It’s completely inaccurate and misleading for Sarah Thorne to claim …

Comment on Pilger review: Greens strike back by Alex Nelson.

It’s completely inaccurate and misleading for Sarah Thorne to claim that John Pilger is outraged by Aboriginal disadvantage and that nobody else apparently is concerned.
History shows that people from all walks of life from the commencement of colonisation have been vitally concerned about the plight of Aboriginal people and tried to do something about it. A major problem is that, in some of the various approaches tried, the attempts to assist Aboriginal people to adjust to changed circumstances have misfired. I can’t see that the Green movement is any better in its approach to this issue.
I’d just like to point out an interesting situation that occurred in 1990. Early that year the CLP was facing the prospect of its first election defeat when eventually the government would have to call the next NT elections. Private party polling clearly indicated Labor was on track to win; and I personally witnessed Chief Minister Marshall Perron almost in tears due to the stress he was under at a CLP Central Council meeting held in Tennant Creek in late April (I was a chairman of the CLP’s Flynn Branch in Alice Springs – the name was changed to the Greatorex Branch that year).
At that time the ALP had two Aboriginal members in the NT Legislative Assembly, both from the Top End – they were Stan Tipiloura and Wes Lanhupuy.
There was no Aboriginal member in the CLP or representation from Central Australia. I was one of two CLP candidates for the seat of Stuart in the elections of October 1990, the other being Eric Panunka from Ti Tree. (A similar approach was tried with the seat of MacDonnell, too). I’d never intended to run as a candidate at that time – in fact, I’d served on the local branches collegiate panel to preselect the CLP candidates for Central Australia; and I was the person principally responsible for the establishment of that collegiate preselection panel. Anyone who served on the preselection panel was ineligible to run as a candidate.
We chose a prominent Aboriginal candidate from Yuendumu initially but he was secretly dumped at the CLP’s Annual Conference on August 10, 1990. It was on or about 28 September I was contacted by the Office of Chief Minister in Alice Springs, asking me to run as a second CLP candidate in Stuart in support of Eric Panunka.
This was extremely awkward for me – I’d made no provision for campaigning, I wasn’t going to get much support from the CLP itself, I’d just bought my first home that year with interest rates in excess of 12 per cent (and that was with first home owners government assistance), and it meant I would have to resign my job in the NT Public Service, with no guarantee of getting the same position back after the election campaign.
But I chose to accept the challenge – it was an opportunity to support a traditional Aboriginal person to run for the CLP in Central Australia.
The CLP failed to win the two bush seats in Central Australia with this approach in October 1990 – but it convincingly defeated both Labor and the NT Nationals in the general election campaign.
The reason for the turnaround in the CLP’s fortunes was due to a remarkable run of events, that commenced on the winter solstice (June 21) of 1990 – that’s when the newspapers across the NT blazed with the front page story of an extraordinary attack on the leadership ability of Labor Opposition Leader, Terry Smith.
And that attack came from an entirely unexpected direction – the convenor of the Territory Greens movement, Bob Ellis. Ellis had previously been a long-serving head of the NT Sacred Sites Authority, and been a major thorn in the side of the CLP NT Government – I know from years of participation in the CLP he was heartily despised.
Bob Ellis launched a scathing attack against Terry Smith, claiming that even Mickey Mouse could run the Labor Party better – and didn’t the media lap up that one! From the punch-drunk CLP perspective, it was like manna from heaven! It was a critical blow to Labor, it was on the back foot from that time onwards.
What lay behind this extraordinary turn of events? Well, it just so happens that the CLP simultaneously jettisoned its long-standing support for the establishment of a nuclear energy industry sector in the NT, a policy the party had vigorously promoted in the late 1980s.
It was a pragmatic decision – the NT Government had no power over this matter and so there was no point supporting a policy that needlessly aggravated a part of the voting constituency. (Only the Federal Government did, and it was Labor under PM Bob Hawke, and it owed its survival to preferences from the Greens in the federal elections early in 1990, so clearly there was not going to be any support for a nuclear energy industry coming from that sector!)
So clearly there was a sweet-heart deal between the CLP and the NT Greens movement that led to that first vital shot that destroyed Labor’s chances of winning the NT elections in 1990 – and for (as it eventuated) a whole decade longer.
And that is one good reason why I think the Greens have no more credibility in politics that either of the major political parties!

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Alice to get first Aboriginal owned earth ground station
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.


Architect of Katherine’s masterplan to be Alice council CEO
This is tremendous good news for Alice Springs. I shall put on hold my plans to move to Katherine 🙂


Car crashed into supermarket, alcohol stolen
Certainly not the first time that kind of offence has occurred at those premises!


Nationals in Canberra run Country Liberals media
Perhaps it’s splitting hairs but there were two previous Trades and Labour Councils established in Alice Springs before Warren Snowdon “founded” the Central Australian Regional TLC.
The first was in December 1976 when Miscellaneous Workers Union officials Bill Thomson, from Sydney, and Ray Rushbury (Melbourne) arrived here to establish the Alice Springs Trades and Labour Council, as an adjunct to the TLC in Darwin. This was achieved by the end of the year, and Rushbury was appointed the permanent organiser in late 1977.
In early 1977 the Alice Springs TLC shared office space with the NT ALP in Reg Harris Lane. The new NT Labor leader, Jon Isaacs, was the secretary of the MWU in Darwin – he rose to prominence during 1976 when the North Australian Railway was closed.
The first Alice Springs TLC appeared to have become defunct by the end of the decade. In January 1981 a new organiser, Ray Ciantar from Perth, was appointed to re-activate the Alice Springs TLC but with responsibility extending to Tennant Creek and other regional communities; however, this effort seems to have been even less successful than the first.
The third “founding” of the TLC in Alice Springs was by Warren Snowdon in 1985, this time called the Central Australian TLC.


Wards for Alice council, including one for town camps?
Wards for the Alice Springs Town Council are not a new idea but have never been supported by the NT Government.
There was discussion about wards in the mid-1990s, which was firmly rejected by the government.
It was also raised by candidate Steve Strike during the town council election campaign in May 1988. Like Eli Melky’s current proposal, Strike also suggested five wards, each with two aldermen; however, he didn’t overlook the rural area on that occasion over 30 years ago (the other wards suggested were for Eastside, Gillen, Braitling and the Gap Area).
The town’s municipal boundaries were expanded significantly in early 1988, incorporating the whole rural area for the first time despite widespread opposition from affected residents. The idea of a ward system was the final suggestion to differentiate the rural area from the town, after calls for a separate community government and a shire were rejected by the NT Government.
It’s interesting to note that during the operation of the original Alice Springs Progress Association from 1947 to 1960, the town was divided into wards a couple of times for choosing delegates onto the association. The wards were the (now old) Eastside, town centre (now the CBD), the south side of the town, and the Farm Area along what is now Ragonesi Road. The town’s population grew from about 2000 to over 3000 residents during this period, which was long before there was a town council.
One person who represented the south ward from 1958 onwards was Bernie Kilgariff, kickstarting what was to become an illustrious career in NT politics.
Personally I support the concept of wards; for one thing, it would substantially reduce the cost and inconvenience of town council by-elections.
With regard to increasing the number of councillors from eight to 10; well, it’s just over a decade ago the reverse occurred.
Moreover, the ASTC first started off with eight aldermen (plus the mayor) in 1971 until 1977, when the number was increased to 10.
Here we go again?


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