Greatorex forum: where was the fourth candidate? And where were the voters?


It was a “job interview” and he didn’t turn up. First question to the other three contenders for the Legislative Assembly seat of Greatorex was, “Where’s the CLP candidate? Has there been any apology from him?”
This was the ‘meet the candidate’ forum for Greatorex, organised well in advance by independent candidate Phil Walcott to which all contenders were invited.
“If someone chooses to not turn up for the interview, well …,” said Mr Walcott, explaining that incumbent Matt Conlan (Country Liberals) had indicated that he would not attend via a letter to the editor in the Centralian Advocate last week.
Joining Mr Walcott to outline their platform and answer questions were the ALP candidate Rowan Foley and the Greens’ recently announced contender, Evelyne Roullet.
It seems though that the campaign is hardly setting the electorate on fire. A dozen constituents turned up. Local media from three outlets were also in attendance.
Alcohol policies were an inevitable focus.
Mr Foley pointed to yesterday’s press release from Alcohol Policy Minister Delia Lawrie, claiming a “6% drop in crime” linked to the Banned Drinkers’ Register (BDR).
He didn’t mention that this figure excludes alcohol-related assaults associated with domestic violence.
The full report, also released yesterday, reveals that alcohol-related assaults associated with DV increased by 7.8% across the NT. However, it says this increase “is a reflection of the initiatives implemented by Police to encourage the reporting of DV and the improvement in the procedure of recording DV related assaults”.
The figures for Alice Springs in both categories show a decline, down 1.7% and 2.1% respectively. Darwin, Katherine and Palmerston similarly show declines. The Territory total is pushed up by increases in Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy and “NT – balance”.
Ms Lawrie also pointed to fewer – by a “staggering” 10,000 – anti-social behavior incidents. While emphasising the BDR, she also outlined the government’s other measures, including the SMART court,  the Alcohol and other Drugs Tribunal, and reduction in “the pathways to treatment”, from eight days to three hours.
Mr Walcott dismissed the ID-based BDR, saying that it doesn’t work and that drinkers will always find a way around it, but he criticised the CLP’s approach as more interested in punishment that in solving the issue. He pushed for an agreed approach, not based on “us and them”.
Ms Roullet, who in her own words speaks with “a very strong French accent” but has nonetheless lived in Alice since the 1970s, acknowledges the problem, but sees it as a symptom. The underlying causes are what need to be addressed, in collaboration with Aboriginal people themselves.
The candidates were quizzed on town planning and what they thought about having “greater control” based in Alice Springs.
A central point of Mr Walcott’s campaign is to regionalise, not centralise. “Stuff that belongs in Central Australia” should be dealt with by people here, he said.
Ms Roullet agreed, while Mr Foley said he was “relaxed about having some sort of regional body in place”.
Ms Roullet stressed the need for affordable accommodation, harking back to her early experience in Alice Springs when people were able to pay a $500 deposit on a home and pay it off over 45 years.
The issue of the railway crossing at the main intersection of Larapinta Drive and Stott Terrace was raised. On this point the moderator Kay Eade, present as a resident of Greatorex (not in her Chamber of Commerce role), had more to say than the candidates. She warned of “a lost opportunity” in not negotiating with mining and exploration companies for investment in a solution, such as a rail by-pass. She stressed the problem of the western side of town being cut off from emergency services while the level crossing is closed, and said that wait times will only increase with the expansion of Roxby Downs. She suggested that all three tiers of government combine to negotiate a funded solution with mining companies.
A possible uranium mine at Angela-Pamela got the thumbs down from all candidates (the issue is central to Mr Foley’s campaign).
Mr Walcott was asked what he would do in the event of a hung parliament. Would he negotiate a deal with whoever was in government, as Gerry Woods has done. Mr Walcott said he couldn’t commit himself on the issue until he sees the composition of the parliament, where it is possible that there would be four independents. He would be “very guided” by his constituents.
Mr Foley had earlier raised “the tragedy” at White Gate – the so-called “informal” town camp on the eastern fringes of town, home to a number of native title holder families, with very limited infrastructure. He said “we need to focus our resources” on doing something about it. The Alice Springs News Online asked him what specifically and whether he had raised the issue with government. “Not yet,” he said.
Ms Eade raised another issue  – tenant behaviour in public housing. “Not their fault”, she said when they have not been educated to live in housing. It’s an issue close to home, literally, as her neighbours come from an outlying small community. The tenant is a grandmother whom she gets on well with but when this woman is away and family are visiting there are significant problems, including noise. She says complaints “fall on deaf ears”.
Mr Walcott said there are “lots of mentoring opportunities” in such situations and Ms Roullet said we need people – “social workers” – to teach Aboriginal people how to live in houses.
After the forum the Alice News asked about preference allocation. Mr Walcott said he would not be preferencing anyone, in line with his independent stance.  Mr Foley said that the final decision will not be up to him, but rather Labor’s campaign director for the whole of the NT.
Photo (from left): Rowan Foley, Evelyne Roullet and Phil Walcott – but where is Matt?


  1. Confirms my impression that Conlan is lazy and just coasting. You should never take the voters for granted, even in a “safe” seat. Really … what sort of vision has he put forward for Greatorex in the past four years? Compare to Braitling’s Adam Giles who has been hard working.

  2. In all fairness to Matt, since when does the Opposition organise your Media moments? Seems to have been a bit of a trend in recent elections, organise a venue a media event, in order to gain a little kudos when some candidate or other doesn’t turn up, usually because they have a prior event booked elsewhere, all a bit of silly trivial posturing I think.
    Candidates are out there to offer a different point of view! Give us some alternatives! Not to hold each others hands!! Bring back the biff I say! Do your own thing Matt, organise your own media moments, tell us what your going to do in government and please don’t invite the opposing candidates.

  3. Thanks to Rowan Foley and Evelyne Roullet, media representatives, constituents and Kay Eade who were able to make the forum. Each Greatorex candidate was invited and given the opportunity to “face the people”. After all, this is essentially a job interview and the people of the electorate are the selection panel. The Greatorex constituents will employ one of us on 25th August to represent them over the next four years. If a candidate for a job interview chooses not to show up, do they deserve the job?
    As the only Independent candidate (currently) in Greatorex, I’m seeking to represent the people in the 12th Assembly; not the whims, rhetoric and protocols of party political machines that appear more concerned with winning political elections and “power” than leading the Territory forward.

  4. “In response to Jane Clark’s and Maureen’s comments.
    This was hardly a representation of Greatorex. 12 people turned up for goodness ask and almost half of those were media. If anything is a waste of time Maureen it was Phil Walcott’s Greatorex Gathering. As for Jane Clarke, here we have a twice failed candidate and appallingly shallow and counter productive Alderman now singing the praises of a right wing MLA. The very man she actually ran against in the 2008 election no less. Give me strength!
    I think this is more about Clark unable to stand the fact that Conlan is still there standing strong while she has withered away into insignificance. Talk about sour grapes!
    As for the Waves Matt, please keep it up my kids love it and beg me to drive past you each day so they can wave and cheer.

  5. I can not believe some of the things I am reading! I believe Matt Conlan has a young family, and those of us who have had a young family know that it is the hardest job in the world. So I am sure he works very hard. Jane Clark, you had no impact at the Council, so I am very disappointed at your comments. Good luck to all the CLP candidates. You will be the only ones who can make a difference.

  6. Jane@5. I have been a good mate of Matt Conlan since he arrived in Alice Springs, and I worked closely with him at 8HA / Sun FM. I remember him creating Territory Today. This radio show gave local people a chance to discuss the issues of this town. There are very few regional centres anywhere in Australia, the size of Alice Springs, that have access to a forum such as Territory Today. While it continues today in the very capable hands of Adrian Renzi, it was Matt’s brainchild.
    It was through hosting this program that Matt got to appreciate the issues that mattered to this town, and he got to hear the concerns of the residents on the many and varied issues that mattered to this town. Matt was passionate about the issues, so much so that when an opportunity came up to step into the political arena and fight for the issues he was hearing about every day, he took it.
    Jane, and others who accuse Matt of just cruising, enlighten yourself of the man’s achievements before you post public comment, this may save you embarrassing yourself. Look up the daily Hansard of the NT Legislative Assembly, and do a search by “member”. You can then read everything Matt (or any other MLA) has said in Parliament. So please consider the many different issues that MLA’s have to have knowledge of, and gain an understanding of how Matt is able to stand up and present a logical argument to some of the topics discussed in parliament. He is a local bloke, having a go. Jane, it is very easy to stand back and throw mud at somebody, and generalisations such as lazy and cruising are easy to say. Researching this will also answer your question regarding the vision he has put forward for Greatorex.
    As for not attending Mr Walcott’s meeting, he stated in print and on radio from the beginning that he would not be attending, so don’t ask where was he? when you really know the answer.
    I am not in Matt’s electorate, but I think it only fair to stick up for him when I see cheap shots being taken, as I have been friends with Matt since the first day he arrived in town.
    Good luck to all contenders, and there will be plenty of chances to sling mud if you get in, but why not keep the shots above the waistline, at least until you are elected.

  7. @ Anonymous Ray, who bravely chooses not to identify himself yet wants to have his say: Your recollections of Matt Conlan and his Radio show at 8HA differ to mine … bit gobsmacked by your high opinion of him. And I don’t think I am alone … here is what Erwin wrote in Aug 2007 when Conlan won the by-election :
    “The CLP held Greatorex in last week’s by-election with much the same vote – just over 53.5% of primary votes – but the ALP slipped to 16.5%, with independent Paul Herrick landing in second place, attracting 20.3%.
    “The by-election marked a new low in politics, with the CLP’s Matt Conlan, when challenged by media, failing to back away from a racist diatribe he broadcast on Radio 8HA where he had worked variously as a talk show host and reader of advertising.”
    Racist diatribe, well in keeping with a long standing thread in the CLP tradition. Jodeen Carney and now Terry Mills (and Adam Giles too I think) have tried to re-invent the CLP. I hope some of this has rubbed off on your mate.

  8. Racist diatribe Ian? Oh well we are all entitled to our opinion, in mine it was not a racist diatribe, nor have I found him racist. Many of the issues discussed then and now are controversial, and passions run high on both sides. My opinion was simply that I have followed Matt’s career closely, as I have an interest in reading Hansard to get all the info, and have seen how hard many of our pollies work. Their decisions may not always be popular, but they have the interest of the Territory at heart. What is best, however, is the bone of contention.
    Ian, I choose to post under my first name as is my right. It is not hiding, or cowardice, but due to where I work, and its relationship to many of the articles I share my opinion on, I do not wish to formally identify myself. I believe there could be a perceived conflict of interest and I do not wish to cross that line.
    Either way Ian, please don’t try and impose what you believe I should do, against what I am entitled to do. But thanks for your opinion.
    [ED – Hi Ray, if there is a conflict of interest then I want to know, and the readers have right to know. I look forward to your explanation. Kind regards, Erwin.]

  9. @ Ray posted August 14 11:59 am
    Ray, as you know, Alice operates like a tiny town and you choose to hide behind the cloak of anonymity for your own reasons. To myself, especially with only days to go until the election, it looks as if you are not proud of those whom you support in a political sense.
    Please Ray, expose yourself now. It will not hurt.
    D. R. CHEWINGS, aka THE lone dingo.


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