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A day the world became a little smaller

THE terrorist attacks in the US on September 11 will mark the year 2001 in the history books for generations to come.

The tragic loss of life in the US and the war on terrorism in Afghanistan sent shock waves throughout the world, further pushing the US economy into recession.

Despite the gloomy global economic projections, the Australian economy has continued to grow, shrugging off the US’s anaemic performance.

While the tabloid news keenly follows the fate of Osama bin Laden, countries around the world, including Australia, have been forced to reconsider national security, terrorist activities and security in the air.

THERE has been a different type of panic in the air in Australia with the collapse of Australia’s second airline Ansett just days after the US terrorist attacks.

The fleet was grounded following weeks of desperate negotiations with Qantas, Virgin Blue and both the Australian and New Zealand Governments, which failed to deliver a viable rescue plan.

The move left thousands of travellers stranded across Australia and put 16,000 staff out of work.

The future of Ansett is now pinned to the prospective owners Lindsay Fox and Solomon Lew’s Tesna Holdings.

The collapse of the airline proceeded a big fall in tourism revenue across Australia following September 11 and sparked panic in the local WA tourism industry.

THE war in Afghanistan also played a strong hand in our Federal election this year, and not just because it rated better than Kim Beazley’s and Prime Minister John Howard’s carefully crafted election speeches.

The activities of the al-Qa’ida forces in Afghanistan were aligned with the asylum seekers arriving on the far north coast of WA and immigration rocketed to the top of the election issues list. Despite the election win the Government is still struggling to formulate a long-term plan to deal with boat people arriving on Australian shores seeking refugee status.

THE stunning collapse of a number of high-profile corporates, including Harris Scarf, HIH and One.Tel, gave the politicians a little extra food for thought amidst calls for government bailouts.

The demise of HIH further fuelled spiralling global insurance premiums in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the US.

A quick look at the HIH books revealed it was carrying losses of more than $5.3 billion and reports now suggest that HIH was warned more than 12 months ago that it may not be able to meet its liabilities.

The Royal Commission into the collapse of HIH has also asked questions about proposed payouts totalling $8 million earmarked to three retiring directors, including $5 million for former managing director Ray Williams.

THE wash-up from One.Tel was not a lot prettier for directors Jodee Rich and Bradley Keeling, who are under fire for allegedly misleading One.Tel’s major backers, Kerry Packer’s Publishing & Broadcasting Limited and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The collapse left 1,600 staff out of work with more than $19 million owing in workers’ entitlements.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is planning to pursue substantive legal action against One.Tel’s former joining managing director Mr Rich and other directors over the collapse.

AMIDST all the doom and gloom, WA company Wesfarmers has produced a stunning performance this year, pushing the share price to a 12-month high of $32 in mid November, an 86 per cent increase for the year.

Despite this exceptional result, Wesfarmers has withdrawn from the proposed Wesfarmers-Marubeni $500 million raw sugar project on the Ord River in the East Kimberley.

Wesfarmers said it made the decision based on volatile world sugar prices and increased production in Brazil.

IT hasn’t been all bad news. Tennis player Leyton Hewitt this year rose to world number one ranking following the defeat of Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean in the Tennis Masters Cup in Sydney.

THE Reserve Bank of Australia has continued to deliver good news with six consecutive cuts to the official interest rate since January this year.

The current interest rate of 4.25 per cent is the lowest it has been for 40 years.

And the benefit is evident in the strong residential real estate market and building sector.

WA got to go the polls a couple of times this year, although the State election back in February delivered a rather more unexpected result than November’s Federal poll.

The Gallop Labor government has inherited a number of curly issues, including the convention centre and the finance brokers’ scandal, which has resulted in a Royal Commission headed up by former New South Wales anti-corruption royal com-missioner Ian Temby QC.

WORLDWIDE rationalisation in the minerals and energy sectors took on an increased public profile in Australia this year. First there was Royal Dutch Shell’s bid for Woodside Petroleum, then the BHP-Billiton merger, Anglo American’s and Glencore International’s interest in Anaconda Nickel Limited, Alcoa’s in Western Mining Corporation and several bids for gold producers.

The BHP-Billiton merger created one of the world’s leading diversified resource groups.

The merger, which was approved by the Australian authorities at the beginning of June and by BHP-Billiton in May, is worth about $28 billion, making it the second largest mining industry player behind the American Alcoa group.

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