COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
Independent MLA for Araluen Robyn Lambley (at left) did not get a straight answer from Chief Minister Michael Gunner about the National Indigenous Art Gallery which is in limbo as a result of his government’s inept handling of it.
Her question in the Assembly yesterday was: “Where are you going to build the gallery?”
There was no straight answer to this but what did become clear is the Federal Government is going to give South Australia $85m to build such a gallery, raising the question: Are the Feds going to give NT the same amount? We have put the question to CLP Senator for the NT, Nigel Scullion.
Mr Gunner said there is “work being done now, parallel to the work that goes to a physical site selection”. Does that mean that the government is no longer stubbornly fixated on the Anzac Precinct? Or is Mr Gunner expecting to be able, over time, to pressure the Aboriginal elders opposed to his preferred site into submission?
“As a government we have clearly been trying to sell this in Alice for two-and-a-half years.” This is a blatant distortion of the truth. There is hardly anyone in this town to whom the gallery needs to be “sold”. What Mr Gunner was trying to “sell” was the Anzac Precinct, or rather shove it down the public’s throat.
“There are people in positions of influence in Alice Springs who constantly run interference. These are people who find it easy to identify problems rather than solutions.” Interference with what? The concept of a gallery? No way. The location? Absolutely. Clearly Mr Gunner’s approach remains spinning the facts, a position which so far has cost the public $1m in propaganda for his preferred site – not consultation, as claimed.
“The Member for Araluen is one of these leaders [who run interference] and I call upon her to be part of the solutions and not constantly part of the problem in finding a way through for issues like this in Alice Springs.” In fact Ms Lambley has consistently promoted the concept of a gallery. She consistently argued for coming to a solution about the location.
“We will build it in Alice Springs. It will be magnificent. We are in a positive competition with South Australia. I formally met with Premier Marshall under our strategic relationships document. We agreed to have a good relationship between the two galleries we are building in order to direct traffic.”
Does Mr Gunner (at right) have Mr Marshall’s agreement that both galleries will be described as “national”? Or will that label be reserved for the one in Alice Springs, not the one in Adelaide? (South Australia already has an acclaimed collection of Aboriginal art, but then the NT, as we are seeing with the exhibition Tjungunutja, also has something very precious on offer.)
“Importantly for us, not so good for Premier Marshall is the national recognition that Alice Springs is the natural place for this art gallery.” What’s the evidence for that? We still have not seen a business plan that would surely give us a comparative measure of that.
Mrs LAMBLEY: A point of order, Madam Speaker! With 15 seconds left, where in Alice Springs are you going to build the gallery?
Mr GUNNER: We are confident in the positive partnership with town council—it is clear that in Alice Springs the town council is integral to this solution. We are happy to work with them, we are keen to build the art gallery and we will do it.
Aha. So it’s the Town Council’s fault that the project is stalled. Giving non-answers has become the hallmark of Mr Gunner.
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA