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Pop sinks his teeth in to rail

A COUPLE of weeks ago our political columnist Joe Poprzeczny wrote a column for State Scene entitled “That sinking feeling” about the rail line that separates Northbridge and the CBD.

Mr Poprzeczny was concerned the opportunity to sink the line through to the Mitchell Freeway could be lost because it was not a part of the plan announced by the WA Government.

He went as far as saying the plan by Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan “never envisaged” sinking the track and that the Government was “incapable of considering this overdue enhancement”.

Harsh words. Indeed, they have prompted a strong reaction from the minister concerned.  Her words can be read on the page opposite this but basically Ms MacTiernan says that, by creating a committee to, among other things, examine the sinking option, she was very much doing what State Scene said she wasn’t.

Perhaps it is possible for the Government to cry foul.

Envisage does mean to contemplate and establishing a committee means you could well be doing that. It could similarly mean you are considering it.

Alternatively, you could say that was all just semantics.

Certainly, reality is a very different thing.

The truth is this Government was surprised to win office in 2001 and one of the few policies it appeared to have even half ready was the realignment of the Mandurah rail link down the Kwinana Freeway, rather than the previously approved route via Kenwick.

I agreed with the move at the time.

While I have faced criticism from some quarters for supporting that decision, I welcomed a government that could make decisions, even if they unwound years of planning.

And, even though I have since come to wonder at the cost of the whole thing (which would have been the case under the old route, too), I still believe that a functional link down the Kwinana Freeway corridor will better open up Perth’s less developed south.

But that strong decision-making by a government in its infancy is in stark contrast to forming a committee with a sinking proposal as but one of several matters on its agenda.

It’s like shunting a decision into a siding and sounds very Yes Minister to me.

My perception of the use of committees in government is they are often used to provide the appearance of doing something until the political wind changes.

Of course, that is only my impression of it and in this case it may be something entirely different.

On balance, though, the government has shot from the hip on a whole bunch of issues regarding the new rail line. The fact that it has not committed to sinking the Fremantle line near Northbridge as part of its overall rail master plan is almost out of character.

No doubt it has been contemplated and considered in the hallowed halls of State Parliament, as I am sure has the additional cost, as the current budget continues to grow But that does not a decision make.

Semantics aside, I put Mr Poprzeczny ahead on this one – until we see a decision one way or the other.

Time to clean up the mess

CONTAMINATION is a big issue these days and it is almost ironic that a decade of talk may result in strong new legislation at a time when the State Government is facing tough challenges on pollution issues.

The Brookdale controversy has been allowed to run out of control through poor management and communication – in a kind of bad re-run of the Alcoa pollution drama, which reached its height just a year ago. This is an enormous issue for WA.

For years we have allowed poor waste management practices to disguise the true cost of our isolation and low population, where we simply haven’t got the economies of scale to efficiently deal with this issue.

And with vast open spaces and a relatively inert geography, dumping, burying and covering over our leftovers has been acceptable.

But times have changed.

We now have grown to inhabit far more corners of our patch of earth and we promote our State as clean and green.

New rules will help deal with the legacies of the past and, hopefully, stop the cowboys from doing any more damage.

That, of course, comes at a cost. I hope it’s affordable.

40under40

A QUICK reminder about the 2003 WA Business News 40under40 program that will culminate in a gala awards night on February 19.

I am prompted here by the adjacent story on the promotion of Rohan Hardie and, overleaf there is a story on another of last year’s winners, Steven Goh.

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