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Reith’s time may be up

Hands up those tired of hearing about it. About Peter Reith and his phone – or, more to the point, his bill. About Reith’s son, Paul. About Miss X and Mr Y.

About how the Minister is so sorry about the situation. About how he acknowledges it was an error of judgement.

And about how he will mortgage his house to pay back the $50,000 bill.

At best it was a terrible error of judgement by Mr Reith.

The story has unfolded like a classic soap opera.

The media has done more than lap the story up. It has given it life; fuelled the fire for all it is worth.

It was determined to ensure Mr Reith did not get off lightly.

Predictably, Prime Minister John Howard has supported his high-profile minister.

Called him “foolish” but stood by him.

Mr Reith’s upfront style – particularly his stoushes over industrial relations – ensures he has a number of enemies, who are delighting in his predicament.

He deserves to be punished for his actions.

His decision to allow his son to use the telephone card was a classic case of double standards – the Minister has been very vocal in his attacks against opposition members alleged to have rorted the system.

Mr Howard has been prepared to weather the tsunami of criticism. But at what cost?

It could be Mr Reith’s career that is put on hold.

Certainly, the Opposition will continue to dial in on the besieged minister.

Reports paint an

interesting picture

Two reports on vital industries in WA outline some interesting scenarios.

A WA Technology and Industry Advisory Council report criticised the State’s universities for being – wait for it – too conservative.

The report said this was hampering WA’s ability to capitalise on education and training opportunities.

It found that the sector generated a staggering $400 million during 1998.

WA’s growth is failing to match the national average.

The answer? Rebrand the State as a “knowledge hub”, according to the report.

It is all part of shedding the State’s image as primarily a resources, agricultural-based economy – “old” economy.

The education and training sector should not be underestimated. It is the sixth biggest export earner for WA and, according to the report, could be a significant “recession-proof” contributor to WA’s economy each year. Enough said.

A report into the resources industries painted a similar picture.

The sector is growing exceptionally well. But it has to, given its low returns and high production costs.

An annual WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy report revealed WA resource companies increased productivity by a mammoth 150 per cent during past five years – five times the rate of the rest of the non-rural economy.

But, the reports points out, without such gains, miners would be in a poor state.

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