August 12, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

Parks handover subject to legal advice, says Coalition. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A Coalition Government would make the transfer of the West MacDonnell, Finke Gorge and King’s Canyon (Watarrka) national parks to Aboriginal ownership subject to an examination of legal advice leaked to the Alice Springs News.
The Country Liberals’ Nigel Scullion (pictured), seeking re-election to the Senate, says: “We will look at the advice and take it into consideration before we sign off on the remainder of the parks.
“It is new information.”
The advice by the Solicitor General at the time, Tom Pauling, was given to NT Chief Minister Clare Martin in 2002 (Alice News, July 29).
Ms Martin and her successor, Paul Henderson, have kept the document secret for eight years despite numerous calls from politicians, the public and media for it to be made public.
Ms Martin asserted, claiming base on the advice, that failure to hand over the parks to Aboriginal interests would result in extreme racial tension and massive costs for drawn-out litigation.
In fact the advice outlines various strategies for dealing with apparent threats to the parks resulting from a native title case in the High Court.
This raises serious doubts about the integrity of Ms Martin’s policies.
NT Shadow Treasurer John Elferink said two weeks ago the Martin and Henderson national parks strategy may have been “the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the Territory public”.
Says NT Opposition Leader Terry Mills: “Our position is crystal clear on this. We now have confirmation that the Labor Government had an ideological agenda, seeking to divide.
“In the light of the legal information that has been made available, the Federal Coalition have said they will review their position.
“I am pleased about that,” says Mr Mills.
“The actions of the Labor government are very damaging to the cohesion of the Territory community.
“National parks should be owned by all Territorians, with suitable arrangements for traditional owners’ cultural and economic objectives.”
Mr Elferink said this week: “I would support a review.
“If as I suspect the fraud around our parks has been committed, then the legitimacy of the NT Government’s claims is ethically invalid.
“The review would need to determine the legal position, to see whether these parks are actually under threat of a land claim.”
And Country Liberal candidate for Lingiari Leo Abbott said last week that the Clare Martin government had not been “up front and honest” with Territorians and the parks should have been left in “the hands of all Territorians”.
The sitting Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, said last week when asked about the leaked legal advice: “The world has moved on. An agreement has been reached.
“The NT Government has put in place a process to deal with these land issues, and they are dealing with them.”
As the transfer of ownership is done through the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act, which is Federal legislation, the assent of the Commonwealth is required.
Eight parks, mostly to the east and south of Alice Springs, have been handed over already, but not the three premier parks, which are the backbone of the tourism industry in The Centre.
Under the NT Government’s scheme the parks are leased back to the NT for 99 years.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon have announced that if Labor is returned to power, the Commonwealth would build 1200 dwellings in Darwin for low and middle income tenants.
The Opposition indicated it would match the offer.
The Alice News asked both Senator Scullion and Mr Snowdon: “Will Alice Springs, whose home crisis is at least as as acute as Darwin’s, get 400 units, which would be the pro-rata figure?
“We know that the town camps will get 85 houses but these are mostly for people who are either unable or unwilling to work.
“What we need – and what Darwin will now be getting – are homes for low to middle income earners.”
Mr Snowdon did not reply before deadline.
However, when the News put to him last week that one of the major problems in Alice is the shortage and cost of housing,  Mr Snowdon said that this is “a significant function for the Northern Territory, not the Commonwealth.
“The issues of land release and the private housing market are largely in the hands of the NT Government.”
Prime Minister Gillard is not letting that stop her from taking action in Darwin.
Senator Scullion says it’s clear that Labor is making the offer for Darwin because it is a marginal seat.
He says while the Opposition is conscious of the acute housing shortage in Alice Springs, the obstacle is the lack of land released for public housing.
“Darwin has identified land for more public housing.
“Alice Springs has not.
“The question is, when will Chief Minister Paul Henderson release land so a partnership with Canberra to provide affordable housing can have any credibility?”
The NT Government has allocated $10m in the current budget for headworks at the “AZRI block” corner South Stuart Highway and Colonel Rose Drive.
That amount is likely to be fully spent by the end of 2010/11 and “if all goes well the first of up to 1200 blocks on the site may be turned off within two years,” according to a source.
The airport owners have also sought permission from the Commonwealth to use for housing part of their huge block of land, making it the biggest airport in Australia.

Sunny forecast. By

The cost to the buyer for domestic, usually roof mounted, photo voltaic (PV) systems is now about half of what it was just 18 months ago.
However, the generous rebates from the Federal Government’s solar credits system apply to small units up to 1.5 kilowatts (kW) which are far less efficient than larger solar plants.
This arrangement is clearly designed to protect the large utilities: “As you would be going into competition with them” generous rebates are not made available for big plants, says Rod Menzies, the Clean Energy Council’s accreditation manager, who was a leading light at the convention of the Appropriate Technology Retailers Association of Australia in Alice Springs last week.
“Governments are being pushed politically to make PV systems at the domestic level very accessible and give you a return.
“When you go to a large scale format the playing field turns around.”
This begs the question of how fair-dinkum the Federal Government really is in its efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Mr Menzies says the cost of household style PV systems dropped “almost by half, probably, in 18 months.
“They are fairly cost effective and available for only a few thousand dollars out of the pocket of the householder, after rebates.”
Because of the combination of the hardware getting cheaper and Canberra offering massive rebates, you can now buy a 2kW system for around $4000.
It’s $4500 in Alice Springs, says Alice Solar City’s Brian Elmer.
Says Mr Menzies: “I don’t see another 50% reduction. I think the price drop is going to flatten off now.”
He says a good strategy is to instal a 4kW inverter as part of a 2kW system, offering the opportunity of adding more PV panels if their cost does go down further.
The excess power can then be sold into the grid.
That “feed-in” is likely to become more attractive as power prices rise.
Mr Menzies warns buyers of systems to be cautious: “When money is involved as rebates, the fly by nighters come in, grab the cash and run.
“The products they use might be approved to all the standards when the equipment is initially submitted for testing, but you have to be very careful with subsequent batches which are not tested,” says Mr Menzies.
“We are now looking at random testing of subsequent units that come in.”
How do you check a company’s integrity?
Mr Menzies won’t “name names” but recommends to buy from someone “who has a track record, who’s been in the industry for a while”.
How can an ordinary householder achieve certainty?
“Do a company search, ask them to provide references,” he says.
“Ask people who have had a system installed.”
Alice Solar City selected two companies, partly on “their standing in the market place,” says Sam Latz.
But in the end the deal is made between the seller and the buyer.
How long does it take to pay off a system?
That depends on several factors. They are:-
• The value of the electricity you don’t have to buy because you’re making it yourself. With the likely increase in power charges that value will rise.
• The money you make from selling power from your system into the grid. For example, in Victoria you get 66c per kilowatt hour (kW-h) you sell into the grid in excess of what you use.
In a scheme running for seven years starting in January this year, NSW pays 60c for all the power you feed into the grid and you buy it back for your own consumption at around 20c.
In the NT you buy power for 19.23c (residential) and the feed-in price you get for your generation is the same.
• Last not least, the cost of the equipment – the cheaper is it the less time it takes to recoup the cost. 
Alice Solar City estimates the average annual household demand to be 8000kWh which at present in Alice Springs (at 19.23c) would  cost $1538 to buy from the Territory government’s Power and Water Corporation.
You would need a 5kW system to cover that demand.
The problem with all of this is, both the rebates and the buy-back dollars are at the whim of the governments.
For example in Victoria rates are due for review in 2015.
In the NT a five year scheme was introduced in March 2008 when the feed-in price was pegged at 49c and is now 51.28c, but only for the participants who joined that scheme at the time.
This subsidy comes from Power and Water as well as Alice Solar City.
The vagaries of government attitudes are even more puzzling when it comes to the debate about the efficiency of small systems compared to big ones.
On May 15, 2008, we reported about the push to persuade Alice Springs householders to put PV systems on their roofs.
At that time the units ranged in price from $15,000 (1kW) to $26,250 (2kW – Alice Solar City’s Brian Elmer says these systems in fact cost around $22,000). The householder paid 40%, the Federal Government the rest.
These units produce power at a cost of about $14,000 per kW capacity.
We compared that with a 154,000kW plant planned for 45,000 homes in Mildura and costing $420m. (That plant is now not going ahead.)
It was touted as “the biggest and most efficient solar PV power station in the world” with a cost of just $2727 per kW capacity.
So, the cost per kW capacity of the domestic systems in Alice Springs was five and a half times greater than that of the planned Mildura plant.
Of course, a lot has happened in the two and a bit years since then, but the principle remains: it’s much cheaper to produce solar power in big plants than in small ones.
For example, the roof mounted panels have a 14% to 17% efficiency, says Mr Menzies.
The big solar concentrators currently being installed at the Alice Springs airport have a 40% efficiency.
This begs the question: if the reduction of greenhouse gases is the main game, why do governments generously subsidise inefficient individual plants, rather than encouraging people to pool their money and set up big, more efficient plants?
It can be done! In fact, the Arild Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs is looking at just such a community-based model.
In Victoria, Hepburn Wind is building Australia’s first community-owned wind farm.
Two turbines near Daylesford are expected to be operational in the first half of 2011.
The group raised $7.8m in investment from over 1180 members, received a $975,000 grant from the Renewable Energy Support Fund and $750,00 from the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund.
It got a $3.1m “financing facility” from the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.
“Together we have raised over 95% of the total project cost of $12.9m,” says the website at’s executive officer Jack Gilding says the company will be selling its power under a three year contract to a retailer, expecting $1.2m per year in revenue.
This would come about half-half from the sale of power and of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
Federal Government now requires power utilities to buy RECs on a sliding scale, reaching 20% of their production by 2020.
Mr Menzies doesn’t deny that larger plants are more efficient than smaller ones, but he insists that the small PV units are the way to go – notwithstanding that the taxpayer pays the rebates.
These will be gradually phased out in the next five years: “The greenfields we have at the moment are going to get dry,” he says.
However, he expects there will be an increasingly “robust feed-in structure which will then pay for the rest of your system”.
Mr Elmer says: “It is true that there are economies of scale, but setting up large to medium solar or other renewable energy plants is also far more complicated than individual household installation. 
“There is a wide range of financial, land supply, power purchase, legal, technological and grid connection issues to be addressed, to name a few.
“Small scale installations will continue to play a key role in the mix of generation technologies to meet our energy needs and allow individual householders to contribute to addressing climate change. 
“It also creates jobs at the local level,” says Mr Elmer.
“By splitting the renewable energy certificate target the Government is providing support for both sectors.”

Waterhole shooting: new charge. By KIERAN FINNANE.

One of the men facing charges, including attempted murder, over the Junction Waterhole shooting on May 29 this year, is facing additional charges of aggravated robbery and intention to cause, and cause of serious harm on the same day.
Benjamin Gaff is accused of stealing a man’s wallet on the morning of the shooting and “immediately before, at the time of and immediately after doing so [using] violence upon [the man] in order to obtain the said property”.
He and Reuben Nadich, co-accused of the shooting-related charges, appeared in the magistrates court last Thursday.
Dates for the committal hearing of charges against them have been set for November 15-19.
Appearing for Mr Nadich, lawyer Tony Whitelum said he has been instructed to make a bail application for his client. This was set down for August 19.
A third man, Jason Corp, is also charged over the shooting.
See our web archive for previous reports.

Job creation, Gillard style: The spin and the real world. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Aboriginal Central Land Council (CLC) has significant control over the development of agriculture and horticulture on almost all land in Central Australia – some of it highly prospective – whether Aboriginal held or not.
Roughly half of Central Australia is Aboriginal freehold land, where commercial development must be channelled through the CLC.
And the bulk of the remainder is pastoral land which is leased by the NT Government to pastoralists for running cattle.
“Any horticultural development on these areas would be subject to negotiations with the Native Title holders,” says the website of Centrefarm, an arm of the CLC which is in charge of native title negotiations.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and MHR for Lingiari Warren Snowdon are clearly comfortable with this: “Talk to Centrefarm” was Mr Snowdon’s advice when the Alice News, investigating commercial opportunities, asked Mr Snowdon for unemployment figures which his government has been withholding for more than a year.
A minder for Ms Gillard promised the figures during her recent visit to Alice Springs – and then promptly reneged on that promise.
That means not only is the News prevented from carrying out its research, it is also hampered in its task of reporting on the performance of the the publicly funded Centrefarm.
One pastoralist, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, says he’s tried to negotiate with the CLC about a farm block on his cattle station but has given up in disgust.
Centrefarm, like other organisations spawned by the CLC, clearly doesn’t think it is answerable to the public for what it is doing, its absorption of public money notwithstanding.
Like the clandestine Centrecorp – which has investments worth millions, supposedly for the benefit of Aboriginal people of The Centre, but keeps any news of their performance and distribution of dividends under tight wraps – Centrefarm in dealing with media clearly has a default procedure of “no comment” except for its own handouts.
CLC director and a director of Centrecorp David Ross is a Centrefarm director.
Centrefarm secretary is Bob Kennedy, General Manager of Centrecorp.
Last week the Alice News sought details about the only live project in more than 10 years of CLC tinkering with horticulture and agriculture, a watermelon plot at Ali Curung, some 300 km north of Alice Springs.
We wanted to know details such as the size of the plot, the value of its annual production, what public subsidies it is getting, and especially, how many local people it employs.
Last year Ali Curung had an unemployment level of nearly 100 – 74 New Start and fewer than 20 Youth Allowance recipients (exact figures are not given if they are less than 20).
We had heard from an insider that half a dozen or so locals had a full time job at the plantation, but come picking time, interstate and possibly overseas labour would be brought in – an absurd proposition given the idle labour in and around Ali Curung.
“There are currently 118 jobs in Ali Curung and Murray Downs with only a small percentage of these being filled by local people,” says the Centrefarm website.
“Significant employment outcomes should result over the next 5 years.”
Centrefarm general manager Allan Cooney didn’t return our phone call last week.
Project development manager Vin Lange, who formerly ran the popular Lane restaurant in Todd Mall, had a polite but unrevealing conversation with the News, saying major things were about to happen but could not be disclosed at the moment, and no further answers would be given.
Centrefarm chairman Bruce “Tracker” Tilmouth, a former CLC director, has also been overheard recently talking about imminent major things, but also did not return the call of the Alice News.
No doubt the “major things” line gives oxygen to the ongoing supply of money from governments.
Says the website: “The Aboriginal horticulture strategy requires the support and ongoing involvement of agencies such as DEWR [the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations], Indigenous Land Corporation, Aboriginals Benefit Account and NT Government departments of Business Industry & Resource Development, Infrastructure Planning & Environment and Community Development Sport & Cultural Affairs.”
One of the first “major things” was a citrus project at Utopia more than 10 years ago (June 7, 2000, “Land council seeks ground breaking deal” <>): local employment in a $9m joint venture with a prominent southern company were the buzzwords.
If successful, the scheme could show the way to a wide range of commercial activities in the bush, especially horticulture, providing income and employment on a large scale to people on communities currently with massive unemployment, the News quoted a spokesman as saying.
A trip to Israel was organised for “a delegation of traditional owners, ATSIC members and officers of the Territory Department of Primary Industries” to see how it’s done.
In the end, nothing came of the venture.
It’s clearly not something that keeps Mr Snowdon awake at night.
We asked him two weeks ago what happened to the citrus project.
SNOWDON: How do I know? I’m not in charge of citrus projects. Talk to Centrefarm. They are actively engaged in the field, doing it right now.
NEWS: So far as I know there is absolutely no progress with it. They may have been actively engaged in the field for at least a decade yet there has been zero progress.
SNOWDON: That’s not correct. Have you been to Ali Curung?
NEWS: I know there is a pumpkin plantation there [in fact it’s watermelons]. What else?
SNOWDON: They are actively seeking other opportunities. Apparently there are some blocks at TiTree that could be developed except for road access.
And what of his government’s refusal to give us the unemployment figures?
SNOWDON: I think you should talk to Centrefarm and the NT Government because they are actively engaged in identifying these blocks. 
Mr Snowdon’s resolve to put responsibility for employment development into the hands of the CLC are clearly in tune with those of his boss, the Prime Minister.
Ms Gillard, when she was still Deputy Prime Minister, visited Alice Springs to open the Desert Peoples Centre on May 28.
Here she was opening a facility with job creation as its prime objective while her government was refusing crucial information to a community based initiative with the same goal – arguably with a much greater prospect of success.
The News is receiving valuable advice for the project from CDU research professor Rolf Gerritsen and the region’s top water expert, John Childs.
Rather than putting Ms Gillard on the spot during a media doorstop, we raised the issues, before the doorstop, with her minder, Sally Tindall.
The News explained to her the context of our project, as we had previously put it to Mr Snowdon at least three times:-
• There is a vast amount of arable land in Central Australia.
• There are significant quantities of ground water in several locations.
• There is cheap freight for taking produce south, as “back loading” on transports – road and rail – going mostly empty.
• There is a wealth of horticultural knowledge in the SA Riverland where growers with expertise accumulated over generations do not have enough water to use it.
• And there is rampant unemployment in Aboriginal communities, some of them in close proximity to plentiful underground water: all we need to know is where they are.
We explained to Ms Tindall that over a period of more than a year, Centrelink and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs had refused us meaningful information: They supplied regional figures, which were useless.
We needed them community by community as it is not reasonable for people to commute more than 15kms.
Ms Tindall said we would get the figures.
We didn’t raise the issue in the doorstop with Ms Gillard.
We didn’t get the figures.
All Ms Tindall did was refer us back to the people who had refused the information previously.
All this makes a mockery of Ms Gillard’s “Declaration of Open Government” released by outgoing Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner.
It says it commits the Australian Government to a “culture of engagement, built on better access to and use of government held information ... citizen collaboration [and it] will enhance the processes of government.”
This new process will be “strengthening citizen’s rights of access to information, collaborating with citizens on policy and service delivery, and making government more consultative and participatory.”
There is no doubt the community by community unemployment figures are in existence: Senator Nigel Scullion obtained some of them for us about a year ago. Here they are (numbers less than 20 – reported as <20 – are not directly reported as this may enable a customer or group of customers to be identified. The figures are New Start Allowance and Youth Allowance, respectively):-
Ali Curung 74, <20. Lake Nash 103, 22. Areyonga 45, 25. Utopia <20, <20. Finke 36, <20. Hermannsburg 92, 31. Docker River 79, 21. Kintore 98, 22. Mutitjulu 44, <20. Papunya 102, 25. Santa Teresa 119, 27. TiTree <20, <20. Willowra 36, <20. Yuendumu 137, 26.
The difficulty with these figures is that some of the locations, such as TiTree, are in close proximity to other locations with substantial unemployment figures.
We believe there are 29 communities in all.
In any case, to present complete information would be a task of a few minutes for the Centrelink office in Alice Springs which, one would imagine, knows where they are sending their dole cheques to.
However, the answer remains “no”.
The absence of a logical explanation for this conduct invites speculation: is this another step towards that parallel universe which is taking over Central Australia’s society?
For example, does the principle apply that is in force in the rest of the nation: if you reject a job you’re offered you lose the dole?
Centrefarm’s website suggests not: “By setting up a training structure that allows people to enter at their own capacity and work their way forward, people will be able to fail and try again.
“For example: if someone decides to go travelling with family for a few months, they can re-enter where they left off and try again.”
Whether or not they can go on the dole again during their time off is not explained.
The website’s jargon no doubt is evoking a knowing smile on the faces of funding bureaucrats.
Some samples:-
“The purpose of the project is to develop a structural and systemic pathway for Indigenous people at Ali Curung and Murray Downs to participate in long term employment.
“The methodology will be through the establishment of a local service provider’s action group who will work across a range of industry to develop the capacity of Indigenous Job Seekers to a standard that is acceptable to Employers.
“[A] five step process will include input from employers and the coordination of existing services [intending] to engage whole families or individuals and is based on the premise that people need to organise their lives around being at work if they are to participate in the workforce as the first step.
“The five steps are as follows: Labour Market Induction ... Generic Pre-Employment Training ... Pre-Vocational Work Skills Training ... Work Skills Training and Work Experience on CDEP ... Apprenticeships and Traineeships.
At this point it may be useful to bear in mind that the unemployed at Ali Curung aren’t being trained for brain surgery, but for growing and picking watermelons.
Well-known Alice gardener Geoff Miers explains how it’s done:
You clear the ground. You apply fertiliser – organic or NPK, that’s nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. You put in irrigation lines.
You plant seeds, three at at time (just to be sure) about three centimetres deep. At the flowering stage apply potash.
The time to harvest is about 12 to 14 weeks after planting. 
The small tendril drying is the best indicator of the melon being ripe, as is the turning yellow of the underside, and it sounding hollow when knocked.
You then snip the melon from its stem and put it in a trailer.
That, for Centrefarm, clearly sounds all too easy: “If the project is successful then it will prove that just giving people a job does not make them employees.
“That there needs to be an holistic approach taken to reaching long term employment outcomes and that this can only be done by working with families to ensure that people’s lives are organised around being at work, or school or at their designated activity.
“In the longer term we believe that people who get up in the morning send their kids to school and this is the key issue for the future.”

Stuart statue comes and goes. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The veiled statue of John McDouall Stuart, explorer and Mason, was last Friday afternoon lowered by a crane into a temporary pedestal on the Town Council lawns, speeches were made, the statue duly unveiled and then it was taken away again. 
A cheerful atmosphere prevailed even if the controversy over this gift to the community of Alice Springs occasionally rose to the surface.
Everyone played their part. 
A phalanx of local Freemasons, in dark suits and Masonic regalia, stood at the edge of the gathering.
Brother Les Pilton, of the McDouall Stuart Lodge Number 219, introduced Mrs Betty Pearce, with an elevated reference as “the senior native title member of the Arrernte people”, who had “graciously offered to present a ‘welcome to country’”.
Mrs Pearce spoke of the “pioneer spirit, the spirit of Alice Springs and how we need to be looking at our future ... in the spirit of being together, advancing together”.
Her ideas in that direction were to have dual street names – “Central Arrernte names as well as white man, non-Aboriginal names so we can have an absolutely unique town”.
She also wanted to see an “Alice Springs Garden of History” created at Stuart Park with “busts and statues of all the other pioneers, the Aboriginal ones, the cameleers, the miners”.
“It would be our history and McDouall Stuart would be the first one to start that history off,” said Mrs Pearce, before she accompanied Mr Pilton to touch the still veiled statue with her walking stick.
Mrs Pearce also commented on the concerns expressed over the statue carrying a gun: “Well let’s face it, back in the old days and even in today’s days when people want to go out bush, hunting or looking for food, they carry guns.
And I know lots of Aboriginal people with licenses to go shooting and they get kangaroo and stuff like that. So really speaking, let’s forget about that gun and let it die.”
Brother Ron Ross played a Robbie Burns song on the bag pipes, “A man’s a man for all that”.
Mr Pilton described the gifting of the statue as “a risk taken by members of McDouall Stuart Lodge ... just a group of people holding a belief that this explorer should be recognised. We got support in our belief by the townspeople we spoke to”.
He warned anyone considering building a statue that “the road is long and tough”.
“It seemed that the only opportunity to keep fit these last few weeks was to continually jump hurdles placed in the way.”
He thanked Mayor Damien Ryan and the council for the opportunity of presenting the statue, suppliers who had supported the cause, the SA and NT Grand Master who was here to do the unveiling and finally “our sculptor Mark Egan, a local lad, Territory born and bred”.
“To work with and alongside his creative genius is awe-inspiring. He has done us proud to have come this far and stick to the task when it appeared alas our labour was lost.”
Barry Skipsey sang a song composed by himself and Dave Evans about Stuart, called “What drives a man”.
“What a wonderful day, a beautiful day,” he said as he thanked the crowd for their applause.
Mayor Damien Ryan acknowledged, as he always does, “the Central Arrernte people who are the traditional owners and custodians of Alice Springs”.
He said the statue and ceremony will “help us mark the 150th anniversary of Stuart’s expedition through the Centre of Australia”.
He commented on a replica of “a stunning 19th century oil painting of John McDouall Stuart [that] was presented to the people of Alice Springs fittingly by Australia’s very first local government which was the City of Adelaide”, seeming to make a link between this uncontroversial gift and the one “being presented to our town by the Freemasons”, which he accepted “on behalf of the Alice Springs community”.
He spoke of the reasons why we remember Stuart – “his sense of determination and his explorer spirit ... his commitment to Central Australia ... I mean this is part of our heritage here in Central Australia”.
Ted Egan sang his song about Stuart, “Rider in the mirage” which will feature on his forthcoming album, but spoke first about Stuart and about his son, Mark, who had borne the brunt  of some of the criticism of the statue.
He said Mark had researched his subject and would not have undertaken the commission had there been evidence of aggression by Stuart towards Aboriginals.
“On the contrary,” said Mr Egan, “when confronted by the Waramungu at Attack Creek, he graciousy turned around and went back to Adelaide.
He did not want any confrontation.
“So the gun does not represent invasion, people who are using ‘invasion’ are using it very ill-advisedly.
“The gun represents the man who is struggling against the harsh interior and living off the land to try to cross this country.”
(For a different reading of what happened at Attack Creek, by Dick Kimber, see
It was almost time for the unveiling, done jointly by the Masonic Grand Master for SA and NT, Brother Ray Clark, together with the Mayor.
Mr Clark made his thankyous including to “the community of Alice Springs for allowing Freemasons to be involved in celebrations”.
He expressed pride in the fact “that many of our early pioneers such as Sir Charles Todd and John McDouall Stuart and other leading citizens of Alice Springs ... were all Freemasons” and talked about the work in the community that Freemasonry does today.
He noted that it took Stuart, this “go-getter explorer”, five attempts to cross the continent and made a light-hearted reference to the controversy around the statue: “It will take a few attempts too for this statue to find its final destination.”
Until the actual unveiling all reference to the controversy came from those officially taking part in the ceremony.
Several people who had expressed concern over council’s processes around the gifting observed the ceremony without making their presence felt.
Another small group had held up a banner throughout the proceedings, reading “No room for racism”. Some of them, if not all, are associated with the Intervention Rollback Action Group, including activist Barbara Shaw who is standing for the Greens in Lingiari.
As the statue was unveiled to cheers and applause from the crowd there was some booing from this group and cries of “Shame on you!”.
As this persisted, Barry Skipsey urged the assembly to give three cheers for McDouall Stuart, which many did.
Proceedings over and a cold breeze blowing, the crowd soon dispersed and the crane moved back into place to take the statue away until the issues around its final location are resolved.

Stuart statue: Where to from here?

How confident can we be that the fiasco surrounding the yet-to-be-finalised erection of the statue of John McDouall Stuart will not be repeated?
There will be a review of the public art policy.
CEO Rex Mooney says this has been called for for some time by the Public Art Advisory Committee.
It will become a priority once the committee has finished dealing with the public art that is to be installed in the Aquatic and Leisure Centre, says Mr Mooney.
He mentions as an area of concern the clause relevant to the current controversy, dealing with gifting, saying that the intention behind the clause was to deal with gifting to the Public Art Collection and that statues are not mentioned.
He says statues are clearly public art, but there is a grey area in the policy concerning dealing with them.
Is council intending to remove this area from the purview of the committee or is it approaching the review with an open mind?
Mayor Damien Ryan says the intention is “trying to get something that everyone’s happy with”, commenting that council has reviewed a lot of things, such as the public places by-laws, and the subdivision and development guidelines.
Who’ll be contributing to the review?
The advisory committee and council, says Mr Mooney.
“If you’re asking if there are going to be any parameters set at the outset, there won’t be.”
It is both the council’s and the Freemasons’ intention that the Stuart statue finds its final home at the heritage-protected Stuart Park.
The Freemasons will be making the requisite application to the Heritage Minister, Gerry McCarthy, as part of the gifting process.
Once they have heritage approval “we’ll have to sign off on it as controllers of the land”, says Mr Ryan.
And what if they don’t gain approval?
“I’m not going down that track,” says Mr Ryan.
If there were any doubt, it became absolutely clear last Friday that the statue is not only in honour of Stuart the explorer, who was a Mason, but honours Freemasonry itself.
Three out of the four plaques to be affixed to the pedestal refer in some way to Freemasonry.
One understandably acknowledges the gift of the McDouall Stuart Lodge and the unveiling if it by the SA and NT Grand Master, Brother Ray Clark.
The one that gives Stuart’s life dates – 7th September 1815 to 5th June 1866 – does so under a Masonic symbol, even though Stuart was only inducted into Freemasonry a year before the 1860 expedition, as the crowd were informed by Brother Les Pilton last Friday. 
A further plaque lists past members of the McDouall Stuart Lodge, 146 of them, many well-known names.
A question to Mr Ryan about whether council is concerned about this earns a lecture on Australian civic values.
“I find it really interesting that maybe some people who are born Australian don’t actually understand what [this] is about,” he says.
He then reads from information he refers to during citizenship ceremonies: “All Australians have a commitment to various values and institutions and these include parliamentary democracy, equality before the law, freedom of the individual, freedom of speech and religion, equality between men and women, equality of opportunity for all.”
“People who become citizens have to look into that before they do it,” says Mr Ryan.
“It seems that there are others out there who may not really understand that’s really a part of life. We live in a  multi-cultural town. A gift was made by somebody this year in relation to the 150th Anniversary.” 
So how would council respond to a request to construct a monument from other groups?
Mr Ryan retorts: “I thought you were here to report the news, not to make the news. And when that happens, let’s discuss that issue.”
Mr Ryan clearly mistakes concerns about perceived special treatment by council for a particular interest group for an attack on freedom of speech and religion. 
The Alice News attempts to move on to a question about potential conflict of interest.
Mr Ryan heads off any elaboration about the legitimacy of this question:
“That is what is so disappointing to me by the people reporting on this issue.
“There was no conflict of interest stated by any member of council.
“Now we do things in council every month and I accept that the people in there understand conflict of interest.
“That there’s been this driving point by certain journalists actually undermines the integrity of all the elected members.
“You’re saying they don’t understand conflict of interest and that is a disappointment to me.”
Actually not saying it, asking a question. Again he cuts the News off.
“No, no. They’d never ask that question on rubbish or something else.
“It’s been a driven point and I’ve not answered it up to this point because I’ve been so disillusioned that people who report on council wouldn’t actually see the integrity of the elected members who have the opportunity to issue their conflict of interest on any issue that goes to council. That’s the most disappointing fact.”

Namatjira: Unexpected comedy. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Trevor Jamieson has a rival and what a pair the two make.
Jamieson’s mature brilliance, moving from sombre, poignant notes to moments of satire, farce and vaudeville, was matched by the bubbling charm, the joyful high camp comedy and the beautiful singing voice of Derek Lynch when they took all the roles in Big hART’s presentation of scenes from the play Namatjira, written by Scott Rankin.
At the weekend’s celebrations of the Namatjira legacy the scenes were blended with other acknowledgments on stage of the Namatjira legacy – a performance by the Ntaria Ladies Choir, a presentation by the Hermannsburg Potters, short films made with the Namatjira family in the course of developing the project.
Archie Roach, who performed three moving songs, also spoke of the way Namatjira had touched him while he was still at school in faraway Victoria: “He was a hero to the Aboriginal people when Aboriginal people needed heroes.”
But the scenes from the play were a runaway highlight, guaranteeing audiences for a full production expected to return to Alice next year after premiering at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre in September and going on national tour.
The production is billed as asking the question, “How did Australia’s most iconic Indigenous watercolour artist end up dying a broken man?”. The seriousness which that question promises is certainly there, and especially in the final scene when Jamieson as Namatjira – torn between two worlds – asks himself, “Maybe I have no story?”
Along the way though Jamieson and Lynch take us for a rollicking ride, with jokes, satiric jibes and hilarious scenes, whether set on the Hermannsburg mission or on Namatjira’s interstate excursions, where the artist was feted, fawned over and patronised.
It’s a story about white Australia’s response to an Aboriginal man as much as it is about the man himself.
“What were we yearning for?” asks the play of its assumed white audience.
“A black man we can be proud of?”
Whatever else they achieve, something Big hART can certainly be proud of is bringing to the fore two great Aboriginal talents of the stage, Jamieson and Lynch.

The bikes are back at speedway! By CHRISANNE WALSH.

My interest in speedway began back in the late ‘60s when my mum would take me and a few friends out to Arunga Park on a Saturday afternoon. As the years went by, I developed a real passion for the bike divisions and sidecars in particular.
I’d heard lately that the bike numbers at Arunga Park were gradually building up from almost zero. So with bikes as my first love, I decided to go out last Sunday and have a look at a practice session specifically for solos and outfits.
I wasn’t disappointed! The weather was perfect, the track was in great shape and there were four solo riders and eight outfits – my kind of paradise!
There are differences as well as similarities between these people: they’re all family-orientated;  their ages range from late teens through to mid-fifties; and in their everyday lives they are electricians, panel beaters, mechanics, law enforcement and construction workers, as well as in administrative and managerial positions.
Add to this the mixture of riding abilities and levels of experience and then throw in a mish-mash of machines which have a number of similarities but at the same time, remain very different.
This all creates a diverse group of people who will go out of their way to help one another but also remain extremely competitive. I believe they will be a real crowd pleaser for speedway patrons throughout the oncoming season.
Quite a few of them have previous ties with speedway in one way or another, with some being second generation competitors.
The solo riders were Ben Lennon, Paul Sabadin, Jason Stewart and Ryan Wark. Ryan is the son of Robbie Wark – one of Arunga Park’s past solo riders and an Alice Springs title holder.
Although a newcomer to Alice Springs, Jason Stewart certainly isn’t a newcomer to solo riding. Hailing from Mildura, he has ridden in the UK and has some 19 years of riding experience under his belt. He shows real talent on the track and watching him ride, it’s easy to see his confidence and professionalism, which he gladly shares with the other less experienced solo competitors.
Ben Lennon, in his early thirties, is considered to be a bit of a ‘late starter’ but is showing promise in a seemingly quiet and confident manner, while Paul Sabadin as an up and coming young rider is also good to watch.
An encouraging sight is another of Arunga Park’s past solo title holders, Warren Hall, who has become a mentor to the two wheeled division and gives a lot of advice and assistance.
The outfit competitors are nearly all second generation Arunga Park competitors, which is great to see. There is the Carragher family: parents Brian and Janelle on one bike and their son Arlen on another. Although originally from Tennant Creek, they have resided in Alice Springs for almost eleven years now.
Then there‘s the Thompson/Anderson combination. Garth has previous track experience through earlier days of racing quads, stockbikes, super sedans, sprintcars and go karts. He also raced a sidecar four years ago.
He is the eldest son of Mike and Michelle Thompson with Mike previously racing super sedans and sprintcars and currently racing go karts.
Phil Anderson probably has the most speedway history out of them all and is actually a third generation member of the club. Phil’s late grandfather Bob Aspinall was a founding member and much loved stock car driver in the 1960s and early ‘70s.
Phil’s dad Smacker and Uncle Ricky, were speedcar drivers in the early to mid ‘70s and Phil himself has prior track experience from racing stockbikes and formula 500s in past seasons. 
Newcomer Chris Dess has a background in moto-x and performed well with Kyle Laverty swinging for him on the day.
Kyle’s brother Chris is on another machine with Dave Pirie as his passenger.
Chris and Kyle’s dad Gerry, was a passenger for Geoff Wright back in the mid ‘70s, while Chris’ wife Kylie is a niece of the past sidecar team of Brian Jennings and Steve Walsh.
Dave Pirie was originally a passenger for Rob Furber in the late ‘80s to late ‘90s and has raced at many interstate tracks.  The combination of Cameron Miller and Samantha Fidler also has an Arunga Park history – Cameron is the younger brother of top solo rider Phil Miller, while Sam is the middle daughter of one of Arunga Park’s earliest members and competitors, John “Snowy” Fidler.
Two other sidecar combinations who were at the practice and in great shape were Dave Totani with Darren Hyman as his passenger and the husband and wife team of Brian and Niara Metcalfe.
The duo of Marcus Seidel and Stevie Saunders were the only missing outfit on the day due to prior commitments.
At the end of the day, a group of solo and sidecar supporters supplied a barbeque and refreshments for everyone.
One of the them, Mark Hildebrandt, told me how he and a few of his mates decided to get together and support the bikes by chipping in a few dollars to pay for the practice fees and source donations from various businesses around town.
Sunday’s barbeque was supported by donations from Kosmos Foods, Lion Nathan, Angelo Tassone and Shorty’s. Mark and his mates have volunteered their services for the oncoming season and will be an invaluable asset not only to the bike section but Arunga Park as a whole.
According to many national solo and sidecar title holders and world renowned riders such as Ivan Mauger and Phil Crump, Arunga Park is known as one of the top three bike tracks in Australia.
Although it had minimum preparation, Sunday’s track didn’t disappoint: every bike seemed to cruise effortlessly with the riders (and their passengers) giving it all they could.
Every bike seemed highly competitive too, which will put them all in good stead for the proposed NT Titles to be held here sometime in November.
It was great to see so many bikes come together for the first time in a lot of years. I spent most of the time on the infield taking photos, getting dusty and smelling the fumes.
I have to say, it gave me a real sense of enjoyment - a sort of ‘coming home’ feeling.
The entire atmosphere of the practice day held a mixture of camaraderie, help and advice, and friendly rivalry – a unique bond that bikers seem to share.
A reminder: Arunga Park will be holding its AGM this Saturday at the clubrooms from 2pm.

Locals join GetUp election initiative.

The grass-roots independent community advocacy organisation GetUp has recently brought together a group of residents in Alice Springs to raise awareness of key election issues – climate change, mental health, and asylum seekers.
To date the group is small, with about 10 people involved, but they hope to attract more members as the word gets around.
In coordination with similar events around the country, the group ran a Mental Health Forum and Vigil this week; will join with 10,000 walkers around Australia in the Walk Against Warming on Sunday August 15, starting 11am at the ASTC lawns; and just before the election will publish a scorecard showing the performance of the major parties in these key areas.
GetUp scored a major victory last week, winning its high court case to extend the electoral enrolment time to seven days after an election is called. This has allowed an extra 100,000 Australians to vote at this election.
Like all GetUp campaigns, the case was funded solely by donations from among its 374,000 members.
GetUp is not-for-profit and receives no money from any political party or the government.
Anyone can join online at:
Local Man Ben McIntyre says that very little is known with certainty about climate change – it is a game of probabilities. Despite the protestations of the sceptics, there is definite scientific consensus on these broad probabilities. 
The Californian outboard motor emissions legislation of the late 1990s forced that industry to completely re-think their approach, and today the same companies are world leaders because motors which produce less emissions are also far more efficient.
Measures like the ETS provide an across-the-board market mechanism to foster a gradual shift towards sustainable technology. At present the market does not factor in carbon emissions as a cost so dirty coal is the cheapest fuel.

NANCARROW ARROW: Laughing and crying as they departed this world.

Bit sad this week, readers. Two fine folk who should still be with us have been laid to rest.
I’ve been fortunate in my life, I haven’t had to attend too many funerals but this week there were two. Liz and Dougie both passed on far too early, one from a broken heart and one from a tragic accident.
I couldn’t make it to Liz’s memorial but I was told that it was beautiful and deeply moving.
Dougie on the other hand, well I wasn’t just going for me. He had a bunch of friends living overseas from his time frequenting Sean’s Bar way back and I was going as a representative of that mob as well as my own wish to pay tribute to the big fellah.
I was a bit behind the pump time wise on the day and Kirsty had taken the car, so I had to ride the scooter out to the bone yard. Bit dodgy when the speed limit is anywhere from 80 kms an hour up to 100 and I’m speed limited to 50.
So I’m giving it all I had in the shoulder area of the road, trying to stay on track and not get bowled over when I see a big grey car coming up alongside.
“Bugger,” I think to myself, “it’s the hearse and Dougie’s going to overtake me on his final ride in a limo.”
“Woosh” the Peter Kittle courtesy car went past and I don’t see a box in the back so I figure that the hearse isn’t in the shop getting a service and I really am running late.
I get there in one piece and see a group of people standing in a corner and head that way.
 Fortunately I was in time to hear most of the tributes and kind words said about Douglas Kerr.
Then an old mate steps up in his professionally sombre manner, says a few words, hits the switch for the winch and it’s bye bye Dougie.
The music as the coffin descended was perfect, the lyrics and mood of “Nature boy” was followed by “Always look on the bright side of life” by Monty Python.
The first song made me sad and the second laugh and cry at the same time.
I looked over at the undertaker and wondered how he coped with this intense emotion on a regular basis.
My mate Brucey could handle it. He worked a night shift at the local morgue and his only comment about the job was it was nice and quiet.
He’s a bit special, is my mate Brucey, laid back and chilled since the first time
I met him, not much fazed the bloke and he was slow to anger.
Perhaps that’s the secret, it’s a case of the right personality for the job, and you can always teach the skills required.
So I rode back into town in a thoughtful, melancholy mood.  The bright blue sky seemed a little more vivid and I was glad to be breathing the cold, crisp air.
Why is it that it takes a tragedy to remind us how lucky we are?
The little things build up and we forget to celebrate the simple things, friends, lovers, family.
Oh, Alice folk, if there is one lesson I can share this week, it’s live well, love with all your heart and be happy.
And “always look on the bright side of life, dum, de dum, da dum de dum de dum….” 

LETTERS: Salute to Ingkerreke’s focus on independence.

Sir – I was delighted to read Kieran Finnane’s story in your July 1 edition about the success of the Ingkerreke operation.
A focus on independence, participating in the real commercial world and developing real skills to assist in growing our extensive community are all sensational outcomes.
I was particularly impressed by the fact that the organsation does not rely on grants or subsidies – a true aspect of independence.
It is clearly a ‘culture of dependence’ that has thwarted the real progress of many people over the past half century.
People who learned to rely on ‘government give-aways’ and lost their sense of pride, spirit and culture as a result.
That’s across the board in every town, city and region around Australia.
People under 50 who have grown up believing that they don’t have to contribute positively to their community or society at any level and every two weeks the government hands them money in any case!!
What have some people been learning here?
To become dependent, avoid responsibility for their actions, rely on ‘someone else’ to do the work, disrespect others in our community by stealing, destroying, assaulting or otherwise ‘taking’ without any sense of ‘giving’.
Impoverished souls who have learned to ‘fill themselves with spirit’ (of the alcohol variety) to survive.
Young people growing up in that environment learning from their surroundings that life like that is ‘normal’ so they grow up to inflict on others what was inflicted on them.
Well, times are changing for the better.
I clearly look forward to witnessing the on-going growth and success of Ingkerreke and hope that more organisations build upon that model so that, as a ‘whole-of-community’, we see Alice Springs and Central Australia thrive long into the future.
To Scott McConnell and his tremendous team ... Alice salutes you!
Meanwhile,  lovely work also by Kieran Finnane on Fiona O’Loughlin’s story in the July 29 edition.
Fiona truly is one of our very special ‘home grown’ stars. Her decision to ‘bare all’ (literally) at her performance was a true indication of the strength this woman has.
Battling demons is never an easy task ... she took them ‘head on’ and is winning!!
Thanks, Kieran, for your positive profile (July 8) and compassionate reflections.
Phil Walcott
IndependeNT Candidate for Greatorex
Alice Springs

Dirty servo?

Sir – Can I say, having visited Alice Springs recently after 15 years, the place is as beautiful as always and moved forward in many ways.
The only bad site was the Caltex at 44a Stuart Hwy which was so dirty it was not  good to see, rubbish everywhere.
As a front of town operation this place needs a kick up the backside.
It’s the dirtiest servo I have been in in a while. 
The floor looks like it has never been mopped up.
Thank you Alice Springs for the special place you present.
Steven Mondon
ED – The manager at the Caltex Service Station was offered right of reply over a week ago, to which he did not respond.

Lawyers welcome
Chief Magistrate

Sir – We welcome the appointment of Hillary Hannam as the new Chief Magistrate of the Northern Territory.
Chief Magistrate Hannam has excellent credentials and it is noted that she has particular interest in issues such the Children’s Court, Indigenous justice, alcohol court matters and therapeutic justice, all of which will be of great benefit to the Territory’s judicial system and the operation of justice in the Territory.
Mrs Hannan was formerly Acting President of the NSW Children’s Court and is current President of the NSW Magistrates Association.
Matthew Storey
President, Law Society Northern Territory

Back to our home page.