By ERWIN CHLANDA
Last updated 29 July 2019 12.48pm.
The explanation for why the NT Government placed the iconic National Road Transport Hall of Fame under external management gives no evidence of illegal conduct while acknowledging that the association running it “is in the black” and does not owe creditors.
Being “in a sound financial position and able to meet its obligations” the Hall of Fame, together with attached entities including the Old Ghan Heritage Museum “are significant tourist attractions for Alice Springs,” according to Sally Ozolins, Acting Director-General of Licensing who made the order.
She makes the point that “regulatory oversight” is intended to ensure that associations are operating “for the benefit of their members” but she gives no evidence of members complaining.
The principal issues for Ms Ozolins are protracted difficulties with financial reports, dating back to when an accountant lost information years ago, and secondly, circumstances of annual general meetings.
The first issue has been the subject for several years of ongoing and urgent requests from the Hall’s committee, seeking assistance from the NT Government which was never provided in any from that was useful.
A reputable accounting firm, engaged by the Hall of Fame to unravel the financial report problems, was making progress.
This is acknowledged by Ms Ozolins, who says in her statement that the Hall of Fame “had put measures in place to significantly streamline bookkeeping and accounting processes”.
Liz Martin and K K O’Connell.
So why was not only the bathwater thrown out but the baby as well? A team of highly motivated and skilled trucking enthusiasts, including some who are running Australia’s biggest transport operations, have been sacked.
With respect to the AGMs, committee members were from all over Australia, were busy as some of the transport industry’s leading figures, and did not have the time to travel to Alice Springs for annual general meetings, as Ms Ozolins explains the Associations Act requires: “A quorum for an AGM is 15 members present in person.”
Hall of Fame sources have made these points repeatedly, including in several reports in the Alice Springs News: One is headed “Liz Martin says goodbye and good luck” in February last year and “Red tape still strangling Alice icon” in December.
Committee members give graphic accounts of bureaucratic procrastination and sheer obstinance, most of which is not acknowledged by Ms Ozolins in her report which we are publishing in full.
So now there is a mostly volunteer-run national attraction, managed to the satisfaction of its membership (no evidence to the contrary is offered), embraced by trucking enthusiasts around the country, receiving little if any NT Government money, yet its management stalwarts are sacked while Ms Ozolins is occupying herself with issues such as “the date on which a person became a member and the date on which the person ceased to be a member” being not always recorded appropriately.
We quoted Ms Martin last year when she offered her resignation (yet she was still busy with Transport Hall of Fame issues last week): “This is the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. For me this has never been a job.
“It has been my absolute passion and my life. However, through all the challenges and tribulations over the years I have had a truly wonderful journey and amazing opportunities.
“I could not have done this anywhere but the Alice Springs of old. Thank You.”
And: “When I went on the payroll 15 years ago the business had an annual turnover of $40k. In the last year that I was permitted to fundraise and hold events etc (two years ago) we turned over $1.7m.
“It is interesting that the panic is all about the assets of the society being relocated. I just want to say you have all got it so very wrong.
“The biggest asset of the society is not the ones with wheels, I can get them anywhere, it is the camaraderie, the corporate knowledge and the character and the compassion of the people of the society; the ones who walk away on two legs.
“I hope the next entity, in whatever form it takes, can fill even half of one of their shoes.”
We are now asking the appointed manager, Rosey Batt, of Adelaide law firm Rosey Batt & Associates, whether the national truckies reunion, normally an annual event, will still take place next month and if so, how many people have booked and how that number compares with past events.
Precis edited at 5.20pm on July 31.