Saturday, 22 June 2013

Rushed sale of Newcastle Port is just stupid

In an ideological and stupid act the O'Farrell Liberal government has not only announced the sale of the Newcastle Port in its budget, but has also rushed legislation through the parliament to effect its sale.

The sale of Newcastle Port has been announced with no scoping study and no consideration of the consequences. The Government also allocated $340 million from the sale of the port to the revitalisation of Newcastle, the removal of the heavy rail line from Newcastle City and the construction of light rail in its place.

Sounds good doesn't it? Really easy. Just sell a port, remove a train, and build a tram and just like magic a new, revitalised Newcastle.

Gee this sounds easy. Barry O'Farrell is very clever. Must have planned this well.

Played terrific with the media and Liberal MPs.

Only thing is about 3 weeks before this the Ports Minister told parliament he had no plans to sell Newcastle Port. Ports Minister Duncan Gay is an experienced politician who I have found to be a minister of integrity. I accept what he says is accurate. Somewhere between the 28 May and budget day the government decided to sell this port. Not a lot of time for analysis.

Secondly this port is no ordinary port. It is the largest coal export port in the world. Not just NSW, and the nation's economy depends on the efficiency of this port. If one of the large mining companies acquire the port it could control one of the worlds largest minerals export facility on Australia's eastern seaboard, maybe to the exclusion or disadvantage of its competitors. Some consideration of this might have been important.

Thirdly the income from the Newcastle Ports Corporation is only about $20 million, with dividends paid to the NSW government of only about $11 million. A return on assets is only 7.5%. Where does the state get its magic figures from to invest in Newcastle's revitalisation.

Fourthly, where did this Newcastle revitalisation come from. Was there a detailed plan, examination and costing of replacing rail with trams etc. Remember it was only last October when Infrastructure NSW and the Premier released this fantastic report on "First things First" a 20 year plan on making NSW number one again. A plan for Infrastructure for the next 20 years. Was the sale of Newcastle port mentioned? No. Light rail in Newcastle? No. Where did this plan come from. A Barry O'Farrell thought bubble to get a good media run. Get passed the next election.

What about NSW's real future? What about proper analysis? What about some intellectual logic and consideration? No wonder people have had enough of politicians. Heaven help this state.

The video of my speech to parliament on the legislation is here:

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