19/12/2006 - 22:00

New dawn breaks in WA on liquor, power and sunshine

19/12/2006 - 22:00

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The state government spent most of 2005 trying to win over the public on deregulation.

New dawn breaks in WA on liquor, power and sunshine

The state government spent most of 2005 trying to win over the public on deregulation.

Despite all efforts, however, the population voted against a liberalisation of shopping hours, and the break-up of Western Power got stuck at every turn. But the pendulum swung hard and fast in 2006 with the government finally winning on the energy front and then managing to steer its liquor reforms through a political storm in surprisingly quick time, stunning both the reformists and the antagonists.

The winds of change continued to blow with the sudden and unexpected push for daylight saving by Labor’s former police minister, John D’Orazio, and former Liberal leader Matt Birney.

Shifting sunlight hours in favour of the evening has been a sticking point in politics for the past 30 years. Western Australians have voted in the negative at three referendums and most people had thought the cause was lost.

But for the past three weeks, Western Australians have been watching the sun set an hour later. They can now head to their local bottle shop on a Sunday to buy a six-pack for that afternoon barbecue and backyard cricket match, and soon, homeowners will be able to choose which company provides them with their electricity.

Putting the clocks back an hour and closing the time difference with the east coast has made doing business much easier for Michaella Rogers, who manages the Western Australian and Northern Territory offices for recruitment group, Manpower.

“We get an extra hour to meet our deadlines,” Ms Rogers said. “It’s closed the gap with the Northern Territory from one and a half hours to half an hour and that has made it a lot easier to do business”

The change has also won over Ian Parker, a director with stockbroking firm Hartleys.

He took a week to adjust, initially disliking the later evening, but he is now a fan. Mr Parker said he now goes for an evening bike ride, something he didn’t manage when the sun set at about 7pm.

“We eat a lot later now,” he said. “I go bike riding between 6.30pm and 7.30pm and we eat at about 8pm or 8.30pm instead of 7pm.”

And restaurateurs are rubbing their hands with glee. Daylight saving is delivering them more business, with the habitual 6.30-7pm diners still turning up, while a new set of diners flows through from 8pm.

Doppio Quarnata has managed Leederville’s Siena’s Restaurant for the past six years and said the restaurant takes a lot more bookings for the 8.30pm sitting. He said that, before the introduction of daylight saving, most people would push for a booking between 6.30pm and 7.30pm and were reluctant to book a table after 8pm. Now, the restaurant gets two dinner trades.

And the good news keeps coming for those in the restaurant game. Liquor reforms passed earlier this month means that Western Australians will be able to do what their fellow Australians on the east coast have been able to do for years – drink a glass of wine at a restaurant and not be forced to buy a meal to accompany it. The reforms also aim to make it easier for people to open up small bars, in the hope that Perth’s CDB will yield similar up-market and trendy drinking holes that are dotted through Melbourne’s CBD.

Adopting the east-coast lifestyle has no doubt been influenced by the large influx of people shifting their lives west.

The flood of interstate and international arrivals has helped commonsense prevail and, at the same time, pushed the median house price to within a whisker of the country’s most expensive.

It was a year that many agree brought positive change to WA, unless of course you are an early morning worker struggling to get to work in a blanket of darkness or a first-home buyer struggling to get on the bottom rung of the property ladder.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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