Queensland Ports Should Stay in Public Hands

The Maritime Union of Australia has warned that Ports should stay in public hands or increased user costs could be passed onto consumers in addition to the fact that jobs could be lost if key infrastructure is privatised.

There has been much discussion in the media and the community regarding privatisation of Queensland assets in the lead-up to this weekend’s state election, with debate centred around job losses and costs being passed onto householders and businesses.

“The Ports of Gladstone and Townsville are owned by the public and they should remain in public hands in the best interests of all Queenslanders,” MUA Queensland Branch Secretary Mick Carr said.

“It stands to reason that anyone who seeks to lease a port will want to see a return on their investment so the privatisation of ports will end up with consumers paying more for purchased goods.

“By way of illustration, a notice was sent by stevedore DP World on January 22 to its customers in the Port of Brisbane advising them of an increase to the Infrastructure Surcharge to $31.00 per full container - compared to just $18.30 when the Port was privatised.

“Those increases are passed onto consumers or the exporters of goods. This is in addition to the fact that Ports are a major employer and generator of economic activity in regional areas and jobs could well be lost due to the drive to increase profits.”

The 2013/2014 Gladstone Ports Corporation Annual Report provides that a record profit of $101.3 million and 9.4% return on assets.

Gladstone Port Corporation chief executive Craig Doyle has said that trade is expected to grow by 50 per cent in 3 years over and above the 2013/14 year.

MUA Queensland Deputy Branch Secretary Trevor Munday said the sale of ports in other parts of the country has led to higher costs being pushed through the economy.

“The people of Queensland deserve the highest level of scrutiny on the LNP’s plan to privatise Gladstone and Townsville ports because it concerns a critical asset that currently belongs to all of us,” Mr Munday said.

“The evidence from around the country is that port sales can lead to big price hikes for users which can ultimately be passed onto consumers.

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is so worried about this trend that it has flagged blocking future sales.

“All of this means we should consider any plans to privatise ports with extreme caution.

“It isn’t just unions who are opposed to the privatisation of ports, with the issue seen as one of the biggest factors in determining how the public will vote in this weekend’s state election.”