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Thirteen proves lucky at the Cup

THIRTEEN was anything but unlucky on Tuesday at Flemington. Ethereal, horse 13, won this year’s Melbourne Cup, crossing the line just ahead of Give The Slip after a flying gallop down the home straight. Give The Slip had looked the goods early on, racing out to a decent lead, but Ethereal, ridden by Scott Seamer, was a nose ahead at the post. Ethereal, who is the fourth horse in 12 years to win the Caulfield-Melbourne Cup double, became a hot tip when race-favourite Universal Prince was scratched after being declared lame. Controversy surrounded the horse in the lead-up to the race as trainers made frantic efforts on Monday afternoon to reverse the decision.

ANOTHER racehorse controversy emerged on Friday as Clone International announced plans to clone former harness racing champion Gammalite. However, Racing and Gaming Minister Nick Griffiths signalled the WA Government would support any move to ban such cloning, saying it was against the spirit of racing and would destroy the integrity of the industry.

IF the electorate was hoping that the next Government term would bring with it widespread reform of the superannuation laws, they would be feeling left high and dry by the lack of enthusiasm shown by both major parties in the dying days of the election campaign. John Howard announced tax cuts for high-income earners and savings incentives for low-income earners, while Kim Beazley has foreshadowed tax cuts for super contributions. But many in the superannuation industry are concerned that both parties have not yet acknowledged that many who will retire will have too little super to live off, thereby cancelling out any budgetary benefits superannuation was meant to achieve. Predictably, only banking groups and fund managers have reserved praise for the Coalition’s tinkering.

A SLASH and burn policy among Australia’s giants fighting to maintain margins continued this week, with chemical group Orica cutting 280 staff from its workforce. A further 520 jobs are expected to go within the next 12 months, while French telecommunications group Alcatel is expected to retrench up to 400 staff. The Orica measures were needed to enable to the company to turn a $193 million loss for 2000-01 into a $180 profit for the 2002 financial year.

THERE are few employment opportunities for those made redundant. As the queue of unemployed former Ansett, HIH and Optus workers lengthens, the number of jobs on offer is on the decline. The number of job ads in metropolitan newspapers has crashed by a quarter from levels a year ago and are at their weakest level since March 1997. WA job ads fell 5.6 per cent in the past quarter. NSW bucked the trend with the number of job ads rising 2.6 per cent in the quarter. Treasurer Peter Costello’s forecast when the GST was introduced a year ago of unemployment falling to around 5 per cent looks increasingly unachievable as the unemployment rate trends upward possibly beyond 7 per cent by early in the new year.

BETTER news came from WA, as Wesfarmers reported a solid start to the new financial year with a first quarter operating profit of $79.3 million. The result was 86 per cent higher compared with the same period last year, when an operating profit of $42.6 million was reported. The results were boosted by the inclusion of trading results from the Howard Smith hardware and industrial and safety product distribution business, which was acquired in August. Howard Smith hardware operations include Hardwarehouse, BBC and Benchmark. Operating revenue from Wesfarmers’ energy business segment was 12 per cent higher compared to the September 2000 quarter, with coal and gas sale volumes above budget.

ANOTHER WA success story in the making is Gemco Rail, which has opened a multi-million dollar rail maintenance facility on the back of a significant business deal to provide remote control discharge systems for 65 ballast wagons involved in the construction of the Alice Springs to Darwin rail line. The $6 million Forrestfield facility, employing around 60 staff, will provide rail operators with a one-stop shop for wagon fleet maintenance and servicing.

THERE also was good news for both regional and urban businesses this week, with the Government launching a $5 million scheme to stimulate industrial and economic development in the South West.

Meanwhile the ERG Group announced the acquisition of a Belgian-based smart card technology company Proton World Internat-ional. The deal will broaden ERG’s smart card applications and bring additional management, transactional security, research and development and financial services and banking sector expertise to the group.

A DECISION on the tenders for the Centaur Nickel Cawse pro-cessing plant is expected soon and Heron Resources has announ-ced a proposed placement to Res-ource Capital Fund II LP will not go ahead until the tender outcome is known. With plans to process its Goongarrie ore at the plant, but also keeping its tender cards close to its chest, Heron is keen for a decision.

Matrix Oil is set to begin production from two re-entry wells in its Langsa contract region, offshore Indonesia. The company is hoping to generate $US62 million in gross annual revenue from the wells, which should flow a combined 8,500 barrels of oil per day.

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