ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
December 17, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
claims as cruel camel cull continues. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Central Land Council rejected an offer from an
abattoir in Queensland to muster and buy the hundreds of camels near
Docker River now being shot from helicopters and left to rot in the
bush in a government-funded cull.
Mike Eathorne, General Manager of Meramist Pty Ltd in Caboolture, says
he was aware of the problem at the remote community: “I could have had
musterers and trucks there within three days.
“The offer was declined, apparently because there was no permission
from land owners to muster.”
Mr Eathorne says numbers are often exaggerated, and his guess was there
were 600 to 1000 camels in the Docker River area, not 6000.
“We could have dealt with the whole lot,” he says. “We would have
stayed until the job’s done.”
The land council did not return a call from the Alice Springs News.
Meramist’s meat – slaughtered to Halal requirements – is exported to
the USA, Europe and the Middle East, all growing markets, says Mr
But the main problem with developing a sustainable export market is to
find sustained supply.
Meramist is “using use 100% of what we muster,” producing meat for
Smaller camels are “farmed out” for the management of woody weed, and
Heavier camels are sometimes used for pet food.
Mr Eathorne says his mustering team is run by the well-known Max Nunn
who employs mostly Aboriginal people.
Taking up his offer would have given employment to local people
(“boosting their self worth”), making use of a resource (“it’s criminal
that we are taking a natural resource and destroy it”) and would have
paid the community about $100 to $150 per camel.
Mr Eathorne says: “The current culling operations send the wrong
impression to people.
“Simply the process of laying to waste a natural protein in a world of
shortage is a criminal act, it also gives the wrong impression to
potential export buyers as to the value of the product.”
He says the transport cost alone from Docker River to Caboolture would
be around $400 a head.
Meanwhile experts with decades of practical experience have cast doubt
on a claim in a draft report released by the Federal Government that
aerial culling is a “humane and quick technique that results in instant
As the feral camels near Docker River are being slaughtered from a
helicopter under a joint Federal and NT government program, Ian Conway,
of King’s Creek Station, says he has seen many camels “dying an
agonising death” during aerial culling.
He says this is not a criticism of the marksman, Kim Schwartzkopff, an
Alice Springs based Parks and Wildlife officer.
“Many things are against him,” says Mr Conway.
“A vibrating chopper is not a stable platform to shoot from.”
A camel’s brain is small – about the size of a cricket ball – so even a
head shot is no guarantee of killing the beast.
Says Mr Conway: “There is nobody on the ground to check whether a camel
is dead, and to finish it off if necessary.”
Pastoralist Gary Dann, whose Wamboden abattoir 25 km north of Alice
Springs kills around 20 camels a week, says he broadly agrees with Mr
“Even when you have the most capable pilot and shooter, there have to
be stuff-ups,” he says.
“You don’t get a 100% kill.”
Mr Dann also says the process should be completely transparent.
“How many bullets did they use,” he asks.
“How many camels did they kill? There needs to be accountability.”
Dennis Orr, from the Walkabout Community near Rainbow Valley who
managed the Camel Farm in Alice for some time and worked with camels
for many years, says he’s observed aerial culling of camels and donkeys
several times over the years.
“There is definitely a chance that some camels are not killed,” he says.
“But they are not going to land the chopper every five minutes to
The government’s comment is contained in a draft plan released by the
Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, up for public comment
until January 30, for the management of an estimated one million camels
in inland Australia, a number likely to double in eight to 10 years.
The plan is based on work from the defunded Desert Knowledge
Co-operative Research Centre (DK-CRC), based in Alice Springs, which
“has provided a significant base of knowledge upon which sound
management decisions can be based”.
Although DK-CRC has been working on the problem for six years,
apparently at a cost of $15m, the plan is couched in very general
language and contains neither time schedules nor detailed costs.
It seeks to devise management that “maintains and promotes the
biodiversity, agricultural assets and social values of the rangelands
for all Australians” and takes account of “Aboriginal communities
[that] are concerned about religious as well as aesthetic, practical
and physical dimensions of camel impacts”.
Although several experienced operators say that a camel industry would
have great potential, the draft makes it clear that the government has
no interest in helping to develop it.
This, under the heading “objectives”, is as close at the plan gets to
doing something useful for the trade: “Clear acknowledgement of the
potential role of commercial enterprises in the management of feral
camels without a concomitant expectation of government subsidies /
The plan’s rejection of getting involved with the industry is mirroring
the attitude of DK-CRC which has carefully excluded anyone with
practical commercial knowledge from its study (google earlier reports
This omission has led to an absurd situation in Docker River.
About a year and a half ago the Australian Winegrowers’ Association
donated camel yards to the community in the south-western corner of the
The yards have apparently never been used.
Docker River has 100 people on unemployment benefits – 79 on Newstart
and 21 on Youth Allowance.
The camels now being shot and left to rot came to the community in
search of water.
The abattoir in Peterborough owned by Metro Velda will send a road
train to pick up yarded camels and pay $100 a head.
Mr Dann says he would pay $100 for suitable camels in Docker River or
$300 landed in Alice Springs, for mature animals.
So, instead of allowing the beasts to wreak havoc on the township, the
idle 100 people could have made sure there is water in the yards,
opened the gates, let the camels in, and closed the gates behind them.
Bingo, job’s done, and this could have been repeated – if the estimates
of camel numbers are correct – dozens of times.
If there are indeed 6000 camels to be shot, their worth would be more
than half a million dollars, in the Docker River yards.
Mr Dann, who estimates demand for camel products has trebled in the
past five years, says there are other ways to catch camels.
He says it’s important to avoid expensive equipment that can easily be
damaged – such as steel tanks and troughs with float valves.
He says digging a ditch 100 metres long, 20 wide and a meter deep
filled with water from a bore and surrounded by trap yards would be
sure to attract and catch camels.
Mr Dann says during the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication
Campaign, the pastoralist would muster and test the cattle.
Then bull catchers were brought in to deal with beasts that could not
“After that pet meaters had a go, and only beasts not harvested in that
way were shot.
“By then industry had an opportunity of creating jobs and making good
use of the resource.”
Mr Dann says it would be fair for the government to pay to the industry
the money now spent on shooting the camels.
This is clearly the kind of practical thinking alien to the boffins at
DK-CRC, which may explain why the Feds said “no” to a second six-year
term of funding.
But not all is lost for the three people heading up DK-CRC, and
presiding over its demise by June 2010.
DK-CRC has established a company, Ninti One Ltd, which “holds
intellectual property in trust for the partners, and carries out
various services for DK-CRC,” according to its website.
The directors of Ninti One Ltd are: Paul Wand (Chairman of the DK-CRC
board), Harold Furber (member of the DK-CRC board) and Jan Ferguson
(managing director of DK-CRC).
Clearly the government, which has denied continued funding to DK-CRC,
has in mind allocating $19m (or part of it) over four years to Ninti
One, run by the same people.
In the plan, under the heading “responsible party for objective”, Ninti
One and DK-CRC feature prominently.
However, the plan says: “The Australian Government’s offer of $19
million for camel management has yet to be confirmed.”
The plan has as an objective to “maximise public and community support
for camel management within Australia [and] minimise international
condemnation / interference with implementation of the feral camel
However, international outrage over the shooting is gathering momentum.
French former film star Brigitte Bardot, now a prominent animal rights
campaigner, has headlined her blog: “Massacre announced: Pushed by
thirst, [camels] are menacing the villages of the Northern Territory.”
Her blog says to Australia: “You keep making the same mistakes. After
the rabbits, the horses, now it’s the camels.
“It’s not worthy of a country like Australia.
“Your practices are scandalous. I am receiving a lot of outraged
messages, asking me to galvanise world public opinion as I did to
denounce the massacre of seals in Canada.”
(Translation from the French by Alice Springs News.)
The plan says: “Jurisdictions are responsible for the management of
feral animals on lands under their direct management.”
Yet NT Minister for Primary Industry Kon Vatskalis has for weeks been
unavailable to answer questions.
The plan says: “The potential for camel pox to spread and public
perceptions about biological control of wild animals make it unlikely
that such a technique would be available even in the medium to long
“Chemical control has the potential for broad-scale control of camel
“Like [with] all chemical means of controlling pest animals, welfare
issues will need to be considered.”
Chilling DVD re-enactment of
alleged fatal assault. By KIERAN
The Magistrates Court was shown on Tuesday a re-enactment on DVD of the
fateful early hours of July 25, 2009 that resulted in the death of
Kwementyaye Ryder and the charging with his murder of five young men,
Glen Swain, Anton Kloeden, Joshua Spears, Scott Doody, and Timothy
On the DVD Mr Swain re-enacts the attack on Mr Ryder, showing, using a
mannequin, how he kicked him in the head.
He demonstrates two close-range kicks.
He also says on the DVD that Mr Hird kicked the victim and that Mr
Doody was right there with them.
He says Mr Hird was first out of the car, after it had pulled up when a
rock hit the car.
“The fellow [who had thrown the rock] started running, I pretty well
followed Tim out of the car.”
He says Mr Hird fell and the “person who threw the rock” stumbled and
He says he saw Mr Hird make contact with one foot.
The victim had his hands over his face.
“I put the boot in,” says Mr Swain on the DVD.
He says “at no point” did Mr Kloeden, the driver, get out of the car –
“he didn’t have time to”.
He thinks that Mr Spears also remained in the car.
He says he was not worrying about what anyone else was doing, only
about what he was doing – “tunnel vision, like I said”.
He says Mr Ryder had become limp – “a rag doll effect ... he appeared
to be unconconsious”.
He says he could see a car approaching and feared they might have seen
“At this point Anton [in the group’s car] was right there.”
Mr Swain said to Mr Hird and Mr Doody, “Let’s go, let’s go!”
Mr Swain agreed to the re-enactment following his arrest on August 1
and interview with police on August 2. The re-enactment took place on
On the DVD he is asked by Constable Darren Ferguson, who was in charge
of the re-enactment, whether he understands who will see the DVD and
what they are capable of.
He says in reply, “Heck, imprisonment, home detention, that sort of
Defence lawyer Murray Preston, acting for Scott Doody, asked Const
Ferguson whether he had considered the re-enactment’s appropriateness
given that the incident involved a number of participants in an affray.
Did he think about there being possibly an injustice done to somebody
as a result of the re-enactment?
Const Ferguson said he hadn’t and told the court he had been directed
to make the re-enactment by a superior.
The re-enactment also gave some account of the events that have led to
the five being charged with eight counts of recklessly endangering
Mr Swain says before the first incident the replica Magnum was fired,
causing the campers to scatter – “they freaked out, as you would”.
Mr Swain makes some comments about the speed at which they were driving
being comparable to the driving speeds in the re-enactment but does not
specify the kilometres per hour.
He also says, following the incident with the second group of campers
and a stick having been thrown at the car, that the five all jumped out
to check whether the car was damaged.
A passer-by spoke to them, words to the effect that their actions were
“a wake up call for them [the campers]”.
Mr Swain says they “all agreed” and had a “bit of a chuckle”.
In a verbal interaction with a second group of campers he says “nothing
angry” was said: “We were just being a bunch of pissed fellers carrying
The court also heard on Tuesday that when he died Kwementyaye Ryder had
a blood alcohol reading of .22. This was disclosed by defence lawyer
Tony Whitelum, acting for Joshua Spears.
Witness Matthew Day had told the court that he had spoken with an angry
Mr Ryder in the Todd River camp after a vehicle had driven at speed
towards the campers, narrowly missing one of them, an old man.
Mr Day’s second statement to police, made the day after the incident,
said he got the impression Mr Ryder had been drinking but he did not
appear drunk and he did not see him drinking. He could see empty VB
cans in the vicinity of the camp.
Mr Whitelum asked Mr Day if he wanted to re-assess the statement.
Mr Day said Mr Ryder was holding a conversation quite well, his speech
was not slurred.
Mr Whitelum then asked if Mr Day would be surprised that Mr Ryder’s
blood alcohol reading was .22.
Mr Day acknowledged that it was a “very high reading” but maintained
that he did not see Mr Ryder staggering, and did not notice him
Nor were his eyes bloodshot, he said.
He said he had seen Mr Ryder previously in a drinking situation and he
was not more drunk than on those occasions.
Accused drove at sleeping
campers before Ryder death, court was told. By KIERAN
Sleeping campers in the Todd River allegedly had to jump out of the way
of a white Toyota Hilux being driven at them at speed in the early
hours of Saturday, July 25, 2009.
Two groups of campers were allegedly recklessly endangered in this way,
one to the south of the Schwarz Crescent Causeway, one to the north.
Kwementyaye Ryder was at the camp on the northern side.
Not long afterwards he would die as the result of a haemorrhage caused
by blunt force to the area of the head and skull, according to the
pathologist’s report. It was quoted by prosecutor Michael McColm in the
Magistrates Court on Monday when the committal hearing of charges
against his five alleged assailants began.
Between the incidents involving the car and the alleged fatal assault,
the court was told the defendants had gone to the home of two of them,
retrieved an imitation firearm with blank ammunition and returned to
As they drove west along Schwarz Cres they allegedly saw Mr Ryder
walking on the side of the road.
As the car drew near, the prosecution said Mr Ryder threw something at
the car or struck it. The car stopped, did a u-turn and pulled up in
front of him.
The prosecution said he held on to the bull bar before turning to run
This summary of events was presented by Mr McColm as the case against
the five co-accused, Glen Swain, Anton Kloeden, Joshua Spears, Scott
Doody, and Timothy Hird.
The young men stood grave and impassive as the charges against them
were read: murder as well as eight counts of engaging in conduct giving
rise to danger of death, that is, driving through camps “reckless as to
the danger of death” and “in aggravated circumstances”, that is using
an offensive weapon – a motor vehicle.
The eight victims of this conduct were named as Maureen Walker, Trudy
Wallace, Brian Lura, Tony Cocelli, Donna Larry, Ashley Spencer, Jeannie
Bruno and Alison Larry.
Mr McColm told the court that the five accused had gone out on the
Friday night as a group and consumed a “large amount of alcohol”.
They left Lasseters Casino in the early hours of the morning, all
getting into the Toyota Hilux driven, the prosecution said, by Mr
The car entered the river at Tuncks Causeway (between South Terrace and
The Fairway) and drove along the riverbed at speed.
Three people, two women and a man, were asleep in the river bed about
100 metres south of Schwarz Crescent Causeway.
The prosecution said they managed to jump out of the way as the car was
driven at the camp and over their sleeping areas.
Crossing the causeway, the car was allegedly driven at the second group
of campers, three women and three men including Mr Ryder.
Some of them ran to the safety of a tree but one man was too elderly to
rise and the car narrowly missed him.
The car then drove further north along the river, attempting to leave
the riverbed at the Telegraph Station.
Unable to do so, it returned to Schwarz Crescent and again drove at
speed close to the camp on the northern side of the causeway, the court
The prosecution said a person in the camp threw a small log or stick at
The car stopped and the defendants got out, appearing to look for
damage to the car.
Words were exchanged between them and the people in the second camp.
After this the defendants drove to the home of Mr Swain and Mr Hird,
where these two went inside and, the prosecution said, Mr Hird
retrieved the imitation Colt 45 pistol (in later evidence Mr Swain said
this was a replica Magnum) and blank ammunition.
All five then returned in the car to the riverbed.
The prosecution said as the car travelled down Undoolya Road Mr Hird
had his arm out the widow and discharged the imitation firearm, making
a sound the same as that of a real firearm.
The car stopped at the corner of Sturt Terrace and the Schwarz Crescent
The prosecution said that the firearm was held out from the rear of the
Then the car drove across the causeway and along Schwarz Crescent where
Mr Ryder was walking.
After the vehicle had stopped and he had turned to run away from it,
the prosecution said the occupants got out of the car, ran after him
and he was tackled to the ground where he was assaulted by a number of
The prosecution said at least three people got out of the car – Mr
Hird, Mr Swain and Mr Doody.
The prosecution said there is also evidence that Mr Spears got out of
the car, while Mr Kloeden remained inside.
Mr Ryder was allegedly struck and kicked about the head area.
When he ceased to move the defendants returned to the car and left the
The prosecution said two witnesses had seen the events from the top of
Anzac Hill where they had gone to eat breakfast as the sun came up.
They drove down to the scene where they saw Mr Ryder on the ground.
It was obvious to them, the prosecution said, that he was dead.
They called police who confirmed his death.
The prosecution said there is a large amount of evidence about these
events to put to the court.
On Monday the court heard from the couple who had been on top of Anzac
Hill, Deborah Penelope Clarke and Matt Lemmens, as well as from two
residents of units on Sturt Terrace, near the Schwarz Crescent Causeway
and from a man who had been walking along the riverbank towards the
Wills Terrace footbridge when the defendants’ car allegedly entered the
Questioning by the defendants’ lawyers went to matters of time,
possible identifying observations about the defendants and their
position in relation to the vehicle, inside and outside, as well as to
the detail of what was seen from the top of Anzac Hill.
Mr Clarke said she saw from the hill “some kicking motions” but she
couldn’t really see “what was being kicked at”.
She could see “half a body” on the ground.
To her “best recollection” three people were out of the car.
She said she only saw one person making the kicking motion.
Her view was obscured by shrubbery.
Her attention had been drawn to the scene first by hearing some sort of
When she arrived at the scene she said she saw a fellow lying on the
side of the road. He was on his side, not moving. She approached and
saw blood behind his head, in front of his mouth and on his head.
Her partner was on the phone to the police from this time until the
police arrived a few minutes later.
There was a formal request to the court that the recording of this 000
call be produced.
Mr Lemmens also told the court he saw a lot of blood around the
victim’s head, “already changing colour”.
A small number of family and friends of the defendants and of Mr Ryder,
including for some time his mother, were in court for the hearing.
Shire win for local
government. By KIERAN
A blow has been struck for recognition of local
government by the MacDonnell Shire Council.
At its meeting last Thursday councillors received an apology from
senior public servant Mathew Fagan, director of the Service Delivery
Coordination Unit within the Department of the Chief Minister.
Mr Fagan apologised for the failure to include local government in the
Remote Service Delivery Bilateral Plan and promised that from now on
the Local Boards of each shire will be the frontline point of contact
for the plan.
He described the plan as turning “upside down” the way government goes
about its business, a change from top-down service delivery to a “true
The plan is focussed initially on 29 Aboriginal communities across
Australia, 15 of which are in the Territory and coincide with 15 of the
Territory’s 20 “growth towns” identified in A Working Future.
The intention of both plans is to raise service delivery standards to a
level comparable with other Australian towns of similar size and
However the “bilateral” plan hadn’t got off to a good start by ignoring
the unit of government closest to the people, the Local Boards in the
MacDonnell Shire President Sid Anderson read aloud to the meeting, and
with some satisfaction, from his letter to the Prime Minister, dated
August 26 last, challenging the apparent exclusion of local government
when the broad goals of the plan and the shires are the same.
“We are confused why no one came to talk with us, and why this new
bilateral agreement would try to set up a separate unit to look at
remote service delivery, and we have been left outside, when so much of
what we want for the future is the same.
“Our Council is now over a year old and we are doing a good job – so we
ask why you are setting up another unit within the Department of the
Chief Minister, with another service plan, underneath the table without
genuinely including us as an equal partner in the agreement?
“We think that maybe both Governments might need to look at how they
can communicate with us better as the third tier of Government, not
just with each other? Perhaps instead of having a bi-lateral agreement,
perhaps there should be a tri-lateral agreement?
“Our Council needs to be treated with respect and viewed as a strong
third tier of Government with a real job to do, otherwise we wonder
what is the reason for Local Government Reform in the Northern
In MacDonnell Shire, first cab off the rank under the plan is
Hermannsburg (Ntaria), with Papunya to follow.
The Ntaria Local Board will provide “the main local input” for the work
to be done there, promised Mr Fagan.
In the discussion that followed Mr Anderson declared that elected
members of the Shire Council are “not just puppets on a string”.
“We are elected to speak on behalf of 14 communities,” he said.
“We’re not here on our own, we’re here representing 14 communities,
they put trust in us.
“We’ve got to work with government and government with us.
“Little program starts from here and we take it out, not from the Top
End straight to the community.
“You’ve got to come and talk to me and the CEO.”
Mr Anderson evoked the bewilderment of remote residents when “six
Toyotas” arrive in a community and no-one knows where they’re from –
The timing can be bad – there might be ceremony underway or sorry
And sometimes people simply get fed up, he said. There might be
meetings three times a week: “People get sick of it.”
He said government personnel should make the Shire head office (in
Alice) first port of call, to make sure it’s OK to go out to
“Always ring here and make sure you get an answer from the chair
[himself] or deputy,” he said.
Mr Fagan proposed an MOU be drawn up to provide an agreed protocol,
which Mr Anderson accepted.
Shire: The nitty gritty.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 1pm.
As shire councillors gather in the small ‘chambers’ at the MacDonnell
and Central Desert Shires HQ on Gap Road, they chat to one another in
an Aboriginal language – they’re a multi-lingual bunch, apart
from English speaking Luritja, Arrernte, Pintupi,
One non-Aboriginal observer in the ‘public gallery’ has the enviable
ability to join in. They share a joke and laughter.
Shire President Sid Anderson suggests the meeting get underway at 1.10.
With a glance upwards to the fluorescent lit ceiling, he quips: “I’d
try looking at the sun, but there’s no sun,” .
He gives the Alice News permission to take a couple of photos: “Not too
many,” he warns, “or we might have to charge you royalties.”
He realises that some councillors won’t be in the shot and directs
another photo be taken from a different angle. He doesn’t want them to
The atmosphere is friendly, relaxed.
That’s generally true too for the meetings of the Alice Springs Town
Council but Ordinary Meetings, which this one is, are governed by
fairly strict meeting procedure.
That’s dispensed with here in favour of the main game: the development
of a functional third tier of government in the bush.
There’d be no point tripping it up on unnecessary formalities.
Mr Anderson works his way through the agenda, a document in English as
are all the council papers. English may not be his first language, but
he’s a competent English speaker and reader, and above all a
communicator, breaking into Aboriginal language as he sees fit but
bringing the discussion back into English fairly promptly.
When he reads aloud from his letter to the PM (see separate story), he
asks for help with a word, then jokes: “We should try to bring it all
down to broken English!”
There’s a bit of quid pro quo when CEO Graham Taylor stumbles over some
of the place names in the shire. Councillors give him the help he needs.
But when it comes to “Kaltukatjara” they advise, “Just say Docker
There are challenges of course in practising local government in this
cross-cultural environment. One that I observed is the confirmation of
At Town Council meetings it is assumed that councillors will have read
the Minutes of the last meeting before they vote to accept them.
Evidence that some, if not all, of them do comes when they make
corrections and ask questions.
Mr Anderson asked the CEO to read aloud the Minutes of the October
This would have been lengthy and tedious and it would not necessarily
have meant that all councillors were fully across what the document
Mr Taylor suggested that he give a summary.
Councillors agreed and he proceeded, doing the same when it came to
noting the Minutes of the Local Board meetings.
But this was all off the cuff and resulted in a somewhat sketchy
account of the Minutes.
No great harm will necessarily arise but local government is mostly a
matter of the nitty gritty – the details that make lives more secure
and comfortable for being underpinned by well run services.
The Minutes of the Local Board meetings reflect the work of the shire
on the ground – litter collection, housing maintenance, child care
centres, youth development, sports facilities, animal control, all
those things that, when they don’t work, result in the conditions so
often lamented on remote communities.
The Minutes are the basic record which can be used to hold elected
members and staff to account and to maintain coherence and continuity
in the delivery of services.
They also importantly show who attended the meetings and who moved and
seconded the various motions, giving some indication of whether there’s
genuine representation going on.
If a verbal summary is going to be made, it needs to be carefully
prepared to include all the salient points.
Country Liberals ready:
One of the likely events in 2010 is a change of government in the NT.
The Paul Henderson team is hanging by a thread and Independent Gerry
Wood could snip it at any time.
The three urban seats in Alice Springs are safe in Country Liberal
Next election the ALP may well not bother with the token effort of last
time, and not stand any candidates here at all.
The town will take a long time to forget that Labor has taken the
national parks (mostly in The Centre) away from the general public; has
managed to make an even greater hash of residential land development
than its Tory predecessors; has pegged the price of native title at
half the freehold value of land; and has ruled out a flood barrier in
the Todd which all experts say is the only protection from a Q100 flood
– increasingly likely because of climate change – which will cause
major loss of life and catastrophic damage.
Why indeed would a government that may only have days to live worry
about things like that?
The question is, how ready are the Country Liberals to take over.
Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA
spoke with JOHN ELFERINK, MLA for Port Darwin but formerly a Central
In 1997 he pulled off the miracle of tipping Labor out of MacDonnell,
the ALP’s safest electorate at the time. He held it for two terms.
Mr Elferink completed a law degree over the past few years and was
admitted to the bar this year. He knows his way around Treasury papers
like few others.
News: You were saying there is a game plan, Terry Mills as the Chief
Minister, you as the Treasurer, Jodeen Carney as Attorney
Mr Elferink: Yes.
News: And, the feeling around the traps is that you are ready for
Mr Elferink: Well, if we were to be parachuted into government
tomorrow, I’m comfortable that we would form an effective government. I
pick up on what you said in terms of journalist Nicolas Rothwell,
describing us as a failed state. I don’t agree with him; the same could
be said about NSW at the moment, and yet nobody’s winding up the NSW
News: Good point. So in five sentences, why is the Gerry Wood model not
Mr Elferink: It’s not feasible because it’s nothing close to what he
originally proposed. That was to run the Territory like a large
council. This simply offends the Self Government Act, and therefore we
can’t run the model he wanted to run. What we have is an already very
poor second cousin to what was proposed and in truth I’ve suspected
he’s going to struggle to succeed.
News: And why can’t it be run in that way?
Mr Elferink: The separation of powers presumes the separation of the
executives and legislator. Councils don’t operate in that fashion, they
operate as an executive and legislator all in the one breath.
News: So one way of the current government coming to an end would be
Gerry Wood withdrawing his support for it.
Mr Elferink: Yes, that would probably be the way it would have to fall
over. The problem that Territorians have now is that Gerry will try and
make this deal work simply so he can be proved right, but I’m concerned
that all this arrangement has become is a way to keep Paul Henderson
the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. It’s not about keeping
Labor in power, it’s about keeping Paul Henderson in power. It’s an
absurd situation where caucus doesn’t choose its own Chief Minister.
News: Assuming all things come to an end for the Labor Government, what
are the five things you would do first up?
Mr Elferink: Well, one of the first things that are top of mind is to
deal with the amount of public drunkenness we have. We want to create a
habitual drunks model. Last year we arrested 30,000 Territorians. Whom
we actually arrested was a handful of Territorians lots of times for
Under our model once you get apprehended three times, the flag will
come up against your name on the third occasion, and within a six month
period, you will front a tribunal that will give you an order to
conduct yourself in a certain way.
If you don’t you will be committing an offence for which you will be
sentenced for three months. You will go to a low security prison in the
Katherine region which we will build, and you will go through for
enforced rehabilitation for that three months. It’s a cross between a
criminal sanction and a health intervention.
News: Okay, now land release, how quickly in Alice Springs would it
Mr Elferink: The one thing the government has been absolutely terrified
to do is to acquire native title rights. Whilst that would still be the
last option for the Country Liberals, we would simply say to native
title holders, “Look we expect you to come up with a solution by a
certain date, if you don’t we will not be afraid to compulsorily
acquire your native title”.
The High Court has said we can do it for any reason that we see fit. We
would certainly compensate for any loss of title, but what we won’t
allow to occur is for native title to become such a profound millstone
around the neck of Alice Springs. If land negotiations take too long
then we are prepared to acquire.
News: At the moment native title is worth 50% of freehold. What’s your
Mr Elferink: If we were going to have a fight over compensation, that’s
fine, we would have that fight over compensation, but clearly 50% of
freehold would be pretty much what the government would accept.
News: You would accept that?
Mr Elferink: Yes, well, it’s pretty much established. There’s not much
point trying to go to the court fighting for less than that when it’s
already been established that this is the value of native title in
Remember, of course, that the sale of the blocks would probably cover
the cost of the acquisition.
News: You would not baulk at the 50% of freehold?
Mr Elferink: Well I’d suspect the native title was probably worth a
little bit less than that, but in Alice Springs that’s pretty much the
establishment going rate. I couldn’t see much point in arguing with
that level of cost.
News: Okay, then the third initiative.
Mr Elferink: We would also look at getting the health system working
properly. The long and the short is that health has run astray,
particularly in Darwin, and child protection as a component of that has
reared its ugly head as being a place where a government has completely
lost control, so much so that they now have an independent inquiry into
themselves to find out what the hell’s going on. I mean that’s just a
News: What would you do?
Mr Elferink: Well, the thing is we have to look at the department first
to determine exactly what fix you are going to do. But what we would do
is not simply sit on the sidelines and let the bureaucracy run the
show. We would make those decisions which are necessary.
Another priority for a future Country Liberal government, of course, is
freeing up Aboriginal freehold land. We would do this primarily through
negotiation with the land councils themselves, to try and get
businesses and enterprises operating in these remote communities.
I was a little disappointed with the comments from, I think, David Ross
the other day in Alice Springs, where he says these companies have to
turn up with money otherwise we’re not interested. It shows a
philosophy of doing business: you’ve got to come to us and then we’ll
think about it. What I would rather see from the land council, and we
can certainly see it in the northern land councils, is a much more
The land councils in the north are now saying, well okay we’re open for
business. They are now pursuing business partners, with such projects
as tourist resorts and forests.
In Darwin, under the umbrella of the Northern Land Council, the
Larrakeyah Development Corporation has been doing enormous things in
advancing Aboriginal employment. And they are doing it through being
participants in part of the general economy.
News: What’s the biggest infrastructure project?
Mr Elferink: It’s the condition of our power and water infrastructure.
I am concerned that expenditure has gone into surprising areas; we
have, particularly in relation to Darwin, a source of gas two
kilometers away from Darwin Power Station.
But because of this government’s ineptitude, we now have to get our gas
from a source 500 kms distant from the power station in Darwin.
News: Speaking of the gas, we in Alice Springs are nearly out of Palm
Valley gas. We will be reversing the flow of gas down the pipeline. So
if there is a problem with supply in Darwin it will affect us as well.
Mr Elferink: That’s right, well what’s happened is that recently in
Darwin we have had large power cuts, where we’ve lost as many as 14,000
customers because of the gas pressure problem.
That’s now happened a couple of times and this is meant to be part of
the solution, which is the government’s megabuck spend on a pipeline
from Blacktip. It is disappointing that they’ve spent literally
hundreds of millions of dollars, and I mean hundreds of millions, on
this solution, when in Darwin the Mereenie pipeline is literally two
kilometers away from one of the largest gas supplies in the Southern
News: And they’ve mucked that up.
Mr Elferink: Yep, completely.
News: And, irretrievably?
Mr Elferink: Irretrievably, however, one of the things that the new
Northern Territory Government will have to deal with, should we win the
next election, is trying to determine exactly what the gas pressure
Tribal law debate revived.
By ERWIN CHLANDA.
The debate about tribal law – or traditional or customary law or
payback – is a hardy perennial with usually the same outcome: not much
The long and no doubt expensive enquiry by the Australian Law Reform
Commission between 1983 and 1986 into the Recognition of Aboriginal
Customary Laws was a major foray into the subject.
In the end the commission decided not to “recommend the establishment
of an overarching Aboriginal agency” dealing with tribal law.
“The initiative for such an agency must come from Aboriginal people.”
It hasn’t so far.
On the contrary, the Court of Appeal of the NT made it clear in 2000:
“There is no dual system of law in the Northern Territory”.
Indigenous rights can be asserted only to the extent that they are
“recognized either by the common law or by any statute” created by an
Yet this month local film maker Danielle Loy raised the subject again,
on behalf of Warlpiri traditional owners, claiming “Bush Law” – the
title of the movie – should be given a try because not much else is
As a rule of thumb, the more radical a proposition for tribal law is
the less chance it has to find favor.
Until recently, a judge could take into account, during sentencing,
cultural circumstances a defendant may have been exposed to.
The Commonwealth Intervention radically changed this.
The law now provides that when dealing with Northern Territory
offences, “in determining the sentence to be passed … a court must not
take into account any form of customary law or cultural practice as a
reason for … lessening the seriousness of the criminal behaviour to
which the offence relates.”
Sentencing submission is one thing; thrusting a spear into a
wrongdoer’s thigh, often labelled payback, is quite another.
Yet the film, and the opening night audience, overwhelmingly promoted
If spearing goes wrong, the consequences of a ruptured femoral artery
make sobering reading.
“It is extremely serious because a great deal of blood is pumped
through the artery quickly,” according to the Washington Post, quoted
“It is possible in this type of injury to lose all the blood in the
body within five minutes.
“Blood pressure drops drastically.
“Oxygen cannot get to vital organs.
“Body temperature falls.
“Even after transfusions and surgery to repair the artery, vital organs
have been without blood for too long to regain function.”
Without a mandate from an Australian Parliament are we really going to
allow somebody to inflict bodily punishment upon or kill a person who’s
not been found guilty by a court, set up under Australian law to
dispense justice to all citizens?
And who’s going to pay the medical costs?
A string of factors seem to come into play – and this is almost
certainly not an exhaustive summary.
• Double jeopardy is a concept firmly embedded in our legal system,
meaning that you can’t be punished twice for the same offence.
No politician would ever consent to an arrangement where – say – a
murderer is not dealt with under Australian law.
That means, if the perpetrator is also subjected to payback, he or she
would be punished twice.
• It’s a bit of a Catch 22: we could have an authority, under
Australian law, to decide who should and who should not be dealt with
under tribal law (and – by extension – not by “white” law so as to
avoid double jeopardy). But then it would still be a “white” authority
calling the shots.
• Those expecting that traditional people, no matter how senior, will
be allowed to take the law into their own hands, are in conflict with
our fundamental legal principles.
• There were suggestions at the launch of “Bush Law” that it would be a
lot more palatable if we toned down the language – let’s not call it
payback, let’s call it ceremony. But you can’t be a little bit pregnant.
That from little things big things grow is true in more ways than one.
A landmark decision in 2000 dealing with the (non-)recognition of
customary law by the Northern Territory courts emanated from an
incident near the Gove Yacht Club in 1997.
A photographer hired to record a wedding snapped a few shots of kids on
the beach, observed by Arnhemland heavy Galarrwuy Yunupingu.
This is how Chief Justice Brian Martin recounted the events: “Y [as Mr
Yunupingu is referred to in the decision] had a special role to protect
the children, including preservation of their spiritual wellbeing.
“Y said to the photographer: ‘Have you taken photographs of the
children?’ and the photographer replied words to the effect ‘Yes, I
“Y then said: ‘Yes? Give them $50’. The photographer said:
“Y again said: ‘Give them $50’ and the photographer again said: ‘No’.
“Y then approached the photographer and demanded the film.
“The photographer said: ‘What for?’
“Y said words to the effect: ‘You have taken / captured spirit images
of the children’.”
A scuffle ensued and Mr Yunupingu got hold of the camera, opened it,
took out the film, dumped it and handed back the camera, which had been
Justice Martin said – in part – the magistrate hearing the case “found
that it was an offence against Gumatj land, also an offence against
Yolngu law, for the taking of photographs for commercial purposes,
whilst on Gumatj land, without the permission of the senior elder or
senior member present.”
“A photograph of a Gumatj person on Gumatj land captures the spirit of
that person on the land.
“[Mr Yunupingu] is an enforcer at Yolgnu law on Gumatj land having been
trained to enforce Yolgnu law on Gumatj land.
“He was, to use a possible crude example, performing the combined roles
of policeman, tribunal of fact (or summary judge), sentencing judge and
The appellate judges disagreed and found that the magistrate had erred
in law on grounds including these:-
• Traditional law was replaced initially in NSW by the criminal law of
that state, and later the same occurred in South Australia and the
• “[Traditional] law is not legally binding and enforceable in this
Court, even upon an indigenous person who submits himself to it, save
and except to the extent to which Australian law is prepared to
recognise and enforce it,” said the judges.
In other words, only elements of traditional law that have been
incorporated into Australian law, as has been the case with land rights
and native title, can be invoked in Australian courts.
Then in 2004 Supreme Court Chief Justice Martin refused to grant bail
so that payback by spearing could take place, effectively putting to an
end the practice of some magistrates to grant bail in such cases.
Interestingly, in that case expert evidence was given by Lajamanu elder
Billy Bunter, who also argues the case for the recognition of
traditional punishment in the film ‘Bush Law’.
Eighteen years before that decision, the Australian Law Reform
Commission put forward recommendations very sympathetic to the
incorporation of tribal law into Australian law.
But they did not advocate, as did some of the crowd at the “Bush Law”
premiere, that in some instances tribal law should supplant Australian
Samples (thanks to a lawyer friend):-
• Legislation should provide that Aboriginal customary laws and
traditions should be able to be taken into account, so far as they are
relevant, in determining whether the defendant had a particular intent
or state of mind, and in determining the reasonableness of any act,
omission, or belief of the defendant. Evidence to prove these questions
should be admissible.
• Where the defendant is found to have done the act that caused the
death of the victim in the well-founded belief that the customary laws
of the Aboriginal community to which the defendant belonged required
the act to be done, the defendant should be convicted of manslaughter
rather than murder.
(If we take tribal law seriously, the accused should surely be
acquitted, not simply charged with a lesser crime.)
• But the courts cannot disregard the values and views of the wider
Australian community, which may have to be reflected in custodial or
other sentences notwithstanding the mitigating force of Aboriginal
customary laws or local community opinions. (Two bob each way?)
• Nor can the courts incorporate in sentencing orders Aboriginal
customary law penalties or sanctions which are contrary to the general
law (as spearing surely would be).
Forcefields of energy. By
Wentja Morgan Napaltjarri has lived that life, the life of a nomad in
the desert, of traditional Aboriginal law and lore.
She was a little girl of around six years when her family made their
way in from the Western Desert to Haasts Bluff mission.
The spirt of the old ways seems to live on, decades later, in her
Here is a desert pulsating with forcefields of energy, beguiling with
secret places and ways; a desert densely patterned by wind and time,
the tracks of humans and animals, particularly the blue tongue lizard,
and harbouring the waterholes sustaining their existence.
A brilliant stylistic exploration to render something of all this has
seen the artist develop a trademark dotting, laying down the dots in
repeat swatches of short, straight lines, the swatches working their
way in every direction across vast areas of her canvas.
The impression is of a wonderful spaciousness and vibrancy, with the
larger motifs seeming to burst through to the surface.
The largest of the paintings in this style, currently hanging in her
solo show at Peta Appleyard Gallery, is on reserve for the National
Gallery of Australia.
A couple of earlier canvasses show the antecedents to this work,
accomplished paintings but less strikingly individual in their approach.
A couple also show a possible new direction, bold large, looser motifs,
the fine dotting eschewed, perhaps in response to weakening eyesight,
but still captivating work.
The exhibition officially comes down after Saturday.
Scholarships from Masons
Former Year 12 students, Emily Treagust from St Philip’s College and
David Gear from Centralian College, were two of the recipients of the
Alice Springs Masonic scholarship this year.
The third recipient, Sarah Schubert, has now received the scholarship
for four consecutive years and is completing her final year of nursing
at Flinders University in Adelaide. David has been accepted into
Flinders University studying biodiversity, whilst Emily hopes to study
This scholarship is offered to any Year 12 student continuing their
studies at University, TAFE or as an apprentice in a trade and is
presented annually. Emily and David are pictured with Masonic
scholarship committee members Peter Collins and Stuart Gear.
Young voices on uranium and
other environmental issues. By GEORGIA WEINERT.
A show of hands among 57 local Year 11 students revealed that 50 were
against the prospect of a large-scale uranium-mining project 25
kilometres south of Alice Springs.
When I asked my Facebook peers for their views on the divisive issue,
25 out of 28 were against such a mine . It would seem the uranium
project lacks support from local youth.
One of those against the a possible uranium mine is Rebecca Stirk, who
wrote: “Even if the uranium is used ‘for good reasons’ such as nuclear
energy, think of all the nuclear waste as a result of this! Where is
the government going to store all of this nuclear waste? What happens
if it is not stored properly? What if it leaks? Sure it might be good
for our economy, but is this worth risking human lives? It should stay
in the ground where it belongs!”
Finley Borgas disagrees, saying, “A piece of uranium is not as
dangerous as some of the public make it out to be. If the government
allow this proposed mine, then I’m sure it would be safe for us, they
wouldn’t put our lives on the line for a boost in the economy.”
I asked local youth how they felt about a broader range of
environmental issues, issues that do not hit so close to home.
The main environmental issues we now face in Australia include global
warming and water management. How do we tackle these issues? How do we
feel about these issues?
The answer does not lie with the so-called ‘green experts’, but in the
thoughts, opinions and actions of the next generation.
The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and today they speak
out on the issues of the environment.
As we are all well aware, global warming affects every aspect of the
According to the Climate Action Network Australia,” Australia’s
temperature has increased by 0.7 degrees between 1910 and 1999”.
To some of the youth, the prospect of global warming is
overwhelming, and the effects are inevitable.
“Global warming needs to be stopped, we are already facing too many
consequences, we are losing our animals, our plants, our constant
weather patterns and we are the cause,” says Beatrice Jeavons.
Lucinda Reinhart, an aspiring environmental scientist, agrees with
this: “The fight against global warming is starting and I want to join
the fight. I for one want the world to maintain the environment and all
Some youth on the other hand disagree and feel that the global warming
threat is subsiding.
“I think that humans couldn’t change the planet the way some scientists
think. What we are witnessing today is Earth changing naturally,” says
Another threat to Australia is the decreasing supply of water. It is a
global problem but Australia’s dry climate exacerbates the issue.
In the dry Centre Alice Springs residents take advantage of no water
rules: “Alice Springs residents are potentially the highest water users
in Australia, averaging 1,500 litres a day per house. About 65% of this
water goes on gardens,” according to the Alice Springs Council.
The youth I spoke to are also quite outspoken about the contentious
issue of water management.
“Alice Springs should have water regulations. We may have plenty of
water now, but what about in time to come? We need to save as much
water as we can for the future generations,” says Ruben Jacobs.
Sian Dinham disagrees: “Alice Springs has next to no rain a year, we
need that extra water to keep our soil fertile.”
The Northern Territory Government is well aware of Alice Springs’ over
use of water and has devised a responsive water allocation plan, The
Alice Springs Water Resource Strategy.
This strategy is striving to cut down on the water use but it can’t be
successful without the support of each individual household within
It is clear that the youth of today want to keep the environment
sustainable, they want a voice to inform the actions of the government.
Learn from youth’s opinions, after all one day they will be leading the
ED – Georgia Weinert (pictured) is a
Year 10 student with St Philip’s College who did work experience at the
Alice Springs News.
Exodus application. By POP
Application for cultural parole grant.
Coinciding with mass local exodus over “off season”.
To Whom It May Concern:
I have been picking bones clean of pop cultural significance with
limited day release since January this year and I am beginning to feel
‘not so right in the middle of things’ as opposed to being ‘right in
the middle of things’.
Having spent the past 11 months chewing, spitting, swaggering and
hovering around the carcass of the cultural, I want time away.
I want to be able to visit various franchise coffee bars and food
outlets, and experience the subtle differences between them all.
I want to continue the search for further acquisitions to my ever
expanding collection of plastic bags.
I need to walk into a mainstream music outlet and marvel at the
monstrous walls containing 50,000 copies of the same 40 CDs.
My mobile electronic life support systems, which have clearly become
the benchmark of evolution today, are more than likely months past
their quarterly upgrade. I need to be in a place where free
thought and action are practically outlawed.
The music, art and festivities in Central Australia over the past year
have been abundantly rewarding.
The birth of the Wide Open Spaces festival, which is more than a
certainty to snowball into a staunch annual event, brought new sounds
to the Centre.
And for established organisations like Red Hot Arts and Watch This
Space were astir with activity and projects sprouting on an almost
The past year has also witnessed the rise of a new exhibition space,
Peta Appleyard Gallery, a totem on the Todd Mall for its showcasing of
a variety of artists, both local and interstate. It has given the town
centre a much sought after overhaul with its injection of
non-Indigenous exhibitions – a beacon of change on an artistic strip
dominated by Indigenous art.
The Todd Tavern’s monthly ‘Malice in the Alice’ has done well over the
past year to tickle the underbelly of the town’s youth. We’ve had
bands ripe from the tree, The Barons Of Tang, Mista Savona, Black Arm
Band and UrthBoy to name a few.
The festival seemed to blossom even weeks beyond its allocated time
Life is well and truly flourishing inside the confines of the ranges, I
put this to the parole board.
Outside is where I want to go, outside is where I need to be.
A week, a month, maybe a couple of months, avoid void.
Meanwhile seeing the Rosie Burgess trio was a great way to close the
roller door on 2009’s pop cultural prison sentence.
LETTERS: We shoot camels while
fellow humans go hungry.
Sir,– On the eve of the impending camel cull, I have just read the
first newsletter of the bodies governing this operation, and note that
there are no less than 20 separate bodies and so many interests to be
served in the operation, before a single camel is removed.
It adds a new dimension to the old adage that a camel is really a
thoroughbred horse designed by a committee.
In the meantime camel numbers are increasing exponentially, as is the
number of people in overseas countries who are grossly devoid of
I note no mention in the report of the humanitarian side of supplying
protein to these people and assume again that our economic viability,
and need to care for our country takes precedent over our fellow
humans’ empty stomachs.
There must surely be funds available through the overseas aid programs
and DFAT to develop these avenues, and a recognition in the report that
this might provide an outlet would be welcome, and entirely rational in
the circumstances of world hunger and natural disasters.
I also note that Murdoch University in WA is not on the list of
involved parties (‘stakeholders’ in the jargon), yet this institution
has been involved in a camel development project for 20 years, in
conjunction with UAE interests, and is researching nutrition, genetics,
physiology, and even artificial insemination and DNA testing, to
upgrade the camel herd, but in regard to racing camels.
WE should be doing the same thing with camels for human consumption.
I refer to an article in The Australian of September 14, 2009, headed
“Livestock of the future has humps”. The point is made that
camels are the grazing animal of the future, and Murdoch research is
heading firmly in that direction.
Perhaps they were invited to contribute, I don’t know, but suspect not,
because it did not suit the ‘caring for country’ covenants that the
culling project is based around. Or could it be that they are already
thinking commercially, and that does not suit Ininti, and therefore DK
Yet the best long term solution has to be commercial or it won’t last.
There is still a $4 billion market out there for Halal products,
including meat, and we should be aiming to get a substantial share of
it and planning for that now.
We are in a unique position and will no doubt let it pass because of a
lack of forward thinking.
I watched the Docker River camels saga on NZ TV in Fiji. I note that
the fact that it made news there from the point of view of the Animal
Liberation movement. I remember a similar situation in the ‘60s when
that movement in Europe stopped the fox fur industry in its tracks for
the same reasons with devastating results for our local fauna.
While in Fiji I also discovered that the meat corporation has a
complete leather tanning operation which has been mothballed for lack
of hides. There is a great opportunity for mutual aid here, and that
lovely country needs as much help as we can give them.
There are so many avenues that deserve to be investigated in dealing
with camels, but they must have a commercial incentive to follow them.
One correspondent recently described how they occasionally mass
into groups of hundreds, and what damage such a mob can do. Lack
of water is not the only factor causing such behaviour. One has
to ask why this occurs, as any scientifically competent mind
should do, and one possible hypothesis is that they are attracted to
pheromones, as most animals are.
I have seen this concept used to round up feral goats and foxes and
many of your readers will have experienced this behaviour with dingos,
when they howl in the night. It provides an obvious avenue of
investigation to aggregate camels for efficient harvesting.
Finally, as far away as Bellingen in NSW I have been told of a man with
a mobile abattoirs here, ready to go to harvest camels. He certainly
does not consider it not viable, but he has been denied access to the
animals and, like so many others, is extremely frustrated.
Is this ludicrous situation what we can expect more of in the future
while the committee seeks consensus from all parties? The current
situation at Docker River indicates that this is so.
Managing the debate
Sir,– Someone once said that the smart way to keep people passive and
obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but
allow very lively debate within that spectrum.
In “Camel cull world shame” (Alice News, December 10) Desert Knowledge
CRC is shown to promote the aerial shooting of camels, which would
involve a never-ending cycle of kill, repopulate, kill. This, in order
to alleviate some of the environmental destruction caused by camels.
Paddy McHugh, on the other hand, says “we can live with the camel” and
the associated environmental devastation.
This, in order to kill them for food to make a dollar, in a
Think outside the square. The widespread and sustained use of
camel-specific non-lethal contraceptive baits would end the camel
problem once and for all in one generation.
In the meantime, the strategic drilling of water bores will keep camels
away from human populations and environmentally sensitive areas.
Spider fences can also be used.
Whether they are introduced camels, native kangaroos or domesticated
cows and chooks, all animals have the right to live and be free of
human violence and exploitation.
For our planet, for our health and for the animals, go vegan.
McHugh pushing own barrow
Sir,– Some of the statements in last week’s front page story on the
proposed camel cull are inaccurate and/or irrelevant.
Firstly, the cull at Docker River is specifically acknowledged to be a
short term solution to an immediate problem.
Talk of “an industry solution” in this context is simply stupid.
There have been ongoing efforts to create and stimulate a camel
industry in Central Australia for at least 20 years.
The Camel Industry Association has explored markets and methods, and
despite their efforts the “Market Forces” have presumably not found the
demand economically viable.
Paddy McHugh, who has his own camel business, and website, seems unable
to make camel harvesting pay, as his major business is camel tourism.
Indeed he says on his website: “The big underlying problem is supplying
the market with good quality, on time products. This requires farming.”
This is at odds with his statements in the article.
The comment about “a $1b camel racing industry in the middle east” is
Australian camels are from draught animal stock, and totally unsuited
to the racing in the Middle East. It would be like putting Clydesdales
up against thoroughbreds.
Talk of “$100m loss to remote communities” is also rubbish.
A few thousand from the NT population of approx 200,00 is a drop in the
bucket, even if the harvesting were viable.
Lastly, it would seem (from his own words) that the adverse
international publicity has come largely from Mr McHugh, pushing his
own barrow of bulldust.
Dr. Charlie Carter
Camels have rights
Sir,– The assumption that animals cannot have rights because we have
not yet given them rights belongs to the past.
The differences between Homo sapiens and other animals are legion, but
evolution teaches us that we are, at a fundamental level, bound by
profound similarities. Genetically almost indistinguishable from our
closest primate relatives, human beings are not the pinnacle of
evolution, but one tiny branch on its great tree.
The lesson of evolution is that we should expect commonalities between
human and non-human in almost every respect.
Science, as much as experience, teaches us that it is no longer
possible to assume that animals are mere machines, or bundles of
instinct and reflex: they may flourish in freedom or languish under
oppression just as we do. We may no longer seek refuge in ignorance.
Animals may not be able to express their interests in our language, or
explicitly claim their rights from us, but the existence of their
interests is beyond question. All animals seek to protect their own
lives, preserve their freedom, seek what gives them pleasure and avoid
what gives them displeasure or pain – in short to live their lives
according to their own priorities.
More than this, animals possess and express distinguishing
characteristics as individuals. In all these respects, they are akin to
human beings, however greatly the details of their lives may differ
If animals suffer pain, and seek to protect their own lives, freedom
and pleasures just as we do, on what basis can we continue to deny them
the protection that rights grant to our lives, freedom and pleasures?
It is claimed that animals forfeit the privilege of rights because they
lack our intelligence, our emotional bonds or our sense of morality, or
because they cannot accept the responsibilities incumbent on the
members of society.
Many human beings also lack these qualities: the very young or those
suffering from mental impairments as a result of illness, congenital
handicap or injury. We rightly recognise that these human beings
deserve no less protection but more protection: not the denial of their
rights, but the reinforcement of them.
We owe a special responsibility to those who are unable to reap the
advantages of full participation in human society, and who are unable
to defend their own interests effectively.
To apply opposite principles to human and non-human in this regard is
to be guilty of unjustifiable discrimination.
Animals have been denied rights not because of any meaningful or
relevant distinction between human and non-human, but for the same
reason that human beings have been and continue to be denied rights:
because ascribing those rights threatens the freedom of those in power.
The rights of human beings have been won at the expense of the
privileges of the rich and the powerful, and in the face of their
The source of resistance to this emancipation of animals is not reason
or justice, but a false notion of human self-interest.
Alice Springs NT
Sir,– I am writing in support of the idea of an emissions trading
scheme (ETS). Recent letters in the local press and statements by
the new Leader of the Opposition make me think this is necessary.
One of mankind’s most powerful inventions is the free market
economy. Most of us take this for granted, but it is competitive
markets that have delivered us enormous improvements in our standard of
living – directly in the form of consumer goods and services, and
indirectly by generating a tax base from which governments can
redistribute incomes and re-allocate resources to make up for market
However, the free market system we inherited from pre-industrial times
generally took no account of the effects of production and consumption
on the environment. This failure has lead to a massive mis-allocation
of resources that we now have to correct.
Cheap fossil fuel-based electricity and transport have boosted our
standard of living, but badly damaged our environment.
We now face the strong possibility of disruptive climatic changes that
will cause our children and grand-children severe social and economic
problems – unless we can act now to minimize the degree to which the
earth heats up over the next several decades.
The point of an emissions trading scheme is to harness the enormous
power and creativity of competitive markets to help us solve the
The most common model of an ETS is a ‘cap and trade’ system –
governments set a ‘cap’ on emissions and issue pro rata permits to
major polluters. Those who invest in controls to minimize their
carbon emissions will have unused permits to ‘trade’ (ie sell) to those
who exceed their permitted emissions. Thus a price is set on carbon
The higher the price, the greater incentive in the system – incentive
for tardy firms to reduce their emissions to reduce the amount they
have to spend each year buying extra permits, and incentive to
proactive firms to further reduce their already low emissions to
maximum the revenue gained from selling permits.
In addition, governments can legislate to allow other firms to earn
‘carbon credits’ by such activities as producing renewable energy, or
planting trees, or adopting zero-till farming practices. Thus the
polluters are forced to buy credits from those firms who can produce
these carbon credits, giving them an additional revenue stream apart
from selling their products.
In this way the ‘baddies’ are punished with higher costs, and the
‘goodies’ are rewarded with higher profits. Thus the
misallocation of resources is attacked from both sides.
And not by a government trying to pick winners, but by a market system
rewarding enterprise. And that is powerful!
The difficulties in developing an ETS are many … what transitional
arrangements will there be, how can it phased in without hurting the
less well-off, how low should the cap be, should the initial permits be
free, what activities should attract carbon credits?
But the future scenarios are so serious as to make the argy bargy
worthwhile, even if it is tedious and confusing.
Climate change is not just a problem of science and technology, it is
not just a problem of political systems, it is also an economic
problem. And like all problems it is an opportunity.
We need good science, we need good technology, we need an effective
political system, and we need to develop the best economic mechanism to
apply to the problem.
If we are smart, if we are creative and if we can get a sufficient
level of agreement intra- and inter-nationally, then we can use the
most powerful tool in our economic toolbox to help us achieve the best
possible outcome for future generations.
Paradoxically free markets unfettered by concerns about the environment
caused global warming. But they can also be am extremely powerful
driver in combating the problem.
That is why most governments favour an ETS system.
Plant choices should not be dictated
Sir,– Regarding plants for Alice Springs (Letters, December 3), I don’t
wish to upset Lena Milich – quite to the contrary. What Lena says is
correct to a great extent but there are any number of plants that
aren’t growing in the Olive Pink Reserve that grow quite successfully
here, without any particular cultural requirements.
Some come from the tropical rainforests as well as from wet areas of
Tasmania and the deserts.
So I can only agree with the nurseries, they can only provide the
plants. The challenge and joy of growing them, be they vegetables,
flowers, shrubs or trees, belong to the purchaser.
This applies to anything: cars, bikes, computers, alcohol, clothes
But I certainly would hate to see the purchases that can be made at a
nursery limited to any one individual’s assessment of what they
particularly think is going to succeed.
There are any amount of examples of bad culture by even the
professionals of town.
What price mercy?
Sir,– We lost our beloved Kelpie this week. After 14 years of
life, 10 shared with my wife and I, her health took a sudden turn for
A call to the local clinic amounted to a half hour of begging for
someone to attend our distressed and disabled pet, as it was outside of
regular office hours and eventually required two individuals to ensure
the safety of the respondent.
We did not want to take our dog, Lily, into town to the clinic because
treatments over the last year had ingrained a terror of the place and
it was unthinkable to subject our beloved dog to such feelings in her
final hour of life.
The persons in attendance did an admirable job, patient, caring, gentle
and reassuring, even garnering a tail wag in the final minutes of our
pet’s existence. For this my wife and I will be eternally grateful.
The following day I was hit up for a fee of $460. To me this cost seems
excessive, though as a pet lover I would have paid even more to see my
best mate put out of her misery and pain. There was too, no
pensioner discount for one on a fixed income.
Holding a monopoly on pet treatment in Alice Springs, the local clinic
can charge whatever they wish and pet owners can either pay up or do
without. I find this trend among some local business disturbing
Had my request been a frivolous duty like clipping the dog’s nails or a
hair trim the bill might have been well justified. This however was a
call for mercy, a plea to end the suffering of a family member with
whom we had long shared our lives.
I can only ask of every resident of Alice Springs, when emergencies
occur at inconvenient times, on weekends or holidays, night or day,
when a call comes to help one another, what price do we place upon
John W. Sheridan
ED– We offered the Alice Springs Veterinary Clinic right of reply.
Director Debbie Osborne writes:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to the letter from
Mr Sheridan. I will try to address each of his points.
• “A call to the local clinic amounted to half an hour of begging for
someone to attend ...” I have checked the records on the after-hours
mobile phone. The call lasted seven minutes 17 seconds.
• “... it was outside of regular office hours and required two
individuals to ensure the safety of the respondent.” I make no
apologies for having in place risk management policies and placing a
high priority on staff safety. It is a mark of the compassion of the
veterinarian involved that she went against our policy in order to
avoid subjecting Mr and Mrs Sheridan to further distress and Lily to
any additional discomfort that a trip to the clinic might cause. An
experienced veterinary nurse will always accompany the veterinarian on
a house-call euthanasia, even in regular hours.
Having a trained assistant ensures this difficult procedure is as
gentle as possible for the pet involved. Veterinary nurses, in
common with many wage earners, are required under their award
to receive a minimum of two hours’ pay at double time if they are
called back to work after-hours. This cost (plus GST) is
passed onto the client.
• The fee: Prior to the visit, it was explained to Mr
Sheridan that there would be additional costs for the house
call, the after-hours call out for the veterinarian and
the after-hours fee for the nurse. Included in the fee is a
charge of $85.05 for disposal of the body. This is the fee charged
to us by a contractor. We do not mark up this fee.
• Our monopoly: This was not of our making. There are no restrictions
on ownership of veterinary clinics in the Northern Territory. Why was
there not a buyer for Sadadeen Veterinary Clinic? Why, in over two
years, has no-one seized the opportunity to set up in opposition
to Alice Springs Veterinary Clinic? Surely if we were significantly
over-charging, another clinic would be able to make a healthy profit by
undercutting us slightly.
• “... the local clinic can charge whatever they wish ...” Large cities
have a number of veterinary clinics, each delivering a certain level of
service with an associated price structure reflecting the overheads
involved in providing that service. Pet owners can choose the level of
service which suits their needs, from a basic service in a small
facility with minimal equipment and unqualified support staff, to a
comprehensive service in a large facility with extensive, up-to-date
equipment and qualified, experienced support staff.
It is correct that pet owners in Alice Springs do not have that choice.
However, should all pet owners in Alice Springs be limited to a
basic level of care for their pets in a basic facility, just
because some pet owners are unable or unwilling to contribute to the
overheads of a large, well-equipped, well-staffed facility? If pet
owners are unable to afford the level of care offered, we will always
try to offer an alternative that is within their budget, however this
cannot be the optimum level of care. There is a choice. All
businesses must make a profit to stay in business. Our pricing
structure has not changed since the closure of Sadadeen Veterinary
• “... a frivolous duty like clipping the dog’s nails ... the bill
might have been well justified ...” Is Mr Sheridan really saying he
would be prepared to pay professional fees for a grooming service, but
not for a professional service requiring skilled, compassionate care,
one for which he states “... my wife and I will be eternally grateful”?
Since the closure of Sadadeen Veterinary Clinic, we have had very few
complaints regarding our fees or our level of care. Our clients have
been very patient, even when it is clear we are struggling to cope with
the sudden increase in demand on our facilities and staff. I thank our
clients for their ongoing support.
Closing ethnocentric gaps
Sir,– Whilst surfing the net I came accross “Rules by Which a Great
Empire May be Reduced to a Small One” by Benjamin Franklin, published
in 1773. I was particularly struck by paragraph VI : “...
whenever the Injured come to the Capital with Complaints of
Mal-administration, Oppression, or Injustice, punish such Suitors with
long Delay, enormous Expence, and a final Judgment in Favour of the
“This will have an admirable Effect every Way. The Trouble of future
Complaints will be prevented, and Governors and Judges will be
encouraged to farther Acts of Oppression and Injustice; and thence the
People may become more disaffected, and at length desperate.”
Barbara Shaw’s graceful capitulation (Alice News, December 3) is in
sharp contrast to Jenny Macklin’s determination to “win at all costs”.
It’s not all about dollars and bricks and mortar. The Gaps that needs
closing (or better still bridgeing) are the mutual respect and dignity
gaps. As long as the relation between the authorities and Aboriginal
Australians remains one of colonizer and colonized rather than one of
fellow citizens with a right to their distinctness the ethnocentrically
defined gap will never be closed.
Yet another Apology is being germinated.
Sir,– Nuclear advocate Senator Judith Troeth has called the current
plan to dump radioactive waste on the Northern Territory a “viable
option”, implying it could also be used to store high level waste from
nuclear power plants.
The NT plan is highly contested and relies on Howard era laws allowing
site selection to occur without consultation or consent from
Traditional Owners or impacted communities.
Only one year ago, a Senate Committee Ms Troeth participated in
recommended that these laws be overturned in the first federal
parliament sittings of 2009.
Minister Martin Ferguson has refused to implement this recommendation,
or the pre-election promises of the ALP to scrap the laws and initiate
a process that is “open, transparent and allows access to appeal
Targeted communities continue to fight the idea that their homelands
are political sacrifice zones and in the face of Liberal nuclear pushes
and ALP inaction, national support for their struggle is growing. A
lesson? Radioactive waste lasts forever, but politicans, their promises
and policies don’t.
Beyond Nuclear Initiative
Majority oppose ban on climb
Sir,– Three out of five Aussie voters [responding to a new survey]
disagree with a proposed ban on climbing Australian icon Uluru, arguing
it is one of the country’s biggest tourism attractions. They say a ban
could affect the tourism industries in Northern Territory and
The survey by leading online travel website totaltravel.com asked the
question: “Should tourists be banned from climbing Uluru (Ayers Rock)?”
It followed the release of a draft management plan for the Uluru-Kata
Tjuta National Park, which calls for a ban on people climbing the
348-metre-high rock, which is sacred to Indigenous people.
People who voted against the possible ban voiced their concerns online.
One voter commented: “Ayers Rock has been part of the Australian
landscape far longer than any human has walked the earth. It doesn’t
belong to anyone; it is just another feature of the earth we “ALL” live
on. …Why should anyone have any rights to lay claim or dictate who can
and who can’t climb it? Why don’t we all just try to share?”
However, 37% of voters were supportive of a ban. They believe climbing
Uluru is dangerous and it is a sacred Aboriginal site that should be
protected from environmental damage.
“I believe respect for aboriginal sacred places, such as Uluru, is
long-overdue. I believe tourists will be equally interested in learning
about the cultural significance of Uluru if it is presented in a
positive way. This is the era of tourism where tourists have a thirst
for authentic learning experiences.”
The survey attracted 1509 votes and ran for a period of four weeks.
Sir,– I have been trying to find out something about my late cousin,
If any of your readers knew her or there is any family remaining in the
area, I would appreciate if they contacted me to enable me to fill
in a few gaps in my family history.
Tracing Jean Pring
Sir,– We are trying to trace Jean Pring (maiden name) who lived in
Rugby, England and married a policeman from Alice Springs.
We would love to get in touch with her.
David and Judy Price (Matthews)
Brits in Alice?
Sir,– Great newspaper and it must be difficult to keep producing it
when you appear to be geographically so remote.
I live on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, and I am a Brit who has
lived here 20 years.
But where is the news about Brits who surely from time to time visit
Alice? No news about their culture shock or love for Alice.
ADAM'S APPLE: 2010 – change
ahead or more of the same?
People will argue until blue in the face over whether 2010 is the end
or the beginning of a new decade.
For those of you with more important things to concern yourselves with
than the arbitrary numbering of time, the argument goes that there
probably wasn’t a year 0 A.D. and so 2011 is the start of the new
Which makes sense, but as we discovered at the beginning (or end) or
this (or the last) decade, it’s more exciting to see the clock turn
from 1999 to 2000 than from 2000 to 2001.
For those of you who ardently adhere to the 2001 argument let me say
this, you are probably correct but for the purposes of this column not
waiting another year, I’m going to have to side with the other team.
So we see ourselves looking at the dawn of a new decade.
Sure it is a bit of a comedown from the dawn of a new millennium but
still a significant point in time nonetheless.
To me, the last decade has been one of unfulfilled potential.
We saw in the new millennium with such amazing optimism. The entire
globe celebrated the emergence of a new era. A time when the citizens
of the world have never been closer.
We celebrated all of life’s wonder.
As Friday night became Saturday we celebrated the simple fact that
everything still worked. Y2K was dead.
Never before had we had the opportunity to thumb our collective noses
so empirically at the zealots, the survivalists, the conspiracy
theorists and the crazy people wearing sandwich boards than that
The year 2000 started so well. The Olympics came to Australia. I have
never felt my home town of Sydney feel so good. It was a time to open
our arms and welcome the world. This is Australia – have a great time.
In January 2000 Israel and Syria held peace talks.
America On-Line bought Time Warner for a massive $162 billion. The Dow
Jones reached its highest mark ever and the Pope went to Israel for the
The world was on a high. Or at least that’s the way it seemed for a 24
year old kid from Sydney.
September 11 2001 changed all of that. A terrible thing happened that
day and the entire world felt its consequence.
From that moment on the decade never recovered. Fear, hatred and
suspicion crept into the decade.
Our ability to go where we pleased and associate with whomever we
wanted was compromised.
Sadly, for a decade that started with such optimism, this was its
Because of that terrible day we suffered through Tampa, through Bali,
through Cronulla, through a plethora of other smaller incidents that at
the beginning of the decade the naive among us thought might have been
a thing of the past.
What will this new decade bring for the people of Alice Springs? No
matter how excellent a word, I don’t want to be a scaremongerer.
I do however think that this next decade could be one of the most
important decades in the town’s history.
We stand, a town at a junction. Do we head east or do we head west?
Do we, the people who call this amazing town home, endure yet another
10 years of the same problems?
Perhaps we do. Here is part of a story written by the editor of this
“The alcohol problem in Alice Springs is getting worse, not better,
according to the Public Health Association NT.
“Spokesman John Boffa says sales of alcoholic drinks measured as pure
alcohol have increased by 13% in the Territory’s southern region in the
past three years.”
The story is all too familiar. The problem is that it was written in
this paper in 1999.
Since then I wonder how many programs and how many policies have been
How many ways have we tried to fix this problem?
You might think that after a decade we might have had some success in
Perhaps our new decade resolution should be to change this town for the
Happy Christmas to all those who read Adam’s Apple.
From the die hard fans to those that stumble across it on the loo,
thank you for your feedback.
Have a wonderful festive season and I hope to be read by you all in the