In 1989 I lived in a unit in a backyard …

Comment on CLC members want forensic probe into their organisation by Alex Nelson.

In 1989 I lived in a unit in a backyard of a property in Hartley Street neighbouring Centrecorp. I was astonished to observe a senior town council alderman, also a prominent local CLP identity and former real estate agent, regularly accessing that property where I learned he was employed.
This dumbfounded me, as this was a period of time when the NT Government (CLP) was in constant furious conflict with the land councils and other Aboriginal organisations across the NT.
I misread the situation next door, as I assumed this was a small but positive step towards finding common ground between the CLP and the Aboriginal organisations (incidentally, David Ross had become the Director of the CLC for the first time, replacing Pat Dodson who had returned to WA and was appointed a commissioner for the Black Deaths in Custody inquiry in that state).
In 1990 I was the chairman of the CLP’s Flynn-cum-Greatorex Branch. On several occasions I divided proceeds from combined branch meetings with the Centrecorp “employee”, himself the treasurer of the Alice Springs Branch, in his office at Centrecorp.
I became quite familiar with the internal layout of the building; and at one stage the floorboards in his office were replaced with expensive jarrah timber.
During that year this person was preselected as a CLP candidate for a new electorate in town (following a redistribution of boundaries).
As a local branch chairman, I was a member of the collegiate panel (in whose creation I had major role) to choose the CLP’s candidates for the seats in Central Australia.
This particular individual won preselection by one vote over another nomination for that seat. Interestingly, in his comprehensive application seeking nomination as a CLP candidate, he made no reference to his position at Centrecorp.
In fact, this fact was never publicised for many years except for one occasion when he was quoted in a Centralian Advocate article reporting the announcement that the tourist lodge development at Kings Canyon would proceed (a project in which Centrecorp was involved from the beginning).
It so happened that our recommendation of the candidate for the seat of Stuart was rejected at the CLP’s Annual Conference in Darwin that year; and I was the unwitting patsy that relayed highly sensitive information about this person (which I’m now certain was wrong) to the party’s leaders that led to that decision.
The meeting chose to appoint two people to oversee the completion of the preselection process for Stuart; and one of those appointed was the Centrecorp employee. In due course I ended up being requested (via the Office of Chief Minister in Alice Springs) to be one of two CLP candidates for Stuart in 1990.
The Centrecorp employee narrowly lost his campaign in Alice Springs; he continued in his roles as a town council alderman and CLP functionary, at one time serving on the party’s Management Committee (not to mention his membership of many other committees in town).
This person (along with his close friend in the Office of Chief Minister in Alice Springs) sought preselection as a CLP candidate for the 1994 NT election campaign.
They were key figures in the attempt to pervert the party’s preselection processes to achieve their aims but ultimately were unsuccessful. On one occasion the Centrecorp employee illegally gained access to private bank accounts of certain members appointed to the preselection panel which led to these people being removed from it (all of this was reported exclusively in the Alice Springs News during 1995).
All of this is just to illustrate there have been serious conflicts of interest involving Centrecorp which stretches back more than a quarter of a century, almost back to its inception in the mid 1980s.
There is no question that there badly requires to be an official inquiry probing the Central Land Council, Centrecorp and its various affiliates and subsidiaries but I warn this will likely blow out to be the NT’s equivalent of the Fitzgerald Inquiry of Queensland in the late 1980s.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Wakefield, Ryan star in the Phantom of the Art Gallery
The past invariably catches up with us but it’s rare to do so quickly as it has with the Gunner “mea culpa” Government.
Who remembers the mantra of open, honest, accountable, transparent and trustworthy government promised by NT Labor at the time of the last Territory election campaign in 2016?
Let’s have a few reminders: First, an earnest NT Labor Opposition Leader had the following to say in an ABC profile leading up to the last Territory elections: “The number one thing lacking in Northern Territory politics is trust, according to Labor leader Michael Gunner.
“Mr Gunner, 40, said he had worked hard to re-establish trust with Territorians.
“But, he pointed the finger squarely at the Country Liberals Party (CLP) for what he labelled a “trust deficit”.
“This term has been a term of chaos, and Territorians are just crying out for stability and politicians who will behave. We’ve got a team, I believe, who will do that, Mr Gunner said.”
In an interview with Erwin Chlanda following her election victory, Dale Wakefield spoke along similar lines: “People were sick of having a local Member not focussed on local issues. Transparency of government.”
She went on: “This election shows that if you don’t listen to the electorate, and you don’t take their concerns seriously, anybody can lose their seat. Michael Gunner has given that message to us very strongly. We need to bring trust back to government because I think that has been eroded.”
Pardon me?
Now we find this same Gunner Labor Government indulging in grants of taxpayers’ funds for the benefit of property holders, the inevitable excuse of “commercial in confidence” (so much for transparency), and a reliance on false information from top bureaucrats to justify Cabinet decisions made on the basis of no documented evidence (I’m referring to the reasons given for the destruction of the former Anzac Hill High School).
Now, as revelations start to emerge of all the shady backroom deals behind closed doors over the past two years, Ms Wakefield seeks to excuse herself in a moral light with regard to a meeting held on 27 June: “I mentioned multiple times that I was uncomfortable with the commercial nature of the discussion with the developers present and was unclear as to whether any interest by parties may be in conflict”.
She also makes the most interesting claim: “I note that as the chair of the meeting the Mayor [Damien Ryan] did not call for any conflict of interest declarations” at the meeting that she and her colleague Lauren Moss attended by teleconference.
On the face of it, this is most uncharacteristic of Mr Ryan, as publicly at Town Council meetings he has been most anxious to avoid conflict of interest with regard to discussions about Anzac Oval in light of my nomination for its heritage listing.
The Mayor was also the Local Government representative on the Heritage Council at the time too – he only resigned from that body following the announcement of his preselection as a CLP candidate for Araluen in September.
I can assure he was most assiduous in ensuring he avoided conflict of interest in regard to any discussions about the heritage nominations of Anzac Oval and the old high school.
Perhaps Mr Ryan thought he had an understanding at that particular meeting?
The way things are going, the Michael Gunner Government is rapidly morphing as the Tommy-Gunner “Good Fellas” Government.
If trust and transparency are so obviously lacking with regard to the National Aboriginal Art Gallery, the Civic Centre, the “Top End” of town (in more than one sense of the phrase) and the former Anzac Hill High School – well, where does the rot stop?
Can this government be trusted on any of the issues it’s dealt with – for example, onshore gas fracking?
As Michael Gunner stated in 2016: “I think you’ve got to own things. So if something goes wrong, I as leader own it, and you’ve got to take responsibility.”
So be it.


Government grant for Todd Tavern, Alice Plaza development
OK, so now let’s understand this situation a little more fully.
The Todd Tavern, notwithstanding its distinct architectural value, has for decades been a major source of the grog strife and associated anti-social and crime problems of Alice Springs.
This hotel has long been a major cause of why people don’t venture much into the north end of Todd Street and Mall for many years.
The Alice Plaza (originally Ford Plaza) is the town’s great white elephant – from the time it commenced operation it has been effectively subsidised by taxpayers who, through a range of Commonwealth and (mostly) NT Government agencies, have paid rent on most of the upper level and (at times) for retail space on the ground floor, too (PowerWater, for example).
Despite the massive taxpayer support this building has received for three decades, and no less than four major redesigns over that period, the Alice Plaza has never been a successful development.
When the Alice Plaza’s construction was underway in 1986, the building’s architect declared “the new full mall for Todd Street and the Ford Plaza will be an asset for tourism in Alice Springs” (Develop or die, Centralian Advocate, 18/7/86).
The building’s various owners, the NT Government and the Alice Springs Town Council have been struggling to make this massive miscalculation succeed ever since.
There is no evidence whatsoever that either government (at both tiers) or the commerce sector have any idea – let alone expertise – to rectify their colossal blunders.
They just keep coming up with more hare-brained schemes and projects to throw more taxpayers’ dollars at, always with the promise these “investments” will lead to pots of gold at the end of a rainbow and we’ll all live happily ever after.
No major project undertaken during the history of NT Self-Government, either here in Alice Springs or the Territory as a whole, has come anywhere within cooee of such siren promises.
Rather, we’re going backwards and the pace is worsening.
However, the property holders continue to do nicely out of being endlessly funded at public expense, regardless of which major political party holds power in the Northern Territory.
And now we’ve got a Labor Government spending more taxpayers’ dollars for the benefit of the wealthiest hoi polloi of our town to help them get out of the mess of their own making.
Never has so much been paid by so many to so few in the history of Alice Springs.
This is what “responsible Self-Government” has come to mean, and it is a disaster.
Let the wealthy property holders finance their own solutions, they should not be continued to be propped up at public expense.
Let the wealthy property holders face the responsibilities and consequences of their own poor investment decisions; and should they go under – well, that’s the reality of free market forces.
It is not the duty of government to endlessly spend scarce public funds to save the rich and privileged from themselves.
It’s long past the time when this situation should be called out for what it is – enough is enough.


Now that the Rock can’t be climbed, visiting it will cost more
@ Charlie Carter (Posted November 7, 2019 at 10:09 am): Presumably referring to Clyde Holding, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (1983-87) in the Hawke Government.
Holding was the architect of a proposed national Aboriginal land rights act but this was kyboshed after a strong campaign by the WA mining industry and Labor Premier, Brian Burke.
Instead, a bit under a decade later, the High Court of Australia recognised Native Title as legal.


Another nail in the Anzac High coffin
What this whole exercise starkly reveals is that the entire system of government in the Northern Territory – bureaucracy and the law – is a preserve of the wealthy, privileged and powerful of our society, irrespective of which political party holds power.
As I have stated now for decades, the NT is a shamocracy, not a democracy.
Heritage is the Achilles Heel of this inherently corrupt system because it has long been regarded as an annoyance of no great consequence in the overall scheme of things.
In my recent post comparing the track records of NT Labor and the CLP towards heritage issues (https://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2019/10/10/how-do-nt-labor-and-the-clp-rate-on-heritage/) it’s clear that the situation is only worsening over time.
What’s happening with heritage is reflective of a much wider malaise afflicting all aspects of public administration (and thus the economy) in the Northern Territory – this is not just about heritage alone.
We find ourselves have become the real embodiment of a dystopian nightmare.
The final sentence of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is apt: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again but already it was impossible to say which was which”.
(See my comment https://theconversation.com/labors-reset-on-climate-and-jobs-is-a-political-mirage-126013#comment_2056427).


Another nail in the Anzac High coffin
I would like to thank all those who took the time to attend the second directions hearing of the NTCAT.
Everyone came of their own volition, and your support is most appreciated.


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