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Moves to port authority reform long overdue



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JOHN SHARP MEDIA RELEASE

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

MOVES TO PO RT AUTHORITY REFORM LONG OVERDUE

The terms of reference to the Industry Commission for its twelve-month inquiry into the operation of port authority services and activities are welcome in so far as they go - and very, very overdue.

The Opposition has been calling for action on port authority reform for a long time now, and many of the issues that have been set out in the terms of reference are already Well- known to most people involved with waterfront activities, and especially the users.

The importance of the port authorities' activities to Australia's competitiveness does not need to be investigated, since it is so well known as to be axiomatic. Likewise, the scope for improving the efficiency of port authority services and activities is well-recognised. To state that this is "including through changed management and work practices, pricing, the removal of structural impediments, and investment in new technology" is stating the obvious.

The reference to the importance of adopting international best practice might seem to be similarly axiomatic, if it were not for the fact that it was already ignored in the rest of the government's waterfront reform program. To that extent, it is a relief to see it included here.

What is not spelled out, but it is to be hoped will be included in the matters canvassed, is the prospect for efficiency gains from privatisation of the port authorities. Likewise, the final term of reference, relating to the effects on the users, must be at the forefront of the priorities if this inquiry is not to be just another exercise in keeping reform on the shelf and "under study".

The reform of the Australian waterfront must be one of the most talked about and studied areas of micro-economic reform already. Most of the participants know what has to be done, although some, like the unions, react to this knowledge by resisting it. It is to be hoped that this inquiry will produce action and not become yet another vehicle for

protracted "negotiation".

Ends...........WR19/92 Contact: John Wallis

31-3-92 A/H 06 295 6796