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

Not interested in Centrecorp, royalties on track – Snowdon. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Federal Member Warren Snowdon says it’s up to the Central Land Council (CLC) to decide whether or not it tells Federal Parliament to whom it pays mining royalties, estimated at $35m a year.
This is notwithstanding that the CLC is operating under Commonwealth legislation, is a Commonwealth statutory body, and the money it distributes comes from the Commonwealth, in the form of mining royalty equivalents.
And Mr Snowdon says he has “no interest in pursuing” Senate questioning of the affairs of Centrecorp, the secretive Aboriginal investment company in which the CLC has a majority shareholding, and which is rumoured to have control of assets worth $100m.
Mr Snowdon spoke to the Alice Springs News on Sunday after CLC director David Ross failed to give answers to NT Senator Nigel Scullion, and took on notice further questions put to him by Queensland Senator and Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, during the latest Senate Estimates hearings (Alice News, March 5,
NEWS: The question raised by Senator Brandis was what happened with the mining royalties administered by the CLC. Senator Scullion had asked who received payments over the past three financial years, but got no answer.
SNOWDON: The royalties don’t belong to the land council. As I understand it, royalties go to organizations which are set up by traditional owners. They determine what happens to the royalties.
NEWS: So in your view there is no need for the land council to tell Parliament to whom it paid royalties.
SNOWDON: It doesn’t pay royalties.
NEWS: I understand it collects and then pays royalties.
SNOWDON: Royalties are made available by the Commonwealth Government to the land councils for distribution to organizations which are incorporated and set up to administer the funds. The land council oversights the administration. That is all.
NEWS: Is your view that the questions Senator Scullion asked and that Senator Brandis is now pursuing, should not be asked?
SNOWDON: I don’t mind what questions people ask.
NEWS: Should they be answered?
SNOWDON: The Opposition was in government for 11 years and did not ask them.
NEWS: Now they are asking them.
SNOWDON: Obviously it was OK then and now it is not. I don’t think they are relevant questions. The organizations are run responsibly. There have been issues in the past, prior to the setting up of these incorporated bodies, issues that needed to be responded to. I am not aware of any concerns expressed by the recipients of the royalties and the royalty associations themselves. They should be the ones you should direct the questions to, not me.
NEWS: My question was, should Senator Scullion receive an answer?
SNOWDON: It’s a matter for those people who receive the royalties. The land council will respond to questions it is legally required to respond to.
NEWS: It hasn’t given an answer so far.
SNOWDON: It may not be required to do so. That’s a decision they will make, not me. I have great confidence in land councils and NGOs to administer their affairs properly. Mr Ross is able to make a judgment whether the questions should be responded to.
NEWS: The Centrecorp issue has come up again in the Senate Estimates hearings. Mr Ross is, in fact, a public servant who works for an agency attached to the Commonwealth department headed up by Jenny Macklin ...
SNOWDON: No he doesn’t. The CLC is a Commonwealth statutory authority. It has its own rules.
NEWS: It answers to Jenny Macklin’s department.
SNOWDON: No. It answers to the Federal Parliament through its annual reports.
NEWS: But it doesn’t seem to be giving the answers, for example, about how many boards Mr Ross is sitting on, what Centrecorp is doing with the money in which it has an interest. The questioning is laboriously dragged out in Estimates sessions, six months apart and half an hour at a time.
SNOWDON: [The questioning is done] by people who have no interest in the concerns of Indigenous people, nor investing in them. From what I understand, Centrecorp is not a public corporation, it’s a private company and therefore it is able to invest in all manner of investments ... as it has done [extensively] in its home town. And that’s a good thing.
Mr Snowdon says he “read part of the transcript” of the Senate Estimates hearing on February 27 when Senator Brandis questioned Mr Ross for the second time.
“I have no interest in pursuing this,” says Mr Snowdon.
Mr Snowdon was an opponent to the NT Intervention under Mal Brough, Indigenous Affairs Minister in the Howard Government.
Now he is giving qualified support to the Intervention model just extended for three years by the current Minister, Jenny Macklin.
SNOWDON: There are some very positive aspects but there are clearly people who remain implacably opposed to some aspects of it.
NEWS: What are the aspects in the current intervention you’re not keen on?
SNOWDON: What I’m keen on or not keen on isn’t relevant, quite frankly. After 18 months of intervention there is still criticism from some quarters and some of it has a strong foundation.
NEWS: Which one?
SNOWDON: Aspects of the income maintenance, but there are also people speaking very strongly for the Intervention. We’re seeing the housing deficiency being addressed. We’re talking some hundreds of millions of dollars.
NEWS: Not much of it will be spent in Central Australia. [See “Centre poor cousin in $.6b housing scheme,” Alice News, April 17, 2008,]
SNOWDON: It’s done on the basis of where the need is greatest.
NEWS: What’s the difference between the Mal Brough and the Jenny Macklin intervention?
SNOWDON: A lot more consultation. There was no consultation with Brough. There is no longer the intention to appropriate land in the way Brough was appropriating land. We’re now reaching agreement on the issue of leasing of housing on communities. We’re in the process, I think, of finalizing negotiations here in town with Tangentyere [about the town camps]. People had some legitimate concerns about what had originally been announced by the former government.
NEWS: But there are still going to be leases and the housing is still going to be run by the NT Government.
SNOWDON: There will be leases which will be made available to the NT Government for public housing.
NEWS: Why is it taking so long?
SNOWDON: One of the things here is taking people with you. It’s been a particularly difficult issue here in Alice Springs. Tennant Creek people have reached agreement and are now getting the benefit of $50m in Commonwealth investment.
NEWS: Do you support the basic model that the land is going to be leased to the government housing authority, which will build and manage the housing?
SNOWDON: The important thing is that the underlying title remains with Aboriginal people. [Although there was always provision for it], historically no government, Commonwealth or Territory, sought leases for their own housing. What we’re seeing here is a remedying of a stupid mistake by previous governments. Aboriginal people can now be confident that the leases they give will be for 40 plus 40 years or 20 plus 20 years.
NEWS: What’s your preference as to time frame?
SNOWDON: I don’t have one, that’s up to the individual parties. What’s imperative is that people can be assured that they are not losing their land.
[The Tangentyere website says: “On 24th June 2008, the Executive of Tangentyere Council, representing all Housing Associations of the town camps of Alice Springs, voted unanimously to enter into 40 year leases with the Australian government, with further negotiations about the management of housing to be undertaken with mutual goodwill.
“The Australian Government has committed $5.3 million to begin upgrades as soon as possible.
“A total of $50 million has been offered by the Australian government for housing and infrastructure upgrades.”]
NEWS: What will be the role of Tangentyere in this process?
SNOWDON: I’m uncertain about the current negotiations but Tangentyere will still have an ongoing role, absolutely.
NEWS: What will it be?
SNOWDON: Providing services, as they have done and are continuing to do.
NEWS: Do you think they’ve done a good job in the last 25 years?
SNOWDON: Given all the circumstances I think they’ve done a very good job. [Consider] the failure of the [CLP] Northern Territory government to engage or recognize the town camps, and the failure of successive Commonwealth governments.
NEWS: The NT Government gave them their leases. 
SNOWDON: But no money.
NEWS: Tangentyere is getting $23m a year, from what we can make out.
SNOWDON: They may be getting $23m a year but there clearly has not been enough infrastructure, nor enough recognition given to the very heavy demands placed on the town camps by people traveling in from out bush over many, many years.

Camels: Waste or sell them? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Shooting 400,000 camels, leaving them to rot in the bush, their bones a risk of spreading botulism, or setting up an abattoir near Alice Springs, creating a new industry with 70 jobs, and the win-win situation of reducing the feral animals’ ballooning numbers, as well as striking a blow in the combat of world hunger.
It sounds like a no brainer, says cattle man Gary Dann, but that’s the choice facing the NT and Commonwealth governments.
Mr Dann says it reportedly costs $50 a head to shoot camels, or $20m for the herds roaming the NT, north-west of SA and the adjoining desert in WA.
Mr Dann says for $15m a multi-species killing works for cattle and camels could be built south of Alice Springs.
He is suggesting as a site a limestone hill near the entrance to the Brewer industrial estate.
The land is part of Northern Territory government owned Owen Springs, on the South Stuart Highway.
The drainage is ideal, says Mr Dann, power and water are close, and across the road is the Alice Springs jail, whose low-risk prisoners may be a ready resource of unskilled labour, roughly 70% of the works’ requirement.
Mr Dann says a throughput of 1000 beasts a week – 50,000 a year – would make an adequate dent into the feral herds now causing widespread environmental damage.
“We have buyers for the meat lined up,” says Mr Dann.
He says there would be no problem finding stockmen to muster and drove the camels which can walk 100 kms a day, going from outlying areas to trucking points.
This reduces the need for road transport, expensive and stressful for the animals.
He says about recruiting stockmen and drovers: “I’ve got a few blokes I can set up, and I can name three of four teams ready to start.”
The work and training to do it would be ideal for the large number of unemployed Indigenous people in the The Centre.
Trap yards with water and salt licks would be the most cost-effective way of mustering, once the animals are domesticated.
Some animals would be taken to slaughter, others left for a breeding herd to ensure an ongoing supply of stock.
The meat would be for human consumption, including export.
Mr Dann says camels have now been gazetted as game, animals that can be field shot for human consumption, like kangaroos and wild pigs.
Guidelines still have to be approved.
He says there have been outbreaks of botulism in the VRD, which can be fatal, after wild donkeys and horses were culled by shooting them from helicopters, and the carcasses were left to rot.
Mr Dann currently slaughters cattle in the Wamboden abattoir, north of Alice Springs, for his Charbray Meats butchery in the Yeperenye Centre, after an excellent rain season has provided high quality, organically bred beef herds in Central Australia.

Crusher made in Alice. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

They’ve got the smarts – having built their own crusher – and the drive to rid the bush of the thousands of abandoned cars, washing machines and refrigerators that make parts of our region look like a junk yard.
But red tape and lack of incentives to offset the falling prices for scrap metal are taking their toll.
Russell McDonough and Nicky Jettner, of Alice Springs Metal Recyclers (ASMR) in Ghan Road, have been operating out of Alice Springs for four years.
Says Ms Jettner: “Out in some of the communities they bury all the scrap metal. It doesn’t make sense burying materials like this when there are companies digging in other areas of Australia for the same product.
“Communities are calling us to go out and collect their scrap metal. We used to go out bush all the time, but without some assistance we are struggling to get by.”
In an age where looking after the environment has become such a priority, Ms Jettner cannot believe that the Northern Territory Government has not taken it upon themselves to support companies like ASMR to go out and clean up the bush. 
“Throughout the Territory we know there are huge amounts of scrap that can be recycled, but the cost of getting out to the communities and remote areas since the economic downturn has been near impossible.
“Scrap metal recycling businesses in Alice Springs would be booked out for the next two years, if we could get some financial assistance to go out there and collect it,” says Ms Jettner.
Prices for scrap have fallen from around $300 per ton during mid-2008 to around $100 per ton now.
Decreases in the price of fuel have helped but there are still costs for accommodation, away from home allowance, wages, licenses, and registration to be covered.
ASMR at present are barely breaking even.
Mr McDonough has built and designed his very own self-loading car press, known as “The Crusher” – there is no other like it in the world.
A qualified diesel mechanic, he decided to make the press in 2006 at a time when scrap metal prices were much higher.
The Crusher can prepare, crush and load more than 100 cars in a day, which can then be transported to Adelaide for recycling.
From there the recycled metal is sent to China and more often than not is used in the production of the cars, refrigerators and washing machines that may end up back in Central Australia.
Previously ASMR had relied on a machine provided by an interstate company, Sims Metal. When it became unviable for Sims to continue transporting their car press to Alice Springs, ASMR were facing the prospect of buying one of these monsters. Brand new it would have cost half a million dollars, maybe more, money they simply did not have.
Transporting cars uncrushed was not an option – the costs would simply be too high.
Making his own was  “hard work”, says Mr McDonough.
“I always believed we could build it – there were a lot of sceptics mind you,” he says.
It took him about six months on and off over two years.
He and his small team in the ASMR yard built everything themselves, mostly using recycled materials.
It ended up being a fairly expensive process, though nothing in comparison to the cost of a new machine. 
“The main manager from Sims came to Alice Springs and said our crusher was better than theirs,” says Ms Jettner proudly.
Since then ASMR have bought an excavator with a grab attachment, which Mr McDonough modified, that can get in and remove engines and other parts of a car that would otherwise have to be removed manually.
These parts are placed in a metal container, later collected and transported to the recycling plant with the main cargo – trailer upon trailer of crushed cars.

Scrap crash eases

There was a crash in the scrap metal market back in November for around three months, says David Koch, trading manager of Territory Metals.
Sims and One Steel, two of the major scrap metal buyers, appeared to have temporarily ceased purchasing at the end of 2008.
However, these companies have recently started buying again. 
Territory Metals, located near the old abattoirs at the end of Smith Street, have been operating in Alice Springs for five years, recycling all sorts of scrap from washing machines to old railway tracks.   
Mr Koch says “prices are a around third of what they were a year ago”.
They now pay 40 cents per kilo for cans, when they used to pay $1 per kilo.
The drop in price is across the board – copper, brass and aluminum have all decreased in value. 
The London Metal Exchange says prices are not likely to rise by much during the next 12 months.
At Territory Metals, Mr Koch says, “we just hope prices stabilize and increase slightly in the future”.
Transport costs remain high, despite the drop in fuel prices, because of Alice Springs’ distance from markets. 

Mining: good news and bad. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

The economic downturn is putting a halt to some mining projects in Central Australia, but others are going ahead.
Mining of deposits at Harts Range, 170km north of Alice Springs, and the Peko Tailings Project, some 14km southeast of Tennant Creek, are at a stand still –  just two examples of projects carrying the critical rider “pending finance”. 
Fortunately at least one new project and two exploration companies in Central Australia are continuing their activities.
Arafura Resources Ltd will begin constructing their rare earths mine at Nolan’s Bore in 2010.
Adelaide Resources Ltd will carry on exploring for gold and copper in the Tennant Creek area.
And Emmerson Resources Ltd are also continuing exploration in the Tennant Creek area.
At the moment these three companies all have money in the pot.
Arafura is progressing the Nolan’s project, some 135km north-west of Alice Springs, which is expected to have a life of at least 30 years.
Subject to regulatory approvals the company has recently negotiated financial support from the Chinese company, East China Mineral Exploration and Development Organisation (ECE). 
“Without strategic partnerships like ECE we may not have made it through the current economic situation,” says Arafura’s managing director, Alistair Stephens. “Partnerships like the one we have with ECE are necessary for mineral exploration developments.”
The future operation will “create jobs” and the mine will “put itself on the global map” for rare earths, used widely in efficency applications including hybrid transport.
“We have no intention of this being a fly in, fly out operation,” says Mr Stephens.
Procurement for construction should begin later this year and commencement for mining should start late 2011.
“There will be some external contractors. However, the intention is to source as much as we can locally from the Alice Springs region.”
At this stage it is anticipated that 50 to 100 full time positions will be required when the mine is fully operational.
Arafura expect to extract 20,000 tons of rare earths per year, meeting about 7% of the world’s demand by 2011.  
The main international markets for rare earths are in Japan, China and Europe.
It is likely that Arafura will sell the small amount of uranium recovered, but at present that is not confirmed.
Total expenditure has been put at $600m for the mine and the plant, but Mr Stephens expects costs to come down due to the competitive market and efficiency gains.
The mine will also produce phosphoric acid, a major component in  fertilizer production.
At present, Australia imports 500,000 tonnes a year. Nolans could supply 180,000 tonnes of that.
Adelaide Resources Ltd has not been put off by the economic downturn.
Even though there are “challenging times ahead, the company is in good shape”, says Chris Drown, managing director of the company.
“We have $7m in the bank, we can continue with our exploration programs,” he says.
Half the drilling costs of one of the Adelaide Resources 2009 NT exploration programs will be financed by the NT Government’s Bring Forward Discovery program, which offers incentive funding to mining exploration companies.
Confident that Adelaide Resources is searching in an area where large deposits of gold and copper are to be found, Mr Drown says, “We are a lot more cautious [in the current climate] in what we are doing, but ‘Rover’ is our flag ship project”.
The Tennant Creek area has historically been a place where large gold deposits have been discovered.
“It is an attractive target area because deposits in the area typically show good grades of gold and copper.”
Adelaide Resources expect to re-commence drilling in April or May.
Emmerson Resources Ltd (ERL) hopes to start drilling in the Tennant Creek area in April.
According to their December 2008 quarterly report,  ERL had a reserve of $11.5m.
Not so lucky, mining manager at Olympia Resources Ltd (ORL), Roley Carroll, says his company is “still investigating mining opportunities” at Harts Range. 
However, at present the “availability of funds has dried up” and the deposit – garnets and Alumino-magnesio-hornblend minerals (garnet sand) –  will  remain undisturbed.
When production eventually starts, the extracted product will be transported by truck to Alice Springs, then to Darwin by train.
The open pit mine would be expected to have a life of 15 to 20 years.
The extracted product would be predominantly used to produce abrasive sand, used in sand blasting.
Scheduled construction was due to start mid-2009 but the economic crisis means ORL are unsure about future developments.
“We’re no orphans,” says Mr Carroll, who is aware of plenty of other companies in the same situation.
Competing against international markets like Africa where the workforce is paid significantly lower wages, the heavy Queensland rains, and the copper price at a level it was at 30 years ago, are all contributing factors to the slowdown in the mining industry, says acting manager of the Peko Tailings Project, John Baker.
“There is a lot of competition internationally.  Australians won’t work for peanuts,” says Mr Baker.
“Due to the economic downturn, the project has officially shut down for three months.” 
The Peko Tailings Project has access to five million tons of a combination of gold, copper, colbalt and magnetite.
Halfway through last year the total product was valued at $900m.  Since the downturn the value has dropped by $400m.
The Peko Tailings Project is continuing some work with the gold deposits, but it’s uncertain how long this will last.
“The price of gold is fairly good, but if you produce gold you usually produce copper too.” 
Mr Baker says the price of copper is now around $2000 a ton, “the same price it was 30 years ago”. 
Until now, some $7m has been spent on stages one and two of the development.
Construction of a pilot plant and the installation of a magnetite separation plant was scheduled for mid-2009. Now there’s a question mark over an estimated 30 construction jobs.
If the project is revived the life of the mine is expected to be six to seven years, with approximately 15 people working at the plants. 
Stage three would involve installing a gold and copper plant, and at stage four, a cobalt plant.
In all the cost of development would come to around $17m.

Who will care for aging population? By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Low pay leading to staff shortages leading to burnout of existing staff – it’s a merry-go-round that aged care services, as well as the elderly themselves and their carers, would dearly love to get off.
Sharon Davis is the NT Regional Manager of Frontier Services, responsible for Old Timers and remote community care facilities in the NT.
Mrs Davis says trying to fill shifts in the workplace is a permanently frustrating situation.
“We burn out a lot of our staff, because of the shortage.”
Caring for the elderly is a demanding job, not always pleasant and often emotional.
“We are always worried about staffing levels and how to maintain our staff. We need to encourage younger people that caring for the elderly can be fun and it is a privilege to work with these people.”
The general perception of aged care has to change.  It’s “just not a sexy job”, says Mrs Davis, and something needs to be done to change the “negative image”.
Finding staff has been made more difficult since CDU discontinued part-time training courses and distance learning incentives. People used to be able to train in their own time and plan their shifts around this, but it’s is no longer possible, says Mrs Davis.
Old Timers has been given some government funding for training programs, but the problem is finding the people who want to be trained.
“With an ageing workforce it is scary.”
In order to continue to provide quality care Old Timers simply have to find workers from elsewhere, who sometimes stay and sometimes go.
“It is a risk we have to take,” says Mrs Davis. 
“If we had the option we would always choose locals over interstate.
“It would be much nicer to have the local staff who those being cared for can recognize, such as someone who a person taught at school, or someone known from the church or within the community.
“The bottom line is our funding from government for wages is not enough.” 
Old Timers is in the process of recruiting a training manager to run a training program in Alice Springs. Preferably the applicant will be Alice Springs based. There has been “some interest,” but the general feedback is that the “wages on offer are not enough”, says Mrs Davis.
There are Indigenous as well as other Australian residents at Old Timers and the proportion of Indigenous people is expected to increase.  Where they can Old Timers do employ Indigenous staff, but Mrs Davis says there are simply not enough ready and trained for this kind of work.
“It is really difficult to engage local people.
“If something drastic is not done we will not have any work-ready Indigenous employees.”
Older residents are also concerned about the impact of low pay and staff shortages on quality aged care services.
Noel Thomas and his wife Wendy have been in Alice for 20 years, 10 to 15 of them in the workforce, and are now retired here permanently.  
Says Mr Thomas : “In my opinion the services are deficient in every area.
“If we have a huge deficiency in the workforce now, what will it be like in the future?” he asks.
With community aged care, which aims to help the elderly stay in their own homes, Mr Thomas says there are problems with communication.
“Carers are not showing up. People are not being told about the cancellation.”
Raelene Beale cared for her father, Wallace (both pictured above), for five years after he had a stroke in 2003.
Mr Beale suffers from vascular dementia, a condition that deteriorates the body and causes memory loss and is now at Old Timers.
After her day at work Ms Beale goes to sit patiently by her father’s side, attending to his needs and keeping him company.
She wanted to keep her father at home and continue caring for him as she has been but says caring is “exhausting work” and without sufficient help it can be “extremely draining and isolating.” 
The aged care system can be hard to grasp, knowing where to go and who to speak to and what things mean, says Ms Beale.
Over the years it has been hard to find out exactly what she and her father are entitled to with each specific aged care package.
The Alice News also spoke to a man, who did not want to be named, looking after his wife at the Old Timers Village.
“Carers need more help in the home, so we can keep our loved ones with us, rather than having to put them in homes,” he said.
“The assistance we have received has been good but there just are not enough people available to help.
“Caring full time is exhausting. I would be up three or four times each night for my wife. It would be good to have more people around to help take the pressure off a bit.”
Ms Beale says a plan to better market aged care needs to be put in place, to draw and keep younger people in the industry.
“Aged care needs a re-birth,” she says.
Why are we not creating incentives for students to work in aged care, rather than working in tourism serving drinks from behind bars?
Why do we not actively get under-graduates working in aged care services, especially those in medical training, by subsidising their HECS – this could be an answer, suggests Ms Beale.
With people working longer and retiring wealthier and healthier, Mr Thomas argues that the government needs to provide greater incentives to encourage retirees to live their later years in Alice Springs.
The desert climate is an advantage, soothing to older people’s aches and pains, but nonetheless there have to be adequate services.
Mr Thomas says community aged care needs to undergo huge “infrastructure changes” and there needs to be more done to promote community aged care as an exciting and worthwhile career.
Workers in the mortgage bracket need a better income that aged care services provide.
“They would rather work at Coles or Woolies for an extra $5 per hour,” says Mr Thomas.
Margaret Gaff, chair of the NT policy group for the advocacy body National Seniors (which has more than 400 financial members in Alice Springs) is emphatic that agencies working so hard to provide aged care are under great stress.
“On a long term basis the double-shifts and extra hours due to lack of staff can be arduous,” she says.
She says the low levels of pay do not reflect the hard work and difficulties that carers endure day after day.
She says 71% of the NT aged care agencies report having staffing difficulties, which is more than anywhere else in the country.
This is a state, territory and federal government issue as well as an agency issue, says Mrs Gaff.
“We need to look at the whole industry.
“At the moment things are static as I understand.
“But by 2020 the number of people over 75 years will virtually double. So we need long term planning and that comes back to the federal government.
“Under the Howard government there was TAFE training, which encouraged more people into community service work. 
“A lot of people joined up, especially young people, but they ended taking different jobs elsewhere, due to low levels in pay.”
Taxation levels for the low paid should be reviewed, argues Mrs Gaff and the whole aged care industry “must ramp up its capacity”. 

Mall pokies: What a coincidence!

The review of the licensing application by the Town and Country to have 10 poker machines in its premises on Todd Mall was heard, and the license granted, just three days before Chris Burns, Minister for Racing, Gaming and Licensing released a statement to the media saying that the government will “cap the number of pokies in the Territory”.
The Licensing Commission say they did not have to notify objectors about the review of the application, which had initially been denied, and they didn’t.
As reported last week, Alice Springs resident Jocelyn Davies had objected to the application and was outraged to hear that it had been reviewed and approved without her knowledge.
Says a spokesperson for the Licensing Commission: “The Commission may advertise reviews but is not required under the Act to do so and did not in this case.”
The doors onto the mall at the Town and Country have been closed this week.
The News reported last week that they had been consistently open, with the poker machines inside easily seen by passers-by.
Says a spokesperson for the Licensing Commission: “The machines will not be turned on until [the Town and Country] comply with location requirements and the licensee has been told to ensure that [the machines] cannot be seen from the street.”
The owners of the pub did not respond to a request for comment.

CCTV monitoring may go to Darwin.

The Town Council may have driven the installation of CCTV in Todd Mall and now its million-dollar extension (funded by the NT Government) into other areas of the CBD, but Mayor Damien Ryan is reluctant to answer questions on its efficacy.
Those questions should be referred to the police – council’s role is to capture footage for the police, he says.
Council CEO Rex Mooney, however, says the system is improving.
Its role is “preventative” – “offenders are aware of the cameras” – and “evidentiary” – the footage is “useful in the courts”.
The system will deliver a “high degree of satisfaction”, says Mr Mooney, “particularly if and when monitoring is taken over by police in Darwin”.
Superintendent Sean Parnell, of the Alice Springs Police, says the force’s preferred option is to have monitoring done centrally and by “professionally trained operators”.
Transferring the monitoring function to police in Darwin is being “actively pursued”.
He says to date the Alice system has been of “limited value” to police investigations, mainly because of the part-time monitoring. 
He says it can be difficult for police to get hold of the footage “in real time” – as an offence is occurring or even on the same day.

They told me: Go take a flying leap! By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Efforts to reduce our carbon footprint are dwarfed by the emissions from air travel and while a visit to family and friends can’t easily replaced by a video conference, many a government meeting surely could.
On January 29, I began enquiring into the number of flights being made by government officials in the Northern Territory.
Richard O’Leary was Director of Communications during financial year 2007-2008.
I asked him about total expenditure on air travel in 2000, 2005 and 2008, in an attempt to see whether it is increasing or decreasing?
I also asked about the the purposes of the travel.
Mr O’Leary told me I should contact the 28 agencies within the government departments and address my questions to them.
In a quick search on the NT Government website I was unable to locate these 28 agencies.
I then directed my questions to the media advisors of each Minister, each Minister being responsible for a number of different departments and thus their agencies. I expected that the media advisors would either respond directly, or forward my request to the appropriate agencies.
In order to have a point of comparison I also spoke to Jill Bottrall, media adviser to the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann.
We discussed Government Air Travel and the main reason it is needed within the South Australian Government.  Flights have to be taken by the Government for business developments overseas, to “help stimulate the economy,” says Jill Bottrall. 
Ms Bottrall said travel is an unavoidable part of government business.
Instead of flying all over the country why don’t public servants communicate through systems like Skype, iChat and video conferencing  to save on unnecessary air miles?
Installing the facilities would cost money, said Ms Bottrall; video technology is used in health services for remote areas and could “quite possibly be used more” in the future.
But for most government meetings, it simply is not practical, she argued: people need to discuss items in person; phone hook-ups don’t work; Ministers are in and out of rooms all day; there are separate meetings, private meetings, this is “the nature” of the business.
This discussion with Ms Bottrall turned out to be far more than I would get from anyone in the NT (although the Department of Health and Families issued a general statement).
January 30 I received a response to my initial questions from five of the media advisers for NT Ministers, including from the current Director of Communications, Geoff Fraser.
Each gave a similar response: “I believe my colleague Richard O’Leary has spoken to you about this matter.”
February 2, I contacted Mr O’Leary again, explaining that I had contacted the media advisers for each department.
“The appropriate people to contact are the agency representatives. There are 28 agencies which come under the umbrella of Departments – which means some Departments have more than one Minister – therefore you’ll need to contact the agencies directly. I’m sorry if this has caused any inconvenience.”
I requested the contact details for these 28 agencies.
Prompt reply: “The NT Government switch number is 89995511 – they can connect you to each agency… thanks, Richard.”
So I called the switchboard.
The operator could not give me the contact details of the 28 government agencies. We went through the list of contacts I had found on the website. Between us we could only find 21 agencies. Unable to help any further the operator directed me to Heather Slaven who works directly for Chief Minister Paul Henderson. Ms Slaven re-directed me back to Richard O’Leary.
February 3 I emailed Mr O’Leary:
I had contacted the switchboard as he’d advised; I had found 21 agencies on the website; the switchboard given me the details of two more departments missing from the online list (Regional Development: Primary Industry Resources, and the Department of Justice); this brought the total  to 23; could he please direct me to the missing five.
Mr O’Leary called that afternoon. It turns out there are in fact only 23 agencies – ha!
February 5, I received a statement from the Department of Health and Families, explaining that most air travel by the department is for “clinical purposes”.
Air travel is used for “transporting doctors, nurses and other front-line staff to places where road travel would be time consuming, and wasteful”.
Aircraft are also used to transfer patients needing to access higher level care within a short timeframe. However, “for some time” the department has encouraged staff to use communications technology (such as tele- or video-conferencing) when this can be substituted for travel.
February 6, Terry Mills, Country Liberal’s Opposition Leader released a media statement, “calling for the establishment of a high-level Efficiency Committee to scrutinise areas of Government spending in a bid to eke out much-needed savings for Territory taxpayers.
An Efficiency Committee could look at such shameful wastage with a dispassionate eye – and advise the spendthrift Chief Minister and his cabinet on possible savings.”
February 7, I contacted the Shadow Treasurer John Elferink. He suggested we put the enquiry on the message board that goes out across the NT Government, but this can be a long process.
I decided to email each NT Government Minister directly. 
The first response I received was from Natasha Fyles, media adviser to Minister Karl Hampton: “The appropriate people to contact are the agency representatives.”
I spoke to John Rawnsley at Minister Alison Anderson’s office. Mr Rawnsley advised that I go to Parliament House in Canberra, to seek an overall figure for the NT government expenditure on air travel in previous years. That could be a start.
On February  11, in response to an email from me, Terry Hanley, Secretary Public Accounts Committee at Parliament House wrote, “I do not have access to the information you seek.  I would suggest that in the first instance you contact the Dept of the Chief Minister.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Leaked report canes IAD.

A confidential report on financial management systems at the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD), leaked to the Alice Springs News, shows funding for the Indigenous Education Programs at the institute in 2007 was overspent by more than $400,000.
The review, by a Certified Public Accountant, was concluded  in August 2008.
Its purpose was to examine IAD’s financial systems, policies and procedures and report any shortcomings and  deficiencies to the institute’s board.
It found “serious issues” in the institute’s Financial Acquittal and Assets Register for Indigenous Education Programs (IEP), with overspending in four separate programs.
The smallest overspend was $508.77, and the largest, $419,590.02.
The total overspend was $441,077.50.
The review noted: “This will have a detrimental effect on the institute’s ability to balance its end of year accounts and will likely cause a deficit to be reported for 2007/2008 financial year.”
The review also reported on a carry forward of federal government funds worth over $100,000 that had not been processed.
The amount ($114,803.09) had not been entered onto the 2007 Audited Financial Acquittal; instead a nil amount was indicated.
The review commented: “The auditor should be held accountable for such a significant financial reporting oversight.”
A group of prominent local Aboriginal people, members of IAD, including its former chair, Neville Perkins, OAM, is calling for the suspension of funding to IAD and an “urgent independent audit investigation” of its financial operation and management.
Mr Perkins has taken his concerns to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard.
The Alice News made several attempts to contact former director and current chair of the IAD management committee, Janice Harris, but had not received a reply at the time of going to press.
See also:

Divine geometry links us to the earth.

The Ever Present Past is the alluring title given to the latest offering from Peta Appleyard Gallery – an exhibition of limited edition lithographs, screenprints and etchings from the Sandover region.
Master printmaker Basil Hall, of CDU’s Northern Editions, collaborated with the artists to make the prints at the “turn of the millennium”.
The 21 works, under the title Apmer Mwerrangker (Beautiful Country), are to go on tour, including to international venues.
Naryan Kozeluh, who has worked closely with the Sandover artists over many years, spoke movingly at the opening on Saturday:–
There are too many kumanjays, and it is to those beautiful old men and women who have now passed away that I’d like to dedicate this exhibition.
We stand in the middle of an oral tradition where everything is interconnected and nothing is hidden.
If we can understand the power of a silent language and the images that nurture it, then, perhaps it strikes at our own hearts and awakens something deep within us.
If we look at the images we see the very ancestors who created and populated all that surrounds us. Apmer (country) is at the very core of existence.
Modern society has constructed a world of concrete and steel to protect us from the natural world. These images were created to bring us closer to the very earth beneath our feet.
Kangaroo, Possum, Emu, Morning star, Caterpillar, Bush Plum, Honey ant, Kame; the poetry of names and the power of silence all contained within the boundaries of etched metal plates, paper and printing.
These artists are some of the pearls of the Alyawarr and Anmatyerr homelands, known to us as simply Utopia.
Divine geometry, as the famous French photographer  Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, “you’ve either got it or you haven’t and if you have, then it will come out in everything you do”.
Here are some examples of that Divine geometry.

Pop Vulture with CAMERON BUCKLEY: A blissful hand grenade of a film raises bar for comic adaptations.

The genre of comic book (or in this case graphic novel) transfer to cinema is becoming not just a broken down record player, but a broken down record player in a room full of broken down record players in a suburb purposefully reserved for broken down record players.
So when a blissful hand grenade lands, to blow apart the preconceptions of the cynically critical eye of this genre’s audience, other cinema goers need to know about it.
Riding the coat-tails of the past decade’s adaptation successes (Sin City, Iron Man, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), Watchmen has finally arrived.
This movie will dissolve and recreate the image of the superhero. 
The picture is set, grippingly, in a world that could have easily existed – atomic conflict stretching the Cold War into the better part of the 1980s, President Nixon in his third term, superheros that kill, rape and neglect to the point of self destruction.
It has been said that this film was partly created in fear of the comic’s cult following tearing holes in its every frame with ultra-biased scrutiny.
Although Watchmen isn’t suitable for mass consumption, sometimes the consensus needs art jack-hammered into their frontal lobes.
The production was placed on back burners for many years, until Zack Snyder, of 300 fame, took the reins and made a triumphant landmark, a magnanimously perverse look into a maverick reel to reel that was long overdue.
Pop Vulture rating: 832/1000.

Young artists in fine form. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The audience for the launch of the first magazine devoted exclusively to Australian Aboriginal art were treated to a performance by dancers from Bangarra Dance Theatre at Araluen last Saturday.
The dance came in two parts, with a trio, two men and a woman, delivering a muscular choreography drawing its inspiration, it seemed, from the natural world, followed by a solo male dancer (at left) whose presence had more mythological aura.
As he moved plumes of white ash or pigment rose from his body like a halo into the light – an arresting image.
A second treat was to hear from Daniel Walbidi (at right), a 25 year old artist from Bidyadanga, a community near Broome.
He spoke of the desire and sense of personal responsibility to share his culture that has driven him to paint, and also of the importance of magazines in overcoming his “limited access” to the art world.
Magazines had enabled him to see what his “countrymen” were doing, in particular work from “this country” (the Centre), including that of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, had “ignited” his desire to paint.
The new magazine couldn’t have hoped for a better endorsement.
Mr Walbidi went on to thank all present for “embracing” Aboriginal people, culture and art – a touching and unusual gesture from an Aboriginal speaker in my experience.
These five young Aboriginal artists – the dancers and Mr Walbidi – gave a fine impression of the on-going vigour of Aboriginal culture and its encounter with contemporary forms and the outside world.
Guest speaker Judith Ryan, senior curator of Indigenous art at the National Gallery of Victoria, spoke of the way Aboriginal art had achieved a “reconception of the continent” for all Australians; of it having thrown off the ethnographic tag and taken its place in the “global mainstream visual culture”; of it being a “tradition of today, not yesterday”; of the “political” meaning in its assertion of identity and connection with the land.
Aboriginal art demands “serious art historical inquiry”, she said, and the magazine would go some way towards responding to that, “rather than giving vent to the perpetual concerns of investigative journalists intent on exposing instances of corruption and greed”.
(This last was an unfair shot, I thought, as these “perpetual concerns”, whether or not they’ve been wrong-footed, have been driven as much from within the Aboriginal art industry as by journalists.)
The magazine, a lavishly illustrated quarterly with its major articles translated into French, was available for sale from yesterday. Its editor-in-chief is Steve Bush, the man behind Art World Magazine.

LETTERS: Under attack from midget camels?

Sir,– A recent document published by the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) addressing the feral camel issues and the environmental impact of the feral herd has  a series of three photos highlighting feral camel damage in the desert zone.
Plates (a) and (b) are without any doubt camel damage to the trees as the damage shown is high in the trees.
However, plate (c) shows damage done to mulga trees a mere few feet from the grond.
 Anyone familiar with the eating habits of camels and cattle would know that this damage was created by cattle, unless if there is a herd of midget camels wandering around the desert eating the plants and trees from such a short height.
I suppose this is possible but I’ve never seen such an animal in many years of camel trekking throughout many of the arid zone regions in Australia.
Also, in the same report, a smashed toilet is photographed and reported as camel damage. I have seen similar damage done to toilets in many locations around Australia, including island communities in Arnhem Land where camels do not exist. There are five large rocks in and around the destroyed toilet.
If anyone can inform me how a camel could use these rocks to destroy a toilet to such a degree, I would be interested to know such information.
On the same page is a photo of a windmill totally pulled down to the ground. What biomechanics would a camel need to create such damage, considering such structures are designed for extreme weather conditions and harsh environments?
There has been a staggering figure of $20 million flagged from the Australian Federal Government to address the feral camel issues in the desert regions of Australia.
The very amount is an indication of the seriousness of the rising feral camel numbers.
This ‘one hit wonder’ of cash is quickly heading towards a massive culling program but based on the cost of previous culling programs, this would eliminate no more than 300,000 head of camels from the landscape. with no opportunity for using the meat, leather and other products from the culled camels.
Given the current growth rate of the feral camels in Australia being an extra 100,000 per year, in three years’ time, the government would need to once again inject a similar dollar figure (not taking into account inflation), just in order to maintain the feral camel numbers to what they are today – estimated at 1.4 million.
Is the Australian tax payer prepared in these financially trying times to accept such a direction to address this issue, or is there a more economically and environmentally favorable way?
Would it not be more favorable to challenge the government to use three quarters of the $20 million in training programmes for local Aboriginal communities in camel mustering, handling and processing of camel meat for overseas and local markets, along with developing the necessary infrastructure for this emerging market.
There are the cashed up buyers for camels wanting hundreds of thousands of camels but currently being hindered by the lack of infrastructure for the removal and processing of camels and the red tape involved at a state and federal level. There are three main buyers with the finances for such volumes of camels and they have been waiting for many years for the infrastructure issues to be addressed.
The other quarter could be used for culling programmes as directed by the traditional owners on the Aboriginal lands where necessary, such as for the preservation of sacred sites and public safety.
Russell Osborne
Alice Springs

Mining Milions

Sir,– Regarding ‘Where are mining millions ?’ in last week’s issue, why should we hold David Ross of the CLC accountable?
He could never have conceived such an elaborative, convoluted and evasive scheme.
Perhaps a legal rats nest might think of such skullduggery, but I cannot imagine who that might be?
Let’s not hide, come out little weasels, into the bright sun. Convince us you have nothing to hide.
You know who I mean, those weasel puppeteers, who use people as puppets and when the crap hits the fan all shout, “Not me … not me, I was just a weasel”.
N.M. Kozeluh
Alice Springs

Mall rampage

Sir,– The streets of Alice Springs were out of control again last Tuesday night as gangs of youths as young as nine and 10 years old were on the rampage. Large groups of drunken adults were fighting on the council lawns and Leichhardt Tce for hours.
My wife and I were called out at 10.30pm as the security patrols in Todd Mall reported via Alice Springs Police smashed windows to our premises once more.
The security patrol advised that they were unable to contain the youths who were fighting and taunting them from about 9.30pm onwards. Every time they moved them on they retaliated by kicking and punching the windows of the nearest businesses.
I rang the Alice Springs Police for assistance and this is what I was told by the operator: “I am sorry but we’ve only got two units on tonight, all hell has broke loose, one unit is with some bloke who has been stabbed and the other is attending a woman who is being punched in the face! We will send someone as soon as possible.”
I wrote this at 9am the next day and there still had not been anyone attend as far as I know!
I believe there are hundreds of people in roaming the streets of Alice who have not returned home to their communities since the AFL football match on the weekend.
I have been told the “return to country” program was not put in place this year.
Steve Strike
Alice Springs
ED – Mr Strike sent his letter last Wednesday to politicians on both sides of parliament, the mayor of Alice Springs and to public servants.

Born free

Sir,– Back in those heady days of protest in the 1960s, a spokesman for the Black Panthers made the observation that they were not asking the US government for freedom.
They had been born free.What they were asking for was that the government take its foot off their necks.
The Intervention is an example of our government trying to take its foot off the necks of First Australians.
If individuals are unable to read and write, have no numeracy, are in poor health from diet and substance abuse, and are unemployed and unemployable, the vagaries and changes in government welfare policy will be all their life. 
If added to that cocktail is an inability to communicate in the national language, then any chance of escaping a life of welfare dependency will be close to zero.
The former Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, has been castigated for his rough implementation of the Intervention. 
But how else was he or anyone to cut through the Gordian Knot of Big Man politics that had led First Australians up such a cul-de-sac?
Our current Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, has softened the rhetoric and put a kinder face to it.  But to its great credit the Rudd government will continue the Intervention.   I think in time Mal Brough will be acknowledged as the visionary he was and those who opposed him as rocks in the road.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

ADAM'S APPLE: The nan in my life.

I am on a quest. A quest akin to the those of Jason or Frodo Baggins or even Grant Denyer on Australia’s Got Talent.
 A quest to find the ultimate, the pinnacle, the apex. A quest that is less about the final destination and more about the journey.
 I do not know how long the journey will take or where it will lead me, all I know is that it must be taken and with vigour.
 My grandmother unwittingly set me on my course. As a child I would be dropped off at her home in the wee small hours so that mum and dad could get to work. During my time with my nan she showed me things. Things that every young boy is shown at the appropriate time. Things that would one day form him into a man.
 It might appear strange to the women reading this but our grandmothers are just as essential in the formulation of the man a boy becomes as any male influence.
 Nans are from a past era. They have doilies and wooden ducks on the wall. They know how the world works and will tell you freely without parental judgement.
 Nans haven’t read all the latest literature on parenting. They don’t need to. They’ve been parents for decades. They couldn’t care less what the Australian Journal of Infant Medicine says about effective ways of beating a fever. They know that the only way to beat a fever is a lot of sleep interspersed with flat lemonade and a musk stick.  
 They know that please and thank you are good words for a young man to say and they also know that wearing the crocheted turquoise cardigan they made you will prepare you for manhood in ways no book or three day seminar ever could.
 My nan was born just before the Great Depression. She was raised in a time of great nation building. Hard work, sacrifice and struggle.
She fell in love during World War 2. She raised five kids in the 50s and 60s suburban fibro utopia of inner south western Sydney. A world that no longer exists.
She has seen in her 81 years more than a third of white Australian history and through it all she swears blind that she’d prefer bread and dripping and a cup of Bonox to bruschetta and a soy latte any time.
 And that’s the point really. My nan and nans like her have lived a full and wonderful life without the unnecessary complexities modern life requires. Nan has never owned a computer or even a debit card. Life for my nan is uncomplicated but at the same time brilliantly rich.
 There’s no need to calorie count in my grandmother’s world. All you have to do is get out of the house, do some hard work and don’t eat too many vanilla slices. I wonder how many billions of dollars might have been saved by the western world if they just took a bit of notice of what nan had to say. How many life coaching, diet books might not be choking the book shelves of people across the world if nan had got there first.
 Nan’s philosophy is “work hard and eat well”. And eat well we did at nan’s house. It is here that my quest begins. It may once again come as a surprise to non-male readers but a man’s appetite is forged by the women in his life. If your man likes his eggs drowned in tomato sauce, it’s probably thanks to his nan.
 Man food is the natural evolution of nan’s kitchen. Now when I talk of man food I don’t mean frat house food. There is a common misconception that something like a beef and doughnut, double decker pizza is man food. It is not. That’s just disgusting.
 No, man food is simply gastronomy meeting masculinity. And I am on the quest to find the ultimate man food.
 All I know so far is that it is probably a meat based dish. I’m fairly certain bacon is involved and the ability to cook said dish with a beer in one hand is probably a pre-requisite.
I haven’t found it yet. I think I may have found a couple of dishes that make it into the top ten but the holy grail is out there somewhere.
 Like all good quests, I pretty sure the grail isn’t that far away from the starting point.
Sure a quest might take you around the globe but most end up near the beginning. I’m sure the ultimate man food is here in Alice Springs. Come on blokes. Call your nan. Let’s uncover the mystery together.

Back to our home page.