Premier in Print

ONE of the benefits from the successful sale of Westrail Freight is that the new owners, Australian Railroad Group, have come in with a commitment to spend a significant amount of money on the track and rolling stock over the next five years.

They have undertaken to invest $400 million in addition to the up-front payment of $585 million, giving an effective benefit of $985 million to Western Australia.

All of the net sale proceeds will go towards retiring Westrail debt.

The ARG consortium, which includes Wesfarmers Limited and international rail operator Genesee & Wyoming Inc, also has operations in South Australia and the Northern Territory and will have their head-quarters in Perth.

The company has given some strong indications of its plans to grow the business and clearly recognises the importance of regional WA and the needs of our State’s grain growers.

THE decision to retire Westrail debt with proceeds from the sale continues the Government’s commitment to sound financial management.

Under the Coalition, the net debt for Western Australia has more than halved from 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product to less than eight per cent.

In terms of interest payments, the State is now saving more than $300 million a year compared with when the Coalition came to office in 1993.

Reducing debt and freeing up money from interest payments means we have also been able to strengthen our communities with investments in a wide range of capital projects right across the State. These have involved transport, health, education and sporting facilities, to name a few.

WITH summer rapidly approaching, the Government is putting a strong focus on boat safety training for recreational boat owners this year.

We looked at the idea of introducing compulsory boat driver licences but decided against this after recognising that the accident rate has not been reduced in States with them.

Instead, we have opted for voluntary one-day training courses that will teach people how to avoid boating mishaps and deal with emergency situations.

Completing the one-day BoatSmart course will be the equivalent of gaining the licence required in other States. Its certificate will also be accepted as a licence interstate. This Government initiative follows our introduction of the compulsory carriage of Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS) for boat owners operating more than two kilometres off the coast.

OVER recent weeks it has been terrific to see the recognition given to volunteers for their enormous contribution to the “most successful ever” Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This is a timely reminder of how important volunteers are in our community. In 1995 the Australian Bureau of Statistics Voluntary Work survey established that almost one in five Western Australians – 261,800 people aged 15 and over – undertook voluntary work.

Next year is the International Year of Volunteers and we will all have some great opportunities to recognise their huge efforts in so many different aspects of our lives.

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