March 6, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Alice to turn fortress mentality inside out. By KIERAN FINNANE.

After more than a year of discussions and planning among “stakeholders” the public of Alice Springs is about to be brought into the picture with the release of a masterplan for redevelopment of the CBD.
A document summarising briefings and workshops on the redevelopment to March 2007 speaks of the need to turn Alice Springs “inside out”.
The document, titled “Care at a distance”, was written by leading public space design thinker Paul Carter, a collaborator on the award-winning landscape design of Melbourne’s Federation Square and a consultant to the Moving Alice Ahead project.
Professor Carter writes: “It is widely agreed that the present organization of buildings, interstitial spaces and traffic design [in Alice Springs] creates a ‘fortress mentality’.
“There is a strong recognition that Alice Springs needs to turn ‘inside out’.
“The external boundaries need to be edited and punctuated, opening ways to the Todd River and views to the surrounding hills and ranges.
“Internal obstacles to flow also need to be removed; in particular, an east-west passage connecting the Railway Station to Todd Mall needs to be created.
“The Department of Planning and Infrastructure (Ken Hawkins) and Alice Springs-based planners have on the table proposals that begin to address these aspirations.”
A start has been made at the railway end on the east-west passage.
Early landscaping works along a pathway that would take Ghan passengers by foot into the CBD had an official opening last year.
Over the summer a handsome fence separating the railway from the Stuart Highway, designed by Susan Dugdale, has been constructed.
The fence is a graphic representation of the Stuart Highway, showing its meandering across the landscape and the major centres along the way: PA (Port Augusta), CP (Coober Pedy) and so on.
Interestingly though the fence does not enhance the idea of “flow”, creating a barrier, albeit an attractive one, in the urban landscape.
And in this Dry Town era it is also playing a role in screening from view public drinking and its attendant litter as our photo taken last Friday shows.
Mr Carter’s 2007 document does not go to specific design proposals but outlines broad principles that would underline them.
These were informed by local stakeholders and representatives, notably Rev. Tracy Spencer of the Uniting Church, Bruce Walker (Centre for Appropriate Technology) and John Huigen (Desert Knowledge Australia) as well as Mr Hawkins.
The Town Council, Tourism NT, representatives of the local business community, the native title holder body Lhere Artepe and Alice Springs Desert Park have also been part of the discussion.
The Uniting Church has had a central role because of its “plans to redevelop Lot 74 (one of three lots it owns on Todd Mall) with a view to creating ‘a place for welcoming, connecting and encountering’.”
Lot 74 is where the current offices of the Aboriginal Employment Strategy are located.
The News understands that there are plans for this lot to become part of a public space, a green corridor that will run at least from Yeperenye Shopping Centre down to the Todd.
This would impact on the present carpark at the back of Hartley Street School, which is owned by the Town Council.
Additional parking would be created by a multi-level carpark behind a street-level shop and cafe development with frontage along Gregory Terrace and Hartley Street.
The News understands that the carparking area in the old Imparja building on Leichardt Terrace may also become part of the green corridor.
Rev Spencer told the Alice News that the church is keen to ensure “community level consultation” about the use of the land the church owns.
And that the church’s vision is to continue to support use of that land for outdoor recreation, art and performance, for it to be “an inclusive” space.
The Carter document emphasises the “many distinctive stories” of Alice.
The town is “a unique meeting place of Arrernte Dreaming Stories and non-Indigenous histories of exploration, settlement and migration”.
Without wanting to diminish the difference between them, Mr Carter writes of the potential these two story traditions offer for “cross-cultural meeting” in that both are about “travelling, about processes of bringing country into being”.
“This fact provides a potential place of cross-cultural meeting. At present this potential is not realized.
“The physical plan of the Alice Springs CBD explains why. The rectilinear grid symbolizes white understanding of place-making.
“It is a graphic representation of how non-Indigenous cultures structure communication. Straight lines connect people who are distant – witness the Telegraph Wire – but they don’t create places where people who are together can connect.
“This is where Arrernte maps are important: they describe a landscape where communication is structured around meeting places connected by tracks.
“The ideal form of an Arrernte meeting place is a circle... It makes everywhere potentially near.
“The rectilinear grid and the network of circles are two stories about making places.
“In Alice Springs they uniquely coincide...
“These different ways of drawing Alice’s stories capture two aspects of the experience of arrival. One provides a measure of distance. The other provides a measure of nearness.”
“To design a place where people from a great distance can be near to one another, both the quantity and quality of the experience of arrival must be written into the design.”
Ideas about how this will be done and the public consulted will presumably be in the masterplan.

Big brother watches.

As the Alice News spoke to Alison Anderson and Leo Abbott, sitting in a cafe on Todd mall, Ms Anderson received a phone call from chief minder for the NT Government, Director of Comunications Richard O’Leary.
He wanted to know what she was talking to the News about.
He was calling from Darwin.
Someone in Alice, passing by, had thought it their business to let him know that they had seen Ms Anderson talking to the News.
And he thought it his business to interfere.
Fortunately for her constituents and for Central Australian democracy more broadly, Ms Anderson is not easily intimidated.
“I speak up because this affects me personally,” she says.
“I’m right inside the problems.”

National parks ownership a measure of Henderson’s commitment to Alice. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Chief Minister Paul Henderson was in town last week, doing the rounds, opening things, telling us how much he cares for Alice Springs, and for its future.
Now he has an opportunity to prove it.
From his predecessor he’s inherited what is easily the most virulent manifestation of his government’s contempt for Alice Springs and Central Australia.
It’s Clare Martin’s plan to transfer our most valuable assets, 13 national parks, almost all in The Centre, from public to Aboriginal ownership.
Over some years, several Coalition ministers for Aboriginal affairs in Canberra, although giving verbal agreement, have not obliged Ms Martin by scheduling the parks under the Federal land rights act, as she had asked them to.
Now the new Labor Government’s Jenny Macklin has said she will.
Mr Henderson can put a stop to that.
If he doesn’t, without making public compelling reasons for doing so, his hand-on-his-heart assurances about Alice Springs will be seen as meaningless drivel.
The way Ms Martin went about setting up this deal, with the Central Land Council, was a high point in her hoodwinking the public, which voted for her in 2001 largely because of her promise to run an open government.
She acted on this issue in complete secrecy, without an iota of public consultation.
A pamphlet delivered to homes in Alice Springs – hardly anybody can remember it – did not invite the public to give its views which would be heeded in the decision-making process.
The public was bluntly told what Ms Martin would be doing, and that was that.
Over some three years the NT Government has rejected every single request from this newspaper – we made dozens of them – for information, comment or explanation on the parks strategy.
In the ongoing Alice Springs News web survey “What Alice Wants”, 305 people so far have commented on the following proposition: “Leave all national parks in public ownership but set up an Aboriginal park management advisory body.” 
More than three quarters of respondents, 77% (235 people) said “I agree”; 15.1% (46 people) said “I disagree”, and 7.9% (24 people) said “I am indifferent”.
After a series of investigative reports in the Alice News, more than 200 people attended a public meeting in April 2006, called to protest against the parks handover.
Not a single government politician fronted up.
The Alice Town Council and the Territory Opposition are opposed to the transfer of park ownership.
Five out of six candidates for mayor of Alice Springs have condemned it, some of them vehemently:-
Meredith Campbell: It seems the current arrangement, which is public ownership, is working well. 
Murray Stewart: National Parks are for all Australians ... a symbol of togetherness, integration and tranquility. I don’t want to see a divided Central Australia, which I fear would occur by the handover of our parks to any population segment.
Damien Ryan: All parks, Federal and Territory, are owned by the people. The parks should remain in public hands.
Melanie 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.
Dave Koch: Our parks should be owned by the public. They are for all Australians. National parks should not be owned by a segment of the population. There should be complete and equal access for visitors and investors alike. I don’t agree with the NT Government’s current plans to give favorable treatment to Indigenous businesses in the parks. 
The odd one out is the Greens endorsed candidate, Jane Clark, but she isn’t up to speed on the issue: she thought Rainbow Valley had already been handed over.
It hadn’t, and it won’t be; it’s not one of the 13.
Nevertheless, the deal with Aboriginal custodians for Rainbow Valley is a daunting illustration of the NT Government’s approach to joint management.
About 90% of the Rainbow Valley reserve has been declared off limits to non-Aborigines.
That puts into perspective the arrangements the government has in mind for the 13 parks when it has accomplished the expropriation of the public.
The undertaking “no fees, no permits”, and a 99 year lease-back to NT parks authorities, are meaningless if the great bulk of the parks are closed to the general public, or if access is made subject to onerous conditions.
Aborigines would be given priority in all grants of permission for business activities in the parks.
That wouldn’t be so bad if 30 years of landrights had underpinned thriving communities profiting from the vast opportunities in tourism, cattle, horticulture and mining.
What we in fact have is thousands of brutalized and destitute people in a mostly idle ghetto archipelago stretched over a million square kilometers.
The consequences are not hard to imagine if the development of the tourism industry, the town’s biggest and most prospective, built around the scenic beauty of the West MacDonnells and other parks, were put into the hands of people with an almost perfect failure rate (setting aside the brilliant achievements of Aboriginal artists and their industry).
Ms Martin’s clandestine machinations were triggered by the Ward decision of the High Court in 2002 (see break-out this page).
The long bow she drew then has become even longer.
This should put Ms Macklin firmly on her guard: before sealing the fate of the parks, under legislation for which she assumed responsibility 100 days ago, she could start by asking her party colleague Warren Snowdon whom he is representing – the majority of his constituents, or his mates in the land council where he finds employment before and between stints as a Member of Parliament?
She may also examine Ms Martin’s record of dealing with Aboriginal issues generally.
What prompted Ms Macklin’s immediate predecessor, Mal Brough, to take the reins from the former Chief Minister, with respect to quite a few functions?
Many of Mr Brough’s arrangements are being left in place by the new Federal government.
Any notion that Canberra must necessarily ratify decisions by Darwin with respect to land needs to be looked at in this light.
If Ms Martin couldn’t be trusted to govern with competence in matters of Aboriginal welfare and safety, why should she be able to make decisions so vehemently opposed by a clear majority?
Ms Martin claimed in her brochure: “To date, every native title claim in the Territory heard by the Courts has resulted in a determination that native title rights and interests exist.”
That has become heavily qualified: native title compensation claims over the Ayers Rock Resort (Yulara) and Darwin failed.
In each case Ms Martin’s government fought the claimants in court, and beat them.
How come, Ms Macklin should ask, is the NT Government rolling over when the parks are concerned?
In the national parks argument the issue may well be merely proving that any kind of native title existed over the parks, at the time of their declaration, making the declaration invalid.
No doubt the government has expensive legal opinion on that, paid for with public money.
Consequently that information should be public. We should not be kept in the dark.
Is Mr Henderson continuing Ms Martin’s stonewalling?
We asked his minder for an interview two weeks ago but his round of feel-good engagements last week didn’t include the Alice News.
Ms Macklin should ask this: What are the names of the Aboriginal elders who apparently want to take the parks away from the public, of which they themselves are a part? Who are these claimants who want to exploit an inadvertent loophole, flying in the face of the wishes of the vast majority in their community? Do these people really exist?
And: How difficult would it be to prove native title rights existed decades ago, when the parks were cobbled together from a patchwork of blocks under various forms of title?
Then Ms Macklin should talk to the people of Central Australia and do what Kevin Rudd has said his government would be doing: listen to the people, and do as they say.
Will Paul Henderson?

The parks conundrum.

The problem started when the High Court, in the Ward Decision in 2002, judged the declaration of the Keep River National Park to have been invalid.
That meant that the declaration of 48 other parks may have been invalid as well.
The Territory Country Liberal Party government created the Conservation Land Corporation to become the owner, in 1984, of the Territory’s national parks.
Under NT law the corporation could not own land to which anyone other than the Territory, or the corporation itself, held a “right, title or interest”.
At the time the parks were transferred to the new corporation, there was no official knowledge about Aboriginal native title rights.
They were recognised much later in the 1992 Mabo High Court decision.
However, native title rights, now acknowledged to have always existed, could influence land management actions before Mabo, if they occurred after the enactment of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
In logic the layman may find difficult to understand, the accepted legal view now is that the creation of the Racial Discrimination Act should have made it obvious to all of us that native title rights existed and would be recognised by the High Court 17 years later.
And this is at the nub of the parks problems: because of native title – still unknown at the time – the Territory and the Conservation Land Corporation may not have been the only ones to have an interest in the parks.
Native title holders may also have had an interest, however minor, and that would make void the declaration of the park in question.
It would then revert to vacant Crown Land and as such become available for a land rights claim.
All things being equal, the Ward Decision would have mattered little to the present fate of the parks, because land claims under the Land Rights Act had a 1996 sunset clause.
However, a former Central Land Council lawyer, acting on a hunch just days before the sunset deadline, placed land claims on 11 parks in The Centre, including the West Macs, Emily and Jessie Gaps, Arltunga, N’dhala, Trephina and Finke Gorge – the crown jewels of Central Australia’s tourism industry.
These claims have not been heard by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner because until the Ward Decision, the parks were believed to have been declared properly and as such immune from claims. 
The commissioner has no power to strike out these claims – so they’ve been in limbo ever since.
But now the lawyer’s extraordinary legal foresight has become the crux of the parks wrangle: wherever native title interests can be proven, the way may become clear for hearing the land claims he was responsible for lodging.
If granted the parks in question would become Aboriginal freehold, and the Aboriginal owners would have the right to deny access.
End of the parks.

Life’s better with income management, say men and women from town camps and bush. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Quarantining of welfare payments, or income management as it has become known, brought in by the Coalition last year, and to date continued by the new Labor government, got the thumbs up from Aboriginal people the Alice News spoke to, men as well as women, from town camps and from the bush.
Children are better fed and clothed, school attendance is up and gambling down, they say.
Women have an assured income to spend on their families and, some of them for the first time, are going shopping in Alice Springs for goods previously out of their reach.
Mandy Pegg spoke to the News in Charles Creek town camp, in the company of MLA for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson.
Mandy is from Papunya. She is assertive and articulate, fluent in English and wants to be heard.
She and friend Linda Anderson, also from Papunya, were in town to see the AFL match last Friday.
They overnighted in a makeshift camp on the banks of Charles Creek to be near family who now live in Hoppy’s Camp.
They say life in Papunya is better, especially for children, since income management was introduced.
It must stay, they say.
Mandy’s income is managed; she works in the shop at Papunya, on work-for-the-dole. Before the changes to CDEP last year, she was working for the aged care program, on CDEP wages, doing meals-on-wheels.
In her spare time, together with Linda and Amos Anderson, she continues to look after elderly people living at Papunya’s outstations – cooking, cleaning, washing.
Linda is salaried, having worked at Papunya School for the last 18 years. 
Says Mandy: “If this income management is changed, it will affect everyone in the community.
“If they get [cash] money I know fathers and mothers will come to town and buy grog and drugs and the kids will starve.
“That’s what used to happen. The kids are getting fed now.”
Kids are also going to school in greater numbers.
The women are happy about that but warn that attendance could drop away when the local footy season starts.
Mandy: “If sport is on they will go to another place.”
Linda: “It’s all right if it’s a public holiday, but some communities put footy on weekdays.”
This means families don’t come back till Tuesday or Wednesday and children’s schooling drops down to two or three days a week, instead of five.
And it’s not just Papunya families who are so footy mad, says Linda: “It’s everywhere [in the bush]. I go to meetings and hear that this happens everywhere.”
Income management has impacted on gambling, say the women.
Mandy: “People are still gambling, but it’s $1 or $5 games, instead of $100 games.”
“Or $200 games,” adds Linda.
All this is a good start but there’s still a long way to go.
Linda says the focus now needs to be on employment.
“We need to see more jobs because that is what the children need to see.
“Whenever we need tradesmen, the money goes out of the community.
“I’d like to see someone on the community train to do those jobs, plumbing, carpentry, electrician, building houses.
“People would be on better money too.”
“They could save,” says Mandy.
She does not have children herself; her strong views are about the good of the community: “That’s why I don’t want income management to change. It’s better than before.”
“I’m looking at the future, at the children coming on,” says Linda. “What do they see? They haven’t got good role models. 
“Our parents didn’t have washing machines. They used to wash our clothes with their hands. We didn’t have showers. We had to get up to wash in a bucket of hot water.
“We never had scabies. Our clothes were clean, our yards were clean. We used to smell the good breeze. Now it’s rubbish all around us.”
“It’s like living in a dump,” agrees Mandy.
Further along in the creek, the News spoke to a group of men, visitors from Nyirripi and town camp residents. 
Nyirripi is a community of some 300 people, a 440 km drive north-west of Alice.
Income management is not due to be implemented there until April.
The men from Nyirripi, also in town for the footy, are unimpressed with the measure: their children get enough to eat, they say; they want their cash money; white fellas in the same situation get all their cash money. 
But Eddie Jackson, who as a town camp resident is already experiencing income management, chimes in: he’s finding the new system good; money is saved for all the things his family needs; there’s the opportunity for everyone, including him, to get good clothes.
A young man who didn’t want to be named, also a town camp resident, agrees: the kids have got clothes, he’s got clothes, there’s money for food, and there’s still some cash money.
David Wintjana is in a wheelchair following an amputation and lives permanently in town.
He has a house allocated to him. The Alice News reported in its issue of December 20 last year that the house had been largely destroyed by fire. At that stage David and the people camped with him were still able to get water and to shower at the house.
The only change since December is that the water has been turned off.
David is happy with income management: he’s got money available for food all the time now.
Eddie talks persuasively to the visitors from Nyirripi; they listen and nod, taking in what he says.
The young man says with satisfaction that he gave his store card (which allows quarantined money to be spent in licensed stores on essential items) to his wife to go shopping for the kids. He says she enjoyed going shopping in K-mart for the first time.
Sitting alone in a makeshift camp is Laurel Daniels, an aunty to Alison Anderson.
She has blankets and bags stashed into the branches of a tree. There’s a mattress in the shade as well as a couple of dogs.
Ms Anderson says  Laurel needs the dogs for protection.
She camps with three other women.
She has only been in the spot for a week, having left Old Timers Camp where she had a house.
Why did she move?
“I lost my husband,” she says quietly.
The other women are out selling paintings; Laurel also paints but has nothing to sell today.
Ms Anderson advises her to dig a hole to store her food or it will all be taken when she leaves the camp.
Laurel is not happy with income management; she says she can manage her money herself.
At present her fortnightly income is divided like this: $100 in food vouchers; $180 on a store card; and $280 in cash.
She might want to buy a bus ticket to go to Broome or to Darwin, she says, and with her money tied up like it is, she can’t.
Alison tells her to go see Centrelink about the bus ticket; they’ll fix it.
“She doesn’t understand the rules,” comments Ms Anderson, “the information flow needs to be better.”

Talk to us, not urban people: Green Senator is off mark. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“We don’t like people in the cities talking for us, we can talk for ourselves,” says Mandy Pegg. 
“I think it would be a good idea for the government to ask us people out bush, instead of urban people, the Stolen Generations,” says Linda Anderson.
Both women are from Papunya, home community of MacDonnell MLA  Alison Anderson.
The Alice News put to Ms Anderson the views of Senator Rachel Siewert, the Australian Greens’ spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs: that “the NT Intervention is racially discriminatory”, that it “takes away Aboriginal land and quarantines people’s money without cause”, that “quarantining is creating chaos and confusion”.
Ms Anderson dismisses the arguments: “I contest the right of Senator Siewert to speak on the issues – these people are not her constituents.”
She acknowledges “teething problems” but with earthy directness she says: “If we can’t get this Intervention right, we can kiss our arses goodbye.”
Leo Abbott is part of this converstaion. He hails from Wallace Rockhole and with father Barry runs a petrol sniffers’ rehabilitation centre at Ilpurla, south-west of Alice Springs. He campaigned for the CLP in the last federal election and is increasingly prominent as a spokesperson on a wide range of Indigenous issues and will surely throw his hat into the political ring some day.
Mr Abbott suggests that more consultation with communities is the way to make things work better.
“I disagree with you, brother,” says Ms Anderson.
“We’ve been consulting for 30 years and it’s got us nowhere.
“The government doesn’t consult the rest of Australia on health and education, governments are there to govern.”
Mr Abbott: “You’ve got no argument from me. By consulting I simply mean better information so that people understand what it really means, education so that they can speak for themselves, instead of do-gooders speaking for them.”

Footy, Ronny: the spectacle was us. BY DARCY DAVIS.

Last weekend was a time of Centralians coming together for a common purpose.
First off was the AFL exhibition match between the West Coast Eagles and the Carlton Blues on Friday night.
The game had nothing of the glamour or intensity of a “real” AFL match. The word “exhibition” was the appropriate descriptor – the match more like an art exhibition, but instead of paintings, people went to see “the big men fly”.
There was no immense roar from thousands of throats protesting about the outrageous decisions made by the umpire like you might hear at “real” match. In fact, I didn’t hear the umpire get called a “dirty mug” once.
West Coast ended up defeating the Blues by 41 points.
As much as the match, the spectacle was all of us – eight thousand or so. It was almost surreal, the bright lights of Traeger Park shining down on our own little cosmos.
Regardless of racial origins, whether you were sitting on the dusty mound on one side of the ground, or in the reserve seating on the other, people were brought together by their fascination with the spectacle of 36 men, some of them wearing quite tight shorts, chasing an egg-shaped ball across the turf; football was the common denominator.
Skin colour mattered not (unusual in Alice).
As barrackers, we could all punch the air in either adulation or frustration; as players the team focus was entirely on moving that ball towards and through the goals. Aboriginal players and non-Aboriginal alike were all part of a greater purpose.
There weren’t too many drunks although a friend of mine was bashed on his way into town, possibly by the Crips or Bloods (who are they? And why are they branding the streets?)
That was Friday.
On Saturday night people came together out of a sense of humanity and care for a dear friend, Ronny Reinhard, well known in our town, as musician, media teacher, friend, so much a part of many lives here.
The fact that he has become so ill has jolted the sensibilities of many, uniting us in our own fear and concern, galvanizing us into committing an act of love and care.
Hundreds attended the benefit concert at Watch This Space to raise funds for the large cost of his treatment.
There was a bar, good food and raffles to raise funds, and to celebrate there was music.
Rusty and the Infidels were playing their own version of Russian Gypsy dance music without the vodka.
Rod Moss and Henry Smith, better known as visual artists, banged out some Bob Dylan.
Jacinta Price and McDee gave us their home-grown rhythm and blues, jazz hip hop.
Herman Marcic twanged out the blues on his Dobro.
The Secret Admirers spanked the ivories and made their admiration for Ronny no secret.
In Tatters got people rocking to the tunes of Ronny’s generation.
Katrina Stowe and Christopher Brocklebank melted our hearts with their beautiful classical guitar and soulful clarinet.
The yellow bucket was passed around and quickly filed with 5s, 10s and 20s.
Drinks were sold, food was bought. The crowd swelled, more and more people arrived; the great spirit of our common cause saturated the night.
Craig Mathewsom MC called for people to dig deep, then to dig deeper; the yellow bucket came round again.
Dr Strangeways came on and the audience rose to their feet, swamping the dance floor for some “booty-shake therapy” – the yellow bucket roared past again.
Finally The Moxie jumped up on stage (minus lead guitarist Declan Furber-Gillick) and put the rock in “Rock for Ronny”.
What was remarkable was that everyone was there for the same reason, to contribute to the care of one of their fellow travellers. Saturday night demonstrated how far Ronny and his family networked in the Alice community and the love people have for them. Tonight, people from different spectrums will once again come together to play the same game.
CAAMARAMA is a concert of bands from around the Centre who will be playing at the Alice Springs Youth Centre. The Rising Wind Band (Yuendemu), Dr Strangeways (Alice Springs) and Santa Teresa Band will be there not to oppose each other, but to play together. See you there.

LETTERS: Govt. minder out of order.

Sir,- I hope I’m not alone in finding the recent correspondence from Steve Brown and John Gaynor to be one of the most extraordinary things I’ve read in our local newspapers in a long while.
Some may disagree with Mr Brown’s views; that’s good, we’re meant to be a democracy. Some may disapprove of his alleged language, though it was not him that shared it with us.
Some may wish to admonish the Alice News for publishing it, though its publication has raised some important issues.
But the one thing that was truly unacceptable was that a senior government advisor thought it appropriate to publish his remarkably detailed record of a private conversation in a newspaper, with the clear intention of bad-mouthing and discrediting a member of the community whom he is meant to be serving.
When was it that our bureaucrats forgot why they are there?
What is most frightening is not that a senior bureaucrat felt this was appropriate, but that he must have been confident of the support of those he thinks he serves, namely the NT Government.
There is a cult of personality politics that has come to pervade our bloated bureaucracy – and which can only survive with at least tacit approval of government ministers, who must (it seems) be more interested in their electability than in their achievements - in protecting their own interests, rather than in listening to the legitimate views of Territorians.
It is a form of corruption - there is no other word - when a government has favourites whom it funds, supports, invites to its Christmas parties, or is even prepared to listen to – and when it tries to harm those who disagree with it.
The current government came to power accusing the last lot of “mateship”, but this mob has turned it into an artform cloaked in impenetrable layers of bureaucracy. (The only local artform, incidentally, that’s well funded).
What will be the government response to this letter or to this issue?
Well, it should be a public review of the conduct of government employees; they should be firmly reminded of their role in our society.
Perhaps, though, I should be lucky if there is no response at all, for the standard response to any who dare stand up and criticize any aspect of this government, however professional and objective their language and their arguments, is to ignore the message and to try to shoot the messenger.
Sadly, this seems to have become the mantra of our government.
It’s just that it’s not normally quite so blatant.
Dr David Curl
Alice Springs

What we’ve become hardened to ...
Sir,- I’ve lived in Alice Springs most of my life and the parade of walking wounded is only slightly less disturbing than the comatose drunk lying in a very public heap.
Is he drunk or dead? I usually stop to check, and on rare occasions discover the victim of a beating, a diabetes hypo or a stroke.
Almost every day I walk past the face of a thousand beatings - today she is humbugging for money.
The tourist looks disapprovingly at my curt manner. Now she looks alarmed - it must be 2pm - a wave of people, enter the shopping centre on their way to the bottle shop. How many have already had their fill at the pub?
I recognise some of the local drunks, familiar faces in the final few years, or with luck, a decade of their lives – it’s like watching generational change-overs or, rather, flame-outs in fast forward.
Surely childhood ear infections and perforated ear drums can’t explain all this adult noise and mayhem? But how many grew up in neglected communities where the loudest and often the most violent prevailed in the struggle for scant resources?
The “dry town” declaration is fairly crude policy and Alice Springs is really struggling but some positive signs are emerging.
The band of hardened drinkers, including some that batter their women with impunity in drinking camps on desecrated sacred sites, are under increasing pressure from police.
I’m hoping that much tougher restrictions on take away grog will gradually shift this core group into pubs and beer gardens where altered spending patterns, education and socialising might re-shape the character of today’s stand-over men. Perhaps more of our pub and club managers will realise that their client mix has changed and future developments will focus on beer gardens instead of more yuppy bars.
A letter to the editor is taking shape in my head, as a new wave of drinkers arrive at the shopping centre with the time consciousness of factory workers clocking on. It’s 6 pm and time to buy cask wine, port or rum.
Mike Gillam
Alice Springs

Sir,- On my way home from work last Friday evening, I stopped at the Eastside Bottle Shop to buy a box of beer to share with my friends who were arriving from interstate that weekend.
I was informed that no full strength beer was allowed to be sold over the entire weekend as there was an AFL football match on in Alice Springs.
I asked how this applied to me, as I wanted to buy a box of Boag’s Draught to drink at home, but was informed that this was a legal directive to prevent the sales of full strength beer in glass this weekend.
The alcohol reforms that have been unfairly directed at Aboriginal people are now affecting every person in this town if they choose to have a drink – they have not considered applying these bans with the rules of logic or common sense.
No alcohol is permitted at the football. So what has this weekend’s rules created? I purchased a 30 pack of VB cans in lieu of 24 Boag’s Draught stubbies.
The alcohol reforms have forcibly removed some people from town to drink in isolated areas outside of the town boundaries, which potentially increases the risk of alcohol-related harm when large groups get together.
Harm reduction is one of the philosophies of the alcohol reforms, as is reducing supply and demand.
However, I don’t see a decrease in demand, I don’t see a decrease in supply and, based on the local police commander’s recent report to the Alice Springs Town Council, I don’t believe there has been a reduction in harm.
David Evans
Alice Springs

 Sir,- Your correspondent, Angus McIvor, himself a personal friend, has taken issue with my promise to withdraw alcohol from council-sponsored functions. He says it is entirely the wrong approach, and does not address the real problems.
I’m about sending a message to the community regarding what appears to be the mandatory presence of alcohol in all facets of Territory public life.
I am saying that as a body with carriage of public funds, the Council can send a powerful message to its constituents that it is possible to have meaningful social interactions without alcohol. We can save a lot of ratepayers’ funds as well!
As I write this letter, my teenage son (still under-aged) is cleaning up after a drinking party at our home - he and his mates took advantage of my absence while I was on night shift at the disability residence where I work. I have just evicted the last young man who has managed to struggle to his feet.
Footnote One: Angus, when we dined together last year, if you have faithful recall of the occasion, you will know that nary a drop of claret did pass my lips.
Footnote Two: A dry mayor for a dry town - now that’d be a tourist attraction!
Meredith Campbell
Alice Springs

Sir,- The Labor Government’s much lauded Alcohol Courts are little used and even less effective.
In the 18 months since they have been operating a mere 99 people across the Territory have been referred to them.
Just 27 have successfully completed a court-ordered treatment program and only three have been subject to a prohibition order.
In the same period of time almost 40,000 people have been taken into protective custody for being drunk in public. Territory Labor has taken a pop gun to the beast of alcohol abuse.
It’s hard to imagine a less effective or more expensive means of dealing with alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour.
At the time the legislation was introduced then-Attorney-General, Peter Toyne, stated the Alcohol Court will also contribute to the safety and wellbeing of the broader community which is affected by antisocial behaviour associated with regular and excessive alcohol consumption.
Paul Henderson claimed: “We will monitor this legislation as it takes effect.
“I am sure if we need to make further amendments in the years to come, we will do so.”
Jodeen Carney
Shadow Attorney-General
Sir,- Lanes, and requests to close them, look set to loom large on our next town council’s agenda. From remarks made in recent meetings, up to 15 requests for lane closures are now awaiting consideration.
Anti-social behavior is the most common complaint mentioned in these requests. This is hardly surprising given that night times in Alice Springs can get a bit ordinary, especially up dark laneways.
However, there might be an option other than full closure as there are pedestrians, kids on bikes, mums with prams and those in wheelchairs to think of, all of whom have a legitimate use for our laneways during daylight hours.
Remembering that laneways were especially built into our newer suburbs to provide easy access to shops and parks for those without a vehicle, and remembering that once a laneway is gone, it’s gone forever, another option is partial closure; say from 6 pm to 6 am.
Possibly an arrangement could be reached whereby the residents making the request for a closure would agree to pay for gates and to lock them in the evening.
The council could agree to install them and to send a ranger around to open them in the morning.
Surely we can work together to that extent.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Sir,- In response to some comment about a “certain vehicle” in your last issue - the vehicle is there as a protest to let passers-by know that not all is well between our council and the community.
Your recent front page article about volunteers burn-out and Richard Lim’s excellent response illustrates my very long held position on these exact issues.
My on-going protest has morphed into a single issue campaign to force reform of the Coles taxi rank. I do not expect nor seek majority support from the community on this. To any individual that I have inconvenienced in any way, I say sorry.
Before voting in our local elections on Easter Saturday, the community must realize that the level of double standards, serious misconduct and neglect around the Coles taxi rank is not good for our town.
Sadly it has become too typical of our council’s conduct.
The general tenor of the town council’s response could be summed up with the following words: “We believe in free speech, BUT…”
Freedom of speech is a non-negotiable. It is either respected or it is not.
There are no if’s or but’s, Alderman Stewart.
May I leave your dear reader with what I judge to be some words relevant to this certain matter - I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.
Thanks, Jim.
David Chewings
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: A face which only a mother could love!

Could you do me a favour? Won’t take long. What I want you to do is look at the picture that comes with this text.
See it? That’s me. Or more specifically that’s me about 18 months ago when Erwin took the photograph.
Many of you who know me might be surprised that indeed I do have eyes.
You see, I’m a squinter. Not in the “I can’t see” sense but more in the Clive James, Tim Webster sense.
The eye to eyelid ratio isn’t exactly right and so my eyes spend most of their time hiding.
Look at the picture again for a moment, will you? By the time a man reaches my age he can no longer call himself youthful in any physiological sense.
Thirty-two is still quite young but it’s not youthful and since this photograph was taken I suppose my face has aged a little and my hair line receded a little.
The point is that by the time you reach 32, one should have come to accept that one’s face is never going to be mistaken for the world’s sexiest man, George Clooney.
Truth be told I’m probably not going to be mistaken for George Michael or even George of the Jungle either.
It is something we come to terms with in our twenties.
Throughout our teens we rail against this notion that our physical features could be described at best as serviceable. 
We use hair product and get trendy haircuts and wear too much cologne in order to stun the opposite sex into thinking that we might just be physically attractive. We aren’t, and we know that women know it.
Throughout our twenties however, we realise that a decade of peacocking has only paid off a couple of times at best and that we really need to be focusing on those attributes we are good at to keep women interested.
We speak differently around women. Polysyllabic words and witty retorts replace the grunts and sailor talk that we use around our mates. 
We start taking an interest in what women have to say. We “listen” and we say things like, “That’s an incredibly insightful take on the situation”.
We quote Homer and Kierkegaard in order to seem worldly and interesting.
Faced with the inability to woo a woman with a swarthy look across the room, the serviceable man is forced to actually interact.
It’s Social Darwinism at it’s purest. See? See what I mean?  Social Darwinism is a perfect term.
It says exactly what I mean but has the added bonus of showing the opposite sex that I’m a bit cluey. 
“Sure our progeny (there I go again) might not look like Jude Law but they might have a chance of getting a tertiary education.”
I’m not saying that women are shallow. Nor am I saying that attractive men are stupid. All I’m saying is that the plain man has to work a bit harder in order to initially peak a woman’s interest.
The problem with all that is that because our faces aren’t all that pleasant to look at, we tend not to look at them all that often.
Every now and then I find myself looking at the picture in the paper and thinking, “Do I actually look like that? Are you sure that I don’t look like a cross between Gregory Peck and Hugh Jackman? Are you sure?” 
Occasionally, when the conditions are right I get on a bit of a roll and people actually want to listen to what I have to say.
I’m funny and insightful and the cadence of my conversation flows like the mighty Todd after a deluge, sweeping everything in its path along with it. It only happens occasionally but it is nice when it does.
Even then however, when I’m riding the conversational equivalent of the perfect wave, in the back of my mind I know that if Johnny Depp were saying this, it would go down better.
My own mother confirmed this once.
My own mother, for Pete’s sake! Sitting on the lounge, I was in the middle of one of my rants that she has come to accept as what I do on the lounge from time to time.
In a pause she said to me, “Adam, if you were thin and good looking you’d be dangerous.” 
What? Aren’t mothers meant to think their sons perfect? Aren’t they?
I’m sure that the Elephant Man’s mother told him that women love a man with a trunk.

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