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Sensitivity is issue, not secrecy

I READ with some disquiet the comments by your columnist Ann Macbeth in the 18 to 31 May edition about the proposed Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre complex.

From the outset, it should be appreciated that it is not only public money involved in developing the complex but a heavy investment from the private sector.

Given this scenario, the need to respect the design sensitivities of the plans of the two consortia seeking the WA Government’s endorsement to build the centre is paramount.

Why would they disclose their designs to their rival when they are still involved in a competitive tendering environment? It is naive of Ms Macbeth to suggest otherwise.

I might add that the tourism industry, and the convention and exhibition sectors in particular, have had considerable input into the design requirements for the centre.

While the government may be committing considerable funding towards the centre, it is not a public building in the true sense but a privately run complex aiming to make a return for the principals on their capital equity.

Of course, the government’s investment will reap a very handsome reward for all Western Australians – between $1.5 billion and $2.2 billion in economic impact in its first ten years.

That’s not a bad return on the $100 million the government has committed to the convention centre.

WA should be very happy about the deal it is getting. It is traditionally governments that solely fund the building of

convention and exhibition centres because of the enormous capital costs involved and the benefits accruing to their local economies.

Centres rarely cover their yearly operational costs let alone provide a return on the capital investment.

On another issue, I think Ms Macbeth is overreacting about the likely impact of a complex combining both a convention centre and sports stadium.

The possibility of convention delegates encountering disenchanted sports fans is remote, given that most big national and international conferences are held during the week and would generally finish on or before 5:00pm.

So their paths are unlikely to meet, particularly given most midweek sporting fixtures are held to maximise attendance.

And to suggest the government is playing favourites with the consortiums is ludicrous.

Everything associated with the selection process has been conducted with the utmost probity.

• Owen Cook is managing director of Perth Convention Bureau.

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