Foley rues missed port chances – Newcastle Herald

By MICHELLE HARRIS

THE Baird government ‘‘turned its back’’ on the opportunity to create competition when privatising the state’s ports, wiping out potential investment in Newcastle in favour of protecting Port Botany, Labor leader Luke Foley told the shipping industry.

In a speech to Shipping Australia on Friday, Mr Foley described restrictions on the establishment of a container terminal at Newcastle as ‘‘appalling’’ and ‘‘dreadful market rigging’’.

He reiterated he was ‘‘relaxed’’ about the ports being privatised, but not the way the government had structured the deal to limit competition.

Port Botany and Port Kembla should not have been leased to the same party for 99 years, when they could have been made to compete for the Sydney market.

‘‘But the Baird government turned its back on this opportunity,’’ Mr Foley said.

‘‘It is an opportunity that has now been lost for the rest of this century and beyond.’’

As well, the government’s restriction on the movement of containers through Newcastle ‘‘removes the threat of competition from Port Botany and wipes out an opportunity for investment and economic development in Newcastle’’.

‘‘Worse still, the government refuses to disclose what the trigger number of container movements is,’’ Mr Foley said.

‘‘Nor will the government disclose what the restrictions at Newcastle actually are. My question is, if this is such a good deal for the public and industry, why the secrecy?’’

Freight and Maritime minister Duncan Gay told Parliament in 2013 of a ‘‘cap on numbers’’ at Newcastle.

But this week, he told Parliament ‘‘there is no legislated container cap at Port of Newcastle’’.

Mr Foley said a Labor government would publicly disclose the lease or sale contract for any future asset privatisation within 60 days of a contract’s execution.