Statutory authorities dancing with enterprise: WA Inc., the Western Australian Tourism Commission and the ‘Global Dance Affair’

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Jenkins, JM & Stolk, P 2003, 'Statutory authorities dancing with enterprise: WA Inc., the Western Australian Tourism Commission and the ‘Global Dance Affair’', Annals of Leisure Research, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 222-244.

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Since the late 1970s, statutory corporations have become very familiar and significant features of Australia’s tourism political economy. Through a case study of the ‘Global Dance Affair’ in Western Australia (WA), this paper critically examines several dimensions of the functions, structures and operations of the Western Australian Tourism Commission (WATC). Particular attention is directed to the relationships between business and government, the confusion surrounding precisely who is responsible for the actions and performance of tourism statutory corporations, and the wider socio-political settings within which statutory corporations operate. Using a range of sources including texts, government documents, parliamentary debates and the media, we find that the lobal Dance ‘Affair’ involved a complex web of networks and alliances, including a statutory corporation (the WATC and its Eventscorp arm), the Premier and other Ministers, bureaucrats and private sector individuals and agencies. Numerous problems are revealed, including: public servants’ confusion as to what did and did not amount to ministerial direction; the number and nature of portfolios held by a single minister, in this case the Premier; inadequate evaluation of event-based proposals presented to the WATC; WATC commissioners lacking a background or qualifications in tourism; and misuse of public monies. The WATC has reflected broader WA State government ideology and has been a very important conduit for business interests to influence government policy and action, but the case study raises serious questions concerning its governance and accountability.