July 30, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Alice: What recession? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

“What are we going to do when the recession ends?”
Julie Ross is quoting a quip of her husband’s, Neil, with whom she is running an engineering firm in Alice Springs employing more than 40 people.
She says this year, in the midst – supposedly – of a recession, is shaping up as the best in the history of the company started by Neil’s father, Ron, in the sixties.
He was a great example of Scottish pride in town, leading many parades in his kilt and blowing the bagpipe.
“We couldn’t take on any more work,” says Ms Ross who also heads up the local branch of the NT Chamber of Commerce.
Its other members mostly have the same story to tell.Those doing well haven’t indulged in reckless borrowing, and perhaps more importantly have been steeled by surviving in this extremely remote region usually neglected by governments.
Money from tourism, infrastructure projects such as the Pine Gap power station, Alice Solar City, the new pool and the RSPCA’s new complex, as well as from the Federal Intervention, is pushing the town ahead.
If there are any recession casualties in The Alice, the chamber’s attention hasn’t been drawn to them.
Ms Ross says this buoyancy is occurring even before housing construction is getting under way in Mt Johns Valley, on the semi-rural subdivisions, both private, on the Ross Highway and the likely NT Government development on Arid Zone Research Institute land on the corner of South Stuart Highway and Colonel Rose Drive.
Ms Ross says both the ongoing prosperity of the town and its present problems are tied up with land.
Its inadequate availability results in high real estate and house prices, and an absurd shortage of rental accommodation – a vacancy rate of around 1% – which is a major obstacle to getting sorely needed staff.
Ms Ross is urging the government to speed up approval processes and open up more land.
She says people from regions hit by the recession are eager to come to The Centre, only to be put off by the cost of rental accommodation.
Many of the applicants are from overseas, she says. One fifth of the Ross Engineering workforce is from abroad.
It is sometimes difficult to get Australian staff who are needed for client contact and sales work.
What Alice loses on the swings it gains on the roundabouts: in tourism there has been a drop of the more affluent visitors, from overseas, but campers and caravan travelers are here in droves.
Ms Ross says the campground at Ayers Rock Resort was full last week, but there appeared to be fewer people staying in the hotels. Some of these seemed to be in need of a facelift, she says.
Visitation next month is expected to be huge with Alice being the final destination for several Variety Club bashes from all over the nation, and the annual Henley-on-Todd.

More money from the sun: new solar energy projects big boon for The Centre’s economy.

Alice Solar City is now aiming for five, rather than four iconic projects, with the Town Council approving, in its revised budget for the Aquatic Centre, a renewable energy water heating system.
This pends Australian Government funding which has been agreed to in principle.
The other four are the Crowne Plaza roof-mounted photovoltaic array, the largest of its kind in Australia, and proposed projects for a solar power station in Ilparpa Valley, a solar energy generation project at the Alice Springs Airport, and a solar powered air-conditioning system at the Araluen Centre.
After an earlier provider pulled out, new proposals were called for the projects in Ilparpa and at the airport.
Alice Solar City general manager Brian Elmer says they were delighted with the quality and number of proposals received, some from overseas but most from within Australia: there were 21 proposals for the airport, and 15 for Ilparpa. 
CAT Projects, a business arm of the centre for Appropriate Technology, did the technical assessments and established short-lists which are now being considered by the project proponents, Power and Water Corporation and NT Airports.
The previous projects for the two sites were costed at $6.6m and $2.2m respectively, with half of the funding coming from the Australian Government.
The solar air-conditioning project at Araluen, using innovative “absorption chiller” technology, is a project of the NT Government.
They allocated $4.5m for the new plant in this year’s budget on the understanding that 50% would come from the Commonwealth.
There has been in principal agreement to this and the NT Government is working on tender documents, likely to go out early next year.
The solar-powered system will replace the existing 25 year old plant.
Araluen director Tim Rollason says the system will reduce the centre’s energy consumption by a massive 60%, thus also reducing its carbon footprint.
The cost-benefit of using the solar powered system compared to replacing the old plant with a conventional system is highly favourable, says Mr Rollason.
It will also have the benefit of being much quieter.
The noise of the existing plant impinges somewhat on enjoyment of the new sculpture garden behind Witchetty’s, while the noise of the new plant is  comparable to general traffic noise. The plant room will also be moved to the other side of the Araluen building.
The total Commonwealth in-principle funding for Alice Solar City’s iconic projects is $8.7m, from the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program.
Nationally, except in WA, funding for this program has been discontinued, but Alice Solar City (as well as the other solar city projects) was not affected by the decision.
Nonetheless their funding for solar PV projects does run out at the end of the year, which is why they are calling for people to take advantage of it while it’s still there.
They have enough funding left to subsidise the installation of another 100 PV domestic systems and hope to find 100 takers in 100 days.Funding is also available for more systems on commercial premises
In a further development, takers may be able to qualify for a zero interest Green Loan to fund the balance of the cost.
The Green Loans program has just been launched by the federal Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Council may be outside law. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission has warned the Town Council that their draft by-laws in relation to the management of public places fail to comply with sections of the Local Government Act.
In a submission made by their principal Legal Officer in Alice Springs, Russell Goldflam, the commission points out that section 189(2)(d) of the Act requires that by-laws should avoid duplication of or overlap with other legislation.
The commission says draft by-laws 49 to 52 (Offences relating to liquor), 54 to 58 (Offensive behaviour, including the controversial ban on begging), and 80, 81, and 83 (General powers of authorised person, including the power to move people on) duplicate or overlap with other NT legislation, including the Criminal Code, Liquor Act, Summary Offences Act and Police Administration Act.
The commission also says that draft by-laws 34 (demonstrations and protests), 42 (other activities) and 44 (removal of graffiti) “infringe in an unreasonable way or to an unreasonable extent personal rights”.
It submits that this is contrary to the mandatory principle contained in section 189(1)(d) of the Local Government Act.
Draft by-law 89 (relating to increased penalties for persistent breach of by-laws)  is also contrary to section 189(2)(e) of the Local Government Act, says the commission.
It is “inconsistent with basic principles of justice and fairness, and exposes members of the public to an unacceptable risk of being subject to abuse by over-zealous Council officers”, argues the commission.
Mr Goldflam was present at Monday night’s council meeting, and asked the council whether they had sought legal advice on the draft by-laws.
CEO Rex Mooney said yes, “due diligence” had been followed, and the by-laws had been reviewed by council solicitor Chris Turner.
He assured Mr Goldflam that “council will follow the Local Government Act to the letter”, except in regard to the public display period, which will be extended from 21 to 28 days.
Following a formal vote by aldermen, this period was to commence within days, with the full text of the draft by-laws posted on council’s website.
A packed public gallery on Monday night was an indication of community interest in the by-laws.
A speech by Greens alderman Jane Clark drew applause from the gallery.
Ald Clark said she had been “shouted down quite strongly” by her fellow aldermen during their deliberations “behind closed doors” in relation to her concerns with the draft by-laws.
She now felt “a little vindicated” by people raising “exactly the same points” in the public debate that has followed the first reporting on the draft by-laws last week.  She said the public response on the issues was already more than she had ever experienced during her time as alderman.
She referred to the “serious concerns” about the by-laws of the NT Legal Aid Commission.
She said a lot of the proposed by-laws go beyond what she sees as the role and capacity of council.
While she understands the frustration caused by some issues, she urged council rather to intensify their lobbying of the Australian and Territory governments. 
She accused both governments of “starving” Alice Springs of social services, in particular in the wake of the Intervention which had “pushed” people into town.
She didn’t think council rangers where equipped to deal with the issues arising from this situation, describing them as “lowly trained”.
If police aren’t coping with the problems, how can rangers “pick up that slack”, she asked.
Council’s Director of Corporate and Community Services had earlier responded to a similar concern from Ald Samih Habib, saying that all rangers were being put through Security Officer Training.
This information drew murmurs of disquiet from the public gallery.
Ald Clark concluded by saying that the community needed to push the council to not adopt the by-laws.
The “whole of Australia is up in arms about the degradation and sad situation that so many people live in in the Northern Territory” she said.
“We need to have a compassionate attitude towards people who are begging and why they are doing so and how do we define that.
“Also, [by-law] 71 [abandoned items] giving rangers the opportunity to throw away people’s blankets, I mean honestly, how are tourists going to view us, if we are putting in a by-law to punish the lowest people in our community who have their blankets to keep them warm at night – we’re actually making it so we can throw them away.
“It’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s not going to solve the problems of Alice Springs unfortunately.”
On the proposed begging by-law, the legal aid commission’s submission says it is framed so broadly as to prohibit the solicitation of money in the street for charitable causes – “generally regarded as being not only lawful but also worthy”.
It argues that criminalising the begging by itinerants for money, cigarettes and food “would be counter-productive, harsh and unreasonable”.
The capacity of such people to pay fines is “in all likelihood negligible” and the by-law would be unlikely to deter people “reduced to the need to beg”.
“To the extent that the object of this provision is to improve the public image of Alice Springs in the eyes of visitors, it is submitted that the adverse publicity which would result ... would only tend to promote the reputation of Alice Springs as an uncaring and inhumane community,” says the commission.
Deputy Mayor John Rawnsley had another take on the begging provision, reiterating his concern to have humbugging for money adequately covered by the by-laws.
He said his place of work is opposite an ATM and he is often approached by people who give him their key card and PIN and ask him to withdraw their money for them, because they can see family members waiting to “harass” them for money.
Similar behaviour occurs around the drive-through bottleshops, with large crowds of intoxicated people waiting and watching to get alcohol or money from bottleshop patrons.
But Ald Rawnsley could see a problem with enforcement and thought that council needed to be “more innovative” with a range of measures that “empower” people to change their behaviour, rather than penalising them “through taking away income”.
Other proposed by-laws which received particular attention on Monday night included the one (bl 32) requiring a permit to swim or bathe in public places outside of council-designated areas.
Mr Catchlove’s description of the practice of swimming in waterholes and the flowing Todd as “dangerous” drew laughter from the public gallery – perhaps unfairly, given the drowning deaths that have occurred over the years.
Alds Samih Habib and Brendan Heenan were both wary of the by-law’s potential to limit the enjoyment, especially by children, of the flowing river.
Alds Murray Stewart, Habib and Heenan were all concerned about punishing the victims of graffiti, and favoured the reduction of the penalty for failure to remove it from two units to one (one equates to a fine of $130).
Ald Habib wanted council’s provision of a kit to assist with removal written into the by-law.
Alds Stewart and Rawnsley were both concerned about possible limitations on freedom of speech contained in the proposed by-laws (22 and 23) requiring permits for the distribution of promotional material.
Mr Catchlove pointed out that bl7 allows council to make a determination that removes the necessity to obtain such a permit, for instance during an election period.

Rangers will be properly trained.

“As elected members, we would not ask anyone to do something they are not trained to do,” says Mayor Damien Ryan,  responding to a media question about enforcement of the proposed new by-laws.
Some, such as those relating to liquor and those requiring people to be moved on, could see rangers in confrontational situations.
Rangers, however, are not the only “authorised persons” under the Local Government Act. Police are also required to enforce by-laws.
CEO Rex Mooney says council is in “very in-depth” discussions with the Alice Springs Police about the draft by-laws.
He also says they have been “walked through” with manager of the ranger unit, Kevin Everett, and where “up-skilling and further training” is required, it will be given.
When and if the by-laws are adopted, protocols will be developed about the situations where rangers are required to enforce them, and the situations where they will have recourse to the police.
“We are very mindful of occupational health and safety,” says Mr Mooney
In 2004 ( then Mayor Fran Kilgariff ruled out a role for council rangers in policing, for example, public drinking: “The Alice Springs Town Council is not going to ask our rangers to pour out alcohol,” said Ms Kilgariff. 
“It is not our job. That belongs to police who are properly trained.
“We are not going to put our rangers into positions where they are untrained and unprotected.”
Why wouldn’t the council train them?
“Because it’s not our job. It’s not part of our core responsibility to be policing alcohol.
“It’s a state and Territory function,”said Ms Kilgariff.
Mr Mooney says the by-laws are not modelled on those of any other local government in Australia.
He says council sees Alice Springs as being in a unique position: the by-laws are attempting to respond to behavioural issues that the public and the native title holder body, Lhere Artepe, have been urging council to deal with for some time.
He says council will look at the practicalities of translating information about the by-laws into other languages.

Grog: we must take the hard decisions.

At the Criminal Lawyers Association of the NT conference, held in June at Sanur, Bali, Alice Springs lawyer RUSSELL GOLDFLAM urged his colleagues to use their collective influence “to get the hard decisions about grog taken”. 
These involve greater restrictions on supply, he argued, as there is clear evidence that serious assaults, homicides and suicides in Alice Springs are decreasing in line with a decrease in alcohol consumption.
The following is an edited version of his conference paper.
It barely makes mention of criminal law, but, argues Mr Goldflam, understanding alcohol problems and their solutions is “absolutely fundamental” to understanding the “criminogenic “ conditions and circumstances of the great majority of clients and cases criminal lawyers in the Centre are dealing with.
In his arguments Mr Goldflam joins with Justice Riley who, in sentencing remarks from the bench in Tennant Creek in February, commented on the effects of excessive consumption of alcohol.
Justice Riley said: “People drink until they can drink no more and then get up the next day and start all over again. The frequency with which drunken violence occurs is unacceptable and the level of violence is likewise completely unacceptable.
“For the good of the town, for the good of the victims, for the good of the offenders and for the good of the innocent children of Tennant Creek, it seems to me obvious that a system must be devised to limit the amount of alcohol made available to the people whose lives are being devastated in this way and to educate and rehabilitate those already abusing alcohol.
“The people of the Northern Territory cannot sit on their hands and allow what is occurring in Tennant Creek to continue.
“I accept that it is a complex issue but it is an issue that must be addressed and must be addressed sooner rather than later. Hard decisions must be taken.”

The Commonwealth Government’s National Preventative Health Taskforce Technical Report entitled ‘Preventing Alcohol-related Harm in Australia: a window of opportunity’, came out in 2008.
It sets out a sort of global league ladder of alcohol consumption. Australians drink – and punch – above our weight, coming in at number 30.
Our average adult annual consumption of alcohol is now nearly 10 litres, double the global average. The Northern Territory, however, is 50% higher than the national average, at 15 litres per person per year of pure alcohol.
And Alice Springs, at least until recently, has been another third higher, averaging about 20 litres per person, twice the national average, and four times the planet’s average.
Alice Springs has gained notoriety as “the stabbing capital of the world”, with research of victims treated over a seven year period at Alice Springs Hospital showing a rate of more than 200 a year, or one every two days.
Almost all of the victims were Aboriginal; over half were women.
Drunkenness is the number one factor behind the whole spectrum of violence in Alice Springs – from stabbings to homicides to suicide.
The impact on Indigenous people in the Centre is particularly devastating.
The recently released Menzies School of Health Research Evaluation of the Alice Springs Alcohol Management Plan reported that between 2004 and 2006 the number of deaths directly related to alcohol among Indigenous people in Central Australia was around 31 times higher than the national average during this period for all Australians.
The National Drug Research Institute reports that Aboriginal alcohol-related mortality in Central Australia is three times higher than Aboriginal alcohol-related mortality nationally. The Institute also identifies suicide as accounting for almost 20% of these deaths.
I don’t need to go on any further about how appalling the scale and scope of this problem is.
There have been a welter of social engineering experiments to reduce alcohol-related harms in Alice Springs, most prominently and effectively the current supply restrictions regime.
The lesson for the Licensing Commission from the failed trial of alcohol restrictions in 2002, which saw drinkers switching from the banned four litre casks of wine to the still available two litre casks of fortified wines, was to closely monitor patterns of consumption and to promptly make appropriate adjustments. 
After the October 2006 trial restrictions began, it was soon noticed that there had been a shift to longneck beer, substantially cheaper than carton beer, and itself a problem in that broken longneck bottles are particularly dangerous both as weapons and as litter.
In response, in June 2007, the Licensing Commission amended the Alcohol Management Plan by prohibiting the sale of longneck beer, thus resolving that particular problem.
Although there are lingering concerns about the use of substitutes such as mouthwash, the Commission, supported by the Alice Springs Alcohol Reference Panel, has been astute to the problem of product substitution this time round, and maintained the integrity of the supply restriction trial.
So, what has happened to consumption since the trial commenced on 1 October 2006?
The Menzies School of Health Research Evaluation reported that consumption in Alice has decreased 18%. Now we are only somewhat higher than the Northern Territory as a whole, which of course remains 50% higher than the nation as a whole.
What about the effect of the reduced consumption of alcohol?
Firstly, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of homicides in Alice Springs since the trial commenced. While the figures are simply too low to allow statistically significant conclusions, each figure is a life.
Nineteen lives were violently lost in Alice Springs at the hand of another in the two years immediately prior to the restrictions.
Eight lives were lost in the following two years.
As criminal lawyers, I and my colleagues are well aware of the massive resources deployed whenever there is a homicide.
And as criminal lawyers, we also have some insight into the massive grief and trauma which accompanies each such event.
The incidence of Indigenous suicide in Alice Springs has also dropped dramatically following the trial. In the four years prior to the trial there were 13 such tragic deaths. In the two years since, there have been two.
Thus far the statistics for minor assaults do not following the decline in alcohol consumption.
Senior police in Alice Springs attribute this to two events.
First was the introduction in 2005 of the police’s violent harm reduction strategy, which led to a significant increase in the reporting of violent offending, particularly at the lower end of the scale, as police adopted a policy of zero tolerance of domestic disturbance.
Then, in 2007 the police upgraded PROMIS, their data management system, which resulted in a greater proportion of matters involving violence being formally recorded as assaults.
Significantly, once these enhanced arrangements had been bedded down, the figures indicate a decline in minor assaults, which correlates well with the downward trend in alcohol consumption in the 12 months to September 2008.
The statistics on serious assaults, which it can safely be assumed were consistently reported and recorded throughout the sample period, closely correlate with the trend of consumption of alcohol.  And the numbers here are high enough, according to the Department of Justice statistician, to be statistically significant. This is compelling evidence that the decline in alcohol consumption was a substantial cause of a decline in serious violence.
Dr Jacob Ollapallil, the resident Alice Springs surgeon, also reported (in an interview on ABC radio) that the number of stabbings had halved following the introduction of alcohol restrictions.
Because so many different measures have been implemented over the last three years, the task of identifying which measure has caused what effect is well nigh impossible. The decline in alcohol consumption is clearly attributable at least in part to the supply restrictions.
However, it is probably also partly attributable to the income management regime which applies to Aboriginal people living in the “prescribed areas” designated by the Commonwealth’s Intervention. That regime has restricted their access to cash, which in turn has restricted their access to alcohol.
The measures banning drinking or possession of alcohol in prescribed areas, and consumption of alcohol in public restricted areas (Alice’s so-called ‘dry town’), are less likely to be substantial causes of the decline in consumption. Those measures do not directly affect the availability of alcohol.
The Menzies Evaluation, published on 11 June 2009, generally endorsed the Alice Springs Alcohol Management Plan, and recommended that the trial of supply restrictions continue.
However, it found that the restrictions were generally unpopular, and recommended a ‘social marketing’ campaign to try and bring the Alice Springs community on board for the further implementation of the Alcohol Management Plan.
Controversially, and in my view, stupidly, the evaluation did not propose increasing the restrictions: an 18% reduction in alcohol consumption and an associated reduction in harm is all very well and good, but it’s nowhere near well or good enough.
As recognised by the Evaluation, and as is often observed among public health professionals working in this area, when it comes to alcohol, what’s popular doesn’t work, and what works isn’t popular.
The evidence clearly shows that the most useful interventions are those which are applied across the community, despite the fact that most members of that community do not abuse alcohol.
In Scotland the government, after a surge in alcohol consumption and related harms, has bitten the pricing bullet and committed itself to a broad range of measures aimed at reducing the availability of alcohol.
In Australia, the medical profession supports a pricing mechanism to reduce consumption, a view in accordance with the National Preventative Taskforce Report, which strongly argues for both volumetric taxation (making drinks with a greater alcohol content more expensive) and the fixing of a floor price for alcohol. 
The Federal Government would be required to lead the way in this regard.   Now that a Northern Territory, indeed an Alice Springs-based, member of that Government, the Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, is responsible for indigenous, rural and remote health, there is a window of opportunity to press this issue.
If alcohol were to be subject to a minimum floor price of a dollar a drink, the price of a slab of beer would not be affected.
However, retailers would not be able to continue to sell super cheap specials such as cleanskin wine at four bucks a bottle.
I am not suggesting that there is a silver bullet for this massive and complex problem. 
Reduction in supply, or increase in price, should only form a part of a strategy which must also include measures targeted specifically at problem drinkers.
The criminal sanctions built into many of the measures discussed above are no doubt required to make those measures stick.
But in my view, the populist clamour for stiffer penalties and tougher policing must be resisted.
There does not appear to be any evidence that general deterrence [with harsher sentencing] does in fact generally deter.
On the contrary, our levels of incarceration are so high that, I would argue, we are imposing further costs and causing further harm by gaoling more offenders, more frequently, for longer periods.
On 24 September 2008, I attended a meeting of the Alice Springs Alcohol Reference Panel, at which the Minister for Racing, Gaming and Licensing told us that “a review of the current Liquor Act is almost complete with a discussion document to be released shortly.
The centerpiece of the Act is to minimise both consumption and the effects of liquor within the community, which could be controversial and will possibly draw national attention.”
That was nine months ago.
We are still waiting.

A station for each child: Foundation of a dynasty. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The extent of the Fogarty family’s cattle enterprises in The Centre is “one of the real success stories in modern day Australian agriculture”, says Don Costello.
Don wedded his future to that story when he married Colleen Fogarty, eldest child of legendary cattleman Ted Fogarty.
The family’s success came as a result of forward planning, says Don: “Generally there’s not enough emphasis put on succession and when it comes to the parents’ time to move on, nothing is in place.”
Colleen says succession can also “cause rifts” in families if someone thinks they have been treated unfairly.
She is grateful to her parents, Ted and Kath, for having the vision to give all their five children a property.
They had started with nothing and wanted “a better life than they had had” for their children.
And Colleen is pleased that, as a daughter, she was treated no differently to her four brothers.
“It’s not always the case with agricultural families.
“There was never any differentiation between me and my brothers – if you worked hard you got the same reward. 
“With the succession we all knew from a young age what we were trying to achieve.
“There was no misconception.”
Colleen spent her first four years on Mulga Park Station and the rest of her youth on Lucy Creek, with, of course, the obligatory years at boarding school in Adelaide: “Looking back it was the best thing, but as a friend of ours says, sending bush kids to boarding school is like sending brumbies to Bart Cummings!”
Don had grown up in Alice Springs where he completed a sheet metal apprenticeship and was also involved with horse-racing.
Ted set the couple up on Lilla Creek Station in 1985. Don quickly picked up skills on the job, whether it was mustering or building infrastructure.
After just over a decade and the birth of two children, Don and Colleen were ready to expand.
Initially they just wanted to lease a paddock (500 square kilometres of country) on Horseshoe Bend and build up their herd numbers.
The rest of the family had other priorities, so the couple bought out of the Fogarty holdings and “started down our own road”.
They credit Ted with the development of Lilla Creek.
It was “very run down” when he bought it and he oversaw the construction of new waterpoints, pipelines and yards.
“We all did the work but he funded it,” says Colleen.
After leasing the Horseshoe Bend paddock, the couple then bought Mt Ebenezer as well as Banksia Downs in South Australia where they send steers “to finish off”.
Then they had the opportunity to look at New Crown, which they bought in partnership with friends Viv Oldfield and his partner Deanne Sealey.
They sold Mt Ebenezer (to Colleen’s brother Ted) and then acquired Andado.
The three properties – Andado, New Crown and Lilla Creek – adjoin one another and together make up a mind-boggling 22,000 square kilometres.
“We’re there for the long haul and when opportunities arise, you should take them,” says Don.
He and Colleen live on New Crown; their daughter Tanya and her husband Ben Brooks are on Lilla Creek; and managers Wayne and Clarice Kimlin are on Andado.
Just 14 people including family members run the vast holding.
New managers Victor and Mary Snelling have been appointed to take over the day to day running of New Crown so that Colleen and Don can concentrate on the business as a whole –  prioritising spending (the choice is basically between infrastructure and genetics), budgeting, marketing.
“In our situation, you can run one place standing on your head,” says Don, “but with three, it’s a bit more involved.”
“You can lose sight of the big picture,” says Colleen.
Sharing labour, plant and equipment between the three is an advantage, as is the increased possibility of resting paddocks and being able to move cattle to where the rain has fallen.
“But we’re no smarter than anyone else,” says Don.
The country, which borders the Simpson Desert on its eastern boundary, would probably be some of the most marginal agricultural land in Australia, but it’s “sweeter” than less marginal country, says Don: “When we get rain we do just as well as country with higher rainfall, but we pay the price when we miss out.”
“In higher rainfall country, they get three to four good grasses coming up,” says Colleen, “but in the Centre with any amount of rain we get so many different responses – 30 to 40 different grasses and forbs.”
“And we get as much weight gain from winter rain as summer rain,” says Don.
“We’re not tempted to go anywhere else.”
“We’re much better off doing what we know,” says Colleen.
“We know the problems, or some of the problems, of this country.”
Uncertain rainfall is its perennial condition. Colleen and Don won’t use the word “challenge” – “it’s just there”, says Colleen.
“But it’s still the single biggest thing to affect your business,” says Don.
“When we get rain this country performs as well as any in Australia, but when we don’t, it’s pretty ordinary.”
Their three properties are still in drought.
They describe the rain received last October-November as “relief”; they haven’t had “general rain” since 2001.
Stock numbers have been maintained by spreading the herd into previously unused country, as well as by opening up new waterpoints and pipelines.
“Challenge” is a word they’ll apply to labour. While the family, including the couple’s 23 year old son Peter as well as Tanya and Ben, do a lot, there’s still a need to employ people. (Colleen’s brothers were important in the earlier years but are now busy managing their own businesses.)
While Colleen and Don offer a “very competitive” package for core staff, they find it hard to compete with the mining and roadworks industries for labourers.
They have two Aboriginal station hands at present, employed under a scheme being run by the NT Cattlemen’s Association, as well as a backpacker.
The Aboriginal community of Apatula (Finke) is right in the middle of their holding and there’s also an Aboriginal homeland on New Crown.
This should mean a more readily available local workforce but at present there’s not a lot of interest.
The biggest change in cattle work that Colleen has seen over her lifetime has been in mustering.
“When we were little, we’d be mustering for a whole week. There’d be Dad, a few black fellas, a few white fellas, a mob of kids, a lot of horses.
“Now we go out to the trap yards with a couple of motorbikes and we’re all done in 24 hours.
“Sometimes it’s just Donny and me and a couple of others.”
Don says Ted was an innovator in this regard, developing trap yards and holding paddocks at each of the waterpoints.
And improvements in roads has also helped, with trucks now able to get to the waterpoints.
It might not be as much fun as mustering and cutting out on horseback and bronco branding but it’s certainly more efficient.
Another big change has been with genetics, or breeding. They say most places in the Centre have substantially improved the genetic focus of their herd over the last 20 years, leading to a demand for stock from most areas of Australia.
Internet and email has broken some of the traditional isolation of station life and internet banking is a real boon, especially when it comes to paying wages. No more need for staff to get to the bank in town in time to cash cheques; they can get access to their money at any roadhouse.
Running cattle still involves hard work, but it’s not the tough life it once was.
Colleen and Don, together with Colleen’s brothers, share a vision to keep the Fogarty ‘dynasty’ going.
Between the five siblings there are 14 children coming through and plenty of “passion for what we’re doing” to go around.

Alice man national Apexian of the year,

Alice Springs man Dean Griffiths has been named National Apexian of the Year. The Apex Club of Central Australia celebrated the achievement at their handover dinner last Saturday, which saw Mister Shaun take over as club president from Gerard Coffey.
The club nominated Mr Griffiths for State Apexian of the Year for his role in building club membership and fundraising efforts (see Alice News, July 16).
Winning that title qualified him to compete in the national round.

New territory & new materials to watch at Watch This Space. By KIERAN FINNANE.

An intriguing experience that comes with the exhibition Marking New Territory, at Watch This Space till August 14, is to see a DVD record of each mark made in the creation of several drawings, without any sign of their creator, Deb Clarke.
This is possible as a result of using the record function of the drawing and painting software, Corel Painter, that Clarke has been exploring for more than a decade.
A skilled drawer and painter with conventional materials, as well as a photographer,  Clarke sees the software as merely another tool and one that gives her added flexibility when it comes to working out of doors.
If the light is falling, she can quickly open up her laptop, with its stylus and tablet, and capture the image she wants
The DVD record shows the importance of Clarke’s first bold marks in establishing the overall direction of her ‘paintings’, and then the interesting process of layering to create visual interest across the surface and the illusion of depth.
The works in the DVD are not those displayed on the gallery wall.
Landscapes all, these are interesting too, in that the vibrancy and depth they convey from a distance flatten to become simulacra of those characteristics when viewed up close.
In turn other visual characteristics, recognisably computer generated, appear.
Clarke is fully aware of all this and wants viewers to understand that she is, placing a perspex screen across the drawings to emphasise their ‘cg’ quality.
But she doesn’t share what seems to be for many an “in-built dislike” or “mistrust” of computer generated effects.
“I can only compare it to people wanting to unplug Bob Dylan when he first started using electric guitars.”
There is plenty of tactility in other offerings in the exhibition, from Ron Talbot’s thickly textured oils on canvas, to the creamier acrylics on board from Joe Bezzina and the more experimental ink, acrylic and mixed media on paper from Darren Gannon, the latter two both visiting artists.
They joined Talbot, Clarke and three others in an artists’ camp on the Finke River last year – an uplifting experience by all accounts.
One of the visitors, Liz O’Reily described it as transforming “our sense of place in our own country”.

LETTERS: Tough by-laws must go hand in hand with moves of inclusion.

Sir,– I would like to congratulate our Town Council on their tough stance in introducing by-laws that give our rangers some teeth in dealing with the continuing issues on our streets.
This tough stance is the kind of leadership we’ve been demanding from our council for years! Somehow, this town has to make up for the continuing failures of the NT Government.
There are also many other areas, associated with the successful running of our town, to which council must turn its attention. 
This, however, is a giant step in the right direction. Congratulations, councillors!
As for arguments that it is inappropriate for council to be getting involved in monitoring behaviour on our streets, I say absolute baloney!
Councils right across the country employ rangers to enforce their by-laws. Cairns City Council, when faced with similar issues on their streets and foreshore, introduced similar measures, employing rangers with great success.
As for arguments about rangers being in danger! What a load of BS! All rangers require is a good physical presence and a pleasant disposition – you can’t train for that! You’re born with it. Find the right people and they’ll do a wonderful job, with a great outcome for our town.
Vince Kelly from the police union expressed concerns about council employing rangers [to enforce the by-laws]. Yet the answer is quite simple, Mr Kelly. You don’t like the rangers on the streets? All you have to do is make it unnecessary for them to be there!
With 260 police in town, you can’t manage to answer the phone or put more than three patrols on the streets!
Nine police on a Friday & Saturday night? Apologies if I’m wrong, but from the outside at least, it appears you’re in quite some need of assistance.
I do not however think that our rangers should, in any way,  be associated with tipping out of alcohol.
Tipping out alcohol, dropping the empties on the ground, is wasteful, rude, disrespectful and insulting behaviour to all concerned. Rather than curtailing anti-social behaviour, as it is intentioned, like a good many of the unimaginative bureaucratic rules, it actually exacerbates it.
In short, the tipping out of alcohol causes extreme anger, and generates in good Territory tradition, ‘payback’, or surprise, surprise, anti-social behaviour.
Rangers, in managing people and drinking on our streets, should simply move people along, with threats of, and confiscation of grog, only upon a refusal to comply.
Rangers in Cairns found 99% would move along quite willingly to protect their grog and although moving along may generate the occasional surly response, it generates nothing like the extreme levels of anger and disrespect generated by the tipping out of alcohol. Result, happier people, safer rangers, quieter streets, less anger, less payback, less antisocial behaviour!
It should not be forgotten in the midst of all the ridiculous rules and regulations surrounding alcohol in our town that – before the agenda was hijacked by lunatic anti-alcohol evangelists, busy saving us from ourselves – we were actually trying to curb anti-social behaviour in our town, not drinking per se.
Perhaps we should revisit these attempts in a somewhat more enlightened fashion, taking into account, that although alcohol exacerbates anti-social behaviour, it is not the root cause.
Anti-social behaviour is ‘Angry Retaliative Behaviour’ generated by feelings of social isolation, exclusion, disrespect, no hope, no future and no way out!
If we want to resolve the issues on our streets, yes, we must have firmly enforced rules, but those rules must be accompanied by positive moves of inclusion!
Short-term accommodation, youth hostels, youth centre, ablution facilities, places where well behaved people can have a drink, especially in their own homes!
And above all let’s bring an end to the bureaucratic paternalism that grips our town and our country.
Paternalism, this is the root cause of most of our ills. Give people back the basic dignity, the basic human right, the absolute basis of equality – being able to make and accept responsibility for their own life choices! The anger on our streets will evaporate shortly thereafter.
Steve Brown
Alice Springs

By-law discrimation

Sir,– The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) is dismayed by an Alice Springs Town Council proposal to impose fines of $130 on people who are begging.
It is difficult to understand what will be achieved by fining people who have to resort to begging in the first place.
We must work to address the underlying causes of poverty and disadvantage, rather than further punish those who are already doing it tough.
Criminalising social problems is a cop-out.
The proposed fine system is draconian, discriminatory, and will be difficult to enforce.
Even if the Aboriginal people – who will be disproportionately affected by the by-laws – do pay the fine, their income will be further reduced, and they may have to again resort to begging.
NTCOSS does not believe that the council has a mandate for these proposed changes, and we urge the council to listen to concerns of community groups and individuals.
We need approaches which engage with people in a positive manner and which acknowledge all people as valued members of our community.
Jonathan Pilbrow
Central Australian Policy Officer

Missing minutes

Sir,- Reindeer weep, aldermen bleep and Alice Springs will have a Christmas tree.  Or so we are led to believe after yet another round of council debate on this core issue.
It now sounds like the preferred option is a self-lit PVC and steel construct designed in Mexico, built in Southeast Asia and (did I hear this correctly?) sourced through an American corporation.  But it will be green or the deal is off.  And the price is right – all in for around $15,000.  But at 20 meters does it exceed Council’s height restrictions?  Will the Development Consent Authority consent?
I admit I will be sorry to see this matter put to a final vote.  If nothing else the case of the Christmas tree has more than met the need for a theatrical component to enliven and enlighten the public meetings of our Alice Springs Town Council.
With respect, “Clowns to the right of me, clowns to the left of me, into the valley of the artificial Christmas tree rode the lighthearted...”
On another matter: On the front page of the Alice Springs Town Council website the following statement can be found: Under Section 67 (4) of the Local Government Act 2008, a copy of Council and Committee “minutes must, within 10 business days after the date of the meeting to which they relate, be available to the public: (a) on the Council’s website; and (b) at the Council’s public office.”
Given that the Local Government Act is the source document for how our Town Council is to conduct its business, why are the minutes for the February, March, April and May Committee meetings not on Council’s website? 
I have asked this question in council meetings more than once, and I have been fobbed off with the answer that the question has been taken on notice.  I am sure I remember that at one time the minutes for at least some of those Committee meetings were available, but if I am correct about that, they have since been taken down.
Why is that?  Why is Council playing hide and seek with public documents, documents that are supposed to be available as a public record of Council business?  And why is Council stonewalling and being dismissive toward someone who strongly supports local government in general and this council in particular?
Do they not realise that many in Alice Springs have no time at all for our Town Council, and if they negate the good will of those of us who do support them, they will end up with no support at all?
And finally, could the perpetrator of this obfuscation be the CEO of our Town Council, Mr Rex Mooney?  Could he have forgotten that he is a public servant and not the head of a private corporation?  Has he fallen prey to the illusion that our Town Council is his private fiefdom?
I ask this question publicly because every time I ask it privately or in-house at Council meetings I get smoke blown up my backside.  Perhaps its time for our elected members to assert their control over the council to which they were elected and over the CEO of that council who they did hire and who they can fire.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
Mr Mooney replies: The meeting procedure by-laws are currently being revised. Council endeavors to comply with the Local Government Act. Occasionally minutes are delayed in being placed on the website, under council by-laws and the local government act, and all efforts will be made to avoid this in the future.    The committee meeting minutes between February and May can be found on council’s website.
Sir,- The National Health & Hospitals Reform Commission has produced a final report that recommends substantial positive change for Australia and for remote areas in particular.
I welcome the Commission’s recommendations to strengthen Primary Health Care (PHC) services and its calls for the Commonwealth to take national leadership, and to accept responsibility for funding all PHC, aged, dental, mental health services and workforce development.
For remote areas, the report focuses on more equitable funding by adjusting for current under-expenditure through per capita funding, adjusting for levels of sickness and increased costs of remote service delivery. It has responded positively to repeated calls for increased and nationally consistent payments for patient transport and accommodation to access services.
The Commission also makes positive recommendations about supporting education and training across all health disciplines, and for preferential access to specialist training for remote and rural practitioners. It also recommends strengthening of research effort through a rural and remote health research program.
The Commission recommends a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Authority, responsible for purchasing services, and ensuring clear accountability and quality, and also calls for investment in food security and enhancing Indigenous workforce initiatives. These are very positive initiatives.
However, there are some disappointments.
The Commission is very tentative in recommending the Commonwealth moves slowly in taking responsibility for complete funding of public hospitals, and thus having one health system, one level of government responsible for it and truly ending the blame game.
Another disappointment is the rejection of regional governance and service delivery mechanisms.
This underestimates the capacity of remote and rural areas, and fails to build on existing successful regional models.
Professor John Wakerman
Centre for Remote Health, Alice Springs.

Itemise SIHIP
line by line

Sir,– The Henderson Government must provide a comprehensive break-down of spending under the Commonwealth’s $672million SIHIP scheme.
Concerns raised by Government Minister Alison Anderson that 70% of SIHIP would be eaten up by administration cannot be swept under the carpet by a hastily convened internal audit and angry words from the Chief Minister.
Last week, the Country Liberals called for the Territory and Commonwealth auditors general to run a ruler under SIHIP to determine just how much money will be spent on administration and how much will actually go into improving Indigenous housing.
As well as this, Labor should be telling us precisely how many houses will be built, the nature of the housing, the construction cost of each house, where it will be built and how many additional people will be housed under SIHIP.
What the Government hasn’t made public is that under SIHIP, there are two layers of administration.
Firstly, there are the Territory Government’s administrative costs and secondly further administration charges with the contractor.
It should be remembered this program replaced the Commonwealth Housing and Infrastructure Program (CHIP) in 2007, and yet so far hasn’t delivered a single house.
This is the first time the Territory has been trusted to run the Commonwealth’s Indigenous housing program and from what we have seen Paul Henderson and Housing Minister Rob Knight have failed dismally.
Adam Giles
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs

housing agencies

Sir,– Septic tanks overflow and the floors of houses are covered in raw sewage. This is happening in 2009, in the Northern Territory’s remote Aboriginal community of Ampilatwatja, in houses managed by Territory Housing through a contract arrangement with the Barkly Shire.
Many residents have walked off the Ampilatwatja community to set up a makeshift camp in protest at these sub-standard facilities.
It is time for an open and transparent review of the practices of Territory Housing, since their assumption of housing management responsibilities across remote Aboriginal communities from July 2008.
Territory Housing’s cyclical maintenance plan for the septic tank systems in Ampilatwatja, needs to be disclosed – including when they were last cleaned, when they were due to be cleaned next and why they have been allowed to fall into such disrepair. 
It is simply unacceptable that in 2009 Australian citizens have to live in these conditions.  
Toni Vine Bromley
NT Shelter

ADAM'S APPLE: Going to the gym to sharpen women’s skills in man’s body.

As I write this week’s column, dear reader, I would like you to keep in mind that I am multitasking.
There is a well flogged maxim that states that multitasking is a skill most men either lack or have failed to take to their heart.
I think I am quite a good multitasker. I am not sure if this is a by product of genius, superior mental discipline or having been raised primarily by women. Probably none of those reasons.
I think the skill was born out of a desire for more time spent watching television. Why do six tasks one after another when you can save time and complete them all at once?
Whatever the real reason for my possession of this skill, I find myself able to rub my belly while patting my head at will.
I can have a conversation while watching sport on the television and I am also capable of thinking about several ideas at the same time. I know, quite the catch, ladies!
But at this moment, this particularly feminine skill is being employed in quite a masculine fashion.
For the past couple of days I have been suffering through some rather uncomfortable muscle pain. This pain has proven quite a distraction and in order to focus on the topic at hand, I am ironically forced to multitask.
As if I’d consult with a professional!
So while typing out this week’s collection of thoughts from the parts of my mind best avoided in social conversation, I am also reading the medical directions on the bottle of Ibuprofen and simultaneously applying a heat balm to the most painful regions of my body.
The relative proximity of one of the more painful regions to the most delicate region of my body causes me to hope that my faith in my own multitasking ability is justified.
I am embarrassed to admit that the pain I am suffering is of my own doing.
I have recently started attending a gym under the tutelage of a personal trainer.
The peculiar sub-culture of the gymnasium is a foreign one to me. Until now I looked upon the treadmills, the weight machines and the dumbbells much like one looks upon the homemade lightweight aeroplane. Objects strictly for the use of the clinically mental and those with no real desire for a prolonged existence.
However with the allure of strength and the possibility for a body that elicits fewer shrieks of horror, I decided that this gym thing might be worth a shot.
The advantages of having an expert guide through the maze of machines is that the possibility of ending up entangled in said machine with my knees abnormally close to my head is virtually zero. I know that I am performing each exercise in the manner intended.
The downside is that there is no slacking off. Even when my heart sounds like a San Francisco earthquake and my arms feels like long sausages filled with grandma’s custard and my brain is pleading with me to take up a pastime of a far more civilised nature, like sitting, there is the ever present voice of an expert telling me that I can go again.
There is another well worn saying which says that women have a higher pain threshold than men. I don’t know if that is true but I do know that the pain I am medicating is the pain earned by hard work.
I must admit to feeling stronger and fitter and healthier than I have in many a year.
But the unexpected advantage of all this toil, tears and sweat is that I feel mentally healthier.
I was never one of those people that thought that a healthy body and a healthy mind were linked – generally because all of the fit people I knew at school were idiots.
But I think there maybe something in it.
The last couple of months have been some of the most turbulent in my adult life.
Loss, heartbreak, depression and a dissatisfaction that might have been the early onset of a premature mid life crisis have all raised their ugly head and tried to take a swipe at my mental health.
As strange as it might sound coming from a man who has shopped from the big man’s department since he was 15, going to the gym has helped.
I am convinced that the rabbit hole would have been deeper and darker if not for the physical exertion I have endured three times a week.
Perhaps it is the endorphins. Perhaps it is the sense of achievement. Perhaps it’s pretty girls in gym pants. Whatever the reason, it is working, even though it hurts to sit on the toilet.

Borat was 2006: By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

Bruno is the latest outing of social and comedic genius Sacha Baron Cohen.
This film goes above and beyond the call of Borat; although it has been released to a pendulum of condemnation and praise, I personally feel that it may be the funniest film produced this year.
Cohen’s previous alter egos include talk show host Ali G, and Kazakhstan’s’ cultural TV presenter Borat.
Early this century a young law student conducted a psychological experiment involving two human subjects, one of greater intelligence and another of lesser.
The test was to prove that if you had these two people in a room together, the one of greater intelligence would begin to speak and behave on a level better demonstrated by the other subject, but the person of lesser intelligence would not begin to mimic the more gifted subject.
The result of this one experiment was the birth of one of this decade’s most universally recognisable pop cultural figures, Ali G, the jumpsuit wearing, gold chain sporting, hand gesture throwing youth of 21st century western culture host of the eponymous television series.
The character Borat followed, jettisoned into popular culture with the mockumentary, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Now three years later, Cohen’s audience is divided over Bruno, with the majority obviously confused by the humour and cringe n’ flinch decorated interviews.
For me this style dwells upon the cutting edge of comedy. The sarcastic humour of the 1990s is long dead, with a more dark, bleak and reflective perception of today’s society taking front seat.
Bruno is an outstanding jewel in this crown, with the host (a gay fashion designer from Austria, hell bent on becoming the greatest Austrian superstar since Adolf Hitler) managing to offend just about every group and individual he encounters, including a red neck hunting party from Alabama, a strangely suspicious pair of gay-converting priests, a supposed terror cell leader in Lebanon.
Amongst many more, a television network committee in Hollywood are forced to endure the pilot of Bruno’s proposal for a new fashion show, featuring the host exploring new realms of inappropriateness.
This film  isn’t a definite for everyone, but given the fact that the film’s creator is still involved in four different lawsuits involving the movie’s content, seeing this show should be essential for the curious, whatever your views may be on Cohen’s approach to comedy.
Pop Vulture rating:  906/1009

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