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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Crakanthorp, Catley upset with Port of Newcastle court ruling

Hunter’s Labor politicians are calling on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to appeal the Federal Court’s decision to deny the Port of Newcastle from developing a shipping container terminal.

Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp and his Swansea counterpart Yasmin Catley both claim the dismissal of the ACCC case this week was “deeply disappointing”.

The proceedings concerned agreements, known as Port Commitment Deeds, which were entered into as part of the privatisation of Port Botany and Port Kembla by the NSW Government in May 2013, for a term of 50 years.

They also oblige the State of NSW to compensate the operators of Port Botany and Port Kembla if container traffic at the Port of Newcastle is above a minimal specified cap.

Another 50-year deed, signed in May 2014 when the Port of Newcastle was privatised, requires it to reimburse the State of NSW for any compensation paid to operators of Port Botany and Port Kembla under the Botany and Kembla Port Commitment Deeds.

This reimbursement would effectively double the cost of moving a container at the Port of Newcastle.

“This judgment provides an enormous hurdle for the Port of Newcastle to develop a container terminal to compete with Port Botany and Port Kembla, because of financial consequences arising from the deeds,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“Less competition usually results in higher charges for businesses and consumers.”

The ACCC argued that the Port Commitment Deeds had an anti-competitive purpose and effect.

It also reasoned the 2014 Port of Newcastle Deed was the anti-competitive result of the Port Commitment Deeds.

The deal effectively removes the Port’s ability to diversify.

Mr Crakanthorp and Ms Catley said they would eagerly await the release of the judge’s determinations – but will write to the ACCC to encourage an appeal.

“The 50-year straight-jacket on developing a container terminal in Newcastle is anti-competitive and anti-Hunter jobs,” the former stated.

“The people of the Hunter and NSW Labor want this fight to continue.

“This secret deal was designed to hobble the Hunter’s economic growth – a secret deal signed off by Gladys Berejiklian as transport minister.”

Ms Catley said the clandestine arrangement was a handbrake on the Hunter region’s export trade.

“Our agricultural and manufacturing sectors will all benefit from a container terminal at the Port of Newcastle,” she explained.

“This 50-year anti-competitive deal will hurt the Hunter for generations.

“An 18-year-old studying in Newcastle now will retire before Newcastle is allowed to get its own container port.

“Studies show a Port of Newcastle container facility will boost Hunter and northern NSW exports by $800 million, save local businesses $2.8 billion in freight costs and create 4,600 jobs.”

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