March 25, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Framptons on the spot as victims of Carey Builders go on attack. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A group of 23 people calling itself the Framptons New Home Broken Promises Group is inviting the real estate agency to explain how it can make good the hundreds of thousands of dollars feared lost when Carey Builders was put into liquidation.
The group represents the owners of 11 homes only partly completed, and it says Framptons now must live up to a string of promises it made to the buyers.
“We put our trust in your good name,” says the group in a letter to Framptons, released exclusively to the Alice Springs News. 
The letter invites Framptons to a meeing on Saturday when the firm will “have an opportunity to cement that trust by showing us your plan for moving all these projects to completion. 
“And, we’re excited to hear how you’re going to do this within the parameters of the ‘New Home’ contracts.
“In other words, with the builder now in liquidation, some customers have paid say 90% of the contract price, but, preliminary builder estimates suggest only 50-60% of the home is completed.”
The group says the experience was “extremely stressful, both financially and emotionally.
“Some described it a nightmare – an experience that is still on-going with no target closure date.”
The letter, released exclusively to the Alice Springs News, is signed by Dave and Marieta Ives, Judy and Tony Kruske, Amanda and Trent Abbott, Priti Easo and Biji Samuel, John and Blythe Stafford, Murray and Brigeda Stewart, Rebecca and Rick Duncum, Danny and Sarah Dick, and Alan Fisher and Denise Saunton.
Thee home buyers asked for their names to be withheld.
The letter also says: “We came to Framptons to seek such advice. 
“Who is a trustworthy, reputable builder? 
“Who can we trust to see the project through?
“And, you were right there to guide us. You told us to go with Carey Builders. 
“Your reasons as follows [were] no other builders will quote; all the other builders are too busy; he’s been building homes for years; he’s got a builder’s license and he’s registered with Housing Institute Australia (HIA); local builders are too expensive.
“Most of the group members agree: Framptons selected the builder.”
Framptons have earlier denied to the Alice Springs News that they had recommended any builder.
The firm has now declined to make further comment.
The group also wrote to Gerry McCarthy, NT Minister for Lands and Planning, saying there had been “numerous complaints to the Building Advisory Board and the Minister’s Office over the past 12-plus months. 
“These complaints related to the builder being unregistered, lack of progress in construction and concerns with the conduct of the builder. 
“The Government was also informed in November 2009 that the license Carey was working under was revoked [but he was allowed to] continue building homes unlicenced. 
“Only after he was placed into receivership mid March 2010 did the Government take action and charge Carey with building without a licence.
“This action was too little, too late.”
The government has now initiated court action against Carey Builders.
A spokesman for Mr McCarthy says: “The Territory has what’s called the Home Building Certification Fund (HBCF) which covers non-compliance with building standards.
“However there is no requirement for insurance to cover non-completion in the event of a builder going bankrupt, dying or disappearing.
“The Territory is the only jurisdiction that does not cover non-completion while other jurisdictions have variants of this cover.”
The News asked Quentin Kilian, Chief Executive Officer, Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory (REINT) for a comment about the role of Framptons in the dispute. He said: “My understanding is that this matter is currently being discussed by parties involved in the dispute. 
“It would therefore be inappropriate for the REINT to make any comment on the matter.”

Japanese class: Pleased to meet you! By KIERAN FINNANE.

“Hello, my name is Chika.”
“Chika,” repeat the children of the Japanese class at Gillen Primary School and watch with fascination as Chika writes her name on the whiteboard – a little column of Japanese characters.
“Hello, my name is Tatsuya.”
That’s a bit harder, but “Tatsuya” just slides off their lips.
They’ve been learning Japanese for a whole eight weeks for only an hour each week and yet confidently greet the group of visiting Japanese high school students in their language and repeat each of more than a dozen names without hesitation.
Their teacher, Brenda Austen, says the course at this level is designed as an introduction to language and culture, to create enthusiasm for learning a language in high school – these children certainly seem to have that.
After the introductions, the visitors sit down and teach them how to use chopsticks – the children practise on popcorn.
Then they do some origami (the Japanese art of folding paper), learning how to make a paper crane, all the while chatting – in English now, good practice for the visitors.
The Japanese students are in their mid-teens and really enjoy their contact with the  children – they laugh and clap and give high fives when the little Aussies manage to pick up the popcorn with their chopsticks and transport it to their mouths.
They come from Imamiya Senior High School in Osaka and were being billeted around town with families of students of the Alice Springs Language Centre.
Their school and the language centre have a sister school relationship and this is the second visit to Alice by Imamiya students.

Solar aircon at Araluen – has horse bolted? By KIERAN FINNANE.

BREAKING NEWS: The NT Government is now advertising for people to nominate for a "community reference group" to assist the arts department's decisionmaking about the air conditioning plant "by attending several strategic meetings to make informed recommendations on the preferred location of the project and related design and construction elements".

The solar air-conditioning project proposed for the Araluen Arts Centre is apparently not a “fait accompli” despite tenders for the project closing yesterday.
An information meeting, attended by some 60 people, was held last night, the first such meeting about the controversial project, planned since 2006 and in detail since at least late 2007, when the Alice News first reported on it as one of the five “iconic” projects for Alice Solar City (
Details about siting and the nature of the technology involved only began to emerge late last year and become public knowledge early this year, thanks to information disseminated by Central Craft, the cultural precinct facility the most directly impacted on by the proposals. 
Questions from the floor at the information meeting overwhelmingly expressed concern about the impact of the siting and the appearance of the project – described as an “industrial complex” – on the precinct.
There was also anger that the meeting had not been held earlier, especially before the project was put out to tender.
Given the imminent closure of the tender “I’m not sure what I’m doing here”, said Harold Furber, local Aboriginal identity and board member of Desert Knowledge Australia, questioning “the process” to general applause.
There was no real explanation for the delay in informing the public, except for a suggestion that funding deadlines may have put the project under time pressure.
While precinct director Tim Rollason and newly appointed executive director of cultural institutions and collections, Hugo Leschen, both said the project as proposed was not a fait accompli there was no clear information about what scope remains for changes.
Information sheets made available at the meeting state clearly that “construction is expected to commence once the tender process is finalised, with the target completion date of June 2011”.
From the floor John Childs – a user of the precinct but also someone with considerable expertise in resource planning – asked for an undertaking that calculations as to the viability of alternative sites be presented to the community.
Two sites had been suggested – one south of the homestead, next to the Memorial Cemetery, the other on the corner of Larapinta Drive and Memorial Avenue, currently a garden in front of the Museum of Central Australia (and Strehlow Research Centre).
The possibility of moving the project further east towards Memorial Drive had also been raised.
The supervising engineer, Lalith Ramachandra (Department of Construction and Infrastructure), said greater distance of the plant from the Araluen building can be managed by the pipework, but it would come at a cost in terms of energy consumption.
He said the most critical factor in determining location is the shading of the troughs.
While the usual commitments to consider everything said at the meeting were made, no undertaking was given to make available the information requested by Dr Childs.
Dr Childs criticised the quality of the information provided to date, noting particularly the discrepancies between the engineering elevations and the engineering plans on display in the Araluen foyer, showing different orientations of the plant building. Others noted differing orientations also of the solar array.
Pip McManus, artist and member of the board of Museums and Art Galleries of the NT, raised more than once the lack of visual information so that people could see what the project is going to look like.
She said she had specifically asked for such information to be made available for the meeting.
The only visual information to date has been engineering plans and elevations and photos of solar troughs similar to those that will be used, including a mockup of a field of troughs with the MacDonnell Ranges in the background.
At the current location the ranges will not be in the background –  Big Sister Hill, a sacred site, will be. And the mock-up does not show at all the plant building with its tower, its most intrusive element.
There has been no clear information about fencing.
The current tender does not include the fence.
Mr Ramachandra did say that there had been discussion about a very high fence to protect the solar field (the troughs stand at just over two metres high).
Mr Rollason says architects’ elevation drawings will soon be available (there were a  number of references to architects having withdrawn from the project, though it was not explained why).
Dr Childs pointed out that the water storage tower of the plant, at 8.5 metres high, will be 1.5 metres higher than the highest point of the roof of the adjacent Central Craft building.
Mark Wilson, artist and secretary of the Central Australian Art Society, asked for an Araluen advisory group to be formed immediately and for no decision on the tender be made without a review by the advisory group.
Mr Rollason and Mr Leschen both indicated that an advisory group will be set up – it is provided for in the revised draft development plan for the precinct, which will be released in April and open for public comment for a month.
With this process it will obviously be some time before the group is formed and able to have any input on anything.
Ms McManus expressed her concern about the process, saying that the community meeting in November last year had requested consultation and transparency in planning for the precinct and for an integrated vision for the precinct to be developed.
Mr Rollason said he had made the plans for the project available at the November meeting and if that was not clear to everybody at the time, he apologised. 
He said that consultation was being done “right now” – a bit late was the feeling of the meeting.
At this point Faye Alexander, chairperson of Central Craft, wanted a clear answer on how much of the project is a fait accompli.
Mr Rollason said architectural drawings are almost complete and will be made available in the next few weeks and that comment will be taken on them.
Ms Alexander repeated her question: “Is it a fait accompli?”
“No,” said Mr Rollason.
Can the project be moved off the precinct? she asked.
Mr Rollason replied: “A lot of people have expressed that they don’t want it in there – we’ll have to consider that.”
When architect Domenico Pecorari asked, to applause, whether a decision on the tender could be delayed until the aesthetics of the project have been fully considered, Mr Rollason replied, “Anything is possible”, but delay could mean that the project wouldn’t happen at all, he said.
More than one speaker from the floor asked about what alternatives had been considered.
Mounting photovoltaic panels on the north-facing roof had been rejected, said Mr Ramachandra, because the roof was not large enough to take all of the panels required (to achieve comparable energy savings), and OH & S considerations would require the installation of platforms for the maintenance work, making the option cost prohibitive.
The information sheet on this issue says: “Photovoltaic technology is rarely used in air-conditioning applications due to the high in-rush currents, peak cooling demands and battery storage area required”.
It also says the cost “in this instance” would have been in excess of $3m, nearly three times higher than the installed cost of the proposed solar troughs and absorption chiller.
There was general acceptance and endorsement of the “green” aspirations of the project but challenges to the weighting given to its “iconic” aspect, which will be achieved at the cost of the character of the eastern side of the precinct. 
It was suggested, for instance, that the electricity generation capacity of the solar project proposed for Ilparpa be expanded to offset Araluen’s energy consumption – this would achieve carbon abatement without impacting on the precinct.
The passive energy efficiency of the Araluen building could also be improved.
Mr Rollason outlined some of the improvements made, including insulating the ceilings in the galleries.
However, to a question from the Alice News, he acknowledged that the large roof area over the theatre has not been insulated and to date this is not in the program of works.
The theatre is not used every day and the galleries, which are, have been isolated from it (previously Gallery Three’s ceiling cavity was open onto the theatre), said Mr Rollason.
There were questions around the technology’s claim to be “cutting edge”.
Will it still be cutting edge in five years’ time? asked Nicky Schonkala, textile artist and project manager at Central Craft.
Brian Elmer from Alice Solar City said the technology concentrates the sun’s energy and that is at the forefront of where solar technology is going now.
Mr Wilson understood, from what he has read, that the technology is “proven to a point” – what were the advances of the system being proposed for Araluen?
Mr Ramachandra said improvements included how the troughs track the sun and refinements in the chiller controls. 

What consultation?

The Central Australian Aviation Museum were never asked for their views about the location of the solar air-conditioning plant at Araluen.
President of the museum committee, Jim Thomas, says the location, between the museum and the Central Craft studio, was presented to the committee as a fait accompli during the negotiations “about a year ago” for their long-term lease over the site.
The committee agreed to cut off the north-western corner of their site but was not told that the location of the project was negotiable.
The location was not discussed, says Mr Thomas.
A “fact sheet”, distributed at last week’s information meeting says: “The Central Australian Aviation Museum was consulted on the proposed location and they have agreed to this site.”
The same fact sheet says: “An in principle agreement has been reached between Central Craft and the Araluen Cultural Precinct in regards to the overall placement.”
While chairperson Faye Alexander has declined to comment on the detail of the “in principle agreement”, when it was raised at last week’s meeting, there was angry commentary from the floor: “The general members [of Central Craft] are not happy with that,” said one.

Turmoil as CAAMA turns 30. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) is heading for its 30th birthday amidst financial stress, heightened tensions between its board and staff, declining trade, demands from members for a forensic audit and questions being asked about former CEO, Owen Cole.
Documents leaked to the Alice Springs News reveal that 28 members are demanding a special general meeting which will be held on April 9.
They say they want to find out “how the organization is managed,” claiming they have been denied that opportunity at the annual general meeting by “verbal spray, out-of-order interjections and opinions, or unduly [sic] group discussion of an intimidating and bullying nature”.
The Alice Springs News asked for an interview with current CEO Jennifer Howard, who is Mr Cole’s partner, and with chairperson Marilyn Smith. Neither responded to the request.
The News last year asked Ms Howard whether Mr Cole had acted as an advisor to CAAMA, but she did not answer the question.
A letter dated March 12 to Ms Smith from Financial Controller Sergei Jansons indicates that Mr Cole was indeed a consultant.
Mr Jansons states: “I do not see any conflicts of interest in relation to any payments made to any consultant and especially in relation to payments made to Mr Cole, as the Board was the only one to appoint him.”
Among the documents leaked to the News is a letter from Deputy Chair Eileen Van Iersel and Director Maureen Abbott to the Board of Directors (BOD): “At present, the staff of CAAMA seems reluctant to accept policy direction from the BOD and the BOD is treated with disdain and disrespect.”
On the other hand 23 staff members wrote to the BOD: “For months now we have experienced the brunt of destructive rumor and innuendo; this has included embarrassing inquisitions by the media and malicious public gossip about workplace matters on internet forums such as Facebook.
“Staff have experienced threats and taunts made to them by CAAMA members and the CAAMA Board itself has directly engaged in workplace operations and staff matters; we are aware much of the turmoil has been created then promulgated by CAAMA Board members.”
CAAMA is getting substantial grant funding, more than $2m in 2008/09, presumably from governments, but possibly also from NGOs. 
This is about two-thirds of CAAMA’s budget. 
In addition, in 2008/09 CAAMA made a loss of $452,000.
CAAMA’s accountant Bill McAinsh, a partner of the Deloitte accountancy firm in Alice Springs, on September 30, 2009 felt compelled to comment that there was a “material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern”. (News, November 19, 2009.)
We put to Ms Howard: “After 30 years of receiving massive support from the public purse, CAAMA is still dependent on that public purse, despite having significant assets that could – should – be put to money earning use.
“There are repeated references in Ms Smith’s annual report to significant portions of the operation depending on funding applications.” Ms Howard gave no reply.
“How much did CAAMA receive in 2008/09 by way of dividends from its majority shareholding in Imparja?”
No reply.
“Please list CAAMA’s assets including TV, video and music production facilities, and the respective hourly hire charges as per industry standards.”
No reply.
News staff have extensive experience in the production of television news, current affairs and magazine stories, and their value on the national and international markets, which have an unquenchable thirst for material from Central Australia, especially when the material has Aboriginal content.
Some years ago we occasionally hired CAAMA’s on-line and off-line editing suites, worth then $300 an hour.
CAAMA’s current balance sheet does not appear to reflect substantial use of the equipment, nor lucrative television sales of productions with an outback storyline to which CAAMA has easy access.
While in 2008/09 CAAMA received $2m in grants, the total value of its “service income” was $847,000, down from $1.13m in 2007/2008.
This is presumably what the organisation earns other than grants. It is less than half of the grant amount, and about half of the wages bill ($1.8m).
[FOOTNOTE: The leaked documents did not come from Ms Van Iersel nor Ms Abbott.]

Chance to make fair funding L–A–W.

Alderman John Rawnsley is calling on the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT) to launch its own statehood campaign, one that would see the constitution of a new state enshrining the rights of local government and the regions to a greater and equitable share of resources and political power. Below is an edited version of the speech he is making today to the LGANT general meeting in Darwin.

If, in making the case for statehood, we emphasise the importance of being equal to other states then we must first confront the importance of being truly equal to each other. 
The new state constitution can achieve this, going further than any other state constitution.
Because constitutions are difficult to change once they are in place the constitutional convention in 2011 will be pivotal to how we define ourselves.
It will be our once only chance.   
The motion I move calls for the new state to ensure discretionary infrastructure funds are distributed to the regions on an equitable basis. 
Local government deserves not only a greater say as to how discretionary infrastructure funds are spent, but also deserves access to its fair share and an equitable cut of the total discretionary infrastructure pool. 
Whether it is a ‘royalties for regions’ scheme similar to that adopted in Western Australia recently [see], or a proportion of total GST revenue distributed equitably, or another model, it is possible for the new state constitution to enshrine a distribution formula for discretionary infrastructure funds. 
At the very least delegates of the 2011 constitutional convention deserve to explore a number of models consistent with the core principle of protecting our regions.
While there are many reasons to support this case, I emphasise two.
First, this motion goes to the heart of an enduring and debilitating tension: the relationship between the capital centre and our regions. 
When you talk to people outside of Darwin, at meetings, in small conversations, in every sector and on every corner there is a tendency to blame government, or Darwin, or the Berrimah line, or someone else. 
This tendency is debilitating: it says that responsibility for change and solutions belongs to someone else. It holds us all back. Yet, elected members at all levels of government and not in positions of power tap into this sentiment all of the time. 
Both politically powerful yet self-destructive, it is re-enforced by our governance structure, where the ‘swing’ seats of our single house in parliament are all within the capital centre.  Because a government of any persuasion is committed to retaining power, and an opposition to gaining power, the political focus becomes these ‘swing’ seats.  
The constitution of the new state can fundamentally reform this structure by devolving the decisions concerning infrastructure to the regional level, and by ensuring regions have access to an equitable share of total infrastructure expenditure. 
Second, if we are to continue with the present structure, of a single assembly of parliament with a one vote, one value across the new State, we will see a greater concentration of political power in the capital centre. 
This is because the population of the capital centre is growing significantly more than the population in the rest of the Territory.
This has implications for the way decisions are made. 
The one vote, one value principle is a cornerstone of our democracy. 
The problem with this is that if there is a large concentration of people in a certain location than the value of the individual votes of those people is much more than the value of votes held by individuals living elsewhere.
As well the capital centre will see a greater number of seats in the Northern Territory Parliament. 
In this way the one vote, one value principle does not stick, unless the interest of regions is protected in the constitution.
Our regions deserve constitutional protection, not only in way discretionary infrastructure funds are distributed but in the governance and political model.

Darwin art business moves to The Alice. By KIERAN FINNANE.

It’s not every day that an established capital city business decides to relocate to a regional town, but after nine successful years in Darwin, some 140 shows and a solid reputation among collectors, Raft Artspace is moving to Alice Springs –  a clear statement about the cultural vitality of Central Australia.
The gallery will open its doors at 8 Hele Crescent after Easter and will launch its first show, a survey of artists from the APY and NPY lands, on April 24.
Director Dallas Gold says he was drawn to make the move by – apart from the “sheer beauty of the place” –  “the sense of possibility in Alice Springs”.
This was most clearly demonstrated to him when a few years back he visited Mike Gillam’s Silver Bullet – a cafe like no other, regrettably now closed. 
“It really inspired me – the way in which it said you don’t have to do things in a certain way.”
With Raft named in honour of Australian artist Ian Fairweather’s near-suicidal voyage on a makeshift raft from Darwin, washing up after 16 days on a reef in Indonesian waters, a sense of adventure is to be expected.
So when Mr Gillam began to develop another creative space, just a few doors up from Silver Bullet, Mr Gold saw an opportunity for a second life for his gallery and an enriching change for himself and his family.
He’s taken a long-term lease for the gallery, invested heavily in its fitout, bought a house and settled his children into local schools.
Raft could work anywhere, he says, confident that his clientele will follow him, but he sees advantages in working out of a place “that is the centre of a movement in art” – the art by the Aboriginal artists of the central deserts.
“I could have gone to a major capital city, but for me it makes more sense to go to the source where the art is made.
“When the art leaves here it’s a whole different circus.
“Here there’s no room for pretentiousness, the place makes you honest.
“It has its issues but it’s also a very strong community, with a rich mix of people, and some great people working in the arts.”
The gallery does not show Indigenous art exclusively but rather presents it as contemporary art, through its exhibition program often putting it into dialogue with non-Indigenous art.
For instance, in a 2008 show titled simply Paint, Mr Gold hung work by Makinti Napanangka (Papunya Tula) and Eubena Nampitjin (Warlayirti) alongside that of non-Indigenous abstract painters Ildiko Kovacs and Aida Tomescu – “four very different artists who had in common a passion for the material of paint and a deep reverence for the process of mark-making”.
He’s also interested in exhibiting the best of the Territory’s non-Indigenous artists, among them Alice Springs painters Wayne Eager, Marina Strocchi and Neridah Stockley whose work he has already shown over the years.
Another area of interest will be in bringing “saltwater artists to the desert” and putting them too into dialogue with one another.
AT RIGHT: Mr Gold in the new Raft Artspace, with a painting by Rammey Ramsey (Jirrawun Arts, Wyndham).
In the background on the left is Kelly’s Fall by Peter Adsett, the painting used as Raft’s logo.

Up and down, soft and hard.

Ahead of The John Butler Trio’s headlining appearance at Saturday night’s One Night Stand, POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY previews JBT’s new album, April Uprising, to be released tomorrow. 

A handful of new ‘chewns’ from The John Butler Trio will be unleashed on the Alice faithful this Saturday at the One Night Stand concert (Triple J’s free concert at Traeger Park from 3pm).
Due for release on the concert’s eve, JBT’s latest is a very accomplished and diverse body of work, with a level blend of tempos, up and down, and it starts and ends on serious notes, both soft and hard.
The opening track, “Revolution” is possibly the album’s most radio friendly edit, in music and verse following a typical Butler blueprint, making it instantly recognisable. It has Butler trying to explain the concept of a revolution in contemporary western society. Could be he’s trying to teach us that there is always room and time for revolt even in times of impending chaos.
“C’mon now” sounds how the Ramones might have sounded if they gave birth to their music around about the time of the “California Dreaming” era. This is the easiest song to listen to, and should be a certainty for Saturday’s set list.
“One way road” is a fast moving steel train that can only steam forward, a cool ride that’s hard to get off.
The essence of longing for someone who is a million light years away is brought to verse in “I’d do anything”.
“Ragged mile” has a banjo duelling with itself – producing a rolling beat for a pleasant stomp, like reliving Deliverance without the squealing pigs part. This song weds well with Central Australia, conveying a sense of giving over to your surroundings, of displacement in a place you call home, of knowing that as comfortable as you may feel you’ve still got a lot to learn. 
“Don’t wanna see your face” shows a new elasticity in Butler’s voice, similar to the vocal styling of Les Claypool. A trademark cool fluidity of strings also accompany this number, that twing-twang flamenco we have grown accustomed to with JBT.
“Take me” is a crash course in barroom romanticism, a last drinks waltz with a plucking adagio baseline. If it’s played on Saturday night the lyrics may seem to make shallow ironic comment on the concert’s name.
Other acts aboard the plane to Alice include Washington, Bluejuice and Gyroscope, who’ve received a lot of radio play over the past year. Once they start performing small waves of reminiscence should flush over you.
Washington in particular has begun to attract fans like a tumbling snowball, following a string of acclaimed live performances.
With admission free, expect the place to be overrun with purely curious bodies and collectives, all stuffed with forestalling eyeballs.

Spare us the artistic bbqs! By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Town Council has declined to be advised on matters of design by its Public Art Advisory Committee.
The committee proposed a name change to Public Art and Design Advisory Committee in order to be able to put forward ideas for council infrastructure such  as seating, lighting, bubblers and shade provision.
At council’s February 8 meeting Technical Services Director Greg Buxton expressed concern over the agenda of “some of the newer members of the committee” wanting to be “involved with some of our infrastructure”.
Alderman Samih Habib asked “what the big deal is” with having a name change.
Mr Buxton replied: “Saves having an artistic barbecue at the river.”
Ald Liz Martin, who is chair of the advisory committee, shared his concern, not wanting to see a barbecue costing “$38,000 instead of $10,000”.
Ald Jane Clark said the role of the committee is to advise on how public art funds should be spent, commenting that “design is a huge area” outside of the intention in setting up the Public Art Advisory Committee.
Poor design can cost as much in dollar terms as good design but instead of adding to the enjoyment of our public places, it detracts from them. In the captions  are some reasons why the Town Council should take advice on design in our public places.

Liquor permits revoked.

People living in “prescribed areas” – Aboriginal communities so identified by the Federal Intervention – may not drink alcohol unless they have a permit from the Licensing Commission.
In the southern region there are 70 such permit holders but as of Monday, April 5, four of them, held by people in the Ali Curung Prescribed Area, will be revoked.
This is not for any breach of conditions but follows a complaint brought by the Barkly Shire Council that “such permits are discriminatory and are inconsistent with the purpose behind restricting alcohol in Prescribed Areas”.
The commission found that the majority of the community of some 1000 residents were opposed to the liquor permits. 
One of the permit-holders, a public servant in a position of responsibility, had argued that revoking the permits would make it harder to recruit staff for the community.
However, the commission noted that out of a non-Indigenous population of around 40 public servants and contractors, only three were permit holders.

Cowed public servants. COMMENT by

Does taking a job with the government in the Territory  mean surrendering all right to participate in the civic society?
Some government employees are certainly under that impression.
Every journalist in town has come across the “I can’t say anything, I work for the government” refrain.
But should this apply when it comes to a simple matter of whether or not you would like a footpath built in your street?
A petition to  the Town Council by residents of Chapman and Weaving Courts, protesting council’s intended construction of footpaths there as a waste of public money, included three abstentions.
The covering letter explained that this was because of the residents’ “government occupations”.
What kind of intimidation can produce public servants so cowed?
Surely this is not a good thing for the society we live in.

ADAM'S APPLE: Hold that front page!

While there are some rather intelligent people in the world who say they don’t believe in climate change, I’m 100% positive that there are too many cyclones.
Far too many cyclones for our naming system to handle at any rate.
This week the Queensland coast was preparing for another onslaught from another tropical low. This one, named Cyclone Ului, unleashed the equivalent energy of about a bazillion atomic bombs on the poor unfortunates in its path.
If I were in the path of a cyclone, I would like to be certain that the natural disaster that was about to unleash its temper upon my home, my family and me had a name I could pronounce. Or at least have heard before. I would like to look upon the devastation and say in a loud and unabashed yell, “Damn you Cyclone Robert!” Or Sarah or Tiffany. It is my opinion that something drastic will have to be done about reducing the impact of climate change before we get to Cyclone Chenneayda.
If you sifted through the news last week you would have read about Cyclone Ului. You would also have seen that two state elections were held. The clean up continues in Haiti and Chile following massive earthquakes. US President Obama has postponed his visit to Australia and Indonesia in order to push through his Medicare style health reforms. Speaking of nationalised health, here in Austr… “Hold the front page! Lara Bingle and Michael Clarke have split. We cross now to their Bondi flat.”
Apart from the mixed media metaphor, that sums up the news of the past couple of weeks.
I don’t know why we are so hungry for news of a sports person and someone who used to model a bit’s private life. What I am concerned about today is that Michael Clarke’s career advancement was called into question because of the “scandal”.
There may be no more highly esteemed position in Australia than the captain of the Australian Cricket Team. Michael Clarke has been groomed to take over from Ricky Ponting when Punter retires. According to several ex-players including former Australian Test Captain Ian Chappell, the fact that Michael Clarke took a day off work in order to work out his dissolving relationship means that he may not be fit for the job of captain of the Aussies.
I have never been a captain of a cricket team. But if we look at the often more salacious world of the football codes we can see a swathe of sports people brilliant at their jobs, artists rather than players. But once they hit the showers they turn to drink, drugs, womanizing, gambling and violence. Behaviour far worse than needing to sort out your relationship.
The question needs to be whether Michael Clarke can still make a decisive bowling change. Can Michael Clarke know the right time in the match to bring fine leg into a catching position?
The same question hangs over many positions of prominence, in politics for example.
The South Australian election last weekend was one such test. Labor had delivered the lowest unemployment in the country, they had turned the economy around and they had introduced legislation designed to keep the streets safer. Three big ticket items on voters how to vote list. Yet the premier has been accused of having an affair and the swings against Labor have been massive.
What is more important to us as voters? We have a Federal election just around the corner and a Territory election could be called if Gerry Wood catches a cold, so how will we vote?
To be honest I couldn’t care less if the person I vote for stays at home on Friday nights wearing nothing but a baby bonnet as long as they get the job done.
Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Bob Hawke, Silvio Berlusconi ... the list goes back to Caesars and Pharaohs. All of them have done shameful and morally questionable things. But I am not going to ask them to have a sleepover or teach my kids the importance of a morally rigid life. 
I will ask them to balance the budget. I will ask them to provide more affordable housing and I will ask them to have a fresh look at fixing the problems we here in Alice Springs deal with on a daily basis. It’s the problems and their solutions that need to be on the front pages.

LETTERS: Is tourism lobby ignoring reality?

Sir – Phuket in Thailand is at present chock a block with tourists even though there are red shirts trying to topple the government!!!
Peter Grigg (Alice News, March 18) forgot to mention just about all international tour groups bypass Alice now.
When last have you seen a bus load of tourists?
Business for us is the worst it has been in 24 years. We now employ seven staff compared to our old average of 20 to 25.
From flying 18,000 passengers five years ago, we’re down to 6,000.
Cheers from under a coconut tree!
John Sanby
Outback Ballooning
Alice Springs
ED – Mr Sanby also runs China Hot Air Ballooning – see our Nov 20, 2008 story,

Divert Araluen solar funds elsewhere

Sir – I’m an off-grid resident of North Queensland, so I have some familiarity with solar power and its limits.
The Araluen proposal sounds warm and fuzzy, but there are clearly some serious issues.
Solar power requires space that is not available, maintenance issues add heavily to cost, and local amenity is threatened.
Is the reason the proposal exists to save carbon emissions whilst providing air-conditioning to the building? If so, I think there is a solution.
Move the application of funds to other sites where the same carbon reductions will apply, and hook the Araluen air conditioning into the grid.
Araluen uses proxy savings, the total carbon footprint is the same, but applied to different sites. In the big picture, it makes no difference.
In other words, direct the solar energy funds to different buildings so that they get the benefits of solar power, because the funds have been “traded”  from Araluen.  In this scenario, all the environmental and amenity objections should evaporate.
Good luck Alice.
Geoff Henderson
Daintree River
North Queensland

Meeting hostile to Araluen solar plant

Sir – Regarding the proposed solar energy project for Araluen, it seems that the Araluen administration (and indeed the NT Government) have again failed to take into consideration the public’s concerns over the development of this project, just as they did concerning the recent plans to develop the Araluen precinct and in particular the rearrangement of gallery space.  
I was part of a large crowd that attended the information meeting last Wednesday night at Witchetty’s where Tim Rollason and the other panel members received a very hostile reception towards their plans to locate the solar arrays and a thermal plant close up next to Central Craft and in an area that is considered by many as an important part of the art, cultural and visual space of the precinct. People are not against the idea of Araluen having solar driven air-conditioning but are very resistant to the idea of having a huge, and very visible, industrial plant stuck in the middle of our beautiful, and spiritually significant, Araluen grounds. 
While people applauded plans to make large savings of energy and significant reductions in carbon emissions, they were far less happy about the community consultation process surrounding this project so far. 
Even though the information tabled last night suggests a thorough engagement with the public over the project has occurred, I beg to differ – this is a very complex and sensitive project that requires lots of information and discussion that needs to occur in a timely manner. 
I have attended all previous meetings and yet last night was the first time that such a depth of information has been made available.  Incredible as it seems, we were also told that the tenders for the project would close on Wednesday March 24 (yesterday) – leaving a mere week for our concerns to be considered. 
If that was not enough, it was pointed out by one of those attending that the project information provided in the foyer of Araluen didn’t match the information put out on the tables at the meeting – apparently what we were looking at was an old version!! 
Araluen also failed to provide sufficient visual information on the night, leaving many of us struggling to understand the engineering aspects of the project and more importantly, how it will visually impact on the surroundings – a number of computerised architectural drawings could have easily satisfied this.
While Tim and others tried to soothe us by promising to take on board our concerns (and there were pages and pages of butchers papers by the end of the night) it wasn’t hard to understand how dissatisfied people felt as they left the building.
So it leaves me to reflect, has the NT Government become so engrossed in their drive to hold this project up as cutting edge technology and become the envy of the nation to a point where they have once again failed to see the brick wall in front of them?  Because if last night’s meeting is anything to go by there is a very real brick wall and it’s called “The Community” and it’s being reinforced by the day!
Ron Talbot
Alice Springs

Troubling crime stats

Sir – The latest youth crime figures show a troubling increase in recorded crimes by juveniles across the Territory in the 2008-09 financial year.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show there were 8982 recorded crimes by offenders aged between 10 and 18 in 2008-09, compared with 7817 in the previous financial year, an increase of 14.9%.
Young people represented 22.4% of all offenders across the Northern Territory.
Between 2007-08 and 2008-09, the Northern Territory reported the largest proportional increase in the number of offenders, both male and female.
The increase for young males was 14% and for young women it was 16%.
The figures show the Territory had the highest offender rate in 2008-09, with 4832 offenders per 100,000 persons aged between 10 and over and recorded the largest increase in the offender rate across Australia.
There is no substantial consequence for young offenders and so the cycle of youth crime remains unbroken. Under the Country Liberals, boot camps would be established around the Territory aimed at getting young offenders to work and develop skills.
The average daily number of people in full time custody in the Territory last year was 1073 compared to 939 in 2008.
The NT also has the highest imprisonment rate in the country with 662 prisoners per 100,000 population compared to 171 prisoners per 100,000 nationally.
Terry Mills MLA
Country Liberals

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