Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale (centre) with his old footy club, the Tennant Creek Eagles, during his visit to Central Autralia last week. Photo by Cam Suttie.
By ERWIN CHLANDA
Is Pine Gap more of a military target now that Donald Trump is the president of the USA?
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, who was in The Centre on the weekend for the party’s national conference, gives a resolute answer: “Australia’s relationship with the US poses a significant risk to us,
“We are tying our security to someone who has demonstrated that they have neither the capacity nor the temperament to make judgements that are in our interest.
“We need to assess our relationship with the US, and move towards an independent, non-aligned foreign policy.”
But Senator Di Natale skirted answering our next question, based on the large-scale terror attacks in New York, London, Bali, Madrid, Paris, Nice, Brussels, Ankara, Istanbul, and the list could go on, which suggest that the greatest global fear today isn’t a nuclear attack but carnage inflicted by terrorists in public places of cities.
NEWS: Several times a day a convoy of buses ferries Pine Gap staff from town to the base and back, through suburbs, past shopping centres, past schools and on the Stuart Highway on which many of our tourists come and go. Those buses are carrying the operators of a top level military installation belonging to a country the terrorists appear to hate the most. The people in these buses seem extremely vulnerable, and with them the people of Alice Springs. Your comment, please, Senator.
DI NATALE: I would just make the broad point that Australia’s strategic interest does not lie with the US. Pine Gap, being part of a surveillance network, makes us more of a target rather than providing Australia the sector that it needs.
NEWS: Do you think there is a case for example, that the people, who are very identifiable, should be living on the base rather than in a neighbourhood?
DI NATALE: That is really not an issue I feel I can speak to. When one considers the acts of terrorism that have occurred throughout the world, many of these are random acts and so I think we need to bear that in mind. But I think the broader question is what is in the interest of peace around the world, and it’s certainly not in our relationship with the US, as it stands. We should be moving toward a non-aligned, independent foreign policy.
NEWS: Why should people in Central Australia vote for the Greens?
DI NATALE: People who live in places like Alice Springs, where extremes of climate exist, know how critical it is to respond with strong action against climate change, an existential risk, and the Greens are the only party that is consistently taking that very seriously. [We do this] through our support for renewable energy and that we make a rapid transition from fossil fuel. We are the only party trusted to be able to do that.
On the subject of the “strong record of support for Indigenous Australians” of the party Senator Di Natale says he wants to see a treaty with Indigenous peoples, and an “appropriate representative body for Aboriginal peoples”.
About asylum seekers he says only the Greens have stood up for “those traumatised and desperate people”.
Asked about the impact of alcohol abuse and escalating youth offending in Central Australia, Senator Di Natale sings from a song sheet that began to yellow a long time ago.
Alcohol abuse is a symptom of something “much deeper” and we need to address the “underlying disadvantage”.
At a Federal level there could be a volumetric tax on alcohol “rather than the dog’s breakfast of taxation we have at the moment”. A floor price would have a significant effect on consumption. And there could be restrictions on advertising alcoholic products, including sporting broadcasts.
The Greens can advocate and put forward legislation, he says: “We have done that. But unfortunately, because the government has such a close association with the alcohol industries. Corporate donations to politicians are in effect corrupting decisions that are made in Canberra.”
NEWS: Youth crime is often linked to the lack of parental care and responsibility.
DI NATALE: We have to deal with those underlying factors that are about structural disadvantage. It’s easy to blame individuals and parents but that’s not going to solve the problem.
The rest of the conversation continued to follow the familiar pattern.
Senator Di Natale describes overcrowding in housing, far from acknowledging the popular wisdom that many hands make light work (for example, cleaning, washing, picking up garbage), as an underlying factor.
“Additional support for children in schools” is not a parental responsibility, but a government function, including that kids stay at school.
Blame for “recurrent and chronic ear infections which impact on the ability to learn” lies with the government not the lack of domestic hygiene.
And as a consequence of this, so does the blame for some of the children “falling into the criminal justice system” for which expensive resources have to be provided: “We have a very punitive system rather than one that focusses on rehabilitation … where kids are incarcerated in much higher number than they should be.”
NEWS: If it’s not the parents who make sure that kids are clean, cared for and fed, whose responsibility is it?
DI NATALE: They live in overcrowded houses. When you have public housing waiting lists over 10 years, you will find that kids are in conditions that promote the spread of disease.
He makes no comment about the nearly $1b spent on the Intervention which had a massive housing program.
Senator Di Natale says public spending on health is a long way from keeping up with the need in Aboriginal society: “When it comes to accessing the health dollar, compared to the level of need they have, they are actually significantly under-resourced.”
He says some health facilities have been cut: “When I was working as a doctor in Tennant Creek 17 years ago mothers could have their babies in the hospital there. Almost 20 years later mothers are forced to deliver in Alice Springs, 500 kilometres down the road.”
The Alice Springs News Online spoke to the Health Department at 8:17am today to verify the accuracy of this claim but no response had ben provided by the time of publication.
… and now Manchester.
Statement from the Central Australia Health Service:
Birthing at Tennant Creek Hospital was discontinued more than a decade ago for clinical safety. There is no resident obstetrician / gynaecologist or anaesthetist in Tennant Creek and high-risk patients are flown to Alice Springs by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Other patients have access to the Patients Assistance Travel Scheme to come to Alice Springs to have their babies.
The Central Australia Health Service operates a Midwifery Group Practice service in the town to support pregnant women and those who have recently given birth.