Monday, May 24, 2010

Travels in WA

Work took me to Perth the week before last. An item today about the foundation of the "WA First" party reminded me of my conversation with a cab driver.

The cabbie looked at me and asked me as a businessma from the East whether WA wouldn't be etter at going it on its own. I suggested the cabbie think of two things.

The first was defence. WA on its own could not maintain a defence force of the scale and capability necessary to defend WA. The assets and focus of domestic defence continue to be focussed on the North of the country.

he second is the importance of foreign affairs and trade in developing the global environment in which Australia's resource industries trade. As a simple primary produce exporting entity WA would not have nearly the same clout as Australia - which despite being "small" is still about the world's sixteenth largest economy (about because movements in GDP and exchange rates make it hard to measure definitively).

I understand that the WA First thrust is about a "better share" for WA. But that tends to be measured only in transfer payments and actually WA has historically done very very well in the transfer payments field.

It is perhaps unsurprising that WA still harbours these tendencies while the rest of the country just wants to abolish State governments. WA and Perth are a long way from anywhere.

I have a vision for a new set of nation building projects that would help break down some of these issues. The first is a new electricity Transmission line from East to West through the very centre - apart from linking the grids this line could be used to make the geothermal power projects in the centre viable. The same infrastructure could provide a fibre backbone to hook up most of the copmmunities served by radio links.

The second is a national freight rail network - from Melbourne through Parkes, in land Queensland, then to Darwin. From Darwin you come across to Port Hedaland then down to Perth. Dual track fully computerised and electrified using alternative generation sources across the whole route. Sydney and Brisbane are linked with spur lines. Darwin is converted to a port to rival Singapore.

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