VICTORIA’S Liberal/National Opposition is seeking to obviate disruptions in the port of Melbourne by having it declared critical infrastructure.

Shadow minister for ports and freight, Roma Britnell, late last week (7 March) introduced a private members’ bill to the Victorian Parliament. The Emergency Management Amendment (Port of Melbourne) Bill 2024 seeks to amend the Emergency Management Act 2013 to define the port as critical infrastructure and mandate its inclusion in the Victorian Critical Infrastructure Register.

Inclusion in the Register, currently at the discretion of the Minister, activates robust emergency management obligations, including requiring completion of:

  • A statement of assurance
  • Emergency risk management planning and documentation
  • An emergency management exercise (testing the robustness of emergency risk management plans and response to potential threats);
  • An audit

Recent events such as cyber-attacks, protests and industrial action caused significant disruption to goods getting to families and demonstrate the vital importance of robust emergency management and security arrangements for the port, the Coalition said.

The significant backlog of containers affecting trade resulted in a cost to the Victorian economy estimated at $84 million per week, with further activity relating to activists at the port leading to ongoing disruptions and delays, Ms Britnell asserted.

“The Port of Melbourne’s ongoing security and stable operation is essential to the continued growth and prosperity of Victoria and Australia. While Treasurer Tim Pallas describes the disruptions and protests as a “minor inconvenience”, Victorians are paying the price through higher costs to critical goods,” she said.

“Victoria is facing a cost-of-living crisis and the port’s treatment as critical infrastructure under the Act should not be at the discretion of the responsible Minister. This bill will designate the port as critical infrastructure and should be supported by the Allan Government.”

The initiative was supported by VICT CEO Bruno Porchietto, who said the Port of Melbourne played a vital role in the Victorian economy, handling more than one-third of Australia’s container trade and contributing over $11 billion in economic activity.

“Ongoing delays flow through to consumers as higher prices, so it is vital the port be designated as critical infrastructure to reduce disruptions and cost pressures,” Mr Porchietto said.