December 17, 2009. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

New 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 Eathorne.
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 human consumption.
Smaller camels are “farmed out” for the management of woody weed, and slaughtered later.
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 death”.
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 Conway’s sentiments.
“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 check.”
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 / support.”
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 on
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 NT.
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 be mustered.
“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 management plan”.
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 term.
“Chemical control has the potential for broad-scale control of camel numbers.
“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 FINNANE.

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 Hird.
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 fell over.
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 what happened.
“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 August 3.
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 thing.”
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 life. 
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 on.”
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 slurring.
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 FINNANE.

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 the scene.
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 away.
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 Kloeden.
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 heard.
The prosecution said a person in the camp threw a small log or stick at the car.
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 Causeway.
The prosecution said that the firearm was held out from the rear of the vehicle.
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 persons.
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 scene.
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 riverbed.
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 exclamation.
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 FINNANE.

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 partnership”.
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 location.
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 new shires.
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 Territory?”
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 – FaHCSIA, Centrelink?
The timing can be bad – there might be ceremony underway or sorry business.
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 communities.
“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, Pitjantjatjara. 
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.”
More laughter.
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 miss out.
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 River!”
There are challenges of course in practising local government in this cross-cultural environment. One that I observed is the confirmation of Minutes.
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 Ordinary Meeting.
This would have been lengthy and tedious and it would not necessarily have meant that all councillors were fully across what the document contained.
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: Elferink.

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 hands.
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 Australian.
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 General.  
Mr Elferink: Yes.
News: And, the feeling around the traps is that you are ready for action.
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 government.
News: Good point. So in five sentences, why is the Gerry Wood model not feasible?
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 being drunk.
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 work?
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 bottom line?
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 Alice Springs.
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 disastrous situation.
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 enterprise-orientated approach.
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 Hemisphere.
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 problems are.

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 happens.
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 Australian Parliament.
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 working.
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 it.
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 on Google.
“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?
No chance.
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 did’.  
“Y then said: ‘Yes?  Give them $50’.  The photographer said: ‘No’.
“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 damaged.
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 bailiff.”
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 Northern Territory.
• “[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 law.
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 KIERAN FINNANE.

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 paintings.
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 medicine.
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 natural environment.
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 its beauty.”
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 Luke Allen.
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 Alice Springs.
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 world.
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 VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

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 weekly basis.
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 frame.
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 protein.
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 ideological guidelines? 
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.
Trevor Shiell
Alice Springs

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 never-ending cycle.
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.
Jeff Perz
Alice Springs

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 also irrelevant.
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
Alice Springs

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 from ours.
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 resistance.
The source of resistance to this emancipation of animals is not reason or justice, but a false notion of human self-interest.
Evelyne Roullet
Alice Springs NT

Free maket

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 failures.
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 problem.
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 emissions. 
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.
Ian Sharp
Alice Springs

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 etc. 
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.
Russell Lynch
Alice Springs

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 the worse.
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 and immoral.  
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 mercy?
John W. Sheridan
Alice Springs

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 Clinic.
• “... 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 Oppressor.
“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.
Frank Baarda

Broken promises

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 mechanisms”.
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.
Natalie Wasley
Beyond Nuclear Initiative
Alice Springs

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 Australia.
The survey by leading online travel website 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.
Paul Fisher
Marketing manager

June Marriott

Sir,– I have been trying to find out something about my late cousin, June Marriott.
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.
Michael Clarke

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.
Good hunting.
George Clogg

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 decade.
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 moment.
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 first time.
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 defining moment.
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 fine paper.
“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 written?
How many ways have we tried to fix this problem?
You might think that after a decade we might have had some success in fixing it.
Perhaps our new decade resolution should be to change this town for the better. 
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 New Year. 

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