June 26, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

CLP loses our parks. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Country Liberal Party’s Nigel Scullion capitulated in the Senate this week to forces committed to transferring the ownership of 13 national parks in Central Australia, including the iconic West MacDonnells, to Aboriginal interests.
He also voted for the transfer after failing to marshal the Liberal Opposition, which still has a majority in the Senate, to block the move.
The policy was initiated by former NT Chief Minister Clare Martin, and has been resolutely rejected – amongst others – by the Country Liberal Party (CLP), the Alice Springs Town Council, seven out of eight mayoral candidates in the recent council elections, including new Mayor Damien Ryan, and 75% of people answering an Alice Springs News poll on the question (among other issues): 254 of 336 people surveyed agreed with the proposition “leave all national parks in public ownership but set up an Aboriginal park management advisory body”.
The fight for keeping the parks in public hands, so far as Senator Scullion was concerned, started on a bullish note.
He is the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, and usually votes with them and the Liberal Opposition.
Earlier this month he was adamant that as the only non-Labor Territory Federal politician, the Opposition would have to listen to him.
He was confident that he could get support to defeat that part of the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 which sought to clear the way for the scheduling of the parks, as inalienable Aboriginal freehold land, under the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976.
Senator Scullion told the Alice News earlier that defeating that portion of the Bill would be straightforward while the Opposition still has the majority in the Senate, until the end of this month.
And he was optimistic about his chances even after the new Senate takes office next month, counting on support from Family First leader Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon, the anti-pokies Senator.
But Senator Scullion had not counted on the apparent rebirth of the Liberal Party as wholly sympathetic to any Aboriginal cause, whatever it may be.
“We’ve said sorry to the stolen generations so how can we now say no to the parks” seemed to be the message he was getting from Opposition leader Brendan Nelson’s ranks.
Central Australia seems to be of no importance to the ideologically reconstructed Liberals, and neither clearly are their northern soul mates, the CLP.
Indigenous Affairs shadow minister Tony Abbot did not grant a request from the Alice News for an interview on the subject.
It was time for Senator Scullion to cast about for a face-saving ploy.
He tried to extract an assurance from Chief Minister Paul Henderson to ensure that the parks management board would have a majority of members appointed by the NT Government, so that the board was, in effect, run by a body answerable to the public.
Senator Scullion said the current proposal is for Aborigines to have a majority on the board.
His alternative was a “lite” version of stopping the parks hand-over.
The Senator then did his best to commit Mr Nelson and Mr Abbott to the same stance: if Mr Henderson didn’t play ball, the Bill would be defeated in the Senate.
Mr Henderson didn’t and the Bill went through anyway, with Senator Scullion’s support.
This is how it happened: Senator Scullion wrote to Mr Henderson last week, saying “the NT Government maintaining majority board membership structure is viewed by many Territorians as a necessity as the Northern Territory Government on behalf of all Territorians are leasing the land to operate as national parks for the benefit of all Australians.
“Providing a written assurance that the Northern Territory Government will maintain majority membership of the board of management over these parks would address the many concerns raised with me over the future of these lands.
“I look forward to your response to this suggestion so that I may finalise my position on this important piece of legislation.”
Senator Scullion clearly didn’t get the requested assurance from Mr Henderson.
This is what he told the Senate on Monday: “Whilst [Mr Henderson’s] letter does not provide written assurance that the Northern Territory government will retain and maintain majority management of the parks reserves, it gives Territorians, through me, an assurance that the legislation does not grant majority management and control to the traditional owners as is the case, as I indicated, for other parks.”
So, while the legislation may not grant Aborigines a majority in the decision-making, Mr Henderson did not give any assurances he won’t grant it later through administrative or other action.
Senator Scullion said in the Senate “my concerns are not categorically resolved through [Mr Henderson’s] letter” but he would “support the Bill, on the understanding that the Northern Territory Government will maintain overall control of the parks and reserves and will be, as I have indicated, accountable to Territorians through the parliamentary process”.
Senator Scullion’s ALP opposite, NT Senator Trish Crossin, not surprisingly has even fewer doubts about the Bill, creatively suggesting that the parks don’t actually exist at the moment, but will come into existence as a result of the land being transferred to Aboriginal ownership.
She said in the Senate on Monday that the Bill “allows for a further grant of Aboriginal land which will mean the creation of 13 national parks in the Northern Territory.
“This legislation is long overdue.
“I know that for quite a number of years the  Northern Territory Government and Indigenous people in the Territory have been waiting for this legislation in order to create those 13 national parks.
“This is another chapter in improving Indigenous lifestyles in the Northern Territory.
“It is also another chapter of the good news story of what Indigenous people can do when they get solid backing and commitment from a federal government that then goes on to actually implement its promises, its words and its negotiated outcomes.”

COMMENT: The parks fiasco. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

On the first anniversary of the Intervention the corridors of power in Canberra, and the media, are abuzz with speculation about what we should be giving to Indigenous people, many of them in Central Australia.
A billion dollars is on the table.
Meanwhile non-Indigenous people in this area had something taken away from them: their national parks.
Until this week they were owned by the public, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, in a spirit eloquently described by Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Tony Abbott, speaking on the Intervention in Parliament on Thursday last week: “The central error of the modern era has been to think that Australia is occupied by two peoples, one Indigenous and one not.
“We are, or should be, one people, all with the same commitment to our families, their prosperity and their safety, all with the same standards of decency, all with the same standards of humanity.”
Yet in the week after, with Mr Abbott’s blessing, non-Indigenous people were disappropriated. Non-Indigenous people had been happy to share the ownership of the parks. Indigenous people, apparently, are not.
It’s not surprising that the Labor government in Canberra would do the bidding of the Labor government in Darwin, and ratify the clandestine parks deal between Clare Martin and, principally, the Central Land Council.
In our memory this will turn into another episode of Ms Martin’s disastrous time as Chief Minister, marked by the selling out of her constituents – Indigenous people on issues of the most dramatic importance that resulted in the Intervention, and the broader public and potentially the Central Australian economy with this hand over of parks.
But why did the Federal Opposition roll over, and support the land grab, in the face of unequivocal disagreement from their allies in the Territory, the CLP, as well as the overwhelming majority (see lead story)?
The Nelson Opposition could simply have said “no” in the Senate.
The CLP Senator vowed he would. He didn’t.
A defeat of the Bill in the Senate would have taken the issue back to the drawing board, for open and public consultations, which the NT Minister for Central Australia, Rob Knight, promised only six weeks ago.
Now that they have been sold out by their Federal mates, one can only wonder what happened to the past unflinching opposition to the parks hand over from people such as former NT Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney.
This week she said she’s not up to speed on the matter; “talk to Shadow Minister for Central Australia Matt Conlan.”
Mr Conlan, in turn, didn’t return our call.
But the chairman of the Alice Springs CLP Branch, David Koch, is fuming.
“It seems both parties are quite happy to give away assets here to please a few activists,” says the former Deputy Mayor of the Alice Springs Town Council.
“The 8th, 9th and 10th council have been adamant that public ownership of the parks must be retained.
“Scullion did not have the good fortune of being able to convince the Liberals. We capitulated to Labor. I’m not happy at all. Another lot of Berrimah Line medicine?”
There was never any reluctance of engaging Aboriginal people in the management, so long as the parks remained in public hands, says Mr Koch.
“It’s a good example of consistent niggling by minority groups getting the favor of the governenmt in time.
“The popular way to go is to pander to minority groups and the majority has no say.”
Ms Carney and Mr Conlan represent electorates whose livelihood depends on the parks just given away.
The Liberals’ and CLP’s stance – or non-stance – raises a further question: what can Central Australia’s mainstream, the non-Indigenous majority, do to end its dismal powerlessness, and get some meaningful representation in the national arena – and in Darwin, for that matter?
The Territory’s only Federal non-Labor politician, Nigel Scullion, says he worked hard to convince Brendan Nelson & Co to stop the parks handover.
He was clearly shouted down, and he rolled over.
Is that the best the Parliamentary CLP can do in an election year? And this begs some more questions: should conservatives in the region embrace the Liberal Party, which has just sold the region down the gurgler, or persevere with the decimated CLP, which was incapable of stopping the sell-out?

‘No more climbing Uluru’: Parks as pawns for activists? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Aboriginal ownership of Ayers Rock and the lease-back to a parks service of the national park has been touted as a shining example of the benefits of such an arrangement.
This was until the Intervention, and other events, have put the spotlight on the tragic dysfunctionality of the Mutitjulu Community at the base of The Rock, racked by violence, substance abuse and unemployment.
Tourism icon Uluru is a major component of that industry in The Centre that’s not engaged in the pervasive welfare economy.
Yet increasingly The Rock is becoming a pawn in black power politics.
Alice Springs based activist Vince Forrester appeared on SBS World News on Saturday, introduced as “an elder from the Mutitjulu community”.
This is what he had to say about the Intervention, claiming some labeled it as “invasion or ethnic cleansing”: “If they don’t get rid of this racist legislation by September we’re going to take our fight to the rest of the world.
“We’re going to throw a big rock on top of you.
“We’re going to close that climb ... no more climbing Uluru.”
Meanwhile, changes to management of Rainbow Valley and those planned for Devil’s Marbles reserves are instructive examples of the direction in which joint management of parks and reserves is heading.
At Rainbow Valley visitor access will be restricted to around one tenth of the reserve area.
Signs will advise visitors to not access culturally sensitive places such as the claypan.
Conditional access to other parts of the reserve may be granted under Parks and Wildlife Conservation by-laws.
Permit conditions will be set by the joint management partners, though the plan says no fee is payable.
Public gatherings on the reserve will be subject to permits.
At Devil’s Marbles it is proposed to restrict visitor access to roughly one quarter of the reserve, immediately to the east of the Stuart Highway.
Access will be restricted (by permit only or in connection with approved concession) to the Conservation Zone, roughly a half of the area.
And only male employees of the Parks and Wildlife Service will be able to enter the Special Protection Zone for approved management purposes.
The zone occupies about a quarter of the total area, the far eastern section, and also a small area within the Visitor Zone.

We want to run our own show, says Amoonguna. By KIERAN FINNANE.

As the July 1 deathknock for most Aboriginal community councils draws ever nearer, the feisty community of Amoonguna is making a last ditch effort to stave off change.
Amoonguna Community Incorporated (ACI) was in the High Court on Tuesday as the Alice News went to press, attempting to get an injunction to halt the progress of local government reforms.
Failure would mean that they would be absorbed into MacDonnell Shire and ownership of their assets would be transferred.
Another consequence would be that the Amoonguna Health Service, running out of a brand new $2million clinic and now claiming to service more than three times its resident population, would lose its auspicing body, currently ACI.
On Tuesday there were still no clear arrangements in place and without them the health service manager Dave Evans said he would be closing the doors of the clinic tomorrow, Friday.
This situation was produced in part by a prolonged stand-off between ACI and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, who believe that they are “the best auspicing option” for the service, according to correspondence from Congress director Stephanie Bell, shown to the Alice News by Mr Evans. 
Mr Evans was told last Friday that the Department of Local Government would be instructing ACI to negotiate with Congress.
Similarly the service’s funding body, the Commonwealth’s Office of Aboriginal and Torres Starit Islander Health (OATSIH), want ACI to meet with Congress and departmental representatives to discuss community concerns and a way forward. 
OATSIH funded six other NT local government councils in 2007-08 to deliver primary health care services.
All of these services have now identified “appropriate” new primary health care providers (either from the Aboriginal community controlled health sector or the NT Department of Health) to auspice them from July 1, says OATSIH.

Shortage of doctors leads to suspension of medical visits to bush.

There will be no routine visits by doctors to remote community health clinics in Central Australia from next week.
The service has been postponed because of critical staff shortage.
The normal complement of the NT Department of Health’s district medical officers (DMOs) for the Centre is between nine and 11.
Currently they are down to 3.5.
Two replacements are expected by September.
The situation starkly underlines the critical health workforce issues noted by the Intervention taskforce in their final report to government (see separate story).
A spokeswoman for the department says the work of the DMOs will continue by teleconference.
There will be case-specific teleconferencing “at least weekly” to most communities, and “more frequently” for some.
This is a “GP type consultation” in which the DMOs will be assisted by remote area nurses “with advanced clinical skills”.
The spokeswoman says four Top End DMOs are currently handling after hours telephone enquiries from remote clinics.
The spokeswoman says extensive advertising in Australia and overseas is under way.
Since December only one applicant has come forward but he was not suitable.
“We are also working with professional medical organizations, with rural medical organizations, and we’ve also engaged a global medical agency to assist with recruiting.
“There is a very tight recruiment market for doctors.
“At the moment we can still fill emergency rosters.”

Funding only ‘viable’ towns not a race issue. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Assessing viability of remote communities and planning future investment accordingly is a strong recommendation of the Intervention Taskforce in their final report to government.
This was immediately seized upon as “racist” by opponents to the Intervention who rallied in Alice Springs on Saturday, the 12 month anniversary of the announcement, by former Prime Minister John Howard and his Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, of the the Intervention.
In a media release from the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Robin Granites from Yuendumu is quoted as saying: “It’s like forcing someone to move from their own backyard, houses.
“This is my land; you can’t come in and tell me to move off my country, my backyard. I was born, bred and taught out here.
“We want to live in a community, as a whole, like a bundle of sticks together is stronger than just a few.”
Geoffrey Shaw from Mount Nancy Town Camp said the government “should be working out how to support communities to be viable”.
However, the taskforce is not the first body to call for viability of communities as a a basis for funding of services. The Alice News reported in November last year the National Rural Health Alliance’s call for a national inquiry into viability of communities, including many small pastoral communities in the grip or the wake of severe drought.
Chair of the alliance, John Wakerman, who heads up the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs, was quoted as saying: “There’s no point in upgrading health services in small rural and remote communities if these communities are not sustainable.”
He saw the issues for small remote Indigenous communities, especially outstations, as different but said government policy in relation to them needed to be clarified.
The taskforce recommends that communities assessed as being viable should be provided with at least the following: adequate housing; a police station; a health clinic; an early childhood education centre; a primary school; a store; independent employment opportunities; and access to a secondary school (which may not be in the community).
On the last the taskforce notes the recently announced $28.9 million to build three new boarding facilities in the Territory to improve access to secondary schools for remote Indigenous students.
This comes on top of the “significant investment” of the former and current Australian Governments in the Intervention: the initial $587 million announced on June 21, 2007; the additional $313.5 million allocated in February; the announcement in May of $323.8 million to continue the Intervention over the 2008-09 financial year; and now the $50m offer to the town camps of Alice Springs.
The taskforce also notes the NT Government ‘s commitment of  $286.43 million over five years for its Closing the Gap initiatives.
Providing extra police on communities was an early move by the Intervention and widely welcomed.
One year later the taskforce says half of the 73 prescribed communities are still without a police presence.
“The taskforce notes that many of these communities are substantial in terms of population, and continue to be troubled by issues of domestic violence. “
The taskforce also recommends that mediators be employed to work with communities to find resolutions for internal issues, saying that divisions between families, clans, Traditional Owners and others in the community can often undermine the ability of a community to deal with its problems and make positive plans for the future.
On the vexed issue of alcohol, the taskforce recommends that consideration should be given to consulting with each community to replace alcohol bans with community-specific Alcohol Management Plans.
(Most communities, though not the town camps,  were “dry” well before the Intervention.)
On the health front the taskforce considers workforce issues as critical, with the potential to put at risk the work of the Intervention in identifying children who need follow-up primary and specialist health care. 
The Intervention will now be reviewed by a board announced on June 6,  headed by Peter Yu, and supported by experts including a number of prominent Central Australians.
The board will provide its report by the end of September.

Community stores give IM a good report card. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A majority of the first 20 stores licensed under the Intervention are reporting that Income Management (IM, also known as “quarantining”) has had a positive effect on their community.
Interviews took place after IM had been in place for between three and five months.
Fifteen out of the 20 store operators interviewed deemed the effect positive; three saw it as negative; two were neutral.
All 20 commented that IM had increased the capacity for people to shop for food every day – customers were buying better and more food.
And all 20 had observed a positive attitude amongst customers, saying there was less conflict or arguing about what to buy, particularly between husbands and wives.
Two operators commented that young men and teenage boys were learning to shop – a new life skill for them.
Some operators reported as positive whole families coming to shop, more money being spent on children, and some money being saved for things such as white goods and plasma TVs. One said the store had becoming a community social centre, where people came to talk and look at the new range of goods on sale.
In the negative were difficulties of elderly people in understanding changes, complaints from some men who were not happy about the changes from political and financial standpoints, and in the case of one community, residents feeling shamed to be part of the Intervention.
A majority (14 out of 20) reported that IM has had a positive effect on the store, with increased turnover allowing them to stock more and varied foods, to employ more community people, and to stock hardware items requested by residents, such as flood lights.
Three operators said residents had complained that they could not buy cigarettes using IM funds, while two reported that the sale of cigarettes had halved.
However the positives had come at cost, particularly of time, with 13 out of 20 rating the transition to IM as difficult to very difficult.
A majority (17 out of 20) said their customers’ shopping habits had changed, and of those half deemed the change to have been great; the other half, slight.
With 14 out of 20 reporting customers buying more fresh fruit and vegetables, their orders for these had significantly increased. In one case vegetable orders had risen from four palettes a week to 10, and were expected to go higher.
Three operators said there had been no change to their customers’ habits as they had already established, over the long term, good purchasing practices, understood the impact of good food, and supplemented their diet with bush tucker.
Eighteen operators commented that by the time community residents had used the IM process on a few occasions they understood how to purchase goods.
Women and children were the most satisfied with the new system, while men were slowly adjusting to the changes.
Thirteen operators commented that residents were purchasing more clothes and shoes, and more specifically, children’s clothing (seven reported no change in the amount of clothing purchased).
Thirteen reported that their turnover had increased, three of these by more than 30%, while seven reported a decrease, three of these by an unknown amount (as operators were new to the store).
One store operator said his store had a 100% increase in turnover.
Another, at a community near Alice Springs, cited a decrease of 10%, owing to the distribution of Coles and Woolworths cards, taking custom from the store.
All 20 operators were experiencing an increased workload, with 16 of them  saying it was taking up to an extra three hours per day to reconcile Centrelink payments.
The four operators most affected by the extra workload thought that Centrelink should pay for the extra time, or for an extra staff member.
One operator said store cards for use at Coles and Woolworths were being sold for cash, often at lower prices. This cash was being used for alcohol and gambling.
Customers were using IM funds to fill vehicles with fuel on Fridays and driving to Alice Springs to convert cash cards, spending weekends in town. As a result the operator of this store reported weekend trading at record lows.
Operators said they were being asked to make, at their cost, numerous calls (10 to 50 per day) to Centrelink to check customer income management balances.
The stores interviewed for the monitoring report include, in the Centre,  Apatula (Finke), Mutitjulu, Titjikala, Areyonga, Papunya, Finke River Mission and Ntaria Supermarket at Hermannsburg, Santa Teresa, Wallace Rockhole, Peppimenarti, Palumpa, Kaltukatjara (Docker River), Kintore and Mt Liebig.
A total of 68 community stores are to be licensed.

Centre wisdom for Paris. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

There’s been international discussion lately about contrasting IQ (Intelligence Quotient) with SQ (Stupidity Quotient).
We could further apply that to DK (Desert Knowledge), currently the beneficiary of considerable government largesse, contrasting it with DS (Desert Stupidity).
A recent presentation to a world forum could earn the NT Government massive DS points.
It was about the water reuse scheme in Alice Springs, created by a string of NT departments and instrumentalities, spearheaded by the Power and Water (P&W) Corporation, wholly owned by the NT Government.
The scheme isn’t exactly rocket science, but boy, when the delegates to the fourth World Conference on Intellectual Capital for Communities, sponsored by the World Bank and held in Paris, were presented with the “facts”, it sure as hell sounded like it.
That was partly accomplished by omitting some facts one would have expected to be including in a scientific description of a project: that it took twice as long as planned; cost nearly twice as much; fixes only a minute part of our sewage disposal fiasco; and doesn’t do what it was meant to, namely irrigate a horticulture block.
The presentation was made – mercifully, for the taxpayer, via video link – by Philip Anning, Regional Director Central Australia, NT Department of Primary Industry Fisheries and Mines.
Mr Anning, despite several requests, didn’t feel like sharing his speech notes with the Alice News.
The reason why became obvious when we obtained a copy of his Powerpoint file.
And P&W, contrary to the pious protestations by its owner about open and transparent government, didn’t want to share its Desert Knowledge with the readers of the Alice Springs News either, continuing an information blackout on us.
It’s not that we haven’t shown keen interest in P&W’s efforts: google “sewage” in the archive section of our online edition, and you’ll find dozens of reports going back to 1997 (yes, is one of the oldest newspaper websites in the world).
Allow me to recap what the water reuse scheme is all about: it’s a 6.2 km pipe from the evaporation ponds, the town’s principal sewage disposal facility, long a thorn in the side of locals because of its smells, mosquito hazards and water wasting.
The partially treated sewage, 600 megalitres a year, is piped to another set of ponds from which the effluent seeps into the ground, being cleaned as it passes through sand and soil to the aquifer.
From there it can be pumped back to the surface and provide water for a horticultural plantation, “helping create employment and economic opportunities for the region” according to P&W’s website.
Not exactly brain surgery?
Wait until Mr Anning applies his spin. Here’s some of it:-
“Process of Intellectual Capital Development in Water Management:-
“Identifying sources of information which address the particular local situation.
“Assessing knowledge from global sources on water management.
“Negotiating with indigenous people to incorporate their intellectual property within a framework of locally adapted knowledge.
“Developing local expertise relevant to communities by integrating elements of water management relevant to the environment.
“Rights of access to knowledge and sharing of outcomes.
“Appropriately acknowledging and valuing knowledge sources.”
The job included “statutory approvals including Public Environment Review, Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority Certificate, Health Approval, Groundwater recharge and extraction licence; community engagement; site visits and briefings; regular public displays; consultation with traditional owners; presentations.”
Decisions needed to be made about a “community ownership approach to intellectual property rights; incorporating intellectual capital into regional best practice and national guidelines for managed aquifer recovery and reuse for agriculture rather than patenting; intellectual property from this project consists of expertise developed in regional project teams which can be applied to other projects efficiently and effectively; acknowledge and address specific intellectual property ownership rights; the outcome is public availability of knowledge while building local capacity.”
And all this for a poo pipe.
This is what wasn’t contained in the Powerpoint presentation to the boffins in Paris:
• The project cost nearly double its initial estimate. “In February 2003 Power and Water commits $6.3 million to stage one of the Water Reuse in the Alice project,” tells us the P&W blurb; the current cost is $10.4m.
• The five year construction time is double the initial estimate.
• The stated goal, providing water for a horticulture business, is still not achieved (there is no such business; an interstate “end-user” has pulled out).
• The NT Government, the owner of P&W, has repeatedly extended permission to P&W for discharging into public areas partially treated sewage, a practice that has gone on for decades.
• Such discharges, which would see private offenders in court, will continue during “wet” weather.
• The water reuse scheme will do little to remedy the current principal sewage disposal practice of wasting, by evaporation, some two billion liters of water a year, in Central Australia, one of the world’s driest places. Dire predictions of more droughts caused by climate change have not moved the NT Government, nor its P&W, to instal a plant recycling all sewage, the town’s status as a world renowned tourist destination notwithstanding.
Mr Anning’s preamble to the World Bank conference was: Desert Knowledge Australia – Aims: Desert know-how + Desert ideas + Desert innovation = Desert knowledge.
DK or DS? You be the judge.

Poo pipe: slow learners.

Mr Anning’s “intellectual capital” had a very long gestation period – more than 30 years.
On December 2, 1976, the Centralian Advocate published a story with the title “Many Economic Advantages”.
I worked for the Advocate at that time, under editor Tony Malone, and I’m pretty sure I wrote that story.
Google “sewerage” or “effluent” in the online edition of the Alice Springs News and you will discover a lot of similar angles – 20 years or maore after this story was written. This is it, in part:- The Animal Industry and Agricultural Branch has suggested that sewerage effluent water could be put to good use in Alice Springs growing various crops rather than being wasted as it is now.
The AIAB has studied the use of effluent in Adelaide horticultural areas, at Windhoek in South Africa, in Israel, California and at the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works sewerage farm at Werribee.
The branch’s senior agronomist, Mr Keith Hyde, said: “Irrigation farms could be developed near the sewerage ponds and leased to farmers.”
About 60 hectares of farm area could be established for about $150,000. [P&W’s water reuse scheme, minus the actual horticultural enterprise, of which there is still no sign, cost $11m.]
This move should allow the area of sewerage ponds to be reduced to one-third of their present size.
The alternative was to build yet another sewerage pond at a cost of about $120,000 to take the water that was now spilling out.
Mr Hyde made public the AIAB research following a comment in the Legislative Assembly by the Member for MacDonnell, Mr David Pollock.
Mr Pollock described as “quite unacceptable” a scheme to channel excess effluent into the St. Mary’s Creek from where it would run into the bed of the Todd.
[That discharge will resume as soon as we get some serious rain.]
Mr Hyde said there were basically three possible uses for sewerage effluent in Alice Springs: -
It could be evaporated or drained into a swamp; it could be used to recharge the Farm Area basin; or it could be used for agricultural purposes or watering parks and gardens.
Evaporating or draining was not acceptable. Both methods were expensive, caused mosquito breeding and were a waste of water. [Evaporation is still the principal sewerage disposal in The Alice, 32 year after Mr Hyde’s enlightened words.] - ERWIN CHLANDA

Giles in Braitling, Carney, Conlan stay, bush open. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Adam Giles, who made significant inroads on sitting member Warren Snowdon (Lingiari) in urban areas in last year’s Federal elections, has been preselected by the CLP for the Legislative Assembly seat of Braitling.
It is due to be vacated by Loraine Braham, a former CLP member and independent since 2000.
The recent redistribution brings several town camps back into the electorate (they were previously part of Braitling but had been incorporated into the bush seat of Stuart because of a “community of interest” between camp residents and bush communities).
Aboriginal people historically have voted in greater numbers for Labor but Mrs Braham says this time they may prefer an independent given Federal Labor’s support for the Intervention.
She is looking for an independent to stand in Braitling but has not identified anyone yet.
Even if town campers in Braitling stay mainly with Labor, their return to the electorate may be countered by residents in the new housing developments at North Edge (a former resort, occupied by permanent residents since the last election) and in Larapinta, says Mrs Braham.
Mrs Braham says she took votes from the CLP in 2001 – when voters were in “sympathy” with her over her unceremonious ousting from the party. (The CLP got a greater first preference vote, but only by 200 or so votes. Then Labor preferences pushed Mrs Braham over the line.)
There was closer result in 2005. CLP candidate Michael Jones was ahead by almost 500 before Labor’s preferences gave Mrs Braham the seat by just 62 votes.
Mr Giles, who lives on Northside and has extended family in Larapinta, will start door-knocking in the electorate this weekend.
He sees the major issue as law and order, with much of the trouble driven by excessive consumption of alcohol.
He’s already calling for police to be given greater resources to enforce dry town legislation.
From door-knocking in the Larapinta area during the Lingiari campaign he says anti-social behaviour from some public housing tenancies are another concern with residents.
The two sitting CLP members in Alice Springs, Jodeen Carney (Araluen) and Matt Conlan (Greatorex) have been re-endorsed at the party’s central council meeting on the weekend.
Ms Carney’s electorate has been enlarged to include the furthest reaches of Ilparpa Valley and the rural residential areas off Colonel Rose Drive. She also gets Old Timers as well as Old Timers Camp, adding to the town camps on the other side of the highway that were already in the seat. 
Ms Carney does says the boundary changes are “not all that significant” in terms of the contestability of the seat. 
Greatorex is now extended to the eastern boundary of the Alice Springs municipal area, taking in the troubled town camp of Hidden Valley as well as a few smaller camps.
Mr Conlan did not respond to the Alice News’s request for comment. 
No CLP candidates have been announced to date for the rural electorates of MacDonnell nor Stuart.
The election is widely tipped for August.

We want to run our own show, says Amoonguna. By KIERAN FINNANE.

As the July 1 deathknock for most Aboriginal community councils draws ever nearer, the feisty community of Amoonguna is making a last ditch effort to stave off change.
Amoonguna Community Incorporated (ACI) was in the High Court on Tuesday as the Alice News went to press, attempting to get an injunction to halt the progress of local government reforms.
Failure would mean that they would be absorbed into MacDonnell Shire and ownership of their assets would be transferred.
Another consequence would be that the Amoonguna Health Service, running out of a brand new $2million clinic and now claiming to service more than three times its resident population, would lose its auspicing body, currently ACI.
On Tuesday there were still no clear arrangements in place and without them the health service manager Dave Evans said he would be closing the doors of the clinic tomorrow, Friday.
This situation was produced in part by a prolonged stand-off between ACI and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, who believe that they are “the best auspicing option” for the service, according to correspondence from Congress director Stephanie Bell, shown to the Alice News by Mr Evans. 
Mr Evans was told last Friday that the Department of Local Government would be instructing ACI to negotiate with Congress.
Similarly the service’s funding body, the Commonwealth’s Office of Aboriginal and Torres Starit Islander Health (OATSIH), want ACI to meet with Congress and departmental representatives to discuss community concerns and a way forward. 
OATSIH funded six other NT local government councils in 2007-08 to deliver primary health care services.
All of these services have now identified “appropriate” new primary health care providers (either from the Aboriginal community controlled health sector or the NT Department of Health) to auspice them from July 1, says OATSIH.

Ted Egan getting ready to stay. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Ted Egan is clearing the decks for life number six.
“I’ve had five good lives so far and number six is shaping up quite well,” says the tireless singer-songwriter-historian-memoirist plus former public servant with extensive experience in Indigenous affairs and Administrator of the Northern Territory from 2003 to 2007.
On the weekend I found Ted and partner Nerys Evans back at their “thousand year house” on Colonel Rose Drive – a robust and wonderfully spacious rammed earth, polished timber and stained glass creation that Ted and family built themselves over six years – sorting through their sizable collection of books and artwork.
Many items will be auctioned this weekend, with half the proceeds going to the Red Cross.
The books include untouched editions of most if not all those published in Central Australia over the last 20 years, Ted’s generous practice being to always buy a few. 
Not surprisingly given his connection with Aboriginal communities in both the Centre and the Top End, the art and craft going under the hammer takes in many Aboriginal works, but there are also paintings by “western” artists, particularly ones celebrating the life and people of the bush. These include rodeo scenes by Arthur Renshaw (one can be seen in the photo), who went on to become a cult figure in the States, painting the American West.
As well there’ll be a substantial quantity of building materials, a shed, and fund-raising items from The Drover’s Boy production, such as watches and wind-cheaters, all brand new.
Don’t think though that Ted and Nerys are getting ready to go: life number six will be based there in the house famously dubbed “Sink-a-tinny Downs”, from where Ted will continue to strike out on his “research trips” into every corner of Australia.
“Alice Springs is the perfect address for me, it’s so central.
“Nerys accuses me of treating Australia like a collection of so many suburbs.
“Whether it’s Darwin, Adelaide, Perth or Sydney, my lifestyle and earnings allow me to connect to them all from Alice.”
A trip in the planning is to the next Tamworth Country Music Festival, to make a bid for another “Golden Guitar” (he won his first in 2000, for Video Clip of the Year with “The Drover’s Boy”).
Ted says he’s writing songs prolifically at the moment.
An example is one that celebrates the life of “the last of the packhorse bagmen”, Lockie McKinnon.
It’s a treat to listen to the story of how he met McKinnon, back in 1973 when Ted had retreated to the Maree pub to “sit down quiet fella” and write some songs.
He paints a vivid picture of a three-day standoff between himself and the taciturn McKinnon, Ted watching from a corner over a beer, McKinnon at the bar, smoking, drinking rum and beer chasers.
On the third day an old Aboriginal couple came in for a drink, the man particularly polished and gleaming, with snow white hair and a shirt to match and black patent leather dancing pumps.
A couple of noisy young blokes at the pool table, of Afghan and Aboriginal descent, began to pay the old man out, calling him “Fred Astaire”.
The tension was rising till McKinnon cut in: “He’d buy and sell you pair of bastards any day of the week.”
It was Ted’s chance: he went up to ask McKinnon who the old man was.
“How’s it going, Ted?” was the first thing McKinnon said.
Then told him that the old man was Tommy Russell, the famous brumby rider and shooter.
Ted and McKinnon became daily companions for the next couple of weeks and now, more than three decades later, the memories have returned and inspired a song.
McKinnon is typical of the characters who move Ted, those who peopled the Territory of old but whom for the most part “the history books will never touch”.
Ted’s written at least 300 songs, and made 28 albums; 90% of the songs are about people, mostly ordinary people but who gave cause for admiration.
Some, such as Vincent Lingiari, Matt Savage and Nat Buchanan, have entered the history books and folk lore.
Others, especially women, didn’t capture the limelight but were heroic in their achievements even while self-effacing.
Ted gives himself the task of writing as many songs about women as about men and claims his album celebrating Australian women, The Drover’s Boy, to be his second best.
He’s been re-listening to his albums lately. He says about The Drover’s Boy that he doesn’t “squirm” over any of it, but while he never sings flat, occasionally he does sing sharp and wonders that the producers didn’t pick it up.
He counts his best album as The Anzacs in his Faces of Australia series: “I wouldn’t change a single note.”
As you may have gathered, the word “retirement” doesn’t figure in the 76-year-old Ted’s lexicon.
Apart from the songs, he’s got a couple of books on the boil, with one almost ready for publication.
He describes it as a very serious and controversial book looking at contemporary Aboriginal issues.
He goes back to 1788 – “That’s when we first started making mistakes” – and comes through the centuries to detail “the tragic circumstances of today” and to offer some “extremely radical suggestions” to turn those circumstances around.
Aboriginal people must begin to feel a strong level of economic independence, says Ted, but “such is the malaise in communities around Australia, it is difficult to organise”.
He hopes to win the hearts and minds of government with his suggestions.
“The situation does need huge government intervention, but not of the sort we’ve seen in the last 12 months.”
He sees suspension of aspects of the Racial Discrimination Act to allow some of the legislative changes under-pinning the Intervention as an outrage.
He supports a thorough overhaul of the welfare system, including disciplinary provisions for parents who neglect their kids, but say the provisions should apply to all Australians.
And he suspects an agenda of wanting to whittle away at the Aboriginal Land Rights Act as having partly motivated the former federal government.
He sees the Intervention as also seeming to have denied that anyone was doing anything of a positive nature in remote Aboriginal communities of the Territory.
He admits that the Territory Government has been inept in Indigenous affairs but says “all governments have been inept at all times” in the domain – “take it from someone who worked for government for 25 years”.
The second book is the third volume of his autobiography, which he has provisionally titled Hang on a Minute.
And as if that’s not enough, he’s also got a musical up his sleeve, about the convict ancestry of many Australians.
He’s looking forward to workshopping it with Charles Darwin University’s music department.  An initial version of it is set in the incomparably multi-cultural Darwin, but Ted wants to write it so that it can be adapted by other communities throughout Australia to tell their own histories.

Attacks on women.

Three Alice Springs women were the victims last week of a sexual assault in Sadadeen on Thursday, a home invasion and assault in Telegraph Terrace on Friday, and an abduction and sexual assault on Saturday.
Police described the alleged offender on Saturday as being “in his late 20’s and of Aboriginal appearance”.
The man was arrested at Haasts Bluff on Monday, following what Superintendent Sean Parnell described as “a true sense of community and partnership in providing valued information ... particularly by members of a number of Aboriginal communities to the west of Alice Springs”.
The 30-year-old man has been charged with sexual intercourse without consent; depriving a person of their personal liberty; aggravated robbery with a weapon; aggravated unlawful use of a motor vehicle and stealing.
It is alleged the man abducted the 40 year old woman from the area of the public phones at the post office at about 8pm.
Police said: “The man is alleged to have stolen the victim’s wallet and keys before forcing her into the vehicle and driving to Honeymoon Gap where he is alleged to have sexually assaulted her.
“The alleged offender then continued driving along Larapinta Drive towards Hermannsburg.
“When the woman realised there was a car behind her vehicle, she managed to deploy the handbrake and escape the vehicle and her attacker.
“The motorists following conveyed the woman to the Alice Springs Police Station.”
Says Supt Parnell: “A group of Aboriginal people travelling in the area at the time went to the aid of the distressed woman and conveyed her to the Alice Springs Police Station where the matter was reported.”
The woman’s vehicle was found on Monday in the MacDonnell Ranges, 70 km east of Glen Helen.
According to police, the alleged sexual attack in Sadadeen was committed by a man, who had broken into the woman’s home, and was described as being “of Aboriginal appearance, possibly aged in the early 20s, about 180cm tall, slim build, wearing dark clothing, possibly tracksuit pants and a windcheater type top.
“He had short hair, possibly with a pony tail and was clean shaven.”
On Monday police said they had arrested a male believed responsible for the assault and remanded him in custody to appear in the Alice Springs Court, charged with two counts of attempting sexual intercourse without consent and two counts of entering an occupied dwelling at night with intent to commit a crime.
The alleged home invasion and assault committed upon a 30 year old woman in Telegraph Terrace was reported to police by the victim, saying someone was attempting to break into her residence.
It is alleged that a 17 year old male smashed a back window of the premises and attempted to gain entry.
When the victim called police, he smashed another window and then tried to gain entry to the residence by forcing a back door.  
The victim kept the offender out by slamming the door on him several times.
He is alleged to have thrown an object at the victim causing facial injuries which later required suturing.  
About this time a friend of the victim had arrived and assisted in subduing the offender.
Both the woman victim and the alleged offender were taken to hospital and received treatment.  
Meanwhile, police are investigating the suspicious death of a 58-year-old woman at a town camp near Alice Springs in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
St John Ambulance and police were called to a report of an unconscious woman at a residence in the community at 1.15am and arrived to find the woman was deceased.
A 41-year-old woman was taken into police custody shortly after and is assisting police with their enquiries.
In other news, police have arrested seven men on domestic violence orders.
The operation targeted outstanding offenders at various town camps surrounding Alice Springs.
Officer In Charge of the operation, Sergeant Chris Milner, said: “These offences against woman are getting all too prevalent and there is a need to put the offenders before the courts and get the message across that violence against women will not be tolerated.”

Batchelor: Few in top courses.

Batchelor Institute has 3125 students (Alice News, June 19) but enrolments in its major courses are far fewer.
In the School of Health, Business and Sciences, higher education courses have 53 students in Bachelor of Nursing, and 24 in Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Health).
Both are three year degrees.
The school’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) section has 121 enrolled in the Certificate II, Conservation and Land Management, and 46 in Certificate IV Aboriginal and / or TI Primary Health Care.
Both courses run for one year.
There are 159 students in the two-year Certificate in General Construction.
In the School of Education, Arts and Social Science, the higher education courses have 24 students in the Bachelor of Arts (Social Science) degree course (three years), and 114 for the Certificate II in Spoken and Written English (one year).
That school’s VET section has 107 students enrolled for a Certificate III in Indigenous Education and 146 in Certificate One in Spoken and written English. Both courses run for one year.

One finds one’s destiny on the road one takes to avoid it. Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Kung Fu Panda is a burning house, and the occupants have to decide what to save.
It`s a Dreamworks effort, loved by many, loathed by some.
The production ensemble that has been invested here is a little overwhelming.
Dreamworks Pictures often produce massive disappointments with an inflated budget attached. We save this from the blaze because it delivers on this occasion.
We also retrieve the cast from the flames: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie and Lucy Lui, to name but the backbone of the voice overs. And this gathering’s bite matches the bark.
Next we find the direction. Relative unknown Spongebob director Mark Osborne intertwines with seasoned director John Stevenson to create a free flowing CGI picture. The only drawback is the trademark “ping pong” watery eyes stamped all over, found in all Dreamworks films.
Now sifting through the ash we find smoldering in the corner the plot.
If you`ve seen a few films over the past 50 years that have come out of Singapore and China you will know that this film violently “borrows” from many of them. This story has been told thousands upon thousands of times.
The very cool pieces of philosophy that punctuate the movie are not enough to save it from the inferno. But rest assured this story will no doubt resurface in time to come.
On the way out the door we grab the soundtrack, an original score that sounds very familiar, a few scorch marks, but it complements the movie well.
Outside on the lawns of the burning building, we are left with the final word. This could be one of the most entertaining CGI films to date. Wit of dialogue and picturesque scenes come together over what is a worthy theatre experience.    820 / 1000.

Weird and wonderful all-nighter. By DARCY DAVIS.

A surreal gathering of unlikely characters in the deep heart of Centralia.
Many of the weird and wonderful arrive in the moonlit night to dance by firelight, but even the hot in blood could feel the desert cold burn.
They’re here for the filming of a cinematic commercial by young local film-maker Ronja Moss.
They come, down a rock face into a valley, like a twisted fairy tale.
Wicked Witch watches and stirrs the proverbial cauldron with her hip shaking broom raking.
The Fairy blows kisses and grooves in her britches.
Peter Pan the Forest Man Juggler with bright pants looks to the horizon, wondering how she has found such a fate.
The Mime tries hard to talk but has to make meaning through interpretive walk.
The Alien from out of space is proud to show his face on the Crumpler commercial if they pay him, or he will slay them with his ray gun.
Wise Wizard conducts kinetic currents, swirlin’ like Merlin.
Director/producer’s little sister Anjou is prowling in and out of line of shoot in a lion suit and the Zombie is out to find you in a loving mood.
Batwoman also swoops in for a view.
Belly dancer Kael draws sparks in a fire dance. 
Behind the scenes, at four in the morning, Ronja shouts directions from behind her cardboard megaphone.
“You’re all having a really good time! Lots of energy! More ENERGY! You’re going crazy!”
Cast become crew and crew became cruised.
In the distance stands an innocent civilian – a mother-looking figure dressed in purple who has stumbled across us by accident.
“Hey guys! Just letting you know that the waterhole is actually over there.”
“Thank you” wave the aliens, witches and wardrobes of costumes.
“Because I saw your cars up there and thought you had the wrong spot. Wiggley’s Waterhole is down there, further along,” says purple shirted lady.
After all night firelight filming, some seek sleep in the bed of the creek, those with a role more serious stay up in a delirious state.
I learn about the tenuous task of all night film-making.
“There was a moment when I thought I’d actually lost my mind,” reflects Ronja.
“I thought I was only just sane enough to know that it had happened and if I forgot that, then I would have lost it for good!”
At six in the morning Ronja tells me, “I kept moving around the camp and packing things up, then waking up and realising that I hadn’t gone to sleep.”
At eight in the morning Ronja is half awake after a 27 hour day and starts waking the collapsed cast and crew.
“Guys! Guys! It’s unsually dark! Don’t you think it’s unusually dark?”
“Not unusual, no,” yells a swag.
“It’s gonna rain!! Come help me get the tarpaulin!”
At nine there are five terrestrial extras and one extra-terrestrial but outside assistance is needed from town to help excavate the crater of paraphernalia.
“Is there anybody who you haven’t run out of favours with?” I ask.
“Nah, Darce, that’s pretty much it,” says Ronja with a slump of the shoulders.

LETTERS: Rampaging teenagers caught on camera.

Sir,- I’m writing this to the parents of Alice Springs:  perhaps you knew that your teenage sons and daughters were out late Saturday night, but you might not be aware that they may have been among the 10 or so kids gathered in a neighborhood park in Desert Springs, smoking a homemade bong and drinking. 
After your little angels slept in Sunday morning, they probably didn’t tell you that once they started banging on the playground equipment and our new fence, my husband and I had enough and went to the park ourselves to get them to clean up all the bottles that they had scattered around the park. 
We had already called the police an hour prior to that when it became obvious that the kids were drinking, but we didn’t feel that we could wait any longer for the police to show up. 
Of course, the kids scattered once we confronted them, running away and giggling like the silly little boys that they are, so my husband and I cleaned up their mess and rang the police again. 
We got a photo of a couple of the kids. (See this page. The Alice News has obscured the faces but concerned parents may like to pop into our office and have a look at the originals.)
It won’t win any photography awards, but maybe it will be enough for someone to identify these troublemakers. 
Perhaps you are the parents of some of the teenage girls who showed up a few minutes later in a car that one girl borrowed from her mum in order to “rescue” the ratbags before the police came, but I bet you didn’t know that’s why your daughters were going out, or that they are hanging out with such rotten teenage boys. 
The two officers who eventually showed up were as helpful and friendly as they could be, but of course the kids were long gone, so there wasn’t much they could do. 
At about 1:40am, a couple of the young blokes came back and kicked a big dent in our new fence, so I’m guessing some of them probably live in the Desert Springs area.
In an unrelated incident, a bicycle was stolen from our garage last week. 
Parents, if your kid came home with a blue and yellow mountain bike that they don’t own in the last few days, please turn the bike (and your kid?) in to the police.
Please show some discipline to your children now, or let the criminal justice system do it for you later.
Regine Haynes
Alice Springs

Sir,- I was listening to the repeat of Territory Today [on Thursday night last week] and your interview on the program.
I am not against uranium mining but what is more important to Alice Springs?
I can think of three things.
• Oil. We pay world prices for oil when some of it comes from the Mereenie field [just west of Alice Springs].
It gets taken by train down to Adelaide, shipped to Newcastle, refined and trucked back to Alice and we pay $1.82 per litre.
Why don’t we finish off the oil refinery that was started years ago? Whats left of it lies in ruins in Priest Street. We should use our own fuel.
• Gas. We also pay world prices for gas when we have a gas pipeline running through our lovely town. Same thing – use it for ourselves for the future.
• Water. It is more important than a mine.
We get told by Power and Water how to conserve it but there is no mention in the Alice News by them opposing [the uranium mine].
The drag strip was put on hold because of concern by Power and Water about chemicals and fluids used on the strip seeping into our basin.
As oil and gas prices will keep going up so will our cost of living due to freight costs rises.
Water should be harnessed for drinking and not used for a mine as it will deplete our drinking water reserves.
We have had no rain at all and it does not look good in the future.
Also the safety aspect of the mine ... 25km is the same distance from Alice to the Tanami turnoff, or from my house to the airport, so it does not allow any margin for any errors or accidents.
You can go out to the old Readymix quarry on Undoolya Road and they have low level radiactive uranium out in the open.
Why do you think it was shut down? Health reasons for the workers.
I know this from an old employee who used to work there.
There is a lot of exploration going on in The Centre for rare earth minerals for environmentally friendly uses.
I have been a resident of this town since 1974. We have changed it for the worst.
Let’s leave the the uranium mining alone.
The railway line is a flop, Freightlink are trying to sell it. Why create another white elephant?
Giles Couturier
Alice Springs

Sir,- You might remember my letter of a couple of weeks ago about the litter in the salt bush on Khalick Street.
I am delighted now to be able to let you know that that letter was read by a friend, who told it to the friend, who ... etc.
The message ended up with yet another friend who works at Alice Springs Correctional Centre.
He decided to do something about it with the Community Service Group.
Today the salt bush grounds were cleaned up in one day.
Thank you Community Service group.
What police nor Council could not achieve in months, you did in one day!
Suzanne Visser
and the guests of Alice’s Secret

Sir,- Mick Callagher’s misinformation about rainwater tanks demands comment, as Mark Jones was spot on.
Our family had a modest rainwater tank installed shortly after the start of the “ten year drought” - mid ‘50s to mid ‘60s - and we were able to drink rainwater ever since. 
It never ran dry during the drought, and we even were able to wash our hair in rainwater Saturday nights, something perhaps only those experienced in harder bore water may appreciate.
A second much larger tank was installed on my parents’ house late last year, and the 15 mm we received Finke weekend topped up the original tank and overflowed into the new one. 
Ditto for my brother’s tanks.
Heavy frosts can add to contents.
One of our neighbours seldom pump from their bore - they predominantly use rainwater. 
I know someone else in Alice Springs who runs his swimming pool on rainwater.
Generally Alice Springs residents don’t bother with rainwater tanks, because we do not appreciate the value of our heavily subsidised underground water.
Just because there seems to be a lot of it there, and it seems cheap, is no reason to waste it.
If you’re too scared to drink rainwater, the pot plants, your garden, and your water bill, will always appreciate it, never mind our lower rainfall.
Rod Cramer
Alice Springs

Sir,- In 2003 the NT ALP Conference passed this resolution: “[In] supporting Planet Ark’s plastic bag levy, call on the Government to conduct a feasibility study into the prospect of going it alone with a view to legislating to implement this policy in full, thus delivering environmental benefits to Territorians.”
It’s now five years later - no feasibility study, no legislation, no evidence of  “going it alone” - just a growing mountain of toxic, lethal, unfriendly plastic bags.
Thanks to retailers who encourage the use of reuseable bags.
But where is the incentive?
The NT Government has taken a piecemeal approach to this problem. 
The Litter Grants Program offers funds for many isolated programs. 
The Government has also supported the Code of Practice for Management of Plastic Bags in 2003.
But is this really going to address a growing environmental threat?
What we need is a Territory-wide solution.
The Environment Minister needs to take the lead. 
Government has knocked back a container deposit scheme and they don’t have a policy of subsidising rainwater tank installations.
Stop dithering, stop finding excuses, Minister - if you won’t ban the bag at least put on a levy.
Loraine Braham
Member for Braitling

Sir,- The performance of a number of Labor Ministers during Budget Estimates left much to be desired.
Time and again routine questions were handed over to Departmental officials for the answer.
The failure of numerous Ministers to have a grasp of the basic detail of their portfolio responsibilities is part of the reason this Government spends every last cent it receives.
Ministers with a stronger grasp of their responsibilities would be able to find savings that could be used to pay off the Territory’s onerous debt.
Instead we have Ministers who are captives of their Department.
Not surprisingly their Departments find ways of spending every last cent of the rivers of GST gold currently flowing into the Territory Government’s coffers.
The danger of this approach will become apparent when the national economy slows and revenue falls.
Labor having failed to significantly reduce debt, Territorians will have no shelter from difficult economic times.
Terry Mills
Leader of the Opposition

Sir,- Last week was the anniversary of the Intervention.
When I last wrote some of our organisations had gotten mesmerized by the wooden horse and opened the gate.
A grenade was thrown into our trench.
Income Management was scheduled to commence in Yuendumu on the 10th. inst.
It’s now been deferred to the 30th.
The fifth column’s third shop is going ahead.
Reflecting on the Emergency Response’s first year I conclude that its worst feature is that the Interventionists have no sense of humour.
I think it appropriate that the architect of the Intervention, former Minister Mal Brough, received the Bennelong Society medal.
If I’m not mistaken Bennelong’s language is no longer spoken and his tribe no longer exists.
On the TV yesterday, I briefly saw Mal Brough.
He is a proud man (so is U.S. vice-president Cheney).
One cat he let out of the bag was that the emasculation of the Martin Government was part of the Agenda.
Where have I heard that before?: “It wasn’t really the weapons of mass destruction, it was all about regime change.”
After one year, I’m not aware of a single conviction for child sexual abuse in the NT (it’s all too precious to include teenage sex in this category).
During the recent mass arrests around Australia for child pornography, I’m not aware of a single one in the NT, and certainly not on remote communities.
I heard a radio interview:
JENNY MACKLIN: There certainly are some positive signs coming out of some of the measures. For example, we’re getting reports back from a number of the stores in many of the Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, that there has been an increase in the amount of food being purchased.
There is some evidence that some of the children at school, particularly as a result of the school nutrition programs, that children are putting on weight that they needed to put on.
Oh Wow!
What is wrong with me?
Why did I feel compelled to Google the following: Reports of an “obesity epidemic” appear with increasing frequency and raising concern in Australia. Particular attention is given to reports of the accelerating rate of obesity among Australian children.
Do I see the world through rose coloured glasses?
Until hearing Jenny Macklin, I hadn’t noticed that the well fed happy children of Yuendumu needed to put on weight!
Frank Baarda

ADAM CONNELLY: Millions for art.

The news can be hazardous to your health. It’s true.
OK, that statement isn’t based on any scientific study. But then again claims such as “85% of Australian men prefer the company of their pets rather than their partners” or “Almost two thirds of Australian women would prefer a new pair of shoes to a night out with their husbands” aren’t really based on scientific statistics. So I feel OK about throwing my claim out there.
It’s a warning to those who watch the evening news, listen to the radio, look at news websites and even those who read this newspaper. The news can really screw you up.
I’m a bit of a news junkie. If I miss the evening news I get annoyed. Like a bloke who misses out on his first cup of coffee. Most nights I try to watch a couple of news programs. I read the papers from here in town and from interstate ($6.50 for a weekend paper from Sydney will be a topic for another column – don’t get me started now).
I feel the need to be aware of what is going on in the world. We live in such an isolated part of the planet that for me it’s important to make sure I never forget there’s a world out there and that sometimes things happen in it.
But lately my thirst for the news has started to wane. I sit on the lounge, remote in hand, ready for my daily dose of events and half an hour later I’m depressed. Not Schapelle Corby depressed but glum nonetheless.
Petrol prices are a million dollars a barrel. In order to make travel cheaper we’ve invested billions into growing crops that can be converted into cheaper fuel. Clever stuff.
Next story however is that because we’re planting all of these fuel crops, there’s less land for food crops and now there isn’t enough cheap food to feed the hungry. Bugger.
That on top of interest rates, human rights abuses, despotic regimes and natural disasters and I’m reaching for the bottle before the weather.
Can someone tell me that something good is happening in the world? Or are we all destined to run out of food, money and livable land?
Obviously not everyone on the planet has such a despairing outlook. Maybe they don’t listen to Anton Enus.
In Sydney this week a person of considerably more wealth than me spent $6.9 million on a painting by Pablo Picasso.
It must take a certain level of worldly satisfaction to drop a lazy $6.9 million on a painting.
I can guarantee you that if I ever had a spare $6.9 million to spend, a piece of canvas covered in oil based paints would not be very high on the list of priorities.
That’s not to say it isn’t a beautiful painting. Called Sylvette, it is a visual treat.
The name of the painting comes from the woman who sat for it.
Sitting for Pablo must be like designing clothes for a Playboy model. Not the most satisfying experience of your career.
Apparently the 80-year-old Pablo liked painting Sylvette, intrigued by the 19-year-old’s tall slender stature and long blonde hair. 
Now I reckon as a single Australian male, I can pick out a tall slender blonde from about five kilometres away.
I’ve seen the painting and there’s no tall slender blonde there. Who’s Pablo kidding? There’s an eye. There’s an ear. There’s even yellow paint. But no Sylvette.
Can you imagine sitting for Picasso? A world renowned painter of massive cultural importance. He turns the canvas around and says “Voila! I’m finished. What do you think?” “Um…yep. That’s um…very…um, very nice.”
But $6.9 million? Maybe the world is happier than I think.

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