This reminds me of development plans for a major coal …

Comment on CLP secretly signing Territory away, say Greens by Alex Nelson.

This reminds me of development plans for a major coal deposit at Lake Phillipson in the far north of South Australia being considered by the NT, SA and Commonwealth governments in 1980. It was seen at the time as being a potential major energy source for Darwin and Adelaide.
However, a report published in July 1980 pointed out some problems: “It is of lower energy content than NSW and Queensland steaming coal, the ash fuses at relatively low temperatures, the location is very remote, the coal seam lies in subterranean water.”
But there were also advantages: “The deposit is under a railway line. It is the best coal in South Australia and is likely to prove to be the cheapest domestic source of energy for South Australian power generation.
“The reserves are vast and could be developed on an extremely large scale. The coal may be amenable to gasification, liquification and solvent refining.”
During 1980 the NT Government was actively considering future energy options for the NT, seeking to end the Territory’s reliance for expensive imported crude oil for energy production in all the major towns.
With the construction of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs rail line nearing completion, attention was redirected towards a renewed campaign to construct the railway from Alice Springs to Darwin. The coal deposit in SA “under a railway line” was seen as a neat fit for economic justification of the long-awaited railway to Darwin.
In the 1980 NT election campaign, the CLP announced that a $400m coal-fired power station would be constructed in Darwin (ALP leader Jon Isaac’s proposal earlier that year for a gas pipeline from Central Australia to Darwin was roundly condemned as being impractical and unrealistic).
During the Federal election campaign later that same year the Fraser Coalition Government announced that it would proceed with the railway from Alice Springs to Darwin, much to the delight of Chief Minister Paul Everingham. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
However, Australia plunged into a deep economic recession and the Commonwealth dragged its heels on its rail commitment.
Both the Coalition and Labor promised during the Federal election campaign of early 1983 to proceed with the railway to Darwin; Labor under Bob Hawke won, and then proceeded with delaying tactics to renege on that promise.
The NT Government remained committed to a coal-fired power station until early 1984 but abruptly opted for a gas pipeline from the Centre. It was the Member for Braitling, Roger Vale, who successfully lobbied for the gas pipeline – although he had previously been Jon Isaac’s fiercest critic of the same idea in 1980.
The railway to Darwin finally became a reality 20 years later; and it comes as no surprise that mineral exploration and deposits once regarded as uneconomic in the remote areas of the inland are now perceived in a much more favourable light.
[Mr Vale was an ex-employee of the Magellan oil and gas company with a key role in the Mereenie – Palm Valley oil and gas fields.
The US company says on its website: “In 1960, Magellan acquired its first interests in the Amadeus basin in Australia. Following the discovery of gas at Mereenie and Palm Valley in the mid-1960s, these interests became Magellan’s core producing assets for the next five decades.”
Mr Vale assaulted me at the Alice Springs airport when I challenged him – by now a member of the NT Government – about not giving The Centre priority in the benefits from the Mereenie resources and consenting to exporting them from the region.
The stoush was filmed by the Seven TV network which screened it nation-wide, contributing to my unending national prominence (in a positive way), and not quite so positive in the case of Mr Vale – otherwise a very popular local politician, with whom I enjoyed a very pleasant professional relationship.
Erwin Chlanda, Editor]

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

CLP candidate Ryan compromised as town’s negotiator
Historically, Damien Ryan’s chances of winning a seat from his position as mayor of Alice Springs are bleak.
As I pointed out in my comment piece 14 years ago, no mayor in the NT has succeeded as a candidate for the NT Legislative Assembly (see and scroll to “Fran: Fact and fantasy”).
It’s interesting to compare the situation now with that of 2005.
Labor was (and is) in government on both occasions.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff stood as a Labor candidate for the seat of Greatorex whereas her successor, Damien Ryan, is now running for the CLP in Araluen.
In 2005 Labor held 13 seats as it went to the polls but was returned to office with a crushing 19 seat victory.
Labor now holds 16 seats, down from 18 as of late last year, and is widely anticipated to poll poorly in next year’s election campaign (which would remain consistent with the NT’s political history).
Assuming Robyn Lambley chooses to run again as an independent candidate for Araluen, she will have a strong advantage of incumbency.
It looks to me as if the CLP is hedging its bets on this particular contest.

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.

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