In response to comments by Labor MLC, Darren West that the complete removal of the Port Expansion Project (PEP) charge and the forgiving of the remainder of the loan is a precursor for a future sale of the Geraldton Port., Nationals WA Member of Parliament and candidate for the seat of Geraldton Paul Brown MP, speaking on local radio this week, clearly stated that he would not support any future sale of the Geraldton Port.
Calls by Mr Brown for the removal of the PEP charges and the remainder of the loan have been agreed to by the Minister for Transport in this year’s State Budget.
Mr Brown said “Geraldton Port sale comments are nothing more than blatant scaremongering by the Labor party and its members. The removal of the PEP charges were due to a concerted call over a considerable period of time by myself and other community members, particularly the northern grain farming community, to recognise the contribution that had already been made without a substantial reduction in the loan amount.”
“Along with my Nationals WA colleagues, I have opposed the proposed sale of the Fremantle Port and I would definitely not be supporting any sale of the Geraldton Port. At this point there has been no discussion of a proposal except from the Labor’s Darren West. Perhaps it’s them warming up the community for a potential sale if they have the opportunity to form government.”
The Port Expansion Project was undertaken in 2003 to deepen the inner harbour and the shipping channel of the Geraldton Port to enable larger vessels to be fully loaded at the port, rather than the previous operations model which was to partially load before continuing to Fremantle to complete the loading. This model only increased the charges to growers by requiring addition fees at two ports.
Mr Brown said “The need for the Geraldton Port to remain in government control has been strengthened when you look at the requirement to continue the sand bypass from Pages Beach as part of the coastal erosion that is attributed to the port expansion in 2003.”
“I also think that the potential for a future port development at Oakajee would restrict the financial return of anyone that wanted to buy the current Geraldton Port. If I was going to spend the time and money on a port in this area I would be looking to entice a developer that might look favourably on a 50 year “build and operate” model for Oakajee.”
“We always seem to want to undertake these projects at the top of the economic cycle rather than look for investments at the bottom of the cycle where we are now.”