October 30, 2008. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Senate grills Centrecorp boss. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The secretive Aboriginal investment company, Centrecorp, was the subject of a grilling by Shadow Attorney General George Brandis (Lib, Q), in Senate estimates hearings last Friday.
Questioning the director of the Central Land Council (CLC), David Ross, Senator Brandis demanded disclosure of the Centrecorp assets – said to be worth in excess of $100m – and how much has been distributed to the benefit of Aboriginal people in accordance with its charitable trust deed.
Sen Brandis repeatedly rejected assertions by Mr Ross that these questions should be directed to Centrecorp, not to him.
Sen Brandis said the CLC has a controlling interest of 60% in the company, is the owner of the property where Centrecorp is a tenant, and Mr Ross is the CLC’s senior employee, as well as a director of Centrecorp (one of four).
Mr Ross said, “We don’t have a controlling interest.” 
“Yes, you do,” asserted Sen Brandis, “you have three of the five shares.”
“It’s three one dollar shareholdings and that’s the end of it,” said Mr Ross.
“There’s no more involvement from the Central Land Council in the day to day activities of Centrecorp.”
When the Alice News, which has reported extensively on Centrecorp (see our online edition), put a question about the CLC’s shares in Centrecorp to Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, she said Centrecorp was not “a related entity at law” to the CLC.
Sen Brandis tested this notion.
Sen Brandis quoted from the CLC’s annual report of 2006-07, in which financial statements, under the heading of assets, put the value of CLC investments at $4 – the value of its three Centrecorp shares (Congress and Tangentyere have one each) and its one Imparja share.
He put to Mr Ross that the CLC could not claim that its shares in Centrecorp merely had a nominal rather than a real value when the shareholding was worth $60m, as claimed by “credible journalists”, unless there had been a distribution of profits under its trust deed.
He asked Mr Ross if he would be prepared to make publicly available the trust deed under which Centrecorp operates.
Mr Ross said Centrecorp was “in the process of dealing with those very issues”.
When asked to be more specific, Mr Ross said he had been invited to the hearings as director of the CLC, not as a representative of Centrecorp, a private company.
Sen Brandis acknowledged Centrecorp is a private company but pointed out again that it is described in the books of the CLC as a charitable trust for the benefit of Aboriginal people and “in fact its principal place of business and registered address is the same as the Central Land Council’s.”
Sen Brandis said it was “artificial to the point of being suspicious” to withhold from the scrutiny of the Senate estimates committee the activities of a charitable trust controlled by the CLC.
“It’s an asset. Even if it’s written down as only three dollars in the books, it’s an asset.”
He asked Mr Ross when, how much and to whom distributions of Centrecorp profits had been made.
Mr Ross took the question on notice.
If no such distribution had taken place, the treatment of the CLC’s shareholding in its accounts as having nominal value only would be “misleading”, Sen Brandis said.
Sen Brandis said the CLC had a “fiduciary obligation” and a “statutory obligation” to ensure the “veracity of its accounts”.
Sen Brandis also asked Mr Ross to take on notice questions of whether the CLC – through Centrecorp – has a 50% interest in Peter Kittle Motor Company, the L J Hooker franchise in Alice Springs, Mitre 10 Big O Hardware and full ownership of Yeperenye and Springs Plaza shopping centers as well as other properties. Mr Ross is required to provide the answers by December 12.
He said in 30 years a director of a land council had not been subjected to such questioning by the Senate. Normally these sort of questions go through the department, he said.
Sen Nigel Scullion (CL, NT), who says he has provided much of the information raised by Sen Brandis (a QC), says there seems to be little available evidence of any philanthropy by Centrecorp, let alone charity worth millions.
The Alice News, over the years, has quoted several Aboriginal leaders demanding answers about Centrecorp, but not receiving any.

When recession came to Alice. By ALEX NELSON.

Does history offer any clues of future prospects for Central Australia as the next major economic recession grips the world?
There have been four major economic crises since European settlement of the Northern Territory. These are: the South Australian recession of the 1880s, precursor to the general depression of the 1890s; the Great Depression of the 1930s; stagflation and recession of the 1970s and early 1980s; and the “recession we had to have” of the early 1990s.
All have been important yet paradoxical influences on the history of Central Australia.
The South Australian recession of the 1880s had a profound effect – it led directly to the foundation of the township of Stuart, later Alice Springs.
By virtue of its isolated geography and limited resources, the colony of South Australia had been seduced by the siren lure of the north – its economic ambitions and hopes riding high on establishing a “land bridge” via the Northern Territory to the teeming markets and trade routes of Asia.
For a time all went well – Palmerston (later Darwin) was surveyed and settled, the Overland Telegraph Line was built, pastoralism extended steadily across the continent, a gold rush was in full swing at Pine Creek, and a north-south transcontinental rail line was commenced from Palmerston to Pine Creek in the north and from the south reaching to Oodnadatta.
Most of this development was at the expense of the public purse.
It all started to come undone with the onset of a major drought in SA in the early 1880s, concurrent with a drop in world commodity prices.
Two SA banks went bust in 1886, the birds coming home to roost as unethical and unwise lending practices exacted their toll. Businesses were bankrupted, unemployment soared, and the SA population haemorrhaged in emigration to the other colonies.
In those days there was no government welfare support for people cast on the unemployment scrap heap. The bankrupt and destitute relied on charity, chased work wherever it could be found, or gambled all on seeking fortunes in mining rushes.
In 1885 the young SA surveyor David Lindsay led a pastoral survey expedition exploring the eastern half of the NT, and their route took them through the east MacDonnell Ranges.
On March 8, 1886, Lindsay noted the presence of “rubies and garnets” in abundance in this area, which triggered a rush to exploit these new gemfields. This was illusory – they were all garnets – but gold was discovered instead, leading to the establishment of Arltunga and nearby goldfields.
Significantly a number of prospectors chose to camp on the banks of the Todd River just south of the Alice Springs Telegraph Station in transit to the mine fields to the east.
In 1888 David Lindsay was commissioned by the SA government to survey the plans of a township on the banks of the Todd; and on November 29, 1888, an area bounded by Wills, Leichhardt, Gregory and Railway terraces was proclaimed as the new township of Stuart.
The first blocks were auctioned (in Adelaide) in January 1889 – five were sold. This inauspicious beginning of Alice Springs reflected the reality of Central Australia as a whole.
The isolation and hardship of living in this remote region dictated that settlement and development of Central Australia was always on a small scale.
The “gold rush” of the east MacDonnells attracted relatively few people (compared to the simultaneous gold rushes in Kalgoorlie/Coolgardie in Western Australia, for example) despite considerable assistance from the SA government.
The population was never more than enough to profitably sustain one pastoral property for the supply of meat (the pastoral industry across the NT was largely unviable until World War Two, never mind all the romanticism).
Despite considerable effort and investment, South Australia’s shrinking economy and declining population was unequal to the task of developing the NT. The general situation worsened rapidly when, in 1888, the land boom of Melbourne collapsed, followed in 1890 by a financial crisis in Britain leading to a decrease in investment capital in Australia.
By 1891 the entire continent was gripped in depression. Australia proved highly vulnerable to a combination of unsustainable debt through speculation, the drying up of investment capital, decline of commodity prices, and drought – all factors which are coming into play in the current international crisis, too.
Recovery was slow, extending into the early twentieth century.
The 1890s depression dashed South Australian hopes of capitalizing on its links with the north; instead, the NT had become a major liability.
Moves began prior to Federation to transfer control of the NT back to Britain but in April 1901 this became a formal offer to the brand new Australian federal government. The Commonwealth took formal control of the NT in January 1911.
This chain of events broadly set a template for the halting progress of the Centre in subsequent economic downturns, as the promise and lure of the north has consistently proven to be a mirage.
The 1880s recession had led to the foundation of Stuart but thereafter the process of settlement in Central Australia was achingly slow.
The distinctive pattern of a sudden small growth spurt in Central Australia followed by a long period of relative economic torpor was set to be repeated when the Great Depression commenced with the crash of the Wall Street stock exchange on 24 October, 1929.

Water and dust at Angela Pamela uranium prospect: ‘First we need the proposal to get the facts’. By KIERAN FINNANE.


There is no connection between the Angela Pamela uranium deposit and the Mereenie Aquifer which supplies Alice Springs water, but “try to convince the local population of that – good luck!”
The Alice Springs News’s source is an environmentalist who is also a professional scientist with extensive knowledge of the geology around our town.
We asked to speak to the government’s Director of Natural Resources (South), John Childs, to gain greater clarity on some of the persistent questions about the impact of a potential uranium mine on the town’s water supply.
No go. Too bad if people are worried.
Wait for the Environmental Impact Statement process is the government’s line. An EIS is not required for the issue of an exploration license, but is required following a Notice of Intent to mine.
Our source, who prefers not to be named, basically agrees.
“Until there’s a proposal on the table no one can really pass an opinion.”
But there are some issues causing popular concern which can be put to bed.
The aquifer is protected by a barrier of low permeability rock some hundreds of metres thick. This is the same barrier that protects the aquifer from the Brewer Estate (or Noxious Industries Area), 10 kms to the north-west of the mine prospect, which includes an oil loading facility, an abbatoir and cattle yards.
“There is no such thing as zero permeability but for all practical purposes there is no permeability in this barrier,” says our source.
There is shallow saline water sitting over it which “tends to prove the point”.
“If there were significant permeability it wouldn’t be sitting there, it would be leaking into the aquifer and it would show up as increased salinity.”
What our source says in this regard is essentially in line with explanations made earlier this year by the Regional Manager of Land and Water, Graham Ride, before the government clammed up.
But fears continue to be expressed that this protective rock barrier could be fractured, for instance if explosives were used during mining.
“You’d be talking about an impact of something like the comet that hit Gosse’s Bluff to disturb this barrier,” says our source.
Furthermore, mining would take place “down the natural hydraulic gradient”.
“You’d have to pump for thousands of years to pull the hypothetically contaminated water through the sandstone, and the borefield has only a few hundred years’ life.”
The bottom line is that the company proposing to mine will have to do “the physical testing and the calculations” and all these will be gone over “with a fine tooth comb” at the EIS stage, says the source.
He is not complacent about water quality.
He says “incremental development” over the aquifer represents a greater hazard than mining.
This started a long time ago with the passage of the highway and the railway line through the area.
In recent years it has been added to, not without concern, by the Finke Start / Finish line and the Drag Strip.
Conditions have been placed on these developments, such as no on-site storage of fuel, but, says our source, “the problem is each development paves the way for the next one”.
“You know what the Territory is like – what will be allowed there next?”
Unlike the possible future mine, the facilities already in place are in the aquifer’s “area of vulnerability”, he says – here there is separation of as little as a 30 metre thickness of permeable gravel between the developments and the recharge area for the aquifer.
The greatest risk in the area is from a road or rail transport accident leading to spillage of fuel or other contaminants, which could possibly include the  processed ore known as “yellowcake” (uranium oxide).
Our source regards diesel fuel as a greater risk than yellow cake.
“Yellow cake is transported in secure containers.  A spill would be relatively easy to clean up.  Diesel fuel is more mobile, transported in greater quantities in less secure containers, and more difficult to clean up.
There have been two notorious accidents involving cyanide spills in recent years, one on the Stuart Highway last year and another on the Tanami Highway in 2002.
“Cyanide is not persistent,” he says. “It’s very dangerous in the short term but it breaks down rapidly.
Our source also acknowledges one concern that could arise from a mine at Angela Pamela and that is a tailings dam which would be in the catchment area for Rocky Hill.  How this catchment would be protected would have to be addressed in detail at the EIS stage, he says.
“We would have to know what would happen in the case of a mega flood – we know these have happened in the past, around 1200 and 2000 years ago.”
On the possibility of contaminated dust blowing from the mine, our source says the issue can’t be considered until it is known “what the operation will look like and how it will be managed”.
Cameco has said it does not know at this stage whether the mine will be open cut or underground or a combination of the two.
Our source says it is “unfortunate” from the point of view of dust management that in situ leaching – an extraction technique feared by opponents of the proposed mine – is in fact ruled out. Cameco has already stated this and our source reiterates:
“If people bothered to do their homework they would know that in situ leaching is not possible in this case.
“The permeability is so low that it wouldn’t be economic and the carbonate content of the rock would neutralise any acid injected.”
Protecting air quality would be down to mitigation techniques.
The mining prospect is pretty much due south of the town. Our winds are predominantly from the east and south-east but we can get wind from the south.
Dustwatch northern coordinator, Dr Craig Strong, from the Griffith School of Environment at Griffith University explains: as front systems move across our region pre-frontal winds can come from northerly, westerly or southerly directions, with the southerlies able to move from the south-west through to the south-east.
Winds associated with heat troughs, that arise from tropical interference, can also be really variable.
The destructive storm on September 22 was associated with a heat trough and was marked by extremely strong winds of varying speed and direction.
A heat trough can affect wind intensity and direction across a 50 km radius, says Dr Strong.
And wind erosion can’t be neatly pinned down – it’s affected by a whole lot of variables.
Cameco spokesperson Jennifer Parkes says drilling rigs would be halted in thunder and dust storms, as is common practice. 
Cameco is engaging consultants to do water and air quality studies as part of the exploration phase.

Keep your shirt on! By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A T-shirt designed and manufactured by a local builder, Glen Shorrock, has sparked a profound philosophical discourse about the level of crime in the town.
The first wave of response to the slogan “Stabbing Capital of the World” was blustering outrage from the tourism industry lobby, accusing the builder of commercially exploiting a social ill.
But now Deputy Mayor Murray Stewart has weighed in, making several points: Loosen up, don’t shoot the messenger, and the fact that The Alice can be beautiful and ugly all at the same time is part of its uniqueness.
“In the real world these things don’t harm you,” says Mr Stewart, alluding to the old show biz adage, “it doesn’t matter what they say so long as they spell your name right.”
“Paris Hilton still gets a run,” he says. “People love it, it’s part of our charm.
“What’s the big deal?
“We’re selling adventure, and that implies not everything is perfect.”
Ald Stewart says visitors are equally attracted to the mystique of Alice Springs, and the danger.
“Our dark side is part of our charm.
“Stop being so dammed politically correct, and above all, stop denying media to report on us.
“Deal with the problems, with the crime, and you won’t have any bad publicity.”
Luke Southam is the owner of Freckleton’s Newsagency, the only outlet for the T-shirts.
Just 40 had been sold by early this week, despite media coverage.
“It’s light-hearted,” says Mr Southam.
“There’s worse things you can put on a T-shit.
“Some say it’s a backhanded slap on the town, but you can’t escape the truth.
“The people jumping up and down are hiding behind the reality and the truth of the matter.”
Ald Stewart says the shocking stabbing figures are a statistical fact.
“People may not want that sort of truth to be told.”

Subsidies for new homes before land release once again cart before the horse, say Alice aldermen. By KIERAN FINNANE.

When are the people of Alice Springs going to hear from Minister for Planning Delia Lawrie about residential and industrial land release, asked Alderman Brendan Heenan at the Town Council’s meeting on Monday night.
Following the public planning forum in June Ms Lawrie had promised a report by October – “so far, nothing”, said Ald Heenan.
Mayor Damien Ryan said they would give Ms Lawrie till next Monday before making contact – “we’ve probably got the letter written already”.
Alderman Murray Stewart said the government’s new Buildstart scheme, which will give $14,000 to people buying or building new houses or buying new units in the NT, was “once again putting the cart before the horse”.
“Where will the land come from?” he asked.
“I agree with you,” said Mayor Ryan, promising to take the issue up with Ms Lawrie – “hopefully we’ll get a quick answer”.
Ald Jane Clark was also wondering about hearing from the Territory Government on two outstanding matters. Council had been asked by the government to hold off from implementing night-time youth strategies, while the government put its own youth strategies in place. That was at least a year ago.
“We haven’t seen strategies put in place” and “we have not heard back”, said Ald Clark, describing the government’s attitude as a “real snub”.
“They are not taking us seriously.”
It was time for  a “stronger” letter, seeking the “truth” about strategies put in place, she said.
Mayor Ryan said a new letter would be sent to the new Minister for Children and Families and for Young Territorians, Malarndirri McCarthy.
Ald Clark also noted that council had had no reply from the government to their letter seeking assurances about air and water quality in relation to a possible future uranium mine at the Angela Pamela prospect.
In other council news, aldermen unanimously supported a motion by Ald John Rawnsley that council prepare a discussion paper to examine the recognition of local government by a future state of the NT, which would include “an equitable formula for the distribution of funds” to be “embedded” in the new state’s constitution.
None of the Australian state constitutions look at the distribution of resources, said Ald Rawnsley.
Aldermen also passed a motion by Ald Samih Habib that council ask the NT Government to ensure enforcement  of Dry Town legislation and resolved to develop policy positions in relation to youth strategies, alcohol restrictions and misuse, and law and order.
This will include re-examining previous council’s policy statements in these areas.

They made me wash the dishes ... naked. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Being a tour guide in Central Australia isn’t exactly straightforward, but there’s never a dull moment.
Last summer I gained first-hand experience of tour guiding. I witnessed some amazing scenery and made life-long friends.
For many, visiting Australia is their life-long dream.
Most have worked and saved hard for their holiday adventure (let’s hope this remains a possibility in the future!) and guiding them can be heart-warming.
But it can also leave you speechless when you deal with holiday-makers who appear to have left their brains at home.
It’s usually the same type of person who insists on asking the repetitive and tedious questions: “Why are there so many flies? What temperature is it right now? Can I climb the Kings Canyon in thongs? So what did you say?”
These can only be beaten by the more ridiculous ones that follow: “Where are the emu’s arms? Are the Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere not in the same place? Are there crocodiles in the bush?”
And, no matter how many times you point them out, “Where are the toilets?” seems to be a continuous echo in the tour guide’s ear.
I asked some other guides about their experiences.
Five years on and Bonnie Richardson has fond memories of guiding in The Centre.
“It can be so rewarding. I once helped an 80 year old man climb to the top of Kings Canyon. At the top he broke down in tears”.
But not everything was smooth sailing. 
One group stopped calling her Bonnie – her name became “Boobies”. She’d woken up in just her undies and had gone to wake up the group.
“Morning Boobies,” they giggled.
“Turned out I’d been sleep walking half naked. To my horror, I had leant over a passenger in his swag, my breasts jiggling in his face as I tried to wake him up.
“One guy reckoned the highlight of his tour was seeing flesh-coloured Olgas.”
Veteran Gareth “Wombat” Gerrard has many years of guiding under his belt. 
“I enjoy being part of the journey, when people discover the true Australia. It’s more than just blow away sunsets and killer sunrises.
“ Through tourism we are helping retain the essence of Aboriginal culture.” 
Shoeless, with his tatty Akubra, Brad Cotter is exactly the kind of person you would expect to find in the outback. As a man of the wild, for him it’s been about “the dust storms, wild camels and mammoth floods you get on tour”.
After 10 years Tija McMullen knows all about showing passengers a good time.
Having worked as a guide in most parts of the world, tourism is without a doubt Tija’s passion.
“When I finally returned to Australia I expected to have a normal job, and a normal life. An opportunity came up for me to guide again. I had to do it.  
“One camping trip had a remote theme, absolutely no facilities. Everyone was excited except one girl – ‘Where is my hotel?’ she demanded.
“We had to tuck her into bed, each night she slept in the bus. At the end of the trip she said ‘Tija, I’ve had the time of my life. But I’d never do it again’.”  
Ex-army, Adam “Scooter” Worcester confides: “Things have got a little wild on tour. One night we played dares, I ended up washing the dishes butt naked.”
There is never a dull moment, from spider bites to broken toes, when Nick “Scuba” Troisi is on tour.
“When you first start guiding things like this are devastating, but you learn to laugh, you can’t take it too seriously, or you would cry.”
The big man upstairs certainly wasn’t looking down on Nick, with his bus full of church-goers. 
“The group wanted to conduct a mobile prayer session on the bus. So whilst they were singing their songs and praising the Lord, I had the high beams switched on looking for roaming cows.
“Suddenly one ran out from the bush. Hitting it up the arse, I shouted “Shit!”.
“Realising I swore in front of the religious group, I flustered, swearing again.
“’Is someone going to pray for the cow?’ I asked. Thankfully everyone but the cow was okay, and for some “it was the highlight of the trip”.
One tour had laidback Tom Knell in fits of laughter.
“We were all cooling down in a waterhole. One passenger suddenly had a look of horror upon his face as he began searching for something he’d lost.
“His English wasn’t so good, so we assumed he’d lost his glasses. ‘It’s your glasses you’ve lost, isn’t it?’ I said. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘it’s my teeef.’
“We managed to locate a pair of goggles and a rake, and went in search for the missing dentures.
“We spent an hour shivering our arses off, looking for his fake teeth. The man’s wife found it hilarious. At every opportunity she would say “Smile!” and take his photo.”
Being a tour guide is certainly not a job for the faint hearted. You require patience, a great sense of humour and a passion for the outback. My heart goes out to all the tour guides working in The Centre this summer – you’re all doing an amazing job!

Ear to the ground. Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY, moving like an impossible caterpillar, tunes in to the abundance of sound that is Central Australia.

Listen carefully and you can hear ants stampeding before a storm.
Road trains play like a giant bow, sliding back and fourth, across a highway clef. Humming, like a cello, reverberates in an empty hotel room.
Cockatoos scream like disgusting feedback.
The long grass sways, like an audience holding cigarette lighters, blissful smiles on each blade, as they listen to the ballad of small birds.
Weeds, date palms are the towering bouncers, waiting to stamp out their fun.
Thorny devils do an E dance.
Sunbeams – knifelike strobe lights – play across Mt Gillen every morning.
Commuters offer a slow driven backbeat, as they shuffle off, to their office conductors’ stools.
Tip, tap go the keys of the solar city piano computers.
The dry river bed is a stage floor.
For the howl of the full moon – camp dogs choir, punctuated by the fat lady singing.
Tour bus horns are solid brass.
Café cutlery, a percussion section, steam and clink.
Mulga snakes, looking like silver guitar strings, cook on the rocks in the sun.
A murderous cacophony of crows are always overhead.
Lines of yeperenyes drop from the trees, making soft snare drum beats on the dead gum leaves.
Lizards sprint away, like slapping loose bass strings.
Street sweeping machines ­– a love hate relationship with distorted guitars. Council workers stalk the stage with their feet on the fold back amplifiers.
Letters to editors, weeping violins.
Demonstrators, a singing street parade.
The sun and shadows are a high noon keyboard, tourists feet belting out tunes on each. The evening grocery queue is a long wait for opera tickets.
The checkout operators chime like bells.
Curtains don’t fall when night does, as shooting stars move like a composer’s wand.
Crickets sing in and out of key.
A train rolls through like a marching band, dumping musicians off at the heart.
Morning mutant jazz chirps around, as walkers of the straight and narrow-minded line dance through the town.
Monday is an adagio, Tuesday an echoing reverb.
Wednesday is intermission time at amphitheatre Alice, Thursday a hammering drum roll. Friday comes to the sound of applause. The weekend just rolls around.
Rating: 822 / 1003

LETTERS: Shire poll – pastoralists had ‘no voice, no choice’.

Sir,– There are some points I would like to make regarding the Central Desert Shire (CDS) elections. We were not informed on the time and place that the pre-selections were to be held. I listen to my car radio when in Alice Springs and can only get reasonable reception below Native Gap on my way to town.
Yes, there were broadcasts re the CDS elections, I only heard them in Aboriginal dialect, couldn’t understand anything that was said except the English words “Central Desert Shire Elections”. 
Saw a couple of ads on TV, they were totally uninformative except to announce elections. We have had no idea about the voting until the “voting paper” turned up in the mail. We are expected to vote and pay rates for what? All the information we have is for services on the communities.
We are told there are three language groups in our shire – they are Warlpiri, Anmatjere and Eastern Arrernte. 
English isn’t a language?!! I would say there are four language groups. We have been told what we have to do, but haven’t been told what we get.
All maps of the CDS only show the Aboriginal communities – as far as I can make out there are only three cattle stations owned by white pastoralists in our ward, Southern Tanami Ward.
Where is the funding coming from to pay CEOs and community workers etc? Just what are we supposed to be voting for? These shires we are told will have offices in Alice Springs, GREAT! It’s like having the Territory Government being run from Canberra. If you look into the website for CDS there is a huge plan there.
I cannot get into these pages with my computer as I keep getting “This page cannot be displayed”.
My daughter has accessed some of this dialogue and it is huge and would take days to read. There is a reference in the MacDonnell Shire’s Issues Summary [a SWOT analysis] under the “threat” heading regarding the pastoralists who will be the squeaky wheel, “sidelining” and “marginalising (again) remote indigenous communities that do not have a combined voice”. The solution to that is ensure adequate involvement of all wards in decision making. This is obvious that they have a contingency plan in place to silence us, the minority group.
Where are our democratic rights in this? I feel that we are regarded as second class citizens. All this smacks of secrecy, especially as the candidates are all keeping their mouths shut. I too could not vote because I only know Mr Juttner and not any of the others.
We do not know what or who we are supposed to be voting for! I could go on but find myself reiterating the same points; in a nutshell we have no voice and no choice.
Jacquie Lines
Coniston Station

Brave new world

Sir,- Voters in the Territory’s new shire elections have been left in the dark over who they are voting for, with the result that some are voting informal.
People in the city are used to getting flyers about the candidates then showing up to a polling booth where they can talk to them.
In the bush, polling is by mobile booth or postal vote and, unlike Parliamentary elections, most of the candidates are as good as invisible.
A fundamental element of democracy is that all rate payers should get equal representation.
To decide who can best represent your interests, you have to have information on the candidates and their policies.
Our members are telling us that all they received were ballot papers with a series of names and no information on the candidates or how to contact them.
So people are expected to vote for candidates they have never heard of with no idea of their credentials, abilities, histories or policies, and no idea of what they want to achieve as shire councillors.
When people contact shires for clarification, they are being told information cannot be given out on the candidates.
For example, in Rodinga Ward of the MacDonnell Shire, there are 10 candidates standing for four positions. Five are listed by name only. Only two have published home numbers and our members report these two candidates have not been returning phone calls. [See last week’s Alice News report.]
In some cases postal voting slips carry only a silhouette of the candidate, so visual recognition is no help either.
The Shire cannot give out information on the candidates and the Electoral Commission will not release information without the consent of candidates.
This is not a good start to the brave new world of local government reform. We would have thought such a major Government experiment would have been better planned.
It does little to restore our confidence in the handling of these reforms.
Luke Bowen
Executive Director, NT Cattlemen’s Association

Uranium company

Sir,– At the end of a Cameco news release [related to its Port Hope Conversion Facility in Canada]  dated  September 30, 2008 we come across a sobering disclaimer.  It begins by saying, “Statements contained in this news release which are not current statements or historical facts are ‘forward-looking information’”, and ends with the assurance, “There can be no assurance that forward-looking information and statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could vary, or differ materially, from those anticipated in them. Accordingly, readers of this news release should not place undue reliance on forward-looking information and statements.”
My question to Cameco is are your assurances of the integrity of our water supply more of your “forward-looking information”, or can we expect to find our name on the following list?
January 26, 2008 – leakage of uranium-laced water from Cameco’s Rabbit Lake uranium processing facility in Saskatchewan.
November 2007 (and earlier) – delayed restoration of groundwater, “routine” spills, and a seriously inadequate bond to cover restoration at its wholly-owned subsidiary Power Resources in Wyoming, USA.
November 2007 – a water leak at the Eagle Point underground mine at Rabbit Lake, Saskatchewan.
June 2007 – closure of Cameco’s uranium hexafluoride conversion plant at Port Hope, Ontario due to radioactive ground contamination at the site [resumption of production announced in above-mentioned press release].
October 2006 – Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine in Saskatchewan flooded after a rock fall, delaying opening of the new mine from 2008 to 2011.
Did the “routine” spill in Wyoming result in a $1.4 million fine? 
And was there an as yet unlisted leakage in Nebraska that attracted a fine of $100,000? 
And what can ever be “routine” about a uranium spill?
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

ED– The Alice News offered a right of reply to Cameco. They will reply in our next issue.

ADAM CONNELLY: Gimme industrial strength over ‘natural’ any day!

I love a good meaningless conversation.
Not one vital to our understanding of something important, just some meaningless blather between friends. I love that as mates we’ll “chew the fat” ,“talk shit” or just “have a yarn”.
The lack of importance combined with the lack of structure in these conversations sometimes allows the perfect breeding environment for conversational gold.
An algal bloom of verbal excellence which, given the right conditions, can take over the river system of small talk and turn it into something much more.
It wasn’t so long ago I had one of these conversations. I was talking to a friend of a friend about nothing much in particular and we got around to talking about the Masters Games. A topic strangely poignant at the time.
It was the week before the games and the sky was once again filled with dust. One of the regular “periods of raised dust”, as the Bureau calls them.
My conversational colleague said to me that if these dust clouds were to continue to pass over the town during the Masters Games we might want to think about calling them the Beijing Masters Games.
He had made a brilliant point. The Beijing Olympics were mocked by all and sundry, mostly due to the fact that the world’s sporting elite, all competing in the spirit of higher, faster, stronger, were about to have a collective asthma attack in one of the most heavily polluted environments outside Chernobyl. 
Within days thousands of Masters would be running and cycling through the wonderful Central Australian landscape and if the dust that day was anything to go by, it would all be blanketed in a light orange haze.
Now while that isn’t all together gold, the following sentence was 24 carat. After discussing the dust for a moment, my friend says to me “It’s OK but, ‘cause, you know, at least the dust is natural.”
What a brilliant insight into the way our post-industrial minds work. Of course there’s more harm in carcenogenic pollutants but when you’re running a half marathon I’m not exactly sure you care if the stuff you are choking on is natural or artificial.
Natural, like green and eco, are the spike words of the new millennium. Just like turbo was in the ‘80s and atomic was in the ‘50s and ‘60s, we all want our stuff to be natural.
Even in a place as close to nature as Alice Springs we crave the idea that natural is good for us. We feel good buying all natural soaps and eco-friendly cars and we know we are doing our bit for the health of our family and our planet when we buy green eggs and ham and fruit juice.
To me natural is generally good but not always.
I see those natural pain-killers you can buy from the alternative medicine section at the chemist. They claim to be as effective and they might well be. However I wouldn’t know. When I have a headache I want to be sure that a team of the finest minds in science have locked themselves away in a lab and dedicated large swathes of their life to come up with a pill which will defeat pain within eight seconds of consumption. I don’t want yoho root or gabon misoto. I don’t want berries that have been hand picked from the mountains of Mauritania. I want industrial strength, atomically altered super chemicals and woe betide the pharmacist who asks if I would prefer the generic brand!
The industrial world has done some terrible things to the planet. Let’s not kid ourselves. We’ve raped and mismanaged the ecology of the earth for at least the last 300 years and we are now stuck with the consequences. But before you claim that the all natural lemonade you just put in the shopping trolley is doing your bit to change all that, just think for a moment.
Lots of things in nature are bad for you. Mushrooms, berries great white sharks, all bad for you. Just because mother nature made it, doesn’t mean it can’t choke you. 

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