Archive, Industry News

McCormack defers to states on ACCC report

Eyes turn to Victoria as infrastructure charges review looks to have bipartisan support


Pointed Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) advice to government on stevedore access charging on container haulage firms is still being digested politically.

But the analysis in Container stevedoring monitoring report 2017-18 that puts the ball in the state court, where regulatory control resides, resonates with federal transport minister Michael McCormack, despite intense industry lobbying for him to take the initiative.

“Primary responsibility for the establishment, operation and regulation of Australia’s ports rests with the states and territories, including the matter of stevedores’ infrastructure charges,” a spokesperson for McCormack, who points out that the ACCC is a responsibility of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, tells ATN.

“The Australian Government is committed to ensuring efficient port services at all Australian ports and working with all jurisdictions to this end.

“The recent changes in infrastructure charges may require a more detailed examination by state and territory governments.

“The Australian Government is working with governments and industry to ensure efficient port services and supply chain competitiveness across Australia.”

Read Michael McCormack’s views on the report from  March, here

A response is awaited from Frydenberg’s office.

Amongst the states ATN has contacted, New South Wales, which the report notes has explicit ministerial power over port-related charges, is the only one to respond formally.

“The NSW government is reviewing the ACCC report, and will continue to work with our importers and exporters and those involved in the freight supply chain to support their growth,” a spokesperson for freight minister Melinda Pavey says.

In election campaign-focused Victoria, where ports minister Luke Donnellan says the present government is looking accelerate its examination of port matters, that remains his message.

State Coalition ports spokesman David Hodgett is understood to be sympathetic to that approach and is quoted in The Age as saying the state government has lost control of port charges.

With Queensland parliament meeting this week, a government response should come from state Treasury, which has responsibility for the smaller ports, though it unclear if that will address issues at the Port of Brisbane, the lease of which is held privately.

The views on the report of Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman, who intervened publically on the issue recently, have been sought.

For container haulage and trade services operators, the ACCC report was about the best they could have hoped for, given its lack regulatory power to affect the issue.

“Container Transport Alliance Australia [CTAA], together with Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Australian Peak Shippers Association [APSA] and other organisations, have for some time now been calling of federal and state governments to review the overall costs being borne in the container logistics chain associated with container terminal operations,” CTAA director Neil Chambers says.

“The ACCC report has reinforced the view that the stevedores face little competitive pressure to constrain increases in landside infrastructure charges, and that this could see the charges increasing significantly over time, including to a point where they may exceed what is necessary for the stevedores to recover costs and earn an adequate rate of return. 

“On the other hand, cargo owners reportedly have not received the benefits of lower quayside stevedoring costs by way of reductions in terminal handling charges by shipping lines.

“So, who are the winners and losers, and are cargo owners paying for container terminal services twice?

“Governments should investigate these issues, and their overall impact on the productivity and viability of particularly vulnerable container trades such as lower margin commodity exports.

“We are pleased that ahead of the Victorian state election, the government has ‘brought forward’ a review, and we believe that the current state opposition parties will support a review if they form government in Victoria after the 24 November election. 

“That’s very welcome news, and now we call on the NSW, Queensland, and federal government to consider similar reviews.”

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) says the ACCC report reinforces its call for genuine landside improvements at the Port of Melbourne.

“A number of landside factors at the Port of Melbourne are restricting operators from achieving greater productivity and efficiency, including no choice of stevedore, vessel bunching, poor asset utilisation and prolonged waiting times for trucks,” VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

“We are working with the Victorian government, Freight Victoria and the Port of Melbourne on a strategy to deliver landside improvements road and rail freight operators desperately need to achieve productivity and efficiency gains to offset higher infrastructure charges.”

The VTA insists that while stevedores may be within their rights to increase charges as a response to higher business costs, they “owed it to operators to use proceeds to deliver real landside improvements”.

“We welcome the Victorian government’s announcement that it would bring forward a review into regulating pricing and charges, as a response to the most recent round of infrastructure charge hikes,” Anderson says.

“Ending these indiscriminate cost increases would be good for all Victorians, and we look forward to playing a leading role in a review that will hopefully give landside operators a fair go at the port.”


Previous ArticleNext Article
  1. Australian Truck Radio Listen Live
Send this to a friend