NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has used an ongoing court case to deflect questions in State Parliament about fees applied to containers at a prospective Newcastle box terminal.

The questions came from Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp.

Mr Crankanthorp asked: “When the Government signed lease agreements for Port Botany and Port Kembla on 30 May 2013, what was the Government’s source of funds to meet its contractual commitment to pay the lessee for container traffic at the Port of Newcastle above the Government’s minimal specified cap?”

“There is no minimal specified cap and no compensation payments to NSW Ports have been incurred under the respective Port Commitment Deeds for Port Botany and Port Kembla,” Mr Perrottet responded.

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“The matter is otherwise subject to the sub judice convention.”

Mr Crakanthorp asked if the Treasurer supported “removing obstacles facing the Newcastle Container Terminal Expansion Plans, including the State Government fee payable on container exports?”

In response, Mr Perrottet said the Liberal and National government was proud of its asset recycling strategy.

“The lease arrangements do not prohibit the development of a container terminal at the Port of Newcastle and enable the growth of container volumes through Newcastle that service that region,” the Treasurer stated.

“Any decision to build a container terminal at Newcastle is a matter for the private operator of the Port of Newcastle. Otherwise, this matter is currently the subject of court proceedings and is therefore subject to the sub judice convention.”

Mr Crakanthorp posed the following questions:

  • When did the Government announce its policy decision to offer lease bidders for Port Botany and Port Kembla payment of financial support for container traffic at the Port of Newcastle and to pass this cost to the developer of a Newcastle container terminal?
  • Will you remove the cap on the number of containers the Port of Newcastle can process before having to pay the Government a fee?
  • Is the cap and fee on the number of containers that the Port of Newcastle can process anti-competitive?

The Treasurer again denied the port transaction prevented a box port in the Hunter.

“The Port of Newcastle Port transaction arrangements do not prevent the development of a container terminal,” Mr Perrottet said.

“In any case, this matter is currently the subject of court proceedings and is therefore subject to the sub judice convention.”

The court case referred to is action taken by the ACCC in the Federal Court against NSW Ports Operations Hold Co Pty Ltd and its subsidiaries Port Botany Operations Pty Ltd and Port Kembla Operations Pty Ltd for making agreements with the State of New South Wales the ACCC alleges had an anti-competitive purpose and effect.

“We are alleging that making these agreements containing provisions which would effectively compensate Port Kembla and Port Botany if the Port of Newcastle developed a container terminal, is anti-competitive and illegal,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said late last year.

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