Raising the BARR – Week ending 14 October 2022

Raising the Barr


In the rush to sell off and privatise the state’s assets, a deal was struck while selling our 3 major ports (Botany, Kembla and Newcastle) that would limit the ability of the Port of Newcastle to do anything much other than load coal.

The reason this deal was struck was to basically create an almost complete monopoly over who can import shipping containers and where that will take place. For the NSW Government, selling these assets to the highest bidder, an almost complete monopoly was designed to increase the bids on offer for the assets for sale.

The net result was a higher price for the Botany and Kembla port assets and a limited future for the people of the Hunter.  Let’s be very clear about that – a massive door to the future of the Hunter was closed and sealed in that deal.

We all know that coal will continue to be exported out through the Port of Newcastle for the coming decades, but at some point in time that winds down and eventually stops.  Therefore, setting up another purpose for our Port of Newcastle, another economy and another job creator, is extremely important to our future.

The beauty of the Newcastle port becoming a shipping container terminal would be that it can co-exist with coal movements, while ever they still exist, while at the same time building up our other forever economy.  This was all willingly and greedily ignored by the NSW Government 8 years ago.

The state is now stuck in a situation where the future of the Port of Newcastle has been blocked and sold.  Despite the then Treasurer and the then Premier of NSW stating categorically that there was no barrier to Newcastle becoming a shipping container terminal, these were in fact false claims.  In addition to this, I participated in a pre-election (2019) debate with a significant National Party figure who basically apologised to the farmers of NSW and said that if re-elected (2019) they would fix the Newcastle port problem.

Well, the same Government that sold the ports in 2014 also won the 2019 election but nothing about Newcastle port has been fixed.

As it stands, if the Port of Newcastle increases its shipping container movements beyond 50,000 per year (about 10 ships) then the owners of the Ports of Botany and Kembla will be entitled to compensation.  Enter the NSW taxpayer and their wallets.

We in the Hunter are now in the position of either standing by the original deal struck by the current NSW Government, and leaving the door locked to an important part of our Hunter future, or, imposing hundreds of millions of dollars of compensation on the NSW taxpayer.

This is a mess brought to us by a Government that had its eye on the dollars and nowhere near enough concern for the people of the Hunter and inland NSW.