Container freight secrets – Newcastle Herald

By MICHELLE HARRIS State

THE state government has revealed ‘‘commitment deeds’’ signed along with leases that set out container arrangements for the state’s privatised ports, but is refusing to say whether a charge or cap on containers moved through the Port of Newcastle is also included.

Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian told Parliament this week the ports are ‘‘not prevented from competing for handling of containers’’, despite Roads and Freight Minister Duncan Gay saying in 2013 that ‘‘the government has been clear on this . . . that part of the lease and the rationalisation was a cap on numbers there [Newcastle]’’.

A container terminal has long been mooted for the former BHP site at Mayfield. It was a former Labor government policy aimed at diversifying the coal-dominated port.

But an Anglo Ports consortium $600 million terminal proposal was abandoned amid lobbying by Nathan Tinkler’s development company Buildev for a coal loader on the site instead.

Anglo Ports’ negotiations with the Coalition government collapsed when the port was offered for lease.

Since then, the government has refused to give details of restrictions on containers moved through Newcastle rather than Port Botany and Port Kembla.

Asked by the Greens how many containers had to be moved through the two other ports before more were allowed through Newcastle without a fee, Ms Berejiklian said: ‘‘The details of the Port Commitment Deeds are commercial in confidence.’’

She referred seven other questions to Mr Gay, who late last year referred similar questions to then-treasurer Andrew Constance, who sent them back for him to answer.

Greens NSW MP Mehreen Faruqi MLC: ‘‘An integral part of getting freight off our roads is diversifying ports.

‘‘It would be deeply concerning if … the government is trying to hide deals done behind closed doors to artificially constrain freight.’’