Fixing taps or fixing policy?


2618 tap fixing kit OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
This is a kit for fixing leaking taps.
It costs $32.62.
It takes about 15 minutes to learn how to use it.
Writes one of our readers, about the lack of even the most basic maintenance skills in bush communities: “If only there were unemployed people around who could perform handyman duties (or be training in them) as required, with Housing [Department] picking up the tab.
“Or just keep it as normal and pay $1000 every time there is a leaking tap for a tradie to drive out there and fix it. Sometimes simple suggestions are the best.”
For $1000 you can buy 30 tap fixing kits. You only need one per community – and a tap fixer, of course.
Would he or she soon become a sought-after member of the community? You bet.
Would this be likely to expand to other handyman tasks? Worth a try?
We were trying to discuss this with NT Shelter which, according to its online blurb, is the “the peak body for affordable housing and homelessness” working “towards a just and fairer housing system, particularly for disadvantaged groups and those on low to moderate incomes”.
And it has “a skills-based board”.
Do those skills include fixing taps? Probably not. We can’t find out because they declined to be interviewed despite several requests in the wake of the Santa Teresa legal wrangle.
“We receive funding from the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Housing and Community Development,” the blurb says.
In fact in 2017/18 that amounted to $546,871.
The wages costs were $356,094 – the equivalent of 10,916 tap fixing kits.
Oh, NT Shelter DID sell tool kits: In 2017/18 they earned $82 from that activity, well down from $377 in 2016/17.
That’s not $82,000 or $377,000 – it is just $82 and $377.
Is the government paying people to tell them how to spend government money likely to result in a fearless and objective examination?
Of course – the blurb says so: “We are grateful for this support [from the government], noting that it does not preclude NT Shelter’s activities and advocacy in its capacity as an independent organisation and peak body.”
NT Shelter’s February 25 media release, quoting CEO Peter McMillan, is predictable and trite, saying the undignified brawl between Senator Nigel Scullion and Chief Minister Michael Gunner over allocation of $550m in taxpayers’ money “is shaping up as a significant blow to the aspirations and prospects of families and children across the Territory … disadvantaged … overcrowded … need to close the gap … kids missing early childhood development and education opportunities … get sick from preventable illnesses … live in poor quality, overcrowded housing.” You get the drift.
Senator Scullion claims Mr Gunner has removed statements about Aboriginal housing from the NT Government’s website to cover up his shortcomings. Mr Gunner neither confirms nor denies that removal.
And so it goes on.
Senator Scullion, with the Federal election about to be called, is donating $300,000 to the Central Land Council. That’s the equivalent of 9196 leaking tap kits.
Except it’s not for anything that useful.
It is for “Aboriginal people in our region [to] have a strong voice on housing matters, and to develop a new approach to housing services in remote communities, in partnership with both levels of government,” as CLC president Francis Kelly is quoted in a CLC media release.
It is for “seeking expert social housing advice; considering relevant social housing models in other states (particularly remote context); building on the significant work of the previous housing forums and involving remote residents in the design of a new model; develop an alternative model for the delivery of remote housing, and consultation with Indigenous stakeholders and government”.
So, after half a century of spending public money on houses for Aboriginal people and endless discussions about that subject, Aborigines still have to get public funding for telling the government how to build houses they don’t have to pay for.


  1. All of this would make a grown man cry. Sixty two years ago we electrified Warrabri (Ali Curung).
    There were three trade training buildings, Nissen Huts in those days, and all young men learned the basics of wood working, plumbing, motor vehicle maintenance, even house painting.
    The young trainees were very adept and learned fast and intelligently, under the watchful eye of Harry Giese, the big boss.
    I despair that all these years instead of progress these skills were lost. The wheel is being invented again and again and again.

  2. This article highlights an unsolved problem, where the problem appeared to be solved years ago according to Hermann Weber’s comment.
    I went up to the Darwin for the CLP government as an adviser. I am an economist from rural southern Australia but have provided advice on solving many problems across different fields.
    One of the first jobs I was given was to find a way of charging for water usage in remote communities.
    Being a good economist I revised all the issues in marginal cost pricing versus average cost pricing versus two-part pricing for water usage in the remote communities.
    When dealing with the issue I threw the textbooks away and had to find the answer to the questions of “whom do I charge?” and “how do I get the money off them?”.
    The electricity people had sorted out their issues through the use of tokens, purchased from the community store and providing the amount of power that was paid for, by whomever bought the tokens. Unfortunately, the cost of implementing the same system in water meters was prohibitive.
    Many of these communities are on fossil water, so that when it runs out there are basically no options but to shut it down as the cost of water transport is absolutely prohibitive and taxpayers everywhere would object to the size of the subsidy required.
    I told my kids about my failure to find an answer to the problems of water in the remote communities. One of them gave me as a Christmas present a book on Israeli water technology.
    It outlined quite a few technologies that would help reduce wastage of the fossil water, compared to what I knew was happening from my experience up there.
    The technology is relatively cheap and would help deliver for the remote communities, but if they had to bring in people to do the basic plumbing the costs would still be extremely high even though there would be some marginal long-term savings.
    The responsibility for fixing problems has to be with the local community and if they are not prepared to do the simple things as Mr Weber said were done in the past, there has to be a financial penalty to the community to encourage them to undertake the training and ability to fix the problems.

  3. Yes Hermann. When Warrabri plus most others had a market garden, orchard, some with a piggery and some with chooks.
    Self sufficiency at its best with extra for sale to make a dollar for the community.
    Plus the health benefits. It was a regular weekly circus when the truck from Warrabri turned up in Paterson Street, Tennant Creek, loaded with the in season veg.
    Mums grabbing what they wanted, kids crying, dogs fighting and pushers being pulled home loaded with the week’s veg, kids still crying and having to walk. Had to pull the pusher, no concrete paths to walk on. A truck load sold in about 30 minutes.
    On the water issue, one place had water supply problems, the tank was always empty.
    A plumber went out with a bucket full of spring loaded taps and replaced every tap in the place, no more water running away with taps left on, no water shortage.
    Three months later he was sent back to put back turn on taps at great expense to all: “We can’t wash our hands with spring loaded taps.”
    So, water shortage again with water running down the street.


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