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WA industry cycles towards upswing

THOUGH the fabrication and heavy industry sector is in the throes of a downturn, some companies are preparing for the inevitable upswing.

BHP has just opened its hot briquetted iron plant at Port Hedland and Anaconda Nickel has opened its nickel plant at Murrin Murrin.

Closer to home, Kewdale Engin-eering & Construction is developing a new plant in Forrestfield.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry manager of industry and resources Bill Sashagyi said this investment was a reflection of the cyclical nature of WA industry.

“Without being flippant about the amount of pain the sector is feeling at the moment, it seems these things always come good in WA,” Mr Sashagyi said.

However, CCI chief executive Lyndon Rowe said the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union’s recent estimate of 1,000 jobs lost as a result of the downturn was correct.

“The shortage of work, forecast by CCI last year, is the consequence of a combination of low world commodity prices, falling investment levels in resource development and the Asian economic crisis,” Mr Rowe said.

“CCI estimates it could be a year before investment recovers and translates into contracts and jobs in the industries supporting resource development and mining.”

Mr Rowe said during the lull, WA should put upgraded infrastructure in place, including the Jervoise Bay assembly and loading facility and high/wide load transport arteries.

A package has been put to the Minister for Transport to construct a network of large-load roads out to the regions.

Mr Rowe said the cost of a number high/wide load transport corridors had been recently researched and was found to be “not significant”.

“It was much less than we anticipated and largely relates to the shifting of power lines, passing lanes and road signals. The Fremantle eastern bypass will be a great help,” he said.

Mr Rowe said WA needed to continue the process of micro-economic change to ensure the state economy was competitive and an attractive climate for business and investment.

He said the state should fully implement national competition policy as it applied in WA, especially in the energy sector where prices still lag behind those in other states and other countries.

Mr Sashagyi said a comparison of Australian states with regard to retail competition in electricity services revealed WA was lagging behind.

“WA will only have its competition threshold down to a one megawatt level by 1 January 2000,” he said.

“Every other state will have deregulation by January 2001, but WA has not had an announcement relating to this as yet.”

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