LETTER: Labor’s $150m Alice town camps disaster


Sir – Minister Jenny Macklin has not only wasted $150m meant to improve living standards in the Alice Springs town camps she has badly let down the camp’s indigenous residents.
I have seen Macklin’s houses trashed before their time, not the fault of the residents but due to uncontrolled visitor numbers. These visitors have made residents’ lives a misery and made many of the town camps dens of alcohol, drugs, violence and murder.
There are good residents here who want to do the right thing and Jenny Macklin has let these good people down. She should have tackled the visitor numbers before she spent the money on the houses.
Jenny Macklin trumpeted the first delivery of mail by Australia Post to a town camp last year and that with the Gillard Government’s $150m investment in 86 new and 150 refurbished houses would somehow be the magical solution to the social problems of the town camps.
It hasn’t worked, and the local Tangentyre Council said, ‘People are under siege by levels of alcoholism, alcohol-related harm, basically the rivers of grog … People are living in fear’.
Typical of a Canberra down approach, they failed to do the necessary hard work and put in plans and strategies in place that would control visitor numbers and protect residents from the social, cultural and violence problems that have beset the town camps for well over 30 years.
If the Coalition wins government later this year we will work closely with the Giles NT Government to establish a proper plan that addresses the problems before one further cent is spent.
Senator Nigel Scullion
Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister


  1. What about a Territory government with NO alcohol policies? Come on Nigel, Labor has put up the funds for the Territory to manage, and what a mess they are in!

  2. I would like to know how your government is going to control visitor numbers to private dwellings. Come on Nigel, tell us how this can be done.
    You infer that the residents in town camps look after their properties and it is “uncontrolled visitor numbers” who do the trashing … how do you know this? Where is your information coming from?

  3. Come on Nigel get real! When you were in Government you and Mal Brough came up with the NT Intervention that drove a lot of people from the bush into Alice Springs and then pushed the Alliance model onto the NTG for these houses to be built on town camps. Seriously, how many houses on town camps is the new Giles CLP government going to build? And how are Giles and yourself going to stop the urban drift?

  4. 236 houses, new or renovated cost $150,000,000! Is my maths right $635,593 per house? How do you get a piece of that action?

  5. Philip (Posted March 26, 2013 at 6:38 pm): Don’t believe the hype. The figure of $150 million implied by Senator Scullion as being spent on the town camp houses is wrong.
    At least $50 million of this total was scheduled for the Alice Springs Transformation Plan (ASTP), which has been implemented parallel to the Town Camp Housing Program over the last four years.
    The ASTP includes funding for early childhood, alcohol and drug, family interventions and supports, tenancy support and management, visitor accommodation, transitional training about how to live sustainably in houses, and many other programs designed to make town camp life more livable and functional. Many of these programs are still in action, and some are likely to continue for years yet under the Stronger Futures legislation and funding.
    The main problem which still has not been dealt with effectively, is the excessive amounts of grog still being consumed regularly by many people in Alice Springs, but especially on town camps, particularly by some visitors; this was acknowledged in Tangentyere’s statement that “People are under siege by levels of alcoholism, alcohol-related harm, basically the rivers of grog … People are living in fear”.
    One part of the solution to this problem of excessive consumption (especially binge drinking) could be a floor price on alcohol, set at the price of beer. Another would be less hours of trade in takeaway alcohol, and one or two days per week free from sales of takeaway alcohol. A third, and possibly the best in relation to the problems identified by Tangentyere, would be a return to an effective implementation of the Banned Drinkers Register, together with the SMART Court, and clinical assessments, referrals for treatment and adjudication of Income Management rates by the AOD Tribunal.
    The advent in the next few months of the Commonwealth government’s new Remote Jobs and Training Program could also greatly assist, but its chances of effective performance would also be greatly improved were it to be accompanied by an effective turning down of the grog tap, by the methods mentioned above.

  6. For god’s sake when is this going to stop. Waste and mismanagement seem to be a plague on both houses according to the posters here.
    Here’s a novel idea – let’s start to hold people to account. If tradies and builders are rorting the system, as has been suggested, then let’s pressure the government to put a stop to it. That is what happened with the BER – remember that colossal waste of money?
    If the way in which the town camps are operating, is wrong, then let’s get it fixed. How hard can it be – we are the most multicultural country in the world, and neighbours deal with neighbours all over the country – why can’t it be done in the town camps. Don’t tell me it’s cultural – and say that excuses bad behaviour – it doesn’t.
    It’s time for families and individuals to take responsibility for their behaviour. It’s on parents to lift their children out of poverty – for heaven’s sake, we have the best minds in a lot of respects, best hearts in the country working with indigenous people all around the town!
    It’s time for parents to acknowledge there is help there, you have to support your child to be better than you are. As my mum did, as lots of people’s mums and / or dads did.
    If there isn’t enough money to properly fund the programs, then cut money from somewhere else to pay for it. This is too important. I refuse to accept that in the country that I live in, we cannot afford to look after our people.
    Here’s a thought – let’s cut government advertising. There is a truckload of money that is wasted by all levels of government to promote their “products”. If it isn’t being used, then make the people redundant or re-allocate the resources. The department of climate change might be a good start! Perhaps Mr Snowdon could stop putting full page ads in the print media saying “this is how much Mr Abbott is going to RIP out of your pockets when he gets in”.
    Might help Mr Snowdon if it wasn’t borrowed money you were wasting.

  7. Agree with Bob Durnan Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:45, and many others who believe the Banned Drinkers Register needs to be resumed.
    Kieran Finnane reported Chief Justice Trevor Riley calling for the flow of booze to be limited in Alice Springs.
    Effectiveness requires identification to ensure customers not banned. The Banned Drink Register assists there, also as it encourages others make sure they not supply banned persons else face being added to it.


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