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

Flood warning prone to failure. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The “modern technology” used to predict flooding in Alice Springs, that Minister for Central Australia and Environment Minister Karl Hampton seems happy to rely upon, is vulnerable to technical failure.
In response to the Alice News article of October 29 on the threat to the town of a Q100 (a one in 100 year flood), Mr Hampton assured us that “effective flood mitigation measures are already in place”, including “the use of modern technology by flood forecasters”.
The Alice News has learned from a well-informed source, speaking to us on the condition that they not be named, that flood forecasting warnings depend on text messages going to the duty officer’s mobile.
We asked the Environment Department (NRETAS) what happens if there is a delay in the text message going through, as can commonly happen and is more likely when there are thunderstorms around.
A spokesperson says “a range of communication methods, including text messaging and at some sites voice messaging are utilised to inform the NRETAS flood forecast duty officer”.
The News understands that the voice message back up is only on the river gauge at Wigley Gorge and that “100% redundancy” is needed to ensure an accurate warning system – meaning every link in the chain has to be duplicated.
There are only three river gauges – one at Wigley Gorge, another at The Dipper on Charles Creek and one in the Todd opposite Anzac Hill.
In a storm in January 2007 a leaking roof in the NRETAS office shorted the power supply to the warning system’s two computers, with the consequence that no message was delivered to the duty officer.
A few hours later the Bureau of Meteorology phoned the duty officer advising of significant rainfall at Bond Springs.
The river was flowing strongly and the police had closed the causeways long before the duty officer reached the office and found that the whole system was down.
After the system had been reset and the computer rebooted it was discovered that two of the river gauges were not working. An officer had to be sent to Wigley Gorge to send in manual readings by mobile phone.
After this incident equipment in the NRETAS office was lifted off the floor and shields were put over the powerpoints.
The Darwin office was set up  to also send warnings for the Todd River.
Because it takes only 20 minutes for a large flow to travel from Wigley Gorge to town, rain gauges (as opposed to river gauges) are critical in predicting major floods.
There are five in the catchments for the Todd and Charles, one of them at Wigley Gorge.
There is a long history of failure of rain gauges during rainfall events, including the major flood events of 1983 and 1988.
Because of this the catchment’s behaviour in heavy rainfall events is not well understood and modelling of major floods from these events is imprecise.
When there is general steady rain and minor flows begin there is time for the necessary precautions to be taken.
The town’s readiness to cope will be sorely tested if there is an intense downpour as was experienced on November 2 at Uluru, with more than 60mm of rain dumped by a storm in a little over an hour, including 30mm in just 20 minutes.
This will be even more the case if heavy rain such as that recorded at Numery Station in January 2007 fell in the Todd catchment. On January 18 that year 246mm of rain – nearly 10 inches, more than the area’s annual average – fell on Numery, 215mm of it in the six hours from 3pm. (See Alice News, August 9, 2007.)
There are other weak links in the system: with the warning going from the radio on the gauge in the catchment to a relay station at West Gap then to the NRETAS office, all it would take for that chain to be broken is a lightning strike in the wrong place.
On a previous occasion a Telstra repeater went down and did not relay an alarm to the duty officer’s mobile.
ED – Mr Hampton was invited to comment on a draft. No comment had been received prior to going to press.

Shock report: Macklin bails out CAAMA

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, will bail out the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), revealed in a breaking story by the Alice Springs News online edition on Thursday last week to be in serious financial difficulties.
CAAMA receives significant government funding and is the majority shareholder of Imparja Television.
A report by its auditors obtained by the Alice Springs News suggested “uncertainty as to whether the organisation can continue to operate”.
Several reliable sources have told us the situation involves the activities of Owen Cole, the disgraced former CEO of CAAMA.
Mr Cole stepped down as CEO when  he was facing court charges over his role in the notorious 2007 football grand final brawl.
He was later convicted of aggravated assault.
Mr Cole’s wife, Jennifer Howard, took over the reins of CAAMA.
Mr Cole, the sources say, was awarded a consultancy to do with the former Imparja building in Leichhardt Terrace (pictured).  The costs of the project, according to the sources, are a major part of CAAMA’s problems, and they say Mr Cole is getting an annual fee in the vicinity of $100,000.
Ms Howard will neither confirm nor deny that Mr Cole is being retained by CAAMA as a consultant.
But following the disclosures by the News last Thursday she made a public statement saying: “The future is looking bright for the organisation following an assurance of funding from [Ms Macklin] to refurbish the old Imparja building.”
The News contacted Ms Macklin, Arts Minister Peter Garrett (providing ongoing funding to CAAMA), Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and MHR for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon.
We put to them that CAAMA has significant assets – including its share in Imparja – and asked why should they be bailed out by the taxpayer.
Why are they not obliged to operate like most businesses, namely without constant government support?
What is the community benefit flowing from the government funding for CAAMA? 
We also suggested that wile there is desperate need for homes for peole in The Centre, CAAMA is producing office space of which there is a glut at the moment.
A spokesperson for Ms Macklin replied: “The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association will receive $636,000 under the Aboriginals Benefit Account to renovate CAAMA’s premises at 12-14 Leichhardt Terrace, Alice Springs.
“This funding will enable CAAMA to renovate a commercial property for lease and provide an income stream that will be invested back into providing media services for Aboriginal people.
“This meets with the Major Economic Program funding category of the ABA funding guidelines.”
Staff for all four ministers said they would provide responses, but none were to hand before the closing of this edition.
We will report on the issues, as information comes to hand, in our online edition <>.
The auditor’s report dated September 30, 2009, by Bill McAinsh, a partner of the Deloitte accountancy firm in Alice Springs, paints a bleak picture of CAAMA’s state of affairs and its business practices.
Mr McAinsh says in part: “The most serious matter we have to report is the financial difficulties of the organisation, as evidenced by the loss for the year and the excess of current liabilities over current assets. There is uncertainty as to whether the organisation can continue to operate.
“If the organisation does become insolvent and [management] allow the organisation to continue to operate when it is insolvent, they could be held to be personally liable for the debts of the organisation.
“At balance date, the ICC [Indigenous Coordination Centre] bank account balance was inadequate to complete or refund all unexpended ICC grants, including brought forward surpluses and the overall bank balances were NOT adequate to refund all unexpended grants.
“At balance date the entity had sufficient funds to meet its tax obligations if, and only if, tax obligations are paid before other obligations.
“Purchase Orders: Many of the items we selected for expense testing had no evidence that a purchase order was used.
“The matters raised in this report are only those which came to our attention during the course of our audit and are not necessarily a comprehensive statement of all weaknesses that exist or all improvements that might be made.”
The News spoke to Ms Howard early on Thursday, asking for an interview about CAAMA’s financial affairs.
She declined.
We emailed the following questions to Ms Howard later that day:-
• What will you be doing?
• What was the value of the old Imparja building before it was stripped?
• What is it worth now?
• Does Owen Cole have a consultancy contract with CAAMA?
• If so, for what purpose?
• If so, how much is he being paid?
• What is the current shareholding by CAAMA in Imparja?
• Will it be necessary to sell the TV license to pay CAAMA’s debts?
• How much do they amount to?
Ms Howard did not respond but in her statement to other media she claimed the auditor’s letter obtained by the News was “outdated by months”.
In fact the letter was one month and 12 days old.
She hit out at the Alice News via CAAMA radio, saying “Aboriginal money is vital to the economy of Alice Springs and [I am] sure that this particular paper has received its fair share of this in advertising dollars”.
CAAMA did not offer a right of reply to the Alice News.
Ms Howard’s apparent assertion that a newspaper’s editorial performance should be governed by considerations of advertising revenue – the most serious corruption of the journalistic code of ethics – would suggest she is not a fit and proper person to head up a media organisation.
Playing the race card, she said: “I don’t know what their problem is. It appears that whenever any local Aboriginal organization shows any hint of trouble, this particular paper is quick to try and tear them down.”
Ms Howard falsely identified the News’ interest in reporting facts about CAAMA’s financial affairs, as to do with an interest in Aboriginal organisations.
Our interest across the board is in the wise expenditure of public money, and accountability for achievements as a result of that expenditure.
Unlike CAAMA, the News is not funded by the public purse.
Some 30% of our readership is Aboriginal, and many of our news tip-offs come from Aboriginal people. Our reports on Indigenous affairs are noted for their balance and professionalism.
We have exclusive circulation in the town camps of Alice Springs, and most bush communities in the million square kilometers of our circulation area.
We could also point out that when local organisations, including Aboriginal organisations, appear to be doing a good job we report on that too, the most recent example being a two-part article about Aboriginal Hostels Ltd (October 29 and November 5). 
Ms Howard may also care to note our report on the latest research into the worth of the Central Australia Aboriginal economy (November 5) as well as our archive going back years of reports on various aspects of CAAMA’s operations and reviews of its productions.
The current issue of CAAMA’s financial difficulties casts light on the responses – or lack thereof– by Federal Government agencies to a crisis within an organisation which over the years has absorbed hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding.
Says the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs: “This is a matter for the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations” (ORIC).
Says ORIC: “Our office cannot comment on the financial position or accounts of a corporation when they have not been lodged with the Registrar.
“Please direct any questions about CAAMA finances directly to CAAMA.”
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission says it has had no reports about CAAMA’s possible insolvency.
According to CAAMA’s 2007-08 report submitted to ORIC, CAAMA had in that financial year an income of $3,304,441 and assets worth $6,399,076.
The report for 2008-09 is is due by the end of December.

Seven to two vote for revised by-laws. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The most controversial of the Town Council’s public places by-laws have been modified.
Compromise was the name of the game as a majority of aldermen backed the revised version of the by-laws at their committee meeting on Monday night.
‘Begging’ is treated within a new by-law, “Causing nuisance” (bl50), along with urinating or defecating, spitting and swearing.
There were 38 submissions relating to the begging by-law, including several from legal, welfare and human rights organisations.
The word ‘begging’ is no longer being used, but it will be an offence to cause a nuisance to another person by “asking for alcohol, cigarettes or money”.
The impounding and disposal of abandoned items by-law remains (bl65), but the “authorised person” enforcing the by-law will have to act in accordance with written guidelines.
The earlier version of this by-law led to a raft of hysterical news items around the world about homeless people having their blankets stripped from them in the middle of freezing nights, but only 16 submissions were received on the subject. Again they included a number from organisations.
The draft guidelines define what is meant by “abandoned” and give examples of items that are to be taken to Tangentyere Council for cleaning and re-distribution (reusable blankets and pillows); items to be taken to the police station (bicycles, bags of personal effects, medication); and items that may be discarded at the landfill.
This list is rather surprising as it contains many items that could be re-used, including camping equipment and paint brushes, paints and canvas.
Camping in a public place, which the earlier version saw banned 24/7, is now to be prohibited between 9pm and 9am, an extension of three hours on the existing by-law.
The draft by-law that received the greatest number of submissions (41) concerned demonstrations and protests.
An earlier requirement for individuals to have a permit to demonstrate or protest has been removed; the permit now has to be sought only by the organiser or leader (bl34) – which assumes that there will be one.
The area covered by this by-law has been enlarged.
In the earlier version it applied only to Todd Mall and the grounds of the Civic Centre. Now it appears that the by-law applies to the whole local government area.
The ban on swimming in a public place not designated as a swimming area – which looked like outlawing a favourite albeit rare activity when the Todd comes down – is now restricted to having to leave “dangerous waters” if so directed by an authorised person (bl31).
The by-law to attract the most vociferous attention in Monday’s meeting was that concerning the removal of graffiti (bl 42). The only modification to it has been the reduction of penalty, from five units to one. Owners or occupiers of property subject to graffiti will still be obliged to remove it, although council will be providing various degrees of assistance.
Alderman Samih Habib saw in the “prosecution of the victim” an attack on the fabric of our democratic society. With this by-law council was heading towards “dictatorship”, he claimed.
He joined Ald Jane Clark in not voting to take the new version of the by-laws to the next step – a formal vote at the November 30 Ordinary Meeting.
Ald Clark said she was “happy with some of the compromises” but she continues to have problems with by-laws covering areas already covered by other legislation and those moving council rangers into what she sees as policing roles.
She remains “firmly against’ by-laws 41 (littering), 42 (removal of graffiti), 47 (drinking liquor), 48 (open container of liquor), 49 (power of an authorised person), 74 (authorised person requiring information), 77 (moving on persons), and 78 (removal of persons), and has reservations about 26 (no camping) and 50 (causing nuisance).
Aldermen Sandy Taylor, Liz Martin, Melanie van Haaren and Brendan Heenan all spoke of having had to accept compromise in relation to certain by-laws but were prepared to support the new version.
Ald Taylor saw the whole package as about “the growing up of this town” – people accepting responsibility for their own actions.
Only Mayor Damien Ryan and Ald Murray Stewart  spoke without reservation. Mr Ryan did not go into any detail, while Ald Stewart saw in the package a reflection of  “strong values” and “structure” which creates “the opportunity of becoming a good social citizen”.

Araluen features first survey show of "father of urban Aboriginal art".

The first museum survey of the work of South Australian indigenous artist, Trevor Nickolls, the “father of urban Aboriginal art”, opens at Araluen this Friday (6pm).
Nickolls’ works are widely recognised for their ‘dreamtime/machinetime’ theme, which combines the sheer natural wonder of the Aboriginal land and Dreamtime stories with robust symbols of urban Australia – an enduring leitmotiv for the dichotomy of European and Aboriginal histories in Australia.
More than 55 paintings and works on paper have been brought together for the first time from public and private collections across Australia.
• Work created in a series of workshops for people with a disability goes on display at Central Craft’s June Marriott Gallery from this Friday (opening, 10.30am).
These workshops were organised by Arts Access Central Australia delivered by three local artists, Philomena Hali, Siri Omberg and Amanda Mc Millan, all highly skilled and recognised for their quality art practice.
Participants worked with jewellery making/silversmithing, pottery, felt making and fabric painting and printing.
All works are for sale and can be taken when purchased.
• Kukula McDonald’s signature black cockatoos, Billy Benn Perrurle’s lyrical hill country (and Benn has a successor in Adrian Roberston), Lance James’ lively horses and cowboys, and Billy Kenda’s vivid cars and trucks are among the works featuring at Gallery Gondwana’s exhibition, Bindi. Billed as “emotive, moving, breathtaking”, the show opens at 3pm on Saturday.

Friday reel to reel. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

This week Pop Vulture is a travelling film maker,  mentally documenting everything seen and heard, and drawing up a storyboard for a future film, documentary/mockumentary, together with shot list, camera techniques and direction where the inspired is required.
Friday evening free music session at Olive Pink Botanic gardens.
Start with a still shot (mid field) of the empty little stage adjacent to Bean Tree café,  roll with a stop frame animation of guitar, mic, amp, stand and leads being added to the stage. Gradually pull back to an establishing shot of the area around stage, as bodies of punters begin to swell in number about the scene. 
Sammi Cha and other budding local instrumentalists take hasty advantage of the ‘open mic’ atmosphere. 
Maybe use a panelling effect showing the musicians’ faces, possibly fiddle around with various lenses, colour solarization perhaps, to create a possible subliminal message about the use of solar power in this town.   
Moving to The Lane rooftop,  Frank Yamma,  Iwupa,  Sassy J and McDee. Hopefully most gig goers will think this is going to be packed to the hilt and decide that they don’t want to be dropped into the tumble dryer of arms, legs drinks and feet, so they will shuffle off somewhere else, maybe to the screening of The Age Of Stupid which is still being talked about at length on its second run.
Speed motion from Olive Pink to The Lane, sound effect of speeding tape, possibly stop at the intersection between Todd Mall and Todd Street and speed frame cars going by to create the illusion that this town is indeed a buzzing metropolis.
Note to self: rent and watch Metropolis when get back to the city.
Frank Yamma and company play raucous set to a comfortable crowd, pure performance glowing from the rooftop.
Move the camera slowly through crowd starting from the foot of the stairs then through the audience from front to nosebleed. Will use a hand held for this creating the affect of being an actual punter.
The noise from the band immediately amplifies when the camera reaches the very front of the crowd, make it seem as if the music and surrounding sounds have suddenly exploded into the audience’s face. 
Leaving The Lane via the staircase.
Try something original, bounce down the staircase like a ball hopping from step to step, still using hand held technique, will record sound of a tennis ball bouncing down the staircase and play it back over the top of shot, making it appear that the audience has now turned into a tennis ball and is bouncing off to the next destination. Damn cool.
For closing credits, use a montage of the all the evening’s musicians.
For closing tune use something local, a contemporary release, maybe “Oh Lady” by Dr Strangeways.
Give the end of the film a kind of sad and directionless ending – this might leave things open for an audience craving some dodgy sequel.

LETTERS: Humane harvest instead of camel holocaust.

Sir,– It appears from your edition of November 5 that the camel debate is far from resolved. 
From what I have read it appears to me that $90 million has been squandered on little more than the production of rubbery figures and anecdotal evidence of the damage done by camels, much of which is indistinguishable from that caused by that other introduced species, the cow. 
The result is that the camel has now been added to that other pest species that the authorities felt needed to be eradicated, the Thylacine! 
Consequently I am not surprised that DK-CRC’s funding is to end given that the chance to come up with innovative, humane and practical proposals to the perceived problem have given way to unimaginably cruel, barbaric and intellectually lazy proposals that have proven to be a complete failure in the past.
What lies at the root of this proposed camel holocaust is, I believe, an attempt to produce a pre-Captain Cook nirvana, one which never existed except in the minds of zealots.
Camels are now part of the environment and are here to stay, and we need to learn how to harvest them humanely like kangaroos, something that even ritual religious slaughter does not provide. 
If not we will see the greatest animal slaughter since the near-extinction of the American Bison in the 19th Century.
The eyes of the world are slowly opening on Australia and how it treats its wild animals and the coming international debate will, I believe, make the mulesing issue seem tame by comparison.
John Costa
Alice Springs

Words cannot express our gratitude

Sir,– We arrived in  Alice Springs on Friday November 6, having travelled from Victoria for the memorial service to honour our dear son, Paul Michael Quinlivan. 
The next 48 hours were to provide memories we shall never forget.
Upon arrival we were ushered into a home in Warburton Street, to find a note on the table from the home owners who were on a week’s holiday. It read: “Please use anything you need in our home. There is food in the fridge, I have baked a cake”.
In the evening we were all invited to dinner meeting family and friends of Paul whom we had often heard of but never met. They had travelled from the Gold Coast, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and local communities.
Emily Gap, where the memorial service was held, was a favourite spot of Paul’s. In between high rock walls, with washed sand underfoot and fresh and healthy gum trees about, we gathered.
Many of Paul’s friends from Nyrripi and Ampilatwatja travelled so far in the hot conditions to shake our hand, give us a hug and repeat very good words about him.
We thought we knew Paul’s history but in the 48 hours in Alice we learnt more about his stories, achievements, plans for the future and successes in the past. He was a wonderful father, son, brother and uncle.
Anyone who is looking to visit the desert and stay in Alice, don’t hesitate. It is a most friendly and welcoming town. We were treated like royalty.
We will surely be returning to the area in some way to try and repay the debt we owe to those who made us so welcome and took the sadness out of our heart and made us so happy to be alive.
Dorothy & Bernie Quinlivan,
Pearcedale, Victoria.

A man who created natural harmony

Sir,– On November 7, in the calming setting of Emily Gap, a Memorial Service for Paul Quinlivan was held.  
For the first time in my years of living and working in Central Australia I had, within this gathering, the distinct feeling of natural harmony. 
It spoke volumes of the way Paul related to people, no matter what their background.
The communities of Nyirrpi and Ampilatwatja were two where his input had great positive impact.  
The beautiful singing of the women from Nyirrpi, in English and their native tongue of Walpiri, was indeed moving.
Even more moving was the speech by one of the women from the Nyirrpi choir, Ormay Nangala Gallagher.  Her words connected with everyone there.  
Although it was a sad occasion, I felt it a great privilege to be there.
Graham Tjilpi Buckley
Alice Springs

ADAM'S APPLE: Silly season burnout.

In many places across this wonderful country of ours, the festive end of  year period known as ‘the silly season’ is about to get underway.
Here in Alice Springs we march to the beat of a different drum. For your common garden variety Centralian has already started the silly season. In the Centre, we like to get a head start on the celebrating. For those new to Alice Springs, Melbourne Cup Day signals the start of our festivities.
It doesn’t end with New Year’s Day either. Oh no, a silly season of just two months of the year is too little time for your average Central Australian. Ending the season around Australia Day gives us just enough leeway to fit in all the summer socialising.
But the silly season can take its toll. Stories always surface about the friend of a friend who suffered a little silly season burnout. They had to go and dry out in Adelaide in order to allow the social embarrassment of the burnout to fade. So here my good friends is the definitive guide to avoiding the stigma of social outcast, a few simple hints aimed at assisting you this silly season. Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the Adam’s Apple guide to not getting nude and being escorted off the premises at your staff Christmas party.
Hint 1: While there might only be 26,000 people in the town, there seems to be more than 26,000 social functions in the next three months.
You will probably be invited to more dos than you have time to attend so it is prudent for you to plan your weeks knowing that all the things you should go to won’t be able to be gotten to.
When invited to a function, phrases like “count me in” and “I’ll be there” should be avoided at all cost. You might have a Wednesday night free of social functions. So at the time, the invitation from the couple you see at your kid’s basketball games might seem like a nice place to spend a Wednesday. But what if a better, more pleasant offer, or three, come along? You’ve just committed to people you don’t know that well.
Hint 2: Never commit to the afternoon do. If you have three parties on a Saturday evening, neither the Saturday afternoon nor the Sunday afternoon soirée are attainable goals.  The hint here is no matter how nice the idea, how pleasing an afternoon start seems, they will always mean either an early night or a trip in the divvy van.
Hint 3: With the social calendar fuller than our justice and health system combined, you really need to plan you weeks well. But your silly season could also do with a bit of micro management.  While it is fine to plan your weekend, planning your party is also essential. On a 40 degree evening dressed in Territory rig, too often people succumb to the refreshing beverage. The spacer is an invention purpose-built for this time of year. In order to thwart the effects of dehydration and alcohol consumption, have a glass of water after every drink.
Sure you might cop a bit of stick from the lads but a spacer means you can go home at the end of a big night without the need to have your hair held back as you pray to the porcelain.
Hint 4: No matter how inviting it looks, no matter how funny it seems, no matter how much money your mates say they’ll pay you, do not get nude. Just don’t.
I hope these handy hints help in your social survival this festive period. You may just make it through without offending your boss, your partner or your friends.

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