Baker, the face for victims of crime in Alice Springs, denies campaigning for Dutton

Peter Dutton reshuffles shadow cabinet

As Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is accused of running a scare campaign against the Voice, an Alice Springs local has denied running a “grassroots” campaign supporting him.

After promoting one of the Coalition’s most junior MPs and a fierce critic of the Voice, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, to shadow cabinet Mr Dutton signalled no change to his plan to sink the referendum proposal even after another moderate quit his frontbench on Tuesday.

Despite reservations within the Liberals about his campaigning he aired unsourced claims about Indigenous children in care and highly questionable claims made by a cosmetic nurse on Sky News about child abuse.

One Alice Springs resident standing alongside Mr Dutton last week denied he had been running a social media campaign about rising rates of local crime to help the ‘no’ campaign.

Figures escape me

Darren Clark has become the public face for Alice Springs residents experiencing property crimes for which he says federal intervention is needed.

His grassroots social media campaign has also recently him a minor Sky News celebrity and a frequent source of stories about his bakery having been burgled.

“Forty four times,” he tells TND on Tuesday. “That’s over four years.”

Did the Times of London get it wrong in October when it quoted Mr Clark as saying he had been robbed 40 times in only 18 months?

Mr Clark would not say if he had been misquoted, but said the discrepancy might be because months under lockdown were not included.

“I don’t know what journos write,” he said. “I just know what I’ve been through.”

He also denies any links to a local right-wing group also known as Action for Alice which had a decade ago campaigned for federal intervention in remote indigenous communities in 2011.

Credibility questioned

Mr Dutton last week referred to Mr Clark’s plight and his need to install concrete deterrents outside his bakery to stop ram raids, when he took on a controversial de facto job of the nation’s most prominent ‘no’ campaigner.

Mr Clark’s past federal government contracts have included a near-$1 million grant from the Abbott government to build three bakeries in remote communities, with the franchise name Wicked Kneads.

One of the since-closed bakeries in Yuendumu was criticised in the press and in Parliament.

An MP claimed the business was being funded to provide nutritious food but “the dough is kneaded elsewhere, then frozen and trucked to the edge of the Tanami Desert, where it is put in an oven by European backpackers and prepared for local consumption”.

Mr Clark rejected that criticism.

“You can’t be telling people what to eat,” he told the Alice Springs News.

“The communities own the shops. They need to be competitive. Sweets are available in other outlets there, out of the freezer.”

In addition to paying for the bakery’s construction, the Commonwealth funded its stock via the National Strategy for Food Security.

Action for Alice

Mr Clark said he had not met the Opposition Leader until last week and does not care for politics, something he said he raised with Mr Dutton.

“I asked for Peter Dutton,” he said. “I said it publicly in an interview and I said it behind closed doors for him to go away … and work together to save these kids.”

Mr Clark said he was motivated only by wanting to end disadvantage and raise awareness of rising crime in Alice Springs.

The earliest videos posted to social media by the Action for Alice group contain snippets of home-movie-style footage of Country Liberal Party supporters set to sentimental music.

Action for Alice was the same name used by a campaigning group backed by local business interests that pushed for federal intervention including on TV ads later deemed “offensive”.

The group was led by local politician Geoff Booth, now a local legend for serving on the council on a “family values” platform but living in Western Australia and maintaining unusual local business interests.

Fairfax reported in 2011 that he had suffered 24 break-ins that year, all alcohol-related.

“We’ll lose the town if we don’t take some hard steps,” he said. “Alice Springs simply won’t recover.”

Local businessman

Mr Booth later proposed building a brothel on the street behind the golf course in a joint venture with a series of shareholders who included Melbourne sex impresaria Maxine Fenton.

Mr Clark’s bakeries are registered to the same street on a newy-developed block.

“I wasn’t involved [with Action for Alice] then,” Mr Clark said.

He said he had opposed the development proposal by Candy Land Escorts NT Pty Ltd, which was then near the house of his friend but not a street listed by his business.

Many of the directors of the proposed Candy Land were apparently registered in the name of corporate nominees or accountants.


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