Following on from the expansion of the Freight Equalisation Scheme, the state government has made a plea to stand up for Tasmanian exporters and shipping companies concerned by possible fee hikes arising from the sale of the Port of Melbourne.
In early April, Minister for Infrastructure Rene Hidding met with Victorian Ports Minister Luke Donnellan, while Treasurer Peter Gutwein had discussions Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, to make clear the critical importance of the Port of Melbourne to the Tasmanian economy.
“More than 90 per cent of Tasmania’s non-bulk freight is shipped through the port, making our state responsible for 25 per cent of its throughput,” Mr Hidding said.
“Both Victorian Ministers have given assurances that they do not wish to see Tasmania penalised under the sale process, but unfortunately we are receiving a different message from the companies that will be directly impacted.”
Accordingly, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman has now written to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews requesting that the Port of Melbourne Corporation be instructed to urgently engage in commercial negotiations with Tasmanian shipping interests.
“We want to see the renewal of their leases with the port before any sale,” Mr Hidding said.
“Failing this occurs in a timely manner, we have asked the Victorian Government to require the Port of Melbourne Corporation to prepare an access undertaking for relevant infrastructure services that is acceptable to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).”
“Alternatively, we have requested that the successful bidder be required to prepare and submit their own access undertakings that are acceptable to the ACCC.”
“These arrangements provide for the ACCC to arbitrate should there not be agreement on terms of access to port facilities.”