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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 300

(Question No. 1519)

Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 29 June 1994:

  With reference to the abolition by the Port of Brisbane Authority of berthing charges for cargo-carrying vessels using its wharves from 1 July 1994:

  (1) What is the current level of involvement by the Federal Government in investment/subsidies, et cetera, in Australia's port and shipping facilities.

  (2) What are the gross tonnage cargo statistics for each of these ports.

  (3) What is the anticipated growth in these ports in cargo throughput.

  (4) What are the comparative berthing charges made by these ports over the past 2 financial years.

  (5) Are there any Federal Government plans to improve the efficiency of Australia's port facilities.

Senator Collins —The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Responsibility for the operation and development of port facilities rests primarily with the State and Territory Governments. These facilities are administered by port authorities established under State legislation and other State agencies. The Commonwealth does not have an on-going role in the development of port infrastructure. There are currently no Commonwealth programs to provide financial assistance to port authorities.

  (2) Sydney—19.21 million mass tonnes; Melbourne—13.03 million mass tonnes; Brisbane—15.60 million mass tonnes; Fremantle—18.29 million mass tonnes; Adelaide—5.11 million mass tonnes

  (3) Growth projections in cargo throughputs at individual ports are not undertaken by the Department of Transport. Such projections are a matter for the relevant port authorities which plan and provide the necessary facilities.

  (4) A berth hire charge is currently levied by the Port of Melbourne Authority at common user berths, but not at the Swanson Dock container terminals which are leased by private stevedoring companies.

  No other mainland State capital city port currently levies a charge for berth hire.

  It is important to note that the basis of charging for port services and facilities varies between ports. Therefore, each port's charges must be considered as a whole if a valid comparison of charges is to be undertaken.

  (5) In March 1992, the Commonwealth Government directed the Industry Commission to report on the scope for improving the efficiency of port authority services and activities. The Industry Commission finalised its report in May 1993.

  The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) subsequently established a Working Group to address, inter alia, the Commission's recommendations on port authorities and to agree on a framework for further reform of port authorities and other elements of the maritime sector. The Working Group report is scheduled to be considered at the August 1994 meeting of COAG.

  The Commonwealth Government initiated the three-year stevedoring reform program which was successfully completed on 31 October 1992. The reform program transformed the industry's structure with the introduction of enterprise employment which replaced the industry-wide arrangements that existed previously.

  The program produced substantial benefits on the waterfront including a 57 per cent reduction in the number of stevedoring employees and a 45 per cent reduction in turn around time for vessels. The number of containers handled per shift has improved 100 per cent. The Prices Surveillance Authority (PSA) has reported that between 1990 and June 1993, average container terminal charges decreased by 25 per cent.

  The Commonwealth's reforms have created a competitive framework which provides the incentive for the stevedoring industry itself to further improve its performance over time.

  The Commonwealth Government has also asked the PSA to continue monitoring charges in the stevedoring industry and charges for towage services in major ports.