SIR,

The CBFCA welcomes recent action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on the subject of stevedores’ contract terms. CBFCA directors and management have had meetings and ongoing dealings with ACCC representatives on the issue of forced land based processes and charges during the past two years.

The CBFCA contributed to specific content in relation to ACCC’s 2017-2018 Stevedore Monitoring Report, publicly covered at the CBFCA 2018 Annual Conference. The CBFCA has been addressing these issues nationally with the ACCC and at a state level with respective state governments.

This process involved a strategic approach via CBFCA representation on industry committees, the ongoing provision of evidence of any detection of anti-competitive business practices that have a detrimental effect on our members and the engagement of industry expert legal support from the likes of lawyer Andrew Hudson to assist with our dealings with state governments in the areas of port access and terminal charges.

It is important to note the ACCC has been able to obtain appropriate leverage against what is now formally recognised as unfair contracts, under Australian Consumer Law. These contracts are terms forced on domestic industry operators who have had to accept them in order to gain access to port facilities and have been unwillingly “accepted” without any rights of negotiation from the “user”, who is in fact a paying “customer”.

This now opens the door for state governments to instruct their consumer protection agencies to review individual port and land based charges that are unique to each stevedore terminal in each port, while continuing to assess action against the infrastructure levy impost per full container that has been out of control and which will now require at least more notice and justification for any increases.

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The ball now lies squarely at each respective state government to pursue the abolishment of the infrastructure levy surcharge at each affected port. Victoria has made some progress, through the bringing forward of the Port Access and Charges review for Melbourne, with Andrew Hudson and our chairman Bruce Begley already having progressed meetings and a clear position stated on behalf of members.

The New South Wales and Queensland state governments have so far failed to act in any effective manner that deals with these issues. Not all of the CBFCA’s work and progress in these areas will be announced in the industry media, as that is not always appropriate. It is important to note no one individual organisation can claim credit for this current development and there is still a long way to go in this battle. This is a battle to which the CBFCA is committed, not only for its members but also in the interests of the wider Australian based logistics industry as a whole.

Scott Carson
Commercial Manager,
CBFCA

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