03/08/2004 - 22:00

Fun and games at the PCEC

03/08/2004 - 22:00

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As the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre begins the process of opening its doors to the public, the foreshore building has attracted a fresh round of analysis/criticism.

As the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre begins the process of opening its doors to the public, the foreshore building has attracted a fresh round of analysis/criticism.

Part of this is the teething troubles of a new building.

While these issues are usually kept away from the public gaze, the PCEC was controversial from the start, so new publicity is a bit like reopening an old wound.

As far as I am concerned, it is too little too late.

It was always going to be a shed. Many said this and, if I recall correctly, the Perth City Council was opposed to this location, while State Government figures at the time wanted the building to gaze longingly over the Swan River – even if most users will spend 90 per cent of their time in windowless halls.

For the record, I too was opposed to the decision to place such a building on our foreshore (favouring the Entertainment Centre site), but it’s an argument that was lost. The building has now been built and we should get on with making the most of it – as we have with a nice photospread in our Property section in this edition.

Anyway, even if the PCEC’s location is inappropriate from an aesthetic point of view, it is a drawcard for tourism and we need to make the most of it now that its built – rather than whinging about it.

That is one reason WA Business News last week decided to highlight the liquor licensing problems PCEC management has encountered.

I have previously stated that one of the biggest issues for the PCEC is that the location places it away from any significant entertainment district.

When 3,000 or more delegates have finished gazing upon the awe-inspiring vista of the mighty Swan they may just have a little time left to want to go an enjoy themselves en masse.

Obviously that is hard to do within easy reach of the PCEC, especially for someone who isn’t from Perth. Without the adequate facilities to party on, there is some danger delegates might leave here thinking, dare I say it, that Perth is dull. In my mind, that would partially defeat the whole purpose of building the centre.

One solution would be to provide adequate facilities at the PCEC, until all those grand plans for foreshore development (dusted off every three years since the mid-1980s) actually come to fruition.

So why, then, is the State Government interfering in the liquor licensing application to provide such an alternative?

Through its Health Department, the Government has objected to the application and helped ensure the opening hours are restricted.

This is not about local residents complaining about noise (which is another problem in its own right); this is about making sure that no-one gets too carried away enjoying themselves.

The bizarre twist in all this is that the Health Department is acting to protect people who mainly don’t even live here. Even Singapore isn’t this repressed.

I will leave the last word to a lawyer to whom I recounted this tale of damage to our reputation as a city that actually has a life.

Her response: “It’s embarrassing, it’s like we are a blue light disco”.

Need I say more?

FTA a barrier to barriers

So, backers of the Free Trade Agreement, and they are plentiful, can breathe easy now that the Federal Labor Party has listened to its State colleagues (and its Senate committee) to give the deal the green light.

While there is no doubt the agreement could have been better, anything which moves the US down the path of real free trade is good news for Australia.

In fact, I will go one step further and suggest this deal will have far-reaching impact.

The key to me is not the effect of existing trade, especially of traditional goods and services.

Getting agreement from a whole bunch of vested interests such as those in agriculture will always be difficult.

And, although these areas will always be important to our economy, the real bonus of an FTA is it makes it more difficult to put such barriers to free trade in new areas of commerce which might hold the future the Australia’s prosperity.

Perhaps I am being overly optimistic that our economy can significantly reduce its reliance on commodity-driven trade but at least this deal creates an atmosphere where someone with a fresh idea in a new field can make the most of the world’s biggest market.

Who knows what these markets might be or whether or not we can ever be a major player in them; I simply hope this FTA sets a framework that stops another Jones Act, as a case in point, being put in place.

For those who aren’t aware, the Jones Act in the US prevents ships built outside the US from plying trade between US ports.

That has been a major impasse for groups such as WA shipbuilder Austal, arguably one of those new industries we’d like to see more of in the future.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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