Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has called on the Coalition, the Greens and micro parties in the Upper House to oppose the Port of Melbourne privatisation.
Ms Sheed urged the Coalition and cross benchers to oppose the legislation unless there is a watertight commitment from the Andrews Labor government that an equitable proportion of the sale proceeds will be directed to major regional Victorian infrastructure projects.
“It is important that both the Liberal Party and the National Party, both of which hold seats in regional Victoria, stand up for their constituents and demand a better deal from the government,” Ms Sheed said.
“The National Party in particular have criticised the government for failing to deliver in the state budget. It can now take steps to redress the balance.
“And the Greens and the micro parties hold the balance of power in the Upper House. They can achieve some equity for regional Victoria by joining forces on this issue and I urge them to do so.
Ms Sheed said rural and regional Victoria would not get a fair share of the port privatisation revenue.
“At this stage all indications are that the proceeds of sale will be directed to fund major infrastructure developments in Melbourne, predominantly financing the government’s election promise to remove 50 level crossings,” she said.
“It is simply not good enough that the regional communities who produce the food and fibre exports that the port was built on and still relies on today will receive no benefit whatsoever from the sale.
“Similarly if we are to achieve growth in the export of agriculture, horticulture and dairy products to Asia then the volume of containers sent through the Port of Melbourne will increase.
“Given the massive rental increases currently proposed at the port which will inevitably increase charges it is important that some benefit flow back to the primary producer in regional Victoria.”
Ardmona orchardist Peter Hall said he supported commercially beneficial private ownership of the port but that regional and rural communities should benefit.
“It’s not equitable to take the value that has been built up through the risk and investment in agricultural products through the decades and spend it on removing level crossings that trucks carrying agricultural produce will never use,” he said.
“Our trucks will go down the Hume, pay tolls on CityLink and never see a boom gate.”
Mr Hall said no responsible member of parliament should support the port’s privatization under the current plan.
“Taking value that has been derived from one sectors investment and patronage, then spending it on a totally unrelated political promise is flawed in principle and deserves no responsible members support,” he said.
“Rural Victoria has paid for the port, surely we should benefit from its privatisation particularly if we are going to be slugged inflated charges to prop up an election promise.”
3 June 2015