Deep North Dispatch #3

Croc

A weekly wrap of what’s been happening across the Top End news-wise, which might be handy for former residents who really miss reading about this sort of thing. May contain cane toads and/or crocodiles.

JUST THE TICKET The NT Government has been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue through faulty bus ticketing machines. Passengers get to ride for free if the machines don’t work. Introduced in 1996, the machines have been plagued by faults and breakdowns brought on by Darwin’s high humidity. (Red light cameras don’t work here for the same reason. Speed cameras are kept functional through the use of air-conditioned vans parked behind shady bushes.) Source: Sunday Territorian

FISHING FEAR The NTs Seafood Industry Council is worried commercial fishermen may be attacked by increasingly aggressive illegal fishermen. Recent Defence Department documents reveal the Navy has reported 18 incidents of aggression since last March and has fired warning shots at illegal boats 19 times since July. Commercial fishermen who come into contact with illegal vessels are getting worried. The Seafood Industry Council’s Iain Smith says, “Once you get a confrontational situation, sooner or later violence could erupt.” Source: ABC News Online

JET SET Budget airline Jetstar will begin flights to Darwin from Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne from May 1. According to my wife this is actually bad news for regulars, who might not appreciate the no-frills service on such long-haul flights. “You’d be lucky to get a @#*%# pillow and a cracker out of them,” she said. Source: NT News/Mrs Wicking

CROC CARD The Territory Insurance Office is offering a new Visa card that comes with free crocodile attack insurance. The $50 000 cover is payable only if the attack is fatal. Source: NT News

CRUMBLING CARE The Territory branch of the AMA has launched a scathing attack on Health Minister Peter Toyne, claiming people will die because the quality of health care has ‘crumbled’ under the current government. In response, a government spokesperson pointed out that health spending had risen 43% under the Martin government and staffing levels had increased significantly. Ominously, recruitment processes for Royal Darwin Hospital have been taken over by the Health Department, which will now make all hiring decisions. Alice Springs Hospital appears immune for now, with a team of clown doctors being recruited this week to cheer everybody up. Source: NT News

BOOZE NEWS A Bathurst Island community social club which only trades for 15 hours a week goes through 100 kegs of full-strength beer in seven days. That works out to around 330 litres consumed each hour. By comparison, one of Darwin’s more popular watering holes goes through 23 kegs a week. The NT Licensing Commission has asked the club to show cause why restrictions shouldn’t be imposed on sales. Source: NT News

ON THE WATERFRONT Stage one of Darwin’s $1 billion waterfront project is gearing up, with the pad for the convention centre complete and the three-storey high 60m seawall under construction. Work on building the convention centre is slated to start within weeks. It’s expected to be completed by early 2008. Source: NT News

BRAIN CELLS Prison officers say an increasing number of mentally ill people are ending up in Northern Territory jails which are not equipped to deal with them. The Prison Officers Association says petrol sniffing and drug abuse in communities are resulting in more people with brain damage being sent to jail. Officers often have no option but to put mentally ill prisoners in isolation cells, the Association says. The NT Justice Department says about 2 per cent of the Territory’s prison population suffers from a mental illness, but prison officers put the figure at between 10 and 20 per cent. Source: ABC News Online

ONE LINERS

– This week, Military Police are investigating claims ‘three or four’ Darwin soldiers ran naked through a vineyard as a wedding took place.

– A driver who recorded a blood alcohol level of .206 fell asleep at the wheel of his vehicle at one of Darwin’s busiest intersections, which, handily, happens to be right outside the city police station.

– A Top End youth group says a proposal to play classical music at a local shopping centre is unfair because it will discourage young people spending time there, which is exactly the reason it’s being considered.

And a fun NT link:

A Week with the Humpty Doo Ghost

Frightening fact or financially-motivated fiction? You be the judge.

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