“PORT of Newcastle is of course disappointed by the decision of the Federal Court,” the port’s CEO, Craig Carmody said.
The Federal Court found against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Port of Newcastle on 29 June in a case over the legality of port sale deals between New South Wales, NSW Ports and Port of Newcastle.
The reasons for the decision were released on Tuesday. In her decision, Justice Jagot wrote Newcastle’s plans for a container terminal were “mere speculative hopes”.
Mr Carmody said, “This decision is a blow, not just for Port of Newcastle and its commitment to diversification, but to the wider Hunter and NSW regions, its hardworking suppliers and small businesses who are being stopped from benefiting financially and competitively from a container terminal in Newcastle.
“This setback does not alter Port of Newcastle’s desire to build a container terminal, nor our confidence that a container terminal at the Port is a diversification opportunity the Port, Newcastle and the Hunter Region needs.”
Mr Carmody said any suggestion Port of Newcastle wouldn’t proceed to building the container terminal if the restrictions were lifted are “baseless and misleading”.
“Port of Newcastle maintains its real-world view that a container terminal is entirely viable – and necessary – at the port,” he said.
“The judgment clearly accepts that Port of Newcastle has the ability to compete in the same market as Port Botany. The only factor preventing the port from building the container terminal is the unfair restrictions placed on container movement above a TEU cap at the Port of Newcastle.
“If there’s any doubt we’d build the container terminal, simply lift the penalty. Enable Port of Newcastle to maximise our commercial potential freely and watch us build it.”
Mr Carmody said there is appetite and support for a container terminal at Newcastle from NSW and international suppliers.
“Development of another container terminal in NSW, even whilst Port Botany still has capacity, would provide viable alternative and more cost-effective export routes for regional NSW suppliers, increasing their competitiveness and enabling Port of Newcastle to contribute even more to the state’s economy,” he said.
“This legal decision does not alter Port of Newcastle’s desire to build a container terminal, nor our confidence that a container terminal at the Port is a diversification opportunity the Port, Newcastle and the Hunter Region needs.
Mr Carmody said Port of Newcastle has the ability to compete in the same market as Port Botany and New South Wales state government policy is the major constraint to this.
“We await with interest the decision by the ACCC whether to appeal the Court outcome, expected next week,” he said.