Delivering Victorian Infrastructure (Port of Melbourne Lease Transaction) Bill 2015

Written on the 9 December 2015

8 December 2015


Second reading 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)


I am pleased to be able to rise this evening to speak to the government's legislation, the Delivering Victorian Infrastructure (Port of Melbourne Lease Transaction) Bill 2015. I am handling this bill, and it is 151 pages long. It is a significant piece of legislation. As agreed by the government, an inquiry looking into this legislation was undertaken. As noted by members of the committee that conducted the inquiry into the proposed lease of the port of Melbourne, the report tabled today has highlighted evidence received by that committee. Members of the committee have spoken both to the report and to the legislation. Issues were raised, and I want to go to those in more detail, but what I would say is that this is a house of review and it is our role to review legislation. The process that has been undertaken, with the committee conducting an inquiry into this legislation, is exactly what this Parliament needed to do, and now what we are doing this evening in debating the bill and looking at the report and what is in the report is exactly what we as legislators need to be doing.

We need to be doing it in relation to this bill in particular because the port is a significant asset for Victoria. It is a very important piece of infrastructure. It is in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region, and so I have a number of concerns in relation to many issues that I have had a chance to look through in the report tabled today, that were raised throughout the inquiry process.

I commend the committee, particularly the chair, Mr Rich-Phillips, and all the members who have contributed to the process and who have spoken on it. I note that there are various views, but many views held by committee members accorded with the evidence that was received, and that is really significant. We have heard from members about the number of hearings the committee held on this inquiry and about the number of submissions received from stakeholders right across the state. It was most important that those views be heard and considered in this inquiry, and they were.

I go now to some of the points in relation to the port which have been highlighted by other speakers. The ones I want to speak about in the time I have this evening are around the capacity issues. The port of Melbourne is a significant piece of infrastructure. It is the largest container port in the Southern Hemisphere, and according to the report, it currently has a throughput of 2.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per year. Its overall capacity is expected to increase to around 5.5 million TEUs once the port capacity project is completed. The port's ultimate capacity ranges from 5 million to 8 million TEUs. The report says:

This uncertainty reinforces the need to maintain maximum flexibility for planning and providing future port capacity after the proposed lease

and the need for planning for a second container port. The need for that second port has come out in various bits of evidence from some of the witnesses who appeared before the inquiry. I quote from a transcript of the evidence given by Mr Robert Coode, executive president of the Australian Peak Shippers Association:

The development of a second port in Victorian waters appears to have been pushed into the background. We see this as a dangerous notion because when the time comes and it will for a second deepwater port, the boat will have sailed

What I find so frustrating in this debate is that we constantly hear and have heard all year this government saying, 'We deliver on our election commitments. We say what we will do, and we deliver'. Before the election those opposite said they were going to build a second port, and it was Bay West. That was something they took to the election. They spoke about Bay West, and they have pulled. That is either disingenuous or rather unparliamentary, if I can use that term, Acting President; they are not telling the full truth.

We have seen various aspects of this government in so many areas, and this is another demonstration of this government doing one thing and saying another. The evidence that was received from stakeholders and interested parties who came before the inquiry indicated that they have great concerns about the lack of a second port. It is clearly needed. If members look to the northern states, they will see that New South Wales has been planning, it has been developing and it has enacted legislation to improve the port of Botany. It underwent a major expansion just recently. New South Wales has a number of operating ports. If we are not careful, New South Wales will take trade from this state, and that will not be in the interests of all Victorians in relation to export and import opportunities.

Various industry groups, various regulators, logistics experts, environmental groups and councils are all stakeholders that had some input into this inquiry. I know there are a number of councils along the bayside areas within my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region that are very concerned about the environmental impacts of increasing the number of ships going in and out of the port. They are concerned about the potential for

Ms Shing No blasting.

Ms CROZIER The member says, 'No blasting', but what about dredging or environmental impacts after

Ms Shing Maintenance dredging; look at the environmental impacts.

Ms CROZIER The environmental impacts from dredging from the previous government have raised concerns

Honourable members interjecting.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) Order! There seems to be a conversation going on across the chamber. I do not know whether those members would like to include me in it, but it would be really nice if they would give some consideration to that. I suggest to Ms Shing that if she wishes to contribute to the debate, her name should go on the list.

Ms CROZIER As I said, Acting President, there are concerns from a number of councils in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region and, as you and others have indicated, from councils right around the bay about the environmental impacts of an increase in shipping transportation through the bay.

As previous speakers have said, it is 2015. Ships are getting larger; we do not know what their full capacity will be in 20 or 30 years time, which is where this proposal takes us to. We are talking about a monopolised position a 50-year lease plus another 20 years. That is 70 years. We do not know what ships will be like, what the technology will be like or how they will be conducting their business and transporting goods around the globe, so it is absolutely extraordinary for this government not to factor in the need for a second port. That has been highlighted by many stakeholders. It is clearly an issue.

I have other very concerned constituents in my area of Southern Metropolitan Region who speak to me constantly about the number of large truck deliveries to the port of Melbourne. According to VicRoads there are something like 400 000 truck deliveries to the port of Melbourne each year. Within 10 years that will be around 2 million. These are significant truck movements that this government has not taken into consideration.

As Mr Ondarchie highlighted in his contribution, $58 million is on the table for a rail link project to go ahead in order to get those trucks off our roads, to have safer streets in our suburbs and to maintain our amenity around the bayside suburbs. This is a really important part of Melbourne. We have fabulous amenity in Port Phillip. We all enjoy it. The millions of visitors who go to the beach and use the bay on a regular basis could potentially be jeopardised by having one large port with an increasing capacity in order to keep up with the demand over the next 70-odd years. It is short sighted to say the least; it is extraordinary.

As the Treasurer admitted in his second-reading speech in relation to up-front proceeds:

Most importantly, the lease proceeds being paid up-front means we can remove our 50 worst level crossings

That is what this is all about. The government just wants to push this legislation through the house by stealth

Ms Shing interjected.

Ms CROZIER You want it concluded. We want to have a look at the report, and so do the stakeholders. They have every right to have a look at this report. This is legislation by stealth. This is just about the removal of the 50 level crossings. This all about your political positioning. You are not considering the rural and regional aspects. I have friends currently, Ms Shing, who are sitting on headers wanting to get their grain out of this country. The regional areas of Victoria know only too well the importance of having appropriate commercial operations, and you are not allowing development for this state in future years; all you are doing is lumbering this state with an increase in debt and God knows what, with just one port

Ms Shing You took it to the election yourselves!

Ms CROZIER Not a monopolised port, not this bill. That is the difference between your side of politics and ours

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) Order! I have requested that both Ms Crozier and Ms Shing respect the Chair in that their comments should be directed through the Chair and that they should cease interjecting. I ask both members to show some respect with regard to those requests.

Ms CROZIER I apologise, Acting President. As I was saying, the opposition does not oppose the lease of the port of Melbourne, but it actually had a plan to expand the capacity for doing business in this state, and that was to have a second port. The port of Hastings was part of our plan. This government is having a monopolised position. This piece of legislation we are debating tonight, these 151 pages and this report that has highlighted so many issues and I have not had time to go through them all are what we are debating this evening. That is why this piece of legislation the government is trying to push through by stealth is not a good piece of legislation for Victorians or for future Victorians. Let us not forget that this will be a decision made by this Parliament that will have ramifications for years to come.

We need to get this right. It is far too important a piece of infrastructure and asset to make a huge mistake on, and as we know, Labor governments are notorious for having major project mishaps. We saw it with so many projects when Labor was formerly in government. I am not going to go through them all, but the legacy of the desalination plant, which has been previously mentioned, is one that we are paying for each and every day. It is very important that we get this right that, if we are going to lease the port of Melbourne, we scrutinise this legislation appropriately and that this committee's work be looked at and those issues addressed. If those issues are not addressed, then the opposition has every right to put its case and ensure that, if the bill does get through the Parliament, it gets through the Parliament with a better outcome for all Victorians.

With those words I will conclude my remarks. There is much more I would like to say on the report, and I will have that opportunity tomorrow, but many concerns have been raised by the committee. I commend it again for the work it has undertaken on behalf of all Victorians to ensure that this legislation we are debating this evening is appropriate.



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