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The politics of appointment

TWO years ago there were just two women on WA’s port authority boards, but now there is one on each of the eight boards, and 11 in total.

This is just one notable change since the Gallop Government took office in February 2001 and industry watchers, pointing to appointments made in the interim, are predicting all those not previously appointed under a Labor Government are at risk of not being granted additional terms.

These include the chair of the Bunbury Port Authority, whose term expires mid-year.

During the year, the terms of at least 25 per cent of port authority board members are due to expire.

Esperance is quite a different port to what it was three years ago, and so is its board.

Now the deepest port in southern Australia, Esperance was trans-formed in a major upgrade over 30 months to the end of 2001.

Six awards and $62 million later, the Esperance Port Authority board is meeting this week for the first time this year.

However, only two of the five faces are the same as those of last year, after a 60 per cent turnover.

New appointees are Labor member for Kalgoorlie Megan Anwyl, former Esperance Shire and WAMA president Ian Mickel, and Goldfields Esperance Development Commission member Toni Hawkins.

Ms Hawkins has been chair of the Esperance Port Development Consultative Committee, established at the commencement of the port upgrade process.

And while some faces have gone, not all are forgotten.

Former director Ian Burston indicated last year he would like to retire from the Esperance Port Authority board when his term expired in December, but within two days was invited to chair the Broome PA board.

The Dampier Port Authority board, which usually has seven members, is currently down a member.

When CEO Greg Trenberth resigned late last year to go to Christmas Island as harbour master, former navy man and Hamersley Iron marine manager Rob Vitenbergs became acting CEO, but had to resign his board position to do so.

A new CEO is believed to have been selected, but will not take up the position until May.

Mr Vitenbergs says he is unsure whether or not he wants to accept another term as a board member, but he may not have to make that decision.

Board appointments are mostly made by the Planning and Infrastructure Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, who last month announced a number of reappointments and new appointments.

One of the new appointments was to the Geraldton Port Authority board, but two members whose terms expired in December are yet to hear if they will be reappointed or replaced.

These members were appointed in the mid-90s, during the term of the previous government.

The Geraldton Port Authority board could be quite different when it meets for the first time this year from the one that met a year ago – two other former Geraldton Port Authority directors, the chairman and deputy chair, resigned last May, the chair over a conflict of interest.

Some say the Gallop Government has been quite proper in its approach to appointments and has been careful to choose people to enhance particular boards when the terms of some members expire.

All port authority board members, including chairs, act in a non-executive capacity, and with remuneration generally ranging between $8,000 and $16,500, the attraction of being on a board seems to be neither power nor remuneration.

Port authorities are often among the largest employers within a region, and board members are consistent in saying they are interested in regional development and local communities.

A significant number also have, or have had, local government or regional development commission responsibilities.

 “I regard it as a real opportunity,” new Esperance Port Authority board appointee, and former Labor MP for Kalgoorlie, Megan Anwyl said.

“Esperance is a gateway to the Goldfields region and the port authority is a dynamic organisation.

“There are real synergies between the goldfields and Esperance, and the amount of cargo through Esperance is going to keep going up.”

Beverley Davidson, newly appointed to the Geraldton Port Authority board, said she had a unique perspective on the importance of port operations, with her immediate family’s interests spread across the agricultural, fishing and mining sectors.

Her experiences as branch man-ager of the Geraldton Home Building Society for the past 14 years, and as a former executive member of the Geraldton and Mid West Chamber of Commerce, also added to her view.

“$100 million is being spent on a port upgrade and it’s very exciting to be a part of that,” Ms Davidson said.

“It has a positive impact on jobs.”

Mr Burston said he was happy to give something back to a State that had given him a lot.

p          See port authority board

            appointments, For the

            Record, page 23.

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