Nahan pitches port privatisation deal to WA farmers


The privatisation deal could see Fremantle's inner harbour triple in capacity

Nahan pitches port privatisation deal to WA farmers
WA farmers have expressed doubts that the privatisation of the port is in the best interest of a competitive market.

 

Western Australian treasurer Mike Nahan’s attempt to woo the farming community with the Fremantle port privatisation plan during his visit to Northam, a town 100km north-east of Perth, has been rejected by the Nationals.

While Nahan remains hopeful that he can convince WA farmers of the positive impact of the privatisation deal, the opposition has other views.

"I’m confident I can convince not just the various farmers’ groups but the individual farmers and people in regional areas to promote our cause and convince our [Nationals]colleagues to change their mind and support the sale," Nahan says.

"When you have appropriate policy, you have to pursue it."

The privatisation deal could see Fremantle's inner harbour triple in capacity to over two million containers a year.

However, the farmers have expressed doubts that the privatisation of the port is in the best interest of a competitive market.

In a submission made to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Western Australian Farmers Federation states that the proposed sale could lead to increasing competition in the market.

The submission notes that a potential change within the WA infrastructure ownership, particularly the privatisation of Fremantle Port, has led to a growing concern around the long-term ownership of Asciano.

If the farming community is convinced of the move, it could put pressure on the Nationals to support the deal.

Earlier this year, the opposition had announced that it would not support the government’s plan to privatise the port.

Nahan says the deal would be structured to unlock investment in the Passenger Terminal, and up to $200 million of the sale proceeds would be spent on new live export facility at Kwinana.

He assures the farmers that the deal would not result in significant increases in prices elsewhere and existing contracts would be honoured.

The new owner of the port will be monitored by the Economic Regulation Authority and be required to offer equitable access to all customers.

The treasurer rejected the proposal suggesting moving the container traffic in the inner harbour to Kwinana, terming them "flawed" and "economically irresponsible".

He says Fremantle had the potential to grow for at least 25 years and a move to Kwinana before Fremantle went to full capacity would add costs to port users, customers and the economy.

Shadow ports minister Bill Johnston says he does not agree with Nahan’s view, adding that the deal would result in "hundreds of thousands more trucks" on Leach Highway and heading north through Cottesloe.

"You cannot use the outer harbour as an overflow port, it has to have a significant volume of demand before it can work," Johnston says.

"Everybody in the industry knows that.

"Everybody who comes to see me, whether its infrastructure specialists, port specialists or exporters, says the same thing."

The ACCC had earlier called for submissions to review the Asciano takeover bid.

The result of the review will be revealed by May 26.

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