May 21, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

New era looms in bush. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Aboriginal towns operating like any other in Australia, where people can live free of permits, invest and run a business, and own their own homes – that’s the courageous initiative of Alison Anderson, NT Minister for Indigenous Policy, in a desperate bid to end decades of misery for her people.
Ms Anderson’s move to bring home from Canberra key aspects of Indigenous affairs has the support of the NT Cabinet but will almost certainly be opposed vigorously by the land councils whose power and influence would be seriously curtailed.
The policy announced yesterday charts a course for the NT Government out of the Federal Intervention with a radical overhaul of the way government does business in that half of the Territory owned by Indigenous people.
Twenty of the larger remote communities will become growth towns open for private investment and the subject of priority investment by government to become hub towns in a “hub and spoke” model for service delivery.
Land title in these towns will change: they will have a head lease, preferably 99-year, with sub-leases able to be held by private interests.
This is very much the model pushed by former Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough and opposed by the Territory Government when the Intervention was introduced.
Township leases exist already in Nguiu (99 years) on the Tiwi Islands and over three communities on Groote Eylandt (80 years).
As in these cases, the head leases will be held by the Office of Township Leasing, an entity created at the behest of Mr Brough. A lot has changed in just two years.
The 20 growth towns will be towns “in the proper sense of the word”, says Ms Anderson.
They include the 15 prioritised by the Federal Government for housing and infrastructure investment.
Five have been added to increase the coverage of the “hub and spoke” service delivery model.
In Central Australia the new towns will be Hermannsburg, Yuendumu, Papunya, Ali Curung, Lajamanu and Elliott.
 “Much like country towns anywhere in Australia, they will be the economic and service centers for their region,” says Ms Anderson, “with motor vehicle registries, high schools, Centrelink offices, health services, shops, including specialty shops, cafes.”
The permit system in these towns will be “redundant”, says Ms Anderson.
It is incompatible with the development of private enterprise in the towns, as it leaves open the possibility of people being “kicked out”.
“Open communities are essential for economic growth and development,” she says.
“With the Indigenous birthrate increasing, if we can’t get a private economy going on Indigenous land, we might as well start increasing taxes right now,” says Ms Anderson.
An Indigenous Economic Development Strategy is part of the new policy, with security of land tenure and tax incentives for remote enterprise its key features.
Previously a lot of economic development on Indigenous land has been ad hoc; the new policy establishes a base environment conducive to economic development.
The sub-leases available in the growth towns will have to be unfettered enough to “pass a mortgage test”, allowing lessees to be borrow money against them, says Ms Anderson.
Private investment in the growth towns may well take time, but “without land tenure security” it will never happen, says Ms Anderson.
The new policy sits between the extremes of the over-stretched present, with government effort scattered across more than 70 communities as well as the outstations, and the decried alternative of herding remote populations into the larger centres.
With the Federal Intervention due to end in August 2012, the Territory Government wants to ensure that it doesn’t need to extend beyond that date.
The policy, announced by Chief Minister Paul Henderson and Ms Anderson yesterday, has big ramifications for the way the Land Rights Act operates and for the power of the land councils.
While Ms Anderson is hoping for the land councils’ full support and cooperation, if they fight the moves it is a fight “we are prepared to have”, she says.
“We will fight on behalf of Indigenous people moving forward and having the best life they possibly can, like normal Territorians, given all the choices and opportunities of a good quality education, of a good housing scheme and land tenure scheme, rather than just having the land to die on, land that’s not giving them anything.
“There was a time and place for land rights. We got our land back. Where to from here?”
At present the Land Trusts set up under the Land Rights Act nominally have the power over what can or cannot happen on their land.
In practice, this power is delegated to the land councils.
Ms Anderson says that the trusts can take their future in their own hands by demanding those delegated powers back: it’s an option provided for in the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act.
It’s something that would need the agreement of the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, which Ms Anderson believes would be forthcoming.
The only power that the Act says must be delegated to the land councils is that related to negotiating mining agreements.
Ms Anderson says the attitude from the land councils to date has been “pretty negative”.
In contrast, the people she has spoken to at outstation resource centres and in the shires have been “really positive” about the prospect of change.
“The land councils are saying this is about us taking away the land.
“It’s not. It’s about having certainty for infrastructure and certainty for business to be developed on these remote towns.”
The issues will be put to the people, though the mechanism for doing that has yet to be determined.
“But I’m telling you, people want to move on,” says Ms Anderson.
“They are saying, ‘Give us some opportunities for our children to have something better than what we’ve had’.”
Are people equipped with the know-how to take charge?
Ms Anderson says the government will help and the land trusts will also be able to employ people to assist them.
Much of what is being proposed bears the stamp of the thinking of former Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, chief architect of the Federal Intervention.
Says Ms Anderson: “Even though we were on different sides of politics I totally agreed with him and I thought the guy had the guts that nobody else had ever had, to recognize that it’s all very well to have the land but if you are not benefiting in any way from the land, what’s the use – just to continue the violence, the poverty and the disadvantage?”
Called “A Working Future”, the new policy’s title is intentionally double-edged: communities need to work better, that is become more functional, and Indigenous people need to work, that is be employed.
As well, all levels of government need to work together.
While there is as yet no formal agreement about the policy with the Australian Government and it has not been discussed directly with Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, there are a number of formal agreements that underpin its direction.
These include the recently signed Council of Australian Governments’ Remote Service Delivery National Partnership (with $10m attached to help implement the reforms) and the public housing provision agreements between the Australian and Territory Governments.
A test of the strength of support likely to be given by Ms Macklin will come today in her dealings with Tangentyere Council over the future of town camps in Alice Springs.
While the town camps do not come under “A Working Future”, given its focus on remote areas, allowing existing arrangements to remain would be anomalous in the context of the mainstreaming direction of Indigenous affairs policy at both the Federal and Territory levels.
Meanwhile, in remote areas small communities will continue to receive similar levels of government funding to what they receive at present, but housing will be treated as public housing and will be managed by Territory Housing, with allocation according to need and means tested rents.
“With small communities, we would welcome their initiative if they want a town lease and land tenure security to carve out a niche for themselves as, for instance, a tourism destination,” says Ms Anderson.
The small communities and outstations will be linked to the hub towns by a regional public transport network.
This will require a massive investment in roads infrastructure the main area of as yet unannounced expenditure involved in the implementation of the new policy.
There will be no new housing built in outstations and no new outstations created.
The current base level of funding to outstations ($36.5m) will remain, to cover municipal-type functions, but the maintenance of housing will be up to the owners. 
“In the Territory anywhere there are only two types of housing, private and public,” says Ms Anderson.
“Public housing has a Territory Housing lease over it and Territory Housing has responsibility for repairs and maintenance.
“People in private housing are primarily responsible for it. This is a key transitional message that I will have to get across.
“I recognise the importance of people living on country but people should not expect the taxpayer to pay for it.
“This is something that they are going to have to get used to, a totally different working direction.
“Hopefully it will take outstation residents out of the welfare cycle. They could be partnering with lots of people to get enterprises going on their land.”
Like children anywhere, children living on outstations will have to receive a formal education.
In some instances it will be feasible for them to use regional transport to travel to school; in others, like children from remote cattle stations or roadhouses, they will have to use distance education facilities, such as School of the Air. 
“I’m saying to these people, if you don’t take responsibility for all aspects of your lives, you don’t have a future,” says Ms Anderson.
Outstations that have become so big that they are effectively small communities will be taken out of the outstation funding environment.
One such is Alpara on the Plenty Highway, which cannot become a hub town because of cultural constraints, but it will be funded to support the Utopia homelands.
In the Centre there will be no hub town east of the Stuart Highway, due to population numbers and lack of suitable geographic placement.
Finke, Titjikala, Santa Teresa and Harts Range will all continue to rely on Alice Springs as their main service centre.
Between 80% and 95% of Aboriginal people live within a 50 km radius of either the 20 growth towns or the existing towns such as Jabiru and the major urban centres along the Stuart Highway.

Bob Beadman boss

Chairman of the NT Grants Commission and veteran Territory and Commonwealth public servant, now retired, Bob Beadman, has been appointed by Indigenous Policy Minister Alison Anderson to the role of Coordinator General of Remote Service Delivery.
In this role he will have the ability to go to CEO level in the various government departments and, if services are not being delivered adequately, demand reasons why.
The Coordinator General will report directly to the Chief Minister and the Indigenous Policy Minister.
Mr Beadman is known as an outspoken critic of the policy failures of the last 30 years.
In 2004 he wrote a lacerating paper for the Menzies Research Centre, titled “Do Indigenous Youth Have a Dream?”.
Many of the ideas in it appeared to be precursors of the ideas later taken up by former Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough and now in the current reforms program of the Territory Government.

Longer term funding

Funding of remote Indigenous communities and towns will be moved to a base level methodology applied over three, five and 10 year terms, replacing the annual grant rounds that dog remote service delivery.
This will allow towns to plan with certainty about the future, knowing that they will receive at least a base level of funding for services, based on their populations.
Indigenous Policy Minister Alison Anderson says there will be far greater funding equity using this methodology.
She gives as an example of inequity, Commonwealth capital expenditure in Indigenous communities in 2004-05, when three communities – Lajamanu, Groote and Wadeye – received half of all the money. With recurrent expenditure the inequity has been even more disturbing.
An in-depth analysis of funding received in East Arnhemland and West Arnhemland over 2004-05 and 2005-06 revealed that East Arnhemland was getting five times more per capita.
A broad brush comparison between East Arnhemland and the desert regions showed a similar discrepancy.
“This is the result of having had a funding system based on how well someone can do a funding application,” says Ms Anderson.
“This is the big job for Bob Beadman. He has been charged with changing the way we do business, ensuring equity across the NT based on a transparent methodology and on need.”

Land council’s new hurdle. ANALYSIS by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Central Land Council has been having a rough trot lately, and it’s getting a lot worse: none other than the Territory Government, in the hands of the CLC’s long time ally, the Labor Party, is prepared now to push for a curtailing of CLC power.
Alison Anderson’s revolutionary plan for her “people on the ground” can be seen as a damning indictment – widely supported in the black as well as the white societies – of the CLC’s catastrophic failure over three decades (a matter to which this newspaper has drawn attention for many years).
It took the politicians a long time to act but last year they pounced: Opposition Senators Nigel Scullion (NT) and George Brandis (QC, the Shadow Attorney General) grilled CLC director David Ross in Estimates Hearings about a string of issues including distributions of royalties.
Mr Ross, the man who earns, in addition to his CLC salary, $63,000 a year in company directors’ fees, had little to say for himself, taking on notice even simple questions, or refusing to answer them.
Then came a Federal Government report into Centrecorp, finally laying bare the operations of the clandestine investment company, with interests worth a reported $100m.
The CLC has a majority shareholding, which is possibly illegal.
The CLC has for years stonewalled enquiries from this newspaper about Centrecorp – google 91 reports in our online edition at going back to 1998.
Two weeks ago came another Federal Government report with the damning revelation that, of the four NT land councils, the CLC has the worst ratio of administration vs investment expenditure.
Of the money received from the Aboriginal Benefit Account, the CLC blows $9.5m a year on its own administration while just $2.4m is distributed to Aboriginal groups.
Compare that with the Anindilyakwa Land Council, covering Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island: less than $1m is spent on administration while $11m is distributed to Aboriginal groups in the region.
And now Sen Scullion has pushed through a Senate enquiry into the “relationship and financial dealings” between the CLC and Centrecorp.
There will be hearings in Alice Springs later this year.
The Territory’s Labor Senator, Trish Crossin, opposed this enquiry, and recently the Labor Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, admitted he had “no interest in pursuing” Senate questioning of the affairs of Centrecorp.
Their disconnect from reality is astounding and they bear significant responsibility for the ongoing misery in Aboriginal society.
Says Sen Scullion about the new probe, due to report by August 11: “This enquiry is designed to once and for all tear down the secrecy surrounding two multi million dollar enterprises so that Aboriginal people can finally learn who benefits and in what way through CLC and Centrecorp operations.”
The terms of reference include “whether taxpayers’ funds have been paid or transferred to Centrecorp and how those monies have been treated in the accounts of the Central Land Council and Centrecorp” and “how Aboriginal Australians living in the Central Australia region benefit from Centrecorp’s business and charitable operations.”
Centrecorp’s trust deed is another previously secret document that saw the light of day a couple of weeks ago, by direction of the Senate (the CLC is an agency of the Federal Government).
The deed was touted as laying to rest persistent allegations that the CLC, through its investment in Centrecorp, is in breach of the very Act under which it operates.
This is how the argument goes:-
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act says the land council can “assist Aboriginals ... to carry out commercial activities ... in any manner that will not cause the Land Council to incur financial liability or enable it to receive financial benefit”.
As the owner of three of the five shares in Centrecorp the CLC seems most decidedly exposed to financial liability or benefit.
Not so, says a highly placed source, speaking to the Alice Springs News on the condition of not being named: “The Trust Deeds [of Centrecorp] expressly prohibit any benefit to shareholders.”
However, it seems that should be tested rigourously.
This is what the Centrecorp deed says (please don’t blame us for the language): “The income and property of the Trust Fund shall be applied solely for the promotion of the Charitable Objects in accordance with the provisions of this Deed and no portion thereof shall be paid or transferred directly or indirectly by way of dividend bonus or otherwise howsoever by way of profit to the shareholders of the Trustee provided that nothing herein shall prevent the payment in good faith of remuneration to any officer, servant or shareholder of the Trustee in return for any services actually rendered to the Trustee or reasonable and proper rental for any premises leased to the Trustee” [our italics].
One’s head spins imagining the “financial benefit” the CLC could get in the form of “remuneration” for a multitude of services and consultations it could be providing to Centrecorp and the companies linked to it.
As the majority shareholder, all the CLC would need to do is snap its fingers and Centrecorp would have to comply.
The CLC, it seems, is clearly “enabled” to “receive financial benefit” from Centrecorp, even if it does not do so at the moment, and that, it would seem, is against the law.
Could it be that as an organisation staring redundancy in the face, because its sustained incompetence is finally becoming notorious, the CLC was trying to set up a nice little earner for when the taxpayer finally gave it the heave-ho?
Who should occupy the CLC building nearing completion on the North Stuart Highway, at a cost to the taxpayer of $16m?
History will tell, but if reason reigns, it could well be a team turning Alison Anderson’s dream into reality.

Remission for footy brawlers. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Two key offenders in the notorious 2007 football grand final brawl, Owen Cole and Geoffrey Miller, have had their league penalties drastically reduced by a tribunal independent from the Central Australian Football League (AFLCA).
Both, on charges of aggravated assault, copped suspended jail terms in the Magistrate’s Court.
Mr Cole’s actions were described by the magistrate as “savagery and thuggery of the worst order”.
But the league-imposed punishment has been reduced from life bans to six years, with three of the six years suspended indefinitely. This will see both men back at the footy grounds in 2011.
The reductions were granted by an independent panel consisting of Alice Springs identities Bruce Deans, a businessman, and Paul Fitzsimons, a public servant, and Darwin lawyer Tom Anderson.
AFLCA says the panel was convened “pursuant to the deed of release and indemnity” made between AFLCA and Pioneer Football Club in March 2008.
Two other brawlers had their penalties reduced: David Kerrin (kept his four years suspension but two of them were suspended) and Jarwon Cole-Manolis (seven years down to four years with two of them suspended).
The incident attracted world wide attention to Alice Springs when more than 70,000 people watched footage of the melee, uploaded on YouTube by the Alice Springs News.
It was accompanied by one of the most poisonous public exchanges the town has ever seen, with hundreds of racial slurs posted on the website. The News pulled the posting off YouTube after two weeks.
The decisions about the penalties were made on April 21 and are reported here exclusively, after a tip-off from a football fan.
AFLCA has made no public announcement but all the local clubs have been notified privately.

Main street art: How the galleries survive the recession. By KIERAN FINNANE.

For one Alice art business, after almost 20 years in the game, now is a time to consolidate in face of the uncertain economic climate; for another, born in the teeth of the downturn, now is a time to hold their nerve.
Gallery Gondwana was established in Alice in 1990, in the wake of a previous economic slump caused by the pilots’ strike of the year before.
Peta Appleyard Gallery opened in November last year, just a month after massive credit losses around the world put the words “Global Financial Crisis” on everyone’s lips.
At the time Arts Minister Alison Anderson acknowledged the courage of owner Peta Appleyard given the economic times.
Founder and owner of Gallery Gondwana, Roslyn Premont, says the circumstances of her early years were “not as hard as they are for Peta”.
“It was a very different landscape – much less competition, and I had fewer expenses, with just myself and a partner running the gallery.” 
Since then Gallery Gondwana has established a solid reputation for quality work and ethical dealings with Aboriginal artists and has also undergone various changes and expansions. At one stage there was a Gondwana II in Alice, focused on decorative arts and furnishings.
In more recent years there has been a Gallery Gondwana in Sydney, in an operation similar to its sister gallery in Alice, focussed primarily on Aboriginal art (though not exclusively work from the Centre).
Common to all has been the driving energy of Ms Premont, who arrived in Alice in 1987 and ran the government-owned Centre for Aboriginal Art for three years before branching out on her own. 
Now she is closing the Sydney operation and will return to Alice to focus on “the main game”.
The lease for the Sydney premises is up for renewal.
With the economic climate as it is, she feels it is “not sensible” to renew.
This time of year is always slower, says Ms Premont, so it is hard to know how much is due to the economic downturn.
“We are feeling it in Alice as well. When the tourist season starts, we’ll see more clearly.
“My main priority is to keep everyone employed and to stay buoyant.”
However, in the show just opened in Sydney, honouring the work of Mitjili Napanangka Gibson, who plays the artist grandmother in Warwick Thornton’s acclaimed film Samson & Delilah, the signal seemed clear.
More than 250 people came to the opening, which featured cast and crew from the film and also marked the occasion of the final Gondwana show in the Sydney gallery.
Says Ms Premont: “Two years ago all the work of an artist of Mitjili’s calibre would have sold on opening night.
“This time, while all the small works sold and a few of the larger ones went to big collectors, the medium-sized works have not yet moved.”
In Alice Springs the gallery continues to sell works priced under $5000 and occasionally “amazing pieces” to special collectors, but these larger sales are “few and far between”.
“We are definitely feeling the crunch but we just don’t know to what degree yet.”
Ms Premont says she can’t remember a comparable period in her two decades in the industry.
She believes a market for excellent quality work will always survive, as will, to some extent, a market for work by which to remember one’s experiences in the Centre – “this market makes up part of our turnover in Alice”.
But she will be looking for opportunities to diversify, “to tap into another income stream”.
The local market will be important for this.
Gallery Gondwana already caters to locals with their jewelry lines, and occasional fashion parades.
“That’s not our main income stream but it’s important  and it gets people into the gallery who otherwise might not come.
“We get a lot of first time art buyers that way.”
Peta Appleyard’s approach has been to diversify from the outset.
While the fortunes of the gallery are underpinned by its exclusive representation of Watiyawanu Artists, whose leading painters are much sought after, it is committed to displaying a broad spectrum of contemporary Australian art, not only Indigenous art.
“Much as it is loved, there is a saturation of Indigenous art in Alice Springs,” says Ms Appleyard.
The gallery’s showing of a selection of work by the late Halcyon Lucas marks a first: there has not previously been a solo show for a non-Indigenous local artist in a commercial gallery in Alice (Gallery Gondwana has also shown work by non-Indigenous locals, an innovation at the time, but not as a solo show).
Art lovers have responded.
Peta Appleyard Gallery manager Nathan King, born and raised in Alice, says so far the show is covering its costs and if a couple more of the larger works sell, “we’ll be in front”.
But he also says “this show was never about profit”.
“Everything was priced very modestly. We and Halcyon’s daughters wanted to make the work accessible to the people who knew her – to provide the opportunity for a redistribution of her work back into the community.
“The main reason we would class the show as successful is that has been good for our general PR.
“A new group of people are becoming aware of our existence, a mixture of young and old, and some visitors, including four Belgian backpackers.”
The Belgians pooled funds to buy the excellent painting featuring on the show’s invitation, intending to share it, with a handover once a year on the anniversary of their acquisition.
Another work went to a significant private collection in Victoria.
Mr King, who has a degree in business with a major in marketing, knows that most new businesses go broke within the first 12 months.
“Our first goal is not to go broke,” he says.
“We’re realistic. We won’t make a lot of money this year, but we’ve been blessed.
“Just when things have been looking dire, when a big bill has been coming up, sales have gone through.”
This has been particularly the case with work by Watiyawanu artists, but a showing of the “collectable” British-born, Melbourne-based artist David Bromley also had good returns.
Only three works were sold, but two were for in excess of $10,000. All buyers were local.
Were they surprised to find this demand locally?
“We were relieved but not surprised,” says Mr King, “that was our plan.
“Two out of the three buyers were people who do not have a passion for Aboriginal art. We were offering an alternative, non-Indigenous paintings with investment potential.”
Ms Appleyard says the most common word used in response to the Bromley show was “refreshing”.
“The public has been telling us what we felt ourselves, that there was room to do something different.”
Peta Appleyard Gallery is next door to Gallery Gondwana.
Ms Appleyard welcomes the prospect of Ms Premont’s renewed focus on her Alice operation.
“That’s fantastic for us and for Papunya Tula.
“Alice Springs is what’s important to me, as my home town.
“If we’re all working hard, we challenge one another, that helps all of us do our best.”
Her gallery is notable for its lofty space and elegant refurbishment.
“We strived to create from the floor up a good quality space, a blank canvas, to allow the work we show to speak for itself,” says Ms Appleyard.
It must also have exposed her to some debt: its furnishings are custom-designed; its Erco lighting is state of the art (“what they use in the Louvre”, she says).
Did she have a healthy amount of capital to start with?
She laughs: she had some capital but is certainly carrying some debt.
Her response to the current economic climate is simple: “Stay strong, focus on what we do.”
“I had every expectation that it would be a tough journey regardless of the economy.”
She acknowledges the importance of her exclusive representation of Watiyawanu Artists and on-going relationships with interstate galleries that have developed around that.
In fact the Watiyawanu artists are responsible for her involvement in the art industry and led her “to whitefella art”.
Ms Appleyard grew up out bush, between Haasts Bluff and Mt Liebig.
“Their art was part of my life along with other things like hunting and ceremony but it didn’t hit me as a profound experience until I went back out as a married woman with a child, and saw work by Wentja Napaltjarri – I was gob-smacked, I literally fell to my knees.”
Ms Appleyard’s mother, Glenis Wilkins, was (and still is) working as coordinator at the art centre.
“I said to them I’m here, tell me how I can help you.”
And so six years ago, she began marketing their work.
“I dealt with people the artists weren’t interested in dealing with, raising their profile – they are now a very recognised art centre.
“Our deal with them is like that of any other gallery, 60 to the artist, 40 to us, and we cover expenses.”
As she became more confident in what she was doing, the idea of her own gallery was born. Planning was well underway before the global economy began to unravel. There’s no turning back now.

Buzz, not bucks: The Finke ... 16 days to go. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Finke is about buzz, not bucks.
Wayne Braszell (above, left) and Jason Adami (right) are living proof of that.
Both have come down with the Finke Fever gripping Alice Springs, their minds focussed on getting their machines ready, however different they may be.
“You can feel the hype building, all around town,” says Wayne.
He reckons his Southern Cross Mark III buggy is worth around $18,000.
That’s roughly what the shock absorbers alone cost on the “truggie” raced by Jason, a massive machine with one of the longest and widest wheelbases, and a 5.7 litre V8 motor.
Value? “Around $80,000,” says Jason.
While Jason, having raced with Peter Kittle, is used to top of the range gear, Wayne is competing in the Sportsman’s Class (formerly Class 3).
“It’s every bit as much fun,” he says.
His objective is finishing, not winning.
He’s competed in every Finke since 1998.
He won his class twice and had one second place.
That’s the only three times he finished.
In one race his buggy gave up the ghost just 35 kms from the start.
One time it conked out within sight of the day one finish at the Finke community.
In the wet 2001 race the engine drowned 20 kms from the finish line.
“I drive it hard,” says Wayne. “After all, it’s a race.”
His navigator is his work mate, Shane Tenace.
Wayne owns WB Mobile Windscreens and the race will be a real break for both of them: the buggy doesn’t have a windscreen.
Wayne’s machine, like most of them in the Finke, is testimony to the dedication and mechanical skills of the drivers and owners.
The buggy has a VW running gear with a few Porsche bits; a five-speed Renault box; a tiny 1300 cc, normally aspirated Suzuki GTI engine that revs at a most respectable 8000 RPM.
At that output when something goes wrong, it goes wrong big time.
Wayne fitted springs and shockies (18” travel at the back, 16” front).
Three weeks out from the race, his engine head is still in Adelaide.
Wayne’s fingers are crossed, but he’s used to it: the buggy is always a work in progress, in the shed on Wayne’s rural block.
The seven winter time races each year at the magnificent Ooraminna track are a great proving ground for the Big One on the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
In town Jason, owner of the Sporties restaurant and bar in the Mall, is scraping the mud off from the last Ooraminna meeting.
His truggy’s front is from a Jymco buggy and the tail end comes from a Trophy Truck also made in the USA.
So is the centrally mounted Chev 350 getting its 500 horsepower onto the track via a three gear Turbo 400 box.
Top speed: 240 km/h.
Has he done it, on dirt?
“Yes,” says Jason.
He says the truggy won’t be the fastest in the race but almost certainly the most reliable (Jason finds a piece of wood to touch).
The buggies with independent rear suspension will have an advantage over the truggie’s rigid rear axle, with a limited slip differential.
But the truggie will be stronger.
“It’s built not to break. It’s hopefully indestructible,” says Jason.
The front features J-shaped swing arms, forward of the shockies, allowing 20” of travel, more than A-shaped arms would permit with the shockies in the middle.
The machine’s cage-like chassis is testimony to the engineering skills developed in Alice Springs over 31 Finkes, especially since the buggies gained pre-eminence over the bikes in early 2000.
Jason says the chassis, originally adapted and built by Rod Smith, has been upgraded by his “fabricator”, Mick Ackaman, from designs by Jason.
He says the wheelbase of the machine was determined by the distance between the whoops, the legendary bumps in the track, so that the buggy can fly from top to top.
But now the whoops are further apart, says Jason “and bigger”.
Like most competitors Jason is praying for rain on the race days, keeping down the all-embracing dust which can cut down visibility to as little as 10 metres.
Jason’s navigator is Danny Auricht, a bike competitor before driving for Peter Kittle, later handing over to Dave Fellows.
Jason says even a top navigator has a difficult job: “There is too much going on.”
In the USA there is now wide use of GPS guided track information.
Continuous images of the track immediately ahead are displayed on a screen – minus the dust. That system is not yet permitted in Australian off-road racing.

ADAM'S APPLE: Weighing up freedom versus distance.

When it comes to discussions about the cost of air travel, most Centralians respond with the same six word lament – “Don’t talk to me about it!”
Let’s not pretend for a moment that we live in a civilised society. When someone from Sydney can be flown to Vietnam and back and be housed there for four nights for $50 more than it took me to fly return to Sydney, there is something amiss.
Whether frugal by nature or necessity, some people choose the road less travelled when it comes to getting to a major city. For those who are Alice locals or those who drive back to their stomping ground you may not be aware that it is occasionally more economical to fly to your destination via another city.
In the attempt to save a hundred dollars or so I myself have flown home via Adelaide, via Melbourne and via Brisbane in my four years in Alice Springs.
While it takes some extra time it can save you quite a pretty penny and it has the added benefit of letting you see parts of the country you otherwise would miss.
On my last trip home I went via Adelaide. An hour or so out of Alice I got to see the majestic Lake Eyre full of water from the channel country.
Although I was 12 kilometres up in the air and looking out of a window no bigger than my face, it was a sight to see. Such a large body of water rising out of the driest of landscapes.
Another benefit out the Tour de Tightwad, is that for half a day you get to wander around a city with no particular purpose but to waste some time. You get to be an expert on a place in four short hours.
Regardless of the city, the one thing you realise when visiting a place outside Alice Springs is the amazing freedom we have in Central Australia.The equation is quite simple. The size of the population divided by the physical size of the city equals the amount of regulations, ordinances and laws controlling what you do. Do this here, don’t do that, and don’t touch this, come over here, line up there.
I was sitting eating a sandwich outside the Adelaide airport watching the fair people of the garden city make their way in and out of the terminal. Like zombies on a mission, they filter out to catch their bus or cab.
They, like the good citizens they are, throw the obligatory scornful glance at the man who has decided to smoke a cigarette outside of the designated smoking zone and then queued at the appropriately signposted place for the bus to town.
Adelaide is a beautiful place but, just like all the other cities in Australia it is full of barricades, bus lanes and bright yellow signs.
All of these regulations are implemented with an aim to make living in a city easier. But does it ever feel like some governments make new laws just to look like they are doing something?
The South Australian government have recently banned the issuing of plastic bags. Now regardless of your opinion on the efficacy of such a move, it’s a bold one and it’s working on the surface at least.I didn’t realise it for an hour or so but I didn’t see a plastic bag in the malls and streets of the city.
Not until I was making my way back to the airport. There he was, a regular looking man walking along the footpath across the road to me, plastic shopping bag in hand.
People stopped to look. Was he breaking the law or was he part of some heritage re-enactment group? A throwback to a simpler time. In fact people were looking at him like people look at a $2 note, or the way kids look at vinyl records. Sure it costs us a vital organ to get anywhere, but at least in Alice we aren’t going to be accused of treason for carrying home the groceries.

LETTERS: Research leads to investment, jobs.

Sir,– Trevor Shiell’s letter to the editor (May 14) about a man with a PhD in physics who left the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) after working as an electrician in abandoned remote communities suggests most academic endeavour is impractical.
The real story is that Dr Bob Lloyd was an excellent research scientist employed at CAT to conduct cutting edge research in renewable energy. Bob left CAT because he was recruited to head a national renewable energy project at the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy.
His research report laid the foundation for the national renewable energy services Bushlight project.
This project has generated over $40m income to the town of Alice Springs and has provided employment for over 60 people.  The project has bought national attention to the town and has won the National Engineering Excellence Award and the project’s initial leader was also recognised as the National Engineering Technologist of the year in 2007.
The project has stimulated the growth and expansion of more than 10 small business enterprises across remote Australia and has developed and refined the renewable energy industry’s capacity to service remote clients. 
These businesses now operate in a service network that supports 136 Bushlight systems in 106 communities and a further 100 non-Bushlight renewable systems across NT, WA and QLD.
The expertise and capacity CAT has developed enabled us to play a leadership role within the Alice Springs Solar City bid through Bushlight’s then General Manager Grant Behrendorff.  This $40m project has also generated six new jobs as well as providing residents of Alice Springs with a real opportunity to reduce their energy costs and provide more work for local electrical contractors and green plumbers.
Staff recruited to CAT to sustain the early energy work have gone on to prepare feasibility studies and then project manage the design and construction of the Desert Knowledge Solar Centre bringing a further $3.1m to the centre and making Alice Springs the focus of the largest solar demonstration facility in the southern hemisphere.
Alice Springs is the only place in Australia and one of only a few places worldwide where the renewable industry can obtain live data on these new solar technologies.
Excited by the opportunity of using new knowledge to expand our business, and driven by commercial imperatives referred to by Mr Shiell, the Board of CAT (all Indigenous people) two years ago established a “for profit” company, CAT Projects, which has grown quickly and recently managed the design and installation of the largest roof top photovoltaic array in the southern hemisphere at the Crown Plaza in Alice Springs, another $3m project. 
CAT Projects is also managing other major community infrastructure projects around Alice Springs and in conjunction with the Indian and Australian governments is undertaking a $3m project in three regions in India applying skills and experience gained through the Bushlight project to the development of village energy services in India.
Bruce Walker
Alice Springs

No pay toilets in USA

Sir,– Regarding ‘Are we getting public dunnies right?’ (May 14).
Pay toilets were outlawed years ago in the USA.
Each business has an “implied contract” with the general public concerning safety, health and a sanitary environment, and many other considerations that are normal in the general society.
It is compulsory that each business provide sanitary tolets for the general public.
I keep reading your paper. Keep on trucking.
Virgil Dotson
Las Vegas, Nevada-USA

Consult people

Sir,– The Territory Today 8HA poll recorded 94% of people are not happy with Cameco Paladin commencing drilling for uranium at Angela Pamela, only 20km from Alice Springs.
This is a clear message that the people of Alice Springs need to be consulted by the NT Government about mining uranium on their doorstep.
We must stand up and voice our concerns about this dangerous polluting industry.
Let’s protect our town from this greedy corporation.
Adelaide Church
Alice Springs

Not afraid of U-mine

Sir,– To those who are worried about uranium mining a little to the south of Alice Springs I suggest that if they believe the element to be dangerous, they should be relieved that it ought to be dug up and taken away. If it’s gone, it’s not a problem.
Why should we be concerned that in some remote way mining uranium might contaminate the Mereenie aquifer?
For millions of years rainwater has percolated through the deposit, evidently causing no aquatic radioactivity to Mereenie water.
I have camped in the proposed mine area, sleeping on the ground in my swag a number of times. I’m still here!
The fear of uranium as a power source reminds me of the introduction of motor vehicles into England. So feared were these machines that a man waving a red flag was required to walk ahead of each vehicle.
In 1957-58 I was involved with the testing of the first neutron moisture meter.
The source of the neutron scatter was a small slug of Plutonium through which an electric current was passed. Again, after using this dangerous device – I’m still here!
When not in use out bush, the radioactive substance was stored at the then CSIRO headquarters in Gregory Terrace, but to those who work in that area today – don’t worry. If I survived, so will you.
Des Nelson
Alice Springs

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