South Australian Ports Sale Faces Political Storm

Monday, April 03, 2000
The South Australian government expects strong bidder interest in its planned $120 million sale of the state's main ports, but the privatization is facing a political storm. The planned trade sale of the South Australian Ports Corporation has agitated a range of groups, from influential grain growers to the militant dockers union and farmers and tourism operators on the Kangaroo Island resort.

The government has seen strong level of interest in the ports at Port Adelaide, Port Lincoln, Port Giles, Thevanard, Klein Point, Wallaroo, and Port Pirie. Hutchison Whampoa, Infrastructure investment group Infratil Australia Ltd., graingrower group South Australian Cooperative Bulk Handling (SACBH), P&O Ports, transport group Toll Holdings Ltd., and Mersey Docks & Harbor Co. Plc, are all seen by industry sources as possible bidders.

However, the politics of the plan are indeed rocky, with opposition from the Labor and Democrats parties and the government forced by local protests to drop the three ports serving Kangaroo Island from the planned sale package. The militant Maritime Union of Australia is also concerned about the impact of the sale process on current investment plans at Port Adelaide.

Many critics say most of the remaining seven ports on offer are small grains facilities that should not be sold as one package with the main Adelaide dock - particularly as some would inevitably close under private ownership.

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