Port of Melbourne sale could go ahead without parliament's approval

February 22, 2016 11:01 am 

MELBOURNE, Feb. 22 — The Victorian government Monday threatened to sell the Port of Melbourne without parliamentary approval if the state opposition does not pass the legislation by Thursday.

The state's Treasurer, Tim Pallas, told news outlets on Monday that the 50-year lease on the port will be sold with or without opposition support, in a move which could knock hundreds of millions of dollars off the expected USD 4.3 billion sale price.

Pallas said the government was sick of "frustrating" talks with the opposition, which have dragged on for more than 12 months.

"We're giving the opposition a week — remembering that this has taken over 12 months now — to resolve these issues, or we will govern, make no mistake, and we will essentially use the State Owned Enterprises Act (to sell it)," Pallas told ABC radio on Monday.

Talks have stalled since the government said it wanted to guarantee a second port would not be built for 50 years or the life of the lease, but the opposition wants it to expire after 15 years.

Pallas said the risk of future competition to potential buyers would devalue the sale price of the 50-year lease.

"The value of the asset would be undermined. It would only short-change Victorians," he said.

The Victorian government is also keen to sell the rights to the port as soon as possible, since a federal government asset recycling scheme, which offers any states 15 percent of an asset sale as a bonus payment for new infrastructure, could end before the end of the year.

The approximate USD 600-million windfall from the federal government initiative has been touted as a way for the Victorian government to fund major rail projects in Melbourne.

A number of overseas companies, including those from China, have firmed as favorites to purchase the leasing rights to the port; the news follows the announcement last year that Chinese company Landbridge was sold the rights to the Port of Darwin in the Northern Territory. (PNA/Xinhua)

JBP/EBP

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