... and what the parties are offering

03/09/2008 - 22:00

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The state's major political parties go to the polls this Saturday with very different election promises for Western Australia's businesses and industry.

... and what the parties are offering

The state's major political parties go to the polls this Saturday with very different election promises for Western Australia's businesses and industry.

Recent events have helped shape the key election issues for 2008; but both the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia have targeted distinct industry sectors and their associated issues.

Whichever way the state votes on September 6, business and industry in WA has called on the next government to implement a long-term vision to facilitating future growth.

Labor has announced major policy commitments regarding the skilled labour shortage, the state's transport infrastructure, uranium mining and capital works programs in the Goldfields-Esperance region.

The premier has promised $60 million over four years to target 45,000 apprentices or trainees with an additional 1,000 training places offered in emerging 'green technology' skill areas.

"WA needs many more skilled workers if we are to fulfil our economic potential," Mr Carpenter said.

In a similar promise to that of the Liberal Party, Labor would also boost the number of nurses and doctor interns, pledging to employ an additional 800 nurses and 60 doctors over four years.

Mr Carpenter said the extra nurses would cost more than $130 million over the next four years.

"We will back that up with a range of initiatives to help attract nurses and other staff into the public health system, and to make sure they stay," the premier said.

If re-elected, Labor would spend $1.1 billion for expanding Perth's public transport system, including a rail line to Ellenbrook and a new network of high frequency trains and buses.

The rail line to Ellenbrook could begin construction as early as 2012, with the 15-kilometre track expected to cost $850 million.

"We have a vision for a metropolitan public transport system that will save time, save money and help save the environment by reducing our reliance on cars," Mr Carpenter said.

Mr Barnett has pledged tax relief for small business, a secure and reliable natural gas supply for the South West and reforms in the public sector, including reducing red tape.

"To demonstrate this commitment to significant tax reform, a Liberal government will allocate a minimum of $250 million to tax cuts in its first term over and above the forward estimates," Mr Barnett said.

If elected, the Liberal Party would spend $225 million on a natural gas pipeline from Bunbury to Albany to fill "an obvious gap that remains in the provision of gas supplies to the people and business of the South West".

Mr Barnett has further promised to initiate comprehensive reforms to deliver a more efficient public sector with more streamlined processes and a major reduction in red tape.

Education is also high on the Liberal agenda, with a commitment of $120 million for improving teacher salaries over the current three-year agreement period, plus $490 million to build new schools and a further $169 million for school improvement projects.

"We believe teachers deserve better pay, better conditions and better career development opportunities than what is currently being offered to them by Labor," Mr Barnett said.

He said the Liberal Party would be open to deregulating trading hours and believed extended weekday trading could be achieved if it was introduced under a slow, careful transition.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA last week issued its election policy blueprint which sets out 10 priorities for the next state government.

CCIWA chief executive James Pearson said the key issues for the chamber included the state's continued labour shortage, issues with energy supplies following the Varanus Island gas incident, tax competitiveness, public sector reform, infrastructure development, retail trading hours, climate change, education, health and regulatory reform.

"The state's economy is almost twice the size it was at the start of the decade, almost 200,000 jobs have been created and record numbers of people are moving to the state," Mr Pearson said.

"Despite this current wealth, the state is faced with a number of significant challenges, which if not properly addressed, will restrict investment and business activity and limit WA's ability to grow to its full potential."

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA reiterated the chamber's calls for the next government to implement a long-term plan to develop greater infrastructure and energy security policies.

CMEWA chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said his main concerns were in the areas of water, people, energy and the need for a long-term vision.

Uranium mining is heating up as a key election issue, with the premier claiming the state would inevitably become a nuclear waste dump under pro-uranium Liberal policies.

This week, in response, Mr Barnett ridiculed Labor for its perceived thinking that nuclear waste was a by-product of uranium mining.

Labor has announced a legislative ban on uranium mining, a decision Mr Howard-Smith vehemently opposes.

The Australian Uranium Association has also aired its disappointment.

Association executive director Michael Angwin said: "Proceeding with a legislative prohibition on a commodity that is in considerable demand around the world would be a bewildering decision for a major resource economy like WA."

The Western Desert Lands Corporation, which holds native title rights and exclusive occupation of 136,000 square-kilometres of uranium-rich land within the central western desert region, said it was not opposed to uranium mining in principle.

But the corporation's chief executive, Clinton Wolf, said he was disappointed Mr Carpenter proposed the uranium ban without consultation with the Martu people, the traditional owners of the land.

"We strongly believe uranium mining could be an opportunity for our people to generate equity and commercial benefit and importantly play a part in the development of significant resources projects for this state," he said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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