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Charles Court and Colin Barnett were intensely
interested in the resources sector – the seventies
from which they emerged saw the continuation
of the mining boom in the Pilbara, while the
turn of this century brought the LNG boom.
Charles Court laid the foundation for the
LNG project to get underway, and Colin Barnett
has tried to build on that legacy. He’s had some
successes; he’s had some disappointments. One
disappointment would be not getting the James
Price Point hub off the ground. Another would
be not getting the Oakajee Port development
off the ground to export from the mid-west. But
those projects are still on the drawing board.
He’s still working on it. Overall, I think Barnett
has managed the state’s economy quite well,
particularly in his first term. Services have
expanded – for instance, the state hospital
system is being rebuilt. That’s very important.
Another area to consider is the reshaping
of the city. Railways being sunk, the Elizabeth
Quay project is going ahead – major changes.
I suppose you could say that through the LNG
boom, the face of Perth changed. By way of an
example: one of the big tenants of the Elizabeth
Quay project will be Chevron. A big oil and gas
company, coming to Western Australia to invest
in Barrow Island, with its head office in Elizabeth
Quay... the boom is changing the face of the city.
While there’s growth, the congestion issue will
be a challenge, but these things can be overcome.
If Mr Barnett can lay the groundwork for
resolving it through roads and the rail network,
that’s what his legacy will be. He will be someone
who presided over modernising the city to better
suit the first part of the 21st century. Some people
don’t like that, but I think that’s something you
get used to, and a wealthy, confident state can be
epitomised by its capital city. As a result of these
changes, I think Perth will continue to be
a modern, go-ahead, easy-to-get-around city.
The next premier needs to be able to handle
the situation he or she inherits. It won’t be huge
investments or setting up LNG projects, as it has
been for the last ten years. It’ll be managing the
exports and income generated by that LNG.
The important thing for the next government
is to harness that wealth, and make sure there
are permanent benefits for West Australians.
Investments in public facilities; developing new
industries, such as knowledge-based industries,
or technology-based industries, that will provide
good, well-paid jobs for young West Australians.
Up until a few weeks ago, I thought Troy
Buswell would be our next premier. He won’t be.
It’s possible Labor could win the election, but the
disastrous result in the Senate by-election won’t
help their chances. On the Liberal side, I think
they’d look very closely at the member for Alfred
Cove, Dean Nalder. And Liza Harvey, possibly,
and Albert Jacob. But at this stage it’s unclear.
Whoever it is, they’ve got to have a vision for
Western Australia. Charles Court was good at
that. He’s been dead for a number of years now
but his legacy and vision – creating well-paid
jobs for lots of people – remains.
So whether it’s Colin Barnett or Mark
McGowan, Dean Nalder, Sean L’Estrange or Ben
Wyatt, the next premier has got to get a vision of
where WA might be in ten, twenty years. Where
the jobs will be. How we relate to our region.
We are a very wealthy little community on the
edge of Australia, a very wealthy little country.
We’ve got to make the best of the luck we’ve had
and provide some insurance for the future. The
people with the energy and the enthusiasm, who
are prepared to take chances – let them do it. Let
them provide safeguards, but not stand in the way
of people with energy and enthusiasm and ideas.
The worst thing will be is if, with all these
benefits and comforts, we don’t do it. But
I’m optimistic. And that’s what government
must do – reflect that
optimism, and provide
the framework and support
for these people to do
That’s the real challenge
for government. S
Tales from Boomtown
by Peter Kennedy, UWA
“The next premier has got to get a vision of
where WA might be in ten, twenty years...”
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