Tiger leaves town – and so do the backpackers

In Attractions, Australian Cultural Exports, Australian Domestic Tourism, Community, Government, National Headlines, Northern Territory, Tourism Routes, Transport

TTN, 27th July 2015: For months, tourism operators have noticed a decline in business due to one airline – Tiger – ceasing flights to Alice Springs. Now an Alice Springs mainstay, Toddy’s backpackers, is closing its doors, and taking history with it – and flight prices are back up at near-Qantas prices.

Of most concern is first minister Adam Giles’ promise that the government will ‘keep lobbying airlines’. Adam Giles admitted that the ruling government, his Country Liberal party, has no policies. Literally, a CLP function, Giles is quoted:

” … there’s very little policies on what we agree on. We need to have a greater level of policy backbone about the party so that the politicians can stand up for those policies. So if I stand up now and say what’s the policy on this from the party, there is none … there’s no aboriginal affairs policy, there’s no policy on CAL, there’s no policy on local contracting or the Department of Infrastructure, people are still complaining that contracts go outside, but there’s no policy.”

So how can the tourism industry expect that Giles, or anyone up north, is capable of putting demands on billion dollar businesses like airlines? They’re not capable of it. They won’t do it. And the tourism industry will underperform indefinitely whilst the giant land mass that is the Northern Territory – that which encompasses pivotal Australian cultural icons like Uluru, Kakadu and a great number of Australia’s first peoples – continues to be mismanaged.

See below the article on Alice Springs’ tourism decline, and below that, Crikey.com’s recount of Adam Giles’ casual behaviour and fairly casual management of the territory.

Tourism operators in Alice springs are concerned flight prices to Uluru are stealing visitors from town

From the NT News, 26th June 2015

WELL-heeled Japanese tourists can fly direct to Uluru for about the same as it costs an Australian to fly to Alice Springs — prompting concern visitors to the red centre are increasingly bypassing the town.

Alice has always been considered the gateway to the rock and thrived on the strength of numbers of backpackers and other tourists launching trips into the unique Centralian bush.

But tourism operators say numbers are dropping steadily and some are even closing their doors.

The last beers will be poured at Toddy’s Backpackers this weekend as the longstanding Alice Springs tourism establishment prepares to give up the good fight.

Business owner Rob Cowan blames the high cost of airfares and a dwindling number of backpackers for the closure.

For the last two years the property has been leased and managed by Mr Cowan, who also owns and runs the Rock Tour and Rock Bar.

Mr Cowan estimates the site has been used as an accommodation facility for 30 years.

“We had to make a decision whether to continue with the purchase of the property,” he said.

“When we bought the place it was a matter of leasing it for two years and seeing if it was still a viable business.

“And with tourist numbers dropping so remarkably it was an easy decision.”

Toddy’s, on Gap Road, is the latest backpacker hostel to nosedive following the departure of Tigerair and the end of cheap budget flights last year.

Outgoing general manager of Tourism Central Australia Stuart Ord confirmed “anecdotally backpackers numbers have been dropping since Tigerair ceased to fly into Alice Springs”.


In March, Virgin Australia began flying into the town, raising hope of reduced fares.

Mr Cowan said while Virgin’s entry into the market had been a positive start it was “disappointing” in terms of the flight prices offered.

“Their rates are basically just slightly south of what Qantas is charging,” Mr Cowan said.

“But you can get from Tokyo to Ayers Rock for just $500 one way on Jetstar.”

Without a reduction in flight prices to Alice Springs, and with the ever-decreasing costs of getting to Uluru, the backpacker market will continue to diminish.

Mr Ord said any reduction in airfares to Alice Springs either by Qantas or Virgin Australia would boost visitor numbers.

“The backpacker market is more highly price sensitive than other sections of the tourism market,” he said.

Tourism minister Adam Giles said the government planned to “keep lobbying airlines to introduce more flights and bring in more competition”.

“I am disappointed to hear that Toddy’s Backpackers is closing as it will be a significant loss for the town,” Mr Giles said.

A spokesman for Virgin Australia said the company had “introduced competition and choice” into the region.

“A range of factors affect pricing such as capacity, demand and seasonal variances,” the spokesman said.

A lawn sale will be held at Toddy’s from 7am Saturday to sell of their furniture before the gates are shut on June 30.

Tourism operators in Alice Springs are concerned that Uluru is stealing all the visitors

Tourism operators in Alice Springs are concerned that Uluru is stealing all the visitors to the NT

Everybody go “wwaaahhhh.” Adam Giles on going nuts, cracking the shits and getting hammered

The day after Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles called the bluff of the hapless coup plotters that threatened his premiership of the Northern Territory earlier this month he flew home to Alice Springs from Darwin.

That evening he fronted the local Country Liberal Party branch meeting to explain the why, what, who and when of events the day before. It was, as they say, a free-and-frank discussion that Giles maybe assumed wouldn’t leave the room other than as an unpleasant memory. But at least one person at the meeting pressed the record button on their phone.

That recording soon found its way to the media and in The Weekend Australian Amos Aikman revealed a few tasty snippets of what Giles told the meeting. More has emerged in dribs and drabs since and Giles hasn’t denied the content or accuracy of the recording. On Tuesday this week he told the Assembly, in response to a question from Larissa Lee–ex-Pup party, ex-CLP member and now independent–that he had “not heard it, but I can tell you what I said.”

Yesterday Labor Whip Michael Gunner tabled a transcript of the recording under parliamentary privilege. The Northern Myth has obtained a copy. Followthis link to the full transcript. Below are a few excerpts by subject.

On policy development in the CLP

” … over Christmas I’ve written a new Indigenous Affairs policy. I wrote it last time and that’s what we took to the election … so it’s in draft at the moment and I haven’t spoken to anyone about it until I finalise it a bit more.”

“At the moment from where I’m sitting there is no policy of the CLP … And that’s why a lot of times the pollies don’t know what they stand for.”

” … there’s very little policies on what we agree on. We need to have a greater level of policy backbone about the party so that the politicians can stand up for those policies. So if I stand up now and say what’s the policy on this from the party, there is none … there’s no aboriginal affairs policy, there’s no policy on CAL, there’s no policy on local contracting or the Department of Infrastructure, people are still complaining that contracts go outside, but there’s no policy.”

“If you’re in the Labor Party there’s a policy this thick on every issue, every issue. So they have to, if you’re a Labor politician you have to follow the policy. We don’t actually have that here, that’s why we got into a lot trouble a couple of years ago when we brought about a lot of cuts and changes to Government spending when we came in.”

“We got bombarded publicly because there was no policy to day this is what we stand on so we sort of bumbled around for a long time, we still are bumbling around a bit in that regard … ”

On uranium mining and nuclear enrichment in the NT

” … around 2005 policy put forward by Nigel Scullion and seconded by Dave Tollner supported uranium mining … supported nuclear enrichment and nuclear power stations in the Northern Territory. Anyway so that is a policy of Government. Now I guarantee if I stood up tomorrow and said I support nuclear power stations, I reckon people would go nuts.”

On “building stuff”

“We’ve made most of the tough decisions. This year was about setting a budget up that will build infrastructure, lots of roads and bridges … We’ve got a choice of we keep trying to clear out books or we say we’re in the third year of our term, we want to get re-elected next year, we want to leave a long lasting legacy and we’re going to build the infrastructure so that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to build stuff. We have a choice of paying off the debt, we’ve got the debt down a bit and all that sort of stuff but we’re going to build stuff.”

On “cracking the shits” – the coup, colleagues and the commissioner

“Yesterday I sort of cracked the shits a bit in Darwin, some of the scurrilous rumours that have been floating around about me. For a long period of time I’ve handled it, but some of the stuff that came out in recent time, yesterday by some members of parliament on our side, I found to be horrendous.”

“To let you know exactly what happened, the old stuff with the police commissioner and the allegations about him sleeping with a woman, which are allegations at this stage, members of parliament and a particular sitting member of the police force were spreading rumours that I as the Chief Minister and as Police Minister were sleeping with the same lady that got arrested, which is the reason why Tamara and I split up, which is complete bullshit. I fronted those members of Parliament, I had a gut full of them, I sacked one of them today and tomorrow I might sack another one.

“I don’t want any more destabilisation in the team but I find that to be completely outrageous, to have a senior member of the Northern Territory police, I won’t tell you who it is but I’m just letting you know, to be doing these things and getting themselves involved in what I would call, I have good evidence that this has involved an orchestrated political coup to get rid of me as Police Commissioner, the former one.”

On “getting hammered” … everybody go “wwaaahhhh”

“Monday night I got a phone call from Willem saying he’s got the numbers, I’ve got to be honest I sat there and went fantastic I can have a beer and I went and got on the piss but that’s a different story and in the morning I woke up and I was bombarded, people around this room, people around the Territory, different branches, Chamber of Commerce rang me begging me not to go, the Cattlemen’s Association, APPEA the gas, people everywhere, Inpex rang me from Japan, don’t go, all of this stuff, no one wanted the destabilisation.”

“So I enjoyed having a night off and getting hammered. So I decided I wouldn’t sign the resignation and lo and behold the level of incompetence of the people that had tried to form a coup hadn’t thought through what it all means and for those who are interested because I presume many of you are … Unfortunately when they tried to form a coup, they only had 9 so they couldn’t find a speaker, a deputy speaker a whip or anyone to form a public accounts committee. Which means there was no Government?”

“So the level of incompetence of these people is just madness. So not only was business going to be destabilised, not only would the whole CLP tear itself apart like I’m told would never have been torn apart, and it’s mainly gone mad because of personalities but I’ll get to that in a moment.”

“So the head bureaucrat Gary Barnes … [H]e come to me and said I’ve been sent by Elferink and Willem and Robyn to tell you to sign the resignation letter immediately. And I said well piss off, you don’t walk into my unit and tell me that. Anyway so I said leave it here I’ll think about it. Because at that point in time I still had a throbbing headache at about 9.30. So when the press release came out saying Willem was getting sworn in at 5 to 11 and I’d be lobbied up hill and down dale not to resign.”

“So we had Parliamentary Wing meeting, I said Government falls over we go to an election, 10 minutes before I went to the wing meeting I raised $1.5 million for the party for the election, which isn’t in the bank … I said right we’re going to the polls and I was going to the polls yesterday make no bones about it and then during the meeting there was some very horrible things said by one of the members of this branch, among a couple of others … I said right well I’m the Chief, who wants to go to an election, everyone went wwaaahhhhh and I said right I’ll make some leeway, I’ll make Willem the Deputy which everyone has bagged me out for doing that but anyway I tried to do the right thing … and today I sacked Robyn [Lambley] because the things that Robyn has said about me about Tamara and about the accusations that have been made I found to have been horrendous and I’ll never work with that woman again, ever.”

On tearing the Attorney-General a new one, “absolute madness, mindless stupidity and political immaturity”

“At a time when everyone should have been talking about Campbell Newman, Tony Abbott and Delia Lawrie going to court, one of our members tried to run a coup, put it all about us and sent us back about another 12 or 18 months again. It was absolute madness, mindless stupidity and political immaturity what happened over the last two days. [NT Attorney-General John] Elferink needs to get his arse torn … he’s a good performer and I’ve got a lot of time for Elferink but he’s involved too, he should be in trouble but he’s a very good performer and we need him in the team. He’s very good but you can’t do this shit, it was just so badly thought out.”

On “best mates” and Russian roulette

“I don’t want to put any shit on our colleagues but this is what happened yesterday and I am trying to be clear because every member of the team whether they support me or not I respect, they may not be my best mate but I respect them. At the end of the day who knows if this trouble is over, it could start again tomorrow, it’s a little bit like Russian roulette, like having a bit of a gun to the head of all of us because all you need is someone to say, I want to be Minister or I’m going to resign and become and independent.”


You can read more on recent events in Northern Territory politics from The Northern Myth at the links below.

* Bob Gosford: Why Delia Lawrie will never be Chief Minister of the NT.

* Darwin lawyer and legal academic Ken Parish: Suspend Northern Territory self-government!

* Bob Gosford: Failed statehood. Is it time for an(other) NT intervention?

* Bob Gosford: CLP spill pours petrol, not oil, on NT’s troubled political waters

* Bob Gosford: NT politics – from crazy-brave to crazy and back again.


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