Government hears strong message to keep hands off port
IMPASSIONED pleas from our community leaders against privatising the Port of Gladstone rang out at a round table meeting on Wednesday, leaving the state's Treasurer in no mind about how they feel.
The community's turn will come within the next month or so, with Treasurer Tim Nicholls asking for all Queenslanders' help in how to get rid of an $80 billion debt.
While the Treasurer insisted the government hadn't made any decision on the Port of Gladstone - this would happen by June - his reason for visiting was asking what could be done as an alternative.
He said he would have further information on the situation around the port once a confidential scoping study was completed, soon.
But a small delegation of protesters against the sale of the port, including Electrical Trades Union organiser Glenn Hall, said outside the meeting that the community was facing a "no pain, no gain" scenario.
"Leasing doesn't give benefits back, the profits still go to the investors," he said.
Inside the meeting, the leaders also put forward their "wish list" of infrastructure needs, with roads, bridges, high schools and especially hospital services requiring improvement in the Gladstone region.
"Around the room today there was very little appetite for increasing taxes and charges, and reducing services we know with the local hospital, would not be palatable either," he said.
The three options, with the sale or lease of key state assets being the third option, are those Mr Nicholls has been told can solve Queensland's debt problems, but he assured the room he was open to other suggestions.
"Even holding services level will lead to less services being available," he said.
"One thing that came through very strongly was the central role the operations of the port plays not just in terms of business, but also in community support.
"There was a good acknowledgment that we do have a problem and it does hold back investment and growth."
Leaving their hats on the table, several key stakeholders laid out their Gladstone born-and-bred view of wanting to keep the port, saying it had a special place in their heart.
Mr Nicholls said several leaders were concerned there would be issues around community ownership, payments of rates and the social implications of privatising the port.