June 4, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Shire revolt. By KIERAN FINNANE.

“We’re not paying!” is the chorus of protest from local quarrying businesses who’ve just been landed a rates bill from the shires.
However, they won’t have a choice, according to MacDonnell Shire Acting CEO Philippa Major, as, under the new Local Government Act, all land within the new shires is rateable, with some exceptions that apparently don’t apply to the quarrying leases.
The Alice Springs News spoke to North Concrete (NT), Alice Springs Sand Supply and Alice Landscaping Supplies.
They all already pay a number of government fees and charges for their various quarrying leases and object to this new charge which comes, they say, with no service supplied.
“We already pay the DPIFM [now Department of Resources] rates on the tenements [leases] and do mine management plans annually,” says Michelle Lines, director with husband Andrew of North Concrete.
Apart from fees of $250 to $300 per lease, the company also has “open bank security of $7000 sitting there with the department”.
North Concrete has received four rates notices, one from Central Desert Shire, three from MacDonnell Shire, each amounting to $710, although two of the notices from MacDonnell Shire refer to more than one lease.
“How are they working this out?” asks Mrs Lines.
“And what are we paying for?
“The shires do not supply bins, water, power, sewerage or maintain our roads,” she says.
She also wonders whether the shire office knows where the leases are. The notice from Central Desert Shire refers to a mineral lease in an “unnamed street” in Tanami. Mrs Lines says the lease is on Ambalindum, near Arltunga, nowhere near Tanami.
She says the roads used by the company – Undoolya Road and Ringwood Road – are not shire roads, they are NT Government roads.
“There’s been no consultation or mention of any of this prior to these bills arriving,” says Andrew Lines, who is also outraged by the 19% daily interest that will be charged on overdue amounts and by the “back-dating” of the rate.
The notice is for rates over 2008-09, with payment due on June 22.
“I already do a 14 hour day,” says Mr Lines.
“I won’t be doing a 15 hour day for these people!”
Sandra Morley from Alice Springs Sand Supply has a similar story.
“We make lease payments to Mines and Energy [Resources] for the sandpit,” says Mrs Morley.
“And we pay for the maintenance of roads with our vehicle registrations, just like everybody else.
“We have no power, no water, no curbing, no services of any kind at the quarry and we don’t want any.
“So why are we paying?
“It’s hard enough to make a living without paying for nothing!”
The first Mrs Morley knew of the charge was when she received the notice a week ago.
“What right has the shire to impose a charge?” she asks.
“We’ve had our business for 25 years and have never had to pay anything like this before, so why now?”
She says the charge “will not help the community”.
“We endeavour to supply a reasonably priced product but this will add to the cost and the consumer will have to pay in the end.
“I’m very upset.
“Something has got to be done about it.”
Mrs Morley says she will “certainly not” be paying the charge.
At Alice Landscaping Supplies Craig Cavanagh has six leases with another two in the pipeline.
With a minimum charge of $710 per lease he’s expecting his costs to shoot up by close to $6000.
“That’s $6000 to find from nowhere for nothing,” says Mr Cavanagh, who has had the business since 2004.
The draft MacDonnell Shire Plan says ‘clustering’ – of a number of leases in the same location held by a single lease owner – to avoid multiple payment of the minimum rate has yet to be finalised, as with a number of other guidelines.
The plan says total rates from this sector (Active Mining, Extractive and Petroleum leases) in the shire are expected to be $14,000 in 2009-10.
“We receive no services whatsoever. We’ve got to maintain our own roads, put roads in,” says Mr Cavanagh. 
He says he has told the shire he’ll be happy to pay if they want to grade his road four times a year.
He says in a phone call to the MacDonnell Shire head office on Monday, none of his questions could be answered.
“In most shires if they charge a rate you get a service,” he says.
“I asked what service do you give me.
“I got no sense out of them.”
On Monday he had only received one notice for $710 relating to one lease, but he has four in the immediate area.
He says he asked the shire office whether he was to expect other notices for the other leases, and if not, why was only one lease referred to in the notice.
No answer.
He is also expecting to receive another notice from Central Desert Shire for his other lease.
But he won’t be paying: “There’s no way in the world I’ll give away that sort of money for nothing.”
MacDonnell Shire Acting CEO Philippa Major says the shire council has chosen to charge the minimum rate to those with active mining leases, putting the amount at $736, although all of the businesses the News spoke to had received notices for $710.
Ms Major says the shire council “recognises that as we reach the end of our first year in operation there has been significant focus on ensuring [that] our service delivery to our 14 remote towns is improved to a standard expected in other parts of Australia”.
Mining operators, pastoralists and commercial business operators are “an integral part of the MacDonnell Shire”, says Ms Major.
“As we move into our second year of operations MacDonnell Shire Council wants to build effective partnerships and relationships with all residents and ratepayers.
“It will take time for our council to build these relationships, but council is committed to engaging with all residents.”
She says benefits of effective partnerships will include:
• improved advocacy and representation to all levels of government on regional and economic issues;
• improved advocacy and representation to ensure roads are upgraded and maintained;
• improved services in remote towns;
• improved employment and training opportunities available in remote towns.
The Alice News asked if the shire sees a case for negotiating with the lease-holders and if not, what will the shire do about non-payment.
Ms Major did not respond to these questions.
The News also contacted Central Desert Shire CEO Rowan Foley but he was unwell and unavailable to answer questions.

Papunya to New York: Have painting, will travel. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Another Central Australian art business is defying the recession, indeed heading straight for the eye of the storm: Papunya Tula Artists are mounting a big selling show in New York, taking advantage of the interest in Aboriginal art being created by a non-selling exhibition, Icons of the Desert.
The company, whose gallery is in Todd Mall but whose painters – amongst the most celebrated of all Aboriginal artists –  mostly live in the remote communities of Kintore and Kiwirrkurra, is sending 40 canvasses to New York in September.
The works are by their leading painters, including Makinti Napanangka, winner of last year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, and Patrick Tjungurrayi, winner of last year’s inaugural West Australian Indigenous Art Wards, now the richest Aboriginal art prize in the country. 
Rising stars Doreen Reid Nakamarra and Yukultji Napangarti will travel to New York for the show’s opening.
New York University has made an exhibition venue in the heart of Greenwich Village available to Papunya Tula for two weeks – “at a very reasonable rate”, says company manager, Paul Sweeney.
The word is out amongst collectors, galleries and supporters, and Mr Sweeney is already aware of “lots of people from Australia” booking flights and accommodation.
Publicity and promotion will be linked to Icons of the Desert, which is showing some of the finest examples of early Papunya boards from the private collection of John and Barbara Wilkerson.
It includes works by masters such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, and Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri.
The show opened at Cornell University, in Ithaca, NY, in January, is currently at the Fowler Museum at UCLA in Los Angeles, before it moves on to the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, opening on September 10, with Papunya Tula’s show following up across the road on September 12. 
Papunya Tula artists Bobby West Tjupurrula, Joseph Jurra Tjapaltjarri, Ray James Tjangala were present for the Icons of the Desert opening at Cornell and made a large ground design in the exhibition space over three days.
“That created a lot of interest,” says Mr Sweeney, “and the idea for doing a show grew from there.”
Usually a venture like this would take a year or more in the planning, but in this case everything has fallen into place in a matter of months.
The tough times and the city at the heart of the global economic downturn might not seem to be propitious but the opportunity was to good to pass up.
“It’s a chance to expose our work to people who haven’t seen it before, to generate a new market for the artists. It will surely pay off in the long term,” says Mr Sweeney.

Finke: New rocket for Dave Fellows & Andrew Kittle. Grabham switches to KTM. REPORTS edited by ERWIN CHLANDA.

4 wheels: The new Peter Kittle Motorsport Jimco (pictured) which debuted at Hyden at Easter has shaped up fine in testing, with the suspension performing very well out of the box.
“We’re not going into the event with the thought of the unknown and we can now take lots of confidence into the race,” says driver Dave Fellows, who, with navigator Andrew Kittle, is the man most likely to succeed this weekend.
The venue for the Hyden Humps is “Smithy’s Place”, Hyden, Western Australia, about 340km south east of Perth.
It’s a two day-long course off road race comprising a prologue and two sections of five laps over a  27km circuit, the surface of which is dirt, sand, gravel, clay and rocky outcrop. 
The total competitive distance is about 270 km – equal to a one-way trip in the Finke. 

“At the Finke the track conditions are pretty consistent with previous years and I expect the times to Finke will be under the one hour 55 minute mark,” says Fellows.
With a high quality field entering the race, Fellows’ goal of going two from two won’t be an easy task, says Randall Kilner of the Australian Offroad Racing Championships.
There’ll be stiff competition from the reigning Australian Champions, Shannon and Ian Rentsch.
“Taking the first round win at the ARB Pinjarra Engineering Hyden 450, the son and father team have flat shifted into 2009 and will be one of the battalion of Proclass buggies and Extreme 2WD trucks primed for battle,” says Kilner.
Offroad young guns such as the Robinson brothers, Pinto and Brown will take aim at the experienced campaigners in a bid to be the first back into Alice on Monday morning.
The Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race commences with scrutineering in Alice Springs tomorrow (Blatherskite Park Showgrounds from 5pm).
Thousands are expected to flock to the evening which provides a great opportunity to check out the race cars and bikes, before they are unleashed on the desert.
Racing commences on Saturday morning, with the prologue that is used to determine the starting order for Day One.
The race proper kicks off on Sunday June 8, with the cars blasting away from the start line at 7.30am in Alice Springs and working their way through the checkpoints at Deep Well, Rodinga, Bundooma and Mt Squires on their way to Finke.
After a night under the stars, the cars are regrouped at Finke for Monday’s return leg to Alice Springs, starting at 7.30am.
The winning car is expected into Alice shortly after 9am.
There are 78 buggies this years, down from the high of 104 but more than last year.
Keen to convert two podium finishes in the last two years into an elusive “King of the Desert” title, the Prout Offroad Racing Team say they have pulled out all stops for their 2009 assault on the Tattersall’s Finke.
 “While we were very happy with our fourth place at the Hyden 450, we knew the car’s handling needed to be improved before tackling Finke,” says team owner and driver Brad Prout.
Not only has the team performed its normal race preparation but they have also developed the suspension and drive line set up of the single seat Jimco which debuted in the West.
Rejigging the buggy included extending the rear Jimco trailing arms.
The 2008 victory was Fellows’ fourth outright win at Finke from 14 starts and his first with co-driver Andrew Kittle.
Evolving from the team’s years of offroad racing experience, the new Jimco draws on the same bullet proof drivetrain that has proven successful.
The fire breathing twin turbo Toyota 2GR-FE WT-i 3.5 litre V6 engine was built by Shane Wilson Competition Engines in Mt Gambier that propelled Fellows and Kittle to the 2008 win.
Managed by Motec, the twin turbo intercooled Toyota engine puts the horsepower to the ground through a six speed sequential Albins AGB Gearbox and a 7.25 inch Sachs Rally Clutch.
Says Fellows: “The car has the potential to do an equally quick time in 2009, to last years sub 1 hour 50 min. However the heavy showers before the race certainly helped to get the extra drive to track.“The Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race is our favourite race of the year and we are looking forward to getting down to business.”

2 wheels: Ben Grabham won the last two Finkes on a Honda. This year he will be astride a KTM 505, the Austrian brand that dominates off-road racing throughout the world, including the Paris to Dakar.
Wayne “Woody” Woodberry, who sells KTMs in Alice, says Grabham’s choice was clearly motivated by the Australian ace having his eye on a global prize.
Grabham (at right) is more reserved: “I haven’t even thought about stuff like that.
“I concentrate on one thing at the time.
“I worry about getting through this race first.”
And he’ll be looking over his shoulder at Ryan Branford (at left) who caused a sensation when he won the 2006 Finke at the age of just 19, and came second the last two years.
He is Honda’s best hope on a CR450, after Grabham’s defection to KTM.
Grabham, from Bathurst, NSW, started “serious racing” around age 11, has won Australian Safaris as well as enduros, as well as the last two Finkes, on a Honda.
Why did he change to a KTM 505?
“I rode the bike before, when I was testing for magazines.
“It was fantastic and I wanted to race one.”
What does it take to win a Finke?
“It’s a long race. It’s a matter of being consistent, and also being fast,” says Grabham.
What’s the most difficult part of the Finke?
“Fitness is one of the most important parts.
“We pretty much race every weekend. Other races keep you fit throughout the year.”
Is he hoping for rain or dry weather?
“Rain’s good because it means if you’re fast and if you don’t prologue well for some reason it doesn’t matter, you can pass other riders.
“There are no excuses if there is no dust.”
Why does Branford stick with Honda?
“It’s probably the fastest bike for that race and the easiest to ride, the most competitive bike,” he says.
Branford hasn’t been resting on his laurels.
Since his Finke triumph he won the King of the Desert Series last year and same second in the Deep Well 2009.
Bikes are his passion but not his profession: “I am a qualified electrician. I just ride for fun.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t take seriously his preparation for the Finke.
He is part of the Honda team of four who engage in structured fitness training, in weekend camps, following a recipe from the Australian Institute of Sport, including weight sessions.
“The more you do in the gym the easier the race is.
“You’ve got to put in two hours of 100% energy into the race.
“It’s not just sitting on a bike.
“You’ve got two hours of standing on your feet, hitting obstacles at high speeds,” says Branford.
“Your body has to be able to handle the knocks and bumps.”
Darren Griffiths (pictured on the next page) is a classic example of the rider who finds being in the Finke every bit as great a buzz as winning it.
He isn’t quite sure how many Finkes he’s raced in – it’s either 22 or 23.
He won his class in 2003, and has had a couple of second places, and has mostly finished in the top 20 outright.
He’s a regular with a big smile who loves the desert – or deserts plural: he’s just raced in the Baja in California last November, 1600 kms non-stop except for fuelling, “much like the Finke but three times longer, 23 hours and 14 minutes on the bike”.
“I rode by myself in the Ironman Class.”
He came 4th in the class and 72nd overall.
Why does he keep coming back to the Finke?
“I love the people, love the town.
“I guess I’m a slow learner. I want to master the whoops.
“They’ve opened a new class for me.
“It’s a senior citizens’ class which is 40 to 44”, splitting the old Masters’ Class which was 35 to 44. 
Riding a KTM 530, the same bike he rode in the Baja, he wants to win the new class because next year “I’ll be in the veterans”.
Dark horses:-
• Brad Williscroft who came third outright last year.
• Jared Ewin moved to Alice Springs 18 months ago to win the Finke. He lost his radiator cap last year, had to get one from a tourist, but had the 7th fastest time coming home. The 26 year-old is leading the Motocross Series, won Deep Well in January in 50 degree heat, and is leading the Enduro Series.
• Ex-local Craig Carmichael. Last year he hit the bump that took out five riders. He arrived in Finke “spewing blood” – and still came fifth outright.

Bush ready for change: Beadman. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Bob Beadman, appointed by the Territory Government to coordinate its overhaul of Indigenous affairs in remote communities, is already at work, convincing people – both public servants and Aboriginal people – “to put their shoulder to the wheel”.
He says he is finding widespread belief that things in remote communities “have bottomed”  and so the opportunity to do something new is being “welcomed with open arms”.
Around the bush, where he travels in his role as Chairman of the NT Grants Commission, for some time the message has been, “Things were better in the old days”.
“That’s a cry for help,” says Mr Beadman, “people are ready for change.”
In Alice Springs on Tuesday he spent time briefing the regional government agencies and talking to the elected members of the Central Desert Shire.
He says their reaction to the announced changes seemed to be “positive”.
“The pitfalls of welfare dependencey are obvious to them.
“They realise things can’t stay as they have been, that dramatic change is needed.
“And the creation of regional townships with all the trappings of a town – schools, training, employment, a range of government services, proper town planning, parks – that will attract private investment and build a real economy seems to be appealing to them.”
He says the outstations didn’t get the attention in the discussion that they’ve been getting in the media.
“I was able to talk to them about the benefits that could come from a regional transport network.
“From first hand knowledge I could tell them about old Louis Schraber whose outstation is 22 kilometres from Atitjere [Harts Range] but because he hasn’t got transport he and his family live in Atitjere.
“If there was a reliable transport link they would be able to occupy their outstation.
“That’s one example where the reverse of what is predicted [in some media reports] could happen: where an outstation that is curently empty could be reoccupied.”
Mr Beadman says investment in a reliable regional transport network could be seen as an investment in outstations, linking outstation residents to hub towns where they’ll be able to access a wide range of government and ultimately commercial services.
He has been amazed by the focus on outstations in the majority of media coverage, which he says has “missed the point”.
“The big news, the revolutionary thinking is in the creation of the 20 Territory Growth Towns.”
He is still in the throes of “trying to connect all the dots in what is a big picture” and resources ($160m) for the planning of the towns over the next five years will not flow until July 1.
Leasing arrangements over the townships are pivotal for the reform package – that’s in the Commonwealth’s court.
The Territory, however, can get on with regional transport.
Responsibility for roads is split between several jurisdictions and needs to be rationalised.
“We need to collect data,” says Mr Beadman, “identify who lives where, identify the gaps in service provision.” 
There are some transport services already being provided, for example by outstation resource centres.
Transport contracts offer an opportunity to build enterprise in the bush and government should be mindful to not necessarily go with the lowest cost tenders if they don’t come from the bush.
In the long run that approach could be more costly to the public purse by depriving people in the bush of employment opportunities and prolonging welfare dependency, argues Mr Beadman.
It will be a while before we see discernible change and there won’t be any progress without the engagement of local people, he warns, while also promising to  be vigilant about reporting “warts and all”.
He won’t allow the “cherry picking of indicators that show programs in a favourable light”.
Mr Beadman’s role, with the support of a unit in Darwin, is both reporting and coordinating the reforms.
“I can’t direct, I can persuade, cajole, threaten but I can’t supplant the CEO of a department. That’s proper,” he says.

Going the extra mile. By ALEX NELSON.

In the third part of his series on the McEllister Method for establishing shrubs and trees in the Centre ALEX NELSON looks at its long-term advantages. The first instalment (May 14) gave an overview of the life of Frank McEllister whom Mr Nelson credits as having made the single most important contribution to horticulture in this region. The second (May 28) concluded the overview and went on to describe the careful preparation and backfilling of large deep holes for each plant.

The preparation of the ground at the position of each new shrub or tree involves a lot of effort and time, much more than would be necessary elsewhere. If backfilling is rushed and the plants put into the ground too soon, they are liable to sink down and will have to be removed, risking damage to them. Alternatively, if left in position, they will be susceptible to diseases causing the roots or main stem to rot.
But the most important point is that the method works! Very few plants put in at the Horticulture Research Block at AZRI were lost after going to all this trouble for them at the start. 
This is the “The McEllister Method” and I was keen to try it out or myself. I had much of the substantial yard at the CSIRO residence where my family lived available to work in; and I commenced growing fruit trees, and a variety of native plants, too.
For establishing native plants, there was no perceived need to employ the McEllister Method. The soil at the CSIRO is amongst the best in the region and it was fairly easy to establish most native plants with a minimum of effort.
However, there was one corner of the yard that was more problematic. The soil there had been greatly disturbed during earthworks for the nearby entrance road, and much of it was comprised of deep subsoil that had been spread over the original surface. It was exposed, hard and dry; and by 1983 there was still no success in getting anything to grow there.
As it happened to be adjacent to a row of citrus (which were growing well), I chose this location to establish more fruit trees – a mulberry and a Black Genoa fig, and later a Jujube (Zizyphus species), using the McEllister Method. 
The only variation to the method was that I had access to plentiful quantities of chook manure so substantial quantities of this material as well as sticks, leaf litter, dry grass and feathers all went into the plant site holes as they were backfilled.
I was mindful that with so much non-composted organic matter incorporated in the soil beneath them there was a risk of nitrogen drawdown as this material decayed.
Somebody forgot to tell the young fruit trees about nitrogen drawdown; instead, they grew rapidly without the slightest hint of nitrogen deficiency showing up.
Less than two years after being planted both the mulberry and fig trees were producing fruit (the jujube, or zizyphus, was slower to grow).
By 1987 the fig tree was the same size as most of the nearby citrus trees (which had been established more than 10 years earlier); the mulberry towered over its neighbours. It was a most gratifying response; the McEllister Method had worked a treat.
In 1988 we left our residence at the CSIRO, and our garden gradually declined from lack of attention. By 1998, 10 years after leaving, it was a shadow of its former self. Most of the citrus had perished, and the two survivors were barely alive.
But the mulberry, fig and jujube were still thriving, getting by on rainfall.
NEXT: Working with hard clay, saline soils.

Warren H: His Inspiration is best in country. By POP VULTURE.

“Is this the best country?” asked Warren H Williams twice during his show at Araluen last Saturday evening and he clearly thinks it is.
His heated throat warmed the heart during what has become a brutal winter.
Performing a repertoire of new and old songs, he was accompanied by local musicians complementing his unique style of musicianship and song.
A key attribute of any musical performance is to keep up a flow of time and tempo changes, to prevent sound and feeling from stagnating.
Warren H appears to be an old hand at this, with Saturday’s show was a new plateau for the seasoned singer/songwriter.
Accustomed to seeing the Hermannsburg-born performer at home behind an acoustic guitar, the audience was given a more diverse view of the artist.
He spent the greater part of the show tied to a set of piano keys, singing and crooning his way through his library of country music about his native Central Australia, often inspired, he says, when he frequents large cities.
The show was at once intimate and lively. His recollection of life as a member of the stolen generation was moving and hauntingly ambient.
Many of his family members seated in the theatre were in tears, and Warren himself became emotional at times.
Although the newly grouped accompanying musicians often had difficulty keeping pace, “returned to town” muso Stephanie Harrison, aficionado of instruments including the flute, tin whistle and ukulele, added a soothing Celtic touch to the evening.
The percussion work threw in some quirky beats to what can sometimes become a blueprint to clapping in time, a common reflex with this musical genre.
This reflex was kept vibrantly alive by someone seated near me who found it just and fine to clap and stomp violently out of time, but this act of “accidental percussion” was merely an indicator of how enjoyable this feast for young and old turned out to be.
Warren was recently awarded the prestigious “Golden Guitar” award for country music, and is currently signed to ABC records, a deal that will ensure that his unique voice will be heard by a larger audience.

Department investigates apparent irregularities in home construction. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A builder in the North Edge development has quoted a builder’s registration number which has expired in a contract to build a home.
The builder, Randal Carey, is also an undischarged bankrupt.
Mr Carey had told the Alice News that he was operating under another builder’s registration number, but would not disclose the identity of that builder (Alice News, May 14).
Graham Kemp, the general manager of the Territory Construction Association (TCA), when asked for a comment, said the contract – which the Alice Springs News has seen – should carry the registration number of the builder under whose authority the work is being carried out.
Builders’ registrations were introduced three years ago “to safeguard consumers” with the “continuing support from the TCA,” says Mr Kemp.
“At that time a couple of substantial NT builders had gone belly-up, leaving some 30 homes uncompleted.
“Although licencing cannot guarantee a perfectly constructed dwelling, or that the builder won’t go broke, it should provide an accountability which did not exist in the past,” says Mr Kemp.
“TCA has rigorous safeguards and checks members’ credentials vigorously to see that they meet the TCA code of conduct.
“Randal Carey is not a member of the TCA, so we are no in a position to comment on him personally.”
Mr Kemp says about half of the 500 licensed builders in the NT are members of the TCA.
Not all licensed builders are active in the industry.
Fabio Finocchiaro of the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, says: “When DPI receives complaints regarding operations that contravene the Building Act, they are thoroughly investigated and due process is followed.”
If people suspect someone is operating without being registered or operating in contravention of the Building Act, they should lodge a formal complaint to Building Advisory Services on 8999 8985.
“DPI does not comment on matters under investigation.”
Barry Chambers, chairman of the Builders’ Practitioners Board, said he was aware that the department was taking action but would not comment further.

LETTERS: Too hard for whom?

Sir,– Regarding your reports on Desert Knowledge (May 28): We thought it would have been fantastic to have our [post-ballooning] breakfast there [in the DK precinct]! Solar powered kitchen / toilets / solar panels to feed us with power, under some beautiful trees, tourist would have loved it!  Simple stuff! 
All too hard for those guys.
We gave up!
John Sanby
Outback Ballooning
Alice Springs

ED – We offered Desert Knowledge Australia, who manage the Desert Knowledge Precinct, right of reply. CEO John Huigen responded as follows:–
Mr Sanby’s letter places an interesting interpretation on what we thought were quite friendly exploratory discussions.
The Precinct is being developed into a national centre for desert education, learning, business development, innovation and collaboration.   
Mr Sanby approached us some time ago proposing that we provide tourist facilities to enable him to service his clients.
We indicated that it was not in our remit or capacity to develop tourist facilities that benefitted only one operator and that we would always aim to maximize the value of any development in terms of training, or building wider opportunity.  
We discussed with him a number of approaches, indicating that he would need to put his proposal in writing so that it could be properly considered.  We have yet to receive this proposal.
Mr Sanby is right on one point.  The opportunity to use the Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre as a tourism destination is obvious. 
We are presently working with Tourism NT and other stakeholders to develop a sustainable, commercial and equitable approach to develop these tourism opportunities. 
Our aim would be to benefit the wider industry and community, promote Alice Springs as a centre for green tourism and to add value to the overall Desert Knowledge approach of building training, commercial and other opportunities.  We would not provide a facility to suit just one operator.  

Camps: less exception, more inclusion

Sir,– In one month the municipality of Alice Springs will get a chance to stop pulling against itself.  Tangentyere Council will either sign up to a future or become part of history, and  Alice Springs will continue to integrate.
If Tangentyere signs the leasing agreement offered by Minister Macklin,  I imagine that on some future date the lease will expire and ownership will revert to today’s owners. 
If they don’t, compulsory acquisition is promised and there goes forever whatever form of ownership they now have.
Tomorrow’s generation will not thank today’s leaders if they don’t sign, although the lawyers would love it. 
But whether they sign or not, what seems to be beyond question is that a massive change is coming to Alice. This can only be a good thing.
We have to start pulling together, and that means the town camp population has to be brought on board and the camps themselves have to become part of the municipality.
Less exception, more inclusion, and then we can all pay rates and demand equal service.  What’s wrong with that? 
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Long memory
corrects record

Sir,– Your article ‘How galleries survive the recession’ (May 21) states that a selection of art by Halcyon Lucas [at Peta Appleyard Gallery] marks a first. It goes on to say that there has not previously been a solo show for a non-indigenous local artist in a commercial gallery in Alice Springs.
No so! In July 1983 I had a successful one man exhibition in the newly opened El Cerrito gallery. This was followed soon after by a solo sculpture exhibition by Virginia Crippen.
George Scott Brown
Alice Springs

Sir,- I refer to the letter to you by Peter Madden printed in last week’s News. Your correspondent appears to object to the concept of my book, God, Man and The Universe. It is hard to ascertain what his objection is, for he has never read the book.
He seems to suggest that a person can live for 84 years and know nothing of the history of science, that is, its good points, and its bad points.
The good and the bad can only be determined by the application of common sense.
Or, Peter, have you determined that the experience of historical science is all good?
In God, Man and The Universe I draw attention to major mistakes that have been made in historical science, that has resulted in the stalemate in the exploration of the distant space.
The future of mankind lies in space, in other planets, in other solar systems.
To reach this future, science needs to wake up to its errors that have been made in the past, and correct them.
Jim Brown
Alice Springs

Win for IAD

Sir,– In response to the calling of a Special General Meeting of IAD Members on May 28, some 32 members convened in Alice Springs, with one member in Tennant Creek.
Several members only stayed a matter of minutes before leaving, so that when it was time to open the meeting, IAD was just short of a quorum of members.
This means, according to the IAD Constitution, that all items on the agenda of the meeting ‘lapsed’.
This is another win for the current IAD Management Committee and dedicated members.’
Proceedings were witnessed by the Licensing and Regulation Division of Business Affairs and the Department of Justice.
The meeting was to be the second called by a small group of members, interested to overthrow the current Management Committee.
NOT one person who signed the call for the Special General Meeting, attended. Two of the prime movers of the requesting group were reported to have entered the IAD car park but left immediately afterwards.
A strong committed loyal group of members attended, including respected Aboriginal Elders M K Turner, Rayleen Smith, Beatrice Davis and Rex Japanangka. Membership representation also came from Santa Teresa in person and Tennant Creek by teleconference.
Genuine membership loyalty was clearly evident.
Janice Harris
IAD Management Committee

ADAM'S APPLE: Battle horror ... for a clown.

Before a battle, the warrior’s routine is mostly the same.
Shower, dress in their uniform, and apply the war paint.
Then they gather their ammunition and all their weapons and board the transport.
They know that what lies ahead could be so terrifying that words cannot describe the scene, the devastation.
If war is hell, so is being a clown.
Sure my uniform wasn’t khaki and my war paint wouldn’t exactly help me blend into my surroundings, but for a decade, I was a clown in a fierce battle for laughs. Armed with nothing but balloons, a rubber chicken and my wits, I would bravely venture into the wild, savage reaches of suburbia in search of mirth.
For 10 years I turned up to various fields of war. Clubs, community halls, big city offices, parks and festivals and people’s living rooms were just a few of the places I visited in about 4000 shows.
Apart from teaching me how to juggle, how to make people laugh and how to get around a big city in the shortest time possible, the job taught me how to effectively communicate with almost every culture and sub-culture you can imagine.
From bikie gangs to baby groups, from medievalists to Silicon Valley corporations, all of them want you to make them laugh.
It is during this process that you realise that big, leather clad, bearded motorcycle riders and very pale, bookish, computer programmers tend to find very different things funny.
But regardless of the demographic, there was always a thread of commonality that I could use to get the audience on side. If people were my age I might refer to the pop culture of my youth. If the group lived in a similar neighbourhood then there would be another understanding, another path to take the audience down.
Now I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but I was fairly successful and I put much of that success down to the ability to relate to so many audiences.
The toughest battles were not fought with Japanese tourists who come from a truly foreign culture and speak no English. Neither was it the school-attending teens with whom I share so few values. The hardest nuts to crack, my Dardenelles to continue the metaphor, were the super wealthy.
Now I’m not talking about the well off or even the well to do. I am talking about the filthy rich. Those people of privilege for whom money is not counted from a wallet but from a vault in a bank. A bank they probably own.
For the mega wealthy, I was nothing but a necessary curio, something that was on the list of things that make up any celebration. In the same way you or I might think of party pies or adequate seating, the uber wealthy consider the $200 an hour clown simply as something you do.
Ironically these were the hardest jobs. These were the people to whom I could least relate. Generations of privilege had removed the incredibly wealthy from the world I knew.
Given the opportunity, I would probably act like them. I’m not judging these people, just stating the fact that their world and my world are not the same worlds.
It is food for thought when you read that the BRW rich list values Malcolm Turnbull at $178 million. It makes me wonder how the man could possible relate to the everyday Australian when he could lose 90% of his income and still be worth close to $18 million. What could the Opposition Leader possibly know about my wants and troubles and issues?
The Prime Minister only fares slightly worse in the comfortable living stakes. Besides the perks of the job, his wife’s business has been valued at close to $60 million.
I can’t imagine that they could really, personally care if the price of meat goes up a dollar a kilo. It makes a difference to me. I find it hard to imagine that an under resourced child care facility really hits them in the heart.
Those who represent us here in Alice Springs don’t seem to have these problems. I worked with one, grew up near one and a third lives a street away.
We complain about our elected officials here in Alice Springs but at least they know what it’s like to live here. Unlike mega rich Malcolm, they know and care that it’s not pronounced “Tangent Error” Council.

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