NSW committee to examine Newcastle port lease sale

By: Rob McKay


Legislative Council probe on impact of sale arrangements on public works expenditure

NSW committee to examine Newcastle port lease sale
The Newcastle port entrance

 

The New South Wales Parliament’s upper house has instituted a Public Works Committee inquiry into the Port of Newcastle lease sale.

The 2014 sale, which garnered $1.75 billion for the state, has been described as an opaque not least because the state government allegedly hid a cap on its ability to freely handle containers above which it would face a surcharge that would fund compensation to the leaseholders of Port Botany and Port Kembla.

'The committee will be looking into the extent that current limitations on container port operations contribute to increased pressure on transport and freight infrastructure in New South Wales," Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF) Party member and committee chair Robert Brown says.

"The nature and status of the port commitment deeds will also be examined, as well as to what extent container port limitations contribute to additional costs for industries who are importing or exporting from New South Wales."

The situation is already the subject of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) examination on whether it contravened federal competition laws.


Read how the ACCC was set to look into the port’s lease sale earlier this year, here


The committee expects to hold one public hearing in late January and to table its report by the end of February.

Submissions will close on January 6.

The terms of reference includes examination of:

  • The extent to which limitations on container port operations currently in place following the sale of the Port of Newcastle contribute to increased pressure for transport and freight infrastructure in New South Wales, specifically: (i) the Westconnex Gateway project; (ii) the Port Botany Rail Line duplication; (iii) intermodal terminals and rail road connections in southwest and western        Sydney; (iv) other additional public road infrastructure requirements due to the additional road freight movements in Sydney under the existing port strategy
  • The nature and status of the port commitment deeds, the extent to which they contain limitations on container port movements, and the terms and binding nature of any such commitments
  • The extent to which container port limitations contribute to additional costs for NSW industries who are importing or exporting from New South Wales, especially in the Port of Newcastle catchment
  • Any other related matters.

Along with the SFF’s Brown, the committee membership includes two Liberals one National, two from Labor and one Green.

Under its present lease-owners, the port has been keen to diversify its income base, which is focused mainly on coal exports.

"We welcome the opportunity to discuss the significant economic benefits of building a world-class container terminal here in Newcastle," a port spokesperson tells ATN.

"This isn’t just about Newcastle, or even regional NSW – it’s about Australia’s competitiveness in a global market where container ships are getting bigger.

 "Containerisation is booming around the world. At a time when Australia risks being left behind, Newcastle is uniquely placed as a deepwater port with mature road and rail connections to handle the ships now managing much of the task"

 

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