Saturday, September 19, 2020

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

Home Issue 16

Issue 16

Vast geographic scale dwarfs shire budgets


• Just $1.5 million over 5 years for roads maintenance across 280,000 sqkm 

• Council can enact by-laws but does not have the resources to enforce them

• Shire office in 'Growth Town' really a tin shed 

 

A reduced Central Desert Shire Council got down to business yesterday at its first ordinary meeting since the local government elections. The council is missing three members from the Anmatjere Ward but supported this ward's sole councillor, Adrian Dixon, to become the new shire president. Former president Norbert Patrick from Lajamanu declined nomination for the top job but accepted the deputy president role.

Cr Dixon told the Alice Springs News Online that he is confident candidates will come forward to fill the vacancies in his ward. It appears there was confusion at the last minute over nominations.

While Cr Spencer had been present at earlier preparatory meetings of the council this week, he was absent without an apology yesterday.

During the meeting, held at the Alice Springs head office, shire CEO Roydon Robertson poured cold water on the Country Liberals' approach to the future of the shires, proposing to reduce some to smaller scale regional councils.

"They don't know what they want to do," scoffed Mr Roberston, "they just want to do something to discredit the government."

The government's answer to the problem of vast geographic scale in the shires is to strengthen local boards, as stressed by the department's Robert Kendrick when he addressed councillors after their swearing-in.

There was a fair bit of evidence at the meeting of this structure being an effective way to at least bring issues to the table, where however they constantly confront the problem of limited resources. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

UPDATE: 

Shadow Minister for Indigenous policy Adam Giles says the Country Liberals will not be prescriptive about changes to the shires. He would not be drawn on which shires may be considered to be performing less well than others.

He says the Country Liberals have received complaints about shires from right across the Territory. If elected to government they will look at the performance of the shires and will listen to what people want. There could be changes to some shires or even no change at all.

 

Pictured: The new council, from left, Cr William Johnson, Cr Liz Bird, Cr Robert Robertson, Cr Georgina Wilson, Deputy President Norbert Patrick, Cr April Martin, Cr Louis Schaber, President Adrian Dixon. (Absent, Cr Jacob Spencer)

Desert Knowledge CRC camel cull 'next pink batts debacle'

Taxpayers are getting humped with cost of an ineffectual camel cull.
This is how Senator Sean Edwards (Liberal, SA) describes the Feral Camel Management Project run by Ninti One, a not-for-profit company that grew out of the former Desert Knowledge CRC based in Alice Springs. Ninti One now manages the CRC for Remote Economic Participation.
Says Sen Edwards: "It's another pink batts debacle in the making."
He says: “By the end of next financial year, $19 million will have been spent on the Project and of the targeted 350,000 feral camels, a mere 36,000 were exterminated in the first two years.
“The cost per head of shooting the camels from helicopter had blown out, with the latest provided estimated being about $212 per head, plus direct operation costs, whatever they might be.
“This is not counting the $6m of State and Territory Government funds to date as well. That puts the cost per head to over $400 a head.
“Surely it time for the authorities to rethink what they are doing, acknowledge that it is not working and try something else – such as capturing the more accessible camels and transporting them to abattoirs."

Bringing the past to life: Mrs Muldoon reminisces about life inside the old Alice Springs Gaol

'Muldoon's Guest House', aka the old Alice Springs Gaol in Stuart Terrace, was a friendly place, for its female guests in particular. This is according to Mrs Phillip Muldoon, otherwise known as Bertie, short for Bertilla, or "Matron" to the 'guests', wife of the superintendent, Phillip Muldoon.

Mrs Muldoon, behind whose cloche hat and pearls readers may recognise local historian Megg Kelham, will conduct a guided tour of the facility next week (Tuesday, April 17, 4pm), as part of Heritage Week's calendar of activities.

During a similar tour in March, as part of Women's History Month, Mrs Muldoon spoke of segregation at the gaol. Women and men were housed within its walls, although in separate buildings and were never together: there were "no scandals"!

But it was also the case that the "whites and natives", in the parlance of the day, were separated. If a 'guest' was "coloured", and about a third of them were, he could choose which group he wanted to be housed with.

Her husband, appointed to the role in 1938, was a kind man, and wanted his guests to be happy, according to Mrs Muldoon. KIERAN FINNANE reports. 

Alice Springs' ebbing iconic charisma

Ella Simon was an Aboriginal woman whose affectionate, white father lived near Taree in New South Wales, while she grew up on nearby Purfleet Mission, in the years before WW2.  Ella married and farmed vegetables with her husband for the Army during the war, before writing an account of her life, Through My Eyes (1978: 126).  In those days, Aboriginal people weren’t allowed to visit hotels or any other licensed place.  They weren’t allowed to be in possession of alcohol.  It was a total ban, but as Ella notes “there was always some ‘sympathetic’ white man ready to buy his black ‘pals’ a drink or two, or sell it to them for a bit of profit, and this was the cause of a lot of the disturbances – the white man willing to give it to the black man if there was something in it for him."

As the Alice Springs prison system overflows, it’s clear that not much has changed in the past eighty years.  There’s an argument that “people drink for different reasons”, but with the annual, national cost of servicing abuse at $15b, a case can be made for the State to draw a line with a regulatory process aimed at reducing both this cost and unacceptable levels of self-harm. Comment by RUSSELL GUY.

Image: A child’s drawing found in a beer garden beside the Stuart Highway,  NT.

Victory for the tiny desert community that sparked NT-wide reform

The Territory local government elections, with their new counting system, have delivered for the tiny community of Nyrripi in the Southern Tanami Ward of Central Desert Shire. Nyrripi (at right) now have seat on the council with their local representative, Jacob Spencer. This is a big win for the community as it was from there that the drive for reform of the counting system came.

In 2008 Nyrripi's candidate, Teddy Gibson Jakamarra, won the highest number of first preference votes of any candidate in the ward but failed to get a seat on council. When the community's Local Board realised that the cards were stacked against them because of the exhaustive preferential counting system, they asked the shire to lobby the NT Government about it. The shire councillors listened to a presentation by Dr Will Sanders (ANU and Desert Knowledge CRC, pictured), who showed how the old system favoured large group dominance. Armed with this evidence the shire wrote to Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy requesting the review which ultimately led to Territory-wide reform for the local government electoral system.

The reform also had a definite impact in Alice Springs, says Dr Sanders, reflected in the early election of candidates at either end of the political spectrum: on the 'right', Steve Brown, Eli Melky, Dave Douglas in positions one, two and three, and then on the 'left', the Greens' Jade Kudrenko in position four.

The old system would have favoured the 'centre' candidates earlier. Apart from being well-respected they also had incumbency in their favour, but Liz Martin was not elected till the fifth position, with Brendan Heenan following at seventh behind youthful newcomer Chansey Paech. KIERAN FINNANE  reports.

Liz, Brendan and the new town council's balance of power

 

If the new town council's Gang of Four – Steve Brown, Eli Melky, Dave Douglas and Geoff Booth – act as block they will need an extra vote to achieve a majority and that vote is most likely to come from Liz Martin (at left) or Brendan Heenan (above).
Both were re-elected, clearly are of a similar mindset to the Four on many issues, and also operate businesses.
In fact they are top performers in the vital yet currently seriously depressed tourism industry: Councillor (Cr) Martin runs the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. While last year saw the shutters going down for many businesses in the CBD, Cr Martin says the Hall had its best year ever. She's just signed a $1m deal to build a display hall for Mack and Volvo trucks, rivaling the existing Kenworth complex. And Cr Heenan's MacDonnell Range Tourist Park is like a small, very well run town that wins Brolgas year after year.
At least one council project, spending the $5m NT Government grant for rejigging the CBD, is facing delays not of council making: no-one knows where many of the underground water, electricity and sewage mains are located, so there's no start date in sight for any digging. How could the new council break though on that front and what else can we expect from the holders of the balance of power in the 12th Town Council? ERWIN CHLANDA talked with them over the Easter weekend.

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