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HomeIssue 5Advice on 'insane' air fares from blackfeller Bob Katter

Advice on 'insane' air fares from blackfeller Bob Katter

2457 Q&A crowd OK
2457 Q&A Bob Katter 350By ERWIN CHLANDA
It took up only five minutes of last night’s hour-long Q&A program but the subject had the crowd cheering and applauding, moderator Virginia Trioli calling it the question of the night, Tourism Central Australia boss Dale McIver describing it as one of industry’s single biggest challenges, and Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon referring to it as price gouging: air fares.
2457 Q&A Matt Patterson OKSpeaking from the audience Matt Patterson (at left), due to go on his honeymoon, put the question: It will cost him and his wife more to fly from Alice Springs to Adelaide and back than to fly from Adelaide to Croatia and back.
What can be done about this?
The answer came from Queensland ring-in Bob Katter (above, right), sitting on the panel quite obviously in the place of Territory Senator Nigel Scullion, who apparently declined an offer to appear (although he won’t answers questions about that).
Mr Katter, Member for the sprawling Federal seat of Kennedy just across the Queensland border, said he is heading up a group that is going beyond complaining about airfares to Mt Isa, a town much the size of Alice Springs.
He said he will be meeting with trade unions, “which have a great say” in Mt Isa, with the local council and state government officials.
They will be calling for “expressions of interest in an airline service into Mt Isa, and we all guaranteed that airline 72% uplift.
“I know the cost of flying these aeroplanes from people who run corporate operations in North Queensland. We can come in at less than half the current price.
“It is simply a matter of seizing the power and saying, are you going to do it for that, or we’ll get someone else to do it for that.” (Applause).
Ms Trioli asked Ms McIver how airlines flying to Alice Springs were justifying their prices.
“Not very well. Commercial viability is the only answer we can get out of them,” replied Ms McIver, describing the prices as “insane”.
2457 Q&A Warren Snowdon 1Mr Snowdon (at left): “They know they have a captive market. So they milk us.” (Applause.)
Given the unanimous disapproval of air travel costs it was ironic the show started with a question from Dave Batic, manager of  the Alice Springs airport whose passenger, landing and other charges are among the highest in Australia (see footnote).
Praising the qualities of Alice Springs Mr Batic asked: “What incentives can government offer to attract people from increasingly unaffordable cities to regional communities such as Alice Springs?”
Ms Trioli asked the panel members to take it in turns.
2457 Q&A Dale McIver OKMs McIver (at right): Promote opportunities. There are lots of jobs here.
Mr Katter: If there has to be FiFo ensure it’s from nearby communities.
William Tilmouth, Chairman of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) and founder of Children’s Ground: Develop a local workforce.
Josie Douglas, Principal Policy Officer of the Central Land Council (CLC): We have a fast growing permanent population. Provide more and better social housing.
Mr Snowdon: We have first class services such as the hospital and schools. Unemployment is low. More social housing is needed.
2457 Q&A Jacinta Price OKJacinta Price (at right), cross-cultural adviser and town councillor: Lower travel costs would be a major incentive to reverse the dwindling of the total population.
Audience member Sal Forrest said the cattle industry is booming and in need of casual labour. What could be done to bring back the close working relationship between pastoralists and Aboriginal people?
Perhaps coming as a surprise for many, Mr Katter said: “I identify as a blackfeller on odd occasions.” He did so last night, meaning that four of the panel of six were Indigenous.
In response to Ms Forrest’s question he commented that Aborigines are the most land rich people on earth but we “are not allowed to use it … we’re not allowed to have title deed.”
He may have been commenting about the situation in Queensland while in the NT, where half the landmass is owned freehold by Aborigines, 99 year leases are available.
It’s a shortcoming of Q&A’s structure that the discussion often falls short clarifying some basic issues.
This could be said about the reply given to Ms Forrest by Dr Douglas: “The CentralLand Council is working to bridge that gap.
“There is a pastoral program providing support to young men and young women who want to find employment on cattle stations.”
It is surprising that such a program hasn’t been in full swing for decades, given that much Aboriginal freehold land has been cattle grazing country, that more than a dozen cattle stations in The Centre have been acquired by traditional owners, and that the skills of Aboriginal  stock workers in the past are the stuff of legend.
2457 Q&A Neil Ross OKNeil Ross (at right), the owner of a major metal fabrication and construction business, raised that in his experience, most Indigenous apprentices “have failed to complete their training. The reason for this, he suggested, is lack of support from family and their peers” or being ridiculed or humbugged.
Ms Price offered an unblinkered view, calling for cultural reform. There are obligations to family members, including those who are abusing alcohol.
“You are obliged to give whatever you have to ensure your family’s survival,” she said.
This was a good custom when “we were living off the land. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well with a cash economy.
“As soon as they get their pay cheque, family are upon them to share their money.”
She says she has learned to say no when she has to, but the change is slow.
2457 Q&A William Tilmouth OKMr Tilmouth (at right) said about half the staff of the Aboriginal NGOs Tangentyere and Congress are Indigenous. But it’s hard on low-income families in overcrowded conditions “where there is not a person who’s had a job within the last five generations”.
Ms McIver said “we hear” that Aboriginal organisations including the land council “are doing these things [employment initiatives]. This issue isn’t new. It didn’t start last week.”
She said there is now absolute urgency, otherwise “we could be siting here with Q&A in Alice Springs in another 10 years’ time talking about exactly the same thing.” (Sustained applause.)
“Start with the kids. That’s where all the problems are that we’re facing.”
2457 Q&A Josie Douglas OKDr Douglas (at left) said preschools are available in town, but not in the bush. And in response to Mr Ross she said two or three Indigenous apprentices should be employed together, not just one, but she acknowledged that this would require government subsidies for the employer.
Ms Price said mining royalties could act as a disincentive to work and should be “funnelled back into the communities”.
Dr Douglas said $20m to $25m of the royalty recipients’ “own money” had been invested in education.
Ms Price: “My family has blown a lot.” (Sustained applause.)
Valerie Napanangka Patterson said Warlpiri mining royalties should be put into education including teaching Indigenous languages.
She had worked as a language teacher and literacy worker in Lajamanu school since 1986. (Applause which would have continued, but Ms Patterson resumed speaking).
There should be bilingual programs, side-by-side with Department of Education teaching. (Strong applause).
Mr Snowdon said Labor had closed down bilingual education: “That was a bad mistake.”
Ms Price said Indigenous languages are important but English would “give them the tools to survive in this modern world”.
Mr Katter took a more robust line: “Give we blackballers some credit. What we did in the good old days, 200 years ago, was if you played up you were sent out into the bush and you stayed out in the bush until you were prepared to behave yourself.”
Dylan Voller, whom Ms Trioli introduced as being “at the centre of the Don Dale Youth detention scandal” spoke of the Bush Mob program at Loves Creek Station: Why can’t we have more young people being taken there “instead of going to a cell with no rehabilitation?”
Mr Katter replied that his party (Katter’s Australian Party) is currently formulating a policy: ‘There is going to be no more of this stupidity. The cost of a child indention in Queensland is $580,000 a year. We put in a wild kid and we get back a professional criminal.”
Mr Tilmouth: We’re throwing all the money when the damage is already done, when the ambulance is at the bottom of the cliff. Not enough is spent at the preventative end. (Lots of applause.)
The general discussion about Aboriginal affairs in The Centre was civilised, often humorous and articulate, although it offered little new to the locals. Some heat crept in when Barbara Shaw somewhat predictability asked about the Intervention, claiming it started with disempowerment and went downhill from there: More children taken away, more people in prison, more suicides.
Mr Snowdon chimed in, the Intervention demonised men, the army was brought in, the basic card is demeaning, there was “no hint” of any discussion with Aboriginal people.
Ms Price, also predictably, wasn’t going to have any of it: “I can take you to a lot of women who feel as though they’ve been given a voice.
“Dark issues “ were put on a national stage, she said. What happened since then was that a lot more women have reported sexual assaults, sexual abuse, family violence.
Ms Price said she has an aunty at Little Sisters town camp: “The basics card is good for her, it helped her get off alcohol.”
Women this aunty knows “can fill up their fridges with food for the children. No-one is listening to her. People who don’t like the basics card are the people who prefer to be drinking and using their money for gambling.” (Applause.)
A surprise came late in the show when Ms McIver expressed serious reservations about the $50m national Indigenous art gallery planned for Alice Springs.
She said the “challenge” is that the NT Government is not talking to operators about  “how this fantastic gallery might actually support them” so it won’t end up as a white elephant.
“Come and talk to the locals,” Ms McIver said. “Come and talk to the artists. We have people who operate art galleries in Alice Springs [who ask themselves] is this in direct competition with my business?
“Is this going to take all the visitors from me? We’ve got to be careful we’re not doubling up on the great things we already have in town.”
The show ended with banter about the Territory’s cracker night: when would it be banned, asked Margaret Carew on behalf of all the birds and dogs in town.
Mr Snowdon likes cracker night. Dr Douglas thinks it a waste of money, but she laughed at herself when the crowd hinted their displeasure.
Mr Tilmouth said he doesn’t have a dog but the one next-door is a yapper at the best of times.
And Ms McIver top-scored by quoting a social media post saying “what about the dogs that bark all of the other 364 nights”.
FOOTNOTE: The Alice airport has passenger charges only, no landing charges for Regular Public Transport aircraft. The charges are proportionate to the number of passengers – the more passengers the lower the individual charge.
The Australian Airports Association it does not hold a database of airport charges and there is no ranking system for airport charges in Australia due to the wide variety of variables, which make it very difficult to accurately compare charges based on raw data.
2457 Q&A panel OK


  1. Air fares to Alice Sorings are ridiculously expensive. There are never any competitive deals. I have a family in Alice and it is almost impossible to take the family to visit. Costs keep me away from attending the Old Timers Fete each year.
    I would love to volunteer there annually and friends would also come and spend money in the town, but airfares take all the joy out of any trip!

  2. In the kickoff to NAIDOC week one could be forgiven for expecting QandA to come up with Aboriginal and TI issues of substance. Unfortunately, the usual eye-glazing banal twitterations of the Luvvies of the Left.
    And then out of nowhere Jacinta and the Intervention.
    Down here in Mexico, the voices of those wonderfully brave women who have stood up to domestic violence and who have been calling for communities to take responsibility have been drowned out by trendier city-based activist issues of the moment.
    I take my hat off to the Price family ladies who with the femmes of other Central Australian families who are courageous, independent and objective voices of reason in the emotive media when given half a chance.

  3. Extreme airfares hurt population and business growth in Alice Springs.
    Bob Katter said guaranteed 72% uplift provides healthy airline profits.
    The NT Government, Tourism NT and taxpayers must rebel against price gouging.
    Airline CEOs get multimillion dollar EOFY bonuses.
    Dave Batic, Alice Springs airport manager, asked at QandA: “What incentives can government offer to attract people from increasingly unaffordable cities to regional communities such as Alice Springs?”
    Realistic airfares = growth – or watch Alice Springs die.

  4. I was pleasantly surprised by the fairly nonpartisan and constructive approach just about every one of the panellist and questioners took in the QandA forum.
    It appears to signal a new mood in the community, pushing aside the politics, setting about finding cooperative solutions.
    The same mood was evident at the public meeting on our youth issues a couple of weeks back.
    It’s great to see and if people are prepared to keep working that way we will eventually force the changes we’ve needed now for generations.
    The discussion was spoiled a little by Bob Katter’s opportunistic use of “Black Fellas”, “White Fellas”, as often as possible.
    It seemed he intended to set up a racial divide ’round the issues being discussed as if somehow there is no common purpose or outcome which is good for all of us.
    Bob’s loudmouthing is in complete contrast to the mood and intent of the rest of the room, which took the stance that our issues are everybody’s, regardless of race.
    Forget about the skin colour Bob, we are all people!
    I suggest you address everyone regardless of race in a respectful egalitarian manner and leave our colour out of it. The sooner we all learn to do that as a matter of principle the sooner we see an end to the division that is the root cause of so many of our community’s issues.
    I was particularly impressed by the contribution and that of latecomer to the panel, William Tilmouth, who I thought spoke very thoughtfully.
    I agree whole heartedly with many of his comments especially those regarding the disempowerment of communities and men by the Intervention.
    I also agree whole-heartedly with Jacinta Price who spoke as always with belief and passion but wasn’t given enough opportunity to present her whole argument.
    The facts are that the Intervention was both good and bad, inasmuch as the basics card, extra policing and other programs have helped to protect women and kids. This is the most important of all steps towards ending the plight of Aboriginal people!
    The removal of thousands of neglected kids is a good result if it is attributable to the Intervention, not a bad result as Barb Shaw tried to portray it.
    It means action is being taken to end abuse! However, while it’s a good thing to see abused kids removed from their plight we absolutely have to get looking after these kids right!
    So far nothing I’ve seen convinces me that we are creating better circumstances for these kids. Care is not a slogan at the end of an NGO’s name! Care means care, it means love, it means empathy! The cold-blooded arguments for kids’ rights we’ve witnessed continually from our Intervening legal system is destroying kids’ lives!
    We simply must get our approach to helping these kids right before we can claim any success for the Intervention or any other program.
    The bad of the Intervention, something that we must address when we revisit the Constitution, is that legislation which enabled the Intervention to take place used a clause in the Constitution of Australia which allows the government to make and implement laws based on race.
    In an egalitarian nation, such a clause is plainly, simply wrong!
    If it was a good idea to issue basic cards to Aboriginal persons then in an egalitarian nation it was also a good idea to issue those cards to every other welfare recipient, regardless of race.
    Same goes for any other measures. Singling out on the basis of race is not only divisive it is bare facedly racist, disempowering and humiliating for many fine decent and upstanding Australians
    I also agree with William that the Intervention and the move to shires then regional councils removed a sense of identity from many communities. I believe we need to revisit this issue.
    I also heard a comment justifying the Intervention on the basis that it provided extra housing. Yeh, I think it did – mostly on the Gold Coast! The housing program stepped on and over a local industry that was providing housing at a greater rate than it ever did.
    It forced up the prices to utterly ridiculous levels and huge portions of the funding was simply rorted by creating the most ridiculous levels of bureaucracies and reporting. In short, the Interventions housing program was a bloody joke!
    If a fraction of that billion dollars had been put through the pre-existing remote housing industry we would have built literally hundreds more houses than the Intervention achieved, and we would have achieved that in a fraction of the time using local labour instead of FIFO. This would have benefited the whole community, keeping a much greater portion of the funding in local hands.
    In my view, the Intervention housing program rates a huge fail!
    Finally, must say I was a bit surprised by Dale’s comment round the art industry is worried that the construction of a national art and cultural centre would in some way be detrimental to their businesses.
    The flow-on effect of such a centre even if it were to sell as well as display art, the visitors it will attract from all over the world, people seeking authenticity, will provide enormous opportunity not just for those in the art industry but for everyone.
    This would include, I believe, all those very authentic community art centres. They are just what visitors keen to avoid mass produced art will be looking for!
    They will be seeking them out in droves. There’s nothing to fear. Alice needs to get right behind this fabulous project!

  5. I expressed my view on another post that Alice Springs is lucky to have a regular RPT airline service whereas other outback towns miss out.
    After speaking to people who lived here in the 1970s, I found that even back then, prices were very high. I think it has been the same ever since.
    Before being too critical of Qantas, remember that no other airline has continued with their service to our region. We are lucky to have them.
    Price gouging or just the price of running a service to this part of the world?
    Given the fact no other airline continues with Alice Springs, it would be interesting to learn the real profit / loss operating costs. For it is my concern that one day, Qantas will give up on us too.
    Any chance of getting a reply from Qantas, Erwin?
    [ED – Hi Chris, I am asking for one.]

  6. Steve” “Constitution of Australia which allows the government to make and implement laws based on race”.
    It’s a double edged sword, this exact section allowed the Government to do what they did to the one race.
    If this aspect was removed they wouldn’t be able to finely focus on the helping the Aboriginal people, they would need to use a broad sword which would affect everyone and cost 100 times the amount. For all the wrong things the government does it does mean well.
    I think they just need better consultation before acting. Much like the detention centre Royal Commission, which was set up the morning after a TV show aired (which turns out was biased and inaccurate).
    I’m not saying there weren’t wrong things happening that needed to be looked at, more that they should have investigated the facts prior to committing $50m on a Royal Commission.
    End of Rant.

  7. In reply to Steve Brown’s comments relating to my comments made on the show on Monday evening regarding the National Indigenous Art Centre.
    At no stage have Tourism Central Australia not been supportive of this idea and concept. In fact TCA has been a strong advocate of the concept and have discussed this with the Tourism Minster.
    In order for the project to be a real game changer for tourism and the local visitor economy the local tourism and business sectors must be consulted and involved in the process.
    The concerns raised by our members and the tourism industry are valid and we believe that with industry involvement from the outset will only benefit everyone.
    Dale McIver
    Tourism Central Australia

  8. @ Steve Brown (Posted July 4, 2017 at 8:13 pm): I note the reference to “the construction of a national art and cultural centre” which appears to confuse two separate proposals.
    As Dale McIver correctly names, the National Indigenous Art Centre is a high priority of the NT Government and is a project under active consideration and planning.
    By contrast, the concept of a national indigenous cultural centre is a quite separate matter that has a long way to go as a firm proposal.
    There are alternative options that have been suggested and these have yet to be “fleshed out”.
    Unfortunately both concepts have often been conflated in reporting and commentary but they are very separate ideas.

  9. Q&A in Alice Springs. I watched this on Monday night and was unsatisfied with the questions that were asked, we all know what is affecting Aboriginal people.
    More questions should have been put to Josie Douglas, Principal Policy Officer of the Central Land Council (CLC). For one, why is the CLC exempted from the Freedom of information Act alongside of the Australian Department of Defence?
    How is information about Aboriginal land and Aboriginal families classified information to Aboriginal people and the rest of Australia?
    Is the CLC’s information a national threat?
    Also, the royalties issue. Why is this money not going into community development?
    Aboriginal people need jobs not handouts. The CLC put these millions of dollars into building some businesses on remote communities to give Aboriginal people something to strive for.
    Aboriginal people working on their own communities is a satisfying feeling while you are building your community up. CLC, build jobs with your millions.

  10. Dale McIver is spot on. As some one who has been closely involved in tourism and Aboriginal issues she is close to the issue as opposed to others on the panel who were there to push their own issues perceived or otherwise, or get public exposure.
    I well remember on a visit to Alice Springs some years-ago walking over the Tod River bridge on Stott Terrace. Halfway across I found myself walking towards an Aboriginal man. Initially I felt uncomfortable.
    Here was I looking straight ahead well dressed and enjoying the morning while he was poorly dressed with a bowed head and looking down.
    Initially I felt ill at ease but realised this was a the wrong attitude and that he was no different to me except for appearance and I was ashamed with my initial reaction.
    So I looked him in the face and said in passing “g’day Mate”, where upon he looked up and said “Yea g’day it is a good day isn’t it”.
    The only difference between us apart from the color of our skin was that I came from a middle income family, was well educated and had a well paid job. And I can not help but feel that if he had had the same opportunities as me there would be little between us.
    It is time, if not past time, that we as a nation treated these people as our equal and took the politics and grand standing out of the Indigenous issue and treated them as our equal.
    If the way these people live and were white Caucasians, can you imagine the public outrage?


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