March 19, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Centrecorp lid is off. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

After two decades of secrecy a Federal Government report has popped the lid off the Aboriginal investment company, Centrecorp, in which the Central Land Council (CLC) has a three-fifths controlling stake, and whose major ventures are the Yeperenye Shopping Centre, Peter Kittle Motor Company and the King’s Canyon Resort.
The report, released last week from Federal Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner’s office, raises the company’s dismal performance in creating Aboriginal employment, issues of conflicts of interest, flawed financial reporting, and it resolutely puts paid to Centrecorp’s stock claim that as a Pty Ltd company it has no obligations to answer to the public about its affairs.
Findings leave open the question of whether the CLC, through its director David Ross, has misled Federal Parliament and breached the law under which it operates.
The report says while “Centrecorp is a very successful private organisation” greater openness is required because the company has received more than $25m (including about $4m in loans) from the Australian Government, and “because it was established for the benefit of Aboriginal people in Central Australia.
“For this reason it is important that it take steps to significantly improve the transparency of its operations.”
A similar case has been made by the Alice Springs News in its reports on the affairs of Centrecorp over several years, only to have our questions consistently stonewalled by Centrecorp and the CLC.
The report repeatedly mentions local and national news reports and suggests measures that would “improve [Centrecorp’s] public profile and reduce reputational risks.
“The absence of any form of public reporting by Centrecorp, which was established for the benefit of Central Australian Aboriginal people, demonstrates a lack of transparency.
“It also provides further weight to claims made in the media as the beneficiaries of Centrecorp do not have access to any other information.
“Centrecorp should consider how it can provide more public knowledge about its objectives and strategies for providing benefits to Aboriginal people in Central Australia.”
Reports published by the Alice News have been drawn on by the national Fairfax press, but no other local medium has paid significant attention to the subject, except a puff piece in 2008 by the Centralian Advocate, based on spin clearly fed to them by Centrecorp and devoid of independent research and analysis.
Centrecorp, having for years abrogated its responsibility of public accountability, with “no comment” as the routine answer to our questions, claims in reply to the report that any reliance on media would be “inept”.
The report, originally commissioned by the Howard Government, does not seek to put a value on the worth of the Centrecorp holdings, widely estimated at $100m, at least before the “great recession”.
It says some assets are “recorded at cost” of their initial acquisition, plus dividend income.
For 2006-07 the consolidated net asset position for Centrecorp’s two trusts was put at $10.9m.
But with the possible exception of King’s Canyon, these assets are likely to have grown substantially in value, especially Peter Kittle Motor Company, which under the management of local businessman Peter Kittle has grown into a car empire with dealerships now in Alice Springs, Adelaide, Tennant Creek, Port Lincoln and Whyalla.
Centrecorp has a 50% stake.
Says the report: “Given the profitability [of Peter Kittle Motor Company] in the years since 1991, and the fact that the business is classed as a ‘BRW top 500 company’, the current market value of the business is likely to be considerably higher than that recorded in the [trust] financial statements.
“Centrecorp do not produce ‘group accounts’.
“It is not therefore possible to identify the exact current value of their various investments.”
Information in the report may indicate that the CLC is, or has been, in breach of the legislation under which it operates, and that CLC director David Ross may have misled Parliament in recent Senate Estimates Hearings.
Shadow Attorney General George Brandis asked Mr Ross, who according to the report gets $63,528 a year in director’s fees, on February 27 whether Centrecorp “does nothing else than act as a trustee of the two trusts” Mr Ross had named.
Mr Ross replied: “It’s a trustee only.”
Brandis: “It’s a trustee only. The only thing it does is administer those two trusts. Is that right?”
Ross: “That’s it.”
Yet the report shows that Centrecorp is holding shares “beneficially” in four companies, including 60% of Yeperenye Nominees Pty Ltd.
The report says under the Land Rights Act, “Land Councils can not incur financial liability or receive financial benefit in assisting Aboriginal people with commercial activities”.
The Alice News has drawn attention to this clause repeatedly over the years, in reports about Centrecorp and the CLC (see our online archive).
The reports states the legal requirement but does not draw a conclusion.
But it recommends that “Centrecorp review the share holding details recorded on the ASIC company register to ensure that they accurately reflect the nature of their share holding”.
Centrecorp’s clipped response: “Agree. Actioned.”
The Alice News wanted to ask the CLC and Centrecorp when and how this may have been “actioned” but the company and its majority shareholder are clearly unmoved by the government’s urging to become more transparent: They didn’t respond to our emails.
Meanwhile Federal Member Warren Snowdon, when asked about Centrecorp by the Alice News last week, said: “I have no interest in pursuing this.”
He seemed oblivious to the fact that the government, in which he is a Minister, was about to release a report, partly damning, about the most significant Indigenous commercial venture on his own patch.
He also clearly ignored widespread outrage from his constituents about Centrecorp’s policy of silence.
The author of the report, the Office of Evaluation and Audit – Indigenous Programs (OEA), says Centrecorp is a private company, registered in 1985.
Its objective is to “undertake and implement activities which further the economic and social development of Aboriginals and which are conducive to the advancement of Aboriginals.”
Following negotiations by the CLC of a corridor to accommodate the NT Gas pipeline, Centrecorp was created to hold a 1.5% interest in NT Gas.
Says the report: “Over the years ... Centrecorp has established a network of trusts and corporations to invest in a variety of business interests.
“The Centrecorp entity does not operate as a trading organisation and does not prepare financial statements.
“Rather, Centrecorp’s trading activity is recorded in the financial statements of two charitable trusts, Central Australian Aboriginal Charitable Trust (CAACT) and Central Aboriginal Charitable Trust (CACT), of which Centrecorp is trustee.”
Centrecorp investments, with Centrecorp’s share in brackets, include the real estate agency, L J Hooker (50%); Milner Road Food Town supermarket (50% – Tangentyere Council holds the balance) and hardware retailer, Mitre 10 (50%).
The report says: “It is important to note that the Peter Kittle Motor Company, Kings Canyon Resort [33% – Voyages have 46%] and Yeperenye Pty Ltd investments have been supported by Government funding.
“Accordingly, they are the main focus of this audit.”
The bulk of the Federal investment, $19.6m, was a share transfer in 2005 to Yeperenye Nominees Pty Ltd from Indigenous Business Australia.
Centrecorp has a 60% share in Yeperenye, and 40% is held by the Alice Springs native title body, Lhere Artepe.
Federal grants for the acquisition of Centrecorp’s interest in Peter Kittle Motor Company was $1.3m, including “consultant fees associated with [the] purchase of shares”, amounting to a staggering $190,000.
A further $190,000 was paid as a loan.
The Feds paid $4.8m to Centrecorp for the purchase of shares in King’s Canyon Resort, of which all but $200,000 was a loan, now repaid.
Lack of transparency isn’t the only bone the OEA has to pick with Centrecorp.
The extremely poor record in Aboriginal employment is another.
Of Centrecorp’s 241 staff only 20 or 8.3% are Aboriginal.
None are employed by L J Hooker, nor – amazingly – by King’s Canyon Resort, which has a staff of 72.
Says the report: “One of the original motivating factors for Centrecorp’s involvement in the initiative was the prospect of generating significant employment opportunities for residents of local Indigenous communities.
“There are two communities (Lila and Luypinyali) located within reasonable proximity to the [King’s Canyon] Resort.
“These communities have no other significant employment opportunities and as a result exhibit high levels of unemployment.”
Whilst the communities don’t see fit to provide any workers for the resort, in which they have a one-third share, they see nothing wrong with accepting a handout from the resort of $25,000 a year for aircraft “fly-over” rights.
Says the report: “A range of employment initiatives have been trialled over the 17 years since the resort was created [including] the facilitation of guided nature tours of the local area by Indigenous guides, Lila rock art tours, employment of Indigenous staff in a range of gardening, laundry and site maintenance activities and the assistance in the establishment of a local transport business (which has since ceased trading).
“Unfortunately, none of these initiatives have, so far, been successful in enabling the long-term employment of local Indigenous people.”
Dividend from King’s Canyon fell from $506,000 in 2001/02 to $157,000 in 2004/05, with nothing paid in the following two years. That’s a six year average of just $187,000.
Says the report: “The profitability of the project has been mixed in recent years and a series of significant capital expenditure requirements have meant that shareholder disbursements to CAACT have historically been relatively low in comparison with the ATSIC loan repayments of $456,296 per year which was paid by the CAACT.
“This has meant that for the past five financial years the CAACT has facilitated the ATSIC loan repayments by funds from other investments’ dividend payments.”
Dividend payments from Peter Kittle Motor Company fell sharply from $787,000 in 2001/02 to $358,954 in 2006/07 with the average at $340,000.
Yeperenye paid no dividends.
Says the report: “Yeperenye Pty Ltd has been operating profitably for a number of years.
“Historically the profits have been reinvested in the business in the form of capital expenditure and purchasing new assets (commercial property).”
In 2006/07 the Centrecorp trusts had a consolidated net profit of $507,000 and its two trusts paid $235,000 in charitable donations. Centrecorp’s charitable donations – $1.18m since Centrecorp’s inception or $59,000 average per year – are the subject of extensive comment in the report.
It says: “There are no common procedural guidelines in place across the network of organisations to guide those responsible for making donations on the types of activities to be supported, the reporting arrangements to be employed and process to be followed where a potential conflict of interest is found to exist.
“OEA recommends that Centrecorp review and revise its donation policy to ensure that it provides clear guidance to the board, management and potential applicants in the administration and payment of donations.”
A proposed charitable foundation “would provide a sole outlet for charitable donations that are administered on an arms-length basis by an independent foundation board, thus allowing Centrecorp management to focus on commercial activities.”
OEA also recommends that “Centrecorp consider and develop clear rules and procedures for the declaration and management of potential conflicts of interest, possibly through a code of conduct.
“This may involve initiatives such as restrictions on voting rights where a potential conflict exists; requiring a member to leave the meeting while a subject involving a potential conflict is discussed; and/or maintaining a register of members’ pecuniary and other interests so that there is transparency over where potential conflicts may exist.”
Centrecorp’s reply: “No Centrecorp Directors have financial or pecuniary interests in either Centrecorp, its related entities or any other commercial entity.”
That’s a brave statement to make in a society with a most extensive web of family, clan and tribal obligations.
While the report is wide-ranging, it notes that Centrecorp imposed restrictions on the review: “OEA was not provided with access to the Centrecorp, CAACT, CACT or Alice Car Centre Pty Ltd [Peter Kittle Motor Company] board minutes and supporting papers as management indicated that they are likely to include commercially sensitive papers that do not relate to the commercial entity supported by Government funding.
“Certain commercial-in-confidence information is not contained in this report.”
It is available at

Council turns one, tackles big issues: law & order, litter. By KIERAN FINNANE.

One year into their term the Eleventh Alice Springs Town Council is practising the art of the possible.
On law and order they forced the Territory Government’s hand with the temporary recruitment before last Christmas of a security patrol for Todd Mall.
It was a relatively expensive exercise – $20,000 – but it bought the town a government response worth much more .
The Territory Government is footing the bill for security patrols in the mall until a shopfront police substation opens there in July.
Now with litter control, council is at it again, even if the government tried to wrest the initiative from them.
Since February Mayor Damien Ryan and officers have been communicating with the government about council’s novel approach.
It involves using council’s ability to raise charges, provided for by Section 157 of the Local Government Act, to exact a yet-to-be-specified sum from those ratepayers owning property leased by takeaway liquor licensees.  
The proposed charge responds to the fact that half of the tonnage of litter
picked up in public areas around the town consists of liquor containers, with green VB cans the major culprit.
Council spends some $630,000 a year on removing away-from-home litter.
Add to this the effort of Correctional Services gangs – grog-related litter accounts for most of their activity from Tuesdays to Fridays (on Mondays they devote themselves to illegal dumping).
Council intends to raise around $350,000 from the new charge.
On Monday night aldermen debated, in the confidential part of their meeting, just how the charge would be shared across the relevant group of ratepayers.
If the charge were going to relate to volume of sales, the two supermarket-associated liquor stores, Liquorland at Coles and Mac’s Liquor at Woolworths, as well as the Todd Tavern and Gapview takeaways stand to carry the greater part of the burden.
The Alice News understands from a reliable source that these four account for 70% of sales.
Mr Ryan told the Alice News that council has not been able to access figures on volume of sales.
The second prong of council’s attack on litter is to get a “Cash for Container” scheme up and running – a container deposit scheme by another name.
It can’t have been a coincidence that the Territory Government announced their own plans for such a scheme, under the same name, just one day before council convened a meeting to discuss their plans with liquor licensees and relevant ratepayers last Thursday.
The government’s scheme however won’t get going until 2011 – if at all. Their “in principle” commitment carries the rider, “provided it is financially viable, legally sound and can deliver in both urban and remote centres”. 
And in any case there’ll be a two year wait before implementation.
A reference group, to be chaired by Alison Anderson as Environment Minister, will further explore the government’s criteria and report back in July.
Council meanwhile remains resolute.
“We cannot sit and wait for two years for a CDL program,” said Mr Ryan on Monday.
Council’s proposed charge, which will not be imposed until after this year’s Business Plan is adopted, will hold both retailers and consumers responsible for the disposal of containers, said Mr Ryan.
He thinks it likely that retailers will turn to their suppliers to cover at least some of the cost.
The council is also under-taking a complete redraft of the Todd Mall by-laws and the public places by-laws in an effort to more effectively tackle littering and other anti-social behaviour.
At present an on-the-spot fine for littering can only be issued if the person is observed dropping the item.
That is one point that will be examined in the re-drafting, says CEO Rex Mooney.
The fruit of council’s discussions with the native title holder body, Lhere Artepe, will also be a focus in the redrafting.

Getting to know them.

“Street kids” don’t have to remain anonymous. Mayor Damien Ryan and aldermen Samih Habib, Brendan Heenan and John Rawnsley on Saturday night joined veteran Aboriginal youth worker Eddie Taylor and son James on a mission to get to know young people out on the street late at night.
From about 9pm until after 11 they cooked up some sausages and had an esky full of softdrinks and waited in the Anzaz Oval carpark for the kids to come to them. 
Mr Ryan and the two Taylors also walked through most of the CBD, talking to the groups they came across.
The volunteers were joined by Ian McAdam (centre) from the Clontarf Football Academy and Darrel Liddle (back, right), who invited a group of lads to kick the footy with them on Anzac Oval. Will and Margot McGregor, from the youth service Bush Mob, also came down.
It’s the third time Mr Ryan has been involved in such an exercise, but Ald Habib and Mr Taylor (snr) are old hands at “trying to create something for these kids”.
On Saturday Mr Taylor drove from Tennant Creek for the occasion, but James Taylor will be taking the reins in future.

New lease of life for Pitchi Richi.

Rent from an existing cottage and from a “compatible” development sub-lease will help fund the conservation of the Pitchi Richi Sanctuary, now in the hands of Heritage Alice Springs Inc.
The conservation group recently took over the lease of the heritage-listed sanctuary with the blessing of former lease-holder Elsa Corbet and two weeks ago formed a sub-committee to manage the sanctuary’s affairs. 
Pitchi Richi is home to a treasure trove of ceramic sculptures by William Ricketts and artifacts of pioneering history collected by Mrs Corbet’s late husband, Leo.
Fortunately the heritage-listed portion of the property, actually an agglomeration of five leases, covers only about 40% of the total area.
Compatible developments on the remaining 60% could raise significant revenue, both in the short and longer term, says president of Heritage Alice Springs (HAS), Domenico Pecorari.
Possible uses include horticulture and tourist accommodation.
Negotiations are also underway to have someone move into and restore a two-storey house (pictured above) on the heritage-listed portion of property.
Known as the “Pearly Gates”, the house has been nominated for listing in its own right for its connection with Charles Henry (”Pop”) Chapman,  founder of The Granites mine and The Advocate newspaper, as well as builder of Alice’s first public swimming pool.
Having someone living on site would discourage potential trespassing and vandalism, says Mr Pecorari.
Revenue raised from the various sources will go towards maintenance and upgrades of the property as well as heritage conservation works, including restoration of the Ricketts sculptures and the creation of an interpretative centre.
HAS will also seek funding support through the NT Government’s Heritage Grants Program.
It is hoped to have the sanctuary open for visitors on at least one day of the weekend in this year’s tourist season.

Sacred Sites block river safety burns. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Systematic fire control for the Todd and Charles rivers cannot be undertaken because there is, as yet, no formal agreement about a fire management program for the rivers.
Despite concern over the threat to sacred trees arising from infestations of buffel and couch grasses, the draft program has stalled before the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, who are requesting that the Town Council’s plans be re-submitted to them as five separate reports.
Questioned on the cost to council by Alderman Sandy Taylor, Mr Buxton said it would be paid for by the “long hours” worked by council staff.
Meanwhile, in other council news:
• The council is strongly objecting to the proposed installation of overhead high voltage transmission lines from the Brewer Estate along Ross Highway, Palm Circuit and Len Kittle Drive at the southern entrance to the town.
They had heard from the Rural Areas Association on the matter and at Monday’s committee meeting Peter Grigg, general manager of Tourism Central Australia, also expressed his concern.
Technical Services director Greg Buxton said such an installation would be against council policy as well as Power and Water Corporation policy.
It would be visually “unsightly and polluting “, he said.
The Rural  Areas Association is demanding that the lines be put underground for the last three kilometres south of the Gap, just as it is proposed they will be along Bradshaw Drive north of the Gap.
• The funding agreement required to release the federal millions promised for the aquatic centre is threatening to look like “War and Peace”, a frustrated CEO Rex Mooney told aldermen on Monday.
He questioned the necessity of the “minute detail” being asked for by the bureaucrat in chrage, and suggested that the construction of an aquatic center is after all fairly “fundamental” – “a hole in the ground, water pumping, and a roof over the top”.
• The public toilet and ablution block in the Civic Centre grounds will be opened on the weekend in a three-month trial.
Mayor Damien Ryan described their closure on weekends as the “most embarrassing thing” he has to face as mayor.
The cost is not slight, as the ablution block has to be manned.
Alderman Murray Stewart said there was really no option but to find the money – public toilets are a core service, especially in a tourist town.
And Mr Ryan agreed: “We have to find a way to pay for it.”
• Aldermen gave their support to a letter from council’s Environment Advisory Committee requesting that the Territory Government adopt Minimum Energy Performance Requirements to achieve more sustainable buildings.
Alderman Jane Clark, who chairs the committee, said the government needs to answer to the community for their lagging action on the issue, especially when they are embarking on a major housing upgrade program in remote communities.
The committee believes significant improvements in energy and water efficiency can be achieved without adding to cost, by requiring “five star” rating for things like the building envelope, water heating, air conditioning, lighting, toilets, taps.

Final tests for sewage reuse. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Power and Water (P&W) and CSIRO are fine-tuning the water reuse scheme which aims to recycle some of the effluent from the sewage treatment plant.
Scientists are experimenting with the frequency of flooding and drying of four basins, to maximize the rate of recharge to the underlying aquifer.
Peter Dillon, from the CSIRO Land and Water Division, says a review of the first period of operation has been undertaken and the results are “very positive” at this early stage of commissioning.
The re-use scheme consists of a dissolved air flotation plant at the aeration ponds near The Gap where effluent undergoes partial treatment.
It is then piped to the basins at the Arid Zone Research Institute, just south of the Desert Knowledge complex. 
These are operated intermittently with a wet and dry cycle.
Some ponds need to have shorter wet periods to maximise recharge. 
As the effluent seeps into the ground, it is cleaned further as it passes through sand, and recharges the aquifer some 20 metres below the surface.
From there it can be pumped up again.
Dr Dillon says that when the commissioning period is completed and all basins are operating, the target of 600 million litres a year recharge – the approved upper limit – is likely to be achieved.
This is 20% of the three billion litres of sewage that is treated by the ponds each year.
Water from the treatment plant is also used for irrigation of Blatherskite Park, but the principal method of disposal continues to be evaporation.
The recycled water was initially intended for use in a market garden or horticultural enterprise but end-users have not yet been found.
Says P&W: “There is no urgency for this to occur as sufficient water needs to be ‘banked’ prior to any long term arrangement being developed.”
The site has also been proposed for a residential subdivision where the recycled water could be used for non-drinking purposes.
“This pilot project is the first of its kind in Australia and is thus of intense interest to CSIRO and the industry nationally,” says P&W. 
“It is an innovative project that combines high technology wastewater treatment within an award winning plant, and natural infiltration and purification systems within local groundwater systems.”

$1 million Emily set to be a hit for Alice. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Even in the best of times, the “return home” of “Earth’s Creation” by the late, great Emily Kame Kngwarreye would always have been occasion for excitement.
The painting unites within one vast canvas the artist’s vision of the “whole lot” – the world around her, its meaning. Nothing less was her painting subject.
It has become famous as a painting which broke the then record for Indigenous art at auction, and still holds the price record ($1.05m) for a work by an Australian woman, Indigenous or not.
It will certainly be the largest work on canvas on show in Alice Springs and, more important than these matters of price and size, among the very best the town, as a hub for world-famous Aboriginal art from the central deserts, has to offer.
Given the “worrying” times, the painting’s arrival last Friday, after its part in an international Kngwarreye retrospective and a spell hanging in the Territory Parliament, was doubly welcome.
Tim Jennings, owner and general manager of Mbantua Gallery, who bought the painting two years ago, says having it on display should help “get us through 2009”. And perhaps the town will benefit too, as he expects that art-lovers will make the journey especially to see the work – a “national treasure”.
It will be displayed as the key work in the gallery’s cultural museum, so viewing will come at a small fee.
For an appreciation of the painting by art historian Sally Butler see

Pop Vulture: Deadly duel of the bellies.

Previous television triumph Underbelly is in a duel with its highly anticipated sequel (actually a prequel), Underbelly 2, “A tail of two cities”. 
Pop vulture is a fly on the wall, overlooking the two gunslingers as they prepare for their duel.
Underbelly: I have all six bullets, in a gun thats aim is true. I don’t need luck with this duel.
My opponent would not have even existed if it were not for my own success.
I on the other hand, arrived on the wings of my own originality, and no eagle soars higher than that which soars on its own wings.
Direction, production, casting, soundtrack, plot and, above all, the way I was received by the critics, are six chambers that I have driven bullets into.
And my own confidence in winning this duel brims brightly with the knowledge that my adversary, Underbelly 2 “A tail of two cities”, is a blatant cash-in on my own achievements.
Underbelly 2: I’m sweating, sweating bullets, sweating buckets, my sweating bullets are sweating buckets.
On a visual and plotline stance, I have little on my predecessor.
God I wish I was my predecessor.
I have arrived too early, hyped up to the point where it has become a fashion to criticise me.
But I do have one floating light amidst this sea of criticism, my soundtrack.
Not only have my directors and editors used my track selection and placement to goosebump-inducing accuracy, I have delivered a selection of material that highlights and captures the era that the series is set in.
Rusty chord rock and roll is what was big in Australia during the 1970s.
Disco hadn’t quite set sail across the Pacific, and the lack of African immigration meant that traditional blues and soul were not something that was home-grown.  Aside from the melting pot of a tune choice, the remaining five chambers in my six shooter are left hollow and pointless.
I’m doomed, doomed to fail. To tread the devastatingly cool path carved by my predecessor is a goal that should never have been rushed.
The duel: Having only one bullet in its respective arsenal, in a world where emptying entire clips into an opponent is the norm Underbelly 2 is no match for the original.
He is found dead on stage, victim of the first hit ever warranted for the sake of a review.    

Bald and beautiful for a good cause. By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.

Students are no longer given homework or detention at school – nowadays the principal gets out his rusty razor and shaves off your hair.
This looked to be the case last Thursday when 13-year-old Dustin Earl Hunter had his long locks buzzed off in order to raise money for charity.
Dustin’s 11-year-old brother, Baylee, decided to join him, at the last minute.
“Dustin is very generous for shaving his head for leukaemia, I’m very proud of him,” said Baylee.
The boys’ great-uncle Earl died of leukaemia several years ago. Dustin still has fond memories of holidays spent on the east coast with his great-uncle before he got really sick. 
Tony Healey, the Head of the Traeger campus at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, agreed to shave Dustin’s head: “I was a shearer many years ago before I was a teacher so hopefully it will all come back to me!”
Mr Healey was assisted by charity queen, Karen Jones, who also shaved Baylee’s head.
The boys were joined by teacher Jarrad Kilsby, donating his hair and his precious beard to the cause, while singing the theme tune to the musical Hairspray. 
Students were in fits of giggles watching the action.
Dustin felt a little “weird” after the shave and wondered whether it might affect his chances with the girls, although Baylee disagreed.
Raising money for the World’s Greatest Shave was tough this year, especially when people had already been digging deep  to support victims of the recent Victorian bush fires.
But Dustin, the eldest of four, was persistent, visiting local businesses, and persuading his aunt to join in his efforts.
He hopes next year other people his age will get involved.
All of the money raised will go towards helping leukaemia patients from the Centre with the cost of travel to capital cities such as Adelaide where they can receive the blood transfers they need.
It will also go towards other assistance, such as paying for accommodation for the patients and their families.

ADAM'S APPLE: Should we be worried?

As a born New South Welshman I have never really developed an admiration for Queensland. It’s not that I have any actual reason to dislike Queensland or Queenslanders.
But in the same way Victorians and South Australians have a go at each other or we here in the Alice love to have a dig at Darwin, so I was born to look down my nose at those from Queensland.
Not that they are helping the situation at the moment.
I now call Alice Springs home and it could not be more different to the city in which I was raised. I am a two and a half day drive from my family home and still Queenslanders are pissing me off.
Why in heavens do we have to endure the Queensland election commercials? As if having to watch their news isn’t bad enough. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about Lawrence Springborg and Anna Bligh.
Queenslanders are quite insular people. That statement isn’t necessarily negative, it’s just that Queenslanders love to gab on about Queensland.
This point makes watching the Queensland election about as redundant as an Australian textile worker.
Except to say that the Labor commercial showing respected world leaders telling us we are about to head into a global recession juxtaposed with Lawrence Springborg denying such a crisis exists is a very good political commercial.
If you aren’t concerned about the Global Financial Crisis or GFC as it’s now known, it appears as though you should be.
The lack of money in the global economy is being felt in almost every industry in every nation.
But even in a financial meltdown there are those people out there that see the world as a glass half filled.
I have heard some people talk of this crisis as some sort of global wake up call. A dire warning against global greed and a red flag for the complexity of the modern world.
They say that the GFC is a chance for a fresh start, a chance to rid our lives of all the unnecessary junk in society, a chance to return to a more sustainable lifestyle, to treat our planet and ourselves better.
It is quite a noble thought. Perhaps there is some merit in having a look at why we are in this big fiscal fissure and ensure that the factors associated with creating the GFC don’t have to happen again.
The problem is, we have no money. The other problem ironically is that to simplify our lives, to make them more sustainable we have to spend money.
Take transport for instance. Australia is such a massive country that in order to get goods to cities and towns like Alice Springs they need to be transported over large distances at a fairly decent clip.
At the moment that means rail or road trains. Both of which eat up fossil fuel faster than a fat kid eats a Big Mac.  The Toyota Prius and environmentally sustainable vehicles can store the weekly shopping but try and transport more than a couple of reusable shopping bags and the system starts to come apart at the edges.
So we need to start thinking about how to make big trucks as environmentally sound as the humble Prius. That’s going to take a lot of investment in research and development.
Guess who doesn’t have the money for research and development at the moment? That’s right, your old pals the auto industry.
Want to eat better, more natural food?
Even the most basic of ideas requires a substantial investment in farming techniques, quality control and as we know, organic food costs more.
We are talking about recession-proofing Alice Springs. Strangely enough, a small town in the middle of the desert has quite a bit going for it in times of GFC.
When all is said and done and all the experts have their say and propose their Massive Stimulus Packages, all we need to do is get all those people from the Eastern States to come here instead of going to Thailand.
So tell your mum, tell your Aunty, and tell your mates to come to Central Australia this winter. Having said that if your friends are Queenslanders, speak a little slower.

LETTERS: Grog wasted in more ways than one.

Sir,- Regarding Robin Henry’s letter, ‘Grog down the drain is a waste’ (  It is a waste to tip thousands of litres of alcohol down the drain!  
I refer not to the alcohol itself, but to the energies and resources that have gone into these products throughout their production, packaging, distribution and sale. It is these that have been wasted.
Wasted energies come in the form of human effort that could have been used in other beneficial ways, and fossil fuel energy that costs far more (concerning the environment and the global energy crisis) than is factored into the price.
Production and packaging bring together a diverse range of ingredients and resources, and liquids are heavy to transport over long distances, representing a further drain on fuel and financial resources. Then there are costs to promote, refrigerate and sell the final products.
It also costs consumers to go to outlets to get the alcohol — they pay a price that covers all of the costs plus profits up to that point.  In the case of the confiscated alcohol, these are likely consumers who can scarcely afford to waste any money.
Police resources have also been wasted. Surely these could be better applied than in the investigation, confiscation and disposal of what is essentially an over-supply of alcohol.
So what is the solution?  Any thought of averting the waste by re-selling or drinking these products is pot-holed with ethical traps.  Does the confiscated alcohol represent a quantity of alcoholic products that should not have been sold in the first place?
The 14% drop in the sale/consumption of alcohol in Alice Springs since the alcohol management plan was put in place strongly suggests that the plan is working.  Revelations about thousands of litres of confiscated alcohol suggest that more needs to be done to reduce the supply in a strategic and targeted manner.
As the community of Alice Springs, we will pay the price for having alcohol here.  Alcohol is a choice, not a right; alcohol restrictions are not an infringement on anyone’s rights, rather they are a way for this community to accept responsibility for the choice of having alcohol available here.
Chris Warren
Alice Springs

Worn out shoes

Sir,– It looks as if you must have given Beverly Johnson a new pen and new shoes and told her to wear them out.  She wrote several articles in quite diverse topics in last week’s issue. Please give her a “well done”.
I hesitate in writing this as it seems in the past, when I write to make note of your staff, they disappeared (Fiona, Andrew). I don’t mean to have this effect so I don’t even mention out loud the name of the one who’s been with you from the beginning.
Beverly seems to be a fellow redhead and I’ve been trying to spread the word for years as to what great people redheads are.
Carl Boyd
Nth Carolina, USA
ED – Beverley’s great but not actually a redhead. And the one who’s been here from the beginning has her foot nailed to the ground!

Trivial pursuit?

Sir,– With respect, I think your focus on David Ross and Centrecorp is misplaced. What one corporation does with its money, and how much of that information it chooses to make public, is not the main issue. 
In my opinion, the main issue is the legal standing of corporations themselves and the corrupting pressure their privileged position places on our democratic system of government.
Every three or four years we elect a new government, and in every election the competing candidates try to outdo each other swearing to govern with  ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’.
What a joke!
On the big ticket items such as mining proposals, or anything to do with privatized out-sourced government services, or even small ticket items like the number of times they fly, agreements between the relevant corporations and the government of the day are kept from public gaze by using the shroud of ‘commercial in confidence’.
But what elected politicians and their unelected corporate opposites know full well, and always fail to mention, is that once the money trail has been obscured, public scrutiny becomes a game of trivial pursuit. 
Witness your own and the Senate’s pursuit of Centrecorp. 
I wonder how far either of you would get if you pursued, for instance, Cameco for the fine print in the arrangements it has made with the NT government.
The corporate world has taken the real world to the brink of financial collapse and environmental ruin. 
We may all pump the air and shout “Yes!” when this or that scoundrel is flushed from cover, but if the underlying structure remains intact, the battle for accountable, transparent government remains to be won.
By all means expose individual corporations for being anti-democratic impediments to open government if you can. 
But at the same time expose the government-enabled immunity and anonymity they shelter behind. 
It’s in this latter exposure that I feel we will come to the true nub of the problem.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
ED – I’m sure Mr Duell will be interested to read this week’s front page story.

$$ for containers

Sir,– Total Environment Centre congratulates the Northern Territory Government for taking the initiative to leap frog other states and adopt a ‘cash for containers’ scheme to address litter and boost recycling of packaging waste.
This decision will be good for the environment because it will create a green infrastructure for resource recovery.
It will create jobs, and reduce waste management costs of councils.
South Australia has had Container Deposit Legislation (CDL) in place since 1977. CDL in South Australia requires beverage companies to place a refundable deposit on containers.

South Australia has an 80% greater beverage container recovery rate, and the noticeable lack of litter on highways, parks and beaches shows that container deposit systems are highly effective in addressing away from home litter.
It’s been a long time since another state embraced CDL and the decision by the Northern Territory should encourage other states to follow. 
We agree with the government that national progress has been too slow. 
A decision should be made at the May meeting of federal and state environment ministers for all states to go for container deposits.  
Jeff Angel
TEC Executive Director

Grass grows quicker

Sir,– The Territory Opposition can’t fathom why the Henderson Government will wait until 2011 until deciding whether introducing container deposit legislation into the Territory.
South Australia has had a CDL operating for 30 years but for reasons known only to itself the Henderson Government needs a further two years to assess the feasibility of introducing such a scheme into the Territory.
I fully agree with the Chief Minister that the scheme should be financially viable, legally sound and can deliver in both urban and remote centres.
I just don’t believe it should take two years to work out whether that’s the case.
The grass grows quicker than this Government makes decisions.
I’ve got a suggestion for the Chief Minister – throw caution to the wind and place a 12 month time-frame on this project.
 Peter Chandler,
Shadow Minister for the Environment

Blame game

Sir,– Punitive approaches to managing truancy in the Northern Territory will not solve the problem because they fail to address underlying causes.
It’s time the NT government stop trying to shift the blame and got serious about addressing the problems in schools in the NT, especially in remote Aboriginal communities.
 The NT commissioned a comprehensive report into education ten years ago which put forward practical measures to improve attendance and outcomes – ten years later they have failed to act on its recommendations and put in place the resources needed.
Instead, the strategy is to demand schools develop their own individual attendance strategies – without providing the resources and the structural change they need to make it work.
Student / teacher ratios remain unworkably high compared to other states. Aboriginal students across the border in South Australia have twice as many teachers.
The NT Government is also planning to restrict bilingual education – requiring half of the lessons across the school year to be taught in English – totally ignoring the need for quality bilingual learning programs to help children transition from their first language to English.
A number of options are available to increase educational engagement, such as tackling the high levels of hearing problems by using sound loop speakers and teacher microphones to ensure that all students in the class can hear and understand what the teacher is saying.
Sen.  Rachel Siewert
Australian Greens

Free advice

Sir,– Professor Robert Newton, Exercise Physiologist and Director of the Vario Health Institute at Edith Cowan Uni, WA , will be visiting Alice Springs from March 26 to 28, to give a series of workshops and presentations to GPs, health professionals and the general public.
Prof Newton has extensive teaching and research experience in the application of exercise in prevention and management of chronic disease, cancer and other health related issues.
A free Community Forum will be held at the Andy McNeill Room on Friday, March 27, 5-7pm.
This will be an invaluable opportunity for people, whether fit and well, or whether affected by forms of chronic disease,  cancer and its treatments, or other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, fatigue, muscle weakness, depression, osteoporosis, etc to learn about maintaining / improving quality of life.
All are welcome.
We hope to see you there!
For enquiries about the workshops with multidisciplinary groups / professionals contact Jo Black, YMCA,  and ring us on 0417 820 750 or GPNNT 89504800
Lesley Reilly,
Bosom Buddies NT
PO Box 9099
Alice Springs NT
Tel: 89550678

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