Call for independence for Gladstone port
By REN LANZONrlanzon@gladstoneobserver.com.au
MINING giant Rio Tinto has called for joint private and public ownership of the Port of Gladstone rather than a revenue raising entity for the state government.
In its submission to the federal government's Transport and Regional Services Committee public hearing conducted in Gladstone this week Rio Tinto said the operations of the port might be better managed by an independent port authority that did not have 'an invested interest in a single commodity'.
' ... there is the potential for the perception to arise between terminal users as to whether coal is treated more favourably than other trades,' it said.
'This conflicts with the declared public policy objectives for the Gladstone region, namely to create a major diversified industrial area there.'
It said the port authority should be established to manage the general port infrastructure with legal ownership remaining in the public sector.
It suggested the board be represented by governments (possibly including the federal government) and principal users or user groups, and capital raising be through normal commercial channels with recoveries through user charges.
'The general port infrastructure would not be expected to generate flow off revenue for its owners, nor would they be expected to provide capital or subsidise operations,' it said.
Rio Tinto also took a slap at the federal government's Hilmer report inspired competition policy.
'The impact of these reforms on the provision of infrastructure services to Australia's resource-based export industries has not been successful,' it said.
There was no comment on Rio Tinto's recommendations from Transport and Main Roads Minister Paul Lucas yesterday.
However, Mr Lucas said the House of Representatives inquiry "is typical of the federal government's policy response to infrastructure issues.
'Instead of wasting airfares on politicians' committee travel, they should invest real bucks into our port and rail infrastructure if they want to be treated seriously,' he said.