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Touch of showbiz in midst of fire fight

FIRE in NSW has dominated national news bulletins, and indeed those in many parts of the world, during the past two weeks. Tales of bravery, heartbreak and stupidity captured the attention of the international community, which has a renewed interest in Sydney following the 2000 Olympic Games.

Attention soon turned to Elvis, – an air-crane that can carry 9,500 litres of water sucked up in just 45 seconds –first made famous in John Trovolta’s latest movie, Swordfish. Praise has been heaped on Elvis for its contribution to saving property and the lives of firefighters during the ordeal.

The world then watched as freezing conditions in the US hampered efforts to bring two more air-cranes, dubbed Georgia Peach and Incredible Hulk, to Australia.

Harvest tip up

COOPERATIVE Bulk Handling has reported a 9.4 million tonne interim grain harvest in the State, and is holding out for a possible 10 million tonne total harvest, which would top mid-year forecasts by four million tonnes.

All districts in the Kwinana zone have exceeded their estimates. Wongan Hills is just above estimates, Merredin is over by 126,000 tonnes, Avon by 91,000 tonnes, Koorda by 80,000 tonnes and Corrigin by 65,000 tonnes.

The Katanning district has exceeded its estimate by 3,000 tonnes, but harvest is reported to be only half completed in some coastal areas of the Albany zone.

Esperance has reported a new zone record, exceeding a 1.361 million tonne record in 1999-2000.

Normandy fight

THE fight for WA’s gold assets intensified, with Normandy Mining takeover would-bes, AngloGold and Newmont, spending up big on press advertising to convince shareholders of the merit of their respective bids. AngloGold was facing the January 11 expiry date for its bid, against talk of anti-South African sentiment. The share prices of both companies fluctuated, varying the gap between the value of each bid, while Normandy climbed to a year-high of $1.88.

WA oil focus

THE recent Cliff Head-1 and Cliff Head-2 oil finds by Perth Basin WA-286P joint venturers seem to have renewed attention on WA’s oil reserves.

This week, South Australian company Santos Limited announced it would drill two oil exploration wells in WA-191P in the Carnarvon Basin during the first quarter.

Also this week, Sydney-based Roc Oil, 30 per cent stakeholder in WA-286P, described the Perth basin as a new core focus area for the company.

Power grab

NEWS of an $11 million shortfall in the State Budget, coupled with a plan to extract a $20 million dividend from Western Power, drew criticism of power arrangements in regional WA and claims that the lack of appropriate power provision was impeding the State’s economic growth. Western Power is not idle in trying to improve the situation for rural residents and industry, and decrease its massive regional power diesel fuel bill.

The preferred tenderer to supply gas-fired, rather than diesel-fuelled power, to Exmouth was recently announced; work is continuing towards a power purchase agreement to supply similar power to Esperance; and an announcement on Kimberley power arrangements is expected next month.

UN tech centre

WA’S environmental technology profile is set for a significant boost with a United Nations Environment Program decision to establish its Asia-Pacific Environmental Technology Centre at Murdoch University.

Premier Geoff Gallop said the centre would facilitate WA business access to the UN and other international funds for overseas development projects in developing countries.

The UNEP will invest $1.2 million in the centre, to complement others in Africa, Latin America and West Asia, while the WA Government and Murdoch University will contribute a further combined $750,000.

Currency issues

WHILE diplomatic efforts continued in an attempt to cool tensions in the Middle East and between India and Pakistan, the introduction of the euro continued to dominate news in Europe.

Euro issues reportedly forced the resignation of a leading Italian politician, but the big changeover prompted enthusiastic forecasts that Germany’s Deutschemark would be out of circulation by week’s end.

Meanwhile, Argentines faced a 30 per cent devaluation of the peso and a two-day banking holiday, while their president fought to salvage the nation from economic oblivion.

The weakening of the Australian dollar during 2001 was blamed for the shortfall announced this week in predicted car sales in Australia’s automotive industry. December 2001 sales were 10 per cent down on those for the previous December.

Bankruptcy figures

FIGURES released this week by the Inspector General in Bankruptcy showed Australian bankruptcies decreased in the final quarter of 2001.

Bankruptcies were down nine per cent on the September quarter figures, with most new bankruptcies in consumer credit, rather than in the business sector.

Business bankruptcies accounted for 18.6 per cent of all 2000-2001 bankruptcies and 15.2 per cent of those occurring in the December quarter 2001.

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