17/09/2008 - 22:00

Faster approvals may extend boom

17/09/2008 - 22:00

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WOULD-BE uranium miners might have been first out of the starting gate to capitalise on the surprise election of a conservative government in Western Australia, but there are many other regional businesses set to benefit from Labor's fall and a sustained

Faster approvals may extend boom

Would -beuranium miners might have been first out of the starting gate to capitalise on the surprise election of a conservative government in Western Australia, but there are many other regional businesses set to benefit from Labor's fall and a sustained boom.

Apart from demanding successfully that 25 per cent of royalties ought to be spent in the regions as a prerequisite to allowing the Liberals to form a government, Nationals WA are also believed to be strongly in favour of overturning land access and usage restrictions that have caused much resentment in the bush.

The concern is wider than farmers' difficulties in clearing land or pastoralists' problems with lease security, and is thought to extend to Native Title issues, which have caused development headaches for north-west towns.

A move to more quickly resolve impasses over Native Title in towns like Broome in the Kimberley could drive a mini-development boom in the region because so many projects have been put on hold.

This will also come with the Nationals demanding around $2 billion in additional spending in the regions over four years.

Liberal leader Colin Barnett tabled a number of previous commitments to the regions as part of his offer to the Nationals WA leader Brendon Grylls.

Among the policies likely to stimulated significant spending or investment are: Bunbury-to-Albany gas pipeline; development of the Ord River scheme; a $40 million northern towns development fund; and a $30 million budget to assist air travel by rural patients, with much broader access.

While Mr Barnett has signalled that he is keen to speed up approvals for major resources projects and is likely to back the Nationals' policy to improve the process for minerals exploration licence applications, it is not known whether the new government will immediately take on the touchy subject of Native Title.

Clearly regional development will take a priority with the Nationals holding the balance of power, but the Liberals will need to be cautious in their own back yard, especially needing to consider the views of the two nominally Liberal independents, Liz Constable in Churchlands and Janet Woollard in Alfred Cove.

Regional land issues are understood to have been a top priority for farm organisations, which form the rump of the Nationals traditional support.

Another issue looming very quickly is that of emissions trading, with the federal Labor government seeking submissions shortly from the states to develop its position. WA business was already agitated by the issue, which is set to have more impact in this state than elsewhere.

Mr Barnett is likely to take a more hard-headed approach to carbon trading given it has the potential to derail some of the key resources developments.

One group likely to be disappointed by the election outcome is the retail sector. The Liberals did have a policy to reduce restrictions on mid-week trading hours but the Nationals WA policy strongly rejects any tampering with current rules.

It's likely the new government will find it easy to keep the status quo as a soft outcome.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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