April 17, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Centre poor cousin in $.6b housing scheme. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Only two communities in Central Australia, out of a total of 16 throughout the Territory, will be benefitting from a $420m program to build 1000 new houses for Aborigines.
That means on average, The Centre will get just one-eighth of the five year scheme funded mainly by Canberra, known as Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP).
And only 22 communities in The Centre will benefit from an additional $124m for housing upgrades in 57 communities.
A spokeswoman for Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says the allocation of funds to communities “is done jointly with the NT and Federal governments”.
SIHIP director Rick Harris, from Territory Housing, says the communities had been selected on a needs basis, in accordance with “levels of overcrowding”.
Asked whether the selection of communities indicated SIHIP’s view that overcrowding in Top End communities is “far more severe” than in The Centre, Mr Harris said: “Our statistics indicate this.”
Asked about the expenditure for each individual community he said: “The scope of the program is still being finalized.”
Meanwhile the slump in the Alice Springs construction industry is continuing as far as “bush work” is concerned, and SIHIP will be inviting tenders nationally on an “equal opportunity” and “value for money” basis, and will give no concessions to local businesses as is common in other government tender processes.
“We will work with all construction participants in the NT,” says Mr Harris, “but we’ll go interstate as well because the project will require signifacant resources.”
He says expressions of interest will be invited on May 1 for “Alliance Partners” – the primary contractors.
Aboriginal construction enterprises will be engaged if appropriate but there is “no formula”.
Mr Harris says contributions by prospective occupiers of the new homes, such as providing labor, would be “encouraged but not mandated”.
Making such a contribution compulsory would “not be considered in any way” because “we want the program to have a very positive impact”.
This is a clear departure from the “mutual obligation” principle espoused by Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough before last year’s Federal election.
Mr Harris says there is no decision yet on what type of housing will be built, and individual consultations will be carried out with each community.
“We are looking into what worked and what hasn’t. We are pulling together information from the past,” says Mr Harris.
Construction of houses will start in Tennant Creek in October but Hermannsburg and Yuendumu, the only Centre communities to get new homes, will probably have to wait until early 2009.
Construction of new community housing has all but ground to a halt while the new Federal Government is re-jigging its “Intervention” and revising housing policies.
Over the past 12 years Judy Barker and husband Phil have built up, from scratch, a substantial factory in Ghan Road.
They make a range of products for construction, but mainly wall and roof frames, sheet and steel joinery on equipment most of which is designed by Mr Barker, especially jigs and tooling to suit local building and designs.
The factory is worth around $5m and employs 10.
Barker Hume Homes have provided components for about 600 homes.
Last year the firm supplied major components for about 40 homes on Aboriginal communities.
This year not a single one has been ordered, and Ms Barker does not expect production to resume much before Christmas – a break of more than a year for this type of work.

Only refurbishment of houses has cranked up, with tradesmen and suppliers in Alice Springs reporting keen demand.
Industry figures say construction of new houses in the bush is unlikely to resume much before Christmas.
That will mean a 12 month break in bush orders for companies such as CEMEX Australia Pty Limited (formerly Readymix), a concrete supplier, and Barker Hume Homes, an Alice based manufacturer of steel wall and roof frames.
In 2006/07 Barker Hume supplied about 40 bush houses, says the company’s co-owner, Judy Barker.
“Funding for community housing is usually allocated on a financial year basis,” she says.
“Local builders would by now have upward of 30 houses on the go.
“Tenders are normally let in August-September for the current year’s program.”
But this year Barker Hume are doing mostly maintenance style work – no new houses yet.
Ms Barker says construction of some new housing has started “but we have seen a shift to transportable building, which has been awarded to an interstate company.
“There are apparently also kit homes, coming from interstate in containers,” says Ms Barker.
“Neither of these are supporting local businesses or suppliers.”
CEMEX manager Mike Singer says current work is “remedial” while orders for new buildings haven’t come on stream yet.
He doesn’t expect that to happen before 2009.
“People like electricians, painters and chippies are busy with bush work.
“We are not yet,” says Mr Singer, whose company is a major supplier of foundation slabs for new buildings.
Probuild’s manager Phil Danby says his company is doing do some bush work, for example, the Kintore pool and two houses there.
Probuild has been accepted as “panel contractor” for Intervention work, but has not yet been given any major construction work.
Meanwhile some suppliers are run off their feet.
Todd Steer, the manager, and Warren Doody, the 2IC of electrical goods supplier Lawrence and Hansen say beginning in January, orders from some tradesmen have trebled.
Mr Doody, who has 20 years’ experience in the trade in The Alice, says the increase is “phenomenal” and it’s hard to keep up.
But the orders are typical for maintenance work, not new buildings.
The Australian Government will contribute $547 million to SIHIP over four years “through the Northern Territory Government” which will provide a further $100 million.
Regional industry information sessions will be held at Tennant Creek and Alice Springs in early May.

Council: doing deals worked. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Doing deals, forming alliances, running on tickets are an advantage when it comes to getting elected as an alderman.
Melanie van Haaren owes her seat on this council largely to her preference swap with Murray Stewart: he gave her his second preference and she gave hers to him.
For a sitting alderman she polled quite poorly in the primary vote, coming in at tenth place.
Ald Stewart polled a strong primary vote – at 1446 second only to Mayor Damien Ryan’s, whose aldermanic primary vote (2608) was of course excluded. 
543 of Mr Ryan’s 2nd preferences then pushed Ald Stewart over the line to take the first vacancy.
The next two strongest beneficiaries of Mr Ryan’s preferences were Samih Habib (number two on Mr Ryan’s how-to-vote card) and Brendan Heenan (number five).
Ald van Haaren (at number six) only did moderately well out of this round (106), but Ald Stewart’s preferences in the next round put her in the running, adding 460 to her tally.
She also did exceptionally well from the distribution of Sandy Taylor’s preferences. Ald Taylor filled the seventh vacancy and 619 preferences from her then pushed Ald van Haaren (at seventh spot on Ald Taylor’s card) into the eighth vacancy.
At this round Steve Brown was Ald van Haaren’s nearest rival with only 262 of Ald Taylor’s preferences.
As he was ahead of her on Ald Taylor’s how-to-vote card it seems fair to assume that there was an element of donkey vote in this flow of preferences, with Ald Taylor’s name immediately above Ald van Haaren’s on the ballot paper.
Green candidate Lisa Hall got into the running because of her number two spot on the Green ticket.
Her primary vote at 102 was the third lowest and after the third round she was still only on 197.
The distribution of preferences from Jane Clark, the number one Green who filled the third vacancy, then pushed her into contention, taking her tally to 710.
Had there still been 10 positions for aldermen (the reduction to eight was initiated by Ald Stewart) Ms Hall would have filled the 10th vacancy.
Steve Brown would have filled the ninth. Mr Brown, chair of the lobby group Advance Alice, was the surprise loser in this contest.
Ald Stewart’s deal with Ald van Haaren cost Mr Brown, whom many would have thought a more natural bedfellow for Ald Stewart. Compared to Ald van Haaren’s 460 preferences from Ald Stewart, Mr Brown, at number five spot, only scored 150.
His electoral under performance then seems to be down to a lack of favorable deals, even from people clearly in the Advance Alice camp, like Brendan Heenan, who put him at number seven spot.
Some mud about self-interest in relation to his campaign on town planning – unjustified in the opinion of the Alice News – may also have stuck.
Mr Brown was philosophical about the result on the weekend: he said he’d been happy to accept lower spots on how-to-vote tickets of Advance Alice sympathisers, in order to push lesser known candidates forward.
He’s happy with the make-up of the Eleventh Council, seeing in Alds Stewart, Heenan, Habib, Liz Martin and  Taylor, all people with concerns and outlooks similar to his own.
Another interesting result emerges from scrutiny of the flow of preferences.
It is clear that voters want to see Indigenous aldermen elected, albeit ones with “mainstream” outlooks. 
There were three in the field: Barbara Shaw, who does not shy away from a “radical activist” label, John Rawnsley and Sandy Taylor.
Ms Shaw polled strongly in the primary vote, with 537, putting her in fourth position.
Ald Rawnsley and Ald Taylor were also in the first eight, with 386 and 285 respectively.
Ald Rawnsley went on to fill the fifth vacancy, with a steady distribution of preferences flowing to him: 163 from  Mr Ryan; 124 from Ald Stewart; 144 from Ald Heenan; 83 from Ald Clark and then a big 425 from Ald Habib. 
These are interesting results for a candidate who campaigned as an independent but is strongly associated with the Labor Party. He works as an electoral officer to MLA Alison Anderson and is always visible in Labor Party activities.
Indeed his Labor association, given that the party is in power in the NT, may have had something to do with his appeal. A better relationship with the Territory Government is something Mr Ryan has clearly put on the agenda and he gave Mr Rawnsley his third spot, while Ald Heenan gave him number two, and Ald Habib put him at number four.
But Ald Rawnsley has obviously also been able to impress with his thoughtful yet firm approach to issues; his persistence (at age 27 this was his second tilt at council); and his calm, pleasant demeanor.
The distribution of Mr Rawnsley’s preferences then put Ald Taylor over the line.
At number three on Ald Rawnsley’s card, she received 605, compared to Mr Brown’s 44, for example.
Ald Rawnsley’s next strongest beneficiary was Ms Shaw with 117, just ahead of a natural Labor voter choice, trade union organiser Miguel Ociones with 113.
Ms Shaw was at number six on his card; Mr Ociones at number eight.
Ms Shaw finally came in at eleventh place, a result remarkably similar to her father’s in 1996. In that election Geoff Shaw had come in third in the primary vote count and slipped to eleventh with the distribution of preferences.
Happily for the town, Ms Shaw’s performance cannot be interpreted as race-based.
There is a reasonable level of support for her political outlook but it is not strong enough to get her over the line in the exhaustive preferential system, acknowledged to favour the mainstream.
Ms Shaw’s own preferences favoured the Greens. Ald Rawnsley and Taylor were at number six and nine spots on her card.
For the record, the aldermen of the Eleventh Council, in order of the strength of their vote, are: Murray Stewart, Brendan Heenan, Jane Clark, Samih Habib, John Rawnsley, Liz Martin, Sandy Taylor, and Melanie van Haaren.
Had it been a first past the post contest, the order would have been: Stewart, Clark, Heenan, Barbara Shaw, Steve Brown, Rawnsley, Habib, and Taylor – a difference of only two aldermen in the final make-up of the council.
Interestingly, these two, Ms Shaw and Mr Brown, were the most outspoken and audacious of the non-incumbent candidates.

Privatise Central Australia? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Should we privatise Central Australia?
Successive governments, and their lavishly funded surrogates, have made a cruel hash of Aboriginal development here for 30 years.
So should we get in private enterprise to manage the million square kilometre ghetto archipelago that is Central Australia?
Should we give that a shot before a new Prime Minister in Canberra, and a new Chief Minister in Darwin, unleash the next round of hapless experiments?
It’s a nice thought but of course we won’t.
Has there even been an audit of the commercial opportunities, on the basis of all things being equal, taking into account the huge supply of labour (some 10,000 idle people), vast amounts of arable land, ample water, minerals, bush tucker, cattle, camels, and – above all – an unquenchable thirst for the “product” in one of the world’s last tourism frontiers?
To know the prize could well accelerate and focus efforts to attain it.
The short answer is “no”. There has been no audit of commercial opportunities.
There is no long answer either – it seems the question has never been asked.
Close to such a survey is a working paper about the troubled community of Wadeye, by John Taylor (pictured), of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), and economist Owen Stanley.
It’s a study more of how to reduce waste of government money, rather than setting up any sort of economy not reliant on welfare (see box this page).
CAEPR is run by Jon Altman, of the Australian National University in Canberra.
He is one of the nation’s foremost commentators on Aboriginal economics.
He has more than three decades of connection with The Centre, undertaking research in the 1980s at Mutitjulu, at the base of Ayers Rock.
Much of what Professor Altman says has been said many times before, no doubt because so little progress has been made.
The examples of Aboriginal advancement he mentions are all based on his research in the Top End, or interstate.
“There is a huge historical legacy.
“How do we get to the stage so all things are equal to start with?” he asks.
“If you want to get people engaged in mining, tourism, horticulture, they have to have good health, some basic education, be work ready, have decent housing.
“One of the policy dilemmas is: how do we address social disadvantage without further entrenching passivity and a high level of state intervention?
“We need to give people the opportunity to engage while fixing the problem.”
“What is it that makes 25% of the workforce at the Century Mine [in north Queensland] Indigenous, and 20% plus at the Argyle Diamond Mine [in WA]?” asks Prof Altman.
Four years ago, 10% of the workforce of the Granites gold mine north-west of Alice Springs were Indigenous – 68 people.
But only eight of the 650 workers were from the nearest communities, Lajamanu and Yuendumu, which have massive un- or underemployment.
Today there are 550 employees, 80 of them Aborigines, 53 from Alice Springs and 20 from Brisbane and Darwin.
But as far as employment from local communities is concerned, now there are only three from Lajamanu, and four from Yuendumu, one fewer than in 2004.
The Ayers Rock Resort has 1000 employees. In December 2004, not a single one was from the Mutitjulu Community, just 27km away, also with most of its population on welfare.
The resort company, Voyages, which has made concerted efforts to employ Aborigines, did not respond to an enquiry from the Alice News whether the situation has changed in the meantime.
Says Prof Altman: “Part of the answer is the way these places are managed to accommodate Indigenous participation.
“If you are living in Mutitjulu in an environment that can be very unstable, if you haven’t had any sleep the night before, you haven’t got a house and no access to a shower, turning up at Ayers Rock Resort on time in a presentable way can be an enormous challenge.”
He says the costs of having such a job may outweigh the benefits, for example, people “have to move from Yuendumu to the Granites gold mine, divorcing them from their community and possible family, two weeks on, one week off.
“In Central Australia kin based societies are still very strong, and clearly people haven’t made the choice to break away and live in individual households.
“We quarantine our incomes in terms of our families and in terms of our individually owned assets.
“Many Aboriginal people, in terms of their world view, their social norms, don’t see this as the way to go.
“In terms of priorities there may be a lot of things happening in their communities that would concern them, that would make them not want to shift away.”
Would not that be the same with every other worker at the Granites?
Prof Altman quotes a report in The Australian two weeks ago, about a couple making $300,000 a year between them in a WA mine, but another miner complaining he can’t get a relationship going.
The necessity of indulging Aboriginal people with respect to their cultural preferences, of course, has been the mantra for for 30 years plus.
Will we not, sooner or later, have to make a decision about whether this deserves the ongoing support of the taxpayer?
Do we still accept that some people will get support from the public purse without having to make the effort expected from everyone else?
Do we really need to provide conditions for Aborigines in which they can work “in their own time, within their community, in an environment they find non-threatening”.
Says Prof Altman: “It’s not a question of either-or, do you live in a kin-based or in a market-based society, or individualistically, or according to neo-liberal norms.
“Increasingly people move between these two poles and there is space in between them.”
The bureaucracy has yet to get a handle on this.
“Again, it’s not an either-or,” says Prof Altman.
“Policy makers know where they are and where they are going.
“But that space in between is a process that could take somewhere between 12 years [2020, the date of Mr Rudd’s scheduled review], 22 years [2030, a generation, by which time Mr Rudd wants to close the 17 year mortality gap] and 100 years.”
There is also a “customary sector, activities that are unrecognised and non-market oriented, but have value.
“People can produce a piece of art for the market, whether they are on the dole, on CDEP, the pension or have no income at all.
“Some Aboriginal people will adapt to the mainstream, but at other times we’ve got to adapt the mainstream to them.” 
Prof Altman says the jobs for the dole scheme, CDEP, is “a good model, somewhere in between passive welfare and full time engagement in the mainstream”. 
Is CDEP a purpose in itself or should it lead somewhere? So far, in most cases, it hasn’t led to mainstream employment. Is entry into the mainstream desirable or not?
“It’s not essential. A proportion of CDEP participants may exit into the mainstream and some go back to CDEP.
“We shouldn’t overlook the fact that two to three million Australians work part time.”
But they are not on income support from the Government.
“It depends how you define these things.
“There are certainly very many people who work part time in the public sector, and receive family tax benefits.
“Is that income support from the Government?
“One in three jobs in the Northern Territory are public sector jobs.
“For every dollar the Territory government raises it gets $5 from the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
“In the Top End CDEP employees can say we manage feral animals and weeds introduced by whites, we manage fire, often exacerbated by gamba and mission grass, we provide bio-security services to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and coastal surveillance to Australian Customs.
“The beneficiaries are the Australian public.”
Should CDEP not be clearly defined so the public knows what it’s getting for its money?
Prof Altman agrees with the notion that got traction when Mal Brough intervened last year, that when public service type work is done, the workers should get public service pay and conditions.
“I gave a paper in Alice Springs in 1985 that said that very thing.
“The problem with Brough was that he got rid of 8000 CDEP positions and substituted 2000 ‘proper jobs’.
“This threw 6000 people into passive welfare.
“He should have knocked off one CDEP job every time he created one proper job.”
Why does the stunning success of Aboriginal art in The Centre not translate to other commercial endeavours?
“It’s an endeavor that’s culturally based, where people make very strong statements about their identity.
“It’s something that’s highly political, people are making strong statements about where they belong, from what country they are, about their self worth.
“It’s just a win-win all ‘round.
“And we have developed community controlled Aboriginal centers as good mechanisms for brokering between Aboriginal people and the market.” 
The way to apply this successful process to other endeavors has yet to be found. 
Help from the state continues to be needed to meet some of the backlogs.
“Aborigines are not blameless for destroying houses, but when you’ve got 20 people per house, you can see circumstances arising when people behave antisocially.
“Surely, one of the things we’ve learned in the past 30 years, I hope, is how to make our investment a lot smarter. We’ve had so much research about showers that don’t break.
“Why aren’t we delivering more sustainable hardware to these communities?
“And part of the solution, as Noel Pearson says, is Aborigines taking part of the responsibility.”
Why are people breaking showers in the first place?
Are the taxpayers not getting sick of throwing money at the problem?
“Australia will tolerate spending public money on Aboriginal people because this is an issue that the nation, now more than ever, is committed to fix,” says Prof Altman.
“I don’t think people know how to fix it.
“This is the paradoxical thing that came out of the Howard years: for a decade they wanted to sweep that Aboriginal thing under the carpet, saying, look, they can mainstream.
“In the last year of the Howard era, 2007, suddenly indigenous issues have become a core mainstream issue for Australia.
“Now they’re one of the two or three priorities of the nation.”

Fistful of dollars: Now for the facts.

A study by the Australian National University *) estimated the cost to the Australian community of the socioeconomic conditions at Wadeye, some 250km south-west of Darwin, comparing them with the Northern Territory population overall.
The community is a typical one in the Territory: its currently 2100 people are “relatively sick, poorly housed, illiterate, innumerate, disengaged from the education system, on low income, unemployed, and with a sub-standard communications network”.
Given all that, one would expect public expenditure there to be “be substantially higher (not lower) than the Northern Territory average,” says the report.
“What emerges instead is something akin to [the] oft-cited inverse care law in relation to health care needs— ‘to those most in need the least is provided’,” say the authors. In fact the state spent annually nearly $2000 less per person on the people of Wadeye compared to Territorians overall.
The authors did the sums of output not achieved because conditions at Wadeye are poorer than for the Northern Territory overall; additional government expenditure made necessary by these conditions – the “remedial costs”; and output lost because people die younger.
The answer: If Northern Territory conditions were replicated at Wadeye, “output per person would increase by about $22,000 per annum and average employment incomes would increase by about $13,000 per annum”.
The authors found an “imbalance in funding with proportionally less expenditure on positive aspects of public policy such as education and employment creation that are designed to build capacity and increase output, and proportionally more spending on negative areas such as criminal justice and unemployment benefit.
“This begs the very important question as to whether this situation of fiscal imbalance actually serves to perpetuate the ... socioeconomic conditions.”
Planners currently grapple with this question: Could they save money by providing more schooling, preventive health care and housing (the shortfall there alone is estimated at $52m), because this may lower the spending on police, courts, jails and looking after the sick.
“Expenditure will need to grow either in response to declining socioeconomic status, or in order to enhance it,” say the authors.
*) The Opportunity Costs of the Status Quo in the Thamarrurr Region, J. Taylor & O. Stanley, Working Paper No. 28/2005, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research.

Breathing life into the CBD. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The revitalisation of Alice Springs CBD is linked to the branding of the Red Centre as a National Landscape and the development of the Red Centre Way (formerly the Merino Loop Road) as an experience of that landscape, with Alice Springs as “the gateway”.
A consultant, Professor Paul Carter of the University of Melbourne, will be in Alice Springs next week to conduct community consultations on the CBD plans.
The consultations will be focussed on different “stakeholder” sectors, but one that is open to all comers is the StoryWall event next Tuesday, April 22, 7-9pm.
People attending will be encouraged to share their stories of the Alice CBD, as they have experienced it, or as they would like it to be.
Talk of opening up an east-west corridor through the heart of the CBD, linking the railway station to the river (see Alice News, March 6), is only at the conceptual stage, says Tony Mayell, executive director southern region with the Department of the Chief Minister.
But it’s logical and would provide “a nice entry point” to the Red Centre Way, linking an experience of the town to the regional experience, he says.
Development of infrastructure at the Desert Park, improving public spaces and access as well as its attractions, is a complementary plan.  There is a commitment to taking a holistic approach, rather than doing things in isolation, says Mr Mayell.
And the emphasis is not solely on the visitor experience: revitalisation of the CBD will create a “more family friendly, safe place” for locals as well.
Mr Mayell says the plans to date for the CBD are a “distillation” of the original input from the Town Council, as well as from Tourism Central Australia, who want a bigger and better visitor facility in Alice, and the Uniting Church, who are looking at the future use of their properties that front Todd Mall (see article on Adelaide House, Alice News, April 3).
He says now the drive is to pull together “something we can take to government, scoped out and costed”.
There is definitely in principal support from the Territory Government to fund this major Moving Alice Ahead project, says Mr Mayell.
An initial grant of $300,000 that has been in a trust account with the Town Council is being used now to pay for the consultancy.
Mr Mayell says it was agreed at a recent meeting with council CEO Rex Mooney that it was opportune to now get the planning for this project “back on the table”.
He expresses surprise over sentiment expressed by the former aldermen that they had been left out in the cold on the project (see Alice News, March 20).
He says the council is a key partner, not least because council-owned land (including Todd Mall and the Harley Street carpark) is centrally involved.

A new NGO: Work for the dole that works.

A new company running work-for-the-dole projects in the NT now has 40 fully paid staff, 90% of whom are Indigenous and most of whom live in remote communities.
“We have made what some say is the impossible, possible,” says the company’s NT manager, Adam Giles.
The expansion has followed the lifting of the work test remote area exemption for people on Newstart and Youth Allowance in remote communities.
The not-for-profit public company, Community Enterprise Australia (CEA), operates across 20 NT communities and soon will move into SA and WA.
Projects, designed in consultation with community councils, range from community clean-up to house-painting, building chook yards, sewing and landscaping.
“It’s all about capacity development – getting people job ready – and community development,” says Mr Giles, who was the CLP candidate for Lingiari last year.
“It’s easy to put someone on, but to retain them is a lot harder, even with Centrelink’s three strikes policy.”
In theory this policy means that if a participant fails to turn up more than three times without a reasonable excuse such as illness, they will lose their benefits for eight weeks.

We’re ready for experience seeker. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Red Centre is already well placed to meet the demands of the “experience seeker”, the global market targeted by the National Landscapes initiative, says Wendy Hills, in charge of “Australian Experiences” for Tourism Australia.
The Alice News reported last week that the Red Centre will be among the top seven National Landscapes to be announced soon.
The initiative, driven by a partnership of Tourism Australia and Parks Australia, is to help travellers “bite off a piece” of our big country, says Ms Hills.
Australia has been marketed as a whole and has a great overall image. Now it needs to have a destination marketing framework in order draw experience seekers into spending “four weeks here rather than one”.
They will come to the Red Centre “to experience its ancient living culture and landscapes and breathe its fresh air”, attractions that gain strength from the fact that such experiences elsewhere in the world are rapidly diminishing.
The impact of climate change sensitivities on what is a long-haul destination for most in this environmentally aware market “is not as great as we thought”, says Ms Hills.
According to the Tourism Forecasting Committee, a group of private sector experts advising Tourism Australia and government, aviation contributes only 2-3% of total greenhouse gas emissions (Forecast 2007, Issue 2).
But particularly European tourists “are under increasing pressure from activist groups to consider the impacts of long haul travel on the environment”, says the committee.
Industry has responded with carbon offsetting schemes which allow the consumer to pay the price of the carbon footprint, with the money then transferred to a greenhouse gas abatement provider.
The committee acknowledges some present weaknesses of the schemes – they are “largely voluntary and unregulated and many lack transparency” – but says that they are gaining consumer acceptance.
A comprehensive abatement system could include emissions trading systems, environmental taxes,alternative fuel sources, improved engine efficiency and vehicle/aircraft design, and air traffic management improvements, says the committee.
What about the readiness of the Centre’s industry to satisfy the experience seeker’s interest in Indigenous culture?
Ms Hills acknowledges that Indigenous tourism is still small but says the important thing is that it is growing and growing sustainably.
Research into visitor experience of it was conducted last year by Tourism Research Australia (TRA), via 288 on-line surveys and 12 in-depth interviews.
A majority (76%) of respondents had looked for information about Aboriginal people and culture before travelling, with information on “how to visit an Aboriginal community” being the the most difficult to find.
A larger number (84%) sought information during their trip, expecting to find it at Visitor Information Centres and in local visitor guides.
Overwhelmingly (91%), the respondents expected to meet and interact with Aboriginal people in the NT.
A scan of the brochures available at Alice’s Visitor Information Centre suggests that this would be possible in town through a few experiences, at a price: Dreamtime Tours advertise as “an authentic experience” in which visitors can “meet Indigenous Australian Aboriginal people ‘still living the culture’”.
Aurora Alice Springs offers a Sacred Sites and Culture Tour with a local Aboriginal guide, as well as their Red Centre Dreaming Dinner and Show (see Alice News, April 12, 2007 for a review of this show).
The Desert Park’s brochure gives strong emphasis to Aboriginal language and knowledge and the presence at the park of Aboriginal staff.
There is also a small display at the visitor centre showing two sides of the same country, the township of Alice Springs and the Arrernte place Mparntwe – a minimal introduction to a rich story.
A majority of TRA’s respondents rated interaction with Aboriginal people while they were in the NT as important to them, with 73% of these “satisfied” with their experience and 27% “dissatisfied”.
Museums and cultural centres rated best in the satisfaction stakes, while experience of “Indigenous health and well-being” and “a tour of an Aboriginal community” rated highest in the dissatisfaction category.
TRA point to two areas where there’s obvious potential to develop “additional Indigenous experiences”: tours of an Aboriginal community, and tours in which an Aboriginal guide explains Indigenous methods of hunting, fishing and survival.
Ms Hills says there is a general realisation that Indigenous “product” has to be mainstreamed: “There’s an air of reconciliation within Australia and abroad at the moment, with Prime Minister Rudd’s ‘Sorry’. Now’s the time to help this sector become strong and reliable and sustainable. There has to be a willingness on both sides, Indigenous and non-indigenous, to do this.” 
Part of this means having Indigenous presence as part of everyday experience, she says.
“In New Zealand everyday Maori life is something that tourists witness, it’s not a show.
“That tends not to be the case with Australian Indigenous people.”
She also says mainstream non-Indigenous operators need to develop “the confidence to engage with and perhaps visit Indigenous communities as part of their product”.
In the past people the “unreliability factor” would be a real issue with consumers, but Ms Hills says the market “we are chasing” will accept flexibility of arrangements as long as they know about these possibilities in advance.
“If you say this is an ancient living culture, with customs that have to be honoured, and if that means the itinerary changes, that’s part of it, we have to work around that.
“Be flexible and be honest, these things happen, we can find something else to do, have a backup plan.”
What about the impact of the notorious “negative stories” of the Centre’s “social problems”? 
Ms Hills is not overly concerned: “Everywhere else you go in the world, where there are traditional and non-traditional people, there are these problems.
“When questions of social and cultural disorder come up, tell the truth –  this is about the difficulties of a traditional culture adapting to contemporary life.
“If it’s explained, the ‘experience seeker’, with their focus on learning, will accept it.”
Nonetheless TRA’s research shows that “the issue of alcohol abuse and social problems in Aboriginal communities” was the “main negative cultural experience”  for its respondents.

Hardcore makeover at the Small Day In. By DARCY DAVIS.

Over 50 fans of local live music turned out for The Small Day In at the Youth Centre on Saturday night.
New band Numb With Fear burst onto the scene with their brutal, melodic metal style, playing three originals and two covers. It was refreshing to see some fresh faces playing music – all members of the band are just 15 years old.
The Moxie performed their regular set with a new song from their EP, which they are now recording with Matt Burns at his recording room next to Casa Nostra.
Sweet Surrender had to wait for drummer Joey Klarenbeek to finish work.
While stalling for time, their guitarist Kaileb Rothwell had an impromptu blues jam with Ex-Zenith ASP drummer Callum McKenzie and Through Bullets and Bravery guitarist Brenton Wilson.
When Joey arrived, Sweet Surrender kicked off their set by unveiling their new name, Glasgow Smile, which alludes to the process of cutting someone’s face from ear to ear, resembling a smile. How hardcore.
“We didn’t feel we could mature with that name [Sweet Surrender] – we only used it for our entry to the 2006 Bassinthedust because we couldn’t think of anything better, but we’re at a different stage now,” said guitarist Kaileb Rothwell.
The boys played some of their usuals, “It’s not me it’s you” and “Last Stand” but also played a new song called “My Descent”. 
Glasgow Smile are applying for Bassinthegrass in Darwin alongside the likes of Wolfmother – I wish them luck.
The Small Day in was a good night, but was compromised by the poor acoustics of the venue with sound bouncing off the sheds on each side and not enough people to soak up the noise.
Next time there’s a gig with all local bands, show them that you care, get down there and throw your hands in the air.

LETTERS: Police "unwanted" or doing their duty?

Sir,– We live on our own homeland which is freehold under the landrights act.
We have four houses on our block, all with large families.
Our maintenance is carried out by an Aboriginal resource centre in Alice Springs, and is controlled by the rent we pay to them.
The Iwupataka Land Trust steering committee under the Central Land Council manages the land where we live.
We are a peaceful family on our own property but seem to attract the attention of an unwanted police presence when chasing unknown people in cars doing over 100 kph, having no thoughts for the safety of the residents here. This society is run by some protectors of the law with no duty of care when it comes to Aboriginal people. It seems all Aboriginal people are guilty of something in their own country. No wonder there is lawlessness and anarchy in Alice Springs.
The police seem to bring it to us in our own homeland 50 km away by chasing criminals at speed past our homes two kilometres off the highway.
Now we also have blatantly racist signs erected outside the town camps and the Iwupataka Land Trust area – areas of Aboriginal freehold land are now under a suspended racial discrimination act controlled by the federal government (including the current Labor government).
For years we have enjoyed having a beer like the white fellas in our own homeland but now that has been terminated by that suspended act under the supervision of the so-called Intervention (also a racist term).
Our family members have been reporting to us the police have been pulling them over in their cars at Flynn’s Grave and taking their unopened cartons of alcohol off them. Should they ask the police for a receipt? Why are the police tipping the beer out and then littering the highway with the empty cans and containers?
No wonder there is suicide in Aboriginal communities because it seems this is all they have to live for.
Kumantjai Armstrong
Armstrong Block
Iwupataka Land Trust, Jay Creek
[ED – The Alice News offered police a right of reply. Superintendent Sean Parnell says the area is a restricted [dry] area under Commonwealth legislation and police must enforce the law there as in any other restricted area. “If we have information that people are running grog out there, we take appropriate action, including vehicle searches,” says Supt Parnell.]

Sir,– In response to your article (Alice News, April 10) about the Federal Government’s Intervention in the Northern Territory, what has been achieved?
Child health checks – should have been followed up a long time ago.
Increased employment – for non-Aboriginal people and local businesses.
More housing – for non-Aboriginal workers, bureaucrats, transients.
Excessive policing bordering on invasiveness.
Income management – a nightmare.
Increased profits for major supermarket chains.
Closure of local ‘corner stores’.
Independent MLA Alison Anderson has no right to call for these extreme measures to run for at least three years (she said ‘forever’ on Monday’s Lateline programme). 
What other program gets reviewed when it is not even 12 months old, she asked. 
Answer: many government programs run for six or 12 months.  Medical trials on human beings might be planned for six or 12 months but if found to be not working they are dropped immediately to avoid unforeseen side effects.
I don’t know where Mark Wellington (Centrelink’s National Manager) obtained his anecdotal feedback that people really like the quarantining. 
In a survey of 70 people carried out in Alice Springs on March 13, only two people said they liked it.  The rest had many reasons why quarantining is not working for them. 
Disempowered people in dealing with bureaucrats are likely to be compliant and won’t want to further jeopardise their welfare entitlements.
I am interested to hear that community stores are supplying “more and better food and more money (is) being spent on it”. 
Some part of this should be attributed to the increase in population in communities due to more police, more bureaucrats and intervention visitors, business managers, journalists etc.
I wonder what plans the government and Mr Wellington have for the rest of the population who spend their welfare money on “prohibited substances and practices – alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography”?
 I have heard from several quite differing sources that the plan is for the quarantining of welfare to be rolled out to the wider Australian community; Aboriginal people are being used as the excuse to put the mechanisms in place.
By the way, just because children might turn up for school doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to learn anything.  Education has to be relevant and culturally appropriate.
Marlene Hodder
Alice Springs 

Sir,– It seems to me, from recent events, that Heritage is not widely understood therefore its value and loss is not noticed until it’s gone. In the words of Pittwater (NSW) MP Rob Stokes: “Heritage is about protecting our past and handing it on to future generations.” (Pittwater Life, April 1).
I suppose that many people would agree, although many seem to consider that the past is not relevant to the future despite their present concern for their children’s prospects. Mr Stokes continues: “Our natural and built heritage tells an important story for our nation and our area. We have so much to learn from preserving and developing special sites. As our population increases, our heritage places become more important and need greater protection, not less” (Peninsula Living, April 2008).
Mr Stokes’ remarks are in response to the NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor and his actions over a former Labor Party site for family holidaymakers in the Ku-ringai National Park on Pittwater, north of the Sydney CBD.  The National Trust of Australia (NSW) and the NSW Heritage Office have supported both the buildings and the natural features of this site but the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has made a ruling against them.  In a situation to which many Alice Springs residents could relate, Minister Sartor has removed the site from the responsibility of the local Pittwater Council.
That puts the Minister in direct opposition to local activists (residents and rate payers) who voiced their pro-Heritage opinion at a recent public meeting.
I note this case because it’s typical of many around Australia involving that mysterious thing called ‘Heritage’.  While interest in Australian History is considered a minor issue (unless it’s something like the discovery of HMAS Sydney), its impact on local communities such as Alice Springs is major. This doesn’t seem to be well understood.
Development Applications are sanctioned by the organisations which are fronted by elected representatives, except in the instance of buildings like Adelaide House where the local Uniting Church Council has autonomy, according to the Secretary of its National Assembly.
The recently announced plans for this building were reported in the Alice News and have implications for our CBD which many tourists frequent.
NT Minister Scrymgour’s sanctioned demolition of the local character buildings now replaced by L J Hooker, the Commonwealth Bank and others is modernisation in a post modern era.
Unless more Australians pay attention to our history and heritage and demand accountability, we will see the disappearance of what makes Australia unique. Local campaigner Domenico Pecorari’s chilling words about “a bleak future” for the Alice is on the money.
Russell Guy
Alice Springs

Sir,– I write to express umbrage about the fee structure and business practices of Pawz N Clawz in Alice Springs, which I believe is owned by the RSPCA.
My wife and I had cause to board our two dogs on two separate occasions. (This includes care and feeding of animals).
On Friday, February 1, we boarded our two dogs to be picked up at 10am on Tuesday, February 5 – a period of four days. Pawz N Clawz calculated this as five days and tried to charge us for five days, not four.
On this occasion they saw reason and eventually charged for the four days, as it should have been.
Then, on Friday, March 7, we boarded our dogs to be picked up on Sunday, March 9, to be collected before 10am up to 11am. I calculate this as two days as the dogs were not staying longer on the Sunday.
Pawz N Clawz open daily at 10am and on Sunday close at 1pm.
As I had an appointment at 10 until 11am I had no chance to pick the dogs up before 11.30 as they were not open earlier.
Pawz N Clawz insisted that this was a duration of three days. They calculated the half hour as one full day, even though they were not feeding the dogs or doing any extra cleaning on the Sunday.
I wish to express my anger towards this practise of adding an extra day’s fee as it suits them, when they are not prepared to bend at all to assist their clientele, and supposedly are offering a service to the community – particularly when they act under the auspices of the RSPCA.
Des Arthur
Toni Harrison, president of the local RSPCA, responds: At the time [the Arthurs] first boarded their dogs with us, they were made aware of our policy and opted to collect the dogs by 11am rather than pay an additional day. There was no “eventually seeing reason”, nor do we add the charge for the extra day “as it suits us”. It is simply standard policy. I am aware that it may not be convenient for every customer.
During their first stay with us, the dogs were kennelled separately at the customers’ request, due to feeding issues. During their second stay, the dogs were kennelled together at the suggestion of our staff who offered to supervise the feeding. This in fact resulted in a saving to the customers, and was suggested for the benefit and wellbeing of the dogs.
Mr Arthur arrived to collect the dogs quite some time after 11.30am. Upon collecting the dogs he informed our staff that our practices were “fraudulent” which is clearly not the case. In fact the additional day’s charge had been paid up front, on the day the dogs were dropped off. Our staff made no misrepresentations and have the full support of our committee.
Pawz N Clawz is a commercial operation, not a community service. The profits go into community services provided by the RSPCA of Central Australia.
It is usual practice to have fixed drop-off and collection times, even at boarding kennels where the operators reside on-site. I would be happy to discuss this matter with Mr and Mrs Arthur, however they have not approached our committee at any time.

Sir,–  The Territory Government has again fallen short of the mark with its latest announcement of 60 extra police for the Territory.
The steep rise in violent crime since Territory Labor came to office is undermining our way of life and only a substantial and sustained increase in police resources will turn the situation around .
Right now we need at least 100 extra police on the beat in our major urban centres to combat growing lawlessness, yet next year the Chief Minister is offering just 30 extra police officers to cover Darwin City, Casuarina, Palmerston and Alice Springs.
This is cold comfort with the latest Quarterly Crime and Justice Statistics recording a 37% increase of violent assaults in Darwin and a 21% increase across the Territory as a whole.
Too many people have to wait too long for police assistance to arrive because of a shortage on police on the beat.
Nor is the Chief Minister willing to act on the other side of the law and order equation and provide tougher sentencing options for the courts.
Our criminal justice system has become a revolving door because of the lenient treatment of too many lawbreakers.
We need a genuine boot camp for young offenders and the option of hard work on a prison farm for adult offenders.
Given the Chief Minister pinched the ‘Safer Streets’ title from the CLP it’s  a shame he didn’t just adopt our law and order policy in its entirety.
Terry Mills
Leader of  the Opposition

Sir,- The Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee will hold a public meeting with Alice Springs and its surrounding communities to discuss the adequacy of telecommunications.
The meeting will be held on Friday, April 18 in the Andy McNeill Room at the Alice Springs Town Council at 9am, The committee will use the information collected through public meetings and written submissions to compile a report that will be presented to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Dr Bill Glasson AO
Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee

ADAM CONNELLY: Licked by cunning linguists.

Ni Hao! I thought I’d welcome you all to my column in Mandarin.
It’s the language of choice for one in five humans and makes about as much sense to the average westerner as a card trick to a dog.
Homophones are words that sound the same, like sauce and source, one and won. In spoken English we tell the difference between those words by the context of the sentence.
In Mandarin homophones are everywhere. But it isn’t the context that changes the meaning. No it’s the inflection. Say it straight and it means one thing. Go up at the end and it means something completely different.
That’s why Australians will never be all that much chop at Mandarin. Most of our sentences are monotonal with an upward inflection at the end. Like we are asking permission to finish the sentence. We talk as though we are asking a question in every sentence. Mandarin and our strange ways of communication are incompatible.
I have a friend who is engaged to a Mandarin-speaking woman. Last year he went to Dalian in China to meet the in-laws and thought he’d learn a few phrases in order to both impress his lovely fiancé and to break the monotony of spending two weeks in someone’s house without being able to say a word to them. He learned a rather eloquent greeting and memorised it word perfect. Except for the inflections.
Through the uncontrollable laughter of his fiancé every time she tells the story, it turns out that instead of impressing his future in-laws with a poetic introduction he said something about a toilet and an old dog. 
So along comes Mr Smartypants Kevin Rudd this week and addresses a Beijing university in fluent Mandarin. Way to show us up, Kev! Well done. I had this whole argument about inflection and how Australians just won’t get Mandarin and what do you go and do?
Now I feel really dumb. One in five humans speak it and now so does the leader of our country. Looks like I should pull my finger out.
It’s a sore point for many polygenerational Australians with a European background. Especially here in Alice Springs. I know of a bloke from a remote Central Australian community who lives and works in town and who up until three years ago didn’t speak English.
Didn’t speak English! As an ignorant white guy from the big smoke, the fact that there are people born here, raised here and don’t speak English nearly made my brain implode.
Thing is though English isn’t this bloke’s second language. It’s his fifth. He speaks four local languages. It’s incredible to think that if those four languages were Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese, we’d consider him a genius. Yet there are many that still call him a dumb black fella. I don’t. I’m envious.
Being bilingual would be wonderful. However many of us simply will never achieve such goals.
I grew up in an incredibly multicultural area of Sydney and was therefore exposed to languages from every corner of the globe. Stupidly I never learned one. Not Mandarin, not Tagalog, not Afrikaans, not Arabic and definitely not Warlpiri.
In high school I was taught French and German. Now while there’s no doubt that France and Germany are still big language groups, their influence on the world has diminished somewhat since … oh I don’t know… the 1940s. 
Why the New South Wales Board of Education insisted that the key to bilingualism be through those two languages still eludes me.
Today the big international languages to learn in my opinion are Mandarin, Arabic, and Indonesian. Hindi and Japanese speakers are learning English by the millions so we really don’t need to know those in order to communicate.
One in five people speak Mandarin. Last week statistics were released showing for the first time since 1000 AD, there are more Muslims than Catholics on the planet and there are 125 million Indonesians just to our north. A country and culture many of us don’t really understand all that well. It might not be a bad idea that we be able to have a conversation.
So in a typically Australian half arsed fashion, I’ve decided to learn a language. Yes indeed I’m off to the book shop for a phrase book. That should just about make me expert. Do they have Learn Arrernte for beginners?

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