The State Government today introduced enabling legislation to State Parliament for the long-term lease of Fremantle Port to the private sector.
Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Mike Nahan said the Fremantle Port Assets (Disposal) Bill 2016 would provide the legal framework for the Government's plan to move Fremantle Port to the private sector through a long-term lease for a period of up to 99 years.
Mr Barnett said the legislation was another key milestone in the Government's plan to reduce debt and fund future infrastructure.
"The long-term lease of Fremantle Port will be a cornerstone of the Government's fiscal management plan, aimed at reducing Government debt and unlocking the potential for private sector capital investment to develop economic infrastructure to support and grow the Western Australian economy," he said.
"Together with the proceeds of other transactions under the Government's asset sales program, the Fremantle Port divestment is an important enabler of the funding future infrastructure initiative announced by the Treasurer when he delivered the 2016-17 State Budget last week."
Dr Nahan said without the long-term lease of Fremantle Port, the Government would not be able to invest in important infrastructure to allow the movement of livestock facilities from the Inner Harbour to the Outer Harbour.
The access and pricing regime - key elements which are now set out in the legislation - includes a number of protections designed to ensure continued fair access to relevant port facilities and services and to mitigate the risk of potential abuse of market power and unfair pricing. The Economic Regulation Authority will be the regulator of the access and pricing regime.
Dr Nahan said the legislation also ensured the Government would retain oversight of any new Port Lessee through a restructured Fremantle Port Authority (FPA).
"The Harbour Master function will be maintained by the FPA, allowing effective oversight over marine safety and access for users to the waterways. The Government will also be responsible for approving the Port Lessee's master plan for development and have an ongoing supervisory role for any future development proposals," he said.
The introduction of the legislation follows extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA, WA Livestock Exporters Association, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, the WAFarmers and CBH Group.
It also comes after the consideration of key policy issues and supporting analysis related to the divestment from joint lead financial advisers Rothschild and Deloitte, which included infrastructure needs to support trade growth and modelling of the Inner Harbour's capacity to determine the timing for the proposed Outer Harbour development.
"Recognising the importance of maximising the taxpayers' return on investment from the existing infrastructure, the Government is committed to the continuation of the Fremantle Inner Harbour as a container and general cargo port for the longer term," the Treasurer said.
"Analysis of capacity and trade growth has confirmed the Outer Harbour, which would be additional to the Inner Harbour operations, will not be required for at least 15 years and probably much longer. Allowing the Inner Harbour to reach its natural capacity means port prices will remain lower for all users, with the benefits passed on to the community."
Dr Nahan said the Bill also provided for private sector investment in new port facilities within the current port boundary, reducing the requirement for future government funding.
"Importantly, this creates the framework for the Outer Harbour development to be undertaken by the new lessee of Fremantle Port as and when the expanded capacity is required. Should the new lessee choose not to take up the development opportunity, the Government may elect for this to be undertaken by another party," he said.
"The Bill also provides a number of protections designed to ensure continued fair access to relevant port facilities and services."
Fremantle Port is WA's largest container and general cargo port and operates from two primary locations
It will be the last Government-operated container port in mainland Australia, after the divestment of the Port of Melbourne, currently in progress
The Inner Harbour comprises seven berths dedicated to container shipping, seven common-user berths for general cargo shipping and cargo handling, plus two berths for cruise shipping and two berths used for smaller ships and vessel lay-up
The Outer Harbour, located about 25km south of the Inner Harbour, services dry and liquid bulk trades. It comprises the Kwinana Bulk Terminal and Kwinana Bulk Jetty, both of which are owned and operated by Fremantle Ports, as well as three privately operated jetties
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