THE NEW South Wales government on Thursday (21 March) announced treasurer Daniel Mookhey would table port privatisation contracts in Parliament.

The treasurer set out to reveal that privatising the state’s ports had “left the people of NSW saddled with a potential liability of between $600 million and $4.3 billion.”

He noted Port Botany and Port Kembla had been sold to NSW Ports in 2013, and the Port of Newcastle was sold a year later to a separate buyer.

“Under the former government’s ports deal, the state would be liable to compensate NSW Ports if the Port of Newcastle were to develop a competing container terminal,” a statement from the NSW government said.

In a report commissioned by NSW Treasury, preliminary estimates by Deloitte Access Economics suggest that liability to the government could range between $600 million and $4.3 billion in today’s dollars out to the end of the contract in 2063.

Mr Mookhey in October 2023 wrote to port owners requesting consent to release these contracts.

Documents to be tabled outline details of a port commitment deed signed with the Port of Newcastle. 

“This requires the Port of Newcastle to reimburse the state, should the state be required to pay NSW Ports,” the government statement said.

The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is said to be working to set what the price of a one-off payment to the state would be, to enable the Port of Newcastle to “extinguish the reimbursement provision should it wish to do so”.

The government said IPART’s determination would not affect the port commitment deeds with NSW Ports.

Other privatisation deeds (unrelated to the ports sector) would also become publicly available in a bid to “provide transparency to the people of NSW”.

NSW Ports and Port of Newcastle have been contacted for comment.