Peace efforts continue in Middle East

UNITED States efforts this week to quell the escalating trouble between Israel and the Palestinians received a mixed reception. Not all casualties were the results of bombings or raids, however, with authorities clashing with protestors in Jordan and Egypt. In the conflict zone, some Israelis were thwarted by their nation’s forces in their efforts to deliver aid to Palestinians under siege.

Israeli restrictions on journalists, and conflicting reports of events in the Jenin refugee camp, where hundreds reportedly died, added to fears the conflict could readily escalate beyond the region.

Palestinian president Yasser Arafat repeated calls for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank, saying he would be a willing participant in a regional peace conference under that condition.

Timor Sea tensions

TENSIONS of a different kind flared in and around the Timor Sea this week. As the East Timorese elected their first president, sea boundaries between Australia and the fledgling nation remained in dispute, and economic reports were released highlighting a significant Australian loss if gas from the Sunrise and Troubadour fields in the Timor Sea was sent offshore from a floating processing facility, rather than brought to shore in Darwin.

Where there’s smoke …

A LANDMARK ruling by the Victorian Supreme Court of compensation against British American Tobacco Australasia (formerly WD & HO Wills and Rothmans Holdings), in favour of a smoker who developed lung cancer, has raised the heat for the entertainment industry. A report released this week revealed those who worked in smoke-filled environments such as bars, clubs and casinos, were found to suffer more than other employees from respiratory system and eye complaints.

Water water everywhere?

THE week’s news was not only of smoke, however, with earth and water also receiving attention, and some close to breathing fire.

WA’s water problems were again in the headlines as Perth received its best rain of the season and the sky fell in for Floreat Forum retailers. A CSIRO and Department of Agriculture evaluation of a Narembeen arterial drainage project has been assessed as “effective” in re-invigorating salt-affected land, while the Government announced a series of community forums on what was described by the Premier as a “water crisis”.

Following calls for a range of solutions to address the problems facing specific communities, and last week’s announcement of a $37 million deep artesian bore project in Gwelup, Scarborough and Carine, Premier Gallop assured West Australians their Government was working on long-term strategies.

More power to the Commissioner

AS the Royal Commission into the national building industry left town, the WA Police Royal Commission was promised greater powers in response to requests from Commissioner Geoffrey Kennedy. The additional legal authority will allow the commission to undertake surveillance and undercover work, to issue certain arrest warrants, impose conditions that will ensure witness attendance, and enter premises for the purpose of obtaining documents.

Corporate moves

THE two partners and 34 staff of Andersen’s Perth business consulting practice have been busy with premises issues, preparing for a move late this week to Central Park. There, the Andersen team will join with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Australia and boost the total number of Perth partners to 15.

WA resource focus in Melbourne

MELBOURNE hosted many interested in WA’s resources industry this week, at the Australian Gold Conference and at Woodside Petroleum’s AGM. While the gold conference centred industry attention on markets, the global trading environment and consolidation, some of the Woodside focus extended to things more personal.

At last year’s annual general meeting – after some serious safety incidents and a year focused on foiling a takeover bid by Royal Dutch Shell – Woodside Petroleum managing director John Akehurst assured shareholders the company was focusing closely on its people.

So, at this week’s AGM, Mr Akehurst was happy to report a significant reduction in accidents and incidents and an improved relationship with Shell, a partner with Woodside in the NWS venture, the Gorgon area and the Timor Sea.

Mr Akehurst and chairman Charles Goode also confirmed Woodside was being proactive about oil acquisition opportunities, and Mr Goode pointed out the coming year’s profitability from Laminaria and Corallina oilfields production would be influenced by the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax.

Bankers promise easier encounters

THE Australian Bankers Association’s new industry standards came into effect this week, with the promise of improving access to EFTPOS, telephone, Internet and automatic teller machine banking services. Jointly launched by the ABA, Blind Citizens Australia, and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the new standards promise to improve banking and business opportunities for people with disabilities.

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