September 16, 2010. This page contains all major
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In white man’s time this is the best season ever. By KIERAN FINNANE.

No living person would have seen the Simpson Desert like it is now, says veteran desert traveller and historian Dick Kimber.
It could even be postulated that the desert has not seen such an abundance of water, plant and animal life since Europeans first came into the country, he says.
This extraordinary season and the apparent “window of opportunity” presented by the sudden powerful focus on regional Australia in the federal parliament presented the backdrop early this week for the Lake Eyre Basin conference held in Alice Springs.
Stakeholders in the basin should “shamelessly use” the present political opportunity, said key note speaker Professor Ian Lowe, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation: “Take your pitch to the rural independents,” he urged.
The basin, a unique inland-draining rivers system, covers roughly one sixth of the Australian land mass, crossing four jurisdictions, with Alice Springs, the area’s largest population centre, sitting at its western extremity. It has enormous tourism potential, well tapped in the south-west Queensland area, but fairly neglected in the region east and south of Alice Springs.
Joc Schmiechen, Tourism Industry Member of the Lake Eyre Basin Community Advisory Committee, and Senior Consultant for Rural Solutions SA, says Alice’s attention is all directed to the west – the West MacDonnells, The Rock and the western deserts.
His passion however is for the east – the Eastern MacDonnells, the western side of the Simpson Desert, down to Oodnadatta and Maree.
He believes this area could be the premium heritage tourism destination in all of Australia.
The key issue for the area is not marketing it, but infrastructure investment and better management, he argues.
Two million people travelled through the basin in 2009, the normal tourism flows augmented by people wanting to experience the inland after transforming flood and rain events.
And visitors are continuing to come in droves, serviced by a tiny dispersed population, with fairly poor infrastructure. 
Mr Schmiechen travelled into the area with Mr Kimber a fortnight ago.
As an example of poor infrastructure, they both decry the punt at Birdsville, crossing the Cooper Creek.
Tourists who had come for the Birdsville Races had to queue all day to be taken across the flooded creek by the single vehicle punt, with local “bush engineering” solutions to the problem constrained by the regulations of a remote bureaucracy.
To get improvements into the basin the voting power of its visitors needs be harnessed in order to apply pressure on governments, says Mr Schmiechen.
The national parks bordering the east and west of the Simpson Desert – the “hottest outback focal point” drawing more and more visitors each year  – are hopelessly understaffed, with one ranger each.
What can one person do in a landscape of this scale?
“Our landscape is one of our great assets, but what are we doing to look after it?”
A stewardship principle for land management must be adopted, he argues in concert with Professor Lowe.
This would see land holders, whether Aboriginal owners or pastoral leaseholders, recompensed for eco-system management work.
It’s an issue on which the Australian Conservation Foundation and the National Farmers Federation stand shoulder to shoulder, according to Professor Lowe.
It happens in countries like Switzerland, says Mr Schmiechen, where farmers are subsidised to maintain the country’s iconic “chocolate box” landscape.
In the Flinders Ranges, when the wool market went into decline, pastoralists, through their own enterprise, also took on this kind of role.
They opened up their shearers’ quarters to accommodate tourists, they provided access to 4WD enthusiasts, charging for the privilege. There are now 20 private 4WD tracks in the area, together with campsites to which the pastoralists provide basic services.
For some, tourism is now their main business. This had the advantage of taking pressure off the national parks. National parks can find it difficult to attract staff into remote areas, points out Mr Schmiechen, but Aboriginal land holders and pastoralists want to be there, though it’s not always economically viable.
At the same time as responding to present conditions, residents of the basin also need to look into the future, at how change being brought on by climate change and peak oil will impact on the region’s activities.
The baby boomer generation has had the time and money like no other to do the self-drive exploring that the basin has been witnessing, says Mr Schmiechen.
But if the price of fuel rises dramatically this kind of tourism will inevitably change.

Land Council heavy charged. By

Gina Smith, the first ever woman deputy chairperson of the Central Land Council (CLC), has been charged with aggravated assault, disorderly behavior in a public place and resisting police in the execution of their duty.
The charges were mentioned twice in the Tennant Creek Court and have been adjourned to October 5.
Ms Smith was elected in April.
The CLC website says: “The Council made history when it elected Gina Smith from Tennant Creek as Deputy Chair.
“It is the first time in the CLC’s 34-year history that a woman has been elected to such a position.”

Snowdon on again, off again after poor showing. By

When Prime Minister Julia Gillard put together her new Cabinet last week, Warren Snowdon had lost the portfolio significant to Central Australia – Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery.
Mr Snowdon received Veterans’ Affairs and retained Defense Science and Personnel.
But he got back the Indigenous Health part of his previous portfolio this week, just hours before the swearing in of the new government, in the wake of protests from the medical industry.
Mr Snowdon’s primary vote as the sitting Member for Lingiari had dropped 14% to 40% although his main opponent, the Country Liberals’ Leo Abbott, was the victim of internal party hostilities rare in crucial times such as tight elections. After the distribution of preferences Mr Snowdon had 54%, down 7.38%.
The Greens’ Barbara Shaw did well with 12% of the primary vote, and green preferences clearly saved Mr Snowdon’s bacon.
Peter Flynn (Citizens Electoral Council), and the independents Deirdre Finter and Kenny Lechleitner, received about 4% each of the primary vote.
An electoral worker for Mr Snowdon, Vince Jeisman, says the “science” part of the defense portfolio deals with matters including defense industries and research.
The “personnel” side deals with matters such as defense personnel’s health, family issues, accommodation and so on.
It does not embrace defense procurement.
The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) was one of several organizations protesting on Monday the axing of the original health portfolio held by Mr Snowdon, demanding an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The association also called on the country independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott “to use their power within the new Government to demand the reinstatement of the portfolio.
“Maybe we were fools,” RDAA President, Dr Nola Maxfield, said in a media release. But we actually thought the Gillard Government was at least a little fair dinkum about making this Government a better one for rural Australia, even if it was just to keep the country independents appeased.
“So to axe the portfolio of Indigenous, Rural and Regional Health as one of its first decisions is staggering.
“With Warren Snowdon as the Minister there was at least a dedicated focus on the rural health crisis, a crisis that is impacting so badly on rural and remote communities across Australia and the seven million Australians who live in the bush.
“Having lived in regional Australia for many years, Minister Snowdon understood the problem and was genuinely prepared to listen to rural health professionals and the solutions they were putting forward,” said Dr Maxfield.

Alice’s new desert leaders, and how they will make a difference. By KIERAN FINNANE.

It’s all about customer service
James Nolan was well known as manager at the popular Todd Mall restaurant, The Lane, when he suddenly changed course and became a police officer.
He loves it – “It’s the best job I’ve ever had” – and says we shouldn’t be surprised: “Both jobs are about customer service, it’s just that in this one the customer’s not always right.” 
Right or not though, everyone deserves to be treated with courtesy, to have their dignity respected.
“That’s the ethos that my parents held dear and that I was fortunate to be brought up with,” says James.
His parents moved from a sheep stud in south-east South Australia to Alice in 1988. James was 14.
He did Year 10 at OLSH and then Years 11 and 12 (twice) at Sadadeen Secondary College (as Centralian was then known).
The friends he made then are still his friends.
After leaving school he worked first for Asreal and then Neata Glass and on the side began tending the bars in local venues.
His parents moved to Victoria when James was 20. He joined them for a while, tried studying, decided it was not for him, and spent the next couple of years working in hospitality, playing footy and “probably drinking too much, the things that young men do”.
He moved back to Alice in 1997. He was supervisor at Al Fresco’s for a year, intending to work and save to go travelling, but at the start on ‘98 he met Leah. They had their first child in 1999 and got married soon after.
Now they have four children, Declan (11), Grace (9), Ailis (7) and Cormac (2).
James worked at Puccini’s, the Casino and then at The Lane where he stayed for four and a half years.
Joining the police was all about trying to achieve a better “work/life balance”, he says.
He worked very long days in hospitality and wasn’t spending nearly enough time with Leah and his kids.
As a policeman he does shiftwork but at the end of his eight or nine hours, he can leave work behind and be “just James Nolan, not Constable Nolan”.
He also likes the autonomy of his role. He is confronted with a situation and it’s up to him and his partner to deal with it as best they can.
His perception of policing had been shaped mostly by his time at The Lane, observing police interact with people in the mall, and on several occasions with himself as the victim, after the restaurant had been broken into.
“I didn’t perceive any inherent cynicism or pessimism about their role,” he says.
For him the challenge is to make the interaction that he, as a policeman, has with people “a positive experience”.
“I don’t want to put myself out there as an enlightened or spiritual policeman but I see people every day who may not know the options that they have before them. It can be my role to give them that information, show them a pathway, use a bit of carrot as well as stick.”
A big part of the job is picking up drunks.
“You can throw them in the cage or you can talk to them.”
He prefers the latter and sees “our plain Northern Territory language” as an asset.
“Generally they’re looking for somewhere to go and we can facilitate that.
“People may feel that we are a glorified taxi service but, like it or not, part of our role is rendering assistance and seeing to the safety of people right across the spectrum.”
The town has changed a lot since he was a kid but he still loves it and wants his own kids to grow up here.
It’s become much more of a hub town, for people from as far as Port Augusta in the south to Katherine in the north and “from every remote community in between”.
Aboriginal people and their culture have become “much more obvious to Joe Public”, he says.
“For me and my family, this is a good thing.
“It’s necessary to have understanding, compassion and empathy for the original people of Australia.”
James sees our time as perhaps the last opportunity “to really embrace the difference and learn from one another to go forward”.
A lot of it comes down to simple human feeling – “talk to people, get to know people”, he urges.
He rejects the notion that there aren’t many opportunities for people to do that.
Just start saying hello around your neighbourhood, he says.
He thinks we rely too much on “the system” to solve problems instead of relying on our own thinking and actions.
“If you engage with people, you are thinking. If you don’t, your thinking ends up becoming insular,” he says.
Talking to him it’s not hard to see why Superintendent Sean Parnell suggested that he put his hand up for the Desert Leadership program run by Desert Knowledge Australia.
James says he doesn’t fit his own perception of what a leader is.
He says: “For me a leader has always been someone in a position of authority, with a designated title or role.”
He doesn’t want to be held up as a leader at this point, he says he’s got too much to learn, but he’s keen to explore the concept more.
With the program he and the other participants have just been away on a week’s exposure to people in leadership positions on the east coast.
He was particularly struck by his contact with people in the international engineering and design firm, Arup.
Their founder, Ove Arup, established their corporate philosophy in a “key speech” made in 1970. James liked the way in which everyone in the firm was aware of the values laid out in this speech and appeared to be keeping them central to the fulfillment of their roles.
The firm will reject big contracts if the project does not fit with these values, says James.
He also enjoyed meeting the US Ambassador, Jeffrey Bleich, a man who helped Barak Obama’s presidential election campaign.
“All this was so far removed from anything I’ve experienced or understand, yet he’s still a real person with family needs he has to meet,” says James.
How will all of this make a difference to his own working life?
“It’s like cooking a risotto,” says James, “everything gets absorbed before the flavours come out in the end result.”
All these experiences and ideas, including the challenges he meets from the other participants in the leadership program, will mesh in with his current perspectives and in the end an absorption will be “served up for the Alice community”.

Family, love and hard work
For Kristy Bloomfield, together with her siblings and cousins, there’s a sense of being “next in line” to excel in town.
She comes from two big local families – the Liddles and the Bloomfields – and this seems to give her the rock solid sense of identity and purpose underlying her participation in the Desert Leadership Program.
When asked whom she sees as an important leader in Alice, she looks no further than her aunty, “Mrs Miller”.
That’s Pat Miller (nee Liddle), Deputy to the Administrator of the Northern Territory, and longtime director of the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS).
“I’m grateful to her for all her support.
“She definitely encouraged me to take advantage of every opportunity within Alice Springs,” says Kristy. 
She’s quick to mention her program mentor too, Dr Margaret Friedel, who urged Kristy to apply for the program and has given her some tips on “speaking to a room full of people”.
And then there’s her parents.
Kristy’s one of six children, four girls and two boys, and recalls her father, Henry Bloomfield, saying: “I hope for my daughters, the first four wheels they get will be a car, not a pram.”
“My sisters and I have lived up to that,” she says.
“He’s very proud of all of us. 
“Unfortunately for a lot of girls, their first four wheels are a pram.
“We saw that happening as we were teenagers.”
She also talks about her father’s hard work as “a big inspiration”.
“He still wants to do hard labour.
“He can’t sleep in, he’s up at six every morning.”
Before he came into town to work for Water Resources and the like, Henry managed Loves Creek Station – “That’s where he’s from, it’s still his homeland”.
Kristy also sees “passion and commitment” in the work of her mother, Karen Liddle, for Lhere Artepe, the native title holder corporation.
Karen is Pat Miller’s sister and they are, of course, native title holders themselves, as are all their children.
“I’ve always been really close to my aunties. They’re always talking to us about the old times, telling us the stories. We listen and learn.
“Mum is a big part of all our lives.
“She’d do anything for us kids, she definitely shares the love around.”
Alice is home.
“I’m always going to be here,” says Kristy, without a shadow of doubt.
She did leave for a while though, had a taste of life in another town, Cairns.
Theirs is a strong basketball family and her youngest sister Katrina had been offered a spot with the Cairns Dolphins.
Together with her twin sister Kirsty, Kristy, who herself played for the Territory in the Under 14s, Under 16s, and Under 18s, decided to keep Katrina company. The twins packed up their car, took leave of absence from their jobs and headed off for six months.
They ended up staying for three years. It was a lot of fun, says Kristy, but in the end it was time to come home, not just because it’s where she belongs but because “the opportunities here are so great”.
While in Cairns, she worked for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service. She learnt that there are much the same problems and issues over there, and wanted to apply what she’d learnt back here. 
“I want to do whatever I can to help.
“That’s something that we all have in common on the leadership program, a passion to help.”
Kristy works as an Indigenous Court Officer for CAALAS, a liaison position. And, together with CAALAS legal professionals, she is starting to do some community legal education work, talking to young women “about my experience, from primary school to where I am today”.
“I guess they think, if she can do it, we can do it.”
In the future Kristy thinks she’d like to work with youth.
She’s always loved doing things with the younger children of her family.
“They look up to us, want to be like us.
“They love us to do their hair, and we teach them right from wrong.”
On the week long tour in the eastern states she was particularly inspired by a visit to a youth program in Sydney suburb of Miller, South West Youth Peer Education.
She was told by the pair that run the program, Charlie and Mal Fruean, that “all the kids wanted was love”.
“That’s what they provided,” says Kristy.
“I thought they were great, I want to be part of something like that.”

Desert art on full throttle. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Aboriginal art centres of the desert continue to dazzle with the sheer range and vitality of their art-making, on view at the Desert Mob exhibition, celebrating its 20th year.
A special printmaking project was conceived for the occasion by Darwin-based Basil Hall Editions, who invited senior artists, one each from 40 Desart-affiliated art centres, to create a woodblock work.
These were brought together and printed onto five large sheets in 15 editions, one of which was acquired by Araluen for the public collection.
With their simple black line 'drawings' – burnt, scratched or carved into the wood – united by a single ink hue for each large sheet, these are a delightful counter-point to the full throttle painting that dominates the galleries (the prints are hanging in the foyer).
For a showing by a single art centre, the group of works by Tjala Arts, based in Amata on the APY Lands, is hard to beat.
A number of them have in common a dynamic assertiveness in their principal motifs and a blood red intensity, with Sylvia Ken's Seven Sisters and Ruby Williamson's Puli Murpu particularly arresting. And then there's the singularity of the loose yet vigorous painting of Freddy Ken's Kulata Tjuta, with weaponry again his subject, as it was last year.
The showing of Martumili Artists, the art enterprise of the Martu people of the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts in WA, is fittingly spread across a whole wall and has one of the more strikingly unusual works of the exhibition – Rabbit Proof Fence, a collaboration by Dada Samson and her granddaughter Judith Samson.
A long dark gridded strand along one edge of the canvas represents the fence; beyond it is the light-filled open space of country, interspersed by the concentric motifs usually representing waterholes and in this case probably also the wells of the Canning Stock Route.
(The Desert Mob symposium held last Friday had heard about, principally through a number of short films, The Canning Stock Route Project, which took artists, filmmakers and curators from the nine art centres and communities connected to the stock route region on a six week 1800 km journey into their country. Out of the experience a major exhibition was created, showing at the National Museum in Canberra until January 2011 and hopefully in Alice Springs at some time in the future.)
The hanging of works from Tjungu Palya (situated at Nyapari, 100 kms south of Uluru) is book-ended by two powerful large canvasses.
At one end is Tiger Palpatja's Piltati Ka Wati Tjakura. With its two massive snakes braced around a pulsing centre, visceral pink like a bodily organ, this painting seems to be teeming with life, all the more astonishing when you learn that the artist is over 90 years old.
At the other end is Angkaliya Curtis's Cave Hill, with its unusual, elegant palette – pale creamy hues and maroon (in contrast to the more favoured warm reds) – and its fascinating evocation of a subterranean gathering of small creatures.
All of these works reflect the artistic strength and intensity of vision that seems to come from artists remaining close to their country and traditions, and those singled out here are but the most striking of a large number of works in the exhibition for which this can be said.
There are also plenty of lighter pleasures to be had, among them the character-filled group of Crow Men in copper, steel and found materials by David Wallace, the moving multi-plate etchings from Yarrenyty Arltere artists, and the many evocations of contemporary life, with vehicles of all types attracting a number of artists' attention.
Not surprisingly this 20th Desert Mob had record sales of over $371,000 on its opening day.

From tradition to innovation. By KIERAN FINNANE.

From ancient traditions to innovation – wonderful bush and wild foods


For a taste to make your mouth water it would be hard to beat kangaroo tail, hot off the coals.
I chose a piece with skin on, black and crispy. Peeled back, it revealed meat cooked to perfection, pink, falling off the bone.
The afternoon was cool, grey and damp; the cooking fire, tended by people from Karnte camp, and the meat, juicy and full of flavour, warmed me from the inside out.
Robert Taylor from RT Tours suggested trying it with salt.
That was good too but I finished my portion without – relishing an unadulterated taste of Australia that people have enjoyed over thousands of years.
A bushfoods experience par excellence, capping off a morning full of bushfoods.
Once again I'd had the privilege of sitting at the judges' table for one of the annual highlights of the Alice Desert Festival – the WildBushfoods recipe competition.
It started with Young Foodies, all of whom worked with sweet foods.
Wattleseed transformed a Black Forest cake (Cindy Uzzell); lemon myrtle lifted a simple cheesecake to a sensation, topped by crystallised ruby saltbush berries (Isabella San Roque); quandongs, in nice chunks, made for cup cakes with a difference (Delphi and Rhodanthe Collins); whole ruby saltbush berries, slivers of quandong and rosella jam were wonderful in an icecream, wattleseed in a sorbet (Tom Fry, Charlie Ray Hoy and Jorge Anastasiou).
All of these young people let their bushfood ingredients 'speak' – you could immediately discern the bushfood flavour and textures – and all of them made delicious, well-presented foods that without too much trouble you could put on your own table. Impressive.
The enthusiasm and the knowledge of the youngest of them – the trio of boys and the Collins pair – was delightful.
First place honours were split between Isabella San Roque and the trio.
Tied honours also marked the adult competition as well as the 'Iron Chef' showdown.
The domestic cooks were working with savoury foods (sweets to follow next week at Saturday's DesertSMART Eco fair).
A new taste experience for me was the bush cucumber.
Tanya Howard served the pulp of the fruit on bread, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and sitting on Convolvulus clementis leaves that she found growing in her backyard (knowing from Peter Latz's book, Bushfires and Bushtucker, that they are edible).
The pulp was full of seeds but the overall texture was jelly-like and the fruit has a much fuller savoury flavour than the cucumbers we are used to. It was good eating.
Miranda Sage had pickled her bush cucumbers, adapting a recipe for pickled watermelon rind, as she wanted a sweet pickle.
She served it with a "totally wild" terrine of camel, rabbit and kangaroo prosciutto and, as a side salad, blanched saltbush leaves, with quadong, appleberry and a mozzarella made from buffalo milk.
Her presentation was exquisite and her research, to come up with such a range of bush and wild ingredients to present a refined dish, was utterly impressive.
Bush tomato featured in three of the other dishes.
Paul Serratone did a flavoursome bush tomato and kangaroo gnocchi; Cameroon Boon, despite his own worst fears of the ingredient's tendency to bitterness, succeeded with his bush tomato paste as a garnish for a pork chop.
Hujjat Nadarajah, drawing on his Persian traditions, demonstrated the wonder of a slow-cooked stew that gave a presence to each its ingredients – the citrus of desert lime, the tart but rich savoury taste of the bush tomato, eggplant and 'roo meat – while bringing them harmoniously together.
Mrs Sage and Mr Nadarajah tied for first place.
It was no contest for the vegetarians amongst us as camel meat was the secret ingredient for the Iron Chef challenge. 
Mark Gleave from Red Tomato had an advantage in being familiar with camel (a camel dish is Red Tomato's offering for this Alice on the Menu month).
Sarika Shankar from the Chifley Resort's Barra on Todd has never cooked with camel. She treated it as she would beef.
The task was prepare from scratch an entree and a main within an hour ... and in the conditions, which were far from flash.
The 'kitchen' was a marquee on Anzac Oval, open to the elements on two sides.
Each chef had a work table and a gas ring; they shared a water container and had to do their washing up under its tap.
Mr Gleave had access to a gas barbecue, while Ms Shankar planned to use a camp oven in the fire drum that had been used for the 'roo tails.
They also each had a blender and limited range of pots, pans, plates and utensils, with milk crates serving as cupboards.
They started work in natural light but as rainclouds closed in it grew darker and darker.
Finally it poured and a tarp was put up to protect Ms Shankar from a drenching.
It took a little while for an electric light to arrive, but nothing seemed to faze these two professionals, not even the rain putting paid to the heat under Ms Shankar's camp oven.
She quickly adapted her plan to serve the entree in a puff pastry, instead making an egg coupe, a kind of mini-omelette, to enclose tender shreds of camel meat and grilled vegetable with a sour cream and lemon myrtle dressing.
Her main was a camel roulade, spread with an olive tapenade and wrapped around fresh asparagus, and this time the sour cream dressing was flavoured with a bush tomato relish.
Mr Gleave had created a macadamia mint pesto to serve with his camel entree in a lettuce wrap, with fresh herbs and shallots.
His main was grilled camel served with glazed pineapple and rested on a mint and crouton salad, topped with crisped prosciutto.
He also managed to make a mint cocktail as a palate cleanser between the two courses.
What emerged for the judges was the importance of not over-cooking camel.
Ms Shankar's lightly-cooked entree meat was perfect but the roulade had dried out a little, while Mr Gleave served the meat rare in both courses, preserving its full flavour and tenderness. 
But the judges felt that Ms Shankar had found good complimentary tastes for the meat and had presented beautifully-designed dishes.
And so the chefs had to share a crown.
I had been eating, or I should say tasting, food since mid-morning and it was now late afternoon. I certainly wasn't hungry but it was hard to stop – my palate kept reaching for another sensation.
I went home, made a cup of tea and savoured the memories.

The cops are coming! By CHRIS WALSH.

No, they’re not, but the motto is still: Beat The Heat!
Exept do it at the drags, not on the town’s roads.
There is a time and a place for everything even if some people forget it – like when cars or bikes roar around the streets at night with some idiot at the helm.
The Central Australian Drag Racing Association has been encouraging people to attend their Street Meets and lay rubber on the track, rather than the roads.
Last weekend they hosted the Beat the Heat team from Darwin.
Beat the Heat is designed to encourage young drivers (and the young at heart) to become involved in organised street racing events which are held at the local drags strip.
It is part of an anti-street racing strategy and provides a legally sanctioned outlet for drivers to earn the recognition from their peers that they would usually gain in the back streets.
The program is being run in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, entirely by volunteers, relying totally on support from the community, service clubs and local businesses.
The team is made up of a dedicated group of people who do all the work on the vehicle themselves.
Senior Constable First Class Shayne Shewring is the vehicle’s driver as well as the vice president of Beat the Heat NT Inc.
“Some of the young ones are worried about their ability on the track and they’re afraid of looking silly in front of a crowd,” he told me.
“I can assure them, we’re just there to have a bit of fun and if you make a mistake, well, you make a mistake.
“The end result is that once the competitors have had a go, they can’t stay away.”
Some of the other team members are Allan Appleby, the Crew Chief who is an LS1 product specialist and knows the car inside out. He is always on hand and travels with the vehicle to various drag strips.
One of the founding members and the team Engineer is Dave Cunnington, who has been with the NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services for 35 years.
Dave is a qualified heavy vehicle mechanic and was involved with building the vehicle’s trailer.
He also spends a lot of time on the development of the program along with fundraising and equipment procurement.
“The Heat” is a 2003 VY SS Commodore which was donated to the program by Holden Ltd in 2003.
A month later the vehicle made its first appearance in November 2003 at a Street Meet in Darwin and ran at 14.6 seconds down the quarter mile.
The motor was refreshed and upgraded in 2006 to perform better and have more reliability.
It has a 382 stroked Gen III V8 motor with a turbo 400 automatic transmission. 
“We’ve modified it slightly for the drags,” said Shayne, “and its Police badging allows it to resemble an operational police car.”
The program gives prizes out if there are enough people taking part and finds that word of mouth usually attracts more people each time.
A novel way of having contestants return to future meetings is through summonsing.
Each contestant’s details are recorded at the track and then they’re “summonsed” to come to the next meeting “to beat The Heat”.
“It’s a great gimmick and it gives them bragging rights amongst their mates,” said Shayne. Some young locals were worried the police would take their numbers down at the drags track and book them as they drove back into town.
Shayne assured me, “That’s totally not going to happen and goes against everything we’re trying to achieve.
“For a lot of youngsters, the thought of racing against a cop car is a big draw card. At the end of the day it’s not how fast you can go because some cars can beat the faster cars due to handicaps (dial in times).
“Because of the handicaps, it also means that you can have a small four or six cylinder car race against ‘The Heat’ and win.”
Beat the Heat has travelled as far south as Tennant Creek but never down to the Alice before.
Shayne said that if the program is successful here, there would be serious consideration of building a “Heat” car to remain in Alice Springs.
This would enable competitors to run against “The Heat” at each of CADRA’s Street Meets on a regular basis.

Puppies and sunshine

Hi folks! My arrow had a misfire this week. This is not the first article I wrote about puppies and sunshine, which I promised I would do after my not well ravings from last week.
I got a bit carried away and took off on a tangent, which my informal editors (family) and formal editor (Boss Lady) didn’t think was on target (I was in danger of disappearing up my own literary bottom).
Which is OK, I’m new to this writing stuff and as a new boy you expect to stuff up every now and again. Trouble is I have created a couple of characters that I am already rather fond of and don’t want to let die. Perhaps Puppies and Sunshine, the two battlers from Kings Cross, will have to have a blog or something. Someone said they might go viral but quite frankly I have had enough of colds this year.
So I have turned my gaze to the dogs of Alice – the many strange and wonderful creatures you see running around the back blocks. There are dogs out there that look like Dr Frankenstein took time out from humans and did a bit of job work, stitching the remnants of hit and run accidents together.
That’s the fun in buying / owning a mongrel dog – you don’t know what to expect, how big they will be or what their temperament will be like.
My dad has owned Irish Wolfhounds in the past. For those of you who are not up on doggie genetics, they are the largest dog in the world, hairy and quite good natured – which is needed in an animal as big as a pony and with canines an inch long. When you head out with the shopping list you know that’s what you’re going to get, big, hairy, chilled. 
When we went out to the RSPCA to look at puppies I was a bit nervy. I had only had pedigree dogs in the past and, given some of the weird combos around, the lack of information on our future pet was troubling.
I shouldn’t have been bothered. This funny, pretty puppy kept coming over and giving us love while all the other ones played in the corner, ignoring us altogether. Their mistake – our dog is terribly well looked after and spoiled and let that be a lesson to you, don’t stuff up at the interview!
So we have a pound puppy and a new game – what do you think she is? We have settled on a mastiff/greyhound cross from what we know of her mum and her body shape, but really, who knows.
I do know that we got the right dog for us.
I saw her brother the other day for the first time, Alice being small enough that you can track a litter of bitzas from the pound. He is smaller and wiry with the mastiff head, a bit of a Chupa Chup dog if you get my drift, where as Billie is larger with the greyhound, thinner face. If Dr Frank was still here, we could swop the heads over and have two dogs that matched the breed description, but I wouldn’t want that. I love my doggie mate just as she is.
At some point in its past Alice has had its own canine Casanova, making conquests and leaving its genetic trail for all the world to see. I reckon it was a corgi, roaming about with a little step ladder on his back, looking for love and finding it regularly too. The number of camp dogs struggling around on tiny stumpy little legs is amazing, all different types and colours, tummies dragging on the ground. It’s a dog’s life.

LETTERS: Shake, rattle and roll?

Sir – On September 6 this year while visiting Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, we encountered mechanical problems with our Mitsubishi Pajero towing vehicle. As repairs could not be carried out in Yulara, we arranged for Uluru Autos in Tuit Crescent to transport the vehicle and our 19’ Roadstar Caravan to Alice Springs. The cost was $2000 which we felt was fairly reasonable.
However at that cost we expected super professionalism.
The deal was that the Pajero be carried on the recovery truck and the caravan flat towed by the truck on its own wheels. We were told, “Don’t worry, we do it like this all the time”.
The truck driver (also the owner of Uluru Autos) seemed to think that nothing was more important than getting to Alice Springs as quickly as possible. As far as we were concerned there was no hurry at all, we even suggested that the job could wait till next day.
We travelled with the driver in the truck at speeds of 113km/hr to 118km/hr covering the 444kms in four hours and 10 minutes travelling time.
No caravan should be towed at speeds greater than 100km/hr and then only under the very best of conditions. Almost without exception caravans on this road are towed at 90-95 km/hr depending on road surfaces.
When told that the inside of the caravan was a mess from the contents of drawers and cupboards over the floor (including drawers themselves) and broken crockery etc, the driver could not have cared less.
He said, “That road [the Stuart Highway] is rough you know.” He must think that this is normal. He seemed pleased that he had completed the job in good time, and at one stage said that he could have gone faster but for the head wind.
Most caravans are owned by people who after a lifetime of hard work are travelling the country, forming an important part of the tourist industry. They tow and maintain their caravans immaculately, and do not take kindly to “cowboy” operators treating their pride and joy in this way.
Towing in this manner  places enormous stresses on structural components. This fellow obviously knows absolutely nothing about caravans or towing them. He did not even have the correct electrical plug to operate the tail lights or indicators, which he did not seem to care about.
This is not good support for the important Northern Territory tourist industry.
Vin and Lorelle Clarke

ED – The Alice News offered Uluru Autos right of reply:–
Firstly a thank you for a chance to respond to this letter via your newspaper. 
This is the first complaint I have received about our towing services in the three years I have been with the company.
Upon picking the car and caravan up, before we had moved off, I had asked Vin on more than once, was everything locked and secured in his van, to which he responded, “Yes, all’s well”.
We left Yulara at 11.15 am and arrived in Alice at 4.40 pm.  The trip was about 5 hours, plus a stop at Erldunda Roadhouse.  If Vin had concerns, then nothing was said and he didn’t even look inside his van to check all was well.
Arriving at Alice Springs and unhooking van, dropping car off, he informed me of the mess in his van.  I did remind him that I had asked if all was secure in the van before leaving.  The owner had assured me that he has taken care of securing the van before leaving Yulara.
I felt that we had a pleasant trip to Alice Springs chatting along the way – Vin showed no sign of concern, even commented on how well the van was towing.  All vehicles and caravans are treated with the utmost care and respect and I regret that the customer is not happy with our service, but consider that I took all reasonable care while towing the caravan.
David Paech
Operations Manager
Uluru Autos

Katternomic nonsense

Sir – Our bad, a golden opportunity missed.   Bob Katter makes a lot of sense on economic matters.
Like he says, we should reinstitute high tarrifs and subsidies. Then our sugar farmers could sell 20% of their produce at inflated prices to us Aussie consumers and put up our food prices, and at the same time lose all their export markets, where they are currently very competitive, and selling 80% of their output.
And who amongst us wants to buy a brand new compact car for just $20k?  No-one!  All of us would much rather pay $40k!
We have missed a golden opportunity to return to Economic Fortress Australia, we could have appointed Bob Katter as Treasurer.  Shame on Julia Gillard and Nick Minchin for rejecting Katternomics.
We could have had a Katter-directed slow growing economy and a high unemployment rate!
Woe are us that we let Hawke, Keating, Howard and Costello sweep away the old paradigm (I learnt that word off Bob K) and give us a lean mean competitive economy and a high standard of living.
I’d much rather drive an old car, pay a lot for tucker, wear a big hat and talk rubbish slow, long and loud.  Opportunity missed.
Ian Sharp
Alice Springs

Kilgariff a not-so-perfect location

Sir – To those who believe the places chosen for the satellite town of Kilgariff are flat land, think again. The portion on AZRI (AIB Farm) and that section on the western part of airport land, formerly known as the Butcher’s Paddock (after the late Bruce Douglas), encompass the flood-out of St Mary’s Creek (aka Perfume Creek).
A flood-out may not have a channel but it is a depression. Those familiar with the region have seen how heavy rain can cause the flood-out to become a swamp. If you know how to interpret nature you will observe the presence of Coolibah trees which like periodic flooding, whereas Ironwoods, smaller Acacias and corkwoods in the general vicinity prefer a drier situation.
Here is a vision for the future: Very heavy rain over a two week period has caused St Mary’s Creek to inundate some areas of the residential area of Kilgariff. Vehicles are bogged in people’s yards and water has entered low-lying buildings. One couple says their wine cellar is an indoor pool.
The Alice Springs sewage complex has had a massive overflow into the creek. E. coli has been detected in the flood-out water but the NT Department of Health denies the cause is the sewage outflow.
Since the upgrading of the Alice Springs Airport to an international terminal, the Mayor of Kilgariff, Mr D. Velop, has received a petition from most residents to be presented to the Australian government. Due to unsustainable and constant levels of aircraft noise it is urged that the airport be re-located a considerable distance away from the town.
Feral doves, cats, and unrestrained dogs have become common since the establishment of Kilgariff. The native fauna, especially reptiles and birds, have been decimated to such a degree they are now seldom seen.
Mr Roe Toll’s recommendations that a tunnel is bored through the MacDonnell Range or that a wide elevated bridge is built along the edge of the Gap were rejected by Traditional Owners and the NT Government.
Mr Toll’s final comment was, “It’s good to see you have plenty of room in your cemetery”.
Hooray for progress.
Des Nelson
Alice Springs

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