By ERWIN CHLANDA
Country Liberals leader Terry Mills pledged $2.5m “to transform the Anzac Hill youth centre into a Police and Citizens Youth Club”.
A media release said it will “have access to youth workers and other appropriate support networks as well as organised activities and sports infrastructure.
“The existing centre will be re-developed in stages [no time frame is given] and the upgraded facility will include a cafe operated by the PCYC.
“The centre will provide a safe place for children on the street at night and opportunities for positive contacts between police and young people.
“This is a first step in the considerable body of work required to re-engage young people into the broader community.”
Mr Mills told supporters and media at the centre this morning that it would be an “excellent community facility here … to build our community and to strengthen and make us a more confident place to promote Alice Springs as a premier desert community to the nation, and hold our heads with great pride.”
After an inspection of the old and ramshackle building – once the favourite Friday night hang-out for thousands of teenagers over decades – the “whistle stop tour” left little time for local and Darwin media to explore issues.
How many blocks at the new Kilgariff suburb will be sold and at what price, the Alice Springs News Online asked.
Mr Mills flicked the question to Greatorex MLA Matt Conlan: “We have to leave it to the market to determine the price.”
Mr Mills said the issue will be one to be dealt with by the proposed independent Planning Commission “seeking community input early in the planning process rather than at the back end when it hits the Development Consent Authority.
“There has to be some confidence over the planning decisions … so we know where we are going and there is confidence in the marketplace,” he said.
“Secondly, to make sure there is an increase in supply … the market then can determine a fair price.”
For someone to expect “me to stand here and say I can name the price doesn’t understand that we are a free market party. We make sure that there is a balance between supply and demand.”
Will there be an amalgamation of prison and alcohol rehabilitation farms? Where exactly are these rehab places going to be, asked the ABC?
TiTree, just north of Alice Springs, has been nominated, Mr Mills said.
“$30m has been put up straight way to make sure this facility is up and running.”
Mr Mills said these facilities would be for people failing to seek help. It is a measure for “those who breach a court order requiring them to get help.
“There would be an additional requirement for that assistance to be sought and provided, and there would be support for those rehabilitation services who are providing it.
“But if that is not sought [that would be] a breach of a court order and then there would be the intervention.”
But Russell Goldflam, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, says this is tantamount to re-criminalising drunkenness.
“There is no power in the Australian legal system to order a citizen who is not suffering from an acute episode of mental illness into ‘a facility’, this is to lock them up, unless they have committed a criminal offence. The current Alcohol and Other Drugs Tribunal has no such power.
“The Country Liberals are in effect promising to recriminalise drunkenness, but they are too ashamed of their own policy to admit it.”
Drunkenness was decriminalised decades ago in the NT and elsewhere, in accordance with a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, says Mr Goldflam.
“To make being drunk an offence again would cause more harm, and, by expanding the scope of criminality, result in a dramatic increase in crime, by the Party which promises to reduce crime by 10% a year.”
Mr Mills said there would be 20 extra police in Alice Springs permanently, “not just when some problem arises that causes embarrassment for the government.”
His government would bring in police decision-making “closer to the people of Alice Springs”.
Will there be new infrastructure for tourism, asked the Alice Springs News Online.
“You are getting ahead of the game.”
The CL policy statement says: “We will establish a Tourism Commission that will have real input from industry representatives. Tourism operators will have control over the future of their industry.”
Has he asked the operators what they want?
“We haven’t got a Tourist Commission yet.”
Mr Mills said his government would not “take Alice Springs for granted” and would be showing genuine respect for Alice Springs.
He’d already told the Mayor that he would “respect the third tier of government”.
PHOTOS: Country Liberals leader Terry Mills and MLA for Araluen Robyn Lambley this morning, with reporters. A sketch of what the refurbished centre would look like. Mr Mills shakes hands with Alan Page who has been a volunteer at the Youth Centre since 1971.
As there was no opportunity for asking Mr Mills further questions this morning the Alice Springs News Online has emailed him these:-
• Would a CL government provide two more lots of $5m to the Alice Springs Town Council, as it requested, for the revitalisation of town centre? (The Labor commitment is for just $2.5m).
• What plans, if any, does the CL have for the development of horticulture and agriculture in remote areas to soak up the massive number of unemployed there?
By ERWIN CHLANDA