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Wisdom from the east

IT’S easy when you spend a short time away from Perth to find the grass is greener elsewhere, especially when you are on holidays.

I had the good fortune to spend last week in Melbourne, and it proved a sharp reminder of some areas that Western Australia falls short in.

I admit to my break being blessed with good weather, which always helps when you are talking about Victoria, but we have a lot to learn from Melbourne.

Obviously population size is a major difference but it doesn’t explain their efficiency in places such as the airport – the wait for a taxi at Perth is still interminable, due to the terrible ‘system’ they have in place.

It also fails to explain why getting a drink of wine is possible at a cafe, or why they are so much more adventurous when it comes to design and development of public space.

Interestingly, Melbourne had a feel that it was well connected to its youth – a stark contrast to Perth, where young people are supposed to neither be seen nor heard.

Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Perth to become Melbourne.

We’ve a chance to build from scratch, which is not always a negative.

But we do have to try to make the most of what we’ve got here. We need to deregulate our liquor licensing and make this a more flexible place to live in. It’s not just for the tourists.

This is the first step that is needed to get rid of retail trading hour restrictions – though I still don’t see how that can happen until we deal with the stupidity of antiquated award systems that don’t recognise young people’s willingness to work on weekends.

We also have to encourage more active and daring use of our public spaces.

I feel sorry for what the first crowds of travellers emerging from the new convention centre will find.

Not much, I dare say. There is simply not much within walking distance of this new building.

The State Government needs to address this. Its constituents are aspirants who want to show off our city as a great place to live – not a vast hinterland of inward looking culdesacs.

Rather than preserving our river from the ‘blight’ of cafes and restaurants, we have to recognise that these are the new public spaces – people can generally afford a cup of coffee these days.

I’ve already said my bit on things such as population growth and allowing sensible beachside high rise (for which I have received quite a bit of support), which will help make this city more liveable, not less.

Locals in the main game

THE expansion of Alinta is an interesting story.

While I won’t predict it will be successful, I support the management for having a crack at taking a staid business and turning it on its head. They all could easily have paid been just as much for doing very little – plenty of other WA managers have done that.

The aggression of Alinta creates a very interesting change in composition at the top of the WA-listed league table – and contrasts with the head-in-the-sand attitude of WA business in the early years after Bond and WA Inc.

We now have four serious national players at the top of the list.

Wesfarmers with coal, (until recently) rural services and the hugely successful hardware retailing operation of Bunnings.

Woodside is clearly a boutique international player spanning the nation, and Foodland has managed to cross the Tasman and to find acquisitions in the eastern States.

Add in Alinta and that is a major change from just a few years ago when most of these companies (with the notable exception of Woodside) were mainly insular.

Next in the rankings is WA Newspapers. Any chance it could revisit those missed opportunities to raid the east coast?

Treasures

CONGRATULATIONS from everyone here at WA Business News to Dr Fiona Wood and Professor Fiona Stanley for their inclusion in the national living treasures list.

While I know Australians are a little awkward with awards like this, it is great recognition for the groundbreaking work by both these outstanding medical professionals.

WA Business News has had the great pleasure in hosting both these high achievers at events aimed to connect our newspaper better with the community it serves.

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