Today Abigail supported a motion to reveal the NSW Liberal-National Government's secret privatisation deal with the Newcastle Port which are restricting development and having adverse economic affects on workers in the Upper Hunter.
In supporting the motion, Abigail said (11:44):
On behalf of The Greens, I support the motion moved by the Hon. John Graham. The current arrangements at the Port of Newcastle restrict development and diversification for both the port and the region. The conditions are effectively a protection racket which extracts prohibitive tariffs from users of the Port of Newcastle and pays them to the owners of Port Botany. It was a terrible decision on the part of the Government in 2013, and The Greens agree that it must now be overturned to allow for transition and diversification in the upper Hunter. The upper Hunter is ready to transition away from coal export. Global coal markets have been falling since 2013 and are now stagnant. Workers and their communities know that they must transition and they expect their governments to take all necessary actions to support that.
According to the former dean of UTS Business School, Professor Ray Green, manufacturing and industry in the Hunter are becoming more diverse and smaller in scale with highly globalised markets. A more diverse port with a functional and viable container terminal is required to facilitate imports and exports for those markets. A terminal is also essential for agriculture exports, a key component of the upper Hunter economy. It will create 9,500 jobs according to Lock the Gate and $6 billion in economic stimulus according to a 2019 AlphaBeta study. Mining industry workers are ready to transfer their skills to transport, warehousing and manufacturing. The earlier we assist with that transition, the more just and equitable it will be.
The current arrangements at the Port of Newcastle increase costs for business, put more freight on our already congested roads and put a handbrake on the upper Hunter economy, all to ensure a monopoly on container freight for NSW Ports and its investors. The effect of the deal is to double the cost of freight out of Newcastle. Newcastle basically has to pay Botany $1 million per ship if three or more container ships leave Newcastle in a single year. I note that there seems to be some contrary information coming from the Government in relation to that. When it says there is a cap but there is not a prohibition, is the Government implying that the cap only becomes a prohibition in certain circumstances or that there is not actually a cap which can act as a prohibition? It feels like the Government is playing with semantics. It is not the role of government to prop up one port at the expense of another nor to prevent diversification of infrastructure required by communities. The Greens condemn any privatisation that needs secret deals or protection rackets. Those deals must be exposed and overturned.
To see the full debate, visit Hansard here.