As a former active member of the CLP but never …

Comment on Sensible infrastructure for the NT? by Alex Nelson.

As a former active member of the CLP but never a beneficiary of the “silver circle”, I agree with much of Bob Durnan’s assessment of the track record of mismanagement of the NT under self-government. But the blame is not all to be laid exclusively at the feet of the CLP.
I well recall the fierce criticism leveled by the ALP against the CLP, its “silver circle” mates and cronies, and so on in the late 1980s and early ’90s. For example, in November 1989 the Member for the Northern Territory, Warren Snowdon (in his first term in politics), made exactly these kinds of allegations in the Federal Parliament, including generalized claims of corruption. Chief Minister Marshall Perron challenged Snowdon to use parliamentary privilege in Canberra to specify the exact nature of all these allegations. Snowdon never did.
That example was typical of the nature of the debate at that time – lots of allegations and outrage coming from the Labor side, most notably the NT Trades and Labor Council, but never any specific details. That created an impression of endless muckraking and point-scoring on the part of Labor which actually AIDED the CLP’s grip on power!
Nowhere was this more evident than during the course of 1990 when the CLP was at its most vulnerable since its inception in 1974. I attended a CLP Central Council meeting in Tennant Creek in April 1990 where I witnessed Chief Minister Marshall Perron on the verge of an emotional breakdown in front of all the party’s delegates, such was the pressure he was under.
Yet fantastically the Left of politics came to the CLP’s rescue just two months later. It started with the convenor of the NT Greens, Bob Ellis (formerly the CEO of the NT Sacred Sites Authority and hugely despised within the CLP) launching a scathing attack against the leadership of NT Labor leader Terry Smith, stating that Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse could do just as good a job of leading the ALP.
In late September it was the turn of the NT Trades and Labor Council president Mark Crossin (husband of Trish Crossin, who was later to become a Labor senator for the NT) who also lashed the NT Labor leadership. In early October, Marshall Perron called an early election and – as the Centralian Advocate headline succinctly put it – Labor was “thumped”.
In short, what I’m saying is that the Labor Party contributed significantly to the long-term electoral success of the CLP. Was that deliberate on the part of certain members of the Territory’s political left?
It’s further to be noted that many of the projects and visions for developing the NT predated the CLP’s existence. The long-serving and highly respected Labor MP Jock Nelson was an ardent supporter of developing the north, not least in advocating gas pipeline developments from Mereenie to service major mine site developments such as Gove, Macarthur River and Mt Isa. (Incidentally, only two decades ago it was NT Labor that was pushing for the NT to build a gas pipeline to link south with Moomba – Barkly MLA Maggie Hickey was especially strong on this – and taking the stick to the CLP for failing to do this rather than the CLP’s preferred option of a gas pipeline to Gove!)
I could go on with other examples but to sum up – it takes two to tango. And the past invariably comes round to bite us all on the bum!

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

65 years of history now a pile of rubble
@ L Westerdale (Posted December 5, 2019 at 11:57 am): You say the old high school was only used for its intended purpose for 20 years?
Alice Springs Higher Primary School (equivalent to modern middle schools), 1953-60 – that’s eight years; then Alice Springs High School, 1961-72 – that’s another 12 years; then Anzac Hill High School, 1987-2009 – another 23 years.
Hmm, let’s see: 8 + 12 = 20; then 20 + 23 = 43. Yep, that’s right, 43 years as an upper primary and secondary school, not including the overlap with other roles and functions.
As recent national media reports have noted, Australia’s performance in secondary education of science, maths and reading is declining and below the average of OECD nations (and it seems some adults are the ones showing the way for today’s students).
As a nation we have a low regard for science and education, and in the Northern Territory we far prefer to preserve old gaols than we do old schools – a fact never better demonstrated than under the current Gunner Government which has overseen the rejection of two heritage nominations for former schools.
What was the Labor slogan from about two decades ago? Something about Australia being a “clever country?”

Claire Hockridge found dead
@ Ted Egan (Posted December 4, 2019 at 7:55 am): “When will they ever learn?”
We live in a time where the recent arrivals all know better than those who have lived here for far longer.
Experience, and the knowledge borne from it, counts for very little – almost nothing – in this age of tertiary tyranny where everything requires little tickets of paper with extra letters after your name to “prove” you know anything.
It’s not just hapless people lost in the bush who fall victim to this stupidity, just look at the general situation with so many well-paid qualified professional experts in charge of it all.
Such people can’t afford to learn anything for fear of looking inadequate in front of their peers.
And thus ineptitude and incompetency reigns supreme over us all.

Pastoralist finds alive the second of the three missing
It’s a matter of considerable concern that the bogged vehicle was located in a creek bed about 22 km east of the Stuart Highway in the vicinity of Stuarts Well, as that is not far to go to seek help.
Many years ago I crashed my car on a remote track 30 km west of Giles Weather Station – it’s the only vehicle accident I’ve ever experienced (touch wood) but fortunately the worst I suffered was injured pride.
However, my predicament was that I had travelled 15 km from a junction on the main road and it was late February, the hottest time of year.
To cut a long story short, I ended up walking about 29 km back to Giles (I got a lift for the last kilometre) which I did in a day.
I knew where I was and which direction I had to go.
The fact that the missing people near Stuarts Well set out to walk 22 km westwards towards the Stuart Highway almost a fortnight ago suggests something has gone seriously wrong.

Land planning favours developers, says residents group
A major feature of the history of NT Self-Government is the control of planning by the government of the day to suit the requirements of developers.
It has always been perceived that only development, and especially that of major projects, is beneficial for the economic growth of the Northern Territory.
The track record of the NT under Self-Government demonstrates clearly this is simply false – the bigger the projects, the less the Territory benefits.
Nowhere has this been more convincingly demonstrated than that of the Ichthys/INPEX project, by far the largest industrial project in the Territory’s history, and a major policy development of the previous Labor administration under Chief Minister Paul Henderson.
The legacy of that project continues to be economic devastation for Darwin.
For virtually the entire period of NT Self-Government there has been in practice an unnamed and unspoken policy that I call “Wreck and Rebuild”.
“Wreck and Rebuild” is characterised by the practice of destroying existing buildings and infrastructure to make way for new developments that are always held out to represent a major new phase of economic progress, that it’s great for jobs and progress.
This unofficial policy has reached new heights of absurdity under the current Gunner Labor Government with the demolition of the former Anzac Hill High School and proposed land swap with the Alice Springs Town Council for the Civic Centre, which in large part is no more than 13 years old (built under the Martin Labor Government).
These projects are being touted as “good for the economy” and “providing jobs” etc.
No, it’s snake oil and needs to be called out for what it truly is – government-sanctioned official corruption, as history under NT Self-Government unequivocally and abundantly demonstrates.

Damien Ryan’s youth curfew dilemma
@ Local1 (Posted November 30, 2019 at 7:07 am): You conclude your comment with this claim: “It was happening in the boom times of the 90s, but the town was not as deserted as it is now, people still went out and enjoyed Alice Springs then, people are more scared now I believe.”
So you say but it’s remarkable how rose-tinted some people’s memories become with the passage of time.
Here’s a few statements published in March 1990 following a three month consultation with businesses in the then still new full mall: “Todd Mall vandalism is costing Alice Springs traders thousands of dollars each year.
“Twenty five shops in the mall [in a week] reported having had windows broken.
“The Alice Springs newsagency alone said it had 80 windows broken in the last year. Graffiti was also a problem. Mall traders steering committee chairman Anthony Neck said vandalism was rife in the mall.
“Information I have received is that in the past 18 months almost every shop in the mall would have been vandalised, he said.
“It would be a conservative estimate to say at least one window is smashed in the mall every night.
“Mall trader Bruce Deans says he is fed up with his shops being vandalised and robbed. A garbage can was thrown through the front door [of his] shop on Monday night.
“The following night thieves jemmied the back door of the Springs Plaza and broke into his menswear store causing damage worth $1300 and stealing 20 pairs of jeans worth $1200.
[He] “fully supported a draft report prepared by the mall traders steering committee which among other things proposes day and night dog patrols in Todd Mall. He said mall traders were becoming frustrated over the situation.
“I just don’t know how long this can go on, he said. Mr Deans said his shop had been burgled five times this year [that is, by mid March].
“He said the problem is the mall itself. At night it’s spooky … nobody is around. It’s perfect for illegal activities.
[The report] “deals with the problems and issues concerning the mall’s present and long term viability.
“It slammed the security in the mall as disastrous. Prepared after three months of discussions the draft report paints a dark picture of the mall saying:
• Business premises are continually taking an intolerable barrage of vandalism;
• Tourists are harassed and intimidated during the day by drunks;
• an increase in assault, violence, robbery and rape makes the mall an undesirable place to visit especially at night.
“Mall traders have also called for the immediate upgrading of the lighting system in the mall. They want special security lights installed in vandal prone areas like the Old Alice Inn [Todd Tavern], the cinema and the Flynn Church.
“Calling the area between Parsons Street and Wills Terrace a ‘ghetto’ the report calls for its opening to traffic to deter vandalism. It recommends installing a security surveillance system to be operated by an independent security company” (Centralian Advocate, 16 March 1990).
That story (it wasn’t even front page) was reported nearly 30 years ago.
Since then we’ve got improved lighting, roller doors and shutters, extensive CCTV, and the “ghetto” from Parsons Street to Wills Terrace re-opened to traffic.
One would be forgiven for thinking all our problems have been solved.
The front page of that edition featured a report on crime in the suburbs: “A police telephone poll of Alice Springs residents has revealed an alarming rate of crime in the Eastside area.
“About one third of the 174 residents spoken to on the Eastside reported being burgled in the past three years. In one particular street every house on one side had been robbed.”
A fortnight later another front page story reported: “A leading Alice Springs car dealer has called for law courts to “get tough” with vandals after his Toyota dealership was the target of a mass attack this week.
“Peter Kittle Toyota’s used car division was targeted in a Sunday night rampage with more than half the fleet damaged.
“This is the worst that we’ve ever suffered, Mr Kittle said.
“The irate dealer shunned a Territory Government proposal which would make parents of juvenile offenders responsible for their children’s actions.
“The scheme might work for the average Joe Citizen but not for these little pricks, he said. I don’t think their parents have the money.”
The story goes on: “Windows on several cars were smashed, the office windows caved in, car bonnets damaged and other body panels on the fleet hit by rocks.
“Mr Kittle said it would take a month before the damage was fully repaired. He said at least one car dealership in Alice Springs was vandalised every fortnight” (Advocate, 6 April 1990).
In 1989 there were 11,000 cases of protective custody in Alice Springs for alcohol abuse; in 1990 it rose to 13,000 cases. The rate of murder occurred about once a month, with Alice Springs achieving the statistic of the most lethal town in the nation (the “murder capital of Australia” as we then became known).
Meanwhile, Mayor Leslie Oldfield supported a youth curfew based on the recent initiative of Port Augusta mayor, Joy Baluch. This idea was strongly resisted by Assistant Police Commissioner, Andy McNeill, who two years later defeated Oldfield to become mayor of Alice Springs.

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