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Hate Darwin day called -

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Hate Darwin day called

The World Today - Tuesday, 3 June , 2008 12:46:00

Reporter: Eric Tlozek

ELEANOR HALL: There's trouble brewing in the outback town of Alice Springs today.

Residents are planning a day of demonstrations to protest about a lack of funding and support from
the Territory Government in Darwin.

The move has its roots in a long history of separatist sentiment.

But there may be more to it than just a cry for attention as Eric Tlozek reports.

ERIC TLOZEK: Since the Territory was granted self-government, Alice Springs has always retained
something of an independent spirit. In the late 1920s Central Australia was a separate
administrative region, not answerable to the Top End.

Now the Alice Springs Deputy Mayor wants residents to turn their backs on Darwin for one day next
month.

Murray Stewart is something of a character.

He's a blind athlete whose recent council election slogan was: "Share the Vision."

Mr Stewart hopes councils, businesses, even the Government workers who make up a sizeable chunk of
the town's workforce, will ignore all correspondence with the capital.

MURRAY STEWART: I guess you'd call it civil disobedience for the day in relation to dealing with
departmental heads in Darwin, receiving ministerial delegations, any sort of phone calls to and
fro, faxes or emails would be denied on that day.

ERIC TLOZEK: The Territory's Labor Government hasn't made many friends outside Darwin lately. It
might seem strange, but they offended residents in Tennant Creek by deciding not to build a prison
there.

The multi-billion-dollar Darwin Waterfront development is a continuing reminder to many outside the
capital of how much the government is willing to spend close to home.

Former Chief Minister Clare Martin was booed at the Alice Springs sittings of Parliament last year
by a crowd angry about rising crime levels.

Then, earlier this year the Government angered Centralians by choosing a Top End member to be the
new Minister for Central Australia.

That Minister, Rob Knight, says Murray Stewart's protest is a stunt to further his own political
aims.

ROB KNIGHT: He needs to put the community before his own political aspirations. He needs to put the
town council before his own political aspirations and start thinking about the future of Alice
Springs, not just trying to get a cheap media plug for his own political aspirations.

ERIC TLOZEK: The previous minister for Central Australia came from Tennant Creek and resigned from
Cabinet in protest at a Top End Shire getting a special exemption from local government reforms.
Murray Stewart expects his support. The very idea of a Labor member going against his Government
has got him rather excited.

MURRAY STEWART: Let's face it. It's not so much from the Labor Party mate, it's from the regions.
We all live in the regions and this is about us and our children's future. I'm sorry, the question?

ERIC TLOZEK: Murray Stewart's idea hasn't impressed the Territory Opposition though. Country
Liberal Party leader Terry Mills says the sentiment is right but the action is wrong.

TERRY MILLS: There needs to be a practical way of driving this message home and there are two. One
is for a concerted letter campaign to this Labor government. Secondly there is a practical
opportunity that comes at the next Territory election where you can symbolically turn your back on
the Labor party through the polling booth.

ERIC TLOZEK: The problem is Alice Springs already backs the CLP. Two of the town's three urban
seats are held by CLP members with strong margins and the third by a former CLP member turned
independent.

Terry Mills has his own reasons for not supporting a formal protest. He became leader by deposing
Alice Springs member Jodeen Carney and saying the party could only win an election with a leader
from Darwin.

Maybe it's that attitude that's got people like Murray Stewart so upset.

ELEANOR HALL: Eric Tlozek in Alice Springs.