By ERWIN CHLANDA
While the people of Alice Springs were demanding to know why they were without light, airconditioning and fridges for 10 hours on a sweltering day last week, Chief Minister Adam Giles was suppressing information linked to the blackout across town, clearly so that he could get his photo (pictured) on the front page of the Murdoch-owned Centralian Advocate.
And CLP candidate for Araluen Steve Brown was obviously a willing participant in the ruse.
As it turned out, the Alice Springs News Online trumped on Tuesday much of what yesterday’s Advocate labelled as an “exclusive”: We published the fact that a 44MW generation plant at the Owen Springs complex was on the drawing board, with capacity to replace the Ron Goodin plant, at the end of its life here in town, and that the tender document was dated August 4 last year.
Those details came from an unnamed source whom we trusted to be reliable and who turned out to be very well informed. We also pointed to our reports, over years, about the impending end of life of the engines at the Ron Goodin plant and their deleterious impact on the nearby residents.
Meanwhile Territory Generation, no doubt on instructions from Mr Giles, and the government itself, were playing dumb.
Territory Generation CEO Tim Duignan was unavailable for comment. So was Mr Giles whom we asked – via his minder in Alice Springs – at 10:21am on Monday: “The generators in the Ron Goodin power station are at the end of their life. Do we have other stand-by generators for events such as those on Saturday? Where are they? If not, when will we get some? Where? At what cost? Any other comments.”
Territory Generation is “a government owned corporation” with a media division, but clearly Mr Giles can snap his fingers and the company will pass information to an overseas-owned medium a day ahead of the other media informing the town.
The Advocate does not have a printing press. The paper is printed in Darwin and flown here. Its deadlines are way behind those of the burgeoning online media, including the Alice Springs News Online.
Mr Giles and Mr Brown were having their photo taken, presumably on Thursday, in the engine room of the Ron Goodin station, which is under the control of Mr Duigan. That is obviously when the details of the story were given to the Advocate.
It is American owned and controlled – so much for the tirelessly professed preference for local businesses by Mr Giles.
All that government sources had supplied to us at that time, to inform the people of Alice Springs, despite detailed questions from us, was merely this:-
• At 3:50pm on Monday from an “NT Government spokesman”: “We’ve done an enormous amount of work over the past six months on a strategy to increase the reliability and efficiency of the power system in Alice Springs and we continue to work with Territory Generation to find the best solution for customers and industry participants.”
• At 11:59am on Tuesday from Territory Generation: “Territory Generation has been working on a strategy to renew the generation in Alice Springs and we will continue to work closely with the Northern Territory Government on those plans.”
Had local media been treated equally by Mr Giles, and had received the material at the same time, the public would have been informed at least a day earlier.
But the non-Murdoch media got the information from Mr Giles yesterday morning, after the Advocate had begun to hit the streets.
RELATED REPORT: The Electrical Trades Union has called for a transparent investigation into recent Alice Springs power outages and to fully investigate the CLP’s role in the service issues.
Media manipulation by Adam Giles over blackout
By ERWIN CHLANDA