Port coalition urges privatisation rethink


Shippers, stevedores and freight owners offer united front against the current Port of Melbourne lease plan

Port coalition urges privatisation rethink
Port users are lining up against the legislation enabling the privatisation of Melbourne's port

 

A coalition of port using organisations is urging the Victorian government to amend its legislation enabling the privatisation of the Port of Melbourne.

The formal coalition includes stevedores, shipping companies, and freight owners. It says it is broadly in favour of the privatisation, but says port users need greater legislative protection against excessive price rises from the monopoly service.

"Even if short-term rental increase issues are resolved with the Port of Melbourne Corporation, the draft legislation falls short of effective regulation, creating uncertainty and putting at risk future investment and trade volumes through the port," coalition spokesman Rod Nairn says.

"The legislation as drafted will fail to deliver outcomes that will improve port efficiency, port services or support the competitiveness of Victoria’s supply chain over the long-term."

The state parliament begins its next formal sitting on Tuesday, with the port privatisation high on its agenda. But the coalition is hoping for a more considered approach – with a parliamentary inquiry first examining the parameters closely.

Nairn says the government also needs to consider factors not already included in the legislation.

It should establish effective regulation for the full term of the proposed lease, not just the first 15 years.

The coalition also hopes the government can better explain the circumstances that will allow the lease holder to introduce new charges, and the potential for vertical integration at the port.

"We are also concerned that the current draft appears to try to remove Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) scrutiny for any transaction," Nairn says.

"The Victorian government can resolve these issues by including a mandatory requirement for the privatised owner to submit a voluntary access undertaking to the ACCC prior to the sale being completed."

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