December 16, 2010. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

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News and views: Our Christmas message.

This is our last issue for 2010, our 17th year in publication in what is one of the most interesting and challenging news patches in Australia. 2010 has been rich in stories, from the tragic to the triumphant, and particularly unforgettable for the beauty of the country as it responded to recurring drenching rains.
We’ll be back on Thursday, February 3, looking forward to once again bringing you our unique mix of news and views about life in Alice Springs and Central Australia  – independently researched, fearlessly reported, written with attention to detail and language but, above all, out of a deep interest in this place we call home.
We go into 2011 also facing a defamation suit, brought by David Forrest, a principal of Framptons First National real estate, against Alice Springs News founding editor, Erwin Chlanda, and the company publishing it. We will be vigorously defending this action.
To all our readers, contributors and advertisers – we wouldn’t be here without your interest and support. Thank you and warmest best wishes for the festive season and new year – may it bring us all health, happiness and prosperity.  Erwin Chlanda & Kieran Finnane

Alice buzzes: Town Council's great bash.

The place felt brimful of happiness, perhaps because little kids were at its heart. Christmas is always about them first and foremost, and the Town Council, together with the Red HOT Arts crew, turned on a treat of a carnival for them. Their delight was infectious and everywhere you looked, people, the full Alice mix, were smiling. Whatever we do in the ‘revitalisation’ of the centre of town next year, it has to be about bringing people, all the people, into its public places to do enjoyable things together.
Junior Meaney was the star of the best Christmas costume competition and with Mayor Damien Ryan set ablaze the Christmas tree on the council lawns, and simultaneously, one on top of West Gap.

Centre’s rep is at the top in national health debate

She came as a remote area nurse 27 years ago; she leaves having represented her profession and the interests of rural and remote people at the very highest level in the national health debate.
Sabina Knight was the sole nurse on the 10-member National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission as well as the sole commissioner out of rural and remote Australia.
For the last 10 years she has been based at the Centre for Remote Health, a federally-established university department of rural health of Flinders and Charles Darwin universities, which has counterparts in each state.
She started there as a senior lecturer and leaves as an associate professor.
She’s moving across the desert to head up, as professor, the Mt Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health, a sister department of James Cook University.
The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission concluded late last year and handed its report to government.
The first legislative changes in response to it are starting to be seen now.
Prof Knight says it was hard to be the sole representative of her areas of interest, but she and her fellow commissioners were willing to change their views when the evidence was persuasive and were genuinely seeking solutions to the big issues of health care in this country.
Out of the process she says rural and remote Australians will benefit from the federal government’s taking responsibility for all primary health care policy and funding, a recommendation of the commission.
This will see “better planning on the ground and more innovative responses to community needs, even though it’s hard to see it now in the early day confusion”.
For example, many medical services at present can only revenue raise through Medicare if a doctor is part of the service delivery.
Under the new model, which will transition over the next couple of years, the Commonwealth will provide a pool of money for health service delivery across a region or community of interest.
This will be much more flexible, says Prof Knight, broadening the Commonwealth focus from care delivered by doctors to a community model that includes care delivered by allied health professionals and community health programs, bringing together things like immunisation, maternal and child health, school health, health promotion, the frail aged, and people with a disability.
In other words, health care will be not only for people who are sick. It will focus on keeping people well, or doing the restorative, rehabilitative work to get them back to health.
The lack of proper resourcing in these areas is one reason why we get “bed block”, says Prof Knight.
And in remote areas, where community health is left to often extremely busy clinics, the results to date have been “pretty patchy at best”.
The federal government has also legislated to create the National Prevention and Promotion Agency, another of the commission’s recommendations, as well as to allow the Medicare reimbursement of services provided by nurse practitioners and eligible midwives.
Health Workforce Australia has been established to plan and resource clinical training and training placements and to maintain a watching brief on workforce needs and trends nationally.
On the downside the government has backed away from coordinated care for chronically sick people, which has “stunned” Prof Knight.
She says the evidence in favour of coordinated care is “very strong”.
The recommendation was to provide grants to medical and health services for the delivery of care across a whole year for chronic patients, instead of each visit to the doctor being billed.
Some of the care, for example for a person with diabetes, would be provided by podiatrists and dieticians, not only GPs – a plan many had welcomed.
However the move has been opposed by the Australian Medical Association. To her surprise, her experience on the commission showed Prof Knight how well the NT does relative to the other states.
She says there is an “unhealthy belief” that the bureaucracy is too large in the NT, when in fact it is “very small” relative to the states.
“We don’t have enough administrators, not enough who are qualified as managers and not enough in the field, and given this, we do remarkably well in challenging circumstances.
“Regionally based Aboriginal community-controlled health services have set the benchmark for the rest of the nation, something they can be proud of.
“We are facing the reality of chronic disease epidemic – unfortunately something the rest of the nation has coming.
“Systems of care, best practice, targeted specialist care, tele health and a multidisciplinary approach are how we do things well.”
In Mt Isa she’ll spend the first three months just getting to know the people there and what they understand to be the issues.
“I have to be careful to not presume that I know because it might look similar to Alice Springs and Central Australia.”
She’s looking forward to the challenge but is sad to be leaving Alice.
“It’s been such a big part of my life, not just work, but the landscape and the people.
“I’ve never been bored in Central Australia.
“I’ve been able to be involved in the cutting edge of my profession and discipline from here.
“And the town has all the benefits of a small regional town while also having good cafes and restaurants, films and art and theatre, which all afford us a lovely lifestyle.
“I’ll miss the familiarity I’ve developed with the country over 27 years.
“I love being able to throw my swag in the car and get out to my favourite haunts out bush.
“I’ll have to find those places anew in Mt Isa.
“I’ll miss looking up at that big beautiful range that grabs hold of my heart every time I look at it, reminding me of where I am.
“Central Australia faces some tremendous challenges but these challenges foster innovation and commitment.”
An under-recognised achievement, by the general community at least, is that the “clinical best practice movement” came out of here with the development of the Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association standard treatment manual.
This was designed to counteract high staff turn over in many remote health services by providing a comprehensive clinic handbook for the remote context.
“The rest of the country is trying to follow us now when we’ve been doing this for 20 years.
“You don’t see too many ‘passengers’ in health care in the remote areas.
“People know they have to roll their sleeves up and be part of a broader set of activities.”
Prof Knight expects to find something of this spirit in Mt Isa and north-west Queensland more broadly and there’ll be plenty of room for collaboration between Alice’s Centre for Remote Health and its counterpart across the border.
There are lots of “one of” in both centres – one pharmacy academic, one mental health specialist and so on.
“They are outstanding and we’ll find strength in getting together to do collaborative research across institutions and services,” she says.

Dump firm out.

Landfill operator Subloo will officially withdraw from the landfill at 5pm on Tuesday, January 11, 2011, following a Settlement Agreement  reached with the Town Council.
The Alice News understands that this is two years ahead of the original end of the contract term.
We reported on November 11 that Subloo had initiated legal proceedings against the council.
Council was defending and had issued a counter claim.
At the time CEO Rex Mooney said: “Based on legal advice Council does not believe it owes Subloo any outstanding monies.”
Legal action by both parties has ceased pending Subloo’s vacating the site. 
The detail of interim arrangements of how council will run the landfill beyond January 11 and council’s financial liability were discussed behind closed doors on Monday night.
In the open section of the meeting Alderman Murray Stewart suggested that the public was entitled to know about council’s “capacity to take on the immense job” of running the landfill.
Director of Technical Services Greg Buxton preferred to leave the matter for confidential discussion first and Ald Stewart did not press his point.
Afterwards Mr Mooney declined to answer the News’ specific questions about the cost to council arising from the whole situation, saying only that they will be “accounted for from Council’s budget”.
 – Kieran Finnane

A unique Christmas dinner: bush flavours fused with classic recipes.

Even with the sun burning “hotly thro’ the gums”, a Bush Christmas meal can be more than C.J. Dennis’ suggestion of “a bit of cold corned beef an’ bread”.
The Alice News asked innovative local cook ANGE VINCENT, a several times winner in the Alice Desert Festival’s bushfoods/wildfoods competitions, to suggest a Christmas menu.
What she’s come up with sounds mouth-wateringly good yet, she assures us, these recipes are easy to make.
Some of the bushfoods ingredients are available from Afghan Traders, but some require harvesting. An easy one, in plentiful supply, is old man saltbush leaves. Drying them is as easy as sitting the leaves on a tray out in the sun for a few days, then put them in a blender. They have a lovely savoury, slightly salty flavour.
Ange has suggested alternative ingredients so that you can still make the recipes even if you can’t put your hands on the ingredients.

800 g salmon fillet with skin on in one piece
4 tablespoons good quality salt
4 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons desert limes minced (in syrup or use juice and zest of ½ lime)
2 tablespoons good quality vodka
1 teaspoon ground dried saltbush leaf (optional)
Bunch of dill (optional)
1 Large zip-lock plastic bag that will fit the salmon fillet (cut in half if necessary)
2 tablespoons vodka
2 tablespoons desert lime syrup (2 tablespoons lime juice with 1 tablespoon of sugar dissolved)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground, dried saltbush leaf  (optional)
    To Serve:
Sour cream
Wild Caper Berries
½ teaspoon ground dried saltbush leaf
Open the zip-lock bag and roll the top back so it stays open.
Mix the salt, sugar, desert lime, saltbush and vodka into a paste in a small bowl.
Lay the salmon fillet into the plastic bag, skin side down.  Spread the paste mixture over the flesh, covering well.
The fish should fit snugly against the end and one side of the bag, with the bag in contact with the fish.
Turn the bag so that the fish is flesh side down; remove as much air as possible and seal, folding over the unused bits of the bag.
Place in a container in which it fits snugly, weigh down with a plate or similar and refrigerate for 3-5 days.
Check daily that the bag has not leaked too much, you need as much of the liquid in contact with the fish as possible – the paste will draw a lot of moisture from the fillet and will turn into a liquid.
Undo the bag and lift the fillet out. Wipe/rinse off the liquid.
Lay the fish on a carving board flesh side up. Slice very thin diagonal slivers across the grain of the flesh (starting at the tail end) with a long, very sharp knife. Don’t include the skin. (If it is not all to be served at once, re-wrap tightly and store in the steeping liquid in the fridge, for up to one week.)
Serve sliced Gravlax rolled into small ‘roses’ and dressed with a small squirt of the dressing and a sprinkle of dried, ground saltbush leaves. Traditionally served with dark rye bread, sour cream and cornichons, caper berries or capers.

Lobster with three sauces
2 - 3 small cooked lobster tails, halved length-ways and cleaned
    Sauce Bagnarotte:
1 cup real mayonnaise
3-4 tablespoons of bush tomato chutney or bush tomato jam (or 3 tablespoons tomato sauce)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brandy or Cognac
2 tablespoons thick cream
6 drops Tabasco sauce (or less to taste)
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Push the chutney or jam through a sieve, discard solids and mix the sieved chutney and all other ingredients into the mayonnaise with a whisk. Season to taste. Keep covered in the fridge until ready to use.
    Salsa all’agresto:
¼ cup breadcrumbs made from day old bread
½ cup parsley leaves
½ cup fresh young saltbush leaves (or extra ½ cup of parsley)
¼ cup fresh river mint (or basil)
½ cup macadamia nuts, roughly crushed
½ cup pistachio nuts
1/3 – 1/2 cup macadamia or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup verjuice
Pulse the breadcrumbs, herbs and nuts in a processor until a course purée forms. While the motor is running, add the oil and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, cover tightly. Just before serving, stir through the verjuice until well combined and serve immediately.

Warm Vermouth and finger lime butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
60 ml Vermouth
½ teaspoon of Spanish saffron, dry roasted and crumbled
¼ cup cream
250 gm very cold, unsalted butter in small cubes
The ‘caviar’ from 1-2 finger limes (or grated zest of ½ lime)
Put shallot, vinegar, vermouth and ½ the saffron into a small heavy-based saucepan and simmer over low to medium heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Strain, discard solids and return liquid to the saucepan. Add cream and remaining saffron and simmer for 2 minutes until slightly thickened. Whisk in very cold butter, piece by piece (do not put too much in at once) until melted and well combined. Do not boil. Remove from heat, stir in the finger lime caviar, season to taste and serve immediately.
Serve the three sauces in individual bowls, with the lobster tails, a fresh salad and crusty bread.

Bush Passionfruit Crème Brulee
500 ml good quality thick cream
½ vanilla pod
6 egg yolks
300 ml strained bush passionfruit pulp  (alternatives: 200-300 ml Bailey’s Irish Cream or 300 ml lime juice and the grated zest of a lime)
100 g caster sugar (plus extra for the topping)
Pre-heat the oven to 140 C. Pour the cream into a heavy based saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream, chop the pod in to small pieces and add. Bring the cream to boiling point, then lower the heat and add the bush passionfruit pulp, simmer gently for 5 minutes. Beat the sugar and egg yolks together in a large bowl until pale and creamy.
Bring the cream mixture back to boiling point and pour it over the egg mixture, whisking all the time until it has thickened. Strain through a fine sieve into a jug and fill six heat-proof glasses or ramekins.
Put them into a roasting tray lined with a couple of paper towels and pour in enough hot water to reach half-way up the glasses. Put the roasting pan on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the custards are just set.
A bit wobbly in the centre is OK. Remove from the water and cool to room temperature.
Just before serving, sprinkle one and a half teaspoons of caster sugar evenly over the surface of each custard, then carefully caramelise the sugar with a cook’s blowtorch or put under the grill for a few minutes until golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then serve.

Alice is mostly great: 2011 is time to tackle what’s not. COMMENT by

Oh what a night! The Mall full of people, laughter, chatting, color, food from many corners of the world.
Kids vying for the BIG dress-up prize. The town band. Local and interstate entertainers hamming it up. Stopping and yarning with mates. Alice Town Council, take a bow for rekindling that great big small town feeling with your annual Christmas party!
Let’s face it, life in The Centre is mostly great.
But there’s the downside that we need to get a handle on – the persistent incapacity to manage real estate for the good of the town, and the narrowing of economic focus on supporting a disadvantaged minority with lots of public money.
The year 2010 saw the accelerated “Aboriginalisation” of Alice Springs and the other big town in The Centre, the Ayers Rock Resort.
This happened through massive financial investment, mostly from the Feds – a good thing while it lasts – and migration to The Alice from the relentlessly dysfunctional black towns in the region – not so good.
With the notable exception of practising artists, some of them outstanding in their achievements, we’re mostly gaining people who make little positive contribution to the town’s life, except to spend their welfare cheques, and some do quite a lot of damage to it.
We could welcome the significant expansion of Aboriginal business interests but to date it has done little for expanding employment opportunities for Aboriginal people.
Major and minor crime remain at unacceptable levels and anti-social behaviour repels tourists, the only major non-government provider of cash.
While around $200m for Aboriginal housing and other infrastructure is providing a temporary boon for the builders and tradies – there are a lot of new utes in the industrial area – what’s being built will be an even greater magnet drawing bush folk to the bright lights, with little demanded from them in return.
It seems despite the massive opportunities in remote areas – cattle, camels, horticulture, tourism – we appear to have given up on the notion that you can make a decent and productive life for yourself on Aboriginal land. That’s tragic.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel with respect to affordable housing land.
AZRI is on its way – up to a point.
The $10m NT Government allocation in 2010-11 will take power, water and sewage to the edge of the 1000 plus block complex by mid next year – yep, just six months away – providing materials and contractors are available.
We understand some ambitious solutions to storm water are contemplated, getting away from the massive, ugly drains so common in the older parts of the town.
“Harvesting” the water is an option keenly considered.
The experts looking at traffic, clean air, demographics (how many schools and ovals will we need and when? when does a town bus need to run hourly instead of every two hours?) have either handed in their homework or it is well under way, and a town plan is expected some time in 2011.
A team of soil testers have found no evidence of rumored contamination.
But now the hard part starts: are the politicians up to making the hard decisions? Not when one judges them on their dismal performance this year.
Try and get some sense out of Karl Hampton, grandiosely known as a Minister for Central Australia, and you’ll get an idea of the lack of leadership.
How much will the AZRI blocks be sold for?
Why is “infill” the new catchcry jamming people into smaller and smaller blocks in the middle of one the world’s most underpopulated regions?
Why are we paying 50% of freehold value in other subdivisions to native title holders?
No answers.
And just think about the Yuendumu exodus to Adelaide; Vatskalis’ failure to prevent marine oil pollution; the SIHIP fiasco; the hapless tinkering with alcohol abuse; the backflip on Angela Pamela – is this a way to do business?
The next AZRI act is how to develop the land itself so that the community gets the greatest benefit. Remember, it is government land and that means it is land is owned by the public.
There is a great opportunity and a burning need for our pollies to do something smart.
For example, introduce some real competition into the process by inviting competitive tenders for the development, with affordability the bottom line.
If there are no acceptable bidders then perhaps the government officials could roll up their sleeves and manage the project themselves.
Or be adventurous and sell the blocks for $75,000, as is the Mount Isa city council.
Do something resolute and smart, at long last.
And don’t fool people by telling them you’ll set aside 15% of the land for first home buyers – this has been too little, too late for too many years.
And then the government could start to look at the big picture – 2011 will be a good time to put on the thinking cap.

Hotrod Santa drops in on speedway.

Racing, Santa, fireworks and the Demolition Derby wrapped up the year at Arunga Park Speedway on Saturday.
In motor sports as in everything, our kids are our future, so the Division 1 Peewees were invited to ride around a slightly modified circuit of two laps each. Although cousins Jet and Jack Thompson had raced the circuit previously, they were keen as mustard to get going with newcomers Ashleigh Laverty, Mitchell Sanders and Wayne Hayes. 
As the sidecars are only permitted to run four across the line, there were four heats to accommodate the eight competitors. A complete re-start occurred after Arlen Carragher and passenger Matt Sexton spun their machine and flipped in turn one of the first heat. They both walked away unhurt and the race was re-run with Kevin and Matt Wooding coming first ahead of Brian and Niara Metcalfe.
In the second heat Garth Thompson and Phil Anderson grabbed an excellent start and held the lead until just after turn two, but were then  passed by Chris Dess and passenger Ryan Wark.
The two machines met once again in heat three, with the reverse results, followed home by Carragher/Sexton and the combination of Stevie Sanders and Scott Doody.
The final heat saw Marcus Seidel and Kyle Laverty win ahead of Dave Totani and stand-in passenger Dave Pirie.
For something a little different, the Formula 500s ran two sets of match races instead of heats, with Shorty Maclean breaking the track record three times. The original record of 32.30 seconds set on March 31 2002 by Barry McCullock of Queensland was dropped by Maclean  to 31.76 in the sixth and final match. Joe Orr won two out of the six races with Rowan Clark taking third place each time.
A special visit from the jolly, fat man had been requested and for the occasion he rode in a hotrod decked out with tinsel and Christmas lights. As they made their way around the track, they threw sweets to kids young and old – I couldn’t tell who was having the most fun, the kids or Santa and his helpers!
Racing continued with speedcar competitors Les (Twiggy) Robertson and his son Cameron a welcome addition for the first time this season.
They displayed good, tight racing although Twiggy won both heats over Cameron.
Junior Sedans were out in full force before six of them head south for the Aussie titles. The first heat was taken out by Jack Thomsen ahead of Brock Napier and Rowan Prudham, while the second heat was won by Jason Wegert ahead of Talia Harre and Brock Napier.
There was plenty of slipping, sliding and crashing entertainment for the crowd when the Bombers came out to play.
The end result was a win to Adam McDonald, followed by Dave Sanders and Quentin Siddans/Bryan Jones. 
The second heat saw Macca take the chequered flag again in front of Shawn O’Toole and Lincoln Via.
Streetstocks went hard and fast with Grant Harris winning both heats and Adam Quin and Rod Berry holding a second and third place each. Central Pyrotechnics’ David and Karen Riedy set off a spectacular display of fireworks before it was time for the Outback Vehicle Recovery Demolition Derby with 15 entrants. Standout vehicles included Rene Taylor’s spotty station wagon with a surfboard on the roof.
Although she didn’t cause too much damage, her efforts bagged the prize for the best presented car.
The carnage continued for about 20 minutes with cars bashing, crashing and destroying each other.
The last car moving went to Sam Davis-Swingler in her yellow Ford sedan.
The fire crew had some added excitement when a car, which had been stopped for some time in the southern corner, caught on fire.
The driver, Gene Gilby, got himself out quickly and was rewarded with the prize for the car receiving the most damage.
Dave Totani’s Volvo was deemed the car which caused the most damage, even though the vehicle had remained in a reasonably decent state.

Going solar without going solo.

Alice Springs residents will have an opportunity to purchase “GreenPower”, with the construction of a new 1MW solar power station, the largest tracking solar power station in Australia.
The project was announced yesterday at its future location on the southern outskirts of Alice Springs (in the vicinity of the Road Transport Hall of Fame).
The ‘Uterne’ solar power station is facilitated by Power and Water  Corporation who are contracting to purchase the output for 20 years.
Developed in partnership with Alice Solar City and Sunpower Corporation, the Uterne Power Station will cost $6.6m, with $3.3m provided by the Australian Government.

LETTERS: Todd Mall is for tourists, not skaters.

Sir – A park in the mall already exists but please don’t turn it into a sporting complex as envisioned by Matty Day (Alice News, December 2).
Comparing Cairns Esplanade to the Alice Springs Mall is ludicrous.
If you’re familiar with Cairns and what the Esplanade was like before, you’d know why.
Tourists don’t come to Alice to watch skateboarders in the Mall or listen to headbanging music on ipods.
All tourists want in a Mall is very simple.
• Shops open on weekends and after they return from day tours;
• Access to the Mall via an uninterrupted overhead shaded walkway from the Ghan station.
I’ve been calling for tourism statistics for Alice Springs from TCA for years – there aren’t any.  TCA and its members have no idea how many tourists visit or where they come from and how.
Apart from irrelevant and anecdotal survey figures, Tourism NT can’t help but one simple source of statistics that is the best guide isn’t tapped – the airport.
Most progressive regional airports publish the actual number of passengers on their websites, but not Alice Springs, yet these figures are supplied to it by the airlines.
From airport traffic, tourist numbers can be easily determined.
It should be mandatory for the Alice Springs (and Uluru) airport to provide these figures to ASTC / TCA every month. Even more tangible and enlightening would be figures from Territory Discoveries that most travel agents book holiday packages through.
No wonder we’ve had no new investment in tourism infrastructure because the figures are either non-existant or too depressing.
Over the years, the obsession with sealing the Red Centre Way has distracted TCA from pursuing less esoteric and more urgent realistic tourism infrastructure needs such as:
· Sealing the Inner Mereenie Loop and fixing the floodways on the sections that are sealed;
· Improving access roads to existing attractions such as Ellery Creek Big Hole, Palm Valley, Redbank Gorge, Gosse Bluff, Larapinta Trail;
· Upgrading existing iconic attractions such as an archway entrance to the West MacDonnells;
· Providing picnic spots for Campervans on sections of the old Highway such as at Charles Creek;
· Concentrate marketing and promotion on existing and new iconic attractions including Gosse Bluff that draw tourists to Central Australia and are the main reason why they choose to come to see Central Australia, instead of focusing on cottage industries and cultural experiences that are an added attraction yet still part of the overall experience.
· Fixing the drunkenness, violence and vandalism that tourists see every day and night in The Mall and in the suburbs for the last 50 years.
Mr Huyben may not have had complaints because tourists wait till they return home before venting their disgust amongst their friends and spread it by word of mouth. Nothing has changed since I first visited here as a tourist almost 50 years ago.
At best tourism has stagnated and now with The Rock closing and major resorts under new ownership Central Australian tourism is about to enter a new era which is challenging to say the least and needs a big shakeup and major change of direction and emphasis to reverse a long-term underlying downward trend.
Mr Huyben is going to have his work cut out!
Ross Pollock
Alice Springs

Camel tours happy

Sir – [Regarding last week’s report on Tourism NT’s “Get Centred in the Red Centre with AFL Legend Russell Robertson” and our listing under “Russell’s Top 5”], we are unable to supply specific figures in regards to the campaign, however, many clients mentioned the campaign during and following.
We would participate again.
Julia Burke        
Pyndan Camel Tracks
Alice Springs


Sir – [The multiple dwelling block in Ridges Estate I referred to in my letter last week as advertised at $460,000 is now being advertised] at $506,000: howzat! $46K inflation for one week.
Judy Barker
Alice Springs

AZRI vision

Sir – I support Judy Barker in her letter when she writes about the new Kilgariff development, or AZRI as it used to be known. She asks, “Will anyone have the vision to make it what it could be?”
The answer is, hopefully, yes. In April the public consultation as outlined by Wendy Morris at the Public Forum on Planning Issues held last month is due to begin.
Her participatory workshop process known as Enquiry-by-Design has been aiding communities across Australia design their new developments to become the best they can be.
The Top End’s new town of Weddell is benefiting from her expertise, and we in Alice would be mad not to grasp this chance.
The key to success is having all those who see the potential for something good show up. There are some loud voices in town who seem determined to talk Kilgariff down.
If allowed, their negativity will dominate, as it did in the public question time at last month’s forum.
Kilgariff will go ahead, but it will not reach its potential if the nay-sayers are allowed to dominate the floor. So show up prepared to be creative, supportive and positive.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs

Territory justice?

Sir – Did you know that the NT Education Department can deem any Territory teacher unfit, without informing them and without written evidence?  That’s what happened to my wife and I when we taught in Ali-Curung. 
They can also expose NT schoolchildren to asbestos and not have to answer questions about it.  My wife and I were blacklisted after raising health issues in our school. 
DET will not deny that when we asked if our school was safe from asbestos, they refused to tell us; that we were deemed unfit remote teachers without our knowledge (even after we asked and with no written evidence); DET even lied to us about why we were losing jobs. 
When we found out and challenged this designation and asked to see our file (which they have to do under their new policy), without explanation they suddenly said we were fit teachers and no further discussion would be entered into.
Thank God for Alison Anderson who has raised our case before the NT Parliament and Education Minister Dr Chris Burns and other DET officials who are refusing to answer her questions raised on our behalf.
DET will not deny these allegations and simply says that it falls under “employment issues”: that’s Department double-speak for ‘it’s true’.  
Territorians have no right to criticise DET, if they do not speak out on this issue.  If you can expose NT children to asbestos and not have to answer for it, and you can purge teachers with no justification and lie to them as to why they are losing out on jobs (that’s EXACTLY what happened to us), you have no hope of getting a better system.  Our children will be the losers.
Dr Robert E. Bartholomew
(Formerly) Ali-Curung
ED – The Alice News offered right of reply to the Department of Education. The offer was declined.

Wikileaks controversy shows global meltdown may be just a mouseclick away

Sir – I know that WikiLeaks does not seem to be a local matter.  However, a global financial meltdown affects us all, and therefore I would hope that the following concerns will filter through the purported “6 degrees of separation” to those who need to do something about it.
At first glance many of us would probably feel that those WikiLeaks supporters who closed down Master Card, Pay Pal, and Visa (all be it for a limited time) should be jailed, and this is not without merit. 
However, if we look at the deeper problem highlighted by their actions we might consider giving them medals for what they have revealed to us.
Kevin Rudd has been criticized by some for suggesting that the blame for WikiLeaks rests with the USA and its inability to protect its electronic communication network.
He could have included the rest of the western world in his criticism. 
The main point, however, is not the initial gathering of information by WikiLeaks, but that, subsequently, a loosely organized group of people on computers have been able to cause a financial disruption to some major world wide business organizations, with impunity. 
These were not people who wanted to bring the world’s financial institutions to their knees, but their actions have shown us the possibility of doing just that.
The wakeup call initiated by the WikiLeaks group has shown us where we are vulnerable, and has given us a window of opportunity to properly prepare our cyber defenses.
It would be naive of us to think that governments and businesses world wide are not aware of this threat and are not actively trying to protect themselves.  However, the recent WikiLeaks episode has pointed out that whatever they are doing is not working, and their seeming inability to protect themselves is of great concern to average citizens like me who worry about losing their investments, their homes or their jobs.
Whether we thank WikiLeaks or not is an arguable point, but whatever we do with the messenger is far less important than what we do with the message.
Jerry Flattum
Alice Springs

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