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Blinded by the Star-Spangled Banner

IN an unprecedented step, the New South Wales Government allowed the US flag to fly from the steel-framed Sydney Harbour Bridge to mark the six-month anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. Some of the fire fighters and police officers from New York who served at ‘Ground Zero’ where the World Trade Center Towers collapsed are visiting Australia.

However, while Australia pays tribute to the US and has provided support to its military efforts in Afghanistan, President George W Bush ordered a tariff of up to 30 per cent be placed on steel imports from a list of countries.

Following widespread international condemnation of the US move, the Federal Government announced it had won a promise of further exemptions from the steel tariff.

The exemption promise followed months of lobbying by BHP-Billiton and the Australian Embassy in the US capital.

Despite this, fears abound that the US decision could hurt WA’s iron ore exports. Iron ore exports are worth about $5 billion to WA each year. WA also exports about $3.4 million worth of steel products to the US.

Premier councilled

PREMIER Geoff Gallop drew howls of protest from regional councils and groups because of his threat to cut grants to councils that contribute to a Supreme Court challenge against Labor’s legislation to bring in one vote, one value. Removing the gerrymander system that exists in WA’s regions was one of Gallop’s election promises.

They argue the Gallop plan will mean eight lower house seats will be transferred to the city, giving the country just 15 representatives out of 57. The WA Local Government Association is calling for councils to be given direct access to Federal Government tax revenue, completely bypassing the State system.

Premier China oil for First Australian

FIRST Australian Resources’ first foray into China has come up trumps, with a 13.5 metre oil column in FAR’s 10 per cent Wei-6-12-1 exploration well.

Reports of a nine-metre, good quality oil play and excellent reservoir characteristics mean the all-Australian joint venture will complete an intensive study on the block, which now boasts a five out of nine success record.

Success with new 3-D seismic since the last well was drilled by a former owner seven years ago, significantly increases the likelihood that FAR is sitting on a significant new commercial development adjacent to a huge and emerging energy market. This offshore block may prove to be FAR’s best investment yet, with surrounding fields in decline and just five kilometres from a pipeline, 10 kilometres from a platform and 12 kilometres from a processing facility.

Audible warning

THE Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s report into the crash of Central Air’s Super King Air 200 aircraft in September found that the tragedy could have been prevented if the aircraft had been equipped with an aural warning system for depressurisation. An inquest into the incident began on Monday. The plane, chartered to take six workers to Sons of Gwalia’s Leonora operation, crashed near Burkestown in Queensland. It was dubbed the ghost flight because planes ordered to follow it reported seeing no movement on board.

The bureau’s report found the people on board had probably died from a lack of oxygen before the plane crashed.

Growers merge

MOST growers appear to have endorsed the merger of WA’s major grain handlers – Cooperative Bulk Handling and the Grain Pool of WA. At CBH’s annual general meeting, 85.1 per cent of its members voted to alter the existing board structure and pave the way for the merger. The merged organisation is expected to become operational on November 1. However, the Pastoralist and Graziers Association believes the merger places a heavy onus on CBH. Its western grain growers chairman Leon Bradley said the merger was a poor compromise because CBH Limited failed to achieve grower support for its own corporatisation proposal.

Gas, power plays

WA’S gas and power players met in conference this week to hear and discuss views on how best to ensure a functional and reliable energy market in the face of deregulation. National Electricity Code Administrator managing director Stephen Kelly shared his views, gathered not only from Australia’s National Energy Market, but also from the Republic of Ireland’s and the UK’s experiences.

Mr Kelly said whatever market WA developed, market decisions would always be a response to the framework. An efficient and economically rational framework was therefore crucial and must be designed to deliver clear and rational signals for the timing and location of new investment.

Scan denied

A BATTLE raged over Federal Government refusal to grant a Medicare licence for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine to be sited at Princess Margaret Hospital. The WA Government offered to pay for the machine and asked the Federal Government to grant the licence to cover the $400,000 annual costs of running it. There are 10 MRIs in WA and only two are in public hospitals. WA Health Minister Bob Kucera has vowed to keep fighting to gain the licence.

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