THE ACCC declaration of Newcastle’s channels under the Competition and Consumer Act was effectively overturned last week when Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg chose not to intervene before the expiry of a 60-day consideration of the National Competition Council’s July revocation decision.
The activation of the revocation is the latest step in a long-running saga that began with commodities giant Glencore challenging Port of Newcastle, the privately-owned 99-year leaseholder, over a 2014 decision to lift shipping channel user fees by 60%. The matter has since been back and forth between PoN, the company, the NCC, ACCC, Australian Competition Tribunal and the High Court.
The ending of short-lived ACCC regulation yesterday prompted Commission chairman Rod Sims to characterise PoN as a “monopolist without constraint” and propose legislative amendments that would extend regulation to transport/infrastructure monopolies, such as port companies.
PoN has welcomed the NCC’s revocation, saying the Council had undertaken a thorough legal and economic analysis and found that there was no case for channel services at the port to continue to be regulated under the national access regime.
“PoN agrees with the NCC’s view and we remain focused on operating the largest port on the East Coast of Australia as an efficient global trade gateway contributing more than $1.6 billion to the Lower Hunter economy and 9,000 local jobs per annum,” a spokesperson said.
“In relation to Mr Sims’ address at the Australasian Transport Research Forum [yesterday], PoN agrees with his comments with respect to the appropriateness of a light-handed approach to economic regulation of airports, and believes there are considerable parallels with maritime ports, with which airports share many of the same infrastructure and service attributes.
“Economic regulation of similar infrastructure assets should be consistent.”