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Lawyers end Court family’s reign

TWO lawyers, Liberal candidate Sue Walker and Greens candidate Steve Walker, took the race for the seat of Nedlands to the wire. The winner ends nearly 50 years of Court family reign. For the past 48 years the seat has been held, first by Sir Charles then later former WA premier Richard Court. A Liberal Party source said on Tuesday that Ms Walker had won the seat by 1000 votes. However, WA Liberal leader Colin Barnett warned Prime Minister John Howard to pay heed to environmental issues, given the Greens showing in the “safe” Liberal seat.

MEANWHILE Richard Court has appeared on the payroll of WA’s richest man, Kerry Stokes. Mr Court is understood to be consulting to Mr Stoke’s private company, Australian Capital Equity. Mr Court is said to be liaising between Mr Stokes’ WesTrac earthmoving equipment dealership and mining companies in WA’s north-west. WesTrac holds the Caterpillar franchise in WA and is Mr Stokes’ biggest business interest outside of his 35 per cent shareholding in Channel 7. When he retired in April Mr Court said he would seek up to five consultancy roles within the resources sector.

AND as we congratulated 43 Western Australians on their Queen’s Birthday honours, Governor General Sir William Deane performed his last public duties.

MARGARET River winemaker Xanadu raised $20 million through a placement and moved closer to settling its takeover of South Australian wine producer Normans Wines. As the boardroom machinations go on, WA winegrowers are celebrating a record vintage, driven by a dry mild summer. Also this week, red wine production outstripped white wine production for the first time. But it has not all been beer and skittles in the wine industry. SouthCorp announced difficulties recouping costs from its Rosemount Estate Wines acquisition.

NEARLY one third of Australian Stock Exchange floats since December 2000 have been resources companies, with WA’s Hamill Resources and WestMag two of the latest. Tomorrow, Carpathian Resources, with oil and gas interests in central Europe, will add to the list. Meanwhile gold and copper company Sylvania added South African diamonds to its exploration portfolio, through an agreement with Gemini Minerals. But one resources company not celebrating this week was Anaconda Nickel, reporting under-capacity production again from its Murrin Murrin facility.

A START date for the long-awaited Royal Commission into the finance brokers’ scandal has been announced. The inquiry, to be headed by Ian Temby QC, will kick off on June 20 and will examine 17 development projects. However, Real Estate Consumer Association president Denise Brailey, who played a key role in uncovering the scandal, said she would not be involved with the investigation. Ms Brailey described the Royal Commission as a $5 million white elephant and said the money would be better spent on helping those retirees who had lost money. She refused a $10,000 offer by Consumer Affairs Minister John Kobelke to cover costs of preparing submissions to the commission.

AND on matters finance broking related, former finance broker Noel Bell had his two years and 10 months jail sentence upheld by the WA Supreme Court. Mr Bell pleaded guilty to 24 charges brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission pertaining to his part in promoting an illegal investment scheme that lost 18 investors most of the $2.8 million dollars they had put in. Former auditor of the Graeme Grubb Finance Broker trust account Patricia Massese has resigned her registration as a company auditor. And another former finance broker Leon Jamieson has admitted to the Finance Brokers Supervisory Board that he breached the Finance Brokers Code of Conduct. Mr Jamieson consented to a permanent disqualification of his finance broker’s licence.

WA football fans can take heart from the guarantee that the West Coast Eagles will not lose this week. Due to the vagaries of the Australian Football League, the Eagles have been given a bye. But the poor performance of both the Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers has led to heated debate over the state of WA football, with many blaming eastern states football administrators for the local game’s woes.

THE collapse of telecommuni-cations player One.Tel could leave Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited with a windfall. It has been reported PBL’s $75 million contra advertising deal with One.Tel had a cash compo-nent incorporated with it. But it appears likely PBL will profit by selling the advertising space freed up by the One.Tel demise. It is not all good news for the media giant though. PBL director James Packer still has to deal with the potential issue of being a director of an insolvent company.

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