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Town council self censorship: ‘In confidential’ lame excuse for hiding facts from the public.

Above: This is what the center of Charles Creek camp looks like. Below: This traffic way is hardly ready for handover, unless having power poles planted in the middle of a road is the latest fad in town planning.
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA (updated Nov 9)

The Town Council has a nifty way to hide behind closed doors matters that should be in the public domain.
“Can’t talk to you about that, mate. It’s in confidential.”
The latest such issue is the handover to the council of the town camps which have recently undergone a Federally funded $150m facelift.
The question is, is all the infrastructure up to scratch before it becomes the responsibility of, and a financial liability for, the rate payers?
Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Adam Giles (pictured) says it’s clear the roads are not, and the town camps lease holders, through Tangentyere, should be asking: “What went wrong with all that money?”
It’s a question Mayor Damien Ryan, the aldermen and council staff are not allowed to discuss in public – under threat of penalties including a gaol term.
But the other half of the story is this: these elected members can at any time take matters out of confidential, which makes their assertion that their lips must remain sealed just so much hypocrisy.
Council CEO Rex Mooney is a pleasant, thorough and very cautious man.
He may present a report – such as the one last week about the town camps – in confidential session.
The “normalising” of the camps, becoming part of the municipality, is clearly a public issue on which the aldermen would, surely, benefit greatly from public input as they make their decisions.
So why is the council not open about this?
There have apparently been meetings for the past couple of years, about ending the camps’ shameful state as ghetto enclaves on the margins of the town.
What was said at these meeting? It’s a secret.
“Classes of confidential information” are defined by Local Government Regulations.
It’s a very short list – eight lines. Most points are no-brainers: information that could harm staff or cause commercial prejudice.
The ones nominated by Mr Mooney were “prejudice the maintenance or administration of the law; or the security of the council, its members or staff; or the interests of the council or some other person”.
How so? What prejudice? Security? Who exactly is in peril and how? What interests?
Answers to these questions cannot be given. Why? Well, it’s in confidential.
Mr Mooney further cites Clause e: “Information provided to the council on condition that it be kept confidential.”
He told the News that no-one had actually asked for the information to be kept secret.
So, was it ‘anticipatory compliance’, that great term coined by British journalist George Monbiot describing the conduct of Rupert Murdoch’s employees? Does Mr Mooney believe that’s the way to go when dealing with a pathologically secretive NT Government?
No, says Mr Mooney, it was a sign of his “respect for the nature of the discussions”.
It’s a noble gesture, but what about respect for the people who may be picking up the tab for the camps, the rate payers?
At the moment the camps are rate-exempt.
There are apparently discussions with the Feds for ex-gratia payments. Where are these discussions at?
Private developers of residential subdivisions are made to jump through hoops before the council takes over roads and drains.
Is there going to be enough money in that $150m Canberra kitty to produce the same standards expected from private developers?
In this current information vacuum the Alice Springs News is happy to provide some advice to the town fathers and mothers.
It looks like the council staff controlling litter and illegal camping will have their hands full if this choice site in Charles Creek Town Lease is any indication.
Meanwhile, local identity Russell Bray is engaging in some stinging citizen journalism about power poles with this video.


  1. Unbelievable!
    Having just watched the video, I am gobsmacked and greatly saddened at the state of our Great Country.
    Whoever the idiots are who are supposed to be ‘responsible’ for this fiasco, should be locked away from society for life.
    Absolutely disgraceful. Obviously devoid of any trace of conscience, common sense (becoming extinct), social awareness, justice.

  2. I can’t believe that some one was driving and taking a video at the same time. Not doubt they will have a knock on the door by the constabulary.

  3. Having just seen the video I feel slightly sick. Back when the debate about undergounding of power was on I could understand the argument that it is too expensive. I naively thought the overall job of upgrading the town camps would benefit in other aspects. Now I feel like the people who planned and implemented these works want the whole “social experiment” to fail. To have spent so much for such a poor result is criminal negligence and woebetide any agency or contractor that tried the same thing in any other Australian suburb.


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