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Phoney election campaign taxing us already

VOTERS were left wondering whether tax cuts were on the Federal Government’s agenda in the lead up to the federal election, with John Howard and Peter Costello’s on-again off-again commitment to offer further tax cuts. The Prime Minister was quoted as saying that he could not give an unconditional commitment on future tax cuts but later said that a budget surplus would be given back to the public via income tax cuts. His deputy preferred to focus on the personal income tax cuts of the past and Labor’s tax policies than any future tax cut commitments.

WA’S sporting community was on a high for the first time in weeks following the double banger of a West Coast and Fremantle win over the weekend. While the losing streak is over, questions still were asked of the Fremantle operation by AFL officials, concerned with the financial and leadership direction at the club. Eagles coach Ken Judge is also still understood to be in the dark over his future role, with rumours of a John Worsfold-led recovery refusing to go away. Meanwhile, fans are focusing their attention on the Western Derby to be held this weekend.

AUSTAL ships has won another $10 million contract with Portuguese ferry operator Transtejo for two low-wash river catamarans. The two river cats will operate between the ports of Parque Das Nacoes and Barriero on the River Tejo in Lisbon. Designed for commuter comfort and fast turnaround times, the 37-metre River Cats can carry 292 passengers. The vessels will be constructed by Image Marine, a division of Austal. The order follows closely on the recent contract signing with the US Marines Corps for the charter of a high-speed Theatre Logistics Vessel. MD Bob McKinnon said there were signs of a recovery in the ferry market.

US-BASED Phillips Petroleum’s decision to defer development of the $1.5 billion Timor Sea to Darwin gas pipeline has offered Multiplex another big blow this year. Multiplex was contracted to build the pipeline – a turnkey project that would have proved a nice earner. But tax problems proved the sticking point for Phillips. A new deal giving East Timor 90 per cent of the royalties also gives it 90 per cent of the taxes. Therefore, Phillips would pay 90 per cent of its taxes at the 44 per cent rate.

MANY Perth people woke to the startling news that escaped corporate villain Christopher Skase had died in Spain. To many the news probably brought the reaction: “Bugger me, he wasn’t faking it”. With his death, one of the final chapters of the great corporate collapses of the 1980s seemed to be at an end. But the Federal Government has decided to pursue Skase’s family for the remaining $170 million he owed in personal debts. So why did we all seem to hate Skase? Australians usually feel for someone down on their luck.

At least WA’s corporate crook Alan Bond had the decency to face the music for his wrongdoings. Just recently there was a minor outcry because it was thought he might not be allowed to attend Cowes for the race of his old mate Australia II. And Bond’s friend through the heady WA Inc days, Laurie Connell, died of a heart attack while under investigation for corporate fraud. Skase’s sin therefore was to not (a) face the music or (b) die.

Things went horribly wrong for Skase in 1989 when his Quintex empire – which at its zenith owned Channel 7 – crashed with debts of at least $1.5 billion. In 1991 he was declared bankrupt, claiming personal assets of just $5,000. Skase fled Australia that year – legally. The Australian Government left him alone for three years before trying to extradite him. Extradition battle after extradition battle followed, with Australians receiving images of Skase being pushed into court in a wheelchair and wearing an oxygen mask. We were also receiving images of Skase cavorting with wife Pixie in the swimming pool of his Majorcan villa in between court battles – without a medical prop in sight.

THE unexpected death of Christopher Skase will no doubt boost interest in the feature film Let’s Get Skase, to be released nationally by Roadshow Film Distributors and Media World on October 18.

The film follows down-and-out conman Peter Dellasandro on his quest to kidnap Mr Skase in Spain. Roadshow Film Distributors manag-ing director Joel Pearlman said he didn’t see the death of Mr Skase as a windfall for the production.

“We don’t really look at it like that. Skase’s name has rarely been out of the headlines in the past couple of years and that’s something that’s been really evident to us,” Mr Pearlman said.

“This film is not really about Skase. It’s about an attempt to kidnap Skase,” he said.

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