Fight over Port of Melbourne sale


State opposition says 'poison pill' clause will hand Melbourne’s shipping capital status to Sydney

Fight over Port of Melbourne sale
Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy worries about a a private monopoly.

 

The planned privatisation of the Port of Melbourne has become a political issue, with the state opposition declaring it won’t support enabling legislation in its current form.

It says the lease term being proposed – of 50 years with a possible 20 year extension – is too long, and the sale plan includes a "poison pill" clause that will prevent the state from investing in a second port at either Hastings or at Bay West.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy says the opposition would prefer to see a medium term lease, together with the development of a second container port.

"This was also [Premier] Daniel Andrews’ position before the [2014] election," he says.

"The only debate prior to the election was whether the next container port should be built at Hastings or Bay West."

Instead, he says the current proposal creates "a private monopoly" that will saddle Victorian trade with higher costs.

"This proposal will see Victoria lose its position as the freight and logistics capital of Australia with New South Wales likely to be the beneficiary."

Treasurer Tim Pallas says the government remains committed to both the sale of the port, and the eventual development of a second container port at Bay West.

"The things that we said before the last election are not negotiable," he told journalists today.

"We’ve got a mandate to move on this and we will."

He notes that the compensation clauses attached to the sale are both required and fair.

"If you don’t have a compensation regime of the order that is being proposed then the state will not be able to get the value it needs."

The Labor Party government has a majority in the Victorian lower house, but needs the support of six out of the 10 cross-benchers in the upper house to pass legislation opposed by the Liberal-National coalition.

That number includes five Greens Party parliamentarians who have also declared opposition to the port sale.

Pallas says he will work with the opposition on changes to the legislation, but is also prepared to use other means to force the sale through.

"We would prefer legislation but we don’t need it," he said.

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