May 7, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Desert Knowledge shock. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (DK CRC), which has its base in Alice Springs, has been knocked back in its bid for funding for a second seven year term.
This news was broken by the Alice Springs News in its on-line edition at noon last Friday. 
The Cooperative Research Centres assessment committee of the Federal Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research told DK CRC it had been unsuccessful in a “competitive, merit-based selection”.
The failure of the bid puts a question mark over the 14 full-time Alice Springs-based jobs funded under the CRC program.
However, the program will not be wound up until June 2010.
The CRC also contributes a salary component to 20 other Alice Springs-based positions.
Managing director Jan Ferguson says the board is particularly concerned to support their staff.
Ms Ferguson says the local economic impact is not limited to the loss of these jobs.
She says the CRC brings an “enormous number” of people to town, with significant flow-on benefits to the local economy.
In June last year Ms Ferguson told the Alice News that current research was worth $90m, $20m of it in cash.
She said DK-CRC is “a national organisation based in Alice Springs” and since its inception in 2004/05, $7.6m had been spent in cash, on items such as wages, transport and accommodation.
$26m of the $70m “in kind” total had been spent by June last year.
The CRC was informed of the decision last Tuesday night.
Its board was to meet yesterday to consider its future, but Ms Ferguson told the Alice News that the CRC’s private not-for-profit management company will remain a going concern and continue its desert-focussed research.
“Only one element of what we have been doing has not been successful,” says Ms Ferguson.
To date the management company has had a turnover of $6.5m in four years, not insignificant but only a fraction of the DK CRC’s budget.
However, there are other sources of substantial funds available, and Ms Ferguson says the company has put in for $50m worth of funding from one such in order to continue desert research.
At this stage the board has not had feedback from the committee which assessed the bid, and it is not known which CRCs around the country have been successful in the “competitive, merit-based selection”.
Once feedback  is received it may be an option to challenge the decision, says Ms Ferguson.
DK CRC’s bid for a second round of funding came in the wake of a nationwide review of the 18 year old CRC program, handed to government on July 31 last year.
Head of the review team, Mary O’Kane, noted that the program’s role as a driver of innovation was not as effective as it could be and recommended a refreshed, refocused modified program with a modest increase in total funding.
DK CRC got a few specific mentions in the review.
It was noted, together with the CRC for Aboriginal Health (a “virtual organisation”) as an example of sponsoring “some very innovative collaborations addressing social inequity”.
The review team commented that this kind of CRC proposal would have been uncompetitive in later rounds of the program unless it could have demonstrated economic benefits – “given the removal of public good as one of the objectives of the CRC program”.
DK CRC was also mentioned as a CRC that generated benefits to which it was difficult to attach a market value.
Such benefits were cited as increasing skills, employment and information which had encouraged the valuing of Indigenous knowledge, language and culture.
The review recommended that a prime objective of the national CRC program be to provide support for “pre-competitive” research ventures which tackle “a clearly articulated major challenge” for end users.
It cited DK CRC as an example of addressing major challenges in creation of a new industry area and a major challenge in the provision of public goods and services. 
Speaking generally the review said: “The solution to the challenge should be innovative and of high impact and capable of being deployed rapidly by the end-users to good effect.
“Each CRC should be of high national benefit with significant spillovers.”
Note: Desert Knowledge Australia, also based at the Desert Knowledge Precinct on the South Stuart Highway, is distinct from DK CRC. DKA  is is the NT Statutory Authority responsible for the development and management of the precinct and works on developing “networks and partnerships across desert Australia to create an economically and socially sustainable future”.
The Northern Territory Government has invested over $20 million in the DK precinct, while the Australian
Government has invested over $15 million. 

Aboriginal money for administration or development? By ERWIN CHLANDA.


This is food for thought for Aboriginal people in mining areas, who may be toying with the idea of forming their own land council.
Of the mining royalty money provided by the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA) the Central Land Council (CLC) gobbles up for its administration $9.5m a year.
Aboriginal groups in The Centre get a quarter of that amount from the ABA, $2.4m.
The Anindilyakwa Land Council, covering Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island in the bauxite mining area in the Gulf of Carpentaria, spends less than $1m on administration and $11m is distributed to Aboriginal groups in the region.
This is revealed in a report by the Office of Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programs) of the Federal Department of Finance and Deregulation; it has some harsh things to say about the four land councils in the NT, two big and two small ones.
The CLC has the worst ratio of administration spending vs distribution.
The Northern Land Council isn’t a great deal better, spending on its administration 2.6 times as much as is distributed by the ABA to the people on the ground.
The report found “a lack of coherent, useful data to support accurate analysis and comparison of land council performance.
“The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) introduced a new performance framework in 2006 which had not been in use long enough for the office to assess its effectiveness.
“However the office found an absence of key performance indicators.
“Notably, the office found a lack of transparency surrounding land councils’ dealings with external commercial entities they established to promote economic development, including councillor appointments and positions within these entities.”
The CLC is having a hard time in the Senate and the press over its secretive investment arm, Centrecorp.
The Senate most recently, and the Alice Springs News for several years, have been trying to unravel the relationship between the CLC and Centrecorp, believed to be controlling assets worth $100m.
The release to the Senate of the report by the Office of Evaluation and Audit (OEA) is clearly a result of these efforts.
The report says: “Land councils should attempt to recover all costs associated with negotiating, managing and monitoring Land Use Agreements (LUAs) from parties seeking agreements instead of absorbing such costs.”
(The Alice Springs News understands only the cost of the first meeting held in such negotiations is absorbed by the CLC. Charges are made for all subsequent meetings.)
It recommends FaHCSIA should require the land councils to provide a formal process by which councillors can raise performance issues at full council meetings and to invite and manage feedback from other external stakeholders (including mining companies and other organisations engaged with Aboriginal people on land use activities).
There should be “clear frameworks of accountability between the land councils and the Minister, [prioritising] land councils’ core work activities and [they should] be released publicly.”
Land councils should “clearly state and make publicly available, the linkages between the relations and operations of the land council and those of the external commercial entities operating within its region”.
The linkages which should be identified include:-
• Councillors and staff who hold positions (paid or otherwise) with the commercial entity.
• The shares or interests held by the land council in the commercial entity (such as voting rights and automatic board appointments).
• The programs, projects and activities conducted that involve both the land council and the entity.
• The respective benefits that could be expected to accrue to Aboriginal people from the commercial activities.
The report also recommends that “traditional ownership is accurately recorded.
This will improve “the transparency of land council functions that require the identification of and consultation of traditional owners, or the distribution of payments to traditional owners through Aboriginal associations”.

Housing prices stay high but who is buying? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The big question in the Alice home market is, are the buyers – still keen – new arrivals in town, making it grow, or are they locals going upmarket or deserting less desirable neighbourhoods?
No clear statistics are available.
L J Hooker managing director Doug Fraser says his “gut feeling” is the buyers are 95% locals.
He says: “The feedback from my salespeople, who are at the coalface, is that there is a percentage of buyers who come from interstate (or intrastate), rent for say six months, and then decide to buy.”
It isn’t clear what that percentage is.
“We then classify them as locals which may be clouding this particular issue,” says Mr Fraser.
“The Alice Springs housing market is driven by the highly transient nature of our population with houses generally turning over every six to seven years.
“I see no evidence that this is changing.
“The rental market is probably a better indicator with the majority of applicants coming from outside the town,” says Mr Fraser.
“At present the residential vacancy rate is zero percent which would indicate that the population is increasing and we are unable to provide sufficient housing for new arrivals.
“The Government has an abysmal record in providing new medium density land for development.
“The previous CLP Government can share some of this blame.”
The First Home Buyers Assistance Scheme, due to cut out in June, is “undoubtedly the major contributor to the surge in property sales, particularly during the past three months,” says Mr Fraser.
“These sales are yet to filter through into our statistical data however they will over the next six to eight weeks.
“You will then see a sharp spike in sales numbers, particularly at the bottom end of the market.”
The socially troubled Larapinta ranks in fifth place with respect to numbers of homes sold during the March quarter, despite having the second cheapest homes in town, according to figures supplied by Mr Fraser.
If the buyers are indeed mostly locals, this would be a benefit mostly for the NT Government, which gets around 5% in stamp duty (waived for first home buyers), and the real estate agents, who get around 4% commission on sales.
The housing crisis is yet again put into sharp sharp focus by last week’s statistics from the Real Estate Institute of the NT (REINT).
It says rental prices in Alice continue to climb, especially in the two bedroom category: up 12.1% over the quarter, 15.6% compared to the same quarter last year.
Three bedroom house rentals in Alice rose by 2.4% over the quarter, 7.7% compared to March 2008.
These increases are significantly higher than elsewhere in the Territory, while the rental vacancy rate is at 0.1%, the worst in the Territory.
At the lower end people are paying $320 a week for a two bedroom house; $410 for three bedrooms.
Unit rentals over the quarter also rose in Alice: 6.7% for one bedroom, 3.4% for two, 2.7% for three.
Compared to the same quarter last year the rises were 20%, 3.4%, and 5.6% respectively.
At the lower end people are paying $210 for a one bedroom flat, $280 for two, $360 for three.
Mr Fraser says it is “vitally important” that the NT Government plays its part by releasing sufficient vacant residential land to cater for this ongoing demand.
This includes setting aside sufficient land for medium density housing which caters for approximately 40% of all residential sales.
“The Government’s past record in this area is abysmal with no new release of medium density land having taken place for over 15 years,” says Mr Fraser.
According to figures provided by Mr Fraser (for all sales, not just LJ Hooker’s) the dearest homes in Alice in the March quarter were in the rural areas (6 sold; $521,000 average), closely followed by Desert Springs and Mt Johns, commonly known as the golf course estate (9; $518,722 av).
By far the most homes sold were in Gillen (27; $342,642 av), followed by Araluen (17;  $429,647 av), Baitling & Stuart (14; $383,964 av), Eastside (14; $358,464 av) and Larapinta (13; $327,062 av).
The cheapest homes are in The Gap (4 sold; $299,000 av).
Average costs of units ranged from $323,000 in Desert Springs and Mt Johns to $110,000 in the rural areas (only two sold) in the March quarter.
House sales over the March quarter were down across the Territory, though less so in Alice (-10.7%) than in Darwin (-30%), according to REINT’s latest figures.
But compared to the March quarter 12 months ago Darwin sales numbers show a reasonable increase, 12.1%, while sales in Alice rose by less than 1%.
Bear in mind, there was no massively generous first home buyer’s grant available a year ago, which makes the Alice figure look even worse.
Compared to March 2008 Katherine and Tennant Creek experienced huge increases in numbers of sales in the last quarter, 73.3% and 83.3% respectively.
Median prices in Alice rose by 11.4% in the quarter, 13.1% compared to March 2008.
The housing shortage is clearly pushing prices up as these figures are higher than those for elsewhere in the Territory. Darwin experienced a 5.3% rise in the quarter, 8.3% compared to March 2008.
Unit sales over the quarter were also down across the Territory except in Palmerston.
This time Alice showed a greater decrease (-23%) than Darwin (-10.4%).
But compared to March 2008 all areas showed a substantial increase in unit sales: Katherine jumped by 100%, and Alice was up by 34%, Darwin by 35.3%.
Median prices for units were slightly down in Alice (-2%), but up in Darwin by 3.3%. Compared to the same quarter last year unit prices had risen by 7.7% in Alice, and 19.2% in Darwin.
Vacant land sales of large blocks (bigger than 800 square metres) in Alice were up 100% over the quarter, 166.7% over the year, and prices showed a healthy increase, 11.4% up over the quarter, 13.7% compared to the same quarter last year.
According to REINT these figures indicate that the NT Government’s build start program has been successful.
But there was only one small block sold over the quarter to compared to two in March 2008.

Public housing vandalised as private rents skyrocket. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

As the scarcity of units and flats in Alice Sprigs is driving rents through the roof, public housing is being vandalized and demolished.
The units at 65 Lyndavale Drive are a case in point where this kind of abuse is rife, a resident tells us.
We asked the responsible Minister, Rob Knight for a comment: “Territory Housing has strict processes and policies in place to address antisocial behaviour and property damage,” he intoned. “All tenants in Territory Housing properties are required to meet responsibilities as outlined in their tenancy agreements which complywith the Residential Tenancies Act.
“Territory Housing is taking appropriate action to address the issues at this property and tenants will face eviction if they fail to comply. Tenants are held liable for the cost of damage they have caused.
“Territory Housing has evicted a total of 20 people in Alice Springs this financial year following serious cases of antisocial behaviour and property damage.”
“The Territory Government is currently reviewing the Residential Tenancy Act to further strengthen responses to antisocial behaviour in public housing.”
What the Minister didn’t answer were the following questions:
What is done to recover the cost of repairs?
How often are any recovery initiatives successful?
Are fines imposed or criminal charges laid – how many in the past 12 months in Alice Springs?

Lawrie touts record $1.3b investment. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Territory Treasurer Delia Lawrie announced a big-spending Budget on Tuesday, claiming “record investment of $1.3 billion” to create 2500 jobs and with “no new taxes and no cuts to services”.
The Budget media releases avoided the subject of deficit.
Some of the largesse is directly due to the Treasurer’s Federal colleagues, such as the $17.19 million mentioned under the heading “infrastructure highlights for Central Australia”, which is part of the Commonwealth’s Primary Schools for the 21st Century initiative – for new works up to $3 million for each primary, special and bush school.
Also under this heading:
• $21.74 million for new and continuing works at the Alice Springs Hospital including $2.5 million for secure mental health care facilities;
• $9.9 million for the Tanami Road;
• $7.6 million for Plenty Highway;
• $6 million to upgrade Alice Springs Police Station;
• $4.73 million for capital works at the Gillen and Anzac Hill Middle School campuses;
• $3.2 million for Ross Park Primary School upgrade.
Compare these figures with “infrastructure highlights for Darwin and the northern suburbs”:
• $21.84 million for the Primary Schools of the 21st Century initiative – for new works of up to $3 million for each primary and special school;
• $15.13 million to continue the Darwin Waterfront development;
• $10.25 million for Tiger Brennan Drive – passing lanes and duplication;
• $6 million for Royal Darwin Hospital staff accommodation;
• $6 million to commence Myilly Point parkland;
• $4.75 million for Hidden Valley – infrastructure upgrade and drag strip;
• $3 million for new science facilities at Dripstone Middle School; and
• $2 million for accommodation for cancer patients and their carers.
Karl Hampton, Minister for Central Australia, claims in his Budget media release that the “record infrastructure funding” protects jobs for Centralians but doesn’t specify how except in general terms: it ‘backs business to protect jobs with the lowest taxes for small to medium businesses in Australia” and “core services are also boosted to improve health, education and police and protect Territory jobs”.
The funds for the Alice Springs Middle School are part of more than $15.6 million over the next four years to establish the school and other elements of the Alice Springs Youth Action Plan.
The money will go on refurbishment work at the Gillen campus (Alice Springs High); refurbishment work at the Anzac Hill campus, including a performing arts and music centre; work at Anzac Hill campus to establish a Youth Hub, including a Police Youth Club; construction of a 30-bed boarding facility; and expanding emergency accommodation for young people at risk.
Ms Lawrie announced $23.25 million “to fund community infrastructure to support the great Territory lifestyle”.
In Alice Springs, $4.5 million will be spent on upgrading air-conditioning at the Araluen Centre, while in Darwin $7 million will go to stage 7 of the Darwin Waterfront redevelopment; $1.75 million to upgrades at the Hidden Valley Motor Sports Complex.
There is no such “lifestyle” heading in the announcements about “Closing the Gap of Indigenous Disadvantage” but the expenditure highlighted under the heading “Education” (which seems mostly destined for remote areas) adds up to just over half this “lifestyle” allocation.
Closing the Gap spending on “Community Safety” – the failures of which provoked the Federal Intervention in 2007 – tops $19m:
• $6.2m for the Child Abuse Taskforce and $2.3 million for extra police in remote areas;
•  $7.33m for a range of support and prevention services focused on child protection, sexual assault and community and family violence;
• $2.11m for offender rehabilitation;
• $1.92m for alcohol management and treatment initiatives; and
• $1.89m for courts, corrections officers and witness assistance services.

Budget ‘risky’. COMMENT by Prof ROLF GERRITSEN.

Political commentator and economist Rolf Gerritsen, research leader in Central Australia for Charles Darwin University, says Treasurer Delia Lawrie’s big-spending budget is gambling on the world moving out of recession some time next year and the Inpex money coming on stream.
That’s “risky”, he says.
“If the government’s prognostics are wrong and the recession plays out over two to three years the Budget strategy will be seriously derailed.
“They won’t have any money to spend on getting re-elected or else they will have to plunge us really seriously into debt.
“The present increase in debt level as a proportion of revenue is already very worrying,” he says.
The net financial liabilities were $4.3b in the 2008-09 Budget; have risen to $4.6b with this Budget and are predicted to go to $4.8b for 2010-11.
These include, for instance, superannuation liabilities and are never called in all in one year, explains Prof Gerritsen, but the increase shows “a worrying trend”.

Landowners seek legal advice on litter charge. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council has no legal power to make its proposed liquor litter charge, according to lawyer Peer Schroter of Povey Stirk.
Mr Schroter has received instructions from two landlords of premises leased to liquor retailers, asking for legal advice on the charge.
He says submissions on behalf of his clients will be made to council that will cover the legal arguments, as well as the “political, social and moral implications”.
Initially the submissions will be within the public comment process open to all ratepayers, responding to council’s Draft Business Plan, released last week.
Under the heading “Liquor litter charge” the plan says: “Charges are a method Council can use to ensure a user pays approach, so that those who are benefitting from specific services provided by Council are charged for that benefit.”
It goes on to say: “This Liquor Litter Charge is aimed at recovering the costs for cleanup of the liquor related litter from the source of that litter.”
Mr Schroter says that in his view council does not have “jurisdictional authority” to declare the charge “as proposed”.
Council claims Section 157 of the Local Government Act as the source of its power to declare the charge.
The relevant sub-section says that if council “carries out work, or provides services, for the benefit of land, or the occupiers of land, within its area, the council may declare a charge on the land”.
A logical reading of that section is that a charge has to relate to a service provided to the land or occupiers of the land – not a service provided to the entire town.
Picking up litter in public areas is a service to the entire town, so why would one ratepayer rather than another be charged for it?
Council plans, as everyone now knows, to charge the landlords of the “big four” liquor retailers $60,000 each and the landlords of the smaller suburban liquor retailers $7,500 each.
Mr Schroter says council has made it clear in its media release on the issue that it is acting to combat “the highest-rating concerns for its ratepayers – litter, cleanliness, and a tidy town for all to enjoy”.
If that’s the case, then the benefit is to the ratepayers and it is the ratepayers who should bear the cost, says Mr Schroter.
The liquor retailers are not causing the problem, he argues, it’s the people who put the litter there, a small minority, who cause the problem.
He suggests it would be impossible to make a connection between a specific can of VB in the river and a specific liquor retailer.
“Who’s to say that that can was not bought in Curtin Springs for example?”
He says he agrees that litter is a problem but that specifically identified landowners, who may or may not be the operators of a licensed premises, and who do not litter the municpality, should not be the ones liable for it.
“Surely the liability lies with the people who do the littering.”
The Alice News requested comment from council, but in view of possible legal action, CEO Rex Mooney declined our request.

Territory’s 2030 wish list a long way from strategy. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Territory 2030 strategy, in draft form and open for public comment, is sub-titled “Fresh Ideas, Real Results”, but without costing, prioritising or analysing the links between one objective and another, turning the ideas into results will remain elusive.
The Alice News asked political commentator and economist Rolf Gerritsen for his take on the document. Professor Gerritsen is research leader in Central Australia for Charles Darwin University.
“Virtually every objective is laudable to the extent that most are motherhood statements,” he says.
“But the document doesn’t delve into how you achieve those objectives.”
For example, if it’s an objective to halve the number of Indigenous smokers, there has to be attention paid to their socio-economic status as the strong link between socio-economic staus and smoking is well established, says Prof Gerritsen.
Another problem he points to is the lack of prioritising.
“Every objective is seemingly equal
“The Territory has to have this conversation about priorities, about what’s more important, a wave pool in Darwin or a high school in Kintore.”
Prof Gerritsen says the document doesn’t recognise the “organisational and spatial realities of the kind of state we are”.
“For instance, the Territory has a fundamental problem in that 40% of our funding is chewed up in administration. The strategy does not suggest how to tackle that.”
He says one way to tackle it would be to change the way in which a substantial proportion of Commonwealth funding is received.
“Nearly a quarter of our revenue is received in the form of special purpose grants and each has a fixed administrative cost associated with it.
“As well, in the Territory each grant tends to become subject to myriad arrangements as the service gets farmed out to agencies to deliver.
“We could say to the Commonwealth, instead of these, say, 50 special purpose grants that are associated with primary school education, give us the same amount as a single bucket of money for primary school education and we’ll work out how to deliver it.”
It almost goes without saying that the strategy is “Darwin-centric”.
Under the heading “Broadening our economic base” the strategy says Darwin should be developed as “an international city – a hub for exports, education services, tourism and operations and maintenance”.
And under “Building on our strengths”, Darwin should be established “as a centre for oil and gas activities such as operations, maintenance and workforce development”.
In contrast Alice Springs should become a centre for tri-state health, a retirement hub and a regional transport and service centre.
“That doesn’t sound very broad, does it?” says Prof Gerritsen.
The document is basically offering a “vision” that consolidates the current position of the town as a service centre, funded by public money, for communities marked by ill health, low productivity and limited opportunities.
There is, for instance, no mention of horticulture in Central Australia, nor of any kind of strategic goal in relation the private sector of the Centre’s economy.
The document raises the impact of climate change, suggesting that existing farm production, and particularly the cattle industry, could decline by 19.5%, but it doesn’t offer any ideas about how this should be responded to.
It also fails to make a link between the predicted rise in sea levels, due to climate change, and the bright future that is posited for Darwin.
The document is presented as an NT Government strategy, while only 20% to 25% of NT revenue is raised in taxes by the NT Government.
“Most of the money to deal with the problems or goals identified will have to come from the Commonwealth,” says Prof Gerritsen.
And he suggests that costs in some instances would be prohibitive.
The document talks, for instance, about the implementation of an NT Household Survey, commenting: “While Census data is useful, it is not regular enough to measure trends and adjust actions.”
But Prof Gerritsen says there’s a straightforward reason for why most ABS figures are essentially figures for Darwin, and are collected by phone – it’s simply too expensive to do otherwise.
“Do they think there will really be $10m to $20m a year to have enumerators going out to Indigenous communities to ask them whether they’ve stopped smoking yet?
“It’s easy to say there are 300 things you want to do, but they all cost money.”
The document puts forward education as the Territory’s top priority and proposes the establishment of an Institute for Education and Child Development “to bring together education and the health of our young people as an integrated initiative”.
There is no analysis, not even an argument as to why this, rather than any number of other actions, would be the key initiative to take Territory education forward.
“The Institute would focus on research and innovation with an emphasis on the particular needs of the Northern Territory but with the capability of using that knowledge to export to other national and world regions,” says the document.
“It would have to get Commonwealth money and we have just seen how sympathetic the Commonwealth is to our special needs – they’ve just de-funded the Desert Knowledge CRC,” says Prof Gerritsen.
“I predict that this document will be in the bottom of someone’s drawer within a month.”

Vote probe. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Minister for Local Government Rob Knight says a review is underway to “ascertain any issues which may have arisen” in the inaugural shires election last year.
Such reviews are carried out after all elections.
The Alice News reported last week on the argument by ANU researcher Dr Will Sanders that the present method of counting votes in local government elections in the Territory – known as the exhaustive preferential system – is leading to domination of large groups in the new shires, while small groups are left out in the cold, electorally speaking.
The News asked Mr Knight for comment.
He says in a written statement:
“Exhaustive preferential voting is a system that is known to everyone and is used for Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Australian House of Representatives and municipal council elections. 
“The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and Australian House of Representatives are, however, single member electorates whereas councils have multi-member electorates.”
What happens in multi-members electorates, with this counting method, is that each time a candidate is successful, their ballots are re-distributed as primary votes to the second preference choice on those ballots.
Thus voters for the most successful candidate are effectively able to double dip and so have a good chance at getting their second choice up as well – “fuelling large group dominance”, according to Dr Sanders.
In an alternative method, proportional representation, the successful candidates’ ballots are taken out of the race before the next round.
This basically says to those voters, you’ve got your candidate, now let’s give others voters a chance.
This method is used in the Australian Senate elections and has been adopted in Victorian local government elections after earlier experiences of what Dr Sanders describes as the  “winner takes all majoritarianism” of the exhaustive preferential system.
Dr Sanders also suggests that the shires could have a broader spread of representation by creating  multiple single-member wards, or several smaller multi-member wards, in which the majoritarian effect of the exhaustive preferential system would be weakened.
Says Mr Knight (some of whose staff attended presentations by Dr Sanders): “With the review still in progress the Department of Local Government and Housing will undertake broad consultation with the local government sector and other stakeholders regarding voting systems and vote counting methods.”
Willem Westra Van Holthe is the Country Liberals spokesperson for Local Government.
He says more research is needed to see whether the effect noted by Dr Sanders is repeated across other shires.
“It could well be an issue which needs to be looked at by the government,” says Mr Westra Van Holthe
“To my way of thinking a system which distributes preferences from the bottom, rather than from the top, would be fairer.”

Dreaming their own dreams. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The picture of an Indigenous child growing up reading is one that many, including our governments, hold as a cherished goal.
Yet Indigenous author Romaine Moreton, speaking at the NT Writers’ Festival on the weekend, painted just such a picture of her own childhood but argued that this was less good than it sounds.
She grew up in a materially impoverished household on the south coast of NSW but read a great deal, encouraged by her aunty, the family matriarch.
But nowhere in her reading did she encounter a positive image of her people.
“We were told we were savages,” she said.
Her reading diet as she grew older included a box of Mills & Boon romances.
Before she had learnt “how to dream” in her own terms, she was told “what to dream”, she said.
She found a certain freedom in books but also limits – she was seeking to “overcome her otherness” within the pages of books.
Her discovery of black American literature – in which enslaved people took the English language to “steal themselves back” – showed her the way forward to a writing where she could dream her own dreams.
It was a compelling argument for more Indigenous writing and publishing, and it was thus heartening to see the work of several Indigenous writers, both established and emerging, supported by the festival and publishers.
Ali Cobby Eckermann, who has moved readers of these pages with her powerful poems, launched her first collection, little bit long time, published by the Australian Poetry Centre in its New Poets Series.
Aboriginal family and friends, as well as other festival-goers, were there in force to support the poet, including the “White Gate mob”, some of whose harrowing experiences inspired Cobby Eckermann to write “I tell you true” – a catalogue of trauma and sorrows that ends with the plea, “Don’t judge too hard, you never know / What sorrows we are nursing”.
Kenny Laughton, well known for his gritty autobiographical novel, Not Quite Men, No Longer Boys – about the experiences of an Aboriginal soldier in Vietnam – is working on a new novel, called Finders, Keepers.
In it he offers an account of early contact between his “mob out east of Alice” and European settlers, in particular a German ancestor.
At the festival he read from a vividly-written chapter called “Winds of Change”, in which he follows a medicine man as he walks alone into desert country, surviving off the land, gathering the plants he needs all the while dreading the imminent arrival of the “phantom tribe” with the fearful powers and weapons of death he has been hearing about.
A strong contingent of Aboriginal writers presented work in a preview of an NT Indigenous Anthology, to be published by IAD Press in association with the NT Writers’ Centre later this year.
The developmental work, through writers’ workshops, that has gone into this project has paid off, with several strong poems and stories read confidently by their authors at the festival. The anthology will feature work in six Indigenous languages as well as in English.
The Ptilotus Press anthology of Central Australian writing, Fishtails in the Dust, launched at the festival, also features some work by Indigenous authors, while creative writing students from Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education have published a slim volume of new work.
While all these contributions are crucial, oral traditions also need to be maintained.
Romaine Moreton, who is an electrifying performer of her own poetry and who sees performance as a way of continuing Indigenous oral cultural practice and an Indigenous perspective, spoke of the transmission of  history and knowledge through her family’s story-telling as she grew up.
She described the joy of recognition when in later life she came across places whose names she had come to know through these stories.
Interestingly another festival guest of quite different background – author, educator, human rights advocate Arnold Zable, the child of Polish-Jewish refugees who settled in Melbourne – spoke of a similar experience, of his parents’ naming of the places in their ancestral lands and of his rediscovering these places in his adult travels and being able create “maps of his parents’ dreamings of their childhood”.
Zable argued that all people have a deep need of oral story-telling.

LETTERS: "Do something or you’ll lose your tourism industry."

Sir,– My wife and I have just returned from a driving holiday to the Northern Territory.
Alice Springs is a disgrace. We had no idea of the “social problems” in outback Australia.
The Aboriginal people are an embarrassment to themselves and to the rest of the population.
Public urination seems to be the order of the day. Isn’t that illegal?
Tourists are warned by locals not to venture out after dark for fear of assault and robbery.   Try walking anywhere near the Todd River after dark.
We stayed at a hotel which was 300 metres from the casino and opposite the river but were warned by security guards not to walk back. We called a taxi instead.
Are we still in Australia?
Try walking in a park, the children drop their pants and defecate whereever and whenever they feel like it, in the middle of the day (why weren’t they in school?).  
Drive past the Aboriginal housing estates and the place looks like a local rubbish tip.
It is very easy to blame the non-aboriginal population but what about personal responsibility?
They say they love the land, not likely.
The locals are talking about imposing a “liquor litter charge” because used alcohol containers are just tossed anywhere, as soon as they are empty.
Who’s in charge? 
Where are the police, not really “where” but why aren’t they imposing the law?
That’s it for us, we won’t be going back and we spoke to many other tourists who share the same view.
People of the Alice, do something or you will lose your tourist industry!
Greg Hughes  

Do we need an urban Intervention?

Sir,– What is this madness we live in?  I often sit outside in the early hours of the morning and listen to a soundtrack of rage and violence echoing up and down the streets. 
We cannot talk about this without talking about First Australians and alcohol.
Alcohol is not the problem.  For many, alcohol is the answer to 30 years of being poorly advised by their elected representatives and poorly led by their own leaders. 
They have been taught nothing of responsibility, of cause and effect, and they have been given no stake in the future.
Because experience tells them they can they trash all law whether traditional or national, and all too often their mimicking children grow into monsters.
The direct and predictable result is a community-destroying disconnect from any notion of shared humanity stalking the streets of Alice. Daily we see where this has taken us as we pick up green cans, human waste and the burned out shells of someone else’s motorcar.  The waste of human potential is a disgrace.    
The Intervention has forced the most disconnected into town, but from the evidence before us neither the NT government nor the Town Council is equipped to deal with the resulting social chaos.  They are left to react in piecemeal fashion as best they can.
By all reports the Intervention has brought a measure of calm and hope to the remote communities.  Is it time to extend it?  Do we need an urban Intervention? 
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Communities need
face-to-face teaching

Sir,– A new funding model for regional and remote education, built around the distinct needs of regional Australia, is needed.
I have toured CDU’s Northern Territory regional campuses and feedback from key staff and industry suggested current funding arrangements were hampering educational quality and consistency in bush communities.
Staff are spending considerable time chasing funding streams that don’t recognise the value of teaching in communities, which our research proves is critical to closing the educational gap.
I spent three days visiting community groups across central and northern Australia where I discussed CDU’s role with local stakeholders.
There was an overwhelmingly positive view of CDU and our efforts to deliver directly into communities where they felt it was most beneficial. 
CDU’s Indigenous Community Engagement research backs community-based delivery in consultation with Indigenous “champions” who help to mentor and endorse the program.
The current funding model doesn’t account for this and assumes technology can fill the gap, but my feedback clearly shows face-to-face learning is still critical for vibrant and job-ready outcomes.
While I acknowledge the logistical challenges of remote delivery, it is crucial to develop solutions around community needs.
Economic and social prosperity will only come through investment in education that is delivered to the needs of its constituents.
It’s very clear to me that effective and targeted education requires a community-orientated funding and training model and we are keen to talk to government about this.
Professor Barney Glover,
Charles Darwin University

Exercising our rights

Sir,- I reply to the letter from Janice Harris about the Institute for Aboriginal Development (Alice News, April).
Firstly, the IAD special general meeting on Friday 20 March 2009 was not closed with the authority of the meeting, but was continued by the majority of the members gathered after Ms Harris had tried unsuccessfully to abandon it by walking out with her cronies, when they had realised that they did not have the numbers.
No members “were removed from the meeting for misbehaviour”, as alleged by Ms Harris.
The SGM continued and the overwhelming majority of members voted to dismiss the current management committee, including Ms Harris, and to approve a proper election for a new committee.
The meeting was then adjourned until March 27 to enable a proper election to be conducted.
When we, the members and the owners of the Institute, arrived for the adjourned SGM we were unlawfully and irresponsibly locked out, by order of Ms Harris!
We determined that we would continue to pursue proper constitutional and legal means at our disposal, in preference to more direct action at the time.
Secondly, Ms Harris has clearly exaggerated and misrepresented the costs of the SGM held on March 20, which she has inconceivably based upon the misuse of an unnecessary number of staff in convening this meeting, the inflated costs of staff salaries and superannuation, and a number of newspaper re-advertisements for the meeting caused by her blatant breaches of our IAD constitution.
She had wrongly called and notified this SGM initially.
The true cost would be far less than the over $8000 alleged by Ms Harris.
Thirdly, we have again exercised our rights as members and owners of IAD to call for another SGM to remove from the current Management Committee the current chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, public officer and other management committee members, under clause 30 of our constitution, on Thursday, May 28.
Further, Ms Harris has again falsely alleged that all IAD members were invited to a morning tea for members held on April 9.
The facts are that not all members, including our concerned members, had received invitations from Ms Harris to attend this so called morning tea.
Neville Perkins
Former IAD chairman
Alice Springs

ADAM'S APPLE: Squinting men & Adam’s apples.

A few years ago now, I was standing up against a bright orange wall. Orange, it so happens, is my favourite colour.
For many people, orange is too much. They prefer the cool and tranquil effect blue has on the soul.
Or perhaps they go for a floral pink to make them feel pretty. Perhaps red to give them a sense of exotic sexuality. 
No, orange is the colour for me. It is bold and happy and just a bit up itself. Just like me really.
I was standing up against this bright orange wall in the office of the Alice Springs News. Fear not loyal reader, Erwin was about to shoot me but not with a rifle. I was definitely without a blindfold and cigarette.
I was having my picture taken. The one in the middle of this column. Perhaps my face tells the tale better than words can.
I, it must be said, am a card-carrying member of the ‘squinting man club’. A club whose ranks are mostly filled with middle-aged men. Have you noticed that about men?
While women’s necks sag and their hands begin to spot as they reach a certain age, men, among other signs, have the skin above their eyelid move slowly toward their bottom eyelid as a tell tale sign of time.
They become squinty. Clive James and Tim Webster both come to mind.
I however have possessed this quality since birth. My father once confessed to me in the most secret of father-son moments that upon seeing me for the first time in the hospital nursery, he did have a brief thought that Mum might have been a bit friendly with Dr Chung from down the road.
In every school photo, in every family portrait, there is Adam looking as though he’s staring right into the sun.
But Erwin did not know this as he raised his very professional looking camera at me and the bright orange wall. “I want you to open your bloody eyes, Adam,” I remember him saying.
I also remember thinking, “Easy enough for you to say mate. You don’t have a mile of excess skin above your eyelid.”
But I did what I was asked and perhaps this is the only picture in existence of Adam Connelly, eyes open.
While I was standing in front of the bright orange wall, I was asked what I thought this new column should be called. After some to-ing and fro-ing it was decided that Adam’s Apple would henceforth be the moniker of my weekly epistle.
To be honest I was more concerned about what the column would say. This is the first time I have had a weekly work published and I was unsure if I could write six or seven hundred words a week.
I am also an avid column reader. Conservative and liberal, humour or gravitas, I love to read the thoughts of others deemed (by the editor at least) decent enough to be written down and published.
The column, unlike the article, allows us to read another member of humanity’s point of view and for this reason alone I feel it a privilege to have joined those ranks. Whether you agree with the writer or not matters very little.
In a world where relaxation is a commodity, ‘serious’ newspapers have taken of late to ‘magazine’ up their columns. Columnists opining on raising a family or public transport or the pitfalls of the dating game find themselves in the same publications as those discussing the fiscal outlook for West African emerging economies and its impact on the world market.
There are those that screw up their nose at such piffle being allowed into their esteemed journals. I do not. Fiscal whatevers in West Africa somewhere’s sounds highbrow, I agree, but when you think about it, it isn’t going to change your life. Your vote won’t swing on the back of it.
I’m not saying don’t be informed. All I’m saying is being informed doesn’t make that much difference in your life.
But a ‘puff’ column written about a woman’s travails getting from work to child care is about something that can be improved. A column which makes you think about the way you approach a potential mate is something you may want to think about and everyone has an opinion on the taxi that smells like a gym sock.
I love writing this column and I love writing it in Alice Springs about Alice Springs for that reason. Agree with me or not, like me or not, when you talk about Alice, everyone has an opinion.

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