At Budget Estimates yesterday (29 August 2019) NSW Treasury officials confirmed Treasury had never modelled the economic impacts of a Newcastle container terminal.

Lack of evidence did not prevent the Treasurer in 2014, The Hon Andrew Constance MP, from informing the same Budget Estimates Committee:

Attempts by Government to dictate uneconomic enterprises contrary to market demand are examples of the kind of rent seeking activity likely to encourage influence peddling or corruption.

As the container port did not proceed, there is no decision to review.”

The Newcastle container port did not proceed in 2013 because the government terminated its negotiation with the company selected by Newcastle Port Corporation in 2010 to develop a container terminal. Negotiations were terminated in November 2013 because requiring Mayfield Development Corporation Pty Ltd to pay the government’s container terminal fee was likely to contravene the Competition Act.

Lead partner in Mayfield Development, Anglo Ports Pty Ltd, denied Mr Constance’s accusation, saying:

The answer conflates the proposal of Anglo Ports or its consortium with government dictation, with uneconomic enterprises, with the absence of market demand, with influence peddling and with corruption.  Anglo Ports on behalf of the consortium categorically denies that its proposal or the tender under which it was conducted had any of these characteristics.

Further the second sentence in the answer – “As the container port did not proceed, there is no decision to review” – is erroneous because the Hon M Baird MP, as Treasurer, by decisions of 30 August 2012 and 26 July 2013 dictated that a container port not proceed at Newcastle. There were other decisions on the container port proposal, including by Mr Baird and by Mr E Roozendaal.  There were thus several decisions about the container port proposal capable of being reviewed.

The second sentence is misleading in allowing the interpretation that the proposal for the container terminal did not proceed because of a supervening event or because the proposal was withdrawn.  Anglo Ports did not withdraw the proposal and denies there was any such supervening event.”

Mayfield Development Corporation has taken action against NSW Ports in the Federal Court. It is seeking damages caused by the same contraventions of the Competition Act as alleged in the ACCC’s proceeding against NSW Ports. For full details, go to www.containerterminalpolicyinnsw

Greg Cameron