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Perth has doubled its population to 2 million in the last 30 years, but it hasn’t changed much. The same old families still rule the roost and anyone from across the Nullarbor Plain is known as an ‘Eastern Stater’ or ‘someone from over there.’
The propagandists for the recently defunct Liberal government will say it was a matter of ‘time,’ as in Gough Whitlam’s ‘It’s Time’ campaign of 1972. This is not true. It was a matter of the monumental stupidity of the government.
I worked in mineral exploration during the last mining boom in WA in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Then it was mainly nickel the explorers sought. This time it was mainly, though not entirely, iron ore. This time, the resource was already there, thanks to the foresight of Sir Charles Court, former Liberal Premier of WA. They just had to dig up the rocks and put the iron ore on a ship to China. For years, the iron ore mines were marginal propositions supplying mainly the Japanese market. When the China boom began, the miners, mainly BHP and Rio, and later Fortescue, were ready.
Now, I wish to make this clear. The iron ore boom was the most stupendous boom in a century. WA had seen nothing like it since the gold rush at the turn of the 20th century. With the assurance of riches never seen before, Colin Barnett’s government began a massive spending spree: new hospitals (plural), a new football stadium, which neither the Dockers nor the Eagles has as yet called ‘home’ and Elizabeth Quay. Elizabeth Quay scaled new heights of idiocy. Contractors dug a huge hole in the Esplanade, on the Swan River, and eventually, after years of effort, filled it with water. The net result? More passengers take the ferry to South Perth. Not really worth