July 24, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Poll Top heavy. By KIERAN FINNANE.

With the Top End’s booming economy the centrepiece of the Territory election on August 9, what political attention can be expected for Alice Springs and The Centre, whose economy is lagging?
In the decade 1996-2006 Alice Springs’ contribution to the NT economy declined from 12.5% to 11%.
Three categories described as separate “industries,” yet clearly dominated by the public service – government administration, health and education – make up nearly half of the value of the top seven economic “performers”.
The town’s population fell by 6.1 percent from 28,178 in 2001, to 26,472 in 2006. 
At the same time the Territory’s economy overall has grown by an annual average of 3.8% since 2005 – that’s around 20% over the five years – and is expected to grow by 6.6% in the current financial year.
Again, most of this growth will be in the Top End.
These figures are from the first economic profile of the town produced by the Alice Springs Economic Development Committee and the Department of Business, Economic and Regional Development.
The socio-economic breakdown for Alice and The Centre confirms the expected: that non-Indigenous unemployment is extremely low at 1.7%, while Indigenous unemployment is high at 10.1%.
The non-Indigenous workforce participation rate is high at 82.2%, while the Indigenous rate is low, 41.2%.
In the region, excluding Alice Springs, Indigenous participation is even lower, 30.2%.
There are 20 self-employed Indigenous people in town; only one in the bush.
Indigenous median incomes in town are $248 a week; in the bush, $207.
Non-Indigenous median incomes in town are $725; in the bush $721.
The profile notes that “an important injection into the regional economy is payments by the Australian Government” to the region’s 14,101 Centrelink and Job Network clients (the dollar value of these payments is not publicly available).
However the profile does not comment on the link between this “important injection” and the very low median incomes of the Indigenous population.
Nor does it make the obvious point that a much greater “injection” would arise from greater workforce participation by Indigenous people and economic development in the bush.
The profile reports that average wages in Alice Springs have not kept pace with the rate of wage increases either in the Northern Territory or nationally: “This is not an uncommon challenge for regional economies, like Alice Springs, which are strongly based on micro and small enterprises.
“The only sustainable way to increase wages into the longer term is to build the productivity of the business sector.
“As a relatively stable economy, Alice Springs provides a good foundation to build on that over time.”
However, the report reveals that the public service dominates the Alice economy: government administration (not including the health and education sectors) heads the list of the town’s top seven “industries”, contributing $143.2m to the gross regional product (GRP) of $1478m, roughly 10%.
The top seven all up contribute 52%.
Tourism, popularly thought of as the town’s top industry, is not reported on as an industry at all. Businesses operating in that sphere are allocated into a range of categories, with accommodation and food services the most obvious one. It’s put at eleventh spot in terms of GRP ($66.03m)
It is the fifth largest employer but showing no signs of growth, with 1060 jobs in 1996; 1178 in 2001; 1005 in 2006.
It is in the public sector that employment is growing, while most other sectors are stagnating or in decline.
Employment in “public administration and safety” went from 1343 in the 1996 Census, to 1634 in 2001, then to 1975 in 2006 – an increase of 632 jobs in 10 years.
The profile was intended to be a “ starting point for discussions between the community and the government about the future development of Alice Springs”.
A business survey was conducted last November, with 380 businesses out of the 600 targeted taking part.
There was also six months’ worth of data collation, sourced mainly from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Tax Office, and analysis.
The work revealed that also in the top seven “industries” and separate to “government administration” are two more public service heavyweights, health and community services, and education.
Health is in the number three spot, contributing $120.79m to GRP, while education, is in the number six spot, contributing $85.72m.
“Health care and social assistance” is the number two employer but jobs in the sector have stagnated: 1630 in 1996, 1645 in 2001, and 1638 in 2006.
Education is the fourth largest employer, and has experienced some jobs growth: 1026 in 1996, 1208 in 2001, 1236 in 2006 – an increase of 210 in 10 years.
Almost all other employment areas show decreases between 1996 and 2006, with the exception of “professional, scientific and technical services”, which went from 744 in 1996, down to 609 in 2001, then up to 872 in 2006.
The retail trade is ninth in terms of its GRP ($71.94m) and the third largest employer, but stagnating in terms of jobs: 1370 in 1996, up to 1454 in 2001, but back down to 1367 in 2006.
The number two industry is property and business services, with 444 businesses contributing $132.35m to the GRP; number four is construction ($120.59m, 378 businesses); number five is mining ($91.27m); number seven is manufacturing ($78.04m, 60 businesses).
The profile counted 1821 businesses in Alice Springs, with 1071 (58%) of these non-employing.
These aren’t all subbies in the building trade, with a ute and a mobile phone.
The top five include personal and other services, retail, transport and storage, finance and insurance, as well as construction.
Another 414 (23%) are micro businesses, with one to five employees.
There are 267 small businesses (five to 20 employees), making up 15% of total; 66 medium businesses (20 to 200 employees), 4% of total; and just three large businesses, with more than 200 employees.
The retail trade has many more micro businesses than any other sector, followed by  accommodation and food services.
The spread for small businesses is similar, with construction also a notable presence.
There is more of a spread across sectors for medium businesses, though retail is still ahead. 
Overall, 69% of businesses surveyed were locally owned; 7% were Indigenous; 60% had been operating for more than 10 years.
Two main categories of turn-over were identified: 24% turned over between ‚$1000 and $250,000; and another 24% turned over between $2m and $20m.
From November 2006 to November 2007, 61% of businesses reported an increase in value of sales and in the size of their workforce; 44 per cent increased their profitability.
And for 2008, the survey found that 74% expected an increase in the value of sales; 57% an increase in the size of their workforce; 61% an increase in profitability. 

Grog ban in parks. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Alcohol will be banned in the 13 major national parks in The Centre, including the West MacDonnells, to be handed over to Aboriginal ownership as soon as late August.
Tourism Central Australia’s Peter Grigg says the industry will “strongly oppose” such a move which would “have an adverse effect, not only on the visitor or holiday maker to our region, but it will also impact upon the local recreational user and to the many tour operators in the area”.
But the head of the NT Intervention, Major General Chalmers, says "13 existing national parks and reserves are in the process of being granted as Aboriginal land and as such will form part of the  prescribed areas of the NTER Act.
"Signage is being installed along road ways at boundaries to prescribed areas, at town camps, communities and airstrips."
Mr Grigg says the tourism lobby group will “robustly seek exemptions being sought to ensure that a cold beer or a glass of wine can always be enjoyed after a day in any of the 13 NT Parks, that are in fact the drawcards to the NT.”
The handover of the parks will take place by scheduling under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, following a request from the NT to the Federal Government.
The liquor prohibition would be in line with current Commonwealth measures to control alcohol and pornography on Aboriginal land, under the NT Emergency Response Act.
There are already a number of these blue signs, in the West Macs, on Larapinta and Namatjira Drives, near some of The Centre’s prime tourist attractions.
The signs say people may be fined more than $1100 (first offence, $2200 for the second) who “bring, possess, consume, supply, sell or control liquor beyond this point without a liquor permit or licence”.
One sign is on the road to Glen Helen, between the turn-offs to Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Bighole.
Head of the NT Parks Service in The Centre, Andrew Bridges, says it appears these signs relate to three areas within the park that are already Aboriginal land.
He says it is not yet clear what will happen about liquor control, nor where Aboriginal living areas will be set up.
Mr Bridges says there are provisions for living areas in the parks deal between the NT Government and the Central Land Council, but these will be considered when parks management plans are drawn up.
The signs say: “It is not an offence to directly transport unopened liquor though a Prescribed Area provided you can clearly demonstrate your destination is outside the Prescribed Area”.
However, there are no signs indicating where these Prescribed Areas end – leaving park visitors uncertain about where they are allowed to “crack a coldie”.
Mr Bridges says NT Parks and Wildlife Minister Len Kiely has written to Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, asking for the parks to be exempted from the liquor bans.
Neither Mr Kiely nor Ms Macklin responded to requests for comment.
Mr Grigg says Tourism Central Australia “has questioned the boldness of the wording and in some cases, the placement of these signs and feel that the NO ALCOHOL / NO PORNOGRAPHY wording, although appropriate, could leave some travellers a little bewildered as to what type of region they are entering.
“Tourism Central Australia fully supports the number of initiatives to stop alcohol and pornography and is working with the appropriate agencies to ensure the right information is available for where and when you can, and cannot consume an alcoholic drink whilst you are enjoying the spectacular Central Australian region.”
Ringing the 1800 number on the signs – “24 hours / 7 days” – isn’t any help.
The Alice News rang on Monday, and this is the ensuing exchange.
Answering machine: “You will be transferred to a customer service officer.”
Music for three minutes and two seconds.
“Hello, this is Nikki. How may I help you?”
“I’m making enquiries about the blue liquor and pornography signs on roads in the national parks. Are you familiar with these signs?”
“No. I am in a call centre in NSW. I wonder if I should put you through to your local Centrelink office?”
“I am in Alice Springs.”
Music for three minutes and 19 seconds, after which Nikki explains Centrelink isn’t the right authority, but someone would call me.
About half an hour later Fiona Harris, from the emergency response team in Darwin, rings.
How many signs are there in the 13 national parks in the Centre?
How come they mark the beginning and not the end of Aboriginal areas?
Will all parks be declared dry when they are transferred to Aboriginal ownership?
More than 24 hours later Ms Harris provided the quote from Major General Chalmers reported in this story.

Lively battle for Braitling. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The race for Braitling on August 9 got more interesting on Tuesday with Greens alderman Jane Clark tendering her resignation from the Town Council and nominating as a Greens candidate in the electorate where she’s lived for 17 years.
She becomes the third well known candidate to nominate in the seat – following Adam Giles, preselected by the Country Liberals (the rebadged CLP), and Eli Melky running as an independent and endorsed by outgoing incumbent Loraine Braham, also an independent.
Ms Clark drew controversy from other candidates and fellow aldermen contesting the council election as a Green, but electors were undeterred, placing her third in the mayoral contest with 15% of the  vote, a far healthier proportion of the vote than the Greens’ prior electoral performances here.
And she also filled third spot in the aldermanic count. 
Last year she contested the Greatorex by-election for the Greens, but came last in the field of four.
The announced Labor candidate for Braitling this time round, Aaron Dick, has little time to build his public profile in the electorate, so the allocation of preferences will be critical.
In the 2005 election Labor preferences got Mrs Braham over the line.
On the weekend Mr Melky was seen dining on pizza with Labor candidate for Araluen and until now a staffer for the Chief Minister, John Gaynor.
“Certainly we talked about preferences – let’s not be coy,” says Mr Melky.
However he says he will not make up his mind until he knows all the challengers – nominations close next Monday at noon.
Mr Melky acknowledges that preferences will play an important role and says he will endeavour to allocate them to get “the best results for Braitling”.
Mr Melky was unsuccessful in gaining preselection for the Country Liberals.
Will he be loyal to conservative politics in his allocation of preferences?
He stresses that he is “unashamedly a Liberal” in the true sense of the word – he stands for “independence, freedom and choice”. 
But he says he’s not “sold” on the Country Liberals’ story: “They’re only interested in winning government”, and, as with Labor, this can sometimes be “at a cost” to certain electorates.
Ms Clark is also waiting for nominations to close before making a decision on preferences.
She describes her opponents as “predictable” and is hoping “more progressive candidates” will come out the woodwork.
Ms Clark was a mayoral as well as aldermanic candidate in this year’s council election and had committed, if elected as mayor, to stay for a full four years on council.
She didn’t make the same commitment as an aldermanic candidate, at least not to the Alice Springs News.
Under the Local Government Act she has to resign as alderman in order to contest the August 9 poll, but, if unsuccessful, has seven days after the poll is declared to ask for her position to be reinstated.
She says so many of the issues that local government sees as important for the future of Alice Springs have to be referred to the Territory Government and she believes she could be more effective in the Legislative Assembly.
An example is Container Deposit Legislation (CDL), where council has done everything in its power to have such a scheme introduced in Alice but has been ignored by the Territory Government.
She also says local government reform, which has seriously weakened the Local Government Association of the NT, has deprived her, as a member of the LGANT executive, of much of her voice.
She is counting on support from younger voters who she says are more idealistic about environmental issues: she sees CDL, recycling and implementation of climate change adaptation measures as “front and centre” for the electorate.
She also says “social cohesion has changed in Braitling” in the time that she has lived there and community and environmental projects are needed to build cohesion.
On uranium mining she says she is prepared to take “a sensible approach”, to push the NT Government to “take seriously” its responsibilities to people who live in Alice Springs.
Mr Melky, “a family man, business man and athlete” sees some of the key issues as: promoting business and tourism; education as an essential priority; provision of health services;  supporting police and their enforcement of the laws; affordable housing for families; tackling the future growth of the town.

Centre Party no show

The Centre Party mooted by tourism identity Rex Neindorf will not field a candidate in the coming poll.
“We’re still getting things organised,” said Mr Neindorf when the Alice News called after the poll was announced.
Steve Brown, chair of Advance Alice, who has spoken about a loose alliance of independent candidates, has also been caught short by the poll announcement.
“We could see more independents, maybe a couple, but it’s still a bit early to out them,” he said on Tuesday.
Nominations close next Monday
Mr Brown was critical of the extremely short campaign period: “It doesn’t give the public much time to have their say,” he said.

Housing fiasco’s front line. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

On the southern side of the road through the picturesque Larapinta Valley, on Namatjira Drive, some 30 kilometres west of Alice Springs, stands the house of Kumantjai Armstrong.
Across the road are several houses which are mostly empty or occupied intermittently by people in influential positions in Aboriginal organizations.
So says Alby Mackay who lives in a “donga” alongside Mr Armstrong’s house, and is authorized by Mr Armstrong to speak on his behalf.
Comments Bob Jeffries, manager of outstation services run by the Ngurratjuta Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Association: “All housing stock is owned by the Aboriginal land trust and issues of vacancies or abandoned or under used housing is something that should be addressed by them.”
Mr Armstrong’s family is caught up in inertia and buck passing between Canberra and Darwin.
Both Mr Armstrong’s house and those across the road were built with Commonwealth money allocated to alleviate the shortage of accommodation for Aboriginal people.
The money goes to Territory Housing which manages the funds and engages Aboriginal associations and contractors to do the work on the ground.
It’s a system that isn’t working for Mr Armstrong, 68 years old, wheelchair bound after a stroke, an invalid pensioner.
“We live like rabbits inside,” he says.
He and his wife Clare sleep in the living-room of what would normally be a small home for a family of four.
The families of three of Mr Armstrong’s sons each occupy one of the three tiny bedrooms.
He wants them near him: “If they live on someone else’s land, big problems come up. They get mixed up with other people,” he says.
Ernest, Julienne and their two children live in one.
Frank, Josie and baby Randall are in the next.
Tamara and Jeremy are in the third. They don’t have kids.
Priscilla, Elicia and Wayne sleep on the open veranda, notwithstanding that morning temperatures at present are around freezing point.
That’s 13 people, including two babies and a disabled man.
The number goes up to 30 when “rellies” from Hermannsburg drop in for a day or two.
There’s little furniture, mostly beds and mattresses on the floor.
The Central Land Council manages the Iwupataka Aboriginal Land Trust, some 300 square kilometres situated between Alice Springs and the internationally acclaimed West MacDonnell Ranges, a mainstay of the tourism industry and among the 13 parks now to be handed over to Aboriginal ownership.
Unlike the houses on the northern side of the road, which are mostly new and in tip-top shape, Mr Armstrong’s place is 12 years old.
He and his father were the first ones to settle on this land: it is his father’s “rightful land”, says Mr Armstrong.
His was the first house to be erected on the “Golden Mile” – so named for the widely alleged rorting of the welfare housing system by people who also have dwellings in Alice Springs.
Mr Armstrong says he has applied for other housing on the land: “They must have thrown the paper away.”
The house he has is now in line for renovations, Mr Mackay says he’s been told by Ngurratjuta.
The roof leaks.
The solar hot water system leaks onto the roof from where the water flows into the rainwater tank.
The solar electricity system has long ago given up the ghost: it could well be used to feed power into the grid – not needing batteries – at a time when this is strongly encouraged elsewhere.
Says Mr Jeffries: “Resource centres try to make use in other places of unused or obsolete assets.
“Territory Local Government have advised us that those assets are not be used, and if they are removed we would be charged with theft.”
The evaporative cooling system, the only relief in The Centre’s 40 degrees plus summers, is broken.
The block of land is strewn with littler.
That’s something the occupants could easily fix, but the bins, supposedly emptied regularly by Ingkerreke, another outstation service organization, are full.
However, Ingkerreke manager Scott McConnell says the Iwupataka bins are emptied every week, on Mondays or Tuesdays.
Mr Mackay says the Armstrongs are illiterate in English (their first language is Western Arrernte), but the “old man” has the tjuringas – sacred objects – confirming his ownership of the area.
But under the one size fits all land rights legislation, the Armstrong land is just part of a land trust run by a land council whose processes, according to Mr Mackay, are incomprehensible to the Armstrongs.
Mr Jeffries says Ngurratjuta, via its resource centre, is responsible for the maintenance of Mr Armstrong’s house which is one of four houses on this block.
“We inherited this situation a couple of years ago when the housing on this block was transferred to our organisation at the request of the residents,” says Mr Jeffries.
“We carried out inspections and have earmarked this house for a complete refurbishment.”
Mr Jeffries says a further inspection revealed further deterioration of the property through an increase in the number of people living in it.
“I advised all parties that we had already earmarked this house for a complete internal refurbishment and were awaiting funding for 2008/09.
“Territory Housing advised us to acquit all funding for the new financial year, and we are waiting on an offer of funding.
“This is all that is holding up the refurbishment.
“I was contacted by Mr Mackay as last week and he advised me that overcrowding in that house is getting worse and could we try and get some demountables to relieve the situation.
“We have a request before the Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC) regarding this matter.
“However, I don’t expect a quick response.
“We have made numerous requests to ICC for an allocation for unused demountables only to be referred to Canberra and there ends the process of decision making about the future use of these housing assets.”
Mr Jeffries says Ngurratjuta manages 42 houses “and could use 10 of these demountables to offer our communities a variety of accommodation and relieve situations like this.
“However, the response from both Federal and Territory governments is slow to non-existent.
“These communities are classed as outstations and Federal and NT government policy is ‘no new housing or development on outstations’.”
Says Mr O’Connell: “It is very unfortunate that outstations have missed out on all aspects of the housing upgrades of the Federal Intervention so far.”
Mr Jeffries says: “We have attended to all maintenance requests from the resident.
“We have dug a dump at the community for excess rubbish disposal.
“Furniture etc is the responsibility of the residents.
“We have not been advised of any leaks to the roof, nor problems with the hot water system.
“If the resident advises us, we will fix it.
“The solar electricity was installed to provide power.
“This is not required as the community is connected to mains power and water.
“All houses on the community have been earmarked to have reverse cycle refrigerated air conditioning units installed.
“We’re awaiting funding from Territory Housing.
“Mr Mackay comments to me today were that he supports Ngurratjuta,” Mr Jeffries said on Monday.

Election gives grants fiddle gets a new lease of life. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

What the NT Government gets from Canberra, and what it spends, is getting a lot of airtime in the pre-election politicking – but it’s an old story, and an embarrassing case of the pot calling the kettle black.
For example, Opposition Leader Terry Mills is seeking to make mileage with “allegations that the Territory Government has directed Federal funding away from Family and Community Services,” in 2006/07 receiving $179m but spending “just $43m in that category”.
The Alice News ran a comment in May 2004, when the relatively new Labor Government in the NT was preparing its third budget.
At that time the Northern Territory Council of Social Service pointed out huge discrepancies between what the Commonwealth Grants Commission allocated for certain purposes, and what portion the government is actually spending on them.
As readers can see on the table above, nothing much has changed: in areas where hand-on-the-heart pledges are common, a lot less is spent than allocated.
(The two columns on the right of the table reflect the current situation. These figures were supplied this week by the NT Council of Social Service.)
Back to the 2004 comment piece: What’s interesting today is the Country Liberals’ outrage at these discrepancies: trouble is, when they were in power, before 2001, their record was even worse.
This was the scene in May, 2004, when we headed our comment piece “Numbers tell the truth of warm in the tummy politics”.
What sort of Budget can we expect next week? Will the NT Labor government finally put our money where its mouth is? Not likely, judging by previous efforts.
Have a look at the table. Put your fingers in your ears to shut out all the hoo haa about new priorities of health, education, housing, police and all the rest of the feel-good stuff, and let the numbers talk.
They are from the Federal Grants Commission.
The first column is what Canberra paid to the NT Labor government in 2002/03 for various purposes, and the second column shows on what the government actually spent each allocation. The third and fourth columns are the corresponding figures for the CLP Budget of 1998/99.
The Federal grants are not tied. That means governments can spend them as they please. Nevertheless, one can safely assume that the people at the Grants Commission assessing “disabilities” are honourable, well resourced and well informed.
Yet our governments, CLP as well as Labor, by their actions, keep telling the commission it hasn’t got a clue.
Disabilities are things like big distances, low population, a great number of disadvantaged people, widespread poor health, inferior education, need for housing, and so on.
Labor, while in Opposition, was forever clamouring about underspending by the government on some purposes while overspending on others.
Check out the figures: not much has changed.
Bear in mind that many of the items relate not only to the people who would be the immediate recipients.
Family and Children’s Services, for example, is grossly under-funded.
That department is dealing – or meant to be – with, among others, young sniffers who cause mayhem by theft and vandalism and make life a misery for a great number of people. These become the secondary victims of substance abuse.
The CLP spent merely one third of its grant on that purpose – and so has Labor.
For Homeless and General Welfare the CLP diverted all of its $41m grant. Labor diverted $74.1m of the $76.6m it received.
Under both governments, public schools get a lot less than the grant and private schools a lot more.
Each government diverted around one third, about $200m, from Health and Community Services.
Labor spent only half of the housing money on housing ($67m of the $122m grant).
By comparison the CLP had a positively touching social conscience, spending on housing $72m of the $89m allocation.
Check out “Culture & Recreation” – a. k. a. Bread and Circuses, primarily sporting facilities grants spent in Darwin, which enable ministers to make great guys of themselves, handing over cheques.
Labor spent four and a half times its allocation; the CLP only one and a half times.
The other question you might ask yourself is why, year after year, the NT gets “disability” funding while things obviously aren’t getting any better.
Total per capita expenditure from grants in NSW in 2002/03 was $4810. In the Territory it was almost three times that, $12,089.
The Territory consistently fails to spend the vast amounts of money on fixing the “disabilities” for which it gets the extra cash.
The winner, year after year, is our massive public service: “General Public Services” in the NT cost $1107 per head of population.
That’s six and a half times as much as in NSW ($169).
Even the NT Council of Social Service – hardly a right wing think tank – is calling on the government to move beyond the plentiful reviews and enquiries and actually do something.
One wonders what Labor, which prior to the 2001 shouted from the rooftops “we are ready for government”, was doing during a quarter of a century in opposition.
If they had any idea of what was going on, why the need for the countless reports and enquiries?
As the disabilities continue a lot of Territorians are left in pain.
And our administrations will continue to be the butt of jokes around the nation. Labor or CLP.
End of story: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Age no barrier for adventure.

Two ageing adventurers commemorating an 11,500 kilometre motorcycle ride through the Centre they made on a Harley outfit 50 years ago have made it back home.
John “Sassy” Sinclair and Graham Felton set out from Sydney on May 17 and returned on Monday, two months later, on their trusted 1940 U model Harley Davidson with side box.
Back in 1958 they made the journey through the gruelling summer, leaving Sydney on Boxing Day and returning in the early weeks of February.
This year’s was “a completely different trip”, says Mr Felton.
Apart from doing it in the cooler months, in 1958, west of Hughenden in Queensland, they could ride for a day or two at a time without seeing anyone.
This was difficult, even dangerous, when the bike broke down, as it did somewhere east of Frewena, a little roadhouse between Camooweal and Three Ways that has since disappeared.
The heat on the treeless plain was “penetrating”, their water was contaminated, they both became dehydrated.
“It was a bit of a worry,” says Mr Felton.
In 2008 the danger came from different quarters: the roads are sealed, people do high speeds, there are grey nomads everywhere.
The pair used their latest adventure to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s, a special concern for Mr Felton since caring for his mother, who suffered from the disease.
Funds raised on the tour, estimated by Mr Felton to be some $7000, will go to the University of Sydney’s Ageing and Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Donations can be made at

50% hike in dump charge will ‘kill us’. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A  50% hike in fees for disposing of general waste at the landfill will “kill” a local waste disposal company. 
Owner of Alice Waste, Fritz Hapke (pictured), says he was only made aware of the increase – from $53 to $80 a tonne – this week, but he will have to start paying as of next Friday, August 1.
He says he received no letter or email but, as a “Landfill account holder” was handed a photocopied notification when he used the weighbridge on Monday.
He says when the weighbridge was installed at the landfill five years ago the charge was $40 per tonne. In the following years it was increased each year at a rate of $2 per tonne.
“We could handle that.”
Then last year it  went from $48 to $53, an increase of 30%, and now it has jumped to $80 a tonne – an increase of 50% in just 12 months, 100% in five years.
And council want their money within 14 days.
“I’ve been paying $20,000 a month. As of next week, it’ll be $30,000 – it’ll kill us!” says Mr Hapke.
“It’s very difficult to pass on an increase like that in one go to our customers.”
This charge is for commercial  general waste disposal.
Mr Hapke has seven trucks and 250 odd customers, mainly businesses. His trucks go to the landfill every day. There are two companies doing this in town, Alice Waste, and the national company, Cleanaway (who did not respond to a request for comment).
Mr Hapke says that apart from green waste disposal, which has gone up by 100%, other landfill fees have generally only increased by 10%.
He was expecting an increase for general waste of around 8.5%, in line with the publicised increase in revenue raised from rates, or of 9% in line with the increase for domestic waste disposal.
“I could cop that on the chin. What’s the difference between domestic and general waste?
“Council seem to be targeting private business.
“A 50% increase for my little business is horrendous!”
Council CEO Rex Mooney says: “The different charges for commercial and residential waste disposal reflect the high numbers of tourists and waste generated by commercial activities.
“If the rates for commercial and residential general waste were to remain the same, the rate payers of Alice Springs are essentially being asked to subsidise the cost of waste generated by tourists and commercial activities.”
Mr Mooney says the $80 fee reflects for the first time the future cost of rehabilitating the landfill: “Council is responsible for the environmental management of the landfill for 30 years after its closure.
“Planning is necessary so that rehabilitation costs are not accrued as an immense sum at the end of the landfill life time when Alice Springs residents will be expected to pay for it.” 
He says the $80 general waste charge breaks down as follows: 70% for the landfill contract and recycling; 25% for future cost of a new landfill; and 5% for operational costs such rehabilitation.
“Council’s position has always been to only implement increases where necessary and in a manner where cost recovery is reflective of the usage,” says Mr Mooney.

Territory’s greenest teacher at Braitling.

Northern Territory’s greenest teacher has been found – Marty Azzopardi from Braitling Primary School.
Ms Azzopardi (at left, with Dixon Road area residents protesting against the dongas) has been awarded Clean Up Australia’s Green Teacher award for her work on environmental education at the school, including the introduction of initiatives such as can collections, encouraging lunches with minimal packaging, and worm farming.
Clean Up Australia Chairman Ian Kiernan AO said Ms Azzopardi has set a new standard for environmental education in the Territory.
“Marty works to get the whole school involved in environmental initiatives in ways in which both the school and the whole community benefit,” Mr Kiernan said.
Ms Azzopardi has also introduced the Golden Broom award, awarded to students who exhibit an exceptional attitude towards environmental protection.
“Marty’s approach is to recognise students who make the effort to be environmentally aware is an encouraging and positive approach,” Mr Kiernan said.
“As a result of Marty’s dedication a number of students have set up their own environmental projects.”

Guides’ fun: flying pants up a flagpole. By LAURA PACKHAM.

Whether they’re collecting firewood, tying a reef-knot, or laughing at the sight of a pair of pyjama pants up a flagpole, the Alice Springs Girl Guides still have old-fashioned traditions, but with a “modern twist”.
Senior Guides, Shelby Spencer, 15, and Connor Somerville, 16, said the worldwide organisation has led them to travel overseas, as well as helped them meet other girls from their own backyard. There are over 130 Alice Springs Guides, aged seven to 18.
The state camp was held in Alice this year, with many girls coming from Darwin, Tennant Creek and Katherine. “It was so much fun – we got to meet all these new girls and got pen pals as well,” said Shelby.
The girls said what they do is rewarding but not always serious.
“One of the leaders put another leader’s pyjama bottoms up a flag pole and all us girls walked out and we’re like, ‘Aren’t they Sue’s pants?’
“When she came back, she’s like, ‘I can’t find my pyjamas’ and we’re all standing there trying not to laugh loudly,” said Shelby.District Leader, Sue Ride, better known as “Brown Owl” to her desert Guides, said the girls are involved in a wide range of activities that teach them many practical skills.
“We do a lot of international work and we focus on the outdoor things, like camping canoeing, abseiling.
We’ve even hiked sections of the Larapinta trail … the girls can get dirty, very dirty but they really do enjoy it,” she said.
The girls had a recent skiing trip in Canada and will soon be jet-setting off to America, Singapore and Mexico.
“Well be meeting other guides and going sight-seeing – seeing the Statue of Liberty, going to Disneyland and shopping!” said Connor.
With an Australia-wide decline of girls and leaders joining the association, Mrs Ride said the 100 year old program is keen for new members.
“We’re looking for new female leaders around 20-30 years old.
They will come to the meetings we have and help with craft and playing games.
The girls love the younger leaders. They run in and give them a cuddle when they see them,” said Mrs Ride.
Shelby and Connor said the Girl Guides is different to the Scouts, describing it as “one big family but with no boys”.
They believe their all-female troop is more of a help than a hindrance.  
“It’s difficult to talk about girly secrets with the boys around,” said Connor.“You can open yourself up to the other girls and they can understand,” said Shelby.
Mrs Ride said experience with Girl Guides helps girls get work.
“Employers often recruit girls who have been in guiding because of the skills they have learned.
“For example, the Queen’s Guild Award that takes several years to achieve, is impressive to business people because they understand if a young girl can achieve this, then they are worth hiring,” she said.
With the technological revolution changing the interests of young girls, two computers have been made available at the Guide hall.
Shelby and Connor said they agree that technology is having a strong influence on their lives but they would still prefer Girl Guides over Facebook. 
“Well, I’d go to Girls Guides and then go on Facebook and tell everyone about it!” Connor said.
“Join, it’s so much fun! Even if you don’t become a leader you can still help out and volunteer,” Shelby said.
[Laura Packham is a third year journalism student doing work experience at the Alice Springs News.]

What’s this art thing about anyway?

Two events combine this Friday at Watch This Space: the opening of Terra Firma, a show by young east coast artist Luke Shelley, and a combined spoken word and visual art event, a collaboration between the Space and the NT Writers Centre.
This year Shelley moved away from the coast with a body of work tracing and reflecting the transitions in  environments encountered on his trip to Central Australia from the Central Coast of New South Wales.
His show opens at 6pm, followed at 8pm by What’s this Art thing about anyway? 
Shelley’s work will be among that spoken to by writers, each of whom have been allocated two artworks to respond to.  And there’ll be at least two writers speaking about each work, providing for a comparison of responses.

Story blasted into the bloodstream: Heath Ledger pounds out last role. Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

For the purveyor of fine celluloid, in a feverish need of a cultural injection, filmmaker come physician Christopher Nolan was entrusted with the operation, The Dark Knight. 
Competent is a dramatic understatement.
His previous surgical triumphs include Batman Begins and The Prestige.
Operation begins.
Heart monitor: BIP… BIP…
Direction here is a sublime love affair with the camera, or more than one camera.
Dr Nolan’s vision for the caped crusader is liquefied and drunk with relish by the audience.
Track and chase shots that are some of the best to date.
The cast is a veritable drug cabinet of intoxicating performances.
Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Cain, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman (arguably the greatest actor ever to grace this giant drop of water we all inhabit.)
The nurses have a microscope over deceased Oscar nominee, Ledger.
The Joker.
His act is like a lecherous pulse, pounding out a performance that could carry this picture alone.
He masquerades about the set like a demented puppet, as diverse as the body of work he will leave behind.
There is no slow push on the syringe, as the storyline is blasted into the bloodstream of the viewer.
A rush and tingle.
The ultra reliable production crew behind the first outing have dissected the mood surrounding the Dark Knight.
They have taken us on an intravenous journey, through the backstreets and alleyways of the body that is Gotham City.
Dr Nolan was not afraid to take the necessary risks involved in recreating the way people view a superhero.
Praise is seldom given to one who swims against the tide and strikes out against conventional ways of thinking.
Pop vulture rating 881/1000.

LETTERS: Sydney needs intervention, not Alice.

Sir,- As a resident of Alice Springs my recent holiday that ended in Sydney also ended in disgust.
You have probably heard that indigenous public alcohol consumption in Alice Springs was chronic, with residents and tourists in “fear”.
Urgent action was taken; dry town laws, huge signs as you enter town, increased police powers, fines, take-away alcohol restrictions, no new licences and now mandatory scanned photo ID for every purchase.
Spend an hour in Sydney on Friday or Saturday night and you wonder, why all the fuss over 100 odd publicaly drunk indigenous people whom the police know by name.
I saw thousands of people, so drunk they staggered from bottle shops swigging back their next purchase.
Bottles of hard spirits littered the pavement, fights, vomit and public urination. No police.
Sydney is Australia’s face to the world and what is on show?
Headlines come to mind: “A national disgrace”, “alcohol abuse rampant” or “crackdown, extra police required”.
On the train, downstairs was vomit and rubbish, upstairs drunken people.
I asked a guy who was casually smoking “Is this normal”, he responded, “Yeah, you can drink nearly anywhere and take-away is cheaper than clubs”.
I researched the council’s response to the situation; some streets are designated Alcohol Free Zones (AFZ).
Online recognition of the issue dates back five years, yet the recommendations are focused on licensing and not public alcohol consumption.
An extensive 2007 report by Curtin University on the sale and supply of alcohol details actions and legislation from all states, NSW is conspicuously absent.
If Alice Springs was a “national disgrace” then what is Sydney?
Perhaps an international disgrace requiring riot police and drastic action?
How could something so public attract no attention?
I could only see two differences:-
• It was two orders of magnitude worse, and
• There were no indigenous Australians.
I left feeling the lack of attention to Sydney’s disgrace wasn’t due to the first difference.
Sydney needs an emergency intervention. It’s in crisis.
Cy Starkman
Alice Springs

Sir,- What the hell is wrong with every member of the Alice Springs Town Council?
Have they all got their heads stuck so far in the sand in the Todd River that they cannot see the absolute mess of litter congregating in our quiet little back streets? Shame on you.
What do the tourists think when they stroll about and witness the disgraceful disgusting mess?
And another thing, approximately 20 days ago I witnessed more litter, this time directly opposite the entrance to the Alice Springs Police watch house including confidential paperwork obviously not been through the shredder.
My concern was so great that I telephoned police commissioner Sean Parnell.
He was very approachable and pleasant to the task.
Much to my friend’s and my dismay as we took an enjoyable walk to the beautiful Todd Mall Markets, alas five days later that rubbish was still there, in full view of the public and of course the tourists.
Is there not a code of privacy when it comes down to one person’s God given right to expect documents of a confidential matter to remain confidential?
Alice Springs Town Council, please extract your heads from the sand and remove those rose coloured glasses.
George Thompson
Alice Springs

Sir,- I am saddened that you would give the ludicrous ravings of “Million Dollar a year Dentist?” such a big headline.
It beggars belief that somebody [would] translate a procedural fee of $400 into million dollar earnings.
The procedure may have only taken half an hour but what about the paperwork - or do you think they just commit you to memory?
Factor that in and we have already reduced your [letter writer’s] exaggerated claim.
And then you have assumed every patient turns up or even gets the same procedure?
If you attribute a real value to the dental assistant and receptionist there goes the 80 grand you so magnanimously stated would cover ALL overheads.
Or did you really think they were only worth $5 an hour - now there’s your headline.
And now from what’s left of this already rapidly reduced figure they have to cover property rental, dental equipment, materials, servicing of equipment, accounting, staff training, etc, etc.
And of course you neglected to mention the big cost - TAX.
By my calculations – which are a little more realistic – the income this professional is earning barely justifies the years and years of training taken to achieve it!
And you wonder why we have a chronic shortage of dentists?
Your attitude is yet another reason not to work in Alice.
So stop reminding professionals why they don’t need to work here and be constructive in advertising why they should. My praise and admiration to the dentist who showed incredible restraint by not wiring your jaw when they had the chance.
Christine Freeman
Alice Springs

Sir,-  I read the letter titled “Million Dollar a Year Dentists?” with interest.
I, too, am stunned by the charges charged by dentists here.
I went to see a dentist here for a check-up after waiting three months for an appointment.
The kind of treatment I received was – walk into the dentist’s room, sat on the chair, the dentist had a peek of the gap between my molars, wrote me a note for an x-ray and sent me out of the room – essentially less than three minutes! And the charge – $55!
I was stunned and told the receptionist that the dentist did not even look at my teeth (he only had a peek at the gap between my molars).
She said it was an examination of my teeth.
What examination?
I can’t believe dentists here can just have a quick peek and charge $55!
I dread to think what the charges are for fillings (I now know from the article) and root canal.
I’ve now given up on dentists here.
I would rather buy a cheap airfare on Tiger and fly down to Melbourne to see a dentist, AND get to do some shopping as well.
Rafizah Rashid
Alice Springs

Sir,- I would like to make to make my voice heard.
My wife and I had the worst service experience in 10 years of travel in here.
Last Friday we went to Bojangles to celebrate our marriage anniversary.
We had a table for us, ordered the entree, we were having some beers and I went to the bar to buy one more beer, in the meantime my wife was expelled from the table, because the waiter wanted the table for other customers.  
She didn’t quite understand what the waiter said, if you can call that a waiter.
Then he in the most rude manner possible asked her to get up and leave, he was screaming at my wife.
So then I think, we went to the bar to celebrate, eat something, have a few beers, and I end up with my wife crying, I spoke to the manager that night and he did nothing to help or compensate us or whatever.
Well, if the tables were reserved for diners and I have ordered and eaten the entree already I think that make us diners, or am I wrong?
Alice Springs is such a nice place, with nice people, it’s a shame that we had such bad service in that place, it may happen to more tourists; and that’s not good for Alice Springs.  
Andre Carvalho
Alice Springs
Bojangles replied: The staff member involved has received a final notice. Straight after the event he realized he was way out of line. Andre has been offered a full refund which he declined.
I am hoping they will drop into Bo’s tonight, at least for a beer, and to meet them personally. As I said to Andre, thanks for bringing this complaint to my attention so it can be addressed. I only wish we could have shown them our best. Chris Vaughan.

Sir,- Alice Springs alderman and Labor staffer John Rawnsley on local radio last week declared his support for uranium mining and yes, a multi storey car park in our CBD.
Why not go all the way John go for a roof-top casino combined with a wave pool?  
With the money that goes with the “uranium giant” Cameco-Paladin coming to town, surely anything is possible.
You do not need to be a skydiver to appreciate our region’s beauty. 
This is being sacrificed by Territory Labor with their atavistic push to allow for the Angela Pamela exploration just 20 miles south of the Alice.
I predict that the constant trickle of pro uranium views will now turn into a river mindless obedience all the way from town council to Darwin with the notable exception of Jane Clark.
I refer to our elected members and not the public’s opinion.
The uranium miners of course will be laughing all the way to the bank.  
Our family would like this opportunity to say wake up John, wake up Territory Labor, wake up Chris Natt. It is our environment too.
David Chewings
Alice Springs

ADAM CONNELLY: I’m not qualified for the 21st century

The tyranny of distance we all feel living in Alice Springs is a constant threat to our mental stability.
Often I will find myself hitting the “get mail” button on my email a little too often just to see if there is news from out of town. Often I will find myself driving the long way round to a friend’s place just to make it feel like I live in slightly bigger place.
I cannot imagine the life of Centralians from times past. The isolation must have been intolerable. Inescapable and ever present. Can you imagine what it was like? On one of our particularly nasty summer days, no television, no radio, and no regular news from anywhere. It hurts me to imagine.
We complain sometimes about the availability of information for people from other places in Australia. No Channel 10, no fast internet if you happen to live a short walk from town, and you have to wait until lunchtime to get the Sunday papers. All of these gripes are valid but when put up against the slings and arrows of life in the Centre past they seem a little petty.
Technology has thankfully brought us closer to the world. The internet and mobile phones mean that we can contact loved ones the world over.
I have just discovered Facebook. For those of you blessed enough not to know, Facebook is one of the massive “social networking” sites on the internet.
So far as I can discern, Facebook has two main functions. Firstly to keep in contact with people for whom you would otherwise not have the time and secondly to hunt down high school sweethearts. The second function is a little dangerous if you go online a little tipsy.
Compared to yesteryear, the amount of various devices we can use to communicate with anyone we want anywhere we want is staggering. Can you imagine trying to explain it all to Stuart and Giles and co?
I don’t want you to think for a moment that I’m a Luddite. It’s not that I don’t like or believe in this technology. In fact I think it can be fantastic. It’s just that sometimes I don’t feel qualified.
This week either the world has conspired against me or I’ve conspired against myself.
Do you ever have those weeks where you feel unqualified to be a part of society? This had been such a week.
How am I able to take my part in this brave new world of Facebooks and Myspaces and 3Gs when I can’t get my watch to tell the right date?
I have a watch. It’s a nice watch my dear mother gave me for Christmas. It is self winding so if you don’t wear the watch for a couple of days it stops. This is no problem.
All one has to do is set the time and date and away you go. Except that for the life of me I cannot get this watch to tell the right date. I set it and 20 minutes later the date has changed.
Am I that clueless? Should I be able to walk the streets of this town with the normal people?
The watch isn’t the only instance of my ineptitude either. Never ask me to record a television program for you. By the time I figure out which remote I need to use and how to change the television from Channel 6 to AV, they’ll be screening the Christmas special of the programme you asked me to record.
The 21st Century has so much to offer. Never before in the history of humanity have I had so much at my finger tips. Now if only I could get the bloody machine to work. 

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