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Industry Comment

Economic and regulatory frameworks

Minerals Council of Australia

The Australian minerals industry is well positioned – it has undergone significant rationalisation and consolidation, has improved operations and performance in relation to its competitiveness and profitability, and lifted its commitment to delivering social outcomes and improved environmental management.

The industry is high technology, high productivity, environmentally progressive, community-engaged, and with great potential and commitment to continue converting Australia’s natural capital into economic and social benefit.

But although the Australian minerals industry is well positioned, it needs the right economic and regulatory framework within which to achieve all dimensions of sustainable development.

The industry is experiencing an atypical trend - a "double whammy" of low commodity prices, coinciding with an appreciating Australian dollar.

Capacity to attract offshore investment and form strategic alliances is critical to build on Australia’s comparative geological strengths.

Sex worker agency funding

Professor Charles Watson

The WA Health Minister seems to have been given some poor advice over some printed material distributed by sex worker support group Phoenix, public health physician and Curtin University of Technology executive dean, health sciences, Charles Watson says.

Phoenix - an agency set up to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmissible infections among sex workers - plays a vital role in protecting the community against the spread of infections.

While the printed material might be offensive to many community members, it was only ever intended for distribution to sex workers.

The Minister has ignored the favourable report of an audit on Phoenix that he ordered only a few weeks ago.

It is understood the audit found no evidence public moneys had been misused by Phoenix.

Phoenix is doing a credible job, and it seems unfortunate to lose the expertise already in place (to set up an alternative organisation), particularly, as there is no good reason to do so.

Note: The WA Health Minister has terminated government funding - worth $242,000 last financial year - to Phoenix.

Retail trading hours

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA

The WA Government should not modernise retail trading hours in WA just for the sake of securing all the $75 million available in federal competition policy payments.

However, it would be doing the right thing by the public in moving to relax trading hours regulations.

The interests of consumers have been almost completely ignored in the public debate, which has focused predominantly on protests from a small but vocal minority of businesses in the food sector fearful of losing their advantaged position.

This group has been given a bigger say in official forums and media coverage than its size deserves, and its exaggerated and alarmist claims have little credence.

The WA small business sector as a whole is more resilient, adaptable and competitively robust than this group - representing a small faction of private supermarkets - has portrayed.

This group's lobbying, media and mass advertising campaign, estimated to be costing well in excess of $100,000, has spooked or hoodwinked a number of Government MPs into backing it.

The campaign has sought to demonise the group's two principal competitors, Woolworths and Coles, ignoring the fact they are successful Australian-owned companies and the preferred shopping choice of 60 per cent of consumers.

There is nothing unhealthy in this level of market share.

The independents' own wholesaler and banner group, the multinational Foodland Associated Ltd, which also operates the Action chain, has close to a 40 per cent share of the New Zealand retail market on its own.

The independent grocers' chief objective is the maintenance of government regulations making it illegal in WA for their larger competitors to open and compete outside specified hours.

This system has allowed many private supermarkets to prosper, free of competition, on the burgeoning growth in after-hours trade that has resulted from changes in community shopping needs.

This debate over one narrow sector of retailing in WA should not be allowed to cloud the wider picture and the real issues.

Three quarters of all businesses are either in favour of deregulation or have no problem with it, and WA consumers, whose views should matter most, want more shopping opportunities and freedom of choice.

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