CLP to focus on youth crime, tourism, mammoth deficit
Creating tangible consequences for juvenile offenders, picking up the ball Labor has dropped on tourism promotion, and defining how the current government’s mammoth deficit can be reduced without affecting vital services, that’s what will keep the Country Liberals on the hop between now and the elections in a year’s time, says the party’s president, Ron Kelly (pictured). He spoke with Alice Springs News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
NEWS: There is no issue in Alice Springs that is more pressing and troubling than rampant juvenile delinquency.
KELLY: There needs to be a consequence for criminal activity on the very first interaction, not the second nor fifth nor the tenth – the very first time. The consequence could be something like taking the kids home to the parents, so they know what’s going on. It might be forcing them to clean up the mess they have made. The last [thing] we want to see is people going off the rails and being put in gaol. We need to put the notion out there that you are accountable for your actions.
NEWS: Obviously there are consequences now but they are not working. If measures fail to work, what would be the sequence of events?
KELLY: All those things are issues you work through with the relevant authorities.
NEWS: Experts say society stops crime, not the police. In the Southern Command we have three times the number of police compared to the national average. The current government makes much of its increases to police numbers.
KELLY: I don’t claim to be an expert in this area but the Country Liberals do believe that if the whole plan is to put the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, rather than putting the fence at the top, then of course you won’t have enough ambulances and you’ll never have enough police. We do have to stop people offending.
NEWS: So what actions should be taken? What kind of policies have to be brought in?
KELLY: We’re still working through these policies. There is still a quarter of the [electoral] term to go.
NEWS: You don’t have PALIs – cops at bottle shops – in Darwin but we do have them here. Why?
KELLY: They were rolled out in areas where there seemed to be a need to look at the alcohol issues. They are in some places and there seem to be results.
NEWS: Does that suggest there are alcohol problems here in Alice Springs but not in Darwin?
KELLY: No, I’m saying there may be different issues. Putting the right policies in place. One size doesn’t fit all.
NEWS: What is the difference between the needs in Darwin and in Alice Springs?
KELLY: Are you suggesting that PALIs are not providing a benefit to the community?
NEWS: The manager of three small local supermarkets, Sally McMartin, says she’s been told that there are many bottle shops in Darwin and the government can’t afford to cover them all, and that this discriminates against Alice Springs. Will you introduce PALIs in Darwin or pull them out of Alice Springs?
Two PALIs at Alice bottlo.
KELLY: We introduced the program when we were last in government, and it is having a good result. When we are in government again and get access to the facts on alcohol and its effects on crime we will make that decision.
NEWS: There are claims of astonishing reduction of alcohol related crimes and hospital admissions, of a statistical magnitude that calls for examination. Yet the government is denying us access to the raw data underpinning these statistics – the records of arrests and emergency department admissions. Would a CLP government allow access to those raw data, providing of course that personal details are not disclosed?
KELLY: We’d have to look at what’s in those data, what personal confidential information is in there.
NEWS: We have guaranteed the confidentiality of private details, such as names and even gender, simply looking at the numbers and circumstances of arrests and admissions.
KELLY: You want to be given access to the raw data including the personal details, on the undertaking that you look at them but don’t [disclose personal details]?
KELLY: The Country Liberals will look at what information should be released to help the community resolve social problems. You’ve got to work with the community but personal and confidential information is just that. Just giving the data to you would be breaching confidentiality.
NEWS: The tourism industry in Alice Springs has been declining while the one at Ayers Rock Resort has been climbing – pardon the pun – judging on money spent. What would a CLP government be doing to re-invigorate tourism in Alice Springs?
KELLY: There needs to be investment in new product, new opportunities. The Red Centre NATS is bringing a lot of people to Alice Springs. Those are the things we’ll look at.
NEWS: Would you stop direct flights to Ayers Rock Resort? First Chief Minister Paul Everingham said “there will never be any direct flights to Ayers Rock.” The NT Government owns the Connellan Airport at Yulara.
KELLY: That was 30 years ago. Things change in 30 years.
NEWS: You don’t build a town for a few years. Yulara was built by Everingham to enhance the tourist industry in Alice Springs into the future. That was the basis on which he sold the idea of Yulara to the public. The plan was for The Rock to be a tourism asset of Alice Springs, not a competitor.
KELLY: We want to have people visiting both Yulara and Alice Springs. We want airlines servicing both those centres.
NEWS: This is no different in Everingham’s scheme, except it required they would fly to Yulara only via Alice Springs. When Everingham mooted Yulara, locals warned it would kill the industry in The Alice. No direct flights to Yulara was an intricate and long term part of the development. Does this breach indicate that undertakings by a CLP politician are worthless?
KELLY: No it does not. Yulara did not destroy Alice Springs. The Labor Government stopped the direct tourism marketing overseas. There were many Europeans and Americans in Alice Springs. When you stop that marketing you reduce those numbers. Flights going to Yulara and Alice Springs were working very well when we had good marketing of the Northern Territory. The Labor Government dropped the ball on that. Visitation decreased. We have to pick it up again. People want to visit [The Rock] because it is an iconic place. There are many other places, features and events in Central Australia and Alice Springs that are just as iconic but not promoted or marketed as they need to be. That’s what we need to work on.
NEWS: But the money continues going to Yulara, more and more so, exactly what the people had warned of – look at the graph. And that cash goes to the interstate owner of the resort. Connellan Airport is on a long term lease from the NT Government to the Indigenous Land Corporation. Should and could this lease be broken or amended, if it is to prevent the total collapse of the tourism industry in The Alice, the only private enterprise activity here [of significant size] that isn’t government dependent?
KELLY: I’ve given you my response. We want to develop the tourism industry in both Alice Springs and Yulara.
The Connellan Airport lessees received a $72.5m Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan last year for upgrades.
Mr Kelly says there should be more events in Alice Springs such as the Red Centre NATS this weekend. What other events?
KELLY: We will work with the industry there. For example, we won’t go through a process which is a significant threat to the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. That great attraction is under threat because of silly bureaucratic requirements.
NEWS: Do you consider the West and East MacDonnells adequately developed?
KELLY: I don’t know what the plan is. Again, it’s a matter working with the tourism operators, with the traditional owners. We put a lot of effort into sealing the loop road. There are plenty of opportunities to look at.
NEWS: A year out from the election there are no specific projects on the table.
KELLY: Our policies for the election will be released when the campaign starts in earnest. There is still a quarter of the term to go.
NEWS: The current government’s planning for the National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs is clearly a dog’s breakfast.
KELLY: That description is an understatement. The gallery was an initiative of the CLP Government. We believed then and do so now that it would be a great initiative for Alice Springs. You can’t tell me that in Alice Springs there is no land available for a facility that would be owned and cherished by all people in the town, other than bulldozing a football field.
NEWS: A significant number of Aboriginal people are saying it shouldn’t be where it is planned now, namely north of The Gap. They say it should be south of the range.
KELLY: We will have real discussions and negotiations with all parties and resolve the location issue, and get on with building the gallery.
NEWS: The government has increased the annual funding for Parrtjima – the lights on the hill – from $2m to $5m for what amounts to little more than a week’s entertainment for a small crowd mostly from Alice Springs. Would you continue funding Parrtjima?
KELLY: That’s the exact sort of project that should have a cost-benefit assessment. In the Darwin area we have the million dollar fish competition and the government provided $250,000 to engage southern consultants to decide whether that’s a good thing or not. How come they can’t do a proper analysis of events such as the lights on the hill, at a time when the Territory Budget is blown to smithereens. Surely with the large number of qualified competent public servants we have, and we’re paying for, surely one of those could have done it and we would have saved $250,000.
NEWS: Is that something into which an Opposition should do its own investigations, using its own resources, party members active in commerce, for example? The News was the first to point out last year that there is no business plan for the gallery and there still isn’t have one, at least not one that is published.
KELLY: To do this you need access to all the current information and the government won’t provide it to anybody, including the Opposition. It’s something you really have to do when you are in government.
NEWS: The gallery is starting from scratch – for the NT Government as well as the Opposition. Both sides are looking at a blank canvas. The CLP could say, the government is making a mess of this but here is what we would do.
KELLY: The government has the expertise in their departments to carry out that work. And they should be carrying out that work. That’s what they are there for. The Opposition doesn’t run the Territory. The government does.
NEWS: Every time a new government comes to power we hear them say, Oh my God, what are we going to do now? It seems a year clear of the election is a good time to get up to speed, especially for the sake of the voters.
KELLY: The policies have to be well thought out and balanced and not half-baked and we’re working through these processes now.
NEWS: The CLP wants to reduce the record deficit and that clearly mean cuts. Where?
KELLY: It’s not so much reducing expenditure in any particular place, it’s about where you’re spending your money and making sure you’re getting a benefit for it. We don’t know how much the government has spent on the gallery so far but we know the first sod hasn’t even turned. The government spent $800,000 on the Myilly Point museum and then scrapped it. You’ve got to spend money to create money. The government does not have an income problem, but we don’t know where all this money is going.
NEWS: There is a Budget figure and Budget paper with significant detail of allocations, published each year.
KELLY: They don’t show where bits of money are going. For example, you’ve got the Boundless Possible promotion, all the purple logos and the adverts. $40,000 to put a sticker on a rocket shot into the air in Queensland, plus the travel and accommodation to get there for a photo opp. I mean, really. The driverless bus trial at the wharf here in Darwin had to employ a driver as well. Was that a good use of money? There are probably dozens and dozens examples of those types of expenditure that won’t impact on a single person living in the NT. Some interstate consultant doesn’t get a contract? Too bad.
NEWS: What happened last time?
KELLY: When the CLP got into government in 2012 there was a ballooning debt crisis and everyone thought the end of the world is nigh. We managed to reduce that without major upset, without major cuts, just smart spending, line by line, dotpoint by dotpoint, information that is not currently made public.
There was considerable upset over the 99-year lease of the Darwin Port to the Chinese corporation Landbridge for a meagre $506m, and over the sale of the Territory Insurance Office, both in the last term of a Country Liberals government.
NEWS: So far as you know, what private investment is there on the horizon in Central Australia?
NEWS: How many members does the Alice Springs branch of the CLP have? We seem to have difficulties getting an answer.
KELLY: They have a very healthy membership.
NEWS: Do you have a number?
KELLY: No, I don’t.
NEWS: Is Mayor Damien Ryan angling for pre-selection in an Alice Springs seat?
KELLY: We have a very fair and transparent – to the candidates, that is – preselection process but this is not something we discuss through the media.
[ED – Opposition Leader Gary Higgins, who last week declined to be interviewed, has now offered to make time for an interview with the News. However, as we had already made arrangements to interview Mr Kelly, we thanked Mr Higgins and advised we would take up his offer in the near future.]