Farmers are worried that the proposed privatisation of Fremantle Port will lead to a dramatic rise in their freight rates. The 800% rise in rents charged to stevedores by the newly privatised Port of Melbourne would be ringing some alarm bells.
Closer to home are the disastrous consequences of the privatisation of Western Australia’s freight rail network via a secret 49-year lease signed in 2000 when Premier Colin Barnett was Minister for Transport.
The lease is now owned by Canadian company Brookfield Asset Management; the same company that has the contract to build the new Perth stadium and has secured two sites in the state government's Elizabeth Quay waterfront project.
In 2010 Brookfield announced it would close 720 kilometres of so-called “tier 3” freight lines unless the state government tipped in $93.5 million of taxpayers' money to carry out essential capital works. The government refused.
These rail lines carry 92% of grain to the port from the area they serve, between 1.5 and 2 million tonnes each season. This equates to between 57,000 and 86,000 extra truck movements per year forced on to our roads. The cost in terms of road accident trauma, extra pollution and the destruction of lightly constructed rural roads that were not built to take road trains and have to be repaired by local councils has never been considered.
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