May 15, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Rob Knight signals consultation on parks transfer to Aboriginal ownership. By ERWIN CHLANDA and KIERAN FINNANE.

Minister for Central Australia, Rob Knight, says he will ensure that there is consultation with “stakeholders” in Central Australia on ownership of National Parks.
The Alice News spoke to Mr Knight, pictured at right at the turning of the sod at the Solar Technology Demonstration Facility, following Territory Senator Nigel Scullion’s vow to muster support to defeat the Bill providing for a handover of 13 National Parks in the Centre to Aboriginal traditional owners (see last week’s issue).
The Alice News put to Mr Knight that there had been no meaningful consultation on the issue.
Mr Knight said: “I imagine that there has been a degree of consultation.
“If there’s not, we’ll make sure there is.
“We’ve been a government that has done a lot of consultation, engaging with stakeholders, and there’s some stakeholders in town here that would be a part of that.”
The News also asked Mayor Damien Ryan if the new Town Council would take a position on the proposed handover.
Mr Ryan said he has not given the matter any thought but he will raise the issue with the aldermen.
On March 6 he told the Alice News: “All parks, Federal and Territory, are owned by the people.
“The parks should remain in public hands.”
The previous Town Council passed a motion in March 2006 that they write to all Australian Senators, requesting that they not approve changes to legislation paving the way for a handover. This was moved by Alderman Melanie van Haaren and seconded by then Ald David Koch. 
It was supported by Alds Samih Habib and Murray Stewart as well as then Alds Robyn Lambley and Geoff Bell.
It was opposed by then Mayor Fran Kilgariff, Ald Jane Clark and then Alds Meredith Campbell and Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke.
A letter was duly sent to all Senators under Ms Kilgariff’s name, although nowhere in it was a request that the Senators not approve the legislation.
Instead it requested that in their deliberations they take into consideration the importance of tourism to Central Australian lifestyle and livelihoods. 
Council also subsequently supported a motion to make a submission outlining their position to a Senate Committee of Inquiry on Australian National Parks.
Again, there was nothing in the one-page submission, signed by Ms Kilgariff in April 2006, that indicated council’s opposition to the handover legislation.
The prospect of the handover is not mentioned.
The submission consisted of general statements about management of parks, such as: “The process of management of National Parks should be in the best interests of current and future Australians and at the same time ensure sustainable ecological benefits.
This includes the engagement of Aboriginal people in all aspects of parks and conservation management that can contribute to the well-being of regional communities.”

Council acts on illegal campers. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Council rangers have stepped up patrols of illegal camps, requiring occupants to clean up and move on, sometimes issuing fines.
The practice of making this enforcement of by-laws conditional on the presence of police has been discontinued.
And council has given unanimous support to a motion by Alderman John Rawnsley to develop “enforcement mechanisms” for proposed by-laws based on Lhere Artepe’s cultural protocols for visitors.
Ranger patrols of illegal camping “hot spots” have increased from three times a week to daily, says manager of the Town Council ranger unit, Kevin Everett.
And they are done with or without police, encountering some 20 to 40 people each day.
Mr Everett says he likes police to be there as he gets “more cooperation” when they are, but sometimes they are not available.
Staff from Tangentyere Council are also frequently but not always present.
Hot spots change from time to time: at present they are in Elder Street, Lovegrove Drive, and Billygoat Hill (fairly constant), including a laneway behind the Reptile Centre.
The hill behind the Araluen Centre, a sacred site, has been fenced off to prevent illegal camping and drinking, but the fence was recently cut, says Mr Everett.
He says there is “no pattern” as to who the campers are, where they are from, or why they are here: “We have had groups from as far away as WA.”
Most of the time the rangers remind people of what they are doing wrong, give them rubbish bags and ask that they clean the place up and move on – an approach Mr Everett regards as more effective than the issuing of infringement notices.
“Educate before enforce,” says Mr Everett.
However, last week an infringement notice was issued when a person refused to cooperate with the request to clean up.
Mr Everett says some half dozen infringements have been issued this year.
Fines are recovered through the NT Government’s fines recovery unit: “It can take two to three months.”
The ranger unit’s statistics do not support the popular wisdom that there are more itinerant visitors to town from bush communities as a result of the Federal Intervention.
Figures for March this year are lower than last year’s: 256 compared with 372.
January and February had similar numbers in both years.
Figures have been kept reliably since January 2007.
There was a marked drop in August of last year, which the council ties to the introduction of Dry Town and apprehension about Intervention measures.
Numbers fluctuate a little but reach a fairly steady high in the hot months.
The figures show relatively few children involved: in February this year rangers counted 34 children. March 2007 is the only other month where children numbered over 20. In several months there have been fewer than five.
There are generally more men than women.
In the 15 months on record, there were 1934 men, 1404 women, and 181 children.
Meanwhile, the Town Council will work with the native title holder body Lhere Artepe to develop an “adequate mechanisms of enforcement” for the Lhere Artepe cultural protocols.
These include the following protocols for visitors:
• show respect for each other and accept responsibility for your own behaviour.
• plan for your trip including where you will stay and when and how you will return home.
• there should be no camping in or on sacred sites or in public places.
• humbugging people for money, cigarettes or food is not acceptable behaviour in Alice Springs. Respect yourself.
• unacceptable or anti-social behaviour such as alcohol abuse, fighting or pay-back will not be tolerated. Lhere Artepe supports Australian law and its enforcement to deal with these issues.
Aldermen unanimously supported a motion put by Alderman John Rawnsley that council express its support for the protocols and that the partnership committee of council and Lhere Artepe be given “a mandate” to develop comprehensive policy around the protocols, including enforcement mechanisms.
During his election campaign Ald Rawnsley spoke of by-laws to support the protocols; infringement notices for by-laws offenders; and  trespass notices for repeat infringements.
Whatever the measures, they would have to constitute a “strong disincentive” to reoffend, said the then candidate.
On Monday Ald Rawnsley spoke of Lhere Artepe as the “only Aboriginal voice in Alice Springs and surrounds advocating an agenda for Aboriginal people taking more responsibility”.
Councillors also agreed to a suggestion by Ald Jane Clark that acknowledgment of the traditional owners before council meetings and functions should become a regular, rather than the current occasional, practice.

Roof panels a solar dud? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Isn’t it great to be a solar city – but have we been sold a pup with one aspect of it, generating power with roof mounted photo voltaic (PV) cells?
There’s a push to persuade 225 Alice householders to buy these highly subsidized systems, or to sell enough of them to generate 250 kilowatts (KW), whichever comes first.
The first system was launched this week, now gracing the the rural home of Michael and Alison Kain in Ross Highway (pictured).
The units range in price from $15,000 (1 KW) to $26,250 (2 KW). The householder pays 40%, the Federal Government the rest.
These units produce power at a cost of about $14,000 per KW capacity.
Compare that with the three “concentrator dish” power stations at Hermannsburg, Yuendumu and Lajamanu.
Together they cost $7m and generate 720 KW, which is $9722 per KW capacity – considerably less than the cost of the domestic scheme in Alice Springs, although the three Aboriginal communities couldn’t be more remote, a factor hugely escalating the construction cost.
And the Mildura region is getting a 154,000 KW plant, “the biggest and most efficient solar photovoltaic power station in the world” according to the pitch, costing $420m.
That gives it a cost of just $2727 per KW capacity.
So, the domestic system in Alice Springs is about 50% more expensive than those in the ultra remote Hermannsburg, Yuendumu and Lajamanu, and five and a half times more expensive than the Mildura plant which will cater for 45,000 homes.
The manufacturers, Solar Systems, say they have “developed the capability to concentrate the sun by 500 times onto the solar cells for ultra high power output”.
That, says Alice Solar City chairman Grant Behrendorff, gives them the edge, through economy of scale.
It needs to be born in mind that the Mildura plant won’t exist for another five years, is of a scale never been done before, whereas the Alice Springs scheme is “here and now”.
Mr Behrendorff says the concentrator dish systems are using PV panels with a 35% efficiency, compared to the 15% of the photovoltaic cells used in the Alice domestic system.
Exactly why then do we carry out an experiment with an outdated system, when we already know there are better ones around?
Mr Behrendorff says the imbalance is offset to some degree by avoiding losses incurred by transporting electricity through the town’s grid. This loss is five per cent.
Rooftop systems “embedded” throughout the town will mean “the amount of electricity lost in the system will be reduced because the electricity is produced closer to where it is used.”
And Alice Solar City general manager Brian Elmer says many locals are “keen to have a solar plant on their own roof,” coupled with in-house displays showing how much they are consuming and generating, raising awareness of electricity consumption.
The question remains, if people are keen to save the world from climate change catastrophes, should they not be putting their money into efficient systems?
In fact, Alice will get two state-of-the-art solar systems, one at Ilparpa and one at the airport, from which environment-conscious consumers can buy electricity.
Maybe there should be a scheme allowing them to invest in them?
Despite the heavy subsidies, the individual domestic systems have the downside of being reliant on Power and Water, with all its inefficiencies.
The system comes minus batteries, so the householders don’t become self-sufficient.
However, they sell electricity to Power and Water for 45 cents per KW hour and buy it back for 22.35c (peak times, 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday), and 12.58c off-peak (all other times).
These concessional rates are available to participants in Solar Cities initiatives even if they don’t instal a photovoltaic system.
Depending on consumption, and on sunshine, participants can make up to $1500 a year from their system, says Alice Solar City’s commercial services manager Sam Latz, paying off the unit in under 10 years.
But would you – and the environment – not be better off investing in a system with double the efficiency and a fraction of the price?
Mr Latz says people want their own solar unit for the same reason they want “their own home, own backyard and their own car”.
The question is, for how much longer will we have those?

Live exports back.

NT Cattlemen’s Association president Roy Chisholm has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to re-open the live export trade to Egypt.
He says shipments overseas “on the hoof” earns the Territory $180m a year.
The Muslim style halal slaughter will continue but it will be under strict controls and humane conditions, with the animals being stunned before their throat is cut.
“There is no pain involved,” says Mr Chisholm.
If the Australian trade were stopped, countries with fewer scruples and lower standards would supply the market, says Mr Chisholm.
Meanwhile a national industry group, Meat and Livestock Australia, says a new facility had been created at the Egyptian port of Sokhna with livestock experts handling cattle from vessel to feedlot to processing in one location.
This is known as a “closed system”.
“This is a result of considerable combined effort between the Australian and Egyptian Governments and the Australian livestock export industry,” says Cameron Hall, LiveCorp CEO.
“While it will be several months before the operational orders are finalised and in place to allow shipments to commence, Australians can be confident that there will be proper controls to ensure the welfare of Australian cattle exported to Egypt.
“Upon arrival at the new facility, cattle will disembark the livestock vessel and walk 800 metres to the shaded feedlot, where they will have access to feed and water.
“Once ready for processing, the livestock will walk 50 metres from the feedlot to the new modern processing facility. The system will be fully auditable.
“Each animal will have an individual electronic tag device and will be scanned prior to leaving Australia and upon arrival at the feedlot in Egypt.”

Alice to get eight more experienced cops. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Eight experienced police officers will transfer to Alice Springs over the next few months from other parts of the Territory, the Town Council was told on Monday night.
Superintendent Sean Parnell spoke to the aldermen in a regular briefing on law and order issues.
He said six officers would transfer from Tennant Creek, one from Elliott and another from the Tiwi Islands. 
A further three officers, formerly ACPOs (Aboriginal Community Police Officers) are training to become constables and will graduate in June.
These arrivals will take the local force to full establishment level, says Supt Parnell.
A review of police communications has been conducted and findings will go the Police Commissioner and the Territory Government.
Supt Parnell’s recommendation to the review team is that calls to police – both 000 and 131444 –  be handled from Darwin.
Many calls already do go to Darwin: “They’re the professionals, there’ll be no lessening of service,” said Supt Parnell.
He told aldermen that it has been impossible to fill the police auxiliary positions to take calls, despite repeat advertising. 
The job has been covered by constables. Transferring the function to a call centre in Darwin would free up 10 constables  – “enormous for us”.
He said people should not be concerned over loss of local knowledge as the auxiliaries and officers answering the phone have generally been new to town and had minimal local knowledge anyway.
Out of the total 196 police based in Alice there are 78 constables on general policing duties, with around 10 on leave (six to seven weeks for police) at any one time.
Supt Parnell acknowledged that Alice Springs has a high police to population ratio but said the town is unique in Australia in its position as a hub for numerous far flung communities and for its “underlying issues”.
Aldermen questioned him particularly about youth offending and anti-social behaviour.
Supt Parnell said it is a priority for the local force.
On the suggestion of a very well respected ACPO, police are planning to take small groups of youths – around 14 years of age, mostly residents of town camps who are starting to come under the influence of troublemakers – out bush, to be taught some survival skills, some culture.
Supt Parnell said this activity is a different take on other police initiatives to work with youth, such as school-based constables and blue light discos: “We’re hopeful of some success. We’ll run it with our own resources and see if it’s working for a few months.”

Solar City a winner! (Contributed by Alice Solar City)

As a six year program Alice Solar City aims to explore how technology, behaviour change and new approaches to electricity pricing can combine to provide a sustainable energy future for Australia. Elements include residential, commercial and large scale solar trials.
The knowledge and experience that Alice Solar City gains at the end of six years will contribute greatly to the sustainable future of Australia. Residents can be part of the trials, and save energy and money at the same time.
Recent research has shown that over 70% of Alice Springs residents believe that it is up to the individual to make a difference.
That’s where incentives to install residential photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity systems, solar hot water systems, and smart meters to monitor personal energy use come in.
Residents can also sign up for a free home energy survey, where they can choose from a range of financial incentives to assist them in their desire to become an energy champion.
Incentive vouchers can be for activities such as installing more efficient light bulbs, painting the roof white, servicing evaporative air-conditioners, and installing tinted windows, double glazing and insulation.
International experience suggests that a range of activities are required to encourage the broader community to change their energy behaviour. One size does not fit all.
Residents of Alice Springs who are not able to install a solar power system on their roof, but would like to use renewable energy in their homes, will be able to do so through a DesertSmart electricity tariff to be offered by Powerwater.  Powerwater will source this electricity from the large scale solar farm being built at the Ilparpa waste water treatment plant.  More information about this scheme will be announced later in 2008.
[Contributed by Alice Solar City.]

New tip operator boosts recycling. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“Mountains” of concrete and steel have been extracted from the landfill by new contractors, Subloos, says Ald Jane Clark, following the new council’s tour of its facilities last week.
Some 2000 tonnes of concrete and 1700 tonnes of steel to be precise.
Add to this 1800 tonnes of chipped green waste, a proportion of which will be sold to the public (on a date to be announced).
Subloos is looking for a client to take the concrete, which can be crushed and used, for instance, for road base.
The steel can “easily be resold”, says Ald Clark.
Extraction of these volumes requires expensive, heavy equipment which, unfortunately, the previous contractor (Bowerbird Enterprises) did not have, she says.
Commercial waste is the biggest contributor of volume at the landfill, she says, and council, through its contract with Subloos, is dealing with that first.
The contract requires Subloos to lift recycling of waste from the previous level of less than 1% to 15% within the first 12 months and thereafter by 1% each year for the next five years or until they reach 20%, says CEO Rex Mooney. .
A drive-through sorting shed, soon to be constructed, will help Subloos reach that goal: users will have their loads inspected and recyclables and hazardous waste – such as computer waste and household paint – removed before they go to the tip face. Tonnages will be measured.
The 20% goal is expected to extend the life of the landfill by five years, taking it to around 2028, says Mr Mooney. 

Dole cut if unemployed refuse job. By KIERAN FINNANE.

From July last year up to the end of March this year, 3037 job seekers living in the 72 communities prescribed under the Federal Intervention had been referred to a Work for the Dole (WfD) activity.
Under rules that apply Australia-wide but from which remote communities were previously exempted, 1342 “participation reports” (PRs) were made in that time for WfD related failures.
Some of these were due to people failing to start in the WfD activity they were referred to, while in other cases they may have started the activity but subsequently had at least one occasion when they didn’t turn up and didn’t provide a reasonable excuse.
Each PR is investigated by Centrelink and a decision is made as to whether or not it should be “applied”. 
If the failure is “serious” – for example, refusing an offer of suitable work, not starting a job or leaving a suitable job – they may receive an eight week non-payment period. 
If a job seeker has had what is termed a less serious “participation failure” – for example, not turning up to a job interview, or not participating in a WfD activity – there will only be a financial penalty if it is the third such failure within 12 months.  
The Alice News asked how often the “three strike” and “serious failure” rules had been applied in prescribed communities. 
Of the 1342 PRs “raised”, 465 have been “applied” by Centrelink:  453 were participation failures and 12 were serious failures.
The 12 who had serious failures all suffered an eight-week non-payment period, as did 14 others for cumulative participation failures.  How did people cope?
This was answered indirectly by a Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) spokesperson:
“The Rudd Government wants to maintain a strong compliance regime to encourage participation and deter non-genuine job seekers, but this system also needs to be fair and effective.
“The government is currently reviewing all employment services. This includes looking at compliance requirements.
“While we cannot pre-empt the outcome of the review, as a first step, DEEWR has urged employment service providers and Centrelink to use their discretion and only issue eight-week non-payment penalties when the job seeker clearly has no reasonable excuse for the participation failure.
“If an employment service provider also is satisfied that a job seeker will meet their participation requirements if given a further opportunity to comply within a reasonable timeframe, then they should be given an opportunity to do so.”
The Alice News asked Adam Giles, NT manager of Community Enterprises Australia, how the “three strike” and “serious failure” rules were working to encourage participation in the economy.
Mr Giles said the rules are among a suite of tools used by Centrelink and others.
 “I am seeing multitudes of people wanting to work. Our agency has hundreds of Indigenous Territorians participating in work experience programs including WfD and painting houses in communities.
 “I imagine it is extremely difficult for Centrelink to find the right balance, encouraging people into the workforce but not being too tough on those who have genuine reasons, such as people with a disability.
“I don’t want to see anybody lose their income for eight weeks, but I do want to see people participating in the economy. Programs such as WfD provide the work experience to enable people to get a real job with real pay.”
Mr Giles estimate that CEA has moved around 100 people from unemployment into real jobs since July 2007.
“Most would have been long term unemployed, some previous CDEP participants and some who have never had a job before.”

How to cope with the hard part of budget air travel. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The cheap Tiger flights are all but useless unless you want to visit Melbourne because the current schedule gets you there after most if not all connecting flights have gone.
So if you don’t want to blow your fare savings on accommodation (for example, Holiday Inn at the airport $280 a night; $40 one way taxi fare into town, and so on), drastic measures are needed.
These could include throwing your swag at rellies’ or friends’ (if available) or – yes – spending the night at the airport. 
The Tiger terminal is rather sparse and closed at night, but Melbourne domestic and international terminals are an easy 300 meter stroll away, and you’re at a world class aviation facility.
Unless you’re on an overseas excursion you’re not going to get any customs duty nor tax advantages, so shopping isn’t advisable.
I bought an $11.95 blow-up pillow for $20.40.
But food is plentiful, cheap and – in part – also good. I can recommend Healthy Habits.
However, sleeping requires some inexpensive albeit careful planning.
Lots of people do it, mostly international passengers with enormous backpacks and wearing thongs, or Asians with loads of boxes and suitcases.
I slept at Melbourne airport a fortnight ago. It was OK, not fantastic, but I have the drum now on how to make it an experience bordering on the pleasant.
The seating throughout the terminal is generous inasmuch as most of it is bench-type, without those mean armrests that prevent you from stretching out.
However, the surfaces are either metal or timber and, consequently, hard.
Take a mat, preferably the kind that’s self-inflating when rolled out.
On this occasion I relocated at about 1.30am to a closed restaurant with an upholstered bench.
When awakened by the noise of chairs being taken off the tables, I arranged the closest to coffee in bed that I could expect under the circumstances.
Another consideration: While the absence of human traffic is conducive to sleeping, the airport is cold, especially the domestic section where heat-generating bodies are absent at night.
It seems the air conditioning keeps on blasting away even when it is not needed.
Take a blanket.
The fact that during curfew hours there are no domestic flights doesn’t seem to be universally known to airport personnel, because at regular intervals, a friendly but loud female voice urges you to pick only your own luggage off the conveyor belt, and not someone else’s.
Take ear plugs.
Another fact of which the airport management seems oblivious is that we are in a phase of almost certainly terminal global warming: yet the lights shine bright even in those parts of the airport, each about the size of a football field, not used during the night.
Take a sleeping mask.
A hipflask of Scotch, declared as mouthwash, is optional.

The hidden shape of God. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.

It’s like being in a life drawing class but instead of naked humans, there are naked camels.
The artist has sat there with them a long time, getting to know their every contour as they moved through different poses, their every stretch and roll and settling into the sand.
Sue McLeod’s show, which opened at Araluen on the weekend, is a meditation on the camel – “An Uncommon Beast”, according to her title.
But not uncommon to her: without knowing any biographic details the drawings and paintings tell you that McLeod is someone who has walked with camels and who has come to cherish them.
In fact she has made epic journeys with a string of camels along the old Afghan routes of the Centre; with a camel-drawn wagon from Melbourne to the Pitjantjatjara lands and later on up to Alice.
But these journeys are not the subject of the show: there are no strings of camels depicted, in fact we don’t see more than two at a time and mostly it’s just one.
This is an up close and personal view and mostly of camels in repose.
In many of the works the camel occupies most of the frame, although there are a few notable, dream-like landscapes with a solitary camel sitting in them, as if in quiet contemplation of his or her place in the universe.
We learn that McLeod spent two periods of six months camping with two domesticated camels along a disused stock route south of Alice and on the old commonage land south of the Gap.
There is a sense from the show of her becoming inhabited by camel – or at least that the animal so fascinated her that she was unable to look away.
At the opening of the show Craig San Roque quoted from the Persian poet Hafiz of Shiraz (his own translation): “The camel was named by the Prophet as the hidden shape of God, /  And rare are the humans who glimpse in themselves the hidden shape of God.”
San Roque joked about the camel in McLeod’s nature but there’s something in it: the artist, with wonderfully vigorous brushing and drawing and her single-minded focus, has painted her way to the inside of something – in the architecture of her camels we glimpse evolutionary eons and ancient migrations.
And how does this vision sit with our knowledge of the problem wild camel populations in Australia?
McLeod notes in her artist’s statement that she is very concerned about wild camels, which, apart from their environmental impact, make management of a domestic herd “nearly impossible”.
San Roque says the problem with feral camels is that they are no longer a companion to humans – the reciprocal relationship between camel and human has been broken.
“Imagine if we stopped feeding all the dogs and released them,’ he says.
To quote Hafiz again: “To travel in the company of camels is to walk in a  state of grace / In fact,  the camel’s rhythm is the true beat of the human race ...
“The cause of the present confusion is this.  The bond between camel and man has ended / Humans became feral when the camel’s company they offended.”

Youth for a republic - by a whisker. By DARCY DAVIS.

In the true spirit of democracy, I have returned from the nation’s capital, where 124 delegates gathered for the National Schools Constitutional Convention, to report on what the country’s youth think about one of the biggest questions for our country’s future.
The students were first presented with the arguments in favour of a republic by Labor Senator Kate Lundy (ACT). Her main point was the symbolic value of the change – it would be healthy for Australia’s national identity and the morale of the people.
She supported a “minimalist model” – an appointed Australian Head of State to replace the Monarch. 
The arguments against were presented by Liberal Senator Cory Bernadi (SA), saying we already have a strong system of checks and balances: it’s not broken – so don’t fix it.
The students were given the opportunity to voice their opinions in the Soapbox Sessions.
“I don’t see how a Republic could improve our system. We should be focussing on the problems in the functions of government,” said some. 
Others thought that “being a Monarchy is degrading to our national identity”.
And yet others used metaphors to convey their opinion: “Australia’s been built on a foundation like a house, it’s our home we love it, we can make renovations, maybe add a few storeys but why should we rip out our foundations of being a constitutional monarchy to replace it with a new untried foundation.”
At this juncture I must draw attention to the fact that I was very busy during these sessions, writing notes, getting immersed in discussions and noting and quoting the most succinct opinions of a whole range of students whom I didn’t know. They voiced their opinions, but didn’t say their name – just call them “the Youth Voice of Australia”.
On the second day of the convention we looked at the different models of a Republic that Australia could adopt and were presented with the French, Irish and American models. The first was the minimalist model, which was the safest option and many were in favour: “Instead of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ we should be thinking ‘it won’t break if you take care of it’ – the minimalist approach is one of the small steps we need to be taking to look after our democracy.”
The second option was the semi-minimalist option which was a government appointed President who had similar responsibilities to the current Governor General.
But some thought this was a useless change: “Why spend all this money to change our system so that we can have someone doing the job the Governor General does already?”
The third option was similar to that of the Irish Republican model, which would have a popularly elected president. But some students picked holes in such a system: “If a candidate is running to be president, how is he going to campaign?
“Is he going to say – I am the best figurehead, I will provide the best symbolism?” and “It’s hard to ensure that a directly elected president stays apolitical.”
Other students liked the sound of having “someone elected by the nation to represent our morals and views.”
On the last day we had to vote on which republican system we would prefer, if we had to adopt one of them. A majority of 73% voted in favour of the semi-minimalist system.
It was then time to vote on the big issue – to be or not to be a republic. We were divided into our respective states and territories.
To change the constitution, there had to be a double majority – both a majority of states as well as an overall majority. We waited with much anticipation for the results.
The national total was 70 in favour of a republic (NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland) and 51 against. The two territories were ineligible to vote. While this may have seemed like a convincing result, in reality it came down to just one vote, with Queensland voting 14 in favour and 12 against. If one person had voted otherwise, it would have been a tied result and a vote against a change to a republic.
It was only the second time in the 13-year history of the National Schools Constitutional Convention that students have voted to change the constitution – a change in the air?

LETTERS: Shires debate.

Sir,- I reply to Rod Cramer’s letter (Alice News, May 8) regarding my report to Council about LGANT’s position on issues relating to the Local Government Bill.
LGANT represents the elected members in local government. With the introduction of shires in the near future, the entire land mass of the NT (aside from some areas in the Top End) will be incorporated into local government for the first time. This means that pastoral and mining leases will fall into local government areas and, yes, they will be expected to pay rates.
Some complaints are to be expected but the reality is that, in the past, they did not contribute to local government but did have the opportunity to enjoy the services provided. Any pastoralist may now stand and be elected to local government and that is a good thing. 
The NT Government has been extremely generous in capping the rates for pastoral properties and mining leases for three years, a benefit not offered to any other ratepayers.
LGANT lobbies the Federal Government for funds, monitors and comments on legislation and fights very hard for fair funding for roads. After July elected member representation will be very much reduced due to dissolving of community government councils. The LGANT Executive, of which I am a member, will continue to closely monitor the transition process and keep the public informed.
Finally, to clarify Mr Cramer’s assertion that I showed blanket support for ‘user pays’ – I supported the premise of ‘user pays’ for certain limited services which cost the Alice Springs Town Council thousands of dollars to provide, and yet charged the user an amount in the vicinity of $100. I support prudent use of ratepayer money and so I put forward that we charge the user an amount closer to the actual cost to council for these services.
Alderman Jane Clark
Alice Springs

Sir,- I write in response to the proposed Angela-Pamela Uranium mine.
The company [Cameco] cannot guarantee that their actions will not harm our precious aquifers. Need I remind everyone that a town without a water supply will cease to be a town very quickly?
The company maintains that they will employ ‘radiation management measures’ to reduce the amount of radiation escaping into the atmosphere and therefore minimise the amount of radiation blowing across Alice.
Shall we stop for a minute and ask how well that has worked at the Ranger Uranium mine? We were told by Dr Gavin Mudd from Monash University at the community meeting held last week that every uranium mine has higher levels of leakage than was “guaranteed” including Ranger which is supposed to be “world’s best practice”.
Yes, the mine will make a lot of money and by default and necessity some of that money will flow into Alice Springs but that will only be for a short period, perhaps 5-10 years.
Let’s not kid ourselves; the mining company has no long-term allegiance to the town and people of Alice Springs.
Lisa Hall
Alice Springs

Sir,- Re the Angela Pamela uranium mine: I have lived here for over 20 years, am a long term active ALP member, work in the tourism industry – and have a doctorate in evolutionary biology. This gives me a degree of expertise in the effects of radiation on humans.
The proponent is the NT Government which owns the land, part of the former Owen Springs pastoral lease. The existence of the ore body has been known since the 70s.
The NT Government called for “expressions of interest” from mining companies, and has actively encouraged this mining proposal.
The NT ALP also went to the last election on a “no more uranium mines” policy.
There was no consultation with the people of Alice Springs. We weren’t even notified, unless you happen to read the government tenders in the NT News. I don’t.
The problem with this is that there can be no “independence” in any enquiry, as the “judge” (in this case) is the NT Government in its various forms, also the proponent.
For any enquiry to be fair dinkum, there must be on the table the real possibility that the outcome is NO – the exploration and / or mining should not proceed.
The only way this can happen is for the people of the Alice to say it loudly and unanimously, NO.
One of the selling points for the proposed mine is “jobs”.
Much of the local hospitality industry runs on itinerant backpacker labour. Businesses in town are desperate for skilled workers, and the tourism industry is battling to attract staff.
If such a mine were to eventuate it would suck workers from the long-term sustainable tourism industry.
The mine would soon finish and then piss off with the loot.
And of course there is the inevitable Berrimah Line question – would the NT Government have promoted a uranium mine 25 kms from the precious Northern Suburbs seats in Darwin?
Charlie Carter
Alice Springs

Sir,- Ms. Parks [from the uranium mining company Cameco] states that mine workers would be at risk from exposure to dust from the mine itself. This acknowledges a danger to workers in the mine, and infers a degree of risk of local environmental contamination.
Furthermore Tatz and Cass published a paper [demonstrating] an almost doubled rate of all cancers in the indigenous population, around the Ranger Mine in the NT.
Although this study was small, and the cancers were not specific to cancers associated with radiation exposure, this is an alarming statistic which demands consideration. 
Another issue associated with a proposed mine is the population health effect of low levels of ionising radiation- assuming that mining the Angela- Pamela deposits will expose the local population to low levels of radiation (through dust, water, or accidental contamination). To quote the Biological Effect of Ionising Radiation - Report VII challenges Ms. Parks statement that there is a threshold, below which exposure to small doses of radiation does not contribute to the risk of ill health.
Furthermore, it is important to realise that multiple doses of ionising radiation accrue a cumulative risk of ill health.
This too challenges the notion of a “safe threshold”.
Having said all of this, I would be glad to review any of the follow up studies that Ms. Park refered to, which she claims to contradict the linear relationship between exposure to ionising radiation and risks to health.
Finally, I think it is disappointing and sad that Ms. Parks dismissed the contamination of potable water with process water, at the Ranger mine on Mar 24, 2004. It was an event in which human error contributed to a significant contamination.
Workers were exposed to multiple pollutants, including high levels of uranium.  The potable water supply of Jabiru was contaminated. Although no ongoing health problems have yet been documented, exposed workers complained of acute skin and gastrointestinal complaints at the time of exposure.
As Ms. Parks suggests, this incident did not involve radiation or ground water, but it highlights the risks associated with the toxic products of uranium mining and human error. Can Alice Springs afford to take the risk?
Tom Keaney,
Alice Springs

Sir,- Attention has been paid to the young and first home buyers but older Territorians have been left out of this year’s Northern Territory Budget.
By the time you reach 50 and over, many people will experience either unemployment, a huge stamp duty bill for downsizing your home, or dwindling staff in the residential aged care facility you live in. None of these problems have been recognised in the budget. This is disappointing as the Northern Territory, like the rest of the country, is ageing.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Northern Territory’s 65-plus population increased by 8.3 per cent – making the Territory the fastest of all states in the year ending June 2007. This shows a lack of foresight, especially given that the NT Treasurer predicted that the NT will have the strongest economic growth of all jurisdictions over the next five years.
Stamp duty is an area where senior Territorians were hoping to achieve some change. While there is no special concession for those downsizing their homes, the reduction of stamp duty rates overall is a positive step.
However, a senior downsizing from a $500,000 home will still have to pay $24,000 in stamp duty – a mere $3,000 reduction.
Mature age unemployment was an unaddressed issue in the budget although many other employment and training initiatives have been announced. The $2 million Patient Assistance Travel Subsidy Scheme funding is welcomed by National Seniors, as are the other health funding initiatives but ore needs to be done to address the lack of qualified staff in aged care.
Margaret Gaff
National Seniors NT

ADAM CONNELLY: Putting passion in its place.

I find passion an incredibly attractive quality.
I’m not talking about … you know… bedroom passion. I’m talking about that drive, that interest, that love of a cause or a hobby or a job.
I think what makes passion so attractive is that people with it tend to also be passionate about life. There is in my mind very little more depressing than a person who goes about their short time on this earth breathing with the same level of enthusiasm a six year old brings to the task of cleaning their room.
Dylan Thomas wanted us not to go quietly into the night, to rage against death by living a full life.
Some people almost want to apologise for living.
We all know people like this. Soul suckers. The performers of emotional osmosis. Sucking the life out of you just by their conversation.
Sometimes they don’t even need to talk. Have you ever felt the need for a nap just because you’ve been in the same room as a person? A person who takes the bull by the excrement rather than the horns?
These people are what Billy Connolly calls the Beige Brigade. A strict adherence to all things beige.
Don’t confuse passion for positivity. Sometimes upon first inspection they can look the same.
Australians by and large are a positive collective of peoples. But occasionally this positivity leads to victimisation.
Remember the days when many Australians were considered “working class”? Passionate, hard working men and women, working hard to give their kids a better life. Now thanks to A Current Affair, and other insipid programs of that ilk, the working class has a new name: the “Little Aussie Battler”.
I never want that term applied to me. Battler. Like the world and the man and big business are all against them but regardless of their pathetic station in life, they struggle on struggle street like a bloody ANZAC.
I’ll bet you London to a brick that “The Little Aussie Battler” was a term coined by someone outside the working class.
To me the working class was pro-active while the Little Aussie Battler has to struggle through life’s misfortunes powerless.
I’m not attracted to people who, when they get lemons, make lemonade. I find that outlook on life annoying. I’m attracted to people who, upon the receiving of said lemons, bitch and yell and throw lemons until they get the apples they bloody well wanted in the first place!
Of course passion can be misdirected. Like a curry, in the wrong hands passion can be quite dangerous. A curry well cooked can dance across your tongue like Barishnikov. In the wrong hands however, a curry can leave you for extended periods of time on the loo, wishing you’d never been born.
Hamas are passionate. Alfredo Reynado was quite passionate. Cult leaders like David Koresh, Little Pebble and Tom Cruise are all quite passionate. In fact it’s their passionate nature which attracts people to them.
Dylan Thomas was a magnificent poet but also a drunken junkie who got into fistfights with his wife.
Centralians are passionate about Central Australia. A passion contagious. I meet people on a daily basis who crave success for this place like a fat kid craves KFC. (I should know. I’ve lived in Central Australia and been a fat kid – the similarities are alarmingly similar). 
In my job I have the privilege of meeting many of these passionate people. They love this place with a zeal I envy. They react to a good Central Australian news story the same way that a smoker takes in their first lungful in the morning and they react to bad news as though they themselves have been wounded.  
However, I was having a casual conversation with one such passionate Centralian this week. He reminded me of a man by the name Alistair Galpin. Alistair wanted to achieve greatness. With polio already eradicated, he saw that his path to greatness was to become a multiple entrant in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Alistair has broken 28 records. An impressive feat you’d agree. His passion for breaking records is doubtless. Did Alistair build the world’s largest building?
Did he break a land speed record?
Did he even write the world’s longest palindrome? No.
Mr Galpin, holds the record for things like the most rhinestones glued to a human body and the most snails placed on his face for a minute (a record eight!).
My Centralian friend was so passionate about the place he had clung onto the first plan that came into his head. Think Las Vegas 2008 meets Johannesburg 1978.
So much good can happen when passionate people come together to achieve a goal.
Let’s just make sure the goal is worth achieving.

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