29/10/2009 - 00:00

$15m gets Liberals out of sticky situation

29/10/2009 - 00:00


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IS it a case of the squeakiest wheel getting the lubrication? For those outside it, the political process is an extraordinary thing, with rapid changes in policy possible within just a few hours.

IS it a case of the squeakiest wheel getting the lubrication?

For those outside it, the political process is an extraordinary thing, with rapid changes in policy possible within just a few hours.

Some believe that’s happening more than ever with the current state government, due to its dominance by one individual, Premier Colin Barnett.

Mr Barnett is known to have a strong political radar after 19 years in parliament, including a significant period as a senior government minister in the 1990s.

But the question remains whether good politics and good policy go hand in hand. That may be especially so when decisions might be influenced by a bad headline or a tough morning on the airwaves.

That certainly seems to be case for residents of Spearwood, whose complaints about the state government’s shelving of an infill sewerage program had been falling on deaf ears.

Their plight was enough for Labor’s water spokesman, Fran Logan, to issue a press release entitled: ‘No relief for Spearwood residents’.

The Spearwood complainants even made their case to Premier Colin Barnett when he was taking calls from the public on Geoff Hutchison’s morning show on ABC720 last week.

Transcripts of the radio program show Mr Barnett was harried by a belligerent caller about the issue, which even the premier admitted had been going on for years but suggested there were plenty of other places facing the same dilemma.

“We had it suspended under the Labor government and we’ve had it suspended under the Liberal government,” the caller said.

“This is being used as a political football or lord knows what else ... what other type of football it’s being used for, but this issue should transcend politics.

“It is not a political issue, this is a basic sanitation issue.

“Get off your arses and fix it.”

Mr Barnett responded in the following way.

“I don’t answer questions like that,” he said, before going on to answer it.

“We will attend to Cockburn because there is a health issue and it’s taken a long time.

“One of the problems we’ve had is when deep sewerage has been put down and not everyone’s connected, that’s been a dilemma because it is expensive.

“It’s expensive for the utility and it can be expensive for residents but I’m aware, and there are ... there is some health evidence coming about the serious situation in Cockburn.

“We’ve had a wet winter this year, that’s possibly exacerbated the problem, but it will be done; and as part of this year’s coming budget we will reinstate the program and hopefully then we can do Cockburn.”

Mr Hutchison drew the subject back to the politics of the situation.

“Well ... the issue is, are you prepared to wear this for another two or three years of people looking on their televisions at regular intervals and seeing these poor people who are in real desperate circumstances?” he asked.

That may well have hit the nail on the head.

By late that afternoon, Water Minister Graham Jacobs had restarted the infill program, having found $15 million to spend.

So, a day after his last release, Mr Logan had a new announcement with a slightly different headline: ‘Relief at last for Spearwood residents’.

City vision

FREE wireless internet, better security, more cafes and new performance spaces are all part of the state government’s plans to revitalise the Perth Cultural Centre in Northbridge into a family friendly place.

Last weekend, Planning and Culture and the Arts Minister John Day said the changes for the area, which straddles the State Library, WA Museum, WA Art Gallery and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts were part of the government’s $11 million commitment to transform the area between William, Roe, Beaufort and Francis streets in Northbridge.

The East Perth Redevelopment Authority is undertaking a $6 million revitalisation of William Street, with funds generated from leasing activities to be reinvested into the area for the long-term future of the precinct. Already the road has been narrowed in places to improve pedestrian amenity.

The Northbridge plans also coincided with Premier Colin Barnett’s lock-down on nightclubs in the area, with the venues to close an hour earlier at 5am and a lockout imposed at 3:30am. Like the latest efforts to win concessions from opponents of retail trading deregulation, the nightclub policy revolves around one vital hour.

Yanzhou goes local

CHINA’S Yanzhou Coal Mining Company will be the first Chinese state-owned enterprise operating in Australia to list on the domestic bourse, after the federal government gave the green light for it to take over coal miner Felix Resources.

Federal Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry has approved Yanzhou’s application to acquire Felix, subject to it complying with legally enforceable conditions applying to all of its operations, he said in a statement last week.

This includes the Austar mine near Newcastle in New South Wales, which Yanzhou already owns.

Yanzhou has agreed to operate its local mines through an Australian incorporated and headquartered company, Yancoal Australia Pty Ltd.

This company must use a predominately Australian management and sales team, and hold the majority of its board meetings in Australia.

Other conditions include the chief executive and chief financial officer having their principal place of residence in Australia.

In other foreign investment news, uranium explorer Raisama has received regulatory approval for a Chinese state-owned firm to take a 14.9 per cent interest, ahead of a $12 million initial public offer expected to be launched within two weeks.

The David Berrie-backed Raisama said the Foreign Investment Review Board had approved the $1.75 million investment by mining company Hebei Mining.


THE saga of former Labor cabinet minister Norm Marlborough culminated last week when he was convicted and fined $12,500 after standing trial in the WA District Court on two charges of giving false evidence at Corruption and Crime Commission hearings in November 2006.

He was found guilty on one count but not guilty on the other. Prosecutors alleged the former WA minister had lied when he told the CCC he had not given disgraced former premier Brian Burke an assurance he would appoint a woman to the South West Development Commission at Mr Burke’s request.

Mr Burke says he takes full responsibility for charges brought against his friend. He supplied Mr Marlborough with a mobile phone that he requested the ex-minister keep secret from everyone else. The CCC tapped calls from Mr Burke to the phone.



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