18/10/2005 - 22:00

Some sympathy for Bob Kucera

18/10/2005 - 22:00


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The resignation from state cabinet of Bob Kucera may well provide a boost for young Liberal leader Matt Birney, but it signals just how difficult we make it for our politicians to be normal these days.

Some sympathy for Bob Kucera

THE resignation from state cabinet of Bob Kucera may well provide a boost for young Liberal leader Matt Birney, but it signals just how difficult we make it for our politicians to be normal these days.

Mr Kucera failed to declare his beneficial interest in shares in energy company Alinta when involved in a cabinet decision to provide financial assistance to the Dampier-to-Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline. Alinta was in a consortium bidding for the pipeline.

From an outsider’s point of view Mr Kucera looks like a rabbit caught in the spotlight.

You would think that someone in cabinet would have a pretty clear idea of what shares they held and be on the ball enough to know who was bidding for the assets that you were making a decision on.

But I do have a little sympathy.

Mr Kucera is much more like the average man on the street than you would think.

He’s an ex-policeman who could be expected to have a limited knowledge of financial affairs. Such knowledge is hardly a prerequisite for career success in the police, let alone entry into parliament.

However, increasingly, the population is becoming more canny in this respect – so perhaps we should expect our political leaders to understand financial affairs.

Perhaps Mr Kucera has just been left behind. Maybe he should’ve taken advice from more astute mates of his party, like asset-rich union heavy Kevin Reynolds.

In some ways the true irony of Mr Kucera’s departure is not that a Labor politician has been caught in a shares scandal, but that those shares were in a privatised company.

Alinta was split from the former state-owned energy monopoly SECWA in the days of Richard Court’s Liberal government – with much opposition from Labor.

Surely, it would be a matter of principle that a Labor politician would steer clear of such an investment. Still, here’s betting that most Labor politicians have Telstra shares somewhere in their portfolio (are they checking their superannuation statements, or making inquiries), even though they continue to oppose that privatisation as well. Maybe even a few National Party members as well.

Most of them would not necessarily remember, not least because the advice from most financial advisers is to buy blue chip shares, stick them in a drawer and forget about them.

That must be especially the case when the pecuniary interests of parliamentarians are, from what I recall, only registered once a year, rather than when they occur.

The whole system is designed for another time.

In the meantime, though, the system stands as it has for a very long time.

As much sympathy as I might have for Mr Kucera’s plight as the ordinary man caught out, the fact is he chose to enter parliament and all that comes with it, including justifiably intense scrutiny of private transactions.

It seems there isn’t really room for ordinary people.

Mr Kucera’s own political record proves that. Since entering parliament with an instant role in a key portfolio it has been a steady decline over almost five years to increasing irrelevance. One has to wonder if Mr Birney didn’t do Geoff Gallop a favour in removing his lame duck minister.

Rotto needs a helping hand

AND while contemplating the fates of us ordinary people, I have to say our political masters are letting us down when it comes to the management of Rottnest Island’s icon pub the Quokka Arms – playground of ordinary Western Australians.

I happened to travel to the island recently and found out what occurs when you let bureaucracy control something as simple as a pub. It is ordinary.

Rottnest is a tourism drawcard and, for many, a drink at the Quokka Arms was the perfect way to end a special day on the island. Similarly, for those who stay overnight, the pub used to be a venue with charm. I think now they will only be disappointed.

The hotel site has been a subject of controversy and litigation for years, but there is no excuse for letting this happen.

No wonder some people think this place is a little dull.


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