03/12/2009 - 00:00

Flight leader ducks sod’s law ... for now

03/12/2009 - 00:00


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Premier Colin Barnett was in a good mood at a Chevron function earlier this week, remarking how politics is cyclical.

Premier Colin Barnett was in a good mood at a Chevron function earlier this week, remarking how politics is cyclical.

Mr Barnett noted that while his federal Liberal counterparts’ fighting over climate change policy had taken Canberra politics to a low, he was on top of the world after a series of positive announcements which any government would envy.

It certainly was a busy five days of good news for the premier.

On Friday, as our news story on page eight notes, Mr Barnett assembled a plethora of business leaders to promote his vision for making the north-west more attractive to the people needed for its development.

Along with Regional Development and Lands Minister Brendon Grylls, he led a party of 80 on a charter flight to Port Hedland and Karratha, making a series of land-linked announcements on the day.

The next day he returned latitudes north of Perth to engage in the next best political activity after baby kissing – sod turning. Mr Barnett joined a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the $1.8 billion Karara iron ore project, in the state’s Mid West region.

Mr Barnett said the Karara project, an Australian-Chinese joint venture between Gindalbie Metals and Anshan Iron and Steel Group Corporation, known as AnSteel, was a major landmark in the development of the WA iron ore industry.

On Sunday, things were brought closer to home with he and Planning Minister John Day unveiling developments that will occur on the newly created vacant land above the sunken rail line which is the Northbridge Link project.

Terraced gardens, a landmark building, extensive dedicated cycle paths and a lively town square were all part of exciting plans to reunite Perth and Northbridge by sinking the rail line. Those who had been on the Pilbara tour might have felt a tinge of déjà vu.

Mr Barnett said the area around the Horseshoe Bridge, which has been closed until April, and above the railway would become a 11,000 square metre area about twice the size of Forrest Place, or 25 per cent bigger than Federation Square in Melbourne.

Finally, someone’s made it clear we are not just trying to be mini-Melbourne; in the west it has to be bigger.

Monday was meant to be a lay day from the good news but it emerged that WA would play host to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2011, the biggest event to hit Perth since the America’s Cup, with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the leaders of 54 Commonwealth nations set to participate.

About 5,000 delegates and visitors are expected and the hospitality industry is expected to make big bucks. Mr Barnett ought to be thankful that Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith hails from the electorate of Perth.

Finally, on Tuesday, a travel- and announcement-weary premier had to troop back up to the Pilbara to shovel yet another soil sample in the name of Gorgon, rubbing shoulders on Barrow Island with his other new best friend in the federal Labor government, Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson.

Quite a week, though its sod’s law that after so much positivity it will be hard to find good news for some time.

Abbott takes charge

Anyone who doubts Tony Abbott’s political radar need only look at the slow-burn promotional tour he’s been on for the past six months.

Apart from the magazine cover stories there was also the high profile August launch of his latest book Battle Lines and Beliefs.

It was during that tour that he let slip to a Perth audience that he was a little bit cynical when it came to man-made climate change, positioning himself with an easily shifted position ahead of the coming leadership battle.

True, Joe Hockey has also been on the promotional hustings, but maybe that was too little or too late.

Whatever the case, Mr Hockey ran third in the three-way tussle for the Liberal’s top federal job after now-downed leader of the parliamentary party, Malcolm Turnbull, tried to drag his recalcitrant colleagues into agreement with the government on an emissions trading scheme.

Mr Turnbull, via his chief negotiator Ian Macfarlane, had won significant concessions from Labor over the ETS, gaining more ground for so-called dirty industries like coal.

After a marathon day of party room debate, Mr Turnbull claimed his deal with the government had taken line honours.

His position was backed by key business lobbyists like the Business Council Australia which welcomed the agreement between the government and the opposition on significant amendments to the proposed legislation.

“Both the opposition and government should be commended for working together constructively to reach this agreement on an issue as complex and far-reaching as Australia’s response to climate change,” the BCA said.

The Minerals Council of Australia also thought the deal was sealed, even though it didn’t like it.

“Today’s deal on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme means it is imperative for the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen to deliver a binding agreement so that Australia’s exporters are competing on a level playing field and all emitters are taking comparable steps to reduce greenhouse gases,” MCA stated.

“If the Copenhagen meeting fails to deliver, Australian exporters will be saddled with the highest carbon costs in the world while their competitors in both developed and developing nations face no such costs.

“Without an agreement at Copenhagen global greenhouse gas levels will increase despite Australia’s CPRS.”

But these views – either welcoming or resigned – were premature. Liberal dissenters, led by Nick Minchin, saw things differently, rising up to challenge their leader.

The first attempted spill failed but, by early this week, the Liberals needed a lot more than an ETS to clear the air and a leadership poll was taken.

Mr Hockey was eliminated in the first round, leaving a run-off between Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull.

The result was to the newcomer by one vote.

After winning the leadership, Mr Abbott held a secret ballot to gauge the mood on the ETS.

The party room voted 54 to 29 to try to refer the legislation to a committee and, if that was unsuccessful, to reject it in the Senate, showing that numerous Turnbull-loyalists were opposed to the ETS.

Mr Abbott denied he was a climate change sceptic.

“We will have a strong and effective climate change policy, it just won’t be this ETS,” he said.

“The job of the opposition is to be an alternative, not an echo.”



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