Sunday, 11 May 2014



The City of Darwin Council is planning for the future, outlaying hundreds of thousands of dollars on master and sub plans.  This to me is a worry, for reasons included in my response to the planning concept.  Residents were invited to respond by April 16, 2014.

I have been a Darwin resident since January 1987.


As a long time Territory resident I have concerns about the way in with the City of Darwin Council  pays substantial money for plan after plan after plan. Tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on plans at all levels of government for concepts which are often 'pie in the sky' and never eventuate. Further, when developments under one play are put in place, they are often transcended by further plans. This means development and infrastructure that goes into place is replaced under the recommendations of succeeding plans. Darwin's Mall is a prime example of this policy.

One of the paradox factors about all this has to with people commissioning plans, without taking into account previous and often recent planning concepts. This is due in part to the rapid throughput of people who come to the Territory, take up posts in prime positions and determine to do things 'their way'. Often little time is taken to study what has gone before. Neither is account taken of why previous plans have failed to deliver projected outcomes.

It seems to me that authorities and governments indulge in commissioning plans for the sake of planning.


The realities of Darwin City need to be confronted, and in a proactive way that goes beyond planning. The following to me and many others stand out as testament to this assertion.

* Darwin City Mall is essentially dead. Time and again huge dollars have been thrown at mall development for little if any positive outcome. Business fronts are discouraging and the emphasis appears to be on selling product appealing to tourists.  While there is some life and pedestrian traffic in the mall during working hours, the mall after hours is quite dead.  It is hardly better on the weekends.

Business might be better if tourist ships and other groups were provided for more adequately; however, business owners have told me that often tourists but very little from stores. There are a lot of other attractions for these visitors who are here only temporarily - here this morning and gone by mid afternoon.

It is also true to say that an off-putting factor is that of the client group often occupying the mall. This is one of the things we must not talk about for fear of demeaning others and for the reprisals factual statements of this nature may bring.

There is more to planning that building structure. part of hat planning has to be the anticipation of how facilities will be appreciated and used by people.

* The conduct of people using facilities probable remains outside the scope of any forward planning. It should be included. Apart from the mall, there is the issue of conduct by those using Mitchell Street at night. The incidences of behaviour of patrons of clubs and pubs hardly leaves the pages of our press , not the screens disseminating news bulletins. It does not matter how good facilities are and how 'progressive' planning for the future might be : If people shun the city for reasons suggested then negative outcomes are  a consequence.

* Darwin is like unto a city of two parts. The CBD and the suburbs hardly have anything in common.  On weekday mornings people flock into the city for work because the CBD is the place for business. From 4.00 pm they begin fleeing city. The mall goes dead and Mitchell Street gradually becomes a mass of people drawn to entertainment and watering holes and often with scant regard for decency and decorum. 

The juxtaposition is that rates paid by darwin's permanent residents are often  applied to fund initiatives that have little direct benefit to them as ratepayers.

*  The issue of infrastructural maintenance is one that needs more priority than it presently receives. Plans tend to look to the future, are often more visionary that real and simply overlook the need to carefully maintain what we already have. Building facades is hardly the way to go.


Over the years the Darwin City Council, now the City of darwin Council has commissioned plan after plan after plan.  i suspect that in earlier years, that planning was done largely from within council staffing resources. In more recent times, the commissioning of plans has made whoopee for consultants, designers and others who have extracted huge dollars from council budgets to create their futuristic impressions.

Too often, plans to which massive dollars are subscribed come to nothing. hey sit on shelves to gather dust. Later they are transferred to archives. Then along come new Alderman and new staff who start on the need for plans all over again.

Local and Territory Governments have spent millions and millions of dollars on plans that, once tabled, are shelved. Planning costs re massive, implementation minimal, and real benefit miniscule.


Henry Gray 

Friday, 2 May 2014


The Country Liberal Party was elected to government after eleven years on the opposition benches on August 25 2012.

I was moved a few months later to write and curculate the following paper.


After a number of years in opposition, it is logical that the CLP coming back into Government would set up a process to receive advice from an array of people. 

My purpose in writing is not to criticise processes presently in place, but to offer some thoughts that may help with contextualisation.

I came to the Northern Territory in 1975 and was active in school based education until retiring from my position in January 2012. During my time as an educator, it became apparent that we tend in overall organisational terms, not to consider sufficiently what has gone before when planning future directions. We tend to operate circularly, reinventing the wheel.

The best educational example that comes to mind is the number of times we have shifted position on the matter of centralisation and decentralisation: We have re-visited regionalisation as a model on three occasions. 

The model proved largely to be unworkable on the first two occasions for a number of key reasons. While communications issues have been overcome through technological advance, the other key reasons for minimal success continue. 

1. People are reluctant to shift and live in remoter regions, exacerbated at times by the fact that housing for officers is not available. Issues of personal and family need also come into play.

2. The costs of visitation into the regions or from regional centres to outlying areas is prohibitive and travelling budgets tend to be prematurely exhausted. This limits the effectiveness of support needed by people at the coalface. (While technology enhances communication, fasce-to-face support, coaching, mentoring and context is important, particularly for those who are neophytes).

There are countless other examples of what I am writing about, not only with education but all key areas of Government service delivery.

Considering the Past

In order to inform the future through awareness of and examination of the past, I wanted to suggest that consideration be given to establishing a network that captures those who have 'been there and done that' in historical terms. Consultation involving those with prior knowledge and experience would in my opinion be most worthwhile.

When Gary Barnes was appointed as CEO for the (then) Department of Employment,Education  and Training  (DEET) he told Principals and others at a forum held at Nightcliff High School, that the lack of historical appreciation was a definite drawback for himself and people in like positions. There was no historical data base to which reference could be made and no information from which inference and awareness could be drawn.

While consultation and conversation with those who have gone before is possible, it is often a case of not knowing who they are, where they were and where they are presently located.

My suggestion would be to identify a group of people who could be asked to offer feedback on policy and initiatives being considered. They could provide information on the possible history and previous implementation of those initiatives. The creation of a data base identifying these people, the background to their organisational engagement and their areas of expertise might be a management strategy. Methodology by which input could include email, phone or face-to-face conversation.

In many instances 'new' policies are not new but a reinvention, re-work or revisitation of past agendas.

Many people in major decision making and policy setting roles are relatively new to the Northern Territory. This development could be particularly useful for them.

My suggestion would be that those involved should be drawn from those who worked at the coalface, because there is 'distance' between them and those in superordinate support management positions.

I wanted to raise these  matters for your consideration.

Written  February 12 2013

Wednesday, 30 April 2014


When dealing with matters I aim to play the ball (issues dealing) and not the man (messenger). Too often we sidetrack and in having goes at people overlook the need to concentrate on the agenda.

Coaching, mentoring and genuine patronage need to be part of strong organisations. Confidence and strength needs to be built within. Sharing of ideas needs to be organisational health at heart.

The fabric of organisations is strong if 'warp' and 'weft' communications are open and honest. Subordinate to superordinate links and peer to peer contexts need to be supportive and appreciative.

THANKS and APPRECIATION need to be built into all organisations. We focus too much on compliance and accountability and insufficiently on genuinely valuing what employees do for businesses.

We should aim to support NT BUSINESSES by preferring them for supply of product and in the letting of contracts for capital works construction. To by-pass local business and go elsewhere is not right.

SELF-CERTIFICATION is a dangerous thing. I believe all work undertaken should be checked by an external certifier, in order to validate the work to both the builder and the client. It avoids pitfalls.

SHODDY WORKMANSHIP is too common! It diminutes the regard members of the community have for trades and tradespeople in general. It sets at naught the reputation of good, honest companies and people.

Businesses shoot themselves in the foot when profitt all costs becomes paramount. It is then that the customer and client becomes disaffected. They feel regarded as being pawns in a profit game.

It seems that many NT Businesses are not particularly interested in business enhancement and public relations. Quotes sought for work needed are not offered or reluctantly provided. APATHY IS SAD!

There are businesses and proprietors who care. For some, there is the challenge of having staff engaged and interested. For others there are staff shortage issues. Employees turnover can be a problem. Skewed motivation is an issue when it is discovered employees are more interested in their salary than their work.

However, the apparent 'don't care and not interested' is certainly inherent within the management of some businesses, particularly trades areas where work is plentiful. Further, there are some business which take the line of 'the customer owes' when it comes to arranging work to be done. In forty year's in the NT, both in remote areas and Darwin, I have seen and experienced plenty of both caring and disinterested businesses. 

WORD OF MOUTH support from satisfied customers and happy clients is the best of all advertising for Northern Territory companies. Shoddy service on the other hand will turn on you in this place.

There are business enterprises that do a great job. We need to remember to appreciate them. Small Business Awards programs are one avenue and nomination for recognition is worth contemplation.

Some businesses fall on hard times, with situations beyond their control. When confronted, proprietors need to look at alternative opportunities. The first reaction should not be defeatist.Chin up!

A problem for enterprise in the NT (and elsewhere) is the STICKABILITY of employees, particularly many of the younger set. Workers need to commit to their work, respecting 'the boss and the business'.

It is important to INVITE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK and their genuine response to service rendered. Seek both compliment and suggestions that might lead to improvement of service delivery.

BRIEF DAILY SUMMARIES can be useful. Summary might include: *Activity/project; * How did I feel (+'s and -'s); *What did I learn; * Implications for study/ work (tasks), people (relations) and self.

As business or service providers, consider thanking clients or users for patronising your organisation. Appreciation expressed in this way will travel via grapevine to others. Value your customers.

Make sure that ONLINE DETAILS are kept up to date, particularly opening hours. If sites get out of date, they can be a source of frustration rather than a font of information for potential customers.

Consider PROMOTIONS through pages of papers, sometimes produced periodicals and via online writing onto interest groups and conference sites. Consider pamphlet drops and get to be known.

The ABBOTT GOVERNMENT has talked of cutting red tape and reducing the time and effort business owners have to devote to administrative process. I hope this happens so owners can refocus on prime needs.

It is a sad state of affairs that throws up the realisation that many young people are disinterested in work. Let us remember and appreciate young people who have a positive and caring work ethic.

My hope is that businesses committing to the employment of young people are not disappointed. Some honour their employers. Others are definitely 'short term' jumping ship, going at a moment's notice.

If people apply for jobs in writing and do not make it onto a short list for interview, make sure they are contacted and advised their applications were unsuccessful. Non-communication is rude.

If people are unsuitable for advertised positions, consider offering them feedback as to why their applications were unsuccessful. Encourage them to up-skill to achieve placement in the future.



We are blessed to live in Australia, but I suspect we are somewhat profligate with regard to our birthright. Over the next few entries I thought to outline what we might do differently and better. This does not come from an expert, rather from an aging Australian born and raised citizen, whose next 'major' birthday centenary will take me to the threescore and ten - getting closer by the year.

Old people see things differently, possibly more reflectively than the young. We have experienced what is yet to unfold for them albeit in a different world. The constant is that we all have youth, then grow older. 

I worry about this country  and will share some thoughts.



Australia is so wrong, at government and private level, to be in the game of selling off assets and companies into overseas control. We used to be a country that was clearly identifiable as 'Australia' in terms of asset ownership and management. No longer. Increasingly we have sold of segments of our birthright for cash advantage. Sadly, that cash is soon wasted, generally squandered on some 'quick fix' and wholly unsustainable project.  We keep selling and we keep wasting.

Increasingly, we Australians are now tenants in a country owned and controlled by overseas principals. We have allowed ourselves to become bankrupted yet continue to sell off whatever bits of the farm are still left.



Many Australians are so into the giddy world of social engagement they have little time for the real world. It often seems we are in a whirlpool of giddy recreational pursuit that hides the real world. We don't want to know about the serious side of life. Escapism is the order of the day - every day.

Unless and until we are prepared to confront the real world, denial and an ostrich like stance will continue to afflict us. We need recreation but carrying this to excess is destroying of our country, culture and us an a people within.



Too often our agenda is set by a vigorous and raucous minority who make noise sufficient to convince authorities they speak for far more people than is the case. The majority are 'middle of the road' people but not given to responding - rather they remain silent and apathetic. So it is that interest groups influence agendas in an unfortunate manner because authorities react to their suggestions in order to pacify their vociferousness.

The fact that we allow these myriad of splinter groups to unduly influence our country is a factor ripping away at the blessings this country should offer.


The personal touch and familiarity that used to exist between people has largely evaporated. We have become remote, focused on work, and withdrawn unto ourselves. Verbal exchange has largely been replaced by emailing and other more impersonal forms of dialogue.

There are distinct threats to personal safety, meaning that guard dogs, fences, security systems, locked gates and blacked out fences have reinforced this balkanisation to the extent of conferring a fortress mentality upon us all. We care less about others and share less.  The sweetness of the Australian personality has soured.


The example set by politicans within our parliaments is often little short of disgraceful. Question times,the abhorrent exhibition of manners and lack of courteousness is justified by a shrug of the shoulders.  Those involved seem to regard this period of parliamentary time as one when 'anything goes'.  Sadly, this is the period that draws most people into public gallery's, including school children.  It is small wonder that teachers and parents are challenged by the verbal and listening behaviour of children when they see this sad display of manners and courtesy so publicly manifest.

The way politicans behave is a major detractor from the image Australia seeks to portray. Our country, its states and territories are 'put down' and 'sold short' by this behaviour.


The taxation systems under which we labour are no blessing. I abhor the way in which small and medium income earners are robbed by a system that allows lots of 'outs' for those who earn a whole lot more than the small wage earner. I feel it grossly unfair for the taxation systems to be so convoluted and unstraightforward. Those who want to do things honestly are often left in ignorance of legitimate deductions because the knowledge they need to effect those deductions is shrouded and unclear.  On the other hand, magnates, huge companies, CEO's who earn hundred of thousands and millions of dollars are able to find their way around the system through the astuteness of tax accountants. Tax rules running to thousands of pages impact on those who earn far less - and who through lack of knowledge and understanding pay far more that the rich.


When growing up, I was taught by my parents that my life was 'not for myself alone'. I should be there to support and help others and needed to be aware of social obligations. It was essential that I took the 'we' into account when it came to interacting with others. Sadly, this wise historical approach has largely gone by the board in our modern times. Advertising and attitude ingrained into young and old, is that life is about 'I'. 'I' am all important and nothing else matters. This attitude if practised tears at the heart of our social fabric, reducing it to tatters. 


The country in which we live is hindered by the fact we have moved from the 'age of responsibility' to the 'age of entitlement'. Hands are held out for government largesse. People young and old say 'give me, give me'. No longer is the country a place where people accepted responsibility for their own destiny and forged a path to the future based on effort and enterprise. We expect to be 'kept' and care not to contribute through work and effort to the development of this place. decreasing numbers of people show initiative, enterprise and resourcefulness. Increasing numbers are parasitic, living off benefits derived from the public purse.


This warrants more comment. Not only do we sell down our companies to overseas ownership. Our country has gone from being heavy weight to lightweight, quite literally. We sell millions of tonnes of 'Australia' offshore each year -
 then buy back as manufactured product. Never would we put that resource through local manufacturing processes.  We mine gas and commit almost all (WA excepted) to fulfilling overseas contracts. We sell it on the futures market, leave our own domestic situation short and compensate by charging hugely for energy consumption on the home front.   Now Treasurer Hockey wants states and territories to sell off government owned assets, using money to commit to infrastructure - which will depreciate with time. So we are going down the path of short term gain for long term pain. Our blessed country is in a poor state of health.


Australians so often abrogate their responsibilities top real life because of their addiction to entertainment. It is a case of escaping from reality and the responsibilities of life at all costs. In every large city and provincial city, our citizens drink and carouse for all hours of the late night and early morning. How can they possibly come up for work the next day.  

We are a population living from one holiday to the next, in between times whiling time idly and spending plenty for the alcohol and social drugs we take into our systems. We are a population sadly sliding downward.


We counter the blessings Australia could offer by selling our natural resources with an abandon that is almost wanton.  Natural gas is an example. Selling almost all our gas by long-term contract negotiation onto the overseas futures market, means we are destitute in terms of our own domestic needs. While future sales are necessary to secure the capital investment which establishes extraction and refining facilities, we have hardly been smart by going the 'sell all' route.


The blessing our country offers, palls more than a little because of taxation regimes. Pay as you earn (PAYE) people contribute, in proportionate terms, a lot more than their due. Those who make up corporate Australia and the very wealthy know all the tricks when it comes to legitimately minimising their tax liabilities. They are well served by their tax accountants.   Opportunities for tax deduction are not flagged in a public context. One has to 'find out' about concessions, therefore being disadvantaged by lack of knowledge.  This is not at all fair or equitable and leaves a very sour taste in the mouths of many of Australia's less well off.


age of entitlement