THE RELEASE of port documents on Thursday (21 March) has fuelled discussion on what privatisation means for the ports of New South Wales and for the state itself.

Their comments follow yesterday’s news that NSW treasurer Daniel Mookhey would table the port contracts in Parliament, along with other privatisation documents from other industries to “provide transparency” to the people of NSW.

“After more than a decade, the people of NSW are finally seeing what the impact of selling off their assets looks like,” Mr Mookhey said.

Preliminary estimates from Deloitte Access Economics, outlined in a report commissioned by NSW Treasury, suggest NSW could end up paying between $600 million and $4.3 billion if the port Newcastle were to build a container port.

Mr Mookhey wrote to port owners last year to ask for consent to release the port privatisation contracts.

NSW Ports has confirmed it agreed to the release of the documents at the request of the NSW government but noted it had not seen a copy of the Deloitte report and was not involved in its preparation.

Port of Newcastle said the contracts should not have been withheld in the first place.

“Port of Newcastle welcomes the release of the port documents and supports the treasurer’s decision to do so,” Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody told DCN.

“These documents should never have been withheld from the public and shrouded in secrecy.

“Privatising public assets should not only be undertaken for the funding received from the sale, but to also encourage competition, with the ultimate beneficiary the consumer.

“Unfortunately, this didn’t occur with the sale of the ports within NSW, case in point being our need to pursue the Port of Newcastle (Extinguishment of Liability) Act 2022, led by the member for Lake Macquarie Greg Piper MP and supported by all political parties in NSW.

“With the documents now made public and the IPART [the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal] determination concluding the legislative process this year, we look forward to ensuring real competition between NSW’s ports to the benefit of all consumers and businesses in NSW.”

NSW Ports believes building a container terminal at the port of Newcastle would be a costly move for the state.

“NSW Ports notes the tabling in Parliament of the privatisation transaction documents for Port Botany and Port Kembla,” an NSW Ports spokesperson told DCN.

“Almost all of the state’s import containers are delivered within 50 kilometres of Port Botany, closest to the state’s most populated areas and business centres,” they said.

“The proximity of Port Botany to these centres provides the most cost-effective, efficient and sustainable supply chain, compared with a 160-to-200-kilometre journey from the Port of Newcastle.

“A container terminal in Newcastle will add to cost-of-living pressures in NSW and require billions of dollars of government investment in supporting infrastructure.”

IPART was appointed in March 2023 to determine the value of a one-off compensation payment the Port of Newcastle could pay to the state.

“If the operator of the Port of Newcastle pays this one-off compensation amount to the state, from that date, they will not be required to reimburse the state for payments made to the operator of Port Botany and Port Kembla under the transaction deeds,” IPART wrote as background to its review.