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Medical indemnity in intensive care

MEDICAL indemnity insurer United Medical Protection was placed in provisional liquidation this week following a Government decision not to support a bail out.

The imminent collapse of UMP has prompted the cancellation of some high-risk surgical procedures, with neurosurgeons in NSW closing their doors to everything except emergency work.

AMA president Kerryn Phelps said the health system was facing collapse despite Prime Minister John Howard’s guarantee that all doctors would be covered.

The crisis is not expected to have a major effect on WA.

Planes, ports and automobiles

THE national car industry stalled this week in the face of industrial strife regarding workers’ entitlements in the components manufacturing industry. The dispute revolves around exhaust systems manufacturer Tenneco’s Walker Australia, whose 450 employees have been holding out for a trust fund for their entitlements, rather than being left to rely on protection, in the event of a company collapse, from the Federal Government’s General Employment Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme.

Meanwhile, WA’s intrastate air services are under review by consultants Tourism Futures International and the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. The $165,000 State Government-initiated study will first look at regions serviced by Skywest, with a final report scheduled or August.

In the lead-up to the State Budget the Government has committed $225 million to WA ports. The four-year upgrade includes the deepening of Geraldton port at an estimated cost of $100 million. Other ports to benefit include Fremantle, Esperance, Dampier, Bunbury and Port Hedland.

The more things change …

THERE were more twists in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and its repercussions this week, as Israel agreed to let Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat leave his West Bank compound, but marched against Hebron in response to a Palestinian raid on an Israeli settlement.

Reportedly in response to US pressure, Israel reduced the extent of its occupation of West Bank cities. However, it refused to give the go-ahead for a United Nations fact-finding mission to the Jenin refugee camp, baulking at the terms of reference.

The United Arab Emirates will replace 800 homes destroyed in Jenin, but international caution on the potential effects of the continuing conflict spilled onto the markets, sparking rises in UK and US crude oil prices in the lead-up to the May 7 lifting of Iraq’s one-month embargo. A Saudi warning delivered to US President George Bush by Crown Prince Abdullah renewed speculation of the size of a possible new year US assault on Iraq, and continued UN monitoring of that nation’s oil sales also add to potential scenarios.

A changing of the guard

TWO high-profile appointments signalled the changing of the guard for two State Commissions this week.

After 17 years as the State’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner, June Williams is retiring. Ms Williams has not only been WA’s inaugural and only Equal Opportunity Commiss-ioner, but also Australia’s longest-serving commissioner.

Former Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in Victoria Moira Rayner will take over as interim Equal Opportunity Commissioner. Ms Rayner, a human rights lawyer, is also a former chair of the WA Law Reform Commission and more recently drafted the first Children’s Strategy for the Greater London Authority after establishing the Office of Children’s Rights Com-missioner in London.

The other change is at the Worksafe Western Australia Commission, where former Trades and Labor Council and UnionsWA secretary Tony Cooke is taking the chair. Mr Cooke, who since March has been an Associate Professor of Social Work and Social Policy at Curtin University of Technology, is a former deputy member of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Commission, Unions-WA nominee on the WorkSafe Western Australia Commission, and ACTU nominee on the National Occupational Safety and Health Commission.

Coronial inquiry fails to kill off feud

THE Western Australian coroner Alastair Hope handed down the verdict from his investigation into the 1992 death of WA’s iron ore pioneer Lang Hancock, but it was one that could propel a 10-year domestic battle towards further bitter court room scenes.

The State’s Solicitor-General has now received a request to investigate possible criminal charges against inquiry witnesses regarding effects on the testimony of some to whom payments were made by Mr Hancock’s daughter Gina Rinehart.

Mr Hope found Mr Hancock had died of natural causes. The inquiry was sparked by Ms Rinehart’s concerns that Mr Hancock’s death had been brought on by stress caused by his wife, (now) Rose Hancock-Porteous.

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