Nats not swayed on port sale

Nats not swayed on port sale


THE Nationals WA have held firm on the Fremantle Port sale debate.

The Nationals WA leader Terry Redman with deputy leader and member for Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies hold firm on blocking the port.

The Nationals WA leader Terry Redman with deputy leader and member for Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies hold firm on blocking the port.

THE Nationals WA have held firm on the Fremantle Port sale debate.

This is despite the State Government pitching the privatisation to farmers last week.

Earlier this month The Nationals WA moved to block the Liberal Government's plan to sell the port.

Leader Terry Redman announced the decision to splinter from his party's coalition with the Liberal Party, causing a rift between the two parties.

The party had requested to see more transparency in the deals that government was striking in the private sector.

Deputy Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies said despite the public forums last week more details and guarantees were needed by the State Government.

"I am pleased the Treasurer has seen fit to have a more detailed conversation with the sale process, it was always one of the issues we have raised for some time," she said.

"One meeting in Northam does not mean there was consultation.

"But we wouldn't be in this position now, had the Nationals not raised those concerns."

Ms Davies said changes the Treasurer put on the table were the result of the The Nationals refusing to endorse the sale.

"Those changes were made as a result of us outlying the seriousness of the State's decision to privatise the port," she said.

"We are not changing our position, there are still a lot of answers that are needed."

Ms Davies said they would need to see industry support and see the legislative changes before they could make a consideration.

"It would almost require unanimous industry support along with appropriate consultation with the community," she said.

"I am sceptical, even with a consultation process. I am not sure we would be able to find a pathway to support it, and certainly not in the time-frame the Treasurer is talking about.

"The reason we stepped away was because we saw no change in the attitude of the Treasurer, in the way that he wanted to progress the sale or our concerns we raised."

Ms Davies said if there had been changes, she hoped the State Government would have that conversation with them.

She drew on the issues experienced by WA growers over rail access with the WA Government's lease to Brookfield Rail, as a consideration in the decision-making process.

Ms Davies said she had seen that rail lease change over a period of time, which hadn't been to the benefit of industry.

"The private sector is very good at finding loopholes in contracts to maximise their benefit," she said.

State Treasurer Mike Nahan told Farm Weekly The Nationals' decision to oppose the long-term lease was baffling.

"I don't know why they did that," Dr Nahan said.

"I have received virtually no coherent criticism of the legislation or the proposal from the Nationals, that hasn't been already been addressed."

Dr Nahan claimed the party had been "playing games".

Ms Davies refuted the claims and said there was an extraordinary amount of nervousness in relation to the sale of this asset.

"We have taken this issue very seriously," she said.

"If we get it wrong there will be ramifications down the track and we would have been responsible for not making sure their were enough belts and braces in the legislation and sale process to protect the future users.

"If you weren't game playing you would tell the local member that you where coming to her electorate, and you would give them the same briefing you gave WAFarmers and other key stakeholders in relation to the proposal they put on Tuesday night – which was the first time we heard there were changes," Ms Davies argued.

"I was only informed formally by the Treasurer at 12 o'clock on the day of the forum, despite it being advertised in all my local media for the last two weeks.

"To say there is game playing – I think that's a bit rich."

Dr Nahan said there was already significant changes made in regards to their concerns.

He claimed the rail issue had overshadowed the debate.

Dr Nahan said a number of changes had been made, to ensure the port sale would not have the same issues that rail had in the past.

"Unfortunately the Nationals WA, who sat through most of the first discussions in Cabinet, stepped out of Cabinet and didn't participate in the vote for it," Dr Nahan said.

"The Nationals WA then said they where not comfortable and that the proposal needed to be communicated to his constituents – I accept that."

Dr Nahan said however he was yet to have coherent criticism from The Nationals on the details of the issue.

"You can't say they were not informed and now you can't say the public isn't informed because that's what I am doing and you can't say their members were not informed," he said.

Dr Nahan said another issue The Nationals WA had, he said he had adjusted was around regulation and pricing.

"You can either put it into legislation or regulation," he said.

"So we decided not to put the access in regulation and pricing in regulation, but instead embed it into legislation.

"And I have agreed to publish everything in regards to the lease agreement - so this will be the most transparent transaction in WA's recent history."

Dr Nahan said The Nationals had a number of briefings about the issue, and said he would continue to negotiate.

"If they ask for us to postpone the legislation, or delay it in Parliament to talk through it, we would have done that no problem," he said.

"We would have then got a sale through and the outer harbour locked in with their commitment, but instead they put that in jeopardy.

"I am trying to convince the Nationals to come on board, but we will have to wait and see if we are successful in that.

"If not, we will try bring it through Parliament without their support, as we are negotiating with other parties."


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