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

Country Liberal Party: custodians ignored on gallery
@ Jack (Posted May 29, 2020 at 2:11 pm): Whatever amount of money “we” decide to “stump up” gives us no right or authority to dictate terms to Indigenous people on how or where their art and culture may be displayed for others.
What they decide might not cost as much as $50m; indeed, it’s the NT Government, not custodians and TOs, that “stumped up” that sum of money so it’s hypocritical to blame the latter.
And, if custodians and TOs decide they don’t want to go down this path at all, then the money becomes a moot point, doesn’t it?

Country Liberal Party: custodians ignored on gallery
Basically, whether from the Labor or Country Liberals, the debate about the National Aboriginal Art Gallery, is all about cultural appropriation of Aboriginal art to suit the ambitions of politicians, bureaucrats and the business sector.
The entire process, subsequent to the steering committee report, has been (and continues to be) completely mishandled arse-about; surely it has to be resolved in the following manner:
1. Do the traditional custodians and owners of this region want or support the concept of a “national” art gallery, either on its own or as part of a cultural centre?
2. If they support this concept, where do they want it to be built?
The answers to these two basic questions would provide the guidance on whether this project is approved or not in the first place, and then (if approved) where it can be built.
It’s their art, their culture, so let’s allow the custodians and TOs to be the primary authority on this matter, and the rest of us to abide by their wishes accordingly.

CLP would build gallery at Desert Park, not Anzac precinct
@ Ray (Posted May 28, 2020 at 6:19 pm): The irony of your comment is that the Alice Springs Desert Park, when it was a concept promoted by the NT Government nearly 30 years ago, was touted as a major new attraction for Alice Springs that would attract and / or divert tourists from Uluru – yes, it was going to be the economic game-changer for Central Australia!
As was the casino at the beginning of NT self-government _ who remembers all those high-rollers from Asia it was going to attract to our fair town?
And then the Desert Knowledge Precinct, which would put Central Australia at the forefront of research and development for a billion customers in similar environments around the world! Hallelujah!
Not to mention the very original economic nirvana dreaming, the transcontinental railway from south to north that would open up access to the teeming markets of southeast Asia (that one dates from the 19th century colonial period of South Australia’s control of the Northern Territory).
And now we’ve got the National Aboriginal Art Gallery, just the latest mirage on the desert horizon that self-interested politicians and bureaucrats are urging upon us as the oasis of our economic salvation.

CLP would build gallery at Desert Park, not Anzac precinct
To me the obvious question to ask is this: Assuming the gallery is built at the Alice Springs Desert Park or south of the Gap, or even not at all, who then is going to be held to account for the unnecessary destruction of a perfectly good public asset, the former Anzac Hill High School, at a cost to taxpayers over $2m and for no good reason at all?
By rights this whole issue should be a major political scandal.

Mparntwe custodians: Lhere Artepe does not speak for us
@ Jack (Posted May 26, 2020 at 1:19 am): Change the scale of your figures (upwards, on a massive scale), widen the scope of your scenario, and you’ve got a perfect description of the Northern Territory for the entire period of “responsible” self-government.

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