PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS (12.03.2014)
Written on the 26 March 2014
Mr TEE (Eastern Metropolitan) -- On behalf of Mr Tarlamis, I move:
That this house requires the Leader of the Government to table in the Legislative Council by 1 April 2014 all relevant documents in the custody, knowledge or control of the Victorian government that relate to discussions or a decision to provide Patrick stevedores with compensation for relocating from Webb Dock East.
Of concern to me and the opposition is that the release of this information -- the fact that we know that $18 million has been provided to Patrick stevedores -- has been shrouded in secrecy. We have seen no disclosure by the government, no announcement and no documents. Nothing has been released. There has been no justification for the decision to pay $18 million of taxpayers money and no rationale for how that amount was calculated. People are concerned that the only reason we know about this payment is that Patrick's parent company has disclosed the payment to the Australian Stock Exchange.
I think Victorians expect better. They expect a government that is going to be the source of information regarding the release of taxpayers money. There is a concern that this information is being provided by Patrick stevedores, or its parent company, but not by the Victorian government.There is also a broader context to the release of this money. Patrick's employees have a concern and a nervousness about a proposed restructure that would see a number of redundancies and an increasingly casualised workforce at Patrick's in the context of this restructure. I know that the Maritime Union of Australia is concerned that the relocation from Webb Dock is triggering these discussions around redundancies and the casualisation of the workforce.
The union's concern is what, if any, is the connection between the payment of money to Patrick's and the reorganisation of the workforce?In many ways these discussions could not be occurring at a worse time. We have seen a whole industry, the car manufacturing industry, effectively disappear, so there is a heightened tension and a heightened nervousness in workforces such as the stevedoring industry. People are very worried about their ongoing employment and whether they will have jobs in 12 months time. It is important that any suggestion that the arrangement between the government and Patrick's connected to the restructuring of Patrick's operations is fleshed out. The best way to flesh that out is to make public the details of the arrangements between Patrick's and the government. That is what this motion does. If we can clear the air by releasing documents which set out the arrangements, that would provide a greater amount of certainty and comfort to the workforce.
It is also the case that the enterprise agreement between Patrick's and the maritime union provides that arrangements such as these might have an impact on the quantum of any redundancy payments. That is another reason the workforce should be fully informed as to the circumstances of any matters such as these which may impact on their redundancy payments as well as their ongoing employment. The workforce has an expectation that the Victorian government will do everything it can to ensure their ongoing employment at the site. The workforce is concerned that this government has not done anything to help the workforce achieve that outcome. More of that can be revealed if these documents are released.It is important for those workers and their families that all these arrangements be put out in the public. Most importantly, Victoria should not be the place for deals that are shrouded in secrecy.
It should not be a place for these secret arrangements that are announced via the stock exchange rather than via the government. This is taxpayers money, and taxpayers -- --Mr Drum -- When have you ever been concerned about taxpayers money?
Mr TEE -- Mr Drum might be quite happy for $18.5 million to just disappear into thin air with no discussion and no announcement, but at the end of the day we on this side think there ought to be greater transparency. The public ought to know why that money has been paid and what arrangements are in place. There is nothing untoward about providing enough information so the public can make sure they are getting value for money. That is all that is being asked -- to make sure there is transparency so that everybody can know what is going on and people can make an assessment and make up their own minds about whether or not they are getting value for money.Mr Drum might want to take a different approach, but on this side we are very clear that people have a right to know. This is not Mr Drum's money. This is not the government's money. This is taxpayers money, and it is a lot of taxpayers money -- $18.5 million -- without a thread of information as to how it was determined that this money should be paid, what arrangements were put in place and what impact it will have on workers at the site.
I share the concerns of the workers on the site, who are asking for some transparency and some openness. On this side of the house we believe whatever information can be made available should be made available so that people can see for themselves whether or not this was the right outcome. I would urge everyone to support this motion.
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA (Eastern Metropolitan) -- I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the opposition's motion 735 seeking that the Leader of the Government table in this place certain documents in the custody, knowledge or control of the Victorian government that relate to discussions or a decision to provide Patrick stevedores with compensation for relocating from Webb Dock East. I note that in the normal course of business the government would not oppose the motion and allow the relevant ministers and departments to process the request.
Mr Tee has again provided an interesting perspective on the former government's achievements in terms of accountability, management of taxpayers money and fiscal management. As Mr Tee was providing that, I scribbled down some interesting points: the north-south pipeline, the desal plant -- $1.8 million per day, which we are still paying -- and the failure of the Ararat prison. As I was looking at Mr Tee, I could not help but think that some people last night may have stayed at the Windsor Hotel -- and what a debacle that was! Mr Tee talked about honesty and truth and not wasting taxpayers money. It was almost like the nose was going to swing around the whole chamber and whack everyone -- you had to duck!
Mr Drum -- And the gaming option freebie.Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- And the gaming option. There are other speakers who wish to contribute. As I said, this was just a quick, off-the-cuff comment because I thought Mr Tee was going to go into the reasons he wants the documents, but all we got was the usual tirade, which we heard yesterday. I wish Mr Tee would make a deliberate contribution to the chamber rather than just repeating the same speech over and over and over.
Ms Broad -- And over and over and over, like you just said.Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- Again we hear from the talking pillar, over and over and over.
Ms Broad -- Over and over and over. Is that all you have got to say?Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- Listen, there it is -- the talking pillar! We hear it again. As I said, we are happy to let this motion proceed.
The ports, freight and logistics sector is important to the Victorian economy. Its estimated value to the economy is between $19 billion and $23 billion per annum. To put that in some context, the port of Melbourne is Australia's busiest commercial port; we know that. It handles something like 37 per cent -- --Ms Broad -- You are telling us what we already know.
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- Over and over and over, we hear from the talking pillar again.Ms Broad -- Do you have anything to say that we don't know already? We all know very well about the port of Melbourne.
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- Has it stopped? No, the honourable member opposite is continuing. I will stop every time there are interjections, just for the Hansard record, so we know what is going on. At the end of the day -- --Honourable members interjecting.
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- At the end of the day, this is the opposition's business day. If they want to sit here making inane interjections, I am happy to stand here and talk. There are no time lines in this place, so I will stand here and talk about the importance of the port. Those opposite do not care about the port. It is amazing that those opposite spoke earlier about transparency and honesty yet they have the gall to sit here and talk about issues they failed to bring up in relation to their failed projects and the way they used to handle taxpayers money. The reality is that the port is important. It is critical for trade. It handles the majority of the nation's containers.It is anticipated that it will handle something like 5.1 million containers by the mid-2020s.
Just to remind members and those interested, it is important to note that in 2012 the government said it would proceed with the investment in the port capacity project. In March last year the Minister for Ports and the Premier announced the start of the works at Webb Dock as part of the $1.6 billion port capacity project. That project covers a range of different areas, including a new international container terminal, a new automotive terminal, a new pre-delivery inspection hub for cars and increased container capacity at Swanson Dock. Over 2500 jobs will be created through this $1.6 billion investment in Victoria's future.The government is also proceeding with the development of the port of Hastings as Victoria's second container port. We very clear on that.
We are not jumping around, 1 minute saying that we are going to deal with the port of Hastings and then changing our minds in opposition.Mr Barber -- How is the progress on that?
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- There was an interjection asking how it is going. It is proceeding well. I am sure Mr Drum will add to that. Hastings will be able to cater for the additional container demand once the port of Melbourne reaches capacity in the mid-2020s. In answer to the question put by Mr Barber, we committed $110 million in the 2013-14 budget to commence important planning and design works.
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- Again, Mr Barber, you need to design and plan. If you do not design and plan, you end up with this ad hoc approach, like building a desalination plant that costs $1.8 million a day and has not delivered one drop of water.Mr Barber -- For the next 30 years.
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- For the next 27 years; it is counting down.That monetary commitment is for the planning and design works as well as the necessary approvals processes. As a natural deep-water port with a significant amount of land already zoned for port use, Hastings is a logical investment, as opposed to some of the policy decisions of those opposite, who are looking to move it somewhere else.
Mr Drum -- They didn't make any decision.Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA -- I do not know if they have made any decision. They made a decision in government on which they changed their position in opposition, but we will leave others to discuss that. Hastings has operated as a commercial port since the 1930s, and we have a high level of confidence that effective new container port capacity can be delivered at Hastings within the time frames required to avoid a gap in the state's capacity to accommodate the projected growth.
Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) -- Thank you, Acting President -- --
Mr Drum interjected.Mr BARBER -- I am 100 per cent ready, 100 per cent of the time, Mr Drum, particularly when the issue, like that raised by the Labor Party today, is one of transparency with regard to the operations of the Port of Melbourne Corporation. If we have problems with transparency now, one can only imagine what it will be like when the Labor Party, no doubt one day voting in this place with the Liberal Party, privatises the port of Melbourne.
Mr Tee talked about deals being shrouded in secrecy, and he bemoaned the fact that we would have to go to the Australian Stock Exchange to find out what was happening with different players down at the port. Every citizen of Victoria understands what it will mean when and if Labor achieves its plan to privatise the port of Melbourne. Everybody in politics understands that privatisation is a vastly unpopular policy with all voters across the political spectrum. Everybody understands that, so why is it that the Labor Party is pushing forward with a plan to privatise the port? It is because the money men -- the super funds and their deal arrangers -- want their next transaction and the fat fees that go with it, and they are beating a path to the door of the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Mulgrave in the other place, Daniel Andrews, and no doubt to many other government MPs as well, saying, 'How about it?'.Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government is urging state governments to -- I think the expression is -- 'work their balance sheets harder'.
That is code for 'flog off anything that is left that you have still got in public ownership'. In Victoria, apart from public land such as the people's corner park, the single biggest asset we have in public ownership is the port. Tony Abbott's call can mean only one thing, and Daniel Andrews has responded. Leaving aside the fact that members of the public simply do not agree with that, what can be the argument, if any, for selling the port of Melbourne?
It certainly will not create transparency because if we are having trouble now, the fact is that once it is a private entity the Parliament, the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General will find it extraordinarily hard to inquire into the management of that asset. The problem with the Audit Act 1994 and many of our other integrity mechanisms is that with contracting out, privatisation and all the rest of it, it is extraordinarily hard to follow the public's dollar or understand the value for money from a public-private partnership, a lease or sale, or whatever it is that the Labor Party is proposing. Transparency will be vastly more difficult under that arrangement. Will it lead to a better competitive outcome? I would not imagine so.
If a new owner was to buy the port from the state government, even at book value it would not be satisfied with that. It is going to want to squeeze some more juice out of the orange, and there are only a few ways you can do that. One way is to start jacking up port user fees, and we have already seen the normally staid Victorian Farmers Federation come out swinging on that one.It is deeply disturbed about the impact on exporters. The exporters are worried about a new private owner squeezing even more out of them by way of port fees.
We could see some sort of dodgy asset plays around the port precinct -- even, I would imagine, residential development impinging further onto the port, because that seems to be where the money is these days. Whatever is in the agreement that a punitive Andrews government would want to sign with the new port owner-operator, that would be the deal. If something is not in the contract, there will be no way for a future Victorian government or Parliament to influence what is happening down there, so anything is possible. No doubt we will not see that agreement until after it is signed. Talk about deals shrouded in secrecy: the proposed Liberal-Labor port privatisation will be a multibillion-dollar deal that will be shrouded in secrecy until the deal is done.The third way a new private port owner can try to squeeze more profit out of what is, by all accounts, a well-run port is exactly the type of thing Mr Tee has warned us about in here, such as casualisation of the workforce and so on. If Mr Tee is worried about all the issues he raised in his contribution, why are they going forward with a proposal to sell the port? We know that Labor has attached the idea to a program of works around level crossing removals. That is merely an exercise in trying to tart up this proposal and make it a bit more palatable to the public, but it will not work. Simply selling a public asset now that is delivering a revenue stream to Victoria and its citizens of $175 million worth of dividends over the last five years and replacing it with an amount of cash does not actually change the balance sheet or the net worth of Victoria as a polity. It exchanges one kind of asset for another. There is no magic money tree, but the Labor and Liberal parties are talking about it as if there is.
Even the Productivity Commission, which generally takes a pro-competition and pro-privatisation stance, says that no monopolistic profit is being generated by the way the port of Melbourne is being run now under public ownership. Things can only get worse under private ownership.Some people are treating the privatisation of the port as a fait accompli. They think that if both the Labor and Liberal parties are more or less committed to selling the port, albeit with some argument about the detail of how that is to be done, then this is a done deal. I am here to tell the chamber that there is a long way to go between now and the election and even after it. When the public gets its head around what this proposal to sell the port means, there will be rising anger. One way or another one of the parties will win the election and the other will lose the election, and I reckon the other one is going to chicken out.
I reckon that when this proposal for the port privatisation has been put to an election and the voters have had their say and considered that key stakeholders, all the way from the Victorian Farmers Federation to the Maritime Union of Australia, are already worried about what this means for their future, the voters will understand that it is not just those key stakeholders who have concerns. At that point, one of the two fraternal twins here -- the Labor and Liberal parties, united in their policy of flogging off the one remaining strategic economic transport asset that is purely in public ownership -- will cut and run. They think they are providing political cover to each other, but one of them will chicken out of the deal and then suddenly there will be a non-government majority in this chamber opposed to the sale of the port and massive egg on face for the government of the day that then has to backflip.
I am pleased to see this motion on the notice paper and to have had the opportunity to talk about why transparency around the port and its operations is an absolutely critical matter that all Victorians should be interested in and that certainly all port users and port stakeholders have a huge stake in. I look forward to taking to the election campaign the Greens opposition to the sale of the port of Melbourne with, as it so often is, Labor and Liberal united on the other side of the chamber.
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise to speak to Mr Tarlamis's motion 735. I note that he did not speak on the motion but that Mr Tee spoke to it. Nevertheless, I am pleased to rise to speak to the motion because the port of Melbourne exists within my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region and is a very important asset for not only the electorate but obviously Melbourne and the entire state.
The port of Melbourne is primarily a container port which handles around 37 per cent of the nation's container trade. Containers also account for over 70 per cent of the port's total trade.With around 3200 ship calls to the port each year, the port of Melbourne has grown with the city to now handle over 2.5 million TEU. In the last 15 years, container volumes have grown by over 150 per cent.
I take up the point that the report makes about the TEU (20-foot equivalent unit). I note that the opposition has put forward some plans for the port of Melbourne. The opposition spokesperson for ports, Tim Pallas, the member for Tarneit in the Assembly, incorrectly guessed that the port's capacity will be more than 8 million TEU if the opposition goes ahead and sells the port under its plan. Clearly Victorians, the government in general and members on this side in particular understand the incapacity of opposition members to manage large-scale projects and the financial aspects of the state in a considered way. Government members know that from the legacy those opposite left us.
I do not need to go through and remind members of just some of the issues government members are continuing to fix while at the same time giving certainty and enabling a vision for and growth of the state.One of those elements is the port of Melbourne. I am pleased that when he was the Minister for Ports the Premier had a very good understanding of the ports. Last March he very correctly announced the start of the work at Webb Dock as part of the $1.6 billion port capacity project. That again goes to the heart of what the government understands. As I said, the port of Melbourne is significant. It takes in a huge amount of trade for the south-eastern states. As the international trade expands, we are going to need increased capacity and the port of Hastings is part of that vision. In the 21st century boats and ships are getting bigger and bigger. It cannot be expected that they will be accommodated in the current port, so the port of Hastings will be fundamental in catering for those large ships.
Getting back to this report from the Port of Melbourne Corporation, in terms of strategic direction it talks about the port of Melbourne being:... Australia's largest container, automotive and general cargo port which in 2011-12 handled around 37 per cent of Australia's container trade. The full range of maritime trades that are undertaken at the port include containers, automotive, liquid bulk, dry bulk, break-bulk, general cargo, roll-on roll-off (Tasmanian passenger/freight and freight only services) and cruise vessels.
Those cruise vessels are an important element of our tourism industry. We know that is an increasing attraction to our city, which is regarded as the world's most livable. A number of cruise ships come into Station Pier. The port of Melbourne manages Station Pier, which is a gateway for this important tourism market to our state and to Melbourne, and provides a very good service.
The report talks about the capacity of the port of Melbourne, stating:The total value of trade handled by the port of Melbourne in 2012-13 was estimated to be almost $83.7 billion. This is sourced across the trade catchment covering Victoria, eastern South Australia, Tasmania and southern New South Wales ...
Very significant economic elements come through the port of Melbourne, as pointed out in the report. It is an important asset for the state and certainly for the Victorian economy. It therefore needs strategic consideration in relation to how we manage it. Labor's plan to conduct a fire sale of the port of Melbourne would be extremely detrimental to the Victorian economy and to the port of Melbourne itself. The coalition has made its plans in relation to port capacity very clear, and that has been pointed out on a number of occasions.
The $1.6 billion upgrade of the port of Melbourne goes to the future plans for that port.On Monday there was another release of information on how the port of Melbourne has strengthened its water patrol capability. The Minister for Ports, Mr Hodgett, spoke about the 8000 commercial ship movements in Port Phillip Bay every year and the huge amount of shipping traffic within the bay, which is set to grow should the state increase its trade capacity and develop further export markets. I am pleased that this government has undertaken a number of significant trade missions to Asia, China and the Middle East to seed that economic development. That all goes to our capacity in the port of Melbourne.
Returning to Mr Tarlamis's motion -- although, as I said, he did not move this motion; it was moved by Mr Tee -- this matter is currently under consideration as part of an FOI application to the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure. I understand the application has been transferred from the department to the Port of Melbourne Corporation. I also understand that the port of Melbourne and Asciano have come to a commercial settlement in relation to the early termination of Asciano's lease at Webb Dock. The terms of such a settlement are therefore commercial in confidence, unless those parties agree to make details of any such settlement public. The government is not party to any commercial settlement between the port and its tenants. That needs to be pointed out clearly to those opposite in relation to this motion.
I am very pleased to be part of a government that understands the economic benefits of an asset like the port of Melbourne -- what it does for our economy and how it assists our export markets. It is an important asset for the overall Victorian economy. I commend the Minister for Ports for his work, and also the Premier, in his capacity as Premier and as a former Minister for Ports.
As Mr Dalla-Riva said, the government will not be opposing this motion, but I wanted to make a few remarks about the strength of our port of Melbourne and the government's vision in relation to it. I commend the input of $1.6 billion by this government to support that very important Victorian asset.
Mr DRUM (Northern Victoria) -- A motion like this gives a member like me an opportunity to stand up and talk briefly about our ports in Victoria. Quite simply, Labor left government in this state with the ports in effect without plans for the future. When you think about the critical nature of the ports and their role as the engine room for this state's economy, you cannot help but be staggered by the idea that Labor would think business as usual is good enough for this state. We are both a prolific importer and exporter, and Victoria plays a leading role in looking after the 23 million people in this country, with the port of Melbourne being the busiest container port in Melbourne.
We are moving some 2.5 million containers through the port as we speak, and by the middle of the 2020s that will have in effect doubled. For a government that only vacated office a bit over three years ago to not have serious and adequate plans for the future is laughable. Then some opposition members stand up in this house and talk about financial management -- the laughter just keeps on coming. If it were not so horrendously serious, we would all be able to enjoy a good chuckle about the Labor Party bringing a motion like this to the Parliament.This is an incredibly important part of Victoria's economy. I am not just talking about wealth but about the value to the economy -- the integral part a functioning port plays in relation to commerce in this state. Quite often we talk about access to markets, and that has two connotations. The first is access to overseas markets. This government, like no other government in the history of Victoria, has led a large number of trade missions to some of our more traditional markets such as China and Japan and the growing market of India.
Only last week the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Walsh, led a trade mission to Iraq, and there have been trade missions to the United Arab Emirates.This innovative way to look into international markets to try to facilitate industry and commerce in this state is one way that government can help. What a government can do at times is limited, but it can have a real impact in creating new markets in that field. This government is leaving the previous Labor government for dead in showing initiative in creating new markets for our businesses into the future.
The second connotation of access to markets is a more seamless journey from the farm gate or the factory floor to the docks, containers and ships, and vice versa for our imports on the way back in.The government is able to assist commerce in creating these seamless transactions, and that is what is going to increase our exports. When it comes to this second concept of trying to create seamless access to the ports and from the ports to warehouses, I recall that in 2012 under the leadership of the former Premier, Ted Baillieu, and the then Minister for Ports, Denis Napthine, this government announced the $1.6 billion port capacity project, which introduced a range of initiatives to fix up and increase capacity at Melbourne's docks. We needed to do that because we understand that with the growth that is forecast for the state we have to plan for the future.
We understand that it is going to take many years to create the capacity we need to match this growth. Even when the work we are putting into Webb Dock at the port of Melbourne is completed, we are still going to be found wanting. That is why we have to develop the port of Hastings and why at the same time we have invested $110 million into the port of Hastings to increase capacity there.We will get this work done so that we are able to match the demand with the capacity at the port of Hastings. The second port will be necessary.
As I said, even with the upgrades to the port of Melbourne we expect it to reach capacity by the mid-2020s. The fact that the port of Hastings is a natural deep-water port makes developing it a more sensible option, as opposed to trying to invest in some other way. The commercial ports, such as the port of Portland, are experiencing record growth as well, certainly with grain, which is one of the main export trades through those ports. Both types of port play very important roles in that sector.
Quite simply, this is another example of why members of the former Labor government should be hanging their heads in shame whenever the subject of ports is raised in this chamber. They vacated government without having adequate plans for the future of the state, even though both imports and exports are incredibly important to ordinary businesses in Victoria and for that matter greater Australia, in which Victoria plays such a major part.Minister Napthine bit the bullet with a $1.6 billion investment into this area. A very complex range of improvements needed to be made just to cope with the growth that we are experiencing at the moment, to keep on top of things and to keep the port functioning as a high-quality port, without any hope of actually handling the long-term growth. Then by working in tandem to make those improvements, there was a $110 million investment as the start of what we are going to need to make the port of Hastings an addendum to the capacity of the state in conjunction with the ports of Melbourne, Portland and Geelong.
It is the modus operandi of members of the coalition government not to oppose motions which request the production of documents. Members of the government will let the relevant minister look at the legalities of providing documents which are at our disposal, but obviously we will not venture into matters concerning commercial agreements or commercial-in-confidence material. Ministers will release any documents that they are able to release. Hopefully there will be a situation in which those on both sides of politics can effectively work together to create better port capacity across this state, including at the port of Hastings.Motion agreed to.