The World Needs Stronger Leaders

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THERE is a protest movement taking place against governments around the world, observes Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett.

“You saw it with Brexit when the UK left the European Union, followed by the election of Mr Donald Trump in the US. People feel less secure with jobs and finances. As many in the US have found out, the American dream is not for everyone.

“Life is tough. And being in government around the world is getting more and more difficult,” he adds.

“Many countries are seeing changes in government. The world is going to need stronger leaders who can stand up and do what they consider the right thing,” Mr Barnett reckons.

Back home, Mr Barnett, who has been in office since 2008, is facing challenges to some of his government’s policies. “We are building a major road (the Roe 8 heavy haulage road that runs through Perth’s suburb) and we are facing legal challenges and environmental protests. That’s democracy, but it just means government is harder.

Social media, while spreading sentiment quickly, is also a useful tool, reckons Mr Barnett, who will be using it for the upcoming election in March, when he will be vying for a third term.

“Social media allows people to get out a direct message, rather than being reinterpreted by someone else.”

However, he’s quick to “rubbish” the accuracy of opinion polls, which have not put him in a favourable light of late.

“People don’t answer honestly. They will answer to what the questioner asks,” he points out.

Getting On With Things

“I think it’s easy for people to frustrate government’s processes. A lot of people look to government to make a decision and get on with it. You have to move with the times and move on.

“Singapore has a reputation of making decisions and getting along with it.”

Mr Barnett was in Singapore for the launch of Western Australia Worth Sharing (WAWS) a business-to-business platform for the state’s agricultural exports, on Tuesday.

WAWS (westernaustraliaworthsharing.sg) is a business-to-business platform that showcases the quality of the state’s natural produce and encourages more business activity in its $8 billion agricultural industries.

“Singapore is a highly sophisticated market and one of the culinary capitals of the world. It is also one of our closest trading partners. We want to share this food chain. We invite Singapore investment into WA for production, and we encourage WA businesses to come to Singapore for processing, distribution and marketing,” he explains.

Mr Barnett wants to build on a longstanding relationship between Singapore and WA. “Since the 1970s, there have been a lot of links between Singapore and Perth. There’s always been that proximity and familiarity,” he says.

Lots Of Land

WA is the size of Europe, and there are only eight countries with larger land area than the state. About 30% of WA is arable land, but with irrigation technology, that may open up new farming methods.

“Sandalwood cultivation is maturing now. It takes 15 years to reach production levels and we are now able to export to India and China,” Mr Barnett says. The state is known for its Margaret River wines, but as well a $1 billion rock lobster industry along with the production of Wagyu beef, abalone and truffles.

Over the decades, the state’s mining and petroleum industry has been leading the way. This $90 billion industry will be boosted by the state’s production of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

WA is expecting to more than double its production to 50 million tonnes next year, making it one of the world’s largest exporters of LNG, and this flows well into Singapore’s plan to become the LNG hub for the region.

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