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Telstra gets the politicians talking

TELSTRA has become one of the big issues for the two major parties as they try to gain the upper hand in the election campaign. First Labor played up the fact that the Liberals would fully privatise the telecommunications giant if they were re-elected. The Liberals counterattacked, claiming Mr Beazley, when Labor’s finance minister, had harboured a desire to sell off Telstra. More recently, Liberal leader John Howard has been saying the full sale of Telstra would only net the Government about $11 million. Some financial experts believe the full sale of Telstra would actually result in a net loss to Government because it would lose the benefits of the large profits the telco makes.

THE election campaign moved onto domestic issues, not to mention a lot of babies, taking over from the previous week’s focus on international issues. The Liberals launched their election campaign in earnest with one of the key items being their proposal to give mothers (or fathers who elect to stay home and care for bub) a tax rebate of up to $2,500.

HOWEVER, maternal issues almost proved the undoing of Democrats leader Natasha Stott-Despoja. First she was photographed looking extremely uncomfortable while holding the week-old baby of a Democrats colleague. And then she dropped possible one of the biggest clangers of the election campaign while launching the Democrats maternity leave policy. The party wants all mothers who were working prior to the birth of their child to have 12 weeks’ paid maternity leave. Ms Stott-Despoja said even Afghanistan had a more advanced maternity leave policy than Australia. She had obviously forgotten that, under the hardline Taliban regime, Afghani women are not allowed to work.

THE first of the houses refurbished as part of the East Perth Redevelopment Authority’s Northbridge project were auctioned at the weekend, attracting prices as high as $276,000. The four colonial-style houses on Aberdeen Street were built at the turn of the century and EPRA chief executive officer Tony Morgan said their successful sale indicated renewed confidence in the Northbridge area. “Saturday’s auction results point to a strong demand for mixed-use inner city properties in areas, such as Northbridge, that have been beautified and redeveloped,” Mr Morgan said. “Investments in the area indicate people recognise the full potential of the project, even in its early stages.”

He said EPRA had plans to bring more properties to the market in the near future.

ON the Pilbara coast, Akzo Nobel’s $100 million Onslow solar salt project was officially opened. The venture, which already has harvested and shipped its first load, is expected to generate an extra $500,000 of State revenue annually.

BLUEWAVE Seafood Limited announced market expansion plans in Asia, the US and Europe and the construction of a Robb Jetty seafood processing factory.

ERG is set for expansion, too, announcing it is in negotiations to provide a smart card fare collection system in Seattle.

ST Andrew’s Insurance (Australia) – established by the Bank of Scotland group in 1998 to provide support services to BankWest – has signed an alliance with the Bank of Queensland. The company will supply consumer credit products and manage the integration and sales of products underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance.

EPIC Energy chief executive Sue Ortenstone said the company, which owns the Dampier-Bunbury natural gas pipeline, was rethinking its Australian development strategy in light of increasing regulatory risk for infrastructure projects. Ms Ortenstone called on Australia’s major political parties to treat a national energy policy as a priority after the November 10 election.

TWO WA companies announced news of gold ventures. Gindalbie Gold reported it was on track to commission its Minjar treatment plant this month and to produce gold by the end of the year, while Troy Resources announced the acquisition of a 70 per cent interest in the Brazilian Goias Velho gold project, including the Sertao gold deposit from WMC Limited subsidiaries.

IN oil and gas news, Harriet joint venture partner Tap Oil announced the spudding of the Denver-1 exploration well south of Varanus Island, and the North West Shelf venture acquired sales and purchase agreements with Tokyo Gas and Toho Gas for 1.37 million tonnes per annum of LNG, from 2004.

RESEARCH underpinning Aust-ralian Cancer Technology Limited’s anti-p53 Pentrix (TM) vaccine technology has received a boost in international credibility, having been published in the international scientific journal, Clinical Cancer Research. Clinical trials of the vaccine are under way at St Vincent’s hospital in Sydney.

A PROPOSAL to construct a wind turbine that will provide power to run the new water desalination plant at Rottnest Island has won public and State Government approval, and hopes to also secure a Federal Government grant towards the $1.6 million const-ruction costs.

The project has been forecast to save $330,000 annually on diesel bills.

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