On the edge

EVENTS of the past week or so have highlighted our vulnerability in so many ways.

While the events unfolded in New York and Washington, many of us watching felt relieved that we lived so far away from such dangers.

But our isolation does not make us immune from the real issues the attacks in the US have raised.

The disappearance of the World Trade Center and the accompanying loss of life brought the world to a standstill. Apart from the human toll and the physical damage to the landscape, a handful of terrorists wreaked a heavy cost in down time.

This begs the question: how vulnerable are we to centralisation caused by globalisation? If a few armed men can stop the world, so too can other events well outside our control have an impact on us.

The US has always been the one to watch in the 20th century but our fortunes are even further tied to it – whether Greenspan is cutting interest rates or Bush is slashing taxes.

Being a long way away from the seat of power is not often a good thing, even if it seemed so on Tuesday night.

WA’s remoteness has other downsides. One of them is getting competitive industries like aviation to service our small community.

We are seeing how Australia’s relatively small economy suffers in a downturn. Few countries would expect to see so many giant companies, representing such big slices of their markets, go under.

The failure of Ansett, added to other collapses like HIH, makes you realise how tough it is to operate in a market of 20 million people.

Getting personal

THE US drama also highlighted the concept of six-degrees of separation, something most Perth people reckon is about five degrees too many. Reading through countless email accounts of friends of friends made the whole event even more personal.

But nothing hits home like hearing from a friend who was in the World Trade Centre the afternoon before the attacks.

The next day he witnessed events from a hotel four blocks away before travelling to the other target zone, Washington, for pre-arranged meetings with organisations like the State Dept, Dept of Justice, Commerce Dept, the CIA and the FBI.

My friend reckons the Americans are so keen to say its “business as usual” that most of the scheduled meetings will take place.

Changing times

THIS week heralds yet another change at Business News. It has been quite a month. First the launch of Gusto, our food and wine section, then the arrival of For the Record, now it’s the turn of our finance orientated pages, which we are revamping under the banner of Investor.

Check out pages 32-35 for the latest in economics, personal finance and the stock market.

And it doesn’t stop there. Next week we’ll join forces with corporate advisory and analysis firm Trudo to bring you Total Shareholder Returns for 2000-01 from a complete list of the WA listed sector (more than 325 companies). We’ll look at all the highlights and lowlights for the year, as well as comparing performances against sector and national benchmarks.

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