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

Minister Lawler determined to demolish Anzac High
@ James T Smerk (Posted July 21, 2019 at 12:09 pm): Uh huh, and there were people like you who said the same kind of thing about all other heritage listed places in town that barely avoided the bulldozers.
How little do you know!
That old school was once the pride of Alice Springs and a major tourist attraction – yes, truly it was!
Because that’s where the world-famous School of the Air was located from 1954 to 1968 – and there’s no reason why that can’t happen again.
Isn’t it easy for the instant experts to make pronouncements from a position of ignorance – I mean, have you or the other critics actually bothered to find out about the building’s true history?
No, I thought so.


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@ Evelyne (Posted June 28, 2019 at 3:15 pm): Perhaps you should ask people working within the public service/bureaucracy about the difference between democracy and tyranny. On second thought, don’t bother – they all have to keep their mouths shut.


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@ Interested Darwin Observer (Posted June 28, 2019 at 8:04 am): Oh! Are we a democracy?


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If I recall correctly, the Geoscience Australia Antenna commenced operation as a Landsat receiving station in 1979, so this year marks its 40th anniversary.
Our family was living at the CSIRO residence by Heath Road at the time, now the Centre for Appropriate Technology.
There was one funny occasion when my brother was wandering around in the paddock nearby the new facility, and wherever he went the antenna would swing around and point towards him.
I think he got a bit spooked by it but it was the technical officers in the adjoining demountable lab that were just having a bit of fun.


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