Northern Territory’s CLP delays preselection decision for Lingiari

The Country Liberal Party has delayed its preselection process for the vast Northern Territory electorate of Lingiari until June.

Party members made the decision on Saturday afternoon at the CLP’s three-day central council meeting in Alice Springs.

Darwin-based members and the parliamentary team travelled to the town on Friday for the meeting, where it had been expected a final decision on a candidate would be made.

But the party will now decide in June, when it will also finalise candidates for the NT’s other federal seat of Solomon, which takes in Darwin and most of Palmerston, and the Senate.

The CLP had set an original “expression of interest” deadline of February 12 for Lingiari and Solomon, but this will now be extended.

Earlier this month, CLP president Jamie DeBrenni told the ABC he was “comfortable” with the number of expressions of interest received for Lingiari.

But he declined to specify how many nominations for Lingiari the party had received.

Labor yet to confirm candidate

The massive electoral division of Lingiari extends across almost 1.4 million square kilometres and covers almost all of the NT.

Lingiari also covers the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island territories.

Labor’s long-serving Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon announced his retirement from the job late last year, saying it was time for him to “roll up the swag” after representing the area for about three decades.

Labor’s Warren Snowdon has announced he will not contest the next election.(ABC News: Shuba Krishnan)

Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud was a guest at the central council meeting and said a “conduit” was needed between the huge remote electorate of Lingiari and the Federal Government.

“What the people of Lingiari want is someone from their community, that believes in their community, is from their community and understands it,” he said.

Labor has not yet confirmed its candidate for Lingiari but the party is likely to select one of four Aboriginal nominees, according to senior party sources.

The potential candidates include Northern Land Council chief executive Marion Scrymgour, Charles Darwin University researcher Jeanie Govan, Aboriginal Carbon Foundation chief executive Rowan Foley and public servant and former NT Government minister Matthew Bonson.

A woman smiles into the camera.
Marion Scrymgour is the first woman ever appointed to the chief executive role of a Northern Territory land council.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

Sources close to Mr Snowdon have told the ABC he and NT Senator Malarrndirri McCarthy would support Ms Scrymgour.

Mr Snowdon has not publicly confirmed his endorsement of a particular nominee.

“It is not my intention to be engaged in public commentary on the preselection process,” he said.

Ms Scrymgour was the first Indigenous woman elected to the NT Parliament and served as an NT government minister and deputy chief minister.

The parliamentary terms for the NT’s two Senate seats — held by the CLP’s Sam McMahon and Labor’s Malarndirri McCarthy — expire before the next federal election.

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We die sooner, terribly much sooner

By JULIUS DENNIS The average age of death for people in Central Australia is over 20 years younger than the national median, a staggeringly low of 56.5 years of age. Nationwide, the median age of death is 78. This number is an average of the median age of death for the Local Government Areas (LGAs) […]

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Tropical cyclone warning issued for NQ

NORTH Queensland is officially on cyclone watch after a Tropical Cyclone warning was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology at 11.30am Sunday.

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Top End mango growers have taken $10 million hit, but heavy rain is raising hope for the 2021 season

Top End farmer Andrew Dalglish says a record-low wet season and shortage of seasonal workers prevented him producing up to 80 per cent of his mango crop last year.

“It puts you back a few years but farming is not a straight line … you get some good ones and you get some bad ones,” he said, referring to the worst production season on his Katherine property in years.

But while Top End mango growers suffered loses totalling about $10 million last year, they are expecting a record crop for the 2021 season, which starts in May, after heavy rainfall across the region since October.

“It’s a great start so let’s hope it keeps going and we get a beautiful dry season and plenty of mangos,” Mr Dalglish said.

The Northern Territory traditionally produces more than half of Australia’s mango supply.

Bureau of Meteorology records show the 2020 wet season was the worst on record for Katherine, one of the Top End’s main growing areas.

Only 457 millimetres of rain was recorded, compared to an average of 1,025 millimetres in previous years.

Mr Dalglish said Katherine experienced several poor wet seasons even before 2020.

“When they [mango trees] are standing out in the sun and not getting any rain, it takes a toll on them,” he said.

Farmers say consecutive wet seasons with poor rainfall have taken a toll on their crops.(ABC Rural: Renee Cluff)

NT Farmers Association Chief Executive Paul Burke said the association is waiting on more data from farms on mangoes that didn’t make it to market in the 2020 season, but expects the region’s total crop loss to sit within $10 million.

Mr Burke said both the weather and a shortage of seasonal workers because of COVID-19 travel restrictions caused losses.

He said growers are used to changing weather conditions but a shortage of workers “exacerbated a really difficult season”.

More than 300 seasonal workers from Vanuatu arrived in the Territory in October, after picking had already begun in some areas.

The workers were required to complete two weeks of quarantine before they could begin work — a ruling made before they were eventually allowed to quarantine on farms.

Tray numbers tumble

Katherine grower Francesco Ignello said he lost $20,000 or 25 per cent of his crop because of a shortage of workers to pick his 2,000 trees.

He said neighbouring farmers shared the picking to try to stem losses but the poor season still meant his family had to rely on income from savings to make up for the shortfall in profit.

“We lost a little bit but can’t do much about it. We were all in the same boat,” he said.

Mr Ignello said he finished picking mangoes on his farm just before his bore started to run dry.

“We were just on the edge … probably we could pump a little more water, but not that much more,” he said.

Golden Mango Orchards owner Francesco Ignello stands in an orchid.
Francesco Ignello says he lost $20,000 or 25 per cent of his crop last year.(ABC News: Sowaibah Hanifie)

Statistics show that after three consecutive years of producing more than 10 million mango trays, Australia’s national crop forecast for the 2020 season was 7 million trays.

In 2019, the Northern Territory produced around 5.5 million trays but 2020 saw a significant decline in the number of Top End mangoes sent to market.

According to the NT Farmer’s Association, Katherine sent 1.2 million trays to market by mid-December 2020, compared to 2.3 million trays in 2019.

Darwin produced 2.6 million trays last season, compared to more than 3 million trays in 2019.

One tray weighs around 7 kilograms.

Mr Burke said growers hope that more than 750 seasonal workers will be available to work on Top End farms during this year’s mango season.

“Certainly, the season has been phenomenal to date … there is a spring in the step of growers, and we are looking like having a bumper season,” he said.

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Northern Territory cattle and tourism pioneer Peter Severin dies aged 93

Cattle and tourism pioneer Peter Severin has died aged 93, at the remote station and famous roadhouse near Uluru he established more than six decades ago.

Mr Severin’s family announced his death on Saturday morning in a statement they said was made “with profound sadness”.

“He was a true gentleman, devoted son, loving husband and proud father,” the statement said.

“Pete passed away peacefully in his 94th year, surrounded by those he loved, and those that loved him, at Curtin Springs Station, his home for over 65 years.”

In a social media post, Hospitality NT described the long-serving publican as a “true Territory pioneer and pioneer of Central Australia”.

The Severin roadhouse, built on the working cattle station first leased by the family in 1956, was among the isolated area’s first tourism spots opened outside Alice Springs.

The Severin family at their Curtin Springs property in the 1960s.(Supplied)

From early beginnings selling petrol and scones to a growing stream of visitors, Mr Severin and his wife Dawn are credited with opening the region up to domestic and international tourism.

In 1963, Mr Severin installed the controversial chain rope on Uluru, which tourists used to climb the rock until it was closed in 2019 in accordance with the wishes of traditional owners and custodians.

He was awarded the Northern Territory Tourism Minister’s Perpetual Trophy in 2017, in recognition of his contributions to the industry.

The family said they would be sharing highlights of Mr Severin’s life and holding a service in Alice Springs after taking time to mourn his death privately.

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Native title boss gets domestic violence order


A Domestic Violence Order was given to Shane Lindner, the chairman of Lhere Artepe, the Alice Springs native title organisation, designed to be the prime representative body for town’s Arrernte people.

He may seek re-election at the corporation’s annual general meeting understood to be held tomorrow.

The “interim order until further order of the court” restrains Mr Lindner from “causing harm or attempting or threatening to cause harm to the Protected Person/s; causing damage to property, or attempting or threatening to cause damage to property of the Protected Person/s; intimidating or harassing or verbally abusing the Protected Person/s; stalking the Protected Person/s.

The order was given by Registrar James of the Local Court on January 12.

The police Commander Southern Command, Craig Laidler, expressed extreme concern at a media conference yesterday about domestic violence featuring prominently in the region’s crime statistics.

The Alice Springs News is seeking comment from Lhere Artepe.

In the corporation’s general report for the year ending June 30, 2020, the latest available, Lhere Artepe had the following members, the first three being the estate groups making up the organisation: The Antulye, Irlpme and Mparntwe Aboriginal corporations, and Alan Campbell, Fabian Conway, Marie Ellis, Felicity Hayes, Peter Liddle, William Liddle, Shane Lindner, Pater Palmer and current acting CEO Graham Smith.

The organisation had an income of $416,636; no grants; total expenditure of $375,919; value of current assets $3.8m; value of non-current assets $696,226; total current liabilities $122,460 and total non-current liabilities $253,534.

VIDEO: Mr Lindner leaving the court house after an earlier appearance for a different matter and confronting Editor Erwin Chlanda.

UPDATE 12 noon: Mr Smith says Lhere Artepe would not comment.

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Conservatives Challenge CNN Reporter Jim Acosta at CPAC in Orlando

Reporter Jim Acosta was confronted on Friday, February 26, by activists at the first day of the annual CPAC Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Attendee Juan Echeverry filmed a group following Acosta at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. Gun rights activist Kaitlin Bennett can be seen approaching Acosta with a microphone. Acosta waves his hand several times and says, “I wish you all the best.” Meanwhile, someone can be heard shouting, “What’s your part in dividing this country, Jim? What’s your part in that? What’s your part in all that fake news and your Russian collusion you went on with about three years, Jim? All that evidence you had Jim, where does it show up? What’s your part in what happened January 6th? We all denounced it.” Bloomberg News reporter William Turton captured additional angles of the crowd surging toward Acosta and engaging in chants. Credit: Juan Echeverry via Storyful

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ATSB report into 2019 Kakadu helicopter crash finds numerous Parks Australia safety issues

An investigation into a mechanical failure that caused a 2019 helicopter crash in Kakadu has found a number of oversights in Parks Australia’s safety procedures worsened the accident that three crew were lucky to survive.

The helicopter crashed into terrain during a feral horse cull in a remote section of Kakadu National Park in May two years ago.

Two park rangers and the pilot were flown to Royal Darwin Hospital with serious back injuries and chemical burns from spilled fuel.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has now released its report into the incident, blaming the crash on a mechanical failure.

But its investigation also found a number of issues with safety procedures overseen by Park Australia, which jointly manages the sprawling park with traditional owners.

It found those oversights were among “a range of factors exacerbating the occupants’ injuries or increasing risk”.

Three men survived the crash which occurred during a feral animal cull.(Supplied: CareFlight)

Parks Australia required park rangers to wear helmets during culling tasks, but the ATSB found that helmets had not been provided and were not regularly used.

The ATSB also found that the relevant risk assessment was three years out of date and incomplete, and the helicopter model, operator and crew had all changed since the assessment was last updated in 2015.

It said high turnover in park management meant there was limited oversight of culling operations and some other relevant documentation had not been completed since 2015.

The park’s radio network, which was cited as a key safety feature of park operations such as the cull, was also found to cover just 10 per cent of the park.

Parks Australia admits limited oversight

Parks Australia told the ATSB that it has since upgraded the radios used in the park and admitted that staff turnover had limited its oversight.

“A Parks Australia representative stated that they did not have visibility of the aerial platform shooting management process and that high turnover in the management role over the preceding years had hampered Parks Australia’s ability to provide oversight in that regard,” the report said.

“The culling team had no permanent manager in place.”

The shooter’s harness, provided by Parks Australia, was also found to be three weeks past its 10-year retirement date.

Since the accident, Parks Australia has recruited specialist staff to oversee and develop new safety procedures and suspended aerial culls until adequate safety procedures are in place.

A man being winched by a helicopter.
A man was winched to safety by CareFlight after the helicopter crash in Kakadu.(Source: CareFlight)

A spokeswoman from Parks Australia said the body is dedicated to reviewing and improving its safety systems to address areas for improvement identified following that incident and has already taken a number of steps to do so.

The ATSB investigation report follows a recent internal review commissioned by Parks Australia that revealed a string of safety and communication problems.

The handling of the incident by Parks Australia and its former director, James Findlay, became a flashpoint in ongoing disputes between traditional owners and Parks Australia.

The relationship continued to deteriorate and Mr Findlay eventually resigned.

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Northern Territory COVID-19 vaccine rollout set back by aged care delays and missing doses

Aged care sector delays and supply chain “teething problems” have set back the first week of the coronavirus vaccine rollout in the Northern Territory.

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles told ABC Radio Darwin this morning that an expected shipment of COVID-19 vaccines did not arrive yesterday, so the Northern Territory ran out of doses earlier than expected.

“We were expecting a small supply that didn’t come through so we’ve raised that with the Commonwealth government about that supply issue,” she said.

Ms Fyles said she did not know why the expected vaccine shipment had not arrived but that there had been several “teething problems” around Australia during the first week of vaccinations.

“The officials are looking into it but we are expecting 400 more doses today.

“We will continue vaccinations this evening and tomorrow.”

Health Minister Natasha Fyles says questions have been raised as to why the vaccines did not arrive.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

Ms Fyles said 581 coronavirus vaccines had been delivered to Territorians as of close of business yesterday.

The NT Government initially projected that 800 NT Health staff would be vaccinated in the first week.

Delays have also been seen in the rollout of the vaccine in the aged care sector, a program managed by the federal government.

Northern Territory Professional Health Network chief executive Gill Yearsley said the delays were due to the “logistically challenging and complex” nature of the delivery plan.

“In the Northern Territory we have experienced some delays in the rollout this week which means some residents have not received their vaccines when initially planned,” he said.

“The delays are being managed and contingencies put in place to ensure residents do receive their vaccinations in the next few days.”

Despite the missing doses and supply chain issues, Ms Fyles said the vaccination program in the Territory was working well.

“To get over 500 people vaccinated in the first four days and to not be lagging behind the rest of Australia, our health professionals have done a great job,” she said.

Ms Fyles said the territory and federal governments were working on getting the appropriate freezers to the territory, which would allow the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine to be stored locally and remedy some of the supply issues.

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Quarantine worker Erica Bleakley receives one of the first coronavirus vaccines in the NT.

“They are still some weeks away. I hope we’ll see them by the end of March or early April,” she said.

Ms Fyles said the NT government was hoping to have all Territorians vaccinated by the end of October.

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Tennant Times goes exclusively online


Tomorrow the Tennant & District Times will publish its last printed edition and go exclusively online, in its 46th year of circulation.

“The future of newspapers is digital and here in Tennant Creek we’re moving with the times,” says owner and editor Natasha Hennig.

“For several years now, our online readership has been climbing steadily.”

This follows the moving exclusively online six years ago by the Alice Springs News, now in its 27th year of publication, and the closure of the Centralian Advocate.

This heralds a Murdoch-free Central Australia with the Advocate relegated to a minor appendage to the Darwin based NT News.

Ms Hennig says the announcement about the Times “comes with sorrow as generations of locals have grown up reading the Tennant Times.

“We know there’ll be backlash and we will just have to cop it. If it’s any consolation, we will miss the smell of newsprint on Friday mornings too.

“The death of print editions was inevitable. The concept was declared terminal at least eight years ago and the fish-and-chip wrapping has been on life support ever since.

“We’re knocking it on the head now to be kind. We’ll be able to better use the revenue we spend on printing … on improving our online presence.

“And following Facebook’s hissy fit and a subsequent deal with the Australian Government, the social media giant has reversed its ban on news pages and restored all content.
Locals can once again keep up with the Times on Facebook.”

The Alice Springs News is one of the nation’s first online newspapers, starting in 1995, at first in parallel with its print edition.

The Tennant & District Times and the Alice Springs News are in talks about collaboration.

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