Use Melbourne port lease cash wisely: freight industry

VTA and ALC call on Victorian politicians to aim new funds at transport infrastructure

Use Melbourne port lease cash wisely: freight industry
Port of Melbourne

Industry bodies the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) want proceeds from what appears to be the certain leasing of the Port of Melbourne to be injected carefully into transport infrastructure.

Treasurer Michael O’Brien has announced a scoping study on the project, to be released before the next State Budget.

The Victorian Coalition has joined the opposition state ALP in pledging to free up funds, though its list of project diverges from the ALP’s.

The main areas are: a 30 year lease and accelerated decommissioning of the present port, as opposed to Labor’s 99 years; some freed spending for the East West Link that Labor says it opposes, preferring Westgate Freeway ramps to the present port and level crossing removal; the deepwater Port of Hastings to eventually become the main Victorian container port, while Labor is eyeing Bay West, near Geelong.

"Our message is that the windfall revenues from the sale need to be invested wisely in infrastructure projects which benefit importers, exporters and the freight industry servicing the expanding port freight task," VTA CEO Neil Chambers says. 

"This includes appropriate road and rail infrastructure investments, including the full completion of the second crossing of the Yarra, being the East West Link from the east right through to the Western Ring Road (M80)."

For its part, the ALC points the Coalition to the New South Wales experience as a template for freed-up funds.

"Ensuring the funds are hypothecated to future infrastructure projects and not lost to consolidated revenue is needed to improve the productivity and efficiency of the freight logistics network," ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff says.

"It also helps to engender greater community support for what is inevitably a tough political decision, but one which is in the best interests of the state.

"In this regard, we encourage the Government to follow the lead of the NSW Government, which is directing a bulk of the funds raised from the long term lease of Port Botany and Port Kembla to Restart NSW for future infrastructure projects, such as West Connex,"

Kilgariff says a potential option open to the Victorian Government was to offer the Port of Melbourne and Port of Hastings to the market together.

"That way, the interaction between Port of Melbourne and Hastings could be managed over the longer term to ensure capacity remains at appropriate levels, he adds.

"Incorporating a common user terminal at Lyndhurst would also have obvious commercial benefits and may be very attractive to investors."

The development comes at a good time for both organisations, with the VTA hosting Ports Minister David Hodgett at its industry luncheon on March 19 and the ALC discussing recycling assets at its Forum 2014 on March 19-20.

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