April 1, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

An Easter trip into the land of buffel? By ERWIN CHLANDA.

People heading out bush over Easter – to those parks that haven’t been closed – will be confronted by an avalanche of buffel, an introduced grass threatening to displace much of our native flora, flourishing after heavy rain.
The government’s inaction to fight buffel, introduced to suppress dust around the airport, and couch have come under fire from veteran ecologist Des Nelson, with 58 years of experience in The Centre, mostly with the CSIRO.
He attacks the excuse given by the government, that control “is not likely to be possible due to the presence of these grasses in surrounding lands which results in constant re-infestation”.
Says Mr Nelson: “This is a cop-out which has been demonstrated to be incorrect.
“There are examples on Alice Springs rural blocks where introduced grasses have been conquered.
“Prime examples can also be seen at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden and the Alice Springs Desert Park where native ground cover vegetation has re-established following the removal of buffel and couch grasses.”
Mr Nelson says in all cases buffel exists in close proximity to successfully cleared areas.
“All you need is dedication and that four letter word, WORK.
“In a personal experience, three family members got to work on a very densely infested 12 acres dominated by tall buffel with patches of couch.
“With shovel and mattock the buffel was dug out and the couch covered with sheets of paper and plastic,” says Mr Nelson (pictured).
“When the buffel recurred it was again removed by manual tools.
“The couch was defeated by smothering it.
“There has been very little re-infestation by buffel, and what does germinate is easily removed by hand.
“Native vegetation has repopulated the block and there has been an increase in bird numbers.
“I fail to see why park curators cannot arrange to put a program in motion to clean up Emily and Jessie Gaps; otherwise it is inevitable that a wild fire will devastate the area.
“Those of us who remember the gaps before the invasion of buffel grass will recall how much more attractive they once were.
“Close to Emily Gap grew a magnificent blood-wood tree and a very large suplejack – no trace of these trees remain.
“They were burnt and killed by a dry buffel grass fire.
“To decrease the amount of grass at the start of a control effort I suggest that it be grazed down by a mob of horses or cattle for a brief period.
“Over the years I have made this suggestion only to have purists exclaim: ‘But they are introduced animals!’
“Guess what? Buffel and couch grasses are introduced plants – they are adapted to be grazed by large herbivores.
“Removal of the grasses can be done by methods employed in the past.
“Forget about meetings, consultants, ‘think tanks’ and so on – just get to bloody work!”
Meanwhile the parks service has closed a string of parks in The Centre because of “road damaged by floods”: N’Dhala Gorge, Native Gap, Owen Springs Reserve between Larapinta Drive and Redbank Waterhole, Rainbow Valley, Ruby Gap and Trephina Gorge.
The closure at least of Trephina Gorge will come as a surprise to the many people who visited that park two weeks ago (Alice News, March 18), and to the many who will miss out seeing this magnificent area after the huge rains.
When Alice News staff visited for our report we found roads to be easily passable for two wheel drives.  As always the track to John Hayes Rockhole – flows down the chain of ponds filling it to the brim, a rare and most memorable experience – is rough but no worries for four wheel drives.
If the Territory parks service (which blames the Department of Construction and Infrastructure for the closures) can’t provide the public with access to the areas in its charge, when they are at their most beautiful, then what is their objective?

Carey not the only worry: How does the government protect the consumer? By KIERAN FINNANE.

“The consumer needs an advocate,” says Danielle Eisenblatter, mother of four, who three years down the track is unable to live in the home she had renovated by a registered builder.
Her story raises serious questions about the certification process: can it be relied upon by the consumer?
And for that matter can it be relied upon by the builder?
The builder in question was found guilty of professional misconduct following an inquiry by the Building Practitioners Board, but as the builder has said to the Alice News, the work was completed to the satisfaction of the certifier.
The Building Practitioners Board website gives the following explanation of what a building certifier (unrestricted) can do:
“A building certifier may issue building permits and occupancy permits for all classes of buildings or structures, in accordance with the requirements of the NT Building Act, Building Regulations and provisions of the Building Code of Australia.”
Yet, in its findings in this case the board comments: “The practitioner undoubtedly relied on the Occupancy Permit which was signed on 5 June 2007 as an indication that he had done well enough.”
And: “We suspect that the practitioner is not alone in reposing excessive faith in his building certifier but, as a matter of practice, that is a dangerous course for a builder to adopt.
“Without intending any criticism of building certifiers in general, building contractors should take their own steps to confirm that the building permit is complied with and that all changes have been appropriately managed.”
In other words, the go ahead of a building certifier cannot be presumed to be reliable. 
Where does this leave the consumer?
Are government authorities standing by idly while a certifier declares fit for occupation a building that is badly constructed, and possibly a hazard?
The board did not inquire into or make a finding in relation to the certifier, nor the draftsman nor the engineer, despite the evidence before it that “the biggest mistake on this job was the original set of drawings”.
This comment was made by a civil engineer and structural engineer, appearing before the board as a witness for the director of Building Advisory Services.
This witness went on to say: “By not insisting that the design problems were sorted out, the practitioner transferred the problems to himself.
“A competent builder would not leave himself in the position of taking such unnecessary risk.”
The board ordered the suspension of the builder’s registration to be stayed while he completes an education course and he has been required to pay a portion of the costs incurred by the director of Building Advisory Services in the inquiry – the builder says, as evidence that the responsibility for the fiasco did not lie entirely with him, that the amount is one third of the total.
The director also has to conduct an audit of three projects undertaken by the builder before his current registration expires and at his expense.
Ms Eisenblatter counts herself lucky to be covered by the builder’s insurance to pay for rectification works but there’s no compensation for the stress of the experience and nothing will bring back the early years of her two youngest children, born since the fiasco began.
In 2006 she was pregnant with her third child when she decided to have some seemingly simple renovations done at her ex-commission home.
It’s a u-shaped house around a courtyard, which she wanted filled in to create a large living room.
She obtained a number of quotes from various registered builders: they ranged from $25,000 to $80,000.
She chose in the medium range, largely because of the builder’s availability as she was hoping to have the work done before her baby was born.
She and her partner, an electrician, asked around town about the builder’s reputation.
She treated no news as good news.
She says now she’d check in more detail but is not sure how; the fact of registration does not seem to be any kind of guarantee and when you check registration details on the Building Practitioners Board all you get is whether it is “active” or not. There is no other record relating to their work, although elsewhere on the site are reports relating to disciplinary matters.
When her builder left for Christmas holidays at the end of 2006, he told her the work was ready for painting and tiling.
She and her partner wanted to do this themselves in order to save money but when they began doing the preparation the alarm bells started ringing.
“We were fixing more than we were prepping,” says Ms Eisenblatter.
Among the long list of flaws were redundant switches not isolated and removed and water damage throughout the new ceiling and portions of the existing ceiling that she says resulted from unsatisfactory roofing and water proofing.  
Also – by the builder’s admission, she says – the overhead power supply to the house had been clipped by a cement truck in mid-December 15, 2006.
She says he had advised her in early January that he would organise for an electrician to repair it as soon as possible.
By January 24 this had still not been done.       
She sought advice from Building Advisory Services (which administers the Building Act and associated regulations) and was told that, as the works were still in progress, she should talk to the builder, the certifier or the engineer.
“The certifier was the first person back from holidays but when I rang him and asked him to come out he said there was no need.”
After her partner went to the certifier’s office in person, the principal of the company, whose certifier’s registration at the time was suspended, agreed to come.
This was the first time that he had set foot on the property – the inspections of work at Ms Eisenblatter’s had all been done by his employee,  not a certifier himself, who would send his notes and photographs to a certifier in Victoria, who signed off on the paperwork.
This arrangement the board described in its inquiry as “rather dysfunctional “ and “apt to make the job much more difficult for all concerned”.
Ms Eisenblatter says the principal of the certifying company “appeared to be totally unaware of the current progress of the project” and was asking the same questions about it that she and her partner were. 
When the builder returned from holidays, Ms Eisenblatter presented to him a list of more than 15 works she wanted to have set right at his expense.
Was this kind of recourse provided for in their contract?
“I didn’t have one,” says Ms Eisenblatter.
“I thought that going with a registered builder was all that I needed.
“I thought he’d know what to do.
“I didn’t know that I’d have to be like his mum every step of the way.”
In fact the Building Act requires the builder to enter into a written building contract and his failure to do so was one of the findings the board made against him.
The board’s inquiry made its findings in February 2009.
In setting out the chronology of events it begins with Ms Eisenblatter’s complaint in writing about the builder made to Building Advisory Services on January 2, 2007.
As a result of the complaint the builder was contacted and required to respond in writing.
A response was received in April which the director found unsatisfactory.
The builder was written to again; again no response.
In November the director proceeded to a formal investigation.
In December the builder, who was having health problems, made telephone contact with the Building Advisory Services office but again provided no written response.
The director made findings of professional misconduct against him at the end of February, more than 12 months after Ms Eisenblatter’s initial complaint, referring the matter to the board for inquiry.
It would then take another year for the board to make its findings and it was not until June of last year that it finally made its orders as outlined above.
The prolonged process was down in part to its “novelty”, says their report, as this appears to be the first inquiry under the relevant provisions of the Act involving the conduct of a building contractor.
Meanwhile the builder had agreed to carry out the works demanded by Ms Eisenblatter and in March 2007 the certifier had signed off on a certificate of occupancy for the house.
Ms Eisenblatter and her family hoped then to be able to enjoy their enlarged home but it didn’t take long for its numerous defects to make themselves felt, including leaks from the roof.
In its report the board comments: “We regard roof leaks as very serious issues.
“Aside from affecting the personal comfort and peace of mind of the inhabitants, unless rectified, leaks can cause the long-term breakdown of the building fabric and ultimately lead to the building becoming uninhabitable.”
The problem grew from rain coming in at a couple of entry points until, during the big wet in January of this year, it came “pouring through” the downlight fittings in the new living room, clearly a life-threatening electrical hazard.
Ms Eisenblatter by now had had her fourth child.
With two infants as well as two older children in the house, not surprisingly she found its dangerous condition extremely stressful.
After 24 hours she had agreement from her insurance company to provide emergency accommodation.
Her family of six moved into a two-room short stay apartment.
Now the builder’s insurance, the Home Building Certification Fund (HBCF), came into play and proper rectification works were done.
A building contractor is required as a condition of registration to obtain HBCF insurance (provided by TIO) against failure to carry out building work which complies with the Building Code.
(As we have seen with the home-owners in the Carey Builders fiasco, the NT does not yet have Home Warranty Insurance against the non-completion of a contract.)
After 10 days in emergency accommodation Ms Eisenblatter’s family was moved into a three-bedroom rental property where they remain.
Much of the work done by the builder has had to be taken apart and redone.
Ms Eisenblatter is still fighting to have the slab he laid included in the scope of the rectification works. It is cracking and not constructed to the specified thickness of 100mm, measuring in places only 60-70mm, according to the board’s inquiry.
It seems she needed to have itemised the slab in the initial claim to the HBCF.
At every turn, she has had to learn the ropes on her own.
She has hardly ever been able to make a phone call where the person at the end of the line has been able to give her an answer.
“I’ve always been referred on to a ‘grown-up’,” she says.
“Someone like me needs to be able to have one person to talk to who can give comprehensive advice – we need a home building and renovations consumer advocate.
“I just want to be able to enjoy my home and my babies, make them good food, play sandcastles, feed the chooks.
“Thinking about all this guts me, it kills me.”
The fiasco of her renovations has dominated the family’s life for three years.
“It’s been an endurance test,” says Ms Eisenblatter, and it’s not over yet.
ED – A response from the Department of Lands and Planning (handling media queries for Building Advisory Services), to issues raised in this story had not been received at the time of going to press. 

Dudded home buyers reject Frampton offer and will act as group. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Home buyers stung by the collapse of Carey Builders have told a law firm they will not negotiate with First National Real Estate Framptons as individuals, but insist on dealing with the issues as a group.
Ald Murray Stewart, a member of the group, says the decision was made at a meeting on Saturday.
Peer Schroter, of Povey Stirk, told the group Framptons would meet with claimants only individually, and only if they sign a confidentiality agreement.
The letter was addressed to Dave Ives, one of 23 people who formed the Framptons New Home Broken Promises Group, now pushing Framptons to stand by their undertakings.
Mr Ives replied, expressing surprise about the real estate firm engaging lawyers rather than dealing with the multitude of problems direct with the home buyers.
Meanwhile an Alice Springs tiler wants the town to help the families hurt by the collapse of Carey Builders and their deal with Framptons New Homes.
Dazz, of Desert City Tiling, says he will work for the owners of the 11 uncompleted homes for half his usual fee, so long as materials are provided, and he’s got time to do some fully paid jobs as well.
Mr Stewart said people may have to tap into the legendary generosity of Central Australians but bigger bodies would need to come forward and provide compensation, including the NT Government.
“There are some corporate and government bodies that should be fronting up, owning and paying up so these people can complete their houses.”
Ald Stewart says he understands Gerry McCarthy, the NT Minister for Construction, was in town over the weekend, went to the One Night Stand concert, but did not respond to an invitation of the group to attend its meeting to discuss its concerns about the government’s failure to take the necessary steps in the Carey Builders fiasco.
Group member John Stafford says: “Framptons New Homes had the opportunity of assisting us individually when it would have made a difference.
“It’s only now, after their poor conduct has come to the public eye, that they are now keen to talk to us one to one, and under the gag of a confidentiality agreement.
“You have to ask the question whether this is meant to divide our group which was formed specifically because they wouldn’t deal with us individually in the past.”
Dazz, the tiler, says he’s sure other trades people will join him in the initiative.
“Alice Springs has a great tradition of helping people in need,” he says.
“Our building industry is made up of people with honour and integrity, and this scandal is giving us a bad name.”
Dazz and wife Rosy are going on holidays until Tuesday after Easter when they can be contacted on 0408 083720.
“We’ll need someone on board with organisational skills, plus some voluntary labour.”
Meanwhile there’s a question that Mr Carey may have left town. He was seen loading up a utility outside his home in Eastside on Saturday. 
He did not return calls from the Alice Springs News.
Lawyer Peer Schroter said in his letter to Mr Ives, in part: “We have received instructions to act for First National Real Estate Framptons.
“Our client does not consider a group meeting will assist in that process and declines to participate in any such group meetings.
“Individual meetings with affected parties and their representatives can be arranged through the writer (who will attend at such initial meetings) to ascertain the status of the relevant construction, and thereby to determine what steps are required to achieve completion.
“This will then enable our client to consider how they may be of assistance in this process.
“These meetings are to be conducted on a without prejudice basis, and in light of current media commentary, will be required to be confidential between the parties.
“A form of Confidentiality Agreement required by our client is attached which will need to be signed by all parties including spouses to provide mutual obligations of confidentiality in relation to these matters.
“Based on legal advice provided to our client, our client will not be entering into any discussions relating to the various circumstances giving rise to the current situation, however our client will be genuinely concerned to examine and determine how they may be able to offer support in the completion process.”
Mr Ives replied, in part: “Why have [Frampton heads David Forrest and Andrew Doyle] hired you to act on their behalf? 
“Do you have expertise in completing unfinished buildings?
“Let me get this straight, David and Andrew have money to hire lawyers but no money to help their new home customers? 
“Where are the Frampton priorities? What happend to ‘We put you first’?
“When news of the builder going into liquidation occurred, David Forrest went straight to the media. Why? 
“Why didn’t he go straight to his new home customers? How was going to the media going to assist his new home customers? 
“It seems like David is no longer interested in media attention. Why?
“I would prefer this to be an open and public dialog. What’s there to hide? Why the secrecy?”
The general procedure for completing each of the unfinished Framptons New Homes should follow essentially the same “game plan,” wrote Mr Ives. 
“Why would Framptons want to meet with each person individually to give the same briefing? 
“They entered into an agreement – in writing – to guide each Framptons New Home customer to the point where the keys are handed over and the project is complete. 
“They’re still under contract to do this. Why don’t they just do it? This is basic good business principles; deliver what you promise. 
“Especially if you promise it in writing. Which Framptons did.”
[Parts of this report have appeared in our online edition.]

Kimber’s McDouall Stuart: Reading between the lines. By KIERAN FINNANE.

John McDouall Stuart is hailed for his great exploration feats but he was also a very plain-speaking man and it requires some imagination, when reading his journal, to appreciate the extraordinary nature of his experiences as the first white man, together with his companions William Kekwick and Benjamin Head, to reach Central Australia.
With the 15Oth anniversary of that 1860 expedition falling this year, this is a task historian Dick Kimber (at left) has given himself.  His research has focussed only on that first expedition – there would be two others, with the third taking Stuart to the north coast of the continent, another first.
Mr Kimber’s constant question of the texts – the 1860 journal primarily and other historical material ranging far and wide – has been, what kind of a man was Stuart and why?
And, having gained some understanding in that direction, what is not being said in the journal and why?
Mr Kimber will publish his research as a book later in the year.  Stuart has to be understood as a man of his times, he says.
The Bible was important in shaping his world view: at the time it provided a 6000 year old framework for perceiving geological and human history (most people have a very different understanding now).
Stuart had almost certainly read the journals of Matthew Flinders: “I can’t prove that, but Flinders was important in suggesting that there must be an inland sea in Australia, or a major river system emptying into the sea.
“This was based on what was known of the world at the time – the Niger, Nile and Congo rivers in Africa, the Amazon in South America, the great rivers and seas of Europe.”
Finding the inland sea or a major river flowing to the sea was one of Stuart’s goals.
A Scotsman, who loved and could recite the poetry of Scots patriot Robbie Burns, Stuart nonetheless had a strong concept of the British Empire, having grown up in a period marked by its ascendancy to become, many would argue, the greatest empire the world had known.
His father had been a captain in the British Army and taken part in the suppression of the Irish uprising in 1798.
Stuart would have had a sense of being part of the spread through the world of English language and law, says Mr Kimber, as well as of the ruthlessness that was sometimes involved.  
And Mr Kimber also wants to look into why Stuart, like so many of the other 19th century explorers, was “a great sufferer”, as one of his men put it.
Many of the landmarks of the Centre known to non-Aboriginal people carry the names that Stuart gave them: the MacDonnell Ranges named after “His Excellency the Governor in Chief of South Australia”; the Finke River, in Stuart’s terms a “creek”,  after “Wm Finke Esqr of Adelaide”; Brinkley’s Bluff, “the most difficult hill I have ever climbed”, after “Capt Brinkley of Adelaide”, and so on. 
It is easy to interpret all this as a coloniser’s reflex but Mr Kimber points out another motivation: all these men were Stuart’s backers.
“These were ‘bread and butter’ names,” says Mr Kimber, intended, at least in part, to ensure Stuart would get backing again for future expeditions.
There is historical record that a previous South Australian Governor had suggested that landmarks should bear their Aboriginal names but, says Mr Kimber, this would have required an ability to converse with the Aboriginal people of the country he was traversing, which Stuart, understandably, did not have.
“With Aboriginal people fleeing before you, terrified by the ‘devil-monsters’ they were seeing, there was not much chance to communicate.
“They saw the horses and riders as one terrifying being, or if they saw the men dismount, they would wonder if the horses were the mothers of the men, like other animals who carry their young on their backs.
“They saw boot tracks and wondered that these creatures walked like men but had no toes.”
Unlike other explorers, Stuart made no use of Aboriginal guides. On an earlier expedition in 1858, in country north of Streaky Bay, he records that an Aboriginal guide, whom he does not name, clears off when he gets beyond his own country and comments that the man was not much use to them anyway.
After this, says Mr Kimber, he had almost nothing else to do with Aborigines as guides or help.
It’s clear that Stuart tries to avoid conflict with them at all cost, but this was only common sense.
With only three men, the 1860 expedition could not afford to lose equipment or supplies or to sustain injury or worse.
There is some evidence of Stuart making use of bush foods, especially ‘roo meat, but Mr Kimber says he had learnt to do this from other white men while working as a surveyor in South Australia. Other accounts over-emphasise his use of bush foods, he suggests, and the expeditioners’ diet got down to starvation rations of what they had brought with them.
Head, only 18 years old when they set out, lost half of his bodyweight on the expedition and never fully recovered, says Mr Kimber.
Stuart was seeing flora and fauna that no white man had ever seen, but his journal can be disappointing in this regard.
For instance, he talks about gum trees without distinguishing between them.
Mr Kimber followed his footsteps up Brinkley’s Bluff: “I wanted to work out what he would have seen. Why didn’t he talk about the ghost gums? That term doesn’t get used till later, but I do wonder why he didn’t note the striking white trunks of the trees there.
“He was just focussed on getting through the landscape.
“He had a very good sense of direction and most of his effort in the journal is around recording where he has been and where he’s going next and making sure that he’ll be able to get back and other people coming later will be able to use his directions.”
But he wasn’t entirely blind to what was new: his is the first recorded sighting of the cycad – “a very remarkable fruit bush” with “a large kernel hard shell like a nut, about the size of an egg”. He mentions that they tasted this nut and it made his men sick.
He also describes for the first time the bean tree and the native cucumber.
He would have been seeing the desert country in good condition, says Mr Kimber, much as we are seeing it now, after excellent rains.
When he names the Finke River, he describes the surrounding country as “a plain of as fine a country as any man would wish to see a beautiful red soil covered with grass a foot high after that it become a little sandy and at 15 miles got into some sand hills but still the feed most abundant”. (Stuart’s spelling and punctuation are idiosyncratic.)
One of the most interesting passages in Mr Kimber’s book will surely be his reading of what happened at Attack Creek, when a group of Waramungu men turned Stuart back.
The journal itself, though as plain as ever, is fascinating on this frontier event.
Stuart describes “two Natives” coming into camp at Kekwicks Ponds at about one o’clock on Saturday, June 23: “They presented us with 4 opossums and a number of small parrots, they were very much frightened at first but after a short time became very bold ... and wished to steal everything they could lay their fingers on, I caught one concealing the rasp that is used in shoeing the horse, under the netting he had round his waist, and was obliged to take it from him by force, the canteens they seemed determined to have and it was with difficulty we could get them from them, they wished to pry into everything, until I lost patience with them and ordered them off ...”
This is really a momentous occasion, when you think about all that has brought Stuart and his men to this place, so far from all that is familiar to them, having to rely entirely on their own wits and resources, and about the immense curiosity that must have driven the two Aboriginal men to overcome their fear.
There is also something quite comic about the encounter, or this account of it at least, as there is a little while later when two young men and an old man approach the camp.
“[The old man] was very talkative but I can make nothing of him, and I suppose he me. After talking to him some time, and he talking to his two sons turned around, and surprised me by giving one of the Masonic signs, I looked at him steadly, he repeated it and also his two sons, I then returned it which seemed to please them much, the old man than  patted me on the shoulder and stroked down my beard, they than took their departure, making friendly signs untill they were out of sight ...”
Clearly these were not Masonic signs but equivalent Aboriginal signs.
Stuart and his men enjoy their supper of opossums that night and it is not until the Tuesday that they have more direct contact: “I was moving on to the place where we crossed the creek in the morning when suddenly up started three tall powerful fellows fully armed having a number of boomerangs, waddies, and spears, from behind some scrub which we had just entered, their distance from us being about 200 yards ...
“I wished to pass them without taking any notice of them, but such was not their intention ... they seemed to be in a great fury, waving their boomerangs above their head bawling at the top of their voices and performing some sort of dance, they were now joined by a number more, which in a few minutes increased to upwards of thirty every bush seemed to produce a man ...”
For all the awkwardness of his style, Stuart’s account of this event for three pages is gripping.
As he turns back he receives “a shower of boomerangs accompanied by a fearful yell”.
The Aborigines mean business, but why boomerangs and not spears?
Mr Kimber believes it is because they were out of spear-throwing range.
How do Stuart and his men get out of this in one piece?
Nowhere does Stuart admit to shooting anyone but Mr Kimber believes it is “inconceivable” that he did not.
Stuart records that he gave orders to fire. As the men had both rifles and revolvers, it is likely that rifles, being more accurate, would have been used first.
Given that Stuart had always tried to avoid conflict, he must have felt he had no other option.
“I believe they considered they were in too much danger for warning shots,” says Mr Kimber.
Stuart notes that as they retreat, the Aborigines follow “but beyond reach of our guns”.
Mr Kimber believes the Aborigines had learnt the range of fire the hard way.
Note: A highlight of the celebrations, which start on April 10, will be a re-enactment of Stuart’s arrival at Owen Springs, on Sunday, April 11.

After land rights and water rights, air rights are next. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A new Aboriginal rights campaign, a fresh look at flood mitigation in Alice Springs and an explosive strategy for continuing three decades of welfare dependency were revealed by Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon in an exclusive interview with the Alice Springs News.
Mr Snowdon, a junior minister in the Rudd Government, took time off from a hectic week of being photographed singing the national anthem, and attending the opening of a new facility at the Alice Springs hospital, to speak with News editor ERWIN CHLANDA, in time for our April 1 edition.
NEWS: Mr Snowdon, after some 30 years either as a Member of Parliament or as a policy advisor to the Central Land Council, you’ve been a major figure in Aboriginal land rights.
Despite the great hope at the start, they don’t seem to have borne much fruit for Aboriginal people?
MR SNOWDON: Of course not.
NEWS: Why not?
MR SNOWDON: More money, more money.
NEWS: Sorry?
MR SNOWDON: For 30 years the Aboriginal people in my area have been the subject of the most criminal, wanton, pathetic and unforgivable neglect by governments.
NEWS: But they were given half the land of the NT?
MR SNOWDON: Come on, comrade? You can’t eat land, can you?
The people in my electorate need education, health services and housing before we can even start thinking about things like bearing fruit. And we need programs.
NEWS: Such as the $11.5m program for Indigenous economic opportunities announced by you and Jenny Macklin the other day?
MR SNOWDON: Exactly.
NEWS: How come that Central Australia is getting only $33,000, for a wheelchair accessible vehicle. That’s less than one third of one percent of the total amount.
MR SNOWDON: What? Bloody Canberra bureaucrats. I told them not one cent for Central Australia. Heads will roll.
NEWS: So it’s true then that you don’t give a hoot for The Centre, because the blackfellas there will always vote for you, and the whitefellas – with obvious exceptions – never will?
MR SNOWDON: You’ve got it in one, comrade.
NEWS: Mr Snowdon, the Alice Springs News has for a year now been collecting data about arable land, water resources and availability of cheap transport. We’re aiming at identifying potential locations for horticultural enterprises.
We have for 12 months asked your government for unemployment figures so we can include in our report information about idle labour.
So far we’ve been denied these figures, except for regional figures, which are useless because participants need to live within commuting distance of the opportunities.
MR SNOWDON: You’re talking about working, aren’t you, taking a job?
NEWS: Of course. The resilience and resourcefulness of Aborigines is legendary.
MR SNOWDON: Typical. Another brain dead whitefella with a scheme to set blackfellas up to fail.
NEWS: So what’s the answer?
MR SNOWDON: More money, more money.
NEWS: So you said. What’s next?
MR SNOWDON: It’s the bleeding obvious isn’t it. Water.
NEWS: We sure all need that.
MR SNOWDON: Yes. But the Aboriginal people own it.
NEWS: Yes, the beaches and rivers they fished for thousands of years.
MR SNOWDON: You’ve got it. As well as aquifers.
NEWS: Such as the Mereenie aquifer from which Alice Springs gets its water?
MR SNOWDON: Of course.
NEWS: We’re using high technology to pump water from hundreds of meters below the surface.
Did Aboriginal people do that for thousands of years?
MR SNOWDON: Next question.
NEWS: After water, what?
NEWS: Pardon?
MR SNOWDON: Air. It’s all around you. It has been there for 40,000 years. It’s Aboriginal owned.
NEWS: We’ll have to pay royalties for breathing?
MR SNOWDON: Are you a bit slow, comrade? Of course.
NEWS: You’re against a flood mitigation wall. You say Alice Springs has adequate flood protection. How so?
MR SNOWDON: We have a very sophisticated warning system.
NEWS: But that doesn’t stop a flood that would kill people and cause massive damage.
The system just tells us a flood is coming. All we can do is run.
MR SNOWDON: Tell you what, I’ll make a firm, core promise to do my best to persuade the traditional owners not to charge for the water that washes away the Central Business District.
NEWS: Thank you, Mr Snowdon.

Brendan Heenan elected unopposed as new Deputy Mayor

Ald. Brendan Heenan was elected unopposed as deputy mayor, a position he says he will use to highlight the importance of tourism, and address issues that effect it, in particular law and order.
He hopes he’ll also be able to stimulate people to get more involved with council issues, including seeking office.
All committee chair positions were also spilled, with Ald Liz Martin returned to Corporate and Community Services, Ald Samih Habib elected to Technical Services, and Ald Rawnsley taking on Finance.

Recession sent solar gear costs tumbling.

A new drive by Alice Solar City aims for Alice Springs to become the first town of its size in Australia to have 10% of its roofs with solar panels is boosted by the drop of the cost of solar equipment.
Indeed for “this size grid” to have that much solar would put Alice up there internationally, says ASC general manager, Brain Elmer.
“Already every second house in Alice has solar hot water,” he says.
Now he’s calling for a “paradigm shift”, to reach the goal of placing PV panels, which generate electricity, on “1000 roofs in 1000 days”.
This number includes the 300 already there since ASC’s inception.
The subsidy scheme from which the solar early birds benefitted is now finished, but ASC has been “to the market” and found some great deals, enabling it to launch its Bulk Purchase Scheme for rooftop solar systems .
 The solar power market has changed a lot over the last 18 months, says Mr Elmer, with the financial crisis putting downward pressure on PV panel prices – they’ve dropped by 40% to 50 %.
In the first 10 days of Bulk Purchase Scheme – where systems cost as little as $2000 – over 30 people have booked a home suitability inspection with the bulk purchase suppliers Conergy and eco-Kinetics.
“If homes or businesses become mini power stations by going solar, they get paid for all the electricity they produce, get a credit on every electricity bill and they would be protected against any future price rises in electricity,” says Mr Elmer.
“For example, a 2kW system, which produces about half the electricity that the average Alice Springs house uses, would generate up to $550 per year, which comes as a credit off every electricity bill.”

People power win on Araluen solar.

The government will seek community input  on the preferred location for the Araluen Arts Centre solar air-conditioning project.
This follows a well-attended and highly vocal community meeting on the subject, a week before construction tenders closed (see last week’s issue).
Since then the Department of the Arts as advertised for people to join a group that “will work in partnership with the NT Government to find a location for the solar field and plant room that is both practical for the operation of the Araluen Art Centre’s air-conditioning and aesthetically fits into the Araluen Precinct,” according to centre director Tim Rollason.
“The group’s contribution to the project will include attending several strategic meetings to make informed recommendations to the NT Government, representing the aspirations of the wider Alice Springs community.”

No flies on me. NATURALLY with ALEX NELSON.

If you really want to see grasshoppers in their greatest numbers, go for a wander through thickets of old man saltbush, as I did in the Coolibah Swamp last Thursday afternoon.
Literally swarms of them, of several species, erupted from each saltbush shrub as I approached and passed by. It’s the saltbush that is the main attraction for the grasshoppers, as many shrubs are partially defoliated while swards of bright green grass in open spaces remain relatively unaffected.
It was a most pleasant sunny afternoon as I rambled round the Coolibah Swamp – a perfect day, the sort of conditions that flies enjoy as much as we do, yet strikingly I encountered almost none.
Indeed, I have noticed this out of town, too – wherever grasshoppers proliferate, the flies are almost absent. Is there a connection here?
Then I made a remarkable observation – some grasshoppers were catching flies in mid-air, even as they sought to avoid me, and proceeded to devour them when they landed.
This seems surprising but there are numerous examples in nature where predominantly herbivorous (plant-eating) animals give rise to carnivores.
Kangaroos for one. All existing species of kangaroos and wallabies are herbivores – indeed, they could be described as the ultimate “grasshoppers” (well, they eat grass and they hop, don’t they?).
However, in prehistoric times there were species of carnivorous kangaroos (or rat-kangaroos, but they were quite large animals). They are believed to have been omnivorous (eating both plants and animals), roughly equivalent to bears in other lands. It’s not known if any carnivorous kangaroos still existed when the first Aboriginal people arrived in Australia.
The better known extinct marsupial lion, or Thylacoleo, was a formidable ambush hunter also known to have herbivore ancestors.
In the world of insects there are two prominent examples existing today. The first of these are caterpillars, the larvae of butterflies and moths.
Caterpillars world-wide are overwhelmingly herbivores (as farmers and gardeners know all too well) but there are a few species of carnivorous caterpillars. The best known examples are in Hawaii where some kinds of ordinary-looking looper caterpillars are miniature nightmares from hell. These little beasts ambush flies as they pass by them.
The second example of hunters with herbivorous ancestry is carnivorous crickets, of which a number of species occur in Australia.
Carnivorous crickets retain the same basic body shape as their herbivorous cousins, with four short legs up front and two prominent hind legs that provide the thrust for leaping onto their hapless prey. Their mandibles (mouth-parts), originally adapted to cut through plant leaves and stems, are modified to become powerful shears capable of slicing and crushing even the hard wings and carapaces of beetles. They can inflict a painful bite.
(Incidentally, this dental adaptation is markedly similar to the fossil bladed teeth of marsupial lions).
All this is to prove a point – carnivory derived from herbivory isn’t unusual in nature.
In the case of grasshoppers it seems their snatching of flies in mid-air is purely opportunistic, rather than being deliberate. This correlates with there being so many of them, as they opportunistically respond to the abundance of green vegetation growing since the rains earlier this year.
They have only a short time to survive long enough to reproduce but as they are so numerous there is considerable competition between them for the most nutritious vegetation available to eat.
Those grasshoppers which managed to snatch the flies in mid-air, even as they leapt to avoid my oncoming presence, were able to augment their diet with a valuable source of protein.
This enhanced their likelihood of producing well-nourished eggs, deposited into the soil, to await another wet summer in future.
Pictured: With a bite much worse than its bark, a carnivorous cricket aggressively defends its lair in the middle of an old log. Photo by Alex Nelson.

One night the lunar cycle. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Residents of this “grouse town” – to use the artist’s words –  turned out in force for the opening of Dan Murphy’s exhibition, Blue Moon, at Peta Appleyard Gallery last Friday.
They love Murphy and love his work, producing a record number of opening night sales for Appleyard.
Using his trademark materials – recycled metal, deftly cut and stitched with tie wire – Murphy has created a cycle of 29 moonscapes for this lyrical show.
Working into it an idionsyncratic re-reading of the night sky, he has suspended from the ceiling a mobile sculpture of life-sized (or larger) emus, titled The Milky Way.
In the crowded gallery last Friday these creatures conjured from corrugated iron and fencing wire were near-lethal, but in the normally spacious gallery their movement and the shadows they cast that pass over the works on the walls add to the allure of the Blue Moon experience.
Kieren Sanderson, artists and arts worker, who opened the show, commented: “Dan is an artist whose creative process is very much linked to his experience of the everyday and this body of work follows in this tradition as it quite literally maps the lunar cycle of this calendar month.
“Of this series of 29 moons, 26 of them have passed  and the next full moon we experience [on March 30] will be the second in the month and thus a blue moon ...”
Sanderson also pointed out the personal history that Murphy draws into his work – his children’s drawings, memorials to close friends – and the expressiveness that he draws out of his seemingly unyielding materials.
“In Pelican Moon Dan has used the wire with roughness that seems necessary to draw together the two metal surfaces.
“In Echidna Moon the wire describes the echidna much like a line drawing.
“In Skinny Dog Moon the wire holds the forms almost tentatively, leaving skinny dog hanging in space with barely a touch.”
This last is a new approach by Murphy, and Sanderson noted that the two works that use it to best effect are linked thematically – Baby Moon and Spaceman Moon.
As Murphy explained to her – the baby in baby moon is “in a small space, connected to the outside through his umbilical cord”, while the spaceman is “in a vast space and is only just connected to his inside world”.
Sanderson hailed Murphy’s work for its ability to convey the profound, while remaining simple, childlike, accessible and “almost invariably laced with whimsical wit”.

The cream rises to the top. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON BUCKLEY.

A nuclear catastrophe annihilates the entire human race except for three survivors.
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Courtney Love of Hole and Motorhead’s Lemmy. Imagine the genetics as they begin to re-populate the planet!
And if this threesome had attended Saturday’s One Night Stand concert, the following would be what they may or may not have said.
Courtney: I’m really into what these BlueJuice and Gyroscope guys are doing right now!
 This is giving the town a keen insight into what is circulating as contemporary alternative rock these days.
Keith (coughs, spits): Good energy. Punters really into it … couldn’t get a drink but didn’t feel like I needed it … definitely a good vibe to surf … some people tried to stage dive but didn’t … They didn’t know how to read the waves …(laughs)...
Lemmy: I got to put this out there this was a good show…not enough people took advantage of what was on offer here.
Courtney: Attendance was too much of a dwindle that turned into a trickle, early on.
It was only after the sun tripped and fell over the ranges did the glowing faces arrive.  Washington got nowhere near the number of people that her talent warrants.
Keith (coughs, eyeballs bulge, splutters a bit then coughs again):
That can happen when it’s alcohol free … but when it turns night ... the entrance looks like an inside out Noah’s ark ... (coughs) ...
Courtney: BlueJuice and Gyroscope really gave it to the youth factor, and it was good to see the generation Xs turning back on to something.
Watching the dual vocalists of BlueJuice having such a strong theatrical presence whilst donning the GI Karate uniforms was like a little pop cultural facelift – the cream definitely rose to the top on this one.
Lemmy: What about the headline?
Courtney: John Butler Trio? Yeah it was funny, watching all the fresh legged punters congealing about the stage. 
Eager little beavers vying for the better vantage, like tadpoles swarming the legs of the sitting wader. 
And is it tattooed on the bill these days that you play a handful of songs, then move on to the pre-meditated encore set list.
Keith: People tried to crowd surf … they didn’t read the breaks properly … (laughs) ... they ended up falling in big holes in the audience … And what was with that ‘Scat Jazz’ piece …
Lemmy: Worst type of jazz …  whoever invented that should be dragged out into the street and shot!
Courtney: But you couldn’t help notice how the younger generation is tuning into this, he may have just found a new revenue to input. For the consensus this ended the night the way it was formatted to, a bulk happy mass spilling out of the park and forming queues all over town.
Keith (a violent hacking fit later): What were we just talking about?  Oh yeah, ‘Scat Jazz’, the worst!
Lemmy: I couldn’t get over the amount of children running around at this concert parenting in this town seems on the right path.
Keith: I know, I was tripping over them getting out of the gates. (Laughs, enters violent coughing fit then spits.)
Courtney: Those weren’t children Keith, the drunker you are the more gravity defying your swagger becomes.
Lemmy: This town both deserved and needed the events that took place last Saturday . ..
Courtney: The sad reality of this evening is that it can never happen here again, and the biting truth behind that is the number of people through the gate was about half of what was estimated beforehand. 

Alice off roaders open bid for national championship. By our new motoring writer CHRIS HINSPETER.

Four Alice Springs competitors will open their  2010 Australian Championship bids this Easter weekend, making the 5000km round trip to the West Australian town of Hyden, 340kms south-east of Perth, for the First Round of the Australian Off Road Championship.
Andrew Mowles and Steven Sanderson will compete in the Pro Lite Buggy for naturally aspirated buggies. Both competed in last year’s championship whilst Andrew Mowles will debut his new Nissan Powered Razorback Buggy.
The A-Arm Buggy was only completed in the last few weeks with Mowles having his first drive in it a fortnight ago.
Paul Gilbert (pictured) and Danny Auricht will run in the Pro Buggy class, both sporting V8 Chevrolets with Jimco chassis.
Gilbert will campaign his Pro Class Jimco buggy which had its first run at the 12 Hour Enduro last year and competed in the last round of the Championship at Goondiwindi, showing some impressive results. 
Auricht will be making his return to off road racing with his brand new Jimco buggy, back in the driver’s seat after a couple of years’ absence from the sport.
Sanderson will move over to the driver’s seat for this year after running in the 09 AORC as navigator with father Wayne.
Steven and Wayne finished in second place in the Prolite class in the 2009 Championship, and Steven will be looking to continue their good form in 2010. Wayne is already on his way with the race car, stopping off on the way in Adelaide for final preparations before making the trek across the Nullarbor.
Our local competitors missed out on a vital first hit out for the year, with the first round of the Alice Springs Off Road Racing Club’s season washed out by the massive rainfall in January and February. 
The ASORRC events provide a vital testing ground when taking on the Australian Off Road Championship as it has become ultra competitive in the last few years. Any hiccups or teething problems can put a massive dent in your championship points score at the end of year.
With a lot of experience and many hours of preparation our local guys will be up for the challenge and be snapping at the heels of ex-Alice Springs driver David Fellows and last year’s AORC winner Shannon Renstch.
Competitors will line up for the Prologue on Saturday morning, then fire into competition later that afternoon with the first section running from “Smith’s Place” to the Hyden town centre and back. 
Sunday morning competitors are back into action with  four laps of an 80km circuit broken into two sections. Overall those able to complete the event will travel around 480kms.
The Hyden 450 will be the first of five rounds of the National Championship, with the next hit out being the Finke Desert Race in June. Competitors then travel to Griffith in NSW, over to the Pines Enduro in Millicent SA, and then up to Goondawindi in Queensland for the grand finale.

From delivering Alice News to making USA movie news

An Alice-raised actress, Liana Werner-Grey, is attracting attention in the American film industry.
Now 22 years old, she grew up in government housing in our desert town and made her pocket money delivering the Alice Springs News.
After finishing high school she moved to Brisbane where she cut her teeth in theatre.
She also competed in the Miss Earth Australia beauty pageant, besting 42 contestants for the title.
Now she’s starring in an adventure thriller film, The Man In The Maze, being filmed in Alabama, USA.
Her character is a beauty queen who doesn’t handle herself so well in the woods but in real life Liana never wears make-up, loves the outdoors, getting dirty and being physical.
And she remembers her outback roots in an “indigenous rich town” with fondness.
Article by Gary Bingle on

LETTERS: Call on Garrett and Rudd to stop the camel cull.

Sir – Regarding the Australian camel slaughter to cost this country millions in export dollars and trade:
We are a strange nation indeed, we spend small fortunes and produce endless heartfelt stories on the Japanese killing a bit over 1100 whales per year and yes there is a lot of credibility in doing this.
But then along comes the bureaucracy and all its very ill-informed science (maybe not dissimilar to a few of the shonkies on global warming) preaching fire and brimstone and the need to wipe out 650,000 feral camels at a cost to taxpayers of $19 million plus dollars.
This is hypocrisy at its very very best and also down right immoral stupidity.
Australia has 100 million sheep, 28 million cattle, goodness knows how many wild donkeys, pigs, and goats etc and we have somewhere just over a million  camels.
We are an arid land, we should farm an arid land animal.
As Dr Alex Tinson has been quoted: “The camel is the animal of the 22nd century.”
He is one of the world’s leading camel vets and is an Australian based in the UAE.
The Aboriginal communities are going to have the best part of 100 million dollars worth of income and jobs wiped out if this goes ahead, the country will lose close to one billion dollars worth of export dollars, just in meat exports.
The Aboriginal communities control close to 70% of the wild camel population and they in turn are controlled by greedy whitefella do gooders.
Another rural industry will go down the gurgler all because of false science and immoral greed and stupidity.
But still we harass the Japanese, no wonder the rest of the world look at us and go... What the ...!!!
Mr Garret and Mr Rudd, I am calling on you both to stop this unfolding fiasco immediately before it becomes another embarrassment on the world stage and even more locally, another insulation rebate scandal ... and you can mark my words it will. Time to take the blinkers off, Canberra, and become informed.
We have also heard through our contacts in the Middle East if this cull goes ahead some aspects of trade with Australia will stop ... whoops, oh dear...!!
Paddy McHugh
Belgian Gardens, QLD

Get over numbers hump

Like most debates based on emotions, fancies and opinions, the one about camels is running into a dead end.
The Alice News is putting out the challenge to put numbers to views. We have camels and idle labour in abundance, obliged to take a job if it’s offered.
[1] What is a kilogram of camel meat worth free on board Darwin or Port Adelaide?
[2] How much for road freight to there from Docker River?
[3] How much for a mobile abattoir with export and halal licences?
[4] How much for much labour, at the killing works and for mustering, at going rates. No CDEP?
[5] No Government grants and programs.
It’s not rocket science and would give us a pretty good start at a feasibility study. In the end we may well find out that shooting the camels is the best option. But myself, I don’t think so.

ADAM'S APPLE: The dishcloth look.

For every generation on the planet there is a specific purpose. People of my generation for example are in charge of the internet.
Thirty-somethings run Google and Facebook and they are the people most likely to lodge submissions to the government about the new National Broadband Network.
It is up to the fifty-somethings to actually run the country. The head of many financial institutions, the biggest companies and the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are fifty-somethings.
The twenty-somethings run popular culture. And that disturbs me. Not because I think they are not old enough to contribute but because they haven’t lived long enough to learn from the pop culture mistakes of the twenty-somethings past.
The pop culture of the 1980s has for some time threatened to make its resurgence. Now with a new batch of twenty-somethings in charge it’s back. Back, meaner and shoulder paddier than ever. And that disturbs me.
It disturbs me because I have seen it before. It’s nothing new to me and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t much chop the first time.
The twenty-somethings of today are fascinated by the music and fashion of the decade that music and fashion forgot.
In the 1980s the world discovered excess. Dresses were puffier, shoulder pads were bigger and the ozone layer was depleted by the amount of hairspray needed to perfect the spider fringe.
With the proliferation of cheap electrical gadgets and the personal computer pandemic, music became easy to record at home for the first time. This electronic explosion made people interested in a manufactured, electro sound. It was ground breaking.
To my ear, the ‘80s inspired music of today is like expecting to meet Nelson Mandela but meeting Nelson Aspen instead. Not altogether awful but not the big event you were hoping to have.
That’s my take on the pop culture trends of today.
To put my take into perspective I feel I should tell you that I am sitting here typing this column in a rugby jersey a size too small and jeans a size too big. I should also tell you that until yesterday my hair was the colour of a three week old Chux.
The only foray into exciting new fashion I have ever experienced was done to raise money for charity.
Earlier this month the World’s Greatest Shave was held to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation. While many shaved their heads, I opted for colouring my hair to raise money for the cause. Many colours were suggested. Blue was the colour settled upon. I was gunning for brown but was outvoted.
I’ve never coloured my hair before and I’ve got to say that while the lovely women who applied the bleach and blue gunk to my follicles did an outstanding job, it’s not something I will be rushing to do again.
Sitting in a chair with a smock over your shirt wearing a shower cap under a heat lamp is not exactly my idea of a blokey experience.  I did however learn a great deal about Danii Minogue’s pregnancy through the reading of the women’s periodicals.
The results of the two hour ordeal were nothing short of extraordinary. My hair, once a regular brown was now a vivid, cookie monster blue.
The problem with colourng one’s hair is that the colour doesn’t stay in the hair forever. It fades. It fades to a dishcloth blue, which even a man with the fashion credentials of a physics professor can see, isn’t a good look.
Unwilling to sever myself from my Caledonian heritage, I took the cheap option. For the first time in my life I purchased a box of hair dye.  
Never again will I complain about the amount of time a woman takes in the bathroom to dye her hair. It is an ordeal to rival Alexander the Great’s march into India.
At present I have several black splodges on my ears, neck and hands. There is, I have been told, a small patch of dishcloth blue still visible on the back of my head. The cleanup in the bathroom took hours of elbow grease and industrial strength cleaners were inadvertently inhaled.
Next time, I’ll shave instead. Shaving might be far more drastic, but at least there’s no chance of needing to call the poisons hotline.

Back to our home page.