ADVERTISEMENT

SIR,

Policy dithering about China Merchants’ 50% ownership of the Port of Newcastle is blocking a rail-based container transportation network in NSW.

A pre-election federal government decision to provide a $250-million subsidy for building a container terminal at the Port of Newcastle was ready for announcement by the PM on 6 May. There was no announcement because it was impossible to explain a transport infrastructure subsidy benefitting China Merchants to Quad leaders meeting in Tokyo at the end of the month.

ADVERTISEMENT

A container terminal at the Port of Newcastle is able to provide a rail-based service to the entire state of NSW by the expedient of building a dedicated rail freight line from the port to Badgery’s Creek and Port Kembla. This enables all containers to be railed between strategically located intermodal terminals and the port. The cost is met by replacing container trucking at Port Botany as the method of moving the state’s containers.

The impediment remains a financial penalty imposed by the state government on container traffic at Newcastle. However, a penalty was not legislated by the Ports Assets (Authorised Transactions) Act 2012, which authorised the three major ports to be leased to the private sector. Neither did Parliament legislate a payment to the lessee of Port Botany and Port Kembla for container traffic at Newcastle. These arrangements were intentionally concealed from Parliament to prevent them from being examined. It is in Australia’s interests for the national government to purchase all three leases and start again.

Greg Cameron

ADVERTISEMENT