I raise a matter for the Minister for Ports and the action I seek is for the Minister to reverse Labor’s policy position and commit to building a second container port at Hastings. Under a Coalition Government the Port of Hastings meant thousands of jobs for our state, greater opportunities for our businesses, improved services and infrastructure for our community and respect and protection for our environment.
Careful planning and thorough community consultation would ensure development of the Port of Hastings is a great thing for the people, families and businesses of the Western Port area.
One of Victoria’s major economic advantages, as the nation’s freight and logistics leader, is at great risk because Labor failed to plan for the fact that the Port of Melbourne will soon be completely out of space and larger container ships are already unable to fit into Port Philip.
Sydney and Brisbane are currently deepening their ports so they can accept any trade we lose. Loss of our competitive advantage will cost the Victorian economy many thousands of jobs and billions of dollars each year.
Regardless of the propaganda that has been spread, every study conducted since the 1950s has confirmed that the Port of Hastings is a naturally deep water port with channels already capable of accepting even the largest container ships of the future. Any dredging required would be confined to the berthing and swing basin.
As an operating port, and before Labor cancelled its development Hastings was also the only Victorian location that can be ready to accept containers before the Port of Melbourne runs out of space.
The Western Port community has been promised the jobs, services and infrastructure that development of the Port of Hastings would bring for more than 50 years and have been disappointed time and time again. Businesses have moved into the Western Port area and invested on the basis of the enormous economic opportunities an international port brings and have now again been devastated by Labor.
However, the people I am most concerned about are our local children and their families. We know from information provided by the Departments of Education and Children and Early Childhood Development that children on the Western Port side of the Mornington Peninsula often start from a very long way back when compared to their counterparts across our state.
Development of the Port of Hastings is not the only answer, as unemployment is not the only problem; however the prosperity that development of our port would bring to these families and businesses is an important part of the solution that must not be ignored.
Many families from around the Western Port area are doing it tough and some have not had employment for more than 20 years.
The Port of Hastings is truly a once in lifetime opportunity to make a real difference for these families and importantly for the futures of our children.
Through the massive investment in development of the Port of Hastings, our community will have an unprecedented chance to prosper and to ensure that our local people have available to them meaningful and rewarding jobs and our children, who hold the key to the future, receive the opportunities they deserve.
I have the pleasure every day of speaking to many people from the Western Port area and they tell me that they love and value our local environment; in fact they say it is one of the major reasons they chose to live here. These people also tell me that providing the studies are done thoroughly and the environment can be properly protected, they want the Port they have waited so long for to finally go ahead.
To our local community, development of the Port of Hastings means many thousands of jobs for our people, better incomes for our families, increased opportunities for our businesses and vastly improved services and infrastructure for all residents. The aspiration and opportunities this pivotal project will provide for our state, our businesses and our children make this critical project an absolute must.
This project, so critical to so many, has now at best been placed in great jeopardy by this socialist left and anti-business Premier; at worst an opportunity for our state to take its rightful place as the national leader in this pivotal space has been lost forever by a group of people with a history of vandalising Victoria’s economy.
The Coalition Government was already well advanced in planning and preparation works for a second container port at Hastings with funding of $110 million in the 2013/14 State Budget. Prior to last year’s election, the Labor Party claimed to prefer a ‘Bay West’ location for Victoria’s second container port, even in the face of clear evidence that it is not possible without doing irreparable damage to Port Philip from the enormous amount of dredging and blasting of the Heads.
The location of Victoria’s second container port has major implications for Victoria and the future of our state’s economy.
The Coalition Government has been clear and consistent in stating that Hastings is the only viable location for our second container port.
Until Daniel Andrews committed Labor to a very regrettable back-flip development of the Port of Hastings has long had bi-partisan support as the preferred location for a second container port due to its abundance of port-zoned land, its status as an existing natural deep water, being a working port, ready-made workforce and its proximity to major shipping channels in Bass Strait.
Labor’s decision to abandon support for the development of Hastings in 2012 comes despite former Labor Ports Minister Tim Pallas saying in the Foreword to its plan to develop the Port of Hastings (the POHLUTS) in 2009 ‘No other port location offers the same overall advantages as Hastings and it holds major economic potential for the state of Victoria’ .
Mr Pallas also said ‘The Port of Hastings is well positioned to serve as Melbourne’s second container port.
Only following the election did Victorians discover that Labor’s real plan was to introduce legislation providing a 70 year lease of the Port of Melbourne and to guarantee a monopoly for the Lessee; ruling out development of a second port anywhere in Victoria for at least 70 years.
There is no question that Victoria will need a second container port when the Port of Melbourne reaches capacity in the mid 2020’s, and there is also no doubt that Bay West is incapable of providing a suitable location.
The major shipping companies have stated that their fleet management will mean they will be compelled to send their bigger ships to Melbourne and this may need to occur by 2020. As these ships will not be able to access the Port of Melbourne, Victoria’s only container port, our state will become a transhipment port. This means our goods will have to be dropped at Brisbane or Sydney and then shipped by another smaller ship taking much longer and attracting much higher handling costs of each container. It’s difficult to imagine major companies wanting to locate in a state that no longer has an international container port and where they would be at a significant time and cost disadvantage.
In contrast an important aspect of the Port of Hastings development was a large commercial precinct onsite and a plan to preapprove customs clearances as is done in many other ports around the world. This would have provided the many hundreds of companies wanting to locate close to the port would receive their goods more quickly and at a lower cost. It would also have removed the need for a very large number of trucks for the leg between the port and the company.
Without the development of Hastings thousands of jobs will be lost and Victoria’s economy will suffer greatly.
Twelve months ago the Port of Hastings was building a real future for our community, already providing more than 100 jobs and preparing to provide thousands more over the coming years.
Now the Port of Hastings Development Authority is just a shell with the majority of the jobs gone and with Labor delivering the final blow in the budget by clawing back the remaining $80 Million of the project’s funding.
While Labor said it would take advice about where Victoria’s second container port should be built, it has cynically put a stop to the critically important work that was being carried out at the Port of Hastings by snatching away this critical funding.
Even groups that were concerned about development of the Port of Hastings have spoken in glowing terms about the importance and high quality of the work that was being carried out by the Port of Hastings Development Authority.
While it’s not possible to tell from the Budget papers exactly where Labor has spent the $80 Million, as no money is being spent in our area, it’s clearly going somewhere else.
The Port of Hastings Development Authority had been gutted and is effectively finished. In June we learnt that the authority will reduce from its current size of 30 staff to 14 staff.
The government's decision to kill off the development is a slap in the face and is it is a real let-down for the people of Hastings and the people of the south east.
This disgraceful decision is a major blow for jobs, businesses and the economy in the Western Port area, the south east region and Victoria.
I again call on the Minister for Ports to reverse Labor’s port’s policy position and commit to building a second container port at Hastings to help grow the Victorian economy and provide jobs for the future.
Please note: Only part of this speech was delivered in State Parliament due to time constraints.