By ERWIN CHLANDA
Who will benefit from a new police complex at Utopia, now called Arlparra, estimated to cost $7m?
The NT Government is calling tenders for a police station, four one-bedroom visiting officers quarters and three four-bedroom houses.
They will replace what seems to be a perfectly serviceable set of demountables (pictured) in a fenced compound.
It certainly won’t help those locals who still live in humpies.
Nor will it do anything for the large number of unemployed at Utopia who could have done well from the money being spent on a citrus orchard which has been on the drawing board for two decades.
And it won’t even do anything for small local builders who – according to one of them speaking to the News on the condition of not being named – cannot afford additional staff needed to comply with the Australian Government Building and Construction OHS Accreditation Scheme.
We asked Chief Minister Adam Giles whether he is going to do something about that requirement – especially given that he is dealing with a supposedly friendly government in Canberra.
“It’s a Federal Government requirement,” he said.
NEWS: It’s the Northern Territory Government that is calling the tenders.
GILES: It is Federal money coming through to the NT Government to build this police station, through Stronger Futures. Any money that comes from the Feds has to follow the Federal rules. I agree those rules are overbearing and cumbersome. That’s the reason why the SIHIP [Aboriginal Housing] program cost so much money. But it’s the Feds who have to make the changes. We need a seamless OHS regime to protect the workers, but also drive down the costs. It’s quite ridiculous at the moment.
Mr Giles bristles at our question about his government’s focus on law enforcement, given also that the expansion of the Alice Springs police station and a 20 year lease for two addition supreme court facilities are major items in the 2014/15 NT Budget.
NEWS: Is there a matching spend on reducing crime in the first place? Are we turning into a police state?
GILES: Absolutely not. We’ve seen quite a substantial reduction in crime, property crime is down to record lows, not seen since back in the ‘90s when the CLP was last in government. Our measures addressing issues of law and order in Alice Springs have been working quite well, a 54% reduction in assaults in the last quarter. It’s a fantastic outcome. Clearly what we are doing is working.
We also asked Mr Giles about the next moves for Desert Knowledge Australia in the wake of a major review his government had ordered.
GILES: That is a subject for investigation. We are looking at identifying a new direction for Desert Knowledge. Clearly it wasn’t achieving its objectives. In a general sense the community didn’t know what DKA was doing. I found it very difficult find out from senior management what DKA was doing. We will be tasking the interim board and the interim CEO to work with government and redefine DK’s strategic direction, its purpose and role it should play in the future.
NEWS: Is there already an interim board and CEO?
GILES: That is being developed now.
NEWS: DKA is continuing to be funded by your Government but with a different leadership?
GILES: That’s right.