Australia: Labor Needs to Begin Making Sense on Ports, Says Minister

Minister for Ports David Hodgett today called on Labor to admit they have no plan for the future of ports in Victoria, proven by contradicting statements from the Opposition Leader and his Shadow Ministers.

Daniel Andrews must outline what the Labor Opposition’s position is to handle Victoria’s freight requirements into the future,” Mr Hodgett said.

“The Victorian economy relies on an efficient freight and logistics sector. It underpins our state’s economy. This issue is far too important to be making up on the fly, which is obviously what Labor is doing.”

In 2009, the then Ports Minister Tim Pallas stated that “The Port of Hastings is well positioned to serve as Melbourne’s second container port. No other port location offers the same overall advantages as Hastings and it holds major economic potential for the State of Victoria.”

This position was then contradicted in 2012 when Labor released its document Victorian Labor’s Plan for Jobs and Growth, which commits to direct “Infrastructure Victoria to conduct a comprehensive and transparent cost benefit analysis to test Bay West against all other possible siting alternatives.”

As further evidence is obtained on the appropriateness or otherwise of this option, a future Victorian Labor Government will take the necessary steps to put in place required planning controls on land and sea-bed identified for future port development,” the report goes on to say.

This document did not commit Labor to actually build a port. All this will do is a study and maybe re-zone some land.

It was then reported recently in the Western Port News on 25 March 2014 that “The ALP’s spokeswoman on ports, Natalie Hutchins, says a second container port within Port Phillip Bay is the most practical and affordable option.”

Natalie Hutchins was then quoted in The Age today saying “We’re standing by the policy to develop Bay West.”

Natalie Hutchins is in hiding today, but over the past two weeks, she was happily out there telling everyone that Labor was committed to building Bay West. Labor’s ports policy seems to change every time someone opens their mouth,” Mr Hodgett said.

Tim Pallas was on ABC radio this morning, suggesting Bay West was indeed Labor’s preferred option and that it is not necessary for ships to be able to access a port.

You don’t build a port for ships; you build a port for the economy and the economy needs it on the west of Melbourne,” Mr Pallas told ABC.

Mr Pallas then went on to claim that “The amount of dredged material that needs to be moved out of Hastings is exactly the same [as Bay West].”

Mr Pallas later conceded that Bay West would in fact require more dredging than a Hastings option, saying “It would be slightly more than Hastings.”

At Tim Pallas’ media conference today, he handed out a four year old draft consultant’s report in an attempt to justify their latest position. This is a major issue for Victoria, and the state expects better than a flip-flopping opposition with no clear policy,” Mr Hodgett said.

Labor has no clear message on where it stands on ports, and now is not a time for political posturing. Victoria needs to start now to increase its capacity to meet rising demand and only Hastings can be built in time to avoid losing trade to other states and thus causing major damage to our economy.

“Daniel Andrews needs to come clean and explain what Labor’s position is on freight, or else admit that a Labor Government does not want Melbourne to be Australia’s freight and logistics capital and to detail the impact that this will have on the Victorian economy and jobs in the years ahead.”

Press Release, April 10, 2014

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