October 7, 2010. This page contains all major
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U-mine decision under cloud. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A Country Liberals insider says the party’s decision to follow the Labor government and oppose the Angela Pamela uranium project near Alice Springs was forced by the actions of Member for Greatorex, Matt Conlan.
The insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says the Shadow Cabinet met in Parliament House at lunchtime on Tuesday last week.
There was some discussion about the uranium mine, but no decision was reached.
Mr Conlan left the meeting and without any mandate from the Cabinet, says the insider, gave an interview to ABC Radio, saying his party was also against the mine, a position the Labor government had taken earlier that day.
Part of the interview was broadcast that evening.
According to the ABC, Mr Conlan said if the Country Liberals were in power they would have made the same decision to scuttle the project, the proposed mine was too close to the town and did not have the support nor the good will of the community.
Asked to comment, Mr Conlan told the Alice Springs News he would not breach Shadow Cabinet confidentiality and said: “We all came to a decision and we’re all in agreement.”
That is a surprising statement as one Shadow Cabinet member felt compelled to contact the Alice Springs News and articulate disapproval of Mr Conlan’s actions.
However, John Elferink, former Member for MacDonnell and now for Port Darwin, says: “What happens in the Cabinet is confidential, but once a decision is made it is a decision of the Cabinet.”
He also says: “We treat the Angela Pamela issue as a unique decision and it will not change our policy or approach to any other mines.”
Mr Elferink said last week: “We are mindful of the reputation of the NT as a place to do business as a miner.
“We understand the way the industry may interpret a decision of this nature.”
The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC), welcoming Mr Henderson’s decision, said it would “inspire other communities, not just in the Territory, but around Australia, that a campaign of concerted opposition can stop a uranium mine in their area.
“A precedent is now set for the residents of Batchelor, neighbouring the Area 55 deposit, and the traditional owners of Bigrlyi near Yuendumu, and of Nolan’s Bore near Ti-Tree, as well as the many communities in Western Australia faced with uranium mining.”
Asked why he and not Opposition Leader Terry Mills had made the announcement, Mr Conlan said he had made it “during a press conference on a range of matters in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Central Australia”.
The News sought comment from Mr Mills but he declined, citing Cabinet confidentiality.
The events brought to at least a temporary halt an acrimonious issue that has split the community and has reached new lows in public administration, politics and debate.
ALEC described the planned mine as “dangerous and dirty” without offering any independent evidence in relation to the specific Angela Pamela project.
Says ALEC Project Officer Jess Abrahams: “The recent history of leaks, spills and accidents at other uranium mines both in Australia and overseas give us serious cause for concern.
“A 2003 Senate Inquiry found the sector characterised by a pattern of underperformance and non-compliance, an absence of reliable data to measure the extent of contamination or its impact on the environment, an operational culture that gives greater weight to short term considerations than long term environmental protection.
“Cameco’s own 2007 Annual Report documents 22 such accidents,”says Mr Abrahams.
“The potential for contamination of the Mereenie aquifer via surface recharge at the Rocky Hill bore site from a failed or leaking tailings dam up hill at Angela Pamela is a legitimate concern.
“The issue of water consumption for the mine is another, not to mention radioactive dust and radon gas from the open-cut pit blowing towards town.
“All of these concerns have a scientific basis now vindicated by the Northern Territory Government and Opposition’s opposition to the mine.”
The Australian newspaper compared the Northern Territory with Panama, accusing the government of pulling the plug on the Canadian mining giant Cameco and its Australian partner, Paladin Energy, before “processes and hearings had been exhausted”.
The paper draws attention to the by-election on Saturday and quotes an analyst: “It shows you have to be careful in jurisdictions with a limited gene pool.
“The NT government is behaving more like a parochial local council” and he suggests the scuttling of the project may be a sop to the Greens, throwing them a sacrificial lamb to shut them up on the subject of uranium mining.
“Whichever way you cut it, Cameco is out of pocket big time,” says The Australian.
Paladin announced ominously that it is “considering its options in advance of further discussions” with the NT Government.
Chief Minister Paul Henderson’s announcement appears to have the effect of taking a major decision about uranium mining out of the Commonwealth’s hands.
Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon said: “No action is required by the Commonwealth because there has been no request made by the NT Government to the Commonwealth to approve a mine.”
While ultimate approval of a uranium mine is in the hands of the Commonwealth, under a bilateral agreement the processes leading up to that point are the charge of the NT Government.
With his announcement Mr Henderson has stepped outside of these processes, which in the case of the Angela deposit, are far from complete.
Mr Snowdon says his own opposition to the mine is “well known”.
He also announced that the Federal Government has cancelled a study, promised during the election campaign, of the impact of Angela Pamela on groundwater supplies for Alice Springs.
“This study by Geoscience Australia would have ensured any future decisions were informed by science, as well as broader community concern.
“The study would have looked at proposed mining and processing methods at Angela, as well as assessing the groundwater and hydro geological characteristics and data for the area, reviewing baseline information such as water levels and quality, and identifying any knowledge gaps,” says Mr Snowdon.
Paladin CEO John Borshoff says he is surprised about Mr Henderson’s decision.
He says in 2008 the NT Government selected the Paladin and Cameco joint venture from 37 applicants as the preferred one, and the NT Government granted it an exploration licence.
“Relying on encouragement and positive support from the government Paladin pursued the joint venture in good faith … spending many millions of dollars.
“The project is still at the exploration phase and work has been progressing with environmental and hydrological studies,” says Mr Borshoff, and Paladin always expected the government would consider the project “on its merits”.
Another Paladin spokesman, when asked whether the company would sue the NT Government, said: “I could not possibly comment on that.”
Cameco Australia’s manager Jennifer Parks says the company was invited by the NT Government to explore the Angela Pamela uranium deposit south of Alice Springs.
As a result the company has spent “millions of dollars”.
Ms Parks says there has not been any discussion, at least so far, about demands for compensation if the work is stopped by the NT Government.
“We haven’t even discussed that with Paladin (Cameco’s joint venturer).
“We need to work out what our options are.
“We have not really considered compensation.
“We’d like to have a meeting with government first.”
That is likely to take place on Wednesday next week.
Ms Parks says Cameco has not closed its Alice Springs office and is still deciding on its options regarding Angela Pamela.
“We have not made that decision,” she said last week.
“We’re looking at what we want to do with the project.
“All companies have a profile with different exploration and development strategies, time lines, economics, all sorts of things come into it.”
Ms Parks says, for example, in terms of exploration Cameco currently does more “green fields exploration” whereas its partner, Paladin, is more focussed on advanced projects.
Cameco’s multi-million dollar program so far has included completing two drilling programs. A third one is being considered.
“Every phase of drilling gives information that helps with planning the next phase,” says Ms Parks.
There have been “no surprises”: the work to date has confirmed exploration results done by the German company Uranerz in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Ms Parks says the company last year had independent market research conducted in Alice Springs which showed that the people wanting the mine and exploration were in a small majority.
Tourism Central Australia and the NT Chamber of Commerce has also done membership surveys, both showing a small margin in favour of Angela Pamela project (Alice News, September 30).

U-lobby: It’s not over yet

The uranium industry wants a meeting with Chief Minister Paul Henderson over the future of the Angela Pamela and other NT uranium projects.
Australian Uranium Association CEO Michael Angwin says: “The established processes for assessing resource developments remain in place in the Territory, for all uranium projects.
“Decisions in accordance with those processes still have to be taken.
“The Commonwealth is also involved in approving uranium projects in the Territory and we have full confidence the Commonwealth’s processes will be followed to allow decisions on the environmental and other merits of any uranium project, current and future.
“Notwithstanding the views expressed by the NT Government last week, we expect the Territory Government to stick to its own processes in future,” Mr Angwin says.

Araluen by-election: Questions on notice. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Araluen candidates took on notice questions from the Alice Springs News when we spoke to them on September 9 (Robyn Lambley, Country Liberals) and September 23 (Adam Findlay, Territory Labor).
Here are their answers.
NEWS: In Western Australia, the fee for extinguishing native title is about 5% of the freehold value. In Alice Springs it is 50%. Is this a lesson for the NT Government grappling with a crippling housing shortage and cost?
FINDLAY: Native Title is one of the many issues in the release of land. People have concerns about land release and affordable housing. The Government is making a good start by fast tracking the release of Kilgariff that will deliver another 1000 lots for housing, and 15% of that will be for affordable and public housing. 
LAMBLEY: The NT Government valuing native title at 50% of the freehold value of land is inflating the cost of land making it unaffordable for most people.
Compared to the levy of 5% in WA, the NTG levy of 50% seems unnecessarily high. Why is the NTG imposing such a high fee to extinguish native title? Who benefits from this income?
What are the real costs involved in this process and how much is profit?
Transparency in government is essential.
We are all fed up with cover-ups and back door deals.
NEWS: After the events in Yuendumu is there not time for clear legislation banning payback and the excesses of tribal punishment?
FINDLAY: The Attorney General Delia Lawrie said recently that physical violence is not acceptable in any form, and I agree with that. 
NEWS: Should the government delay the handover to Aboriginal interests of the national parks remaining in public hands – the West MacDonnells, Finke Gorge and King’s Canyon – pending an independent examination of the legal opinion underpinning the handover policy, leaked to the Alice Springs News?
FINDLAY: No, I do not believe the parks handover should be delayed. Joint Management is a good thing and it means jobs for Indigenous Territorians and they can be out there promoting and sharing their culture and land with people.
NEWS: In your door knocking, what do people say about Angela Pamela?
FINDLAY: They are happy with the [government’s] decision. They were not comfortable with uranium being mined so close to their homes [and] the town’s water supply. I think Alice Springs people are pretty environmentally minded, but are open to ideas that bring economic development opportunities.

Support for a ‘higher’ rise town centre and call for a moratorium south of Gap. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Alice Springs architect Susan Dugdale says nobody needs to believe more in a town plan than developers.
But she says local developers clearly don’t believe in the Alice Springs Town Plan as is evidenced by the number of exceptional development permit applications that are being made.
Ms Dugdale says she herself, over the last year or so, has put in two exceptional development permit applications for every one normal application.
She says this reflects a permissive political culture around development, but also a problem with the town plan.
Alice needs a town plan that can take it through the next 10 years, that has the strong backing of the community as well as developers, that is so good that we would “stick to it” and no exceptional development permits would be allowed.
Ms Dugdale was speaking at the panel discussion that launched Coalition For a Better (FAB) Alice last Saturday, held at Olive Pink Botanic Garden as part of the desertSMART EcoFair. About 30 people attended the discussion.
The coalition is intending to work on a  community-driven town plan over the coming year, and are calling for a moratorium on development south of the Gap until that work is done.
Ms Dugdale said she supports the relaxation of height limits in the Central Activity District (CAD), going from the current three storeys to five or six.
She said increasing densities would keep the town compact, which she sees as environmentally “very sound” – reducing car travel, for instance.
She said it would also beneficially change the character of the town: putting dwellings for an extra 2000 to 3000 people in the CAD would create a very different place, compared to putting them in the suburbs.
However she does not agree with the height limits change being brought about on a project by project basis.
It should be part of a cohesive town plan, that addresses social, cultural and environmental values as well as more conventional planning issues, she said.
It was suggested from the floor that the predominant character of the town is still low-rise and that plenty of existing single storey buildings could have a storey or two added, making for a gradual movement towards a higher-rise CAD.
But Ms Dugdale said the number of applications for buildings over three storeys shows that the time has come for going to five or six storeys, although such buildings should be carefully “modulated”, stepped back from the street frontage at ground level, from heritage buildings and possibly from parks.
She expressed her frustration with the number of committees and planning reports over the years that have gone nowhere, calling for all the worthwhile ones to be brought together in a single coherent document to preserve that “corporate memory”.
She also expressed qualified support for aspects of the two planning reports currently out for public comment.
These are the Alice Springs Central Activity District Built Form Guidelines and Residential Capacity Report, both of which can be found on the Future Alice website.
She said the reports, though short and simplistic, contain “some good principles”, citing particularly their emphasis on built form – “the town that we see” – rather than land use or building function.
Government needs to know that the community understands and wants this emphasis, said Ms Dugdale.
Jonathan Pilbrow, Central Australian Policy Officer for NT Council of Social Service (NTCOSS), was also on last Saturday’s panel.
NTCOSS’s key interest in the planning area is in homelessness and the provision of public and affordable housing.
He said NTCOSS has made previous submissions to the Territory Government, requesting that social inclusion statements be made part of the planning process, similar to environmental impact statements.
“We need to know how planning decisions are going to impact on the most vulnerable people in the community,” said Mr Pilbrow.
Ruth Apelt, of the Arid Lands Environment Centre, said the extension of time for submissions (until October 29) on the two planning reports offers a “real opportunity “.
She said ALEC had asked for a seat on the Planning for the Future steering committee, which has no community-based representatives.
Its members are  Minister for Central Australia, Karl Hampton; Mayor Damien Ryan; Darryl Pearce representing Native Title holders; Julie Ross, Brendan Meney and David Forrest, representing business and Industry; and Manager of Regional Development Fran Kilgariff as well as Acting Director Regions Ann Jacobs, representing government services.
ALEC’s request was declined “at this point”, said Ms Apelt.
She said for a long time the minutes of the steering committee’s meetings were not on the Future Alice website, as had been promised, but they have recently been posted.
She said: “They reckon they’ve got a vision, we want to hear what it is within the next few weeks” – before the deadline for submissions.
Ms Apelt said she has asked for a public forum with members of the committee to be organised.
She said Alice’s senior town planners, Ray Smith and Peter Somerville, were involved with last week’s five day conference about the future city of Weddell in the Top End and so were too busy to attend the panel discussion in Alice. Hopefully they too will attend the public forum.

Town council too secret. By KIERAN FINNANE.

Elected members of the Town Council are apparently not allowed to see reports from services which it manages.
An alderman has asked for the reports from JASP Security, which provides late night patrols (9pm to 4am) in the CBD, including Gap Road.
The firm is engaged by council with funding from the Department of the Chief Minister.
Regular reports about their activity are provided to the Interagency Tasking and Coordination Group on which council has a representative, Craig Catchlove, director of Corporate and Community Services.
When Alderman Samih Habib Bitar was denied access to the reports by council CEO Rex Mooney and, he says, by the Department of the Chief Minister, he came to the Alice Springs News.
We asked Mr Mooney: “Don’t you think that aldermen should have access to information that comes before a committee on which there is a council representative?”
Mr Mooney explained that “through a special arrangement with the Chair, aldermen are given copies of the confidential minutes of the [ITCG] meeting” but he said he was “not in a position to comment further”.
He referred the News to the Chief Minister’s Department.
Its communications unit immediately passed on the query to police, as the ITCG is chaired by Commander Anne-Marie Murphy of the Alice Springs Police.
Cdr Murphy explained that “a [council] representative provides a verbal report on the private security patrols that are managed by the [council]”.
She said: “The NT Police do not have a response in relation to the Alderman relationship or expectations from the ASTC that would be a matter between the Aldermen and Council.”
Over to Mr Mooney, but he maintained his position: “The reports are the property of the funding agency, i.e. The Department of Chief Minister.  
“The Department was asked for permission to release the reports to aldermen – it was denied.”
In the wake of this enquiry, the News received information from an anonymous source that three aldermen had walked out of the confidential section of the last Ordinary Council meeting.
With two aldermen already absent, the walk-out brought the meeting to a close as there was no quorum.
Our information named the three as Alds Habib Bitar, Melanie van Haaren and Murray Stewart.
Ald Habib Bitar confirms that he left the meeting.
He says “everything is in confidential, all types of issues, including security issues”.
He says council should be “more transparent”, should be run “as a public organisation, not a private organisation”. 
And he says the effort – he doesn’t say whose – to “build up a friendship with the royal mob in Darwin” comes at the town’s expense.
Ald Van Haaren is taken aback that we have received information about what happened in confidential but, as she “doesn’t like being dishonest”, she also confirms that she left.
She declines to comment on what happened but does say that “in general” too much business – more than is required under the Local Government Act – is considered behind closed doors.
She says she has been diligent over the time she has been on council to have as much business as possible discussed in open meetings.
Are there inter-personal tensions between elected members and / or staff as a result of the walk-out?
Ald Van Haaren says business is continuing “as normal” and that she feels reassured by Mr Mooney’s undertaking to scrutinise everything that goes into confidential to ensure that it meets the criteria established by the Act.
Ald Stewart says his departure from the meeting was not “a walk-out”, more a “strategic withdrawal” in order for things to “cool down”.
He says the discussion had become heated and one colleague was “significantly upset”.
In general he also thinks too much business goes into confidential, and that there’s pressure behind closed doors to reach a consensus and to make “tidy press statements”.
“It’s not allowing the public to see the process,” says Ald Stewart.
“People need to know what we are thinking and feeling.”
He declines to be specific but says recent matters that were in confidential and should not have been concerned the town’s sports ovals, law and order issues, and some technical services matters.
Council’s agenda for the last meeting shows that a report on the Master Plan for Alice Springs Sporting Facilities and another on Municipal Audit Prioritisation were among several items in confidential.
Ald Stewart also says council needs to go on the offensive with respect to some dealings with the NT Government and that Mayor Damien Ryan’s approach is too “caring and sharing”.
“His behind-the-scenes approach is simply not working.”
Ald Stewart says if elected members could “breathe and exercise their talents more”, that could galvanise public opinion and create greater pressure on the NT and Federal Governments.
The News puts these comments to Ald Liz Martin to get an alternative aldermanic perspective.
She notes that the three disaffected aldermen have all had experience on previous councils.
She says perhaps there’s a different management style within the current council but it’s not one that she’s unhappy with.
Mayor Damien Ryan says the CEO already scrutinises everything that goes into confidential for its compliance with the Act.
He points out that every member can move to bring matters that are in confidential into the open section of the meeting. (Such moves can, of course, be defeated.)
About his own attitude towards confidential matters, he says: “I understand what the Local Government Act tells me to do and I will follow that as long as I have this job.”

Araluen and Alice longtime safe ground for CLP. BACKGROUND by ALEX NELSON.

The current by-election for Araluen is only the second in that electorate’s history. Both were two-horse races between CLP and ALP candidates; they were contested by male and female candidates; and the ALP was the clear underdog both times.
The retiring member, Jodeen Carney, has left politics on the grounds of ill health. She had been the Shadow Attorney-General, amongst other roles.
In 1986 the retiring member, Jim Robertson, also left politics due to ill health; he had been the NT Attorney-General from 1982-84 – it was his favourite portfolio.
Both Carney and Robertson were effective debaters in the NT Legislative Assembly; Robertson was regarded as the only CLP member equal to the performance of Labor Opposition Leader Bob Collins.
In the NT elections of December 1983 the CLP stormed to victory, winning 19 seats, including all four Alice electorates.
Robertson won Araluen with 62% of the vote (another 18% was won by independent conservative – and first CLP leader – Goff Letts). Araluen was a solidly blue-ribbon CLP seat.
Paul Everingham resigned as Chief Minister in October 1984, replaced by Ian Tuxworth, the Member for Barkly.
Tuxworth was keen to establish his own stamp of authority but his idiosyncratic style and ideas quickly ran foul of entrenched party powerbrokers, especially Paul Everingham and Graeme Lewis. The CLP had essentially split into two antagonistic camps by late 1985.
Early in 1986 details emerged about Tuxworth having wrongly claimed $9943 in travel allowance in 1982. Tuxworth had arranged a loan at the time to repay the money but technically he had committed an offence.
The ALP, under Bob Collins, gleefully exploited the issue.
Tuxworth, no match for Collins, naively admitted to having been “morally wrong” to claim the allowance. The issue immediately became a scandal that engulfed the CLP and was the backdrop for the Araluen by-election in April 1986.
However, there was keen interest for CLP preselection, with 10 nominations. The most high profile nomination was Magistrate Tim Hinchliffe, widely expected to win.
So it was a complete surprise when the head of the Tourist Bureau, Eric Poole, won. He is (to my recollection) the only senior bureaucrat in the NT to have become a politician since self-government.
Labor chose Alderman Di Shanahan as its candidate. She was a formidable opponent with a high public profile, well regarded, articulate and competent.
The ALP campaigned strongly, highlighting Poole’s patchy management track record in the Tourist Bureau and maintaining focus on the travel allowance “scandal”.
In early April a bombshell struck the CLP – Senator Bernie Kilgariff announced he would retire from politics at the next federal election.
The ALP tempted Araluen voters with a siren lure – it was safe to vote for Labor because it wouldn’t change the government but would send a strong message to the Darwin-centric CLP Government.
So how did the voters of Araluen respond on April 19? A lot of them didn’t – one third failed to vote, although this was considered normal for a by-election.
Poole won comfortably with 56% of the votes but Shanahan attracted a 16% swing.
The by-election had a profound influence on the course of Territory politics. Tuxworth’s elation at the CLP’s success was short-lived.
In an attempt to quell the undermining of his leadership, Tuxworth sought to expel Graeme Lewis and federal member Paul Everingham from the CLP. Instead, it was Tuxworth who was forced to resign as Chief Minister, his tenure the shortest on record.
Poole held Araluen for 15 years, retiring at the NT elections of 2001, which the CLP lost for the first time. He was replaced by Carney, a central figure in the dumping of Loraine Braham as the CLP Member for Braitling (Braham retained the seat as an independent).
Carney became the longest serving female politician in opposition in NT politics, just ahead of Labor’s Maggie Hickey, who replaced Tuxworth as the Member for Barkly.
To my recollection, Poole’s victory in 1986 was the CLP’s last successful by-election campaign until 1999, when Terry Mills won the seat of Blain in Palmerston.
For Labor the 1986 Araluen by-election result boosted confidence. Di Shanahan contested Araluen 11 months later, in the NT elections of March 1987. She again polled well but by now Poole had consolidated his grip on the seat.
Shanahan made one more bid for office, in the Flynn by-election of September 1988. This time she topped the poll and the CLP came last; but distribution of the CLP’s preferences went to the NT Nationals candidate Enzo Floreani at her expense.
The NT Nationals were led by Ian Tuxworth.
With due respect to former Labor candidates in the Alice, it is, however, the case that Di Shanahan was the most dedicated, persistent and accomplished of all Labor candidates to have contested an Alice Springs electorate.
She consistently campaigned and polled well yet failed to win after three attempts.
Consequently Labor has (with few exceptions) largely dismissed its chances of winning seats in the Alice as a lost cause … and that has not necessarily worked in our town’s favour.

Charity pulls collectors over suspicions of duress. By KIERAN FINNANE.

A team of direct marketers, signing on donors for the charity ChildFund Australia, were suspended by their contracting company last Friday when allegations surfaced that they may be taking advantage of potentially vulnerable people.
The Alice Springs News received information that “three local Aboriginal people” had been escorted by “so called charity workers” into the Westpac Bank on Todd Mall “trying to get the customer to obtain bsb and bank number”.
The informant, who did not wish to have his name published but did sign a statutory declaration affirming what he had seen, said he was concerned that the “charity workers” may be “taking advantage of people who probably are in need of charity assistance themselves and who can barely speak English”.
He told the News that the “charity workers” had a desk set up in the Alice Plaza.
The News went to the shopping centre and spoke to two men at the desk, one wearing a ChildFund t-shirt, the other not. Both wore name tags identifying them as “authorised collectors” for a company called Appco.
The tags also bore the corporate names Phoenix Direct Pty Ltd  and ChildFund Australia.
There were no contact details for Appco but there was an ABN number, which the ASIC company search site showed belongs to Appco Group Support, which bills itself as “the largest face-to-face donor recruitment agency in the world”. 
Among the list of clients listed on its website are well-known charities and NGOs, like UNICEF and Oxfam.
The News asked to speak to the men’s manager.
The older of the pair said they worked for themselves: “We’re all independent contractors.”
The News told the two men about the information that we had received, that it potentially concerned people who could not speak English very well, and were thus vulnerable to being taken advantage of and not being able to give informed consent.
The older man told the News that he was “pretty sure they [the other team members] wouldn’t sign up anyone like that”, and that he “would not mislead anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing”.
The younger said they “don’t sign up anyone unless they’re working”.
He said he didn’t “approach any Aboriginals – they approach us, they’re interested in what we’re doing”.
The News asked what they were signing people up for.
The older man described it as “helping out once a month” for amounts “anywhere between $22 and $126”.
The News asked to see printed information about the activity.
The older man showed a laminated card.
In bold type it stated the financial commitment in daily amounts, with the monthly amounts in less obvious type, starting with the highest level of sponsorship being sought, $4.14 per day, $126 per month which sponsors three children, going down to $1.38 per day, $42 per month, which sponsors one child.
Throughout our conversation particularly the younger man seemed agitated. He did not want to give the name of their contracting company nor his own name but consented when the older man said, “she’s going to find out anyway”.
At the conclusion of our conversation the older man said: “Whoever’s going into the bank has to stop doing that.”
The News then called in to see the manager of Westpac Bank, Raymond Lee, telling him what we had been told and about our conversation with the two marketers.
Mr Lee said it was against bank practice to allow anyone to accompany a client to the teller’s window, with the exception of welfare agency staff if a teller was experiencing great difficulty in understanding or communicating with a customer.
But he said he would make enquiries about the situation.
He later confirmed that one teller had given account details to two Aboriginal customers who were in the company of the ChildFund collectors before realising that these collectors were not welfare agency staff.
At the third approach, the teller asked the ChildFund collector to leave the bank, said Mr Lee.
He expressed his disappointment that the News would seek to publish this information, while the regular charitable and community work done by the bank staff – supporting for instance the service club fundraisers, the Camel Cup and Henley-on-Todd, as well as the Salvation Army – generally goes unacknowledged.
With the bank’s confirmation of events, the News was ready to ask ChildFund Australia about their fundraising practices.
The News, of course, had no way of knowing who the Aboriginal people in question were.
The News was also perfectly willing to accept that Aboriginal people may want to give to a charity.
The concern was that the ChildFund collectors were accompanying Aboriginal individuals into the bank – behaviour suggesting that the collectors themselves were unsure that the particular Aboriginal person knew what to do.
It is a concern that Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, shared.
He told the News he was “very alarmed” about the situation we were describing and was seeking information about it.
Not long after he informed us that the team had been suspended by their contracting company.
In a written statement he said that in the conduct described there appeared to have been several breaches of the Fundraising Institute’s “Principles and Standards of Fundraising Practice” –  “namely the prohibition against using undue influence, the requirement regarding potential effect on a prospective donor’s financial position, and the requirement not to take donations from vulnerable persons”.
He said “if the breaches of practice are substantiated we expect that the team members involved will have their employment terminated”.
He also expressed surprise about the possible breaches because of the conditions around the contractor being paid for the sale: the donation has to continue for at least three months before the commission is paid, which helps prevent the sign-up of “ghosts”.
The News asked Mr Spence whether he thought it appropriate for a charity to use direct marketing techniques for signing up donors.
In his written statement he said: “This form of ‘face to face’ fundraising practice has generally been conducted ethically and professionally throughout Australia for many years.
“It has served ChildFund and many other major Australian charities well and enables us to deliver education, water, health and other services for children in developing countries.
“It is deeply regrettable that standards of practice appear to have been broken on this occasion.”

Thunder down under. By CHRIS WALSH.

Vehicles with smooth, glossy, plain colours contrasted well with the vehicles covered in more intricately and defined details when they lined up for the NT Quarter Mile Titles at the Alice Springs Inland Dragway on the weekend.
And it’s not just what meets the eye: you get treated to an acoustic knee-trembler that stays with you all week.
Classes included Junior Dragsters, Street Cars and Bikes, Super Streets and Sedans, Modified Eliminators and Bikes, Supercharged Outlaws, Doorslammers and Top Alcohols (the ones you put in your tank), from as far as Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and the Top End vied for points along with our many talented locals.
Husband and wife racers Steven and Debbie Reed also attended with their Top Alcohol cars.
Steven is a three times Top Alcohol Australian Champion and Debbie ran second in the 2008/2009 season.
In 2009 they created a first for drag racing history as a husband and wife facing off in the professional category final of Round 5 of the Australian Top Alcohol Series in Perth.
Debbie took the win from Steven resulting in the couple holding the number one and two positions in the National Championship.
Winners for the weekend included Greg Taylor in the Modified Bike category with a time of 9.01 seconds and a speed of 142.59 miles per hour.
Junior Dragster, Monique Stewart won with a time of 8.61 seconds at 75.25 mph.
The top Doorslammer which was run over the one-eighth mile was taken out by Scott Maclean over 4.53 seconds at 164.59 mph.
In the Supercharged Outlaws Craig Pankhurst broke out, allowing Matt Watts the win with an overall time of 7.48 seconds and a speed of 182.02 mph.
Debbie Reed defeated Steven Reed over the one-eighth mile in the Top Alcohol class. Her time of 3.92 seconds and speed of 185.95 mph was way in front of his 4.20 seconds at 180 mph.
On the actual drags strip, the Starter’s Control Zone is the blue painted area which is located between the two race lanes and behind the starting signal lights.
The Starter is in charge of the competitors and he remains inside this area for the entire race meeting.
As nobody is allowed to be in front of the vehicles during their warm-up burnouts, a safety zone area at the rear of the Starter’s Control Zone is situated between two waist-high solid concrete walls.
The pit crew move into this area during the burnouts and after the vehicles have formed up on the starting grid.
The highlight of the day for me personally was being given the opportunity to stand in the Starter’s Control Zone along with several other sponsors and VIP’s to experience the “feel” of these top alcohol cars.
Adding to the excitement was the knowledge that the two vehicles involved would be Steven and Debbie Reed.
Sponsors and VIPs such as Ray Henry, Dave Douglas and his partner Chris, and about half a dozen others made their way to the area and once everyone was assembled inside the zone, ear plugs were offered and the two cars were guided into position.
Words can’t properly describe the intensity and noise of these two machines as they revved up and then surged down the track.
As the two vehicles sat stationary in position and prepared to take off, the noise itself created vibrations which engulfed my entire body from head to toe and from inside to outside.
When I say “vibrations” it’s more like a deep rumbling type of sensation.
Perhaps if you can imagine the sound of thunder gathering up and going through your entire body as a feeling rather than a sound, you may get a very vague idea of what I’m trying to explain!
In addition to this, the rush of sheer adrenalin booting through my body at the same time was the most amazing sensation.
The air was already thick with tyre smoke and as the two vehicles revved their engines, it became even thicker with methanol fumes - my eyes began to stream and I could almost taste the stuff.
I watched with a mixture of excitement and anticipation as the lights turned green and they were both gone before I could blink!
Ray Henry’s comment to the crowd: “That was just awesome!!”
A big thanks to the many sponsors of the weekend including Dave Douglas Tyre City, Tourism NT and Stuart Caravan Park.

Who wants a poisonous cesspit in the middle of their loungeroom?

Tell ya what Alice, I got a little business proposition for ya.
Quietly does it, readers, nice and slow.
I’m writing this in a darkened room, blinds pulled down and the air con is flat out. I have had my restorative berrocca and a couple of litres of water, hopefully my head won’t explode, I don’t want to have to bend over and scrape up the bits.
Collingwood won though!
It gets better – I was invited round for a birthday BBQ after the game, good company, great food and knackered me.
Didn’t last too long and poured myself into bed after an eventful day.
It started at the EcoFair in the morning, warm, wonderful and a complete contrast to the wet and nasty weather the week the event was originally scheduled for.
Well done to the festival organisers for moving the date, it made for a much more enjoyable experience and let’s face it, it’s a bit hard to extol the virtues of solar-powered anything when there is no sun.
Colin and I were giving the first performance of our new production, Thonglines, near the café and we were both excited and a bit nervous.
The new songs went down well with the crowd despite a few technical difficulties – typical, I had tested everything beforehand but a lead still played up. 
Many thanks to Matt who looked after the sound for us and all the people involved in the fair.
Also I think the behind-the-scenes people involved in the festival should take a bow, it went well considering the “beyond our control” weather circumstances and it was nice to see Scott (festival organiser) looking relaxed and having a massage after all his efforts.
It’s a nice venue, Olive Pink, and I hope to play there again.
One thing I must point out though was the very un-eco friendly snarl of cars out the front – all up and down the roads and just chucked willy nilly, here and there.
Parking was definitely an issue that could be addressed next time, how exactly I don’t know – I’ll leave that to the clever people.
What defines clever? Is it natural smarts, an education, a mix of both and experience?
I’m not sure but it seems that some so called clever bastards are trying to bully us as a town as they pull the wool over our eyes.
Who in their right mind thinks that a uranium mine in your backyard is a good idea? No matter how you try and spin the proposition it still stinks.  Like a poisonous cesspit in the middle of your lounge room, common sense tells you it’s not a good idea.
Then factor in the fact that we get our drinking water from underground and common sense starts to get a bit worried, why have we even progressed to the drilling and exploration stage – it’s a suicidally stupid proposition. 
Believe me, the people who are going to profit from this will roll out all sorts of charts and statistics and probability equations that will support their point of view.
They will reassure and back pat and talk about economic benefits. And if this is not enough, they will produce flow charts and start applying pressure on the government.
They want to get their way and they will try the carrot before the stick but, and this is a big but, when it all goes to shit they will say: “Sorry, we were wrong” and leave.
Leave us with a contaminated environment; leave us with no safe water.
Leave us to ponder why greed was such a good idea. 
So, let’s not ask the clever people what’s best. Ask a three year old.
Give them a glass of water, get a piece of dog poo from the garden and drop it in.  Then ask them to drink it and see what kind of reaction you get.
They’re not bloody stupid. And they’re not clever. I hope that we can be the same.

LETTERS: Housing shortage drives people out of the Territory.

Sir – Recently published Treasury documents have identified a lack of affordable housing as a key reason why more people are leaving the Territory for interstate than migrating here from elsewhere in Australia.
In the March quarter, 375 more people left the Territory to live interstate than moved here.
In the December quarter, 332 more people left the Territory than arrived here.
The Treasury document puts this down to several factors, “the completion of several major projects in the Territory, declining levels of housing and rental affordability over the year and the strengthening of the national economy”.
In other words, the high cost of buying or renting a house is forcing people to leave the Territory.
While an overall increase has been recorded because of local births and the arrival of new residents from overseas, net population growth is at the lowest level since 2004.
This drain in population has contributed to the number of unfilled jobs in the Territory climbing to 4300 in the August quarter – up from 2900 nine months ago.
When people move interstate for cheaper living and jobs are unfilled it’s a sign the governments policy settings aren’t right.
Labor has failed dismally to release enough land to meet the growing demand.
As a result, the median house price is $530,000 and the average rent on a three-bedroom house is $571 a week – the highest in the country.
Terry Mills
Opposition Leader

U consultation OK

Sir – Your latest front page headline which screams  “Uranium What consultation?” (Alice Springs News 30/09/10) brings into sharp focus the most pressing issue facing this town in regards to our progress as a community.
Your article is just a whinge on behalf of those bodies who indeed have been consulted over this uranium business for some years now.
What about the people of Alice Springs who have never been genuinely consulted?
We the people were never asked and that is the prime reason why the community of Alice Springs does not support Cameco’s nuclear agenda.
The whole dirty exercise has split families and friendships and alienated many good neighbours.
Miraculously, the Henderson government has done the mother of all backflips and listened to the people.
Those of you who think you have some power i.e. town council, business and tourism organisations must learn a lesson from this very democratic process.
You can do nothing sustainable except go round and round the same old circles without the people on side.
David Chewings
Alice Springs

Go the Luddites

G’day Erwin – Penny Whiley, the philosophy teacher who has recently embraced new technology for distance teaching (Alice News 30/9/10) should be proud to call herself a Luddite.
This much-maligned group of English social activists were mostly spinners and weavers working from home.
Where they were able to afford to buy and use new machinery in their own workshops they were happy to do so, and take advantage of their increased productivity.
The concern which led to the much publicised and misunderstood smashing of the new machines, was who controlled the technology and how it was used, rather than its invention.  
They were hunted down by the military and lost the argument, some taken captive and others forced into factories under miserable conditions as wage-slaves. Since many were transported to Australia as convicts we should recognise them, together with others like the Tolpuddle Martyrs who were transported for forming a trade union, as working class heroes, and one of the reasons why the “Fair Go” is part of our heritage.  
Penny Whiley’s action in embracing new technology and taking control of it for the social good is in the spirit of Luddism, we should certainly not allow the term “Luddite” to be misused as a put down.
Alex Hope
Alice Springs

All in a name

Sir – In reference to the article dated September 30 regarding the “Three Old Ladies in Chewings Street”: I would like to point out that the Gorey’s Arcade mention was named after Linda & Allan (Ginty) Gorey not after Natalie Gorey.
A Kindergarten was built in honour of Natalie Gorey.
Anne Hughes
Alice Springs

Green good business

Sir – Alice Springs businesses looking to become greener can now apply for funding of up to $30,000 to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on their roof.
 Alice Solar City is offering an incentive to a maximum of five businesses only, as part of its 2010-2011 Commercial Services Program.
Few things say ‘Green’ to customers as clearly as having panels on your roof, and with rising energy prices, an investment in solar power will only improve in value over time.
We are looking for PV projects from 5kW to 10kW and above in size, preferably spread across a range of business sectors.”
Since Alice Springs became a Solar City, the number of businesses running on solar has gone from zero to 24, which is a fantastic achievement.
The most recent business to install solar, Alice Lodge Backpackers, was also the first to take advantage of the Bulk Purchase Scheme.
Manager P J Bedford says: “Our 1.7kW system will save us around $600 per annum, and reduce our carbon footprint by almost two tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum. 
“As a bonus, the system will pay for itself in under 4 years!”
Businesses who wish to take advantage of the $30,000 funding offer for PV systems over 5kW will need to become registered with Alice Solar City and demonstrate a commitment to the premises where the system is to be installed.
Sam Latz
Alice Solar City

Get real

Sir – “Town planning activists say they are banding together so the future of Alice Springs isn’t left in the hands of business and real estate interests”.
People who can’t telling people that can what to do?
One of the Dotsons
(banned and banished from England)
Las Vegas, USA.

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