Media release – Ports sell-off bad news for Hunter: where was Tim?

Media release: 23 November 2012.

Embargoed: 5am, Saturday 24 November 2012

Privatisation of Port Kembla and Port Botany will undermine the Hunter’s future economic diversity yet local member Tim Owen was silent when the bill went through the NSW parliament, according to Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne and state Upper House MP John Kaye.

The O’Farrell government’s Ports Assets (Authorised Transactions) Bill 2012 which passed the Upper House on Wednesday evening with the votes of the Shooters and Fishers party and the Christian Democrats, allows the Treasurer Mike Baird to transfer both ports to the private sector under a 99-year lease.

Clr Osborne said: “The future development of international trade infrastructure will now be entirely in the hands of corporations whose only interest is maximising their own profit.

“Gone is the opportunity to diversify Newcastle’s ports.

“Container freight will largely become the exclusive domain of Sydney. Growth in the Illawarra and the Hunter will be dominated by the dirty business of exporting coal and importing bulk liquids.

“This is bad news for both the Hunter and the Illawarra. The future of manufacturing in both regions has taken a savage blow, along with jobs and retailing.

“Public ownership of all of the ports would have created at least the possibility of sharing the lucrative container freight market.

“Newcastle, like Port Kembla, is now at risk of becoming a backwater to Sydney, where the private owners will  concentrate their investments to maximise their access to the largest market.

“Public benefit is about to disappear as an objective from decisions that affect the future of the lifeline between the Hunter and the global economy,” Cl Osborne said.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said: “Newcastle Liberal MP Tim Owen did not even bother to speak during the debate in the lower house.

“He did not put on record his concern for the future of the Newcastle port or jobs and investment in the Hunter.

“In March 2011 Newcastle turfed out its local member who consistently failed to stand up to the Sydney push in the Labor party.

“Mr Owen has stayed true to Jodi McKay’s tradition and let jobs and economic diversity in Newcastle be sacrificed to the whims of Treasurer who cannot see beyond next year’s budget balance sheet.

“There is no good news in ports privatisation for either the Hunter or the Illawarra.

“The future of employment in both regions will sink or swim on the quality of their ports and the connection they provide to the global economy.

“By handing over Port Kembla and Botany to the private sector, Tim Owen and the Liberals have cut Newcastle off from a future of manufacturing and exporting.

“With local members like this, who needs competitors?” Dr Kaye said.

For more information: Michael Osborne 0439 442 984; John Kaye 0407 195 455

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