Port of Newcastle Bill
13th October 2022
I have today introduced the Port of Newcastle (Extinguishment of Liability) Bill to the NSW Parliament with a very clear intent.
The potential of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the broader Hunter Region should not be held back by questionable privatisation deals which put the interests of Sydney ahead of us.
When the previous Coalition Government sold our public ports in 2013-14, it did so with dollar signs in its eyes and little regard for the long-term impacts it would have not just on the Hunter, but all of NSW north of the Hawkesbury.
While lucrative for the Government’s accounts, the details of those deals were frankly appalling. They essentially delivered the operator of Port Botany and Port Kembla a monopoly on container trade. They were designed to lock Newcastle out of diversifying into containers by placing a financial penalty on any container shipped into or out of Newcastle (over a certain cap). That penalty would be collected by the Government and given directly to Botany and Kembla as compensation.
It was a bad deal, and one the ACCC described as “inherently anti-competitive”. Further, the Productivity Commission recently found that current inefficiencies in the State’s ports are already costing us more than $300m a year.
I’m not going to sit back any longer and see our region penalised for the next 43 years at a time when we need to diversify our industries and create thousands of new jobs.
My bill does one thing. It removes the penalty clause from the deeds so Port Of Newcastle can proceed with plans to diversify into containers on a level playing field with Botany and Kembla.
Port of Newcastle and private investors are ready to pump billions of dollars into our region, improving logistics for our State’s crippled freight transport networks and creating new industry and new jobs. I’m not going to watch that investment disappear.
I don’t shy away from the fact that the Government will need to compensate Botany and Kembla if my bill is successful. My bill leaves that negotiation to the government’s discretion because there are a number of options available, and some of those will not cost taxpayers a cent.
More importantly, it must be remembered that it will cost taxpayers, our primary producers, exporters and regional NSW far more to stay in that deal for the next 43 years than it will to get out of it now.