Clouds and rain bring farmers a ray of hope

STRUGGLING farmers in drought-affected parts of the WA wheatbelt have been given some reason to smile with heavy falls this week ending a record dry spell.

The same cloud band that gave Perth its second wettest July day on record also brought much needed moisture to parched farmlands. While the rains do not necessarily mean the end of the farmers’ woes, they do bring some hope. According to WA Farmers Federation president Colin Nicholl, the next eight weeks will tell the story of whether farmers are facing further heartbreak or can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Ironically, Prime Minister John Howard had extended his stay in WA to make a tour of some of the drought-affected areas. He promised farmers Federal Government assistance and a review of the guidelines surrounding Exceptional Circumstances funding.

A CLOUD also hangs over the future of the plantation industry following the appointment of an administrator to publicly-listed company Australian Plantation Timber.

Fingers are being pointed to the Australian Taxation Office, which is not guaranteeing tax deductibility on projects despite issuing a product ruling that is supposed to act as a safe guard for investors.

Pressure is mounting within the Government to try to improve the attractiveness of the sector, which is seen as a way to meet our Kyoto commitments.

Federal Minister for Forestry and Conservation Wilson Tuckey is understood to be deeply concerned that the industry could come to a complete standstill unless the Government steps in to provide public assurances.

AUSTRALIA turned the swimming world on its head by fielding what is regarded as one of its best teams ever at the recent world championships in Japan. The team beat the US in the gold medal tally for the first time since the titles begun in 1973, finishing with 13 gold medals – four more than the US. Ian Thorpe stole the limelight, winning six gold medals from seven events, breaking four world records and assuming superhero status in the Japanese city of Fukuoka.

Thorpe has now broken world records on 16 occasions.

TUART RESOURCES NL has had a changing of the guard with Mark Babidge resigning as director while Martin Bennett and Ross Kestel take on non-executive roles at the company. The appointment comes during a busy period for Mr Bennett who also is acting for the directors of the Australian Liquor Group in its legal battle against Coles Myer. Coles has complained to the takeover panel about ALG’s disclosure of its financial position before its bid for the liquor group. Mr Bennett also was also associated with the Preston Vale vineyard investment scheme, which was bought by Tuart Resources earlier this year.

THE fortunes of one of WA’s top film and television producers, Barron Entertainment, has landed on the cutting floor. The company owes creditors about $4 million. Administrators from accounting firm Norgard Clohessy were called in by Barron directors after a financing agreement with Melbourne-based Capital finance Corp collapsed. Barron produced children’s pro-grams such as Ship to Shore and Wild Kat and the detective drama Singapore Sling.

A POLICE operation which appeared to come straight out of a Hollywood script unfolded this week in Shark Bay, when a six-month Federal Police operation foiled an attempt to smuggle $250 million worth of cocaine into the country.

The mammoth operation involving more than 100 officers from Customs, AFP and the WA police was rewarded with one of Australia’s biggest drug busts – one tonne of cocaine – double the size of the authorities’ previous efforts.

FOLLOWING another dismal performance by both WA’s football sides over the weekend, the AFL threatened to step in at the Dockers if the Fremantle Club did not improve its operations. The AFL is said to be concerned over the sacking of coach Damian Drum and the resignation of chief executive David Hatt. The AFL is also concerned about the financial stability of WA football, with a $38 million debt hanging over its head following the redevelopment of Subiaco Oval.

The shakeout in Docker land may also cross into the Eagles camp, with speculation about Ken Judge’s future at the club.

Judge is expected to meet with West Coast Eagles management to discuss his, and their, plans. Former Eagles captain John Worsfold has been mentioned by the media as a possible replacement for Judge. Since mid season last year the Eagles have won just four of 27 matches. The Dockers have yet to win a game this season.

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