this information but said “the class achieved above average results in the higher Grades, namely A, B and C, and this was complemented by less than average distributions in the lower groups, D and E”.
The average TER score for St Philip’s was 72.8; for Centralian, 70.2; OLSH did not provide this information.
This was an improvement for Centralian on the 2006 average (67) but not as good as their 2005 average of 75.95 (75.46 in 2004).
St Philip’s did not provide this information for 2006 but the 2005 average was 73.5 (70.63 in 2004), so the 2007 average is up there.
Of the eligible students, 97.2% passed their NTCE at Centralian (105 out of 108); 94% passed at St Philip’s (48 out of 51);  95.8% passed OLSH (46 out of 48).

ADAM CONNELLY: Blind faith is scary.

Australia Day is seen by some in the community as a contentious celebration. I had a ball last week celebrating the notion of a nation but I can see why some wouldn’t be so sympathetic.
Some feel that commemorating the landing of Phillip and several hundred petty crims at Sydney Cove isn’t an event to be marked by fireworks and barbies.
It could be argued that while the landing of convicts and freemen on that summer day in 1788 began most humbly a great nation it also destroyed dozens of other great nations.
There are others that cringe at the nationalistic tinge that is creeping into many of the celebrations. The flag fashioned into a cape.
The “Oi! Oi! Oi!” reminiscent of that day not so long ago at that beach, with a hint of that woman from Queensland who has recently been seen around Alice. I have friends that have the “Love it or leave it” sticker on their bumper.
That sticker sometimes scares me a bit. It evokes a blind love. It says that if I’m critical of my country I don’t love it. What’s wrong with a “Love it or do something about it” sticker? I happen to think that those who stand and shout from the rooftops the injustices and the imperfections they see in Australia love the country more deeply than those with the blind faith approach.
They get the un-Australian tag most often, but to me there is no greater act of real patriotism than wanting to improve and protect the Aussie way of life.
I find it strange that Australia Day has this image problem yet Christmas Day seems to remain relatively unscathed. With more and more Australians coming from lands with mosques and temples rather than churches combined with the lack of church attendance you would think that December 25 might have a public relations nightmare on it’s hands.
Christ wasn’t even actually born in December. It’s a date we stole from old pagans. Yet despite all that’s going against it in this modern, ungodly world, Christmas remains the biggest holiday on our calendar.
It proves to me that public holidays can be about whatever we want. So why not use Australia Day to unite as a nation, a people diverse but united?
Why not celebrate Australia as a country with all its obvious imperfections? A nation with all its glorious challenges. A great nation, with citizens aiming to make it better. Why not?
I don’t have to tell anyone living here just what an amazing part of a remarkable country we live in. Geology gave us a palette unique and inspiring upon which to build this country. But of course we didn’t start out that way; in fact we have only been this nation since 1901.
Sometimes it’s a little too easy to remember that we as a modern nation started as several separate entities. This separation still makes itself known from time to time.
In an era of increasing federalism it is interesting that the old school rivalries still pop up from time to time, even if they can scarcely be justified.
Sydney prides itself on it harbour, yet all the people I know in that city can’t see it from their window due to the vast urban sprawl.
Adelaide calls itself the culture capital of Australia yet most South Aussies are more passionate about the Crows than the ballet.
Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia yet every time I go to Melbourne I see people wearing skivvies and anoraks.
Not really your quintessential sporting wardrobe.
So post Australia Day, let’s put these old rivalries to bed. Melbourne, no more Sydney bashing and could everyone leave Brisbane alone...they can’t help it.
Let’s unite the way only Aussies can. In a spirit of fraternity, a spirit of the fair go.
Let’s find the ties that bind. A sense of community, a sense of justice and an intense hatred of New Zealand sporting teams.

Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.