Court achievements marked down

QUITE understandably State Scene wanted to be Santa Claus this week; to bring good news and good tidings.

But alas things didn’t quite work out that way.

Nearly a fortnight ago I contacted the Premier Mr Court’s top spin-doctor (SD); and his counterpart in Dr Gallop’s office.

It was explained to both gentlemen that what State Scene planned for Christmas week was to list the achievements for Year 2000 of the Government and Opposition.

But rather than spending days at the Battye Library reading Year 2000 newspapers could they please provide a self evaluation list.

Both SDs had a confident sounding tone in their voices when they said, “sure”.

Unfortunately it didn’t fully work out that way.

Dr Gallop’s SD came through quickly. But Mr Court’s SD was nowhere to be seen and one had the impression of being avoided whenever the Premier’s office was telephoned.

Since it’s not the first time Mr. Court’s SD has foot dragged State Scene decided to go to private enterprise and ask what it thought of the Government’s Year 2000 performance and within a day the Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chief economist, Nicky Cusworth, emailed an assessment.

“On competition policy a range of reviews have been completed but in some cases the Government has either rejected reform or is sitting on the results of competition policy reviews,” Ms Cusworth said.

“The Chamber is particularly keen to see progress in deregulation of retail trading hours.

“On structure of government, WA has one of the most fragmented structures of any Australian government with a large number of agencies.

“There is evidence to suggest significant duplication and overlap among a number of agencies across a range of portfolios, and the existence of parallel authorities with similar responsibilities for similar services.

“The next government should institute a review of government agencies and ministerial portfolios with a view to rationalising and streamlining the structure of government.

“With electricity, while the Eastern States is progressing rapidly with energy market reform and is driving down real power costs, in WA we still have a vertically integrated monopoly controlling the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity for most customers.

“The Chamber would like to see the energy market restructured in order to promote genuine competition.

“With workers’ compensation the Government is to be applauded for the changes already implemented in workers’ compensation reform, but much remains to be done.

“However, the Chamber is disappointed that the Government has not applied greater commitment and resolve towards implementing the recommendations of the reviews of insurers’ arrangements and medical and associated costs conducted this year.

“Stamp duty on workers’ compensation remains a major irritation to the business community, which is already labouring under greatly increased workers’ compensation costs in the past two years.”

Heading Dr Gallop’s list of achievements in 2000 was the introduction of a citizen’s right of reply in Parliament if anyone was feeling aggrieved.

This, he said, was followed by the introduction and the winning of Government support for legislation banning an international nuclear waste dump in WA.

Both these came in ahead of what most may believe was Labor’s major victory - exposition of the finance brokers scandal and the failure of Fair Trading Minister Doug Shave and his department to address the issue, which Dr Gallop put third.

Fourth was the setting of the policy agenda in the lead up to the election with an incentive scheme for LPG conversions, train security, and additional police numbers commitment.

“Each of these were followed by smaller Government announcements,” Dr Gallop said.

“They tried to catch us but couldn’t match us; we stole the march and they were forced to respond with pale imitations.”

Next was the forcing of the Government to tackle street walking and kerb crawling in Northbridge in response to Labor’s private members’ legislation.

Liberals for Forests Alfred Cove candidate, Dr Janet Woollard, who is breathing down Mr Shave’s neck, will be pleased to know Dr Gallop’s sixth was the changing of Labor’s platform to include a commitment to ending logging in all old growth forest.

“This forced the Government to dump its own Regional Forest Agreement Mark I, though Mark II only commits to ending logging in old growth karri,” Dr Gallop said.

His seventh was the blooding of new talent into senior portfolio posts – Sheila McHale in health, Alan Carpenter in education, Mark McGowan in tourism, and Lil Ravlich in public sector management.

They are seen as a key people in Labor’s future in Parliament. Dr Gallop also patted himself on the back for successfully standing up for WA’s mandatory sentencing laws at Labor’s national conference.

His last two were: “Developing a modern industrial relations policy for the ALP based on fairness and flexibility and putting Labor into a position where it has a real chance of winning Government in 2001.”

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