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Willis calls for port reform by states

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Transport and Communications Minister Ralph Willis today called on State Governments to critically examine the operations of their respective port authorities.

Mr Willis told the biennial conference of the Australian Association of Port and Marine Authorities in Melbourne that overhaul of port management and administrative practices was vital to Australian waterfront reform.

He said State Governments had legislative oversight of port authorities' composition and operations and he urged the States to follow the Federal Government's example in initiating reform of their business enterprises. .

The relationship between State Governments and their port and marine authorities was similar to that between the Federal Government and its Government Business Enterprises (GBEs) .

The Federal Government had initiated fundamental reform of its GBEs starting with a reform package for enterprises within the Transport and Communications portfolio, as announced in the May statement.

"The package shifts emphasis away from detailed supervision and direct controls of management decision-making to planning and accountability for bottom-line results," Mr Willis said.

"This includes a clear definition of the respective responsibilities of the Government, as shareholder on behalf of the public, and of enterprise boards and management.

"The focus is on a more commercially-oriented approach with only essential portfolio Ministerial oversight.

"As regards the efficiency of port authorities, I am strongly of the view that the maximisation of efficiency will be best achieved by commercialising their operations. Government port authorities should be put on a more business-like basis as far as

is possible whilst remaining in public ownership."

Mr Willis said the preliminary report on the waterfront by the Inter-State Commission had identified port reform as a key issue to be addressed. .../2


Areas identified by the commission where port authorities could improve their operations included:

. more commercial orientation in operating and pricing, subject to mechanisms to prevent abuse of monopoly power;

. updating of State legislation to clearly express port authorities' objectives and to improve accounting standards; and

. co-ordination of port activities with road and rail authorities.

Mr Willis said he would be taking up the need for reform of port authorities with his State counterparts in the near future.



NOTE: The Inter-State Commission is a Federal body established under the Constitution to advise the Federal Government on issues relating to inter-State transport. It is currently conducting a major inquiry into the waterfront industry which was commissioned

by the Hawke Government. The commission's five-volume preliminary" report was released on August 31. Its final report is expected early next year.