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EDITORIAL: Dullsville tag may stay

EVER since The West Australian newspaper ran Dullsville as its front page headline, there has been significant public debate about whether or not this is a great place to live.

It’s a strange old subject because, as every politician knows, you can’t please all the people all the time.

For many who live in Perth, it is the perfect mix of easy-going lifestyle, top community amenities and wonderful opportunities.

These are traits that have drawn many a Perthite back to their home town and also convinced increasing numbers of expatriates to make their stay permanent.

Often the decision is based around family and what a great place – safe, wide open spaces – to bring up kids.

That is all very well for people, like me, who have a family but for numerous others, mainly the young or upwardly mobile singles, Perth lacks a bit of verve. It can, in short, be dull.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

Our sprawling suburbs lend themselves to quiet, homely solitude well and truly distant from the hotspots of entertainment.

Despite the historic isolation of these districts from suburbia, Western Australia’s seemingly puritanical background and its over-bearing rules governing our hospitality industry have left generations of younger people and increasing numbers of visitors quite bemused by the regulations placed on our social life.

Some of these silly rules have been relaxed in recent years but this change has coincided with a new demographic change – the return of inner-city living.

The arrival of residents in medium to high-density inner-city living has created a conflict, but the old laws (or modern manifestations of their centuries old thinking) are still working their magic.

Instead of being the newcomers who must put up with the ways of the old, inner-city businesses are finding they are the ones who must be accommodating.

The irony, of course, is that many of these new residents – often cashed up, baby boomers down-sizing from their empty suburban nests – were attracted by the idyll of close-quarters living within a vibrant mixed-use area.

Just like those holidays in Europe.

It’s all a bit tragic that when reality doesn’t match their dreams they seek to reshape the community to a sort of high-density version of the suburbs they just left.

That is the worst of both worlds – and seems certain to ensure that the Dullsville tag sticks longer than it should.

 

Chaney move overstated

 

I HAVE always been a great admirer of Michael Chaney.

His unflinching management style, ignoring trends and fads, has served his company and shareholders well.

So, when I read on the front page of the Australian Financial Review of his decision to retire when his current contract ends in 2005, I thought I ought to check what it all means.

All was not as it seemed.

Apparently, the report was slightly off the mark in that it suggested his retirement was a dead cert, rather than simply expected.

“When we sit down with the board, probably in the next year, it is likely that someone else will take over,” Mr Chaney told me.

However, the Wesfarmers chief was far from upset by the news story’s flaw indicating that the market reaction – virtually none – showed that this message had been well explained to investors during the past six months.

In fact, Mr Chaney could see the funny side of it all – describing the 1 cent fall in the share price during early trade as “faint praise” by the market and joking that a later 5 cent rally was something “I have to take as a big negative”.

But it was quite illuminating to see the market unfazed by the news that last year’s most admired CEO was intending a graceful exit.

“I am pleased about that because the understanding in the marketplace is how I outlined it,” he said.

“I think the fact that the share price didn’t react indicates that the investors know that.”

As for a replacement, Mr Chaney confirmed that an internal candidate was most likely to be the next chief because of the strong internal culture.

Who says it’s hard to find CEO positions in WA these days?

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