On the contrary, Steve, it’s not me that’s trapped in …

Comment on LETTER: Water debate 21 years ago – similar in substance, but not in tone by Alex Nelson.

On the contrary, Steve, it’s not me that’s trapped in “Groundhog Day”, rather it’s this town and region in which I am (just like you) a lifetime resident.
However, Groundhog Day is not the best analogy to compare with the peculiarly circular nature of recent history in the Northern Territory – rather, it’s George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, which I’m sure is simply a work of fiction to some local learned individuals. However, with my Roman Catholic background and an extensive personal experience of CLP politics I can see (in the light of my lifetime’s observation of this region) that Orwell’s compelling tale is a parable of our time that appears to have been subverted for use as a blue-print for the governance and administration of this region. It’s just that in its practice in the NT there are some very distinctive twists to Orwell’s salutary warning – but its principal characteristics are all there to be discerned by the careful observer.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

LETTER: Water debate 21 years ago – similar in substance, but not in tone
Time to indulge in some more “naval gazing”, as Steve Brown calls it. The main reason that water restrictions were implemented for three months in 1970 was due to excessive irrigation of gardens in the new subdivision of Gillen. The growth in demand for water caught the NT Administration by surprise, it had reached a level that wasn’t anticipated until the mid 1970s.
Amongst all the material published in relation to this issue at the time there was a particularly interesting article by journalist Bob Watts (later to become the longest-serving editor of the Centralian Advocate). It’s worth quoting the lead-up to the main headline: “With Alice Springs now under quite severe water restrictions, despite the fact that experts say there is an almost unlimited supply of underground water, it is interesting to look at the background and the … NOT SO GLORIOUS HISTORY OF OUR WATER SUPPLY” (Centralian Advocate, 19/2/70).
One correspondent didn’t think it was worth looking at that background: “In the issue of the ‘Advocate’ of 19th February, the article by Bob Watt on the history of the water supply in Alice Springs achieves nothing. Nobody is interested in what happened in 1942 to 1963; a new generation has grown up in the town and the past doesn’t mean a thing” (Centralian Advocate, 12/3/70).
By crikey, that sounds just like Steve Brown! It was actually a grumpy letter from D. D. Smith, who was a prominent member of the local ALP (he was standing as a Labor candidate for the Town Management Board elections at the time, and a decade earlier he was the Labor Member for Stuart in the NT Legislative Council).
Contrary to Steve Brown’s opinion, the past remains relevant to the present, a fact recognised throughout recorded history. For example, in 1905 the philosopher George Santayana stated: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – a dictum which is highly relevant to the governance and administration of the Northern Territory of Australia, not least on water management in Alice Springs!
Another quote on much the same theme comes from Marcus Tullius Cicero from the Roman Empire: “Those who have no knowledge of what has gone before them must forever remain children”
Recent history was vital for the revelations of the Fitzgerald Inquiry that brought down the regime of that doyen of agrarian socialism, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, in 1987: “After nine months, a vast deal of information and assertion was entombed in Fitzgerald’s computers. He later said: I have a better appreciation of how big the problem is than the general community” (The Hillbilly Dictator by Evan Whitton; ABC Books, 1989).
The main reason recent history is unpopular in some circles is not that it is irrelevant but that it is inconvenient. An awareness of what has and is going on is vital for efficient decision-making and management – and that just hasn’t been happening here in the Northern Territory for a very long time.
I’m indebted to Steve Brown’s response for some very interesting insights but I’ll conclude by stating that I rest my case, m’lud.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Fire threat: Where are the big water bombers?
It seems increasingly unlikely we’re in for a horrendous bushfire summer precisely because of the current drought continuing, following on now from two earlier years of low rainfall.
Recently I compared this year’s rainfall figures from the Alice Springs Airport to 2009, the driest on record.
For the first seven months (January to July) both years were virtually identical with totals of 47.2mm (2009) and 46.8mm (2019) respectively.
However, in August 2009 the airport recorded 13mm while this year it was zero. If there is no rain recorded this month we will be almost 20mm less than at the same time in 2009.
The total rainfall for 2009 was 76.8mm which was 5.3mm less than the previous lowest record of 82.1mm recorded in 1965, some 44 years earlier.
A decade after 2009, we are on track not just to beat the new record but to smash it; and long term forecasts are not encouraging for avoiding it.

Police gets street parking, cops’ private cars in compound
On the odd occasion I walk past the police station vehicle compound in Bath Street, I recognise some private vehicles that previously were parked in Parsons Street outside the old police station.
I used to see these regularly after finishing work at Woolies and walking home that way late each evening.

Authorities underrated risk to Pine Gap, Alice of a nuclear strike
Just read a comment piece by ABC North American correspondent James Glenday, who notes: “According to the Gun Violence Archive, 9,418 Americans have died from bullet wounds so far this year. 18,785 have been injured.”
To put that in perspective, more people have been killed and injured in the USA by gun violence up to the end of August than there are residents of Alice Springs.
That’s just this year. We think we’ve got problems?

Authorities underrated risk to Pine Gap, Alice of a nuclear strike
I note this book becomes available on September 3, which this year marks the 80th anniversary of the declaration of war by Britain and France (which included Australia) on Nazi Germany following the invasion of Poland that started two days earlier.
In that same month the German Army Weapons Bureau commenced work, and one of its first projects was research into creating a nuclear bomb. German physicist Werner Heisenberg delivered an initial paper on building a workable atom bomb before the year was over.
Albert Einstein, whose equation of E=mc2 lies at the core of nuclear physics, had already warned the US of this research – as did British intelligence – but the warnings were largely ignored until 1941, and the Manhattan Project began shortly after Japan’s attack against Pearl Harbour forced America into the war.
The first nuclear arms race was actually between America and Nazi Germany; the first bombs were intended for Europe but the war ended there before they were ready so ended up being used on Japan.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had embarked on its own nuclear weapons research program, which was significantly aided by information obtained by spies from the Manhattan Project – and thus was born the arms race of the Cold War.

Aboriginal flag to fly year round on Anzac Hill
I wonder why everyone seems to insist this issue began 20 years ago? As I pointed out in my article last year (https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2018/03/25/in-a-flap-over-flags-a-possible-compromise/) the original request for flying the Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill was first made in 1989 which by my mathematics is 30 years ago.
It’s also forgotten that the two large flag poles erected in 1989 replaced four smaller ones. These were used to fly the national flag (which flew on the east side of the monument) and the individual armed services flags which overlooked the town. These flags were only flown on Anzac Day and (I think) Remembrance Day but for the remainder of the year there were none.
This issue had its genesis from the protracted political and ideological disputes between the NT Government and the major land councils that dominated Territory politics during the 1980s.

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