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The New South Wales Greens have accused the state government of trying to cover up a deal to cap the number of container movements through the Port of Newcastle.
Greens MP John Kaye said questions have been put to the Roads and Freight Minister Duncan Gay and the Treasurer Andrew Constance about the size of the cap and what compensation would be paid if the cap is exceeded.
Dr Kaye said both MPs have dodged the question, referring the matter back to each other.
“Duncan Gay and the Treasurer Andrew Constance are playing pass the parcel,” he said.
“They’re refusing to own up to the awful truth that they have put a cap on container movements through the Port of Newcastle and punitive compensation if that cap is exceeded.”
He said it raises serious concerns about how Newcastle’s port has been locked into a future reliant on coal exports.
“What they have done is in effect put a limit on the economic future of the Hunter and they’re refusing to take responsibility for it.
“This was all about fattening up the sale of Port Botany.
“The people of the Hunter have been sacrificed in order to get a maximum return by giving Botany an effective monopoly over container movements.
“That might have helped the budget bottom line, but it’s a disaster for the future of the Hunter.
“It looks like for 98 years, the port of Newcastle will be restricted to dangerous and dirty good, the clean, exciting goods, the container goods will go through Sydney.
“Newcastle will be left with coal and explosives.”
The Treasurer has denied there is any deal to prohibit development of a container terminal in Newcastle, but did not comment specifically on the issue of a cap.
A spokesman for Andrew Constance said the transaction arrangements for Port Botany and Kembla and the Port of Newcastle reflect the government’s Freight and Ports Strategy, that Port Kembla should be the State’s next container terminal once Port Botany reaches capacity.
“This strategy recognises that Port Botany has significant capacity for container growth; most containers travel within a relatively short distance of Port Botany; future demand for containers is expected to occur in the South West of Sydney and
thereby closer to Port Kembla than Newcastle; and the landside infrastructure costs to support a major container facility at Newcastle are higher than for Port Kembla,” he said.
“The arrangements do not prohibit the development of a container terminal at the Port of Newcastle and enable the growth of container volumes through Newcastle servicing that region.
“The Government’s transaction team engaged extensively with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regarding the competition and regulatory framework, including the container arrangements.”