COMMENT by ALEX NELSON and ERWIN CHLANDA
The Todd Mall was still a street and outside the now boarded up ice cream parlour was a bench on which I (Erwin) sat with the Territory’s first Opposition Leader. Not a minder in sight. It was 1977.
“Is this on the record?” I asked.
“Everything I say to you is on the record,” replied Labor’s Jon Isaacs. And he had plenty to say.
Compare this with his current pathetic counterpart (a one year old in 1977) who sneaks into town for a few hours, hiding from its people (with a few exceptions), and from its media, doing business behind closed doors and concealing from the public what it is.
In the ’70s forces in Alice Springs were shaping the political landscape of the NT, the CLP dominating for two and a half decades.
Unlike Michael Gunner, the current bungling Chief Minister, Paul Everingham built the Ayers Rock Resort.
And for decades the town blossomed as people put their money where their mouth was.
Keith Castle created a tourist industry from the ground up: We need a couple more hotels? Let’s build some. A bus company? Let’s bring in top national operators.
Airlines? Ditto. And we had our own – the legendary Connair with a workshop attached that performed aircraft refurbishing others wouldn’t even dream of.
Thousands of tourism beds were created. Many of them are gone.
Murray Neck, Di Byrnes, Reg Harris, David “Tuzza” Tuzewski and countless others worked, created and developed a town loved by people from around the nation and the world.
Today we complain about a handout mentality. Well, many of those hands are white.
The question isn’t: Where is there an investment opportunity?
It is: What will the government put money into?
We’re not investing in bringing people to one of the world’s most marvellous places.
We are investing in misery: the supreme court building, the police station, the juvenile detention centre, women’s shelter, the hospital staff accommodation.
Our major research bodies, from which we might reasonably expect concepts and projects to guide the way to a confident future, are withering on the vine – some are gone (CSIRO), others barely holding on (AZRI, CDU, IAD), and there is little to show from the considerable public investment in others (Desert Knowledge, for example).
We fail to take heed of the lessons of our recent past; indeed, we specialise in ignoring our history and continually re-invent the wheel.
We blindly put our faith in public funded big ticket projects to lift our economy out of the doldrums despite an inglorious track record littered with examples that have failed to deliver.
As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time.
As a town, a Territory, and as a society, we have clearly lost our way. We are punch-drunk on despair and unable to think the way clear for solutions to our problems.
So whither the future? Problems are opportunities in disguise – and we’ve no shortage of them!
We need to grasp those opportunities ourselves, not wait for handouts and assistance.
The past shows we did it before, there’s no reason we can’t do so again.
UPDATE February 1, 5.40pm
There was no meeting last week between Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Lhere Artepe.
This is according to the acting CEO of the native title organisation, Graeme Smith, who spoke with us today.
The Alice Springs News made several phone calls last Friday following up reports that the Chief Minister was in Alice Springs. We were speaking to staff in his office who refused to give any details about his whereabouts.
Mr Gunner’s minder did not respond to requests for a phone call one staff claimed to have passed on to him. The staff member either did not know or did not reveal the minder’s mobile phone.