22/02/2005 - 21:00

A steady hand or the vision thing

22/02/2005 - 21:00


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Right, it’s the pointy end of this election campaign – the time when most minds are made up.

Right, it’s the pointy end of this election campaign – the time when most minds are made up.

I have no intention of making a call on who you should vote for, especially in this instance when little separates the parties except the water issue, which I will come to in a moment.

Perhaps the clear message I have received from the campaign is that Labor has pitched its re-election focus on keeping government ‘small’ while the Liberal Party has gone for the vision thing.

When I say ‘small’ I mean Labor has not gone over-the-top in key areas you’d expect. Even the education policy was not overboard from a Labor Government.

Dr Geoff Gallop has stuck to John Howard’s script – banking on an electorate that is uncomfortably well off and doesn’t want anything that will jeopardise its current lifestyle.

The Liberals have, surprisingly, gone for the vision thing. Water is a major issue and it has been a very clever tactic to play the canal trump card.

Due to its importance in the campaign we have a couple of big stories in the paper this week, both comment pieces that have different views on the proposal.

While I am impressed with the potential such a scheme has to offer, I do have major reservations about the idea, both on a cost basis and with regard to practicality.

I would like to see other ideas tested, though I concede that nothing would better open up the north of the state to development than a canal … if it was successful.

I am happy to see a decision on this issue left until there has been adequate examination of the costs and methodology which the public, particularly the engineering community, has had time to assess.

I am disappointed in some respects that the canal is seen as the only way to deal with this issue. All the rest involve some form of restraint on water use, and it seems we are not ready for that.

It is not that I wish some monk-like abstinence on our community, just that I think we are well placed to become leaders in cost-efficient urban living in a region lacking water and energy.

A lot of the growth markets of the world are in climates like ours – the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and various island nations.

We are almost uniquely blessed to be a major developed city with such unique problems that can offer leadership and sell expertise to new markets. Especially because, as a Western nation, we can prove that market forces can be used to resolve these issues – albeit with a little pump priming from government to begin with.

I really feel that not enough has been done to drive change in this area. It has, so far, been an opportunity wasted.

The Gallop Government has dabbled in this area with various subsidies and the like, but I have seen little that grabbed the public imagination. That is what the canal has done. It has appealed to the public, a seemingly simple solution to a complex problem.

Whether that is enough to win an election is yet to be seen.

Sports codes are playing for keeps

The business of sport is one that we touch on intermittently here.

Due to Australia’s obsession with sport, it is a major sector here in comparison to many other markets, even where the marketing of sport has reached higher levels.

But, for some reason, we don’t feel compelled to cover this area of business on a weekly basis.

Perhaps Western Australia’s sporting market is a little different.

It’s not that sport doesn’t dominate the news agenda here or that our teams’ marketing is any less sophisticated, but I think there is still an element of small town business that has let these different codes co-exist.

The leaders of these sports basically admit that has been the case.

It remains to be seen if a new team shakes up that market. If it does to any great degree, there may well be a lot more business stories to flow – sponsors moving, grounds being built and, dare I raise the possibility, a chance of a financial failure.

Like every sportsperson knows, where there’s a winner, there’s a loser.

A good news story

Astute readers may have noticed that, in the past couple of weeks, we have run a lot of stories about companies in various stages of administration, receivership and liquidation.

While that is partly by design, it also reflects what is going on in the market. Debt collectors have often told me that in boom times the failure rate is quite high because companies get too ambitious in what they take on and can’t control their costs.

That is something every investor ought to be wary of, be it in private or public entities.

Having said that it is pleasing to note that at least one story in this week’s pages reflects a true corporate recovery. The company I am referring to Bradys, which has a long history in WA.

Let’s hope it can celebrate a few more milestones in the future.


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