By DONNA PAGE
May 1, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
A ‘‘DIRTY tricks’’ campaign to promote Nathan Tinkler’s failed coal-loader bid cost Newcastle the chance at a $600million container terminal development, a supporter of the proposal said yesterday.
Canberra-based public affairs analyst Greg Cameron said he found it ‘‘astonishing’’ that forces within the former Labor government were working against the proposal because they thought there was more money to be made from a coal-loader on the former steelworks site.
Mr Cameron was speaking after hearing evidence given at the ICAC yesterday where it was alleged former Labor member for Newcastle Jodi McKay was undermined by her colleague Joe Tripodi and the Tinkler Group because of her support for the container terminal.
‘‘It’s hard to believe that for some people the purpose of the exercise was to destroy the container terminal proposal so it could be used for coal,’’ he said.
‘‘Being honest you sort of get blindsided by these things, I never thought of it that way. It’s a terrible shame for the region, which has lost a great opportunity.’’
Mr Cameron, a former BHP manager, was involved with the original plan for a container terminal on the former Newcastle steelworks site, which was first proposed in the mid-1990s.
The Newcastle container terminal was a key part of Labor’s port planning a decade ago but enthusiasm has waned since then, with both Labor and Coalition state governments approving further expansions of the Botany container terminal.
Mr Cameron still supports the Newcastle container plan, which he says would provide a big boost to the city while freeing valuable port-side land at Botany.
‘‘Not having a container terminal has stunted 20 years of manufacturing growth for the region, it can only be described as a catastrophe,’’ he said. ‘‘Investment does not occur for manufacturing for export unless there is fast, efficient world-class container terminal access.’’