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Industry commisson port authorities issues paper welcome - privatisation is on the agenda



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MEDIA RELEASE JOHN SHARP

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GILMORE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR SHIPPING AND WATERFRONT REFORM

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: Tel 0 6 2 7 7 4213, Fax 0 6 2 7 7 2 1 2 4

INDUSTRY COMMISSION PORT AUTHORITIES ISSUES PAPER WELCOME -PRIVATISATION IS ON THE AGENDA

The Issues Paper on Port Authorities released this week by the Industry Commission is welcome, if only because it debunks the absurd myth that Senator Collins has promulgated that the Commonwealth cannot deal with port authority reform - in particular privatisation!

The Coalition spelled out in Fiehtback! that it would, as part of its waterfront reform, privatise port authorities and promote competition within, as well as between, ports. Privatisation could lead to reductions in port authority charges of up to four fifths.

Senator Collins dismissed the Coalition's policy on the grounds that the Coalition could not do this because it did not own the port authorities - the States did. Despite what Senator Collins would have people believe, the Coalition is well aware that the port authorities are State-owned.

The Industry Commission Issues Paper has now demonstrated the absurdity and the blinkered nature of Senator Collins' attempted debunking of Fightback!.

The Commission has said

"Continuing reform of port authorities is a national imperative which goes far beyond the specific interests of States, Territories, local communities or regions. As noted in the introduction, the Commission adopts an economy-wide approach

in reviewing industry policy."

It then goes on to ask

"What are the pro and cons o f a national approach to port authority reform?

Would a national approachbe desirable to prevent over-capitalisation in Australian ports as a whole?

A re new institutional arrangements needed to ensure that reform o f Australia's port authorities continues at an adequate rate?'

The Paper also has a section dealing with "Commercialisation, Corporatisation and Privatisation". ........ 2/

COMMONWEALTH

P A R L IA M E N T A R Y LIBR A R Y MIC AH

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It is clear that the Industry Commission does not share Senator Collins' scorn for the Coalition's policy and that it is, indeed, one of the options that it will be canvassing in its study.

This is a welcome and forward step.

The Association of Australian Port and Marine Authorities has been hearing this week at its Biennial Conference devastating evidence about the enormous discrepancies between stevedoring costs and port charges in New Zealand and Australia. The General Manager - Shipping and Distribution of Tasman Pulp and Paper told the Conference

that, on a series of six voyages and under comparable conditions, port charges, excluding wharfage, in Austalia amounted to an average A$21,813 as against an average A$4,387 in the newly-privatised Port of Tauranga in New Zealand. He concluded in his address that the only solution to the problem of State Governments using the ports as "cash cows"

is likely to be found in privatisation.

The Coalition sees the break-up of the ownership of the authorities through privatisation as essential for the exposure of the authorities to full commercial competitive influences. In particular, the port authorities have to be removed from the Shield of the Crown and made subject to the Trade Practices Act.

There is nothing extraordinary in a Federal Government identifying a nation-wide problem and setting about dealing with it on a nation-wide basis.

The Commonwealth does have a role, as indicated by the Industry Commission and that it should use its leadership position through the Australian Transport Advisory Council to co-ordinate progress in the reform of port authorities through privatisation, including in the setting of goals and advising on mechanisms - and, in the process, ensuring that

the States are not financially disadvantaged.

Those, like Senator Collins, who argue that this will not be possible, that such a role is beyond Commonwealth capabilities, ignore the establishment of the National Road Transport Commission, the National Rail Corporation and moves to a national electricity grid and national uniform road regulations, all of which have involved Commonwealth

leadership.

With Commonwealth leadership the States will see, as the Industry Commission does, that an economy-wide approach is required in reviewing waterfront policy, and that there are common goals and interests.

That will lead to dramatic savings for port users - a goal that Labor is obviously not interested in!

Ends........WR42/92 4-6-92

Contact: John Wallis A/H 06 277 4213