John Anderson should be congratulated for his response to the ports infrastructure crisis that’s strangling our raw materials exports – even if his power grab from the states is motivated by the PM’s infrastructure taskforce report, which is bound to show up Anderson’s reform failure in this key area. The states are already squealing about losing their rights; which must be music to the ears of born-again centralists like the prime minister and his deputy.
While some might construe the Anderson plan as policy on the run, it’s good to see some bold policymaking coming from Canberra. Surely this is the shape of things to come, with only 43 days left until Nirvana: total Coalition control of Parliament. Tomorrow’s release of the PM’s export infrastucture report will give the government food for thought. For a start, it will sheet home the blame for the capacity constraints choking our exports to a range of culprits, including the port operators and raw material exporters themselves, who have been notoriously reluctant to invest in vital new facilities.
The producers are on nice little earners, basking in lucrative fixed-price contracts. They are reluctant to open their purse-strings without government assistance. For example, despite the massive constraints on coal exports, coal producers plan to invest a piddling $2.5 million to develop 40 million tonnes of new mine capacity in the next few years. Not nearly enough to handle the projected 55% increase in coal exports over the next 12 months.
So while producers hold out their hands to governments for corporate welfare to improve their facilities, it doesn’t really matter who runs the ports – state, federal or local government. What we really need is more of the big picture from a government emboldened by power. How long before Anderson investigates the extreme logical extension of his bold new federalism, and dips back into his party’s Country Party policy past: how long before we get a call for a dose of nationalisation? Worked for the banks – didn’t it?
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