Both Premier Richard Court and Dr Geoff Gallop were asked a series of questions of interest to the business community. Below are their abridged responses.Retail trading hours?Premier Court: Evolution rather than revolution. No major changes to retail trading hours during the next term.Dr Gallop: Retain existing trading hours, except where the local authority and a majority of the community and retailers request an extension.State taxes?Mr Court: Review of all stamp duties and other taxes, taking into account the impact of the GST on State finances. FID and stamp duty of quoted marketable securities will be abolished from July 1 this year and Debits Tax is expected to be abolished in 2005.Dr Gallop: Review State Business Tax to ensure competitiveness with other States to assist in attracting business to WA and enable existing business to compete.Provide assistance to property owners to maintain their heritage property?Mr Court: Establish a $2 million a year heritage fund for conservation grants, incentives and short term acquisitions of heritage properties.Dr Gallop: Maintain existing heritage funding and ensure appropriate protection of heritage buildings in consultation with all interested parties.Unfair dismissal laws?Mr Court: Speed up the hearing of unfair dismissal cases. Provide expert advice to help with mediation of unfair dismissals.Dr Gallop: Repeal the Court Government's industrial legislation, to provide unfair dismissal laws similar to those in place in 1992. Changes to prevent frivolous and vexation claims.Energy reform?Mr Court: Commitment to new power generation, deregulation of the electricity sector, expansion of the power line system and broad structural change to the industry itself. $1 billion to be spent on new power stations over 10 years and a further $1 billion earmarked for upgrading transmission and distribution power lines. Private generators will bid to supply about a further 1000 megawatts of power to Western Power in a new open competitive tendering process.Dr Gallop: Policy still to be released.Workers compensation premium costs?Mr Court: Pearson Review cut premiums and halted rises. A new, accountable regulatory authority to be established as an independent overseer of the system.Dr Gallop: Major reform to the workers' compensation system in order to provide real and sustainable reductions in premiums.Contracting out services to private enterprise?Mr Court: Government's philosophy has seen an expansion of opportunity for the private sector in the delivery of services to the State.Dr Gallop: Continue to contract out services to the private sector. Reform of the current contracting framework is urgently required. Plans to develop a framework to ensure that the tender process is proper and that ongoing management of the contract is effective and accountable.Rationalisation of the public sector structure and red tape?Mr Court: The Coalition will use the application of technology to better coordinate the delivery of services to the community.Dr Gallop: Cut the number of Ministers from 17 to 14, halve the number of government departments and reduce top management to save at least $40 million over four years.Uncertainty in Native Title?Mr Court: Will continue to vigorously defend the State's interest on behalf of the taxpayer against native title claims to ownership over minerals and water. Resources must be owned, managed and controlled by the State for the public. Negotiate outcomes where there is clear evidence to substantiate a native title claim. Negotiate agreements, where appropriate, designed to free up claimed land for exploration without the need to go through complex native title processes.Dr Gallop: Policy still to be released.Helping regional WA?Mr Court: Priority is to improve communications in regional areas by promoting increased competition between service providers. Boost network of Business Enterprise Centres and an online business advisory service.Dr Gallop: Hold regular Cabinet meetings in the regions. Improve representation in the Cabinet with Ministers for the regions.Small business?Mr Court: Continue to work at reducing the impact from government legislation and regulation. Require agencies to report annually on the impact of their activities on small business. Encourage small business representation on industry and government boards. Use Government buying power - worth almost $5 billion per annum - to assist small business, especially in regional areas.Dr Gallop: Importance of small business recognised. Policy to be released shortly."Local government powers and the State's ability to override council decisions?Mr Court: In relevant cases, Ministers, tribunals and courts will continue to have the power to overrule council decisions which are not consistent with the principles of the relevant Act.Dr Gallop: Committed to abolish ministerial appeals and to overhaul the Town Planning Appeals Tribunal. All stakeholders to determine the detail of the restructure.Environmental policies regarding development?Mr Court: Continue to work towards a system of strategic assessment of critical environmental issues at the feasibility stage. Protection measures are built in rather than added on afterwards.Dr Gallop: Guided by the principles of ecological sustainability. Attention to complexity of the approvals process and time. Review these processes and reorganise departments to streamline decision making.
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