Who’s winning?

AS the insurance crisis continues it is becoming increasingly clear who has the most to win if, as appears apparent, so many professionals fail to get indemnity cover.

It is those who always win when there is a crisis – the lawyers and accountants.

The latest profession to raise the spectre of its membership being unable to work is the engineers.

Without PI cover, few sole practitioners or small practices can afford to put their names to projects that may have a long tail of liability.

That is a big issue in this State, with our economic development reliant on big projects, and those projects reliant on a multitude of engineering consultants at every level.

So why do the lawyers and accountants win?

No, it has nothing to with the future legal battles over who is responsible for project glitches, delays or failures.

Without PI many professionals are simply going to have to go through the expensive and time consuming process of restructuring their businesses to ensure that their liability will not cost them anything.

While such practices are not new among the entrepreneurs of this town, many professionals would find it difficult to unwind their personal and business assets.

Quite frankly, it is not in the interests of the State to have these people wasting their time with such fruitless occupations.

Y2K and the GST have already absorbed enough of our energy for little or no gain, we don’t need another exercise in futility.

Having said that, the engineers are the lucky ones.

They can restructure their assets to avoid future liabilities because they don’t require PI to practice.

Other professions are not so lucky and, where membership of a professional group is required to practice (or practice at a certain level of an industry), a lack of PI means going out of business. This remains one of the biggest issues business is facing, more than a year after it emerged as an issue.

Corporate numbers

I MIGHT be putting two and two together and coming up with five, but it seems Perth is attracting a few heavyweights in the next few weeks.

Maybe it’s because regional issues are at the forefront of politics and corporate Australia finds the WA capital a good place to focus on, outside the golden triangle of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Next week, the Australian Institute of Banking and Finance is featuring National Australia Bank chief Frank Cicutto with the topic of corporate social responsibility. With the banks under fierce fire for closing down rural branches and set to turn the heat on the small business sector as interest rates rise, that is going to be an interesting talk.

Then there’s the Qantas AGM, which is due to be held at Burswood on October 17.

While it is not completely unusual for a major corporation to rotate its AGM venue, the timing is fantastic.

Few places have been as deeply affected by the collapse of Ansett as regional WA, and few places would be as profitable at the moment.

On top of that, tourism sources suggest Qantas has fought tooth and nail to resist the arrival of Emirates and we all remember the airline’s threat to pull its Perth to Tokyo flight last year – hardly the work of a company interested in this part of the world.

Who will be next?

My guess is Telstra.

Developing dilemma

IT was kind of fun to dredge up the past when we went looking at the proposed development of the Raffles Hotel in Applecross.

I grew up in the suburb and recall the furore surrounding the Majestic Hotel site almost 20 years ago. I remember being pro-development, excited by the prospect of the Bond Corp concept without having the worry of owning land near it.

While the Raffles is a totally different matter I can’t help wondering if those same conservative concerns of the Applecross populace won’t re-emerge.

We will watch with interest.

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