Council's confidence in government severely shaken


It must have been around 10.30 pm last night, with the public gallery deserted and only two journalists still hanging in, that Cr Eli Melky moved a motion expressing no confidence in the Gunner government’s handling of the process to acquire Anzac Oval for its national Aboriginal art gallery project.
Left: Before the meeting begins, Cr Melky talking with Crs Satour and Cocking. 
The government has “never ever” entered into the necessary process for such an acquisition, he said. There has never been a formal request, beyond its initial invitation to enter into an MOU, which council had rejected.
Elected members had only been advised of government’s intentions for the Anzac Hill precinct three days before the announcement was made public.
Without debating the project itself, he wanted to send a message to the government on its “obnoxious” and “arrogant” handling of the process.
Minister Lauren Moss had been at pains to criticise council’s survey [which reported 5% against a change of use for the oval], he said, while the government itself has proceeded without funding [its $50m promise is way short of what would be required for the whole project] or a business case.
The government needs to be advised that “we are not going to lie down and let them walk all over us”, said Cr Melky, although he warned his fellow elected members that their defeat of his earlier motion had  carelessly “washed away” their negotiation opportunities.
For a while, it looked like the motion might succeed. Cr Catherine Satour seconded the “bold” move, and Crs Jimmy Cocking and Marli Banks looked likely to support it. Only one more vote was needed.
“I hear what you are saying,” said Cr Glen Auricht, “it’s been a debacle from the word go.”
p2566 ASTC Price, Auricht, de Brenni 410A debacle, and this from a councillor who openly supports Anzac precinct as the preferred location for the proposed gallery.
Right: Crs Price, Auricht and de Brenni helping defeat Cr Melky’s earlier motion.
Cr Auricht wanted to soften the motion’s language, anxious not to jeopardise council’s chances at getting into a negotiating position with the government. He suggested adding the words “to date” with respect to the government’s handling of the process. Not a major modification.
The government’s stocks on this issue, one that should have inspired a lot of good will but which their constant mis-steps have squandered, couldn’t go much lower.
Councillors had received a letter from Minister Moss late yesterday, outlining some possible context for council input on the gallery process, falling well short of what they had envisaged when they invited government to enter into partnership with them in an implementation committee on the project.
Still, the block of five who had defeated the earlier motion hold out hope for getting “into the room”.
Cr Marli Banks challenged their belief that council had any negotiating leverage. They certainly had not made use of it when they last met Minister Moss together with MLA Dale Wakefield. No one had said anything of note.
However, the deal on the oval is not done and dusted. Cr Jamie de Brenni showed his hand when he said, “We can decide yes or no still, accusations that we’ve given it to them are way out of line.”
He also said that every one of the councillors had told the government that their “procedure is not right.”
Cr Jacinta Price asked why council couldn’t support a motion that “we want other sites considered”, that  “based on our findings, we demand the Gunner government consider other sites”, but she didn’t take the suggestion further.
Mayor Damien Ryan still has faith that council can make their “voices heard at the table”. His voice, of course, is in support of the Anzac precinct for the gallery. He said a no confidence motion would be in “total contradiction” of council’s invitation to government to work with them.
Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson was of much the same view.
Cr Auricht at this stage remained in some sympathy with the thrust of the motion. He suggested adding that council “demands” to meet with government to resolve the issues around the multiple sites around Alice Springs which could be considered for the gallery location, “as per the wishes of Alice Springs residents”.
This would “give the community answers so we are not the scapegoat”, he said.
Cr Melky was impressed: Cr Auricht’s amendments were adding “a capital B to bold”.
But his boldness didn’t last much longer. Somehow he became persuaded that council wasn’t being given the brush-off and being put into another minor committee, that in her letter Minister Moss’ was offering an effective context for council to work with government.
Cr Satour questioned that perception, when the committees proposed by the Minister already have quite big agendas to finalise.
Cr Cocking also expressed his disquiet about Minister Moss’ reiteration in her letter that the  Anzac precinct is the preferred location and further, her belief , following the government’s “rigorous and in-depth community engagement process” that the government has “the support of the people of Alice Springs to build the gallery at our preferred site”.
Council will require consideration of other sites, he said, especially after what had been heard earlier in the evening, particularly from Arrernte people. His understanding was that an Aboriginal art gallery “that doesn’t have the blessing of people locally, won’t draw the crowds”.
Mayor Ryan stated his belief that council’s engagement with the government would be “our way of taking local Aboriginal people into that discussion”.
By then, Cr Auricht had fallen into line, and there were five in the bag to defeat Cr Melky’s no confidence motion.


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