February 12, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Youth Centre may be heading for a facelift. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

The Alice Springs Youth Centre is “falling down around us”, says committee president Marie Petery, preparing to reapply to the Department of Sport and Recreation for $50,000 to support renovations.
Their application at this time last year was knocked back but now Minister Karl Hampton says he “will look at it”. Refusal last year came before his appointment to the Ministry.
The youth centre received close to $80,000 for operational funding, but the building on Wills Terrace continues to look uninviting and run down and more paid staff are needed. There are three part-timers at present.
Once heavily supported by local businesses the youth centre, now close to 50 years old, was a thriving place on a Friday evening and a haven for young people.
After a period of decline membership numbers have increased over the last six months, however this also includes adult memberships from people making use of the centre’s sporting facilities.
Popular activities for young people at present are gymnastics and junior boxing.
Volunteers have begun renovating the canteen, office and reception area, assisted by $8000 received from a separate $15,000 grant application.
The canteen kitchen at present does not meet environmental health standards.
Without the extra $7000 it has meant drastically “cutting costs”.
The youth centre is calling on the community to help. Those who have a trade such as carpentry are especially welcome, as there is a lot of timberwork to do.
Once work is complete there are plans to hold an open day to make more people aware of what the centre has to offer.
The centre also will be holding their Small Day In during Youth Week, a popular event where local bands play for young people from 13 to 19 years of age. 
Funding for this has been received through the Office of Youth Affairs.
The Alice Springs Youth Centre is open from 4pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday.
On the other side of town, the re-opened Gap Youth Centre is “starting from scratch”, says Kylie Preece, vice-chair of the new committee.  
Some programs are up and running, including after school care and Reconnect, a service that assists with family relationships.
The centre hopes to get an Internet café and an exercise area ready in the near future.
In January they hosted a Blue Light Disco on Friday evenings, a police initiative encouraging communication with youth and providing entertainment for them.
Around 70 young people were picked up from town camps and other neighbourhoods and were driven home afterwards.
Constable David Witham from Alice Springs Police is a School Liason Officer whose work is attached to the crime prevention unit.
“We are trying to provide a positive recreational experience,” says Const Witham.
Volunteer police and other volunteers assist with the discos.  Young people can tell police about issues affecting them and find out what the police are up too while they also have a good time. 
It gives the police a chance to understand more about their home environment, says Const Witham.

Bloody good drinkers get responsible. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Alcohol restrictions are not working and should be abandoned; takeaway trading hours should be expanded; and an intensive effort should be made to combat “alcohol-related harm” through a range of other measures. 
This is the thrust of “Enough is Enough”, a “study” compiled by the Responsible Drinkers Lobby (RDL) whose public face is Liz Martin OAM.
She is an Alice Springs identity, CEO of the Road Transport Historical Society which runs the highly successful Road Transport Hall of Fame and the Old Ghan tourist attractions, and a Town Council alderman.
The RDL does not deny that Alice Springs is “suffering from alcohol-related harm at crisis level”.
Just over half of 782 respondents strongly supported this statement in the RDL’s community survey.
However, those causing the crisis are a minority, with the majority being “responsible drinkers”.
It’s a familiar argument heard in Alice Springs, usually only supported by a personal opinion or anecdote.
A lot of hard work has gone into the RDL study, with its 30 survey questions, collated responses from hundreds of respondents, interpretations, comments, and 27 recommendations.
Ms Martin’s sincere and tireless effort, which included interviews of people in “drinking camps”, certainly shows the issues obviously touch a nerve in the community, with 833 people responding in some way to the survey. That’s 55 times more than the number of locals who attended the Chief Minister’s recent planning forum about vision for the Territory in 2030.
The frustration of many contributing their views is palpable; the compassion of others is also notable.
Apart from Ms Martin none are identified by their surnames though the bid for anonymity sometimes fall victim to small town familiarity.
The “study” however is flawed by many unsubstantiated assertions, statements of belief, leading questions, contradictory arguments and interpretations, not to mention simple errors.
An example of the latter is a question about “nationality” that gives “Caucasian” and “indigenous” as possible answers. Caucasian, of course, is not a nationality; nor is Indigenous.
The question obviously wanted to ask about race.
An example of the way the survey leads the argument is question 23, which gets to the nub of RDL’s inquiry, identifying the minority doing all the drinking that’s causing all the problems.
It asks: “Do you think there is a particular group(s) responsible for anti-social behaviour?”
The possible answers are: teenage binge drinkers, Indigenous public drinkers, unsupervised children of drinkers roaming the streets, homeless people, “recidivous” (the word, repeatedly misspelt in the study, is “recidivist”) alcoholics, all of the above. 
The question simply courts popular opinion. You might as well count letters to the editor or phone calls to Territory Today on the subject.
It will surprise no-one that 70% of 782 respondents think Indigenous public drinkers are the principal culprits.
The survey asks people to rate various alcohol strategies. All of the more recent ones, from Photo ID to restricted purchasing hours, get a big thumbs down from over 70% of respondents.
Yet it is argued in the study’s opening paragraphs that “existing alcohol strategies are working and are effective on the mainstream population”, with  68% of respondents claiming that they now drink either less or significantly less than over the past five years.
This is advanced as a reason for “NO further restrictions” being implemented, without stating that existing restrictions should be lifted.  Yet later the study calls for a big expansion of liquor take-away opening hours: 10am to 10pm, seven days a week.
The survey also asks people to prioritise strategies, giving them a choice of 26 – as bad as a Senate ballot! But 756 people responded, giving an integrated youth strategy top priority.
Central Australian MLAs had ESP on this one, as youth services have been the focus of their recent bi-partisan meetings and an announcement about what they intend to do is expected soon.
Survey respondents also gave high priority to long-term accommodation support for drinkers “beyond rehabilitation” and to mandatory rehabilitation for “third time offenders”.
Many of the other recommendations are familiar to anyone following the public debate, and work is underway on some, for instance more CCTV and lighting for the CBD. A committee is working with the Town Council on where to put more CCTV cameras; and council has $436,000, sourced from the Federal and Territory Governments, to employ a lighting expert and implement their advice.
Others RDL recommendations, such as higher taxes on higher alcohol content beverages, would find strong support from the pro-restrictions lobby.
A few, such as a call for the reintroduction of mandatory sentencing for criminal offences, are more controversial and make the “log of claims” an unnecessarily broad one. 
On the whole, who can argue with RDL’s clamour, through the majority of their recommendations, for more to be done to address the “real causes”of “all our community woes” and to make “young Indigenous people excited about their future”.
However, the case for dismantling restrictions,  and there may be one, is not convincingly made.

Raided booze goes down the drain.

Almost 700 litres of grog, seized by police in a two-day operation, was poured down the drain at the Alice Springs Police Station on Monday, watched by local media. It was mostly taken from town camps, says Superintendent Sean Parnell. Not all town camps were involved, only those where residents were most concerned about drinking. Sixteen liquor infringement notices were issued; 58 people were taken into protective custody; 10 arrests were made for a range of liquor-related offences, including drink driving.
Police seize and tip out some 3000 litres of alcohol a month. Alcohol plays a role in 80% of offences dealt with by police, says Supt Parnell. But it is a “small minority, a core group” who cause most of that work, including violent offences. He puts the number at around 150.

Courts are not soft, says Law Society. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Concern in Alice Springs about anti-social behaviour and property crime is “legitimate”, says Law Society president, Duncan McConnel, but there’s no evidence that the courts are “soft” on offenders.
Mr McConnel joined magistrates, barristers and religious and community leaders in the annual procession to celebrate the start of a new legal year last Friday.
“This year the focus of the law society will be on resources in the justice system. We need to ensure there are enough lawyers, court facilities, rehabilitation services and so on to ensure our criminal justice system is working effectively.”
Reducing the number of offenders in the Territory is “a challenge.”
“The rates for imprisonment and sentences are higher in the Territory than anywhere else, and in some areas increasing. Certain matters like property offences and crimes involving injuries to people – assault, domestic violence – are on the increase.”
The Society wants to ensure that policing and the judicial system are well funded. This extends to the courts, the legal systems and the prisons.
The Territory has “more repeat offenders returning to prison than anywhere in Australia”, says Mr McConnel.
“We want to see that rehabilitation programs are sufficiently resourced in order to reduce repeat offending.
 “From the Law Society’s perspective we see it as important that the community is enjoyable and safe.
“To do this it’s not just about punishing criminals who commit crimes. It is also about addressing the underlying cause of crime and the community putting more resources into crime rehabilitation.”
But what about the levels of punishment offenders in the Territory receive, are they harsh enough?
“There is no evidence that the NT is soft on offenders.
“It may be the perception, but is not reality,” say Mr McConnel. 
“When we have done sentencing workshops with members of the public we have found they would often have given  lesser penalties.”

Errors in the February 5, 2009 edition.

Last week’s article, ‘Tourism in trouble?’ incorrectly stated that Lasseters hotel has experienced a drop of around 20% in the last 12 months.
The correct information is that the hotel experienced a drop of around 20% in January in group visitors from America and Germany.
However, overall the hotel’s occupancy levels are up against previous years.
“The global financial crisis may be one of the factors to influence” the drop in January this year when compared with January 2008, says manager Michael Jones.
January and February are typically the “tougher” months.
• Details in the article about Alice locals responding to the needs of six year old Shane Healy, who suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, also require clarification.
The article stated the disease affects one in 1000 people. This is for all forms of Muscular Dystrophy.
For Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, from which Shane suffers, the rate is one in 3500.
The article stated incorrectly that there are some 200 cases in Central Australia. This figure is for the whole Northern Territory.
The Alice Springs News regrets these errors.

Train bypass, workers’ flats and town planning are in party’s sights. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Country Liberals in Alice Springs want BHP to build a spur line for rail transport of ore from Olympic Dam to bypass the town rather than going through its middle.
This is according to information leaked to the Alice Springs News, and later confirmed by MLA for Braitling, Adam Giles.
A by-pass proposal came before the Town Council in December last year following a presentation to aldermen by BHP Billiton about Olympic Dam plans. (See separate article.)
Meanwhile, Mr Giles, speaking after a branch meeting on the weekend, says: “We also supported the concept of the railway station being turned around to face the Stuart Highway, with the building of a taxi and bus terminal in the transport precinct with possible access of Whittaker Street.
“Consideration should be given to re-zoning the vacant block on the corner of Stuart Highway and Whittaker Street to commercial accommodation with retail shops beneath.”
Mr Giles says a government report about the future of Alice Springs is still “sitting in boxes in Darwin waiting for Ministerial approval for release.
“We have been promised the report long ago.”
Mr Giles, when asked, admitted he is the author of a confidential paper for the Country Liberals which he claims is the only party “debating the future development and planning issues and ideas for the town.
“During the financial crisis there is significant potential for Alice Springs to be on the front foot, and stimulate the construction industry through land release and housing development.
“We can create jobs for our local people, protect our economy and even provide opportunities to attract unemployed skilled workers from interstate.
“Given the current housing crisis in Alice Springs I would recommend the establishment of a privately owned workers camp to be established immediately” should the proposal get development approval.
Mr Giles, who had a landslide win in Braitling last year after the retirement of independent Lorraine Braham, says there was “much debate” in the branch about land use.
North of The Gap should be for urban housing and south of it for “rural and semi-rural developments with some tourism and light industry.
“These discussions about development were not completed in debate and will continue in a couple of weeks.”
Ideas of building Larapinta to the size of its original plans were discussed, says Mr Giles.
“This includes multiplying its size by three and building the infrastructure to support the community with normal services such as increased shops and community facilities.
“This would involve the partnership with Lhere Artepe, negotiating release of land.
“We will also be discussing the linking of Stephens Road and Sadadeen Road amongst other things to support further development of Mt Johns.
“It would be great to see local Aboriginal people involved in the speedy development of land for housing in Alice Springs, like the Larrakia Development Corporation does in Darwin.
“Naturally, everything relies on the ability of the infrastructure to support future development, which will also be discussed.”

Same songsheet on railway route. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A rail by-pass to carry freight around rather than through town should become a priority in 2030 planning and in any future submissions by the Territory Government to Infrastructure Australia, says a motion put by Alderman Liz Martin and passed by the Town Council in its last meeting of 2008.
A motion by Ald Samih Habib, seconded by Ald Jane Clark, calling for rejection of plans to increase the rail transport through town of heavy minerals and hazardous waste, was defeated in favour of Ald Martin’s motion.
Ald Martin’s concern was with the time taken by long trains to pass through the town, cutting the western areas off from emergency services, such as hospital and ambulance.
She had timed a 100-car train which took nine minutes and 45 seconds to pass through the Larapinta Drive crossing. It took a further two minutes and 30 seconds for traffic congestion to clear.
This could mean the difference “between life and death”, said Ald Martin, warning that freight trains of the future are destined to become even longer.
She said The Ghan passenger train should continue to come through the Centre of town.
Concern about the issues was prompted by BHP Billiton’s announced plans to expand their Olympic Dam mine operations in South Australia, and to eventually transport the resulting copper concentrate, containing 1000-2000 ppm uranium, by daily train through Alice to Port Darwin.
The Alice News asked independent academic expert Dr D. C. “Bear” McPhail, of the Australian National University’s Research School of Earth Sciences, to comment on the potential hazard such a rail cargo represents.
 “The exposure would be minimal from trains passing by,” says Dr McPhail, “and I suspect the radiation activity [from the copper concentrate] will not be high anyway, so I suspect the risk is very small, perhaps negligible.
“I’m sure BHP would protect against spills and any dust that might emanate during shipping. 
“One of the risks for uranium is if it gets into water or food supplies, as it can be a problem if in close contact with tissue (like if you drink or eat things that have uranium in them). 
“Even if there was any leakage from shipping, the uranium concentration is not that high, and I suspect in areas surrounding the train line(s), it would not reach dangerous levels unless there was long term leakage – eg, decades – and it accumulated in specific areas. 
“Assuming BHP follows the ARPANSA Code of Practice for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material [which they have said they do and will], I think the risk would be minimal or non-existent.”
Dr McPhail said he couldn’t comment, of course, on the likelihood of accidents, but “I can say that for any spills of the copper concentrate with 1000-2000 ppm uranium I don’t think there’s a high risk to health from increased radiation, unless the concentrate was ingested (in water or food) or breathed in (if the particles were fine enough to be in the air). 
“There might be a greater risk from copper and any other metals or compounds in the concentrate.”

Golf Club improves swing. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

After almost 12 months under a new committee and manager and with strong support from sponsors, the Alice Springs Golf Club is on a much better business footing.
But “it’s been hard work”, says manager Jim Lawrie, and there’s still a lot to do.
Sale of a house on The Fairway owned by the club has helped it settle some debts.
General Green Fees have been increased although membership prices have remained the same.
Drink prices at the club bar – in the past known to be one of the cheapest in town – have risen, but only in line with the CPI.
“Our prices are still relatively cheap compared to other places in town,” says Mr Lawrie.
There’s a new contractor in the restaurant kitchen and another in the Golf Shop.  The club is now ranked 52 in Australia, up from 53 a year ago.
The course is in “excellent condition” and ready for a series of major golfing events through April and May, says Mr Lawrie.
These include the Australian Junior Male and Female Championships in April, the Australian Senior of Merit, The NT Open Men’s Amateur, the Chief Minister’s Cup and the NT Vets.
A brand new competition, called ‘Sevens’, is also about to be launched. Any seven people can compete in a social game of golf, any time within the week at a discounted price.
The club will tally the best four scores and there’ll be a presentation dinner for winners and participants at the end of the season.
In all 2009 looks to be a good year, says Mr Lawrie, although there are always new expenses to be met.
For instance, the fairway mowers need replacing, along with some other equipment, some of which is up to 20 years old.
And the cost of bore maintenance remains high, with one of the club’s three bores not operational at present.
The club bears the costs of maintaining the bores in return for the water they use to irrigate the greens, pumped from the town basin.
This in turn helps the Power and Water Corporation control salinity. 

Fight for IAD still in full swing. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The fierce battle for control of Institute of Aboriginal Development, which over some four decades has received many millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, is continuing.
Prominent Aboriginal Neville Perkins is calling for dismissal of the new committee and a probe into financial and management matters of the publicly funded organisation.
Mr Perkins, a former chairman and public officer, says he is speaking for “a group of concerned members” following an AGM two days before Christmas at which he claims an improper and invalid election took place.
Mr Perkins says former director and current chairperson of the management committee, Janice Harris, should stand down.
But Ms Harris says: “Two meetings for IAD were held on 23 December 2008.
“One was a Special General Meeting, the other was the AGM.
“Both meetings were convened by the Statutory Manager, of Deloitte’s, who was appointed by the NT Department of Justice.
“The Statutory Manager outlined to members the approach he would adopt in both meetings.
“He confirmed that he had clearance from the NT Department of Justice for the approach adopted in both meetings,” says Ms Harris.
“The Special General Meeting adopted a new Constitution for IAD.
“The Statutory Manager then conducted the AGM.
“A new Management Committee was duly elected and is working in full compliance with the new constitution to secure a productive future for  Aboriginal people.”
Founded by the late Rev Jim Downing 40 years ago, Mr Perkins says “IAD is a registered training organisation based at Alice Springs, which is significantly funded by the Territory and Federal Governments.
“Members of the group had already taken legal action in the NT Supreme Court in October 2008 over the dissolution of the former IAD board and the appointment of a statutory manager by the NT Commissioner of Consumer Affairs on September 30, resulting in a confidential out of court legal settlement between the parties.”
Mr Perkins claims include:-
• The election of officers at the AGM was supposed to have been conducted by officers of the NT Electoral Office, but was not.
• Use of outdated lists of IAD members.
• Failure to adopt the proper and legitimate register of members.
• Failure to count all votes cast for the new committee.
Mr Perkins says: “In view of this, the AGM must be held again under the new IAD Rules as soon as possible, and the election for the IAD Committee must be conducted by the NT Electoral Office, as has been the case in previous years.
“The responsible Ministers in both the Territory and Federal Governments should seriously investigate the current IAD Committee and management, prior to releasing any further funds for IAD.”
Mr Perkins’ call for a fresh special general meeting are supported by Russell Bray, Eileen Hoosan, Linda Bray, Norman Iles, Nannette Kumar, Janis Stanton, Kym Stanton,Stacey Stanton, Eric Sultan, Christobel Swan, Elleen Swan, Jeanette Tilmouth , Kimberly Adams, Walter Shaw, Geoff Shaw, Harry Nelson, Lynette Granites, Barbara Shaw, Valerie Martin, Peggy Brown and Johnny Miller, all of whom signed a petition.

Council’s bid for infrastructure handout: roads, mall & dunnies.

The Town Council is asking for a $4.9m share of the Federal Government’s $200m for infrastructure in the Territory.
Council could immediately start work on a number of projects, says Mayor Damien Ryan, giving a boost to the local economy.
Most of the work would be done by contractors.
A letter to the Chief Minister lists four costed projects:
• footpath construction, $600,000;
• Roads to recovery, $3m;
• Repaving in Todd Mall for disabled access, $500,000;
• Toilets and fencing at Anzac Oval, $800,000.

Kmart wall brawl is not yet finished. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council wants the Development Consent Authority, meeting in Alice Springs today, to push Centro Properties Group, owners of the Kmart building, to make progress on restoration of the western wall.
Aldermen Brendan Heenan and Samih Habib (in Melanie van Haaren’s absence) are local members of the DCA.  Council’s views will be represented by a senior officer.
Mayor Damien Ryan says council is concerned that the wall was built as a two-skin cavity wall, the outer skin consisting of the sandstone mural, dismantled after sustaining some damage in the September 22 storm.
Now, except for a portion at the southern end, only the inner skin remains.
A second skin must surely go up for safety reasons, says Mr Ryan, but council also want it to go up as it was – as the mural depicting the range from Mt Gillen to Heavitree Gap.
He says at last contact, in mid-January, Centro was awaiting reports from their insurers and their structural engineers.
“The holidays are over now – they need to give us something,” says Mr Ryan.

Art lovers escape the gloomy times. By KIERAN FINNANE.

After their beautiful opening show of Watiyawanu Artists, Peta Appleyard Gallery on Todd Mall has followed up with an ambitious exhibition of work by David Bromley, a highly collectable British-born, Melbourne-based artist.
Ambitious in turning over an Alice Springs gallery to a solo show of a non-Indigenous artist whose work is far from cheap.
Ambitious in taking this gamble in tough times that look like only getting worse before they get better.
But the gallery is upbeat about the “tough times”.
Manager Nathan King says two high-priced works by Watiyawanu Artists sold from the first show, to collectors visiting Alice from their respective homes in Singapore and Paris.
And many of the moderately priced works also sold.
There was a big turnout on opening night for the Bromley and there were some immediate sales.
People appreciated seeing something very different, says owner Peta Appleyard, reiterating her intention to alternate exhibitions at the gallery, between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.
The elegantly hung Bromley show features a series of the artist’s nostalgic Boy’s Own-style portraits, sourced from mid-century illustrations – charming, lively, poignant. 
They stand in interesting relationship to the Warhol-like female nudes, the boys’ innocence contrasting with the assertive sexual energy of the women.
Of special interest to an Alice audience is Bromley’s large portrait of Ikuntji artist Long Tom Tjapanangka, an entry for a previous Archibald Prize and not for sale.
In a further four large works, the artist has used old studio dropsheets to good effect. Cartoon-like figures are as if stencilled in reverse, through an overlay of a single colour, revealing the paint spatters beneath.   They are assembled in lively friezes, each with a distinct atmosphere – one maritime, another tribal, another reminiscent of a certain style of children’s book illustration.
The show will be up for a month, with the next one scheduled for March 7. – Kieran Finnane

ADAM'S APPLE: Wrinkled stars: get off the stage!

What is it with aging rock stars? They made a fortune playing sold out stadia from Adelaide to Zurich and still they want a piece of the action?
Wrinkled husks of their former glory, they shuffle out on stage and attempt to convince those who threw their slinky undergarments at them some 40 years ago that hurling their now sensible control bloomers at them is still a valid night out.
Middle aged reminiscences is where the big money is at now. The Baby Boomer with their superannuation and their “piss the kids inheritance up the wall” attitude will shell out top dollar in order to glimpse these botoxed hexegenarians sing their hits about teenage love.
I don’t know about you but if I was in my sixties and had $100 million in the bank, the last thing I’d be doing is a 45 date world tour.
In fact the only world tour I’d be on would involve my very large yacht and 22 year old triplets called Candy, Mandy and Sandy.
There are those legends of the rock world that understand who their ability to belt out an anthemic epic might well be behind them. Do they hang up the microphone chord and retire to the Caribbean?
Oh no, the new way of prolonging a career is releasing the ballad cover album.
Rod’s done it. Jimmy’s guilty too as are a number of rock gods whose maxim is “it’s better to fade away than vanish”.
I don’t mind a good cover version. I like the idea of taking a well known hit and interpreting it in a new, fresh and surprising way. What doesn’t do it for me is a performer simply singing someone else’s hit.
Shannon Noll’s first single was a blatant, yet inferior copy of the excellent Moving Pictures anthem of the downtrodden “What about me”.
It’s a song to which we can all relate. A song about a world in which the little man doesn’t get a break.
When Shannon Noll, a man plucked from rural obscurity to become a reality television superstar, sings the song, the irony was not lost on this listener.
I’ve been having a “what about me” type of week this week. This week I’ve been the little boy waiting at the counter of the corner shop.
It’s as though the entire population of Alice Springs got together sometime in late January and decided to irritate me just a little.
I’m not talking in a “make my life a misery” way or even a “let’s see if we can make Adam cry” fashion.
Don’t take it personally but you’ve all just bugged me this week.
What is the deal with couples having a mild domestic dispute in front of the supermarket freezer door I want to open?
To be honest with you I don’t care whether Birds Eye or Edgell works out cheaper per kilo. I couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss if she doesn’t remember that you got that one the last time and nobody ate it.
And I’m not trying to deny your right to have this complete waste of energy of an argument. Just do it a couple of fridge doors down the aisle please. I’d like to get my bag of peas and corn and get as far a way from you people as possible if that’s OK! 
And while I’ll defend your right to read the nutritional information on every box of savoury biscuits even though you probably don’t know what folate actually does, could you please just let me get to the box of barbecue shapes?
You’ve done your research though and for that you should be recognised.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand are people talking over the top of each other. This week you’ve been champions at the talk over.
If you are a shop keeper and you ask me if you can help me, let me get the entire first sentence out from my lips before you try and offer advice.
If I get to finish the sentence two things happen. Firstly, you get to hear my entire query, which saves you from not understanding my problem.
This means you’ll be able to solve my problem in a timely manner and it has the added benefit of reducing your ability to look like a rude cow.
Secondly, letting me finish reduces the likelihood of having a large, grumpy, prig of a man in standing at your counter.
Congratulations Alice Springs. Mission accomplished. So what do I win for this past week? That yacht in the Caribbean would be my choice.

LETTERS: Todd bed should be dredged regularly.

Sir,– Re ‘Concerns over sacred Todd trees’ in last week’s issue:
We arrived in Alice in 1979, 30 years ago, and to get into the Todd River for the Henley-on-Todd celebrations we had to clamber down an embankment at least two metres high.
It became less the further north we walked so that at the back of the Totem Theatre the embankment had been worn away by drainage from rain which made it easier to negotiate.
Further north towards towards the Old Telegraph Station we had picnics in the bed of the river on flat rocks but once again we were down in the river bed so that we had to manage our tables, chairs, eskies etc down maybe one metre embankment.
I believe there had always been sand dredged out of the river bed and used to make the bricks for the building trade and cement companies.
In this way the river bed was always kept deep enough so that when in flood it did not immediately overflow into the town.
The Taffy Pick Causeway (Casino causeway) was a monumental blunder from day one. There should have been a bridge put there instead of the ‘not a bridge and not a causeway’ that was built.
The pipes under it have never been large enough to take all the debris that comes down in a flood.
In the 1988 flood there was tons and tons of sand brought down by every river and while it hasn’t impacted on the others, like the Finke and Hugh, the Todd should have immediately been cleaned out ready for the next flood.
From our own experience of camping out on the Hugh, we used to have to clamber over huge rocks when walking north up the river bed but after the 1988 flood we had a smooth sandy track, the rocks either being taken down further by the water or covered by the sand.
Are these trees, that have become so important to the AAPA, really sacred?
They probably only grew out of the sand that was brought down from the flood in 1983 or the big one in 1988 if taking the sand out from near them is exposing their roots or making them so unstable that they are falling over.
They have possibly only been there for less than 30 years. Is the age of the tree significant to it being sacred?
Just my thoughts on your article.
Val Mitchell
Alice Springs

Revenue shrinking

Sir,– The Northern Territory Government had thrown its full support behind the Rudd Government’s $42 billion stimulus package.
The package will deliver an estimated $200 million dollars for new infrastructure in the Territory.
We have agreed with the other States and Territories to spend the funds quickly to create further economic activity and support jobs.
Australia is facing the most serious economic downturn since the Second World War with most jurisdictions facing deficits as a result of declining revenues.
The sound financial management of the Northern Territory Government means the Territory’s own source revenue is holding.
However, our main source of revenue, the GST, is being significantly hit due to the sharp economic downturn caused by the global financial crisis.
This means our slice of GST revenue will come from a much smaller pie – and that will affect our bottom line, along with all the other states and territories.
We predict a deficit of about $47 million this financial year, and worsening to an estimated $150 million in 2009/10.
This Government’s six straight surpluses have us well placed to deal with the global financial crisis as we have been driving down debt and tackling our long-term superannuation liability.
The Government remains committed to delivering improved services in health, education and law and order and delivering record infrastructure while continuing to close the gap of Indigenous disadvantage.
The Northern Territory Government will do everything it can to protect the jobs of Territorians.
We will not slash and burn like the CLP Opposition is seeking – that would risk jobs and cut services.
The CLP Opposition’s promise to keep the Territory’s budget in surplus in this unprecedented global economic climate would see massive cuts to spending and jobs losses, resulting in a disastrous affect on the Territory economy.
I condemn the CLP for opposing this federal economic stimulus package which delivers about $200million in critical Territory infrastructure, and funds directly into the pockets of thousands of Territory families.
We welcome the libraries and science labs in our schools, $950 in people’s pockets and tax breaks for small and medium businesses.
Delia Lawrie

Debt growing

Sir,– The Treasurer’s announcement that the Territory will face a $200 million budget black hole in the next 18 months highlights the long term cost of Territory Labor’s failure to drive down debt.
Labor has been spending like a drunken sailor for eight years and now all Territorians will be left to pick up the bill.
Between coming to power and last year Labor benefited from an ever growing revenue stream. In 2001-02 the Territory had revenue of $2.2 billion, by last year that had grown to $3.78 billion.
Despite reaping billions of dollars of additional revenue, Territory Labor watched Government debt grow from $3.1 billion in 2001-02 to $4 billion last year.
Retiring debt during good economic times is prudent budget practice. The Coalition left the Federal Government debt free after inheriting a $90 billion debt from the Keating Government.
During the same time the Territory Government just added to the government credit card.
It’s also a great pity the Territory Government has spent the last five months pretending that Territorians will be largely immune from the world financial crisis.
By clinging to overly optimistic economic predictions the Treasurer has deliberately mislead Territorians about the state of the Territory’s finances. This must stop.
There will be difficult decisions about how to cope and those decisions will be better for an informed public debate.
The Treasurer needs to recognise the people of the Territory have the right to the full story about government finances.
John Elferink
Shadow Treasurer

Welcome back

Sir,– It’s great having you back from your vacation. I missed the local stories and comments. On this side of the world, Canada and the USA, there is nothing like it.
I look forward to every issue and hope one day to visit the Alice.
Thank you for letting me express my feelings about your paper and town and keep up the good work.
E. Mitchell
Winnipeg, Canada

Financial freefall

Sir,– With the unwitting (but understandable) willingness of borrowers, banks carelessly and greedily extended residential/personal credit, with no concern for the bigger picture.
The unsustainable, mounting pressure inevitably exploded, and plunged the world into ‘financial freefall’. Trouble is, the irresponsibility of banks has grievously hurt many people far beyond the area of operation of those lenders.
And the taxpayer has had to attempt to prop up the abysmal mess they have created, whilst CEOs walk away with $m handshakes. Tight lending guidelines are now required as follows:
1. No lender shall advance more than 70% of the contract price of the residential property.
2. Lenders shall ensure the borrowers’ repayments do not exceed 25% of the principal income earner’s net income at time of advance from the primary source of employment of not less than 12 months.
3. No home shall have more than one mortgage registered on title.
4. No unregistered mortgage shall be enforceable.
5. No borrower shall have more than one credit card. Every credit card debt incurred subsequent to the first card issued, shall be unenforceable after 90 days.
6. No credit card debt may be ‘attached’ to a residential mortgage.
7. No credit card interest rate shall exceed the ‘average’ home mortgage rate by more than 2%. Any rate exceeding this shall be unenforceable.
8. Any rate charged above the rate mentioned above, renders the directors/executive staff of the financial institution liable to penalty.
9. Every financial institution with percentages and/or rates exceeding the above after 90 days will be deemed to have all percentages and rates so reduced. Any enforcement action shall be so limited.
10. Any breach of the last point renders the directors / executive staff of the financial institution liable to penalty.
The above government intervention is required as neither lenders nor borrowers have demonstrated responsibility or restraint, necessary to avoid the current financial crisis having ramifications extending far beyond the interests of those parties.
Gavin Lawrie
Murwillumbah, NSW

Long-lost friend

Sir,– Just enjoyed seeing the wonderful film “Australia” –  what beautiful country! 
Many years ago as a child living in wartime England I knew a girl named Joan Livingstone. 
I now live in the United States and Joan lives in Alice Springs.  We met up again while we were both visiting England in 1995. 
I would like to get in touch with her but cannot remember her married name. Can anyone help?
Thank you.
Brenda Montgomery

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