Push for Western Trade Coast to be a Special Economic Zone debated

 Kim Dravnieks, of the Western Harbours Alliance, Professor Peter Newman of Curtin University, Cameron Edwards, of Infranomics, and Colleen Yates, of Redevelopment Australia Perth.
Kim Dravnieks, of the Western Harbours Alliance, Professor Peter Newman of Curtin University, Cameron Edwards, of Infranomics, and Colleen Yates, of Redevelopment Australia Perth.

FULLBRIGHT Fellowship recipient Caitlin Cain attracted some criticism for suggesting the Western Trade Coast become a Special Economic Zone.

Ms Cain was in Perth from the US for 42 days to prepare a report on the way forward for the WTC, sponsored by the Western Harbours Alliance and Curtin University.

The report was released at a breakfast organised by the Alliance, where Ms Cain said the WTC must become globally competitive and address local unemployment.

She suggested a Special Economic Zone, or single entity model, would provide one front door for investors.

There are 4500 SEZ’s globally with none in Australia.

But Westport Taskforce independent chair Nicole Lockwood challenged Ms Cain’s terminology, and many interviewees for the report also suggested the terminology should be changed.

Westport Taskforce chairwoman Nicole Lockwood.

Australia has no Special Economic Zones because special taxation – the usual premise of a Special Economic Zone – is not permitted under the Constitution.

In response to Ms Lockwood, Ms Cain said she was talking about applying SEZ as a business management model, without the taxation element.

Ms Lockwood did agree that streamlined management was needed, and she mentioned the work Westport was now doing in partnership with local governments in relation to port expansions.

Up to $50,000 of ratepayers money is paying for this governance work via the South West Group which represents six south metropolitan councils.

Westport Taskforce Events

On April 4, Kwinana Industries Council Chris Oughton told the Kwinana Courier the KIC had also called for an SEZ, complying with State and Federal laws, in 2017.

“The use of the term SEZ aligns with international terminology – in Kwinana’s case it would say to the businesses of the world that a SEZ exists here in WA, and the international community would recognise this.”

“It is the international community that we would want to attract to the Kwinana Industrial Area, so we need to speak their language.”

Ms Cain said Australia was lagging behind and WA unemployment was 6.6 percent, going up to 9 per cent within the Western Trade Coast.

She described the WTC as “a true gem” and said now was the time to capitalise on it, with “lithium the new steel”.

Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams asked Ms Cain the response to the report from those higher up in government, and Ms Cain said there was a common thread – awareness that something needs to happen.

To view the report, visit Western Harbours Alliance.