15 Australian politicians call for action on China’s ownership of Newcastle Port

Fifteen Australian politicians, including the Deputy Prime Minister, have called on the federal government to take action on the Port of Newcastle (PON), which is partially leased to China’s state-owned China Merchants Group.

In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasury Secretary Josh Frydenberg Australian saw, Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz has expressed concern that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be given a geopolitical advantage by the proposed changes to the National Access System (NAR). NAR manages the operation and investment of critical infrastructure around Australia.

A letter signed by a delegation of coalition politicians raises issues regarding PON, including that 50% of the 1991 leases are owned by a CCP-backed company, and Abets also urgently evaluated. He said it was operated in the exclusive way it needed.

PON processes about 40% of Australia’s coal exports, the movement of 4,400 vessels and 164 million tonnes of cargo. It has been privately owned by the Infrastructure Fund and China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPorts) since 2014.

A major concern for Australian politicians was that CM Ports designated PON as a “Port Park City” development under Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative.

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Senator Eric Abets during Senate Question Time in Canberra, Australia on July 7, 2014. (Stephan Postles / Getty Images)

“Coal exports through the Port of Newcastle account for about 40% of Australia’s national coal exports, so the Port of Newcastle is an important strategic national economic asset,” said Abets. “In 2020, China will impose strict restrictions on Australian coal imports, and continued price increases at the Port of Newcastle will give Australia a global competitiveness in coal exports and the ability to export Australian coal to other countries. Will affect. “

He added that the port took advantage of its monopoly position on coal exporters from the Hunter Region to create “uncertainty that threatens employment and global competitiveness of coal exports through the port.”

This monopoly action also means that PON is open to geopolitical exploitation, Senator warned.

“Half of the Chinese companies that manage the monopoly bottleneck of the coal export chain raise prices at their discretion, boost coal prices abroad in Australia and make our second largest export product competitive. It seems unbelievable that it could reduce it, “said Parliamentarian Daiki Genjiho wrote in a letter not read.

Concerns over PON have been raised since 2016, but settled in 2019 when the federal government did not extend price controls over port operators. As a result, Rod Sims, Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said: explain PON operator as “unrestricted monopoly” in 2019.

“A monopoly that manages this type of bottleneck infrastructure that operates unregulated maximizes profits by raising prices, even if it means reducing the amount of services or usage. We have a clear incentive to do it, “Sims said.

“It’s bad for the economy that the bottleneck infrastructure at the end of the key value chain falls into the hands of companies with free market power. Monopolies in such situations always use that power. The only question is how often and how often. “

Epoch Times Photo
Rod Sims Chairman of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). (Reuters / Jason Reid)

Sims believes the federal government needs to declare a port under the NAR. This will allow the ACCC to monitor how the port works.

The New South Wales (NSW) Minerals Council also wants the government to declare a port under the NAR.

Stephen Galiley, CEO of the New South Wales Minerals Council, emailed The Epoch Times, saying that PON could set and raise shipping charges at its discretion as there are no alternative ports for users in the area. He said. Port users have no choice but to pay rising prices.

“The port is clearly showing aggressive monopoly behavior,” Galilee said. “Since the port was privatized by the Government of New South Wales in 2014, Newcastle Harbor has taken advantage of its monopoly position to raise user fees for coal exports by nearly 120%.”

This is a three separate request from hunter coal exporters to initiate an ACCC-approved voluntary collective bargaining process with producers after failing to provide an acceptable individual commercial agreement with port users. Nevertheless.

“The port simply rejected all requests,” Galilee said. “Exercise of market power by rising prices damages markets that depend on their services, including the coal industry and related mining supply industries.”

“In addition, the port has begun legal proceedings to make such a process illegal,” he said.

The letter includes liberal and national politics such as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, Bridget Mackenzie, James McGrath, Sarah Henderson, Alex Antic, Kevin Andrews, Paul Scar, Philip Thompson, Llew O’Brien, Concetta Fierravantiwells. The house has signed. , George Christensen, Gerard Rennick, Eric Abetz, and Susan McDonald.

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