Port of Newcastle fails to escape ACCC clutches
The full court of the Federal Court has reinforced the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ( ACCC) and Australia Competition Tribunal’s ( ACT’s) powers over port charges.
In a unanimous decision, the Federal Court rejected a Port of Newcastle appeal against the ACCC’s decision to make its operations a ‘declared service’, in a case coal exporter Glencore brought after the newly privatised port raised service prices sharply.
The outcome means the ACCC retains oversight and regulation of port operations as they affect charges.
Glencore welcomed the judgement: “Since its privatisation for $1.75 billion in 2014, the Port of Newcastle has revalued its assets and increased shipping fees by in excess of 60 per cent without any change in the nature or quality of service provided,” it says. “The introduction of a reasonable regulatory constraint is critical for all users of monopolyowned infrastructure.”
The decision is a blow to Port of Newcastle, also known as Port of Newcastle Operations (PNO), which argues that service charges have failed to keep up with in ation over the past 20 years and which has warned of possible “unintended consequences” for other infrastructure providers.
CEO Geoff Crowe says the decision could introduce a new layer of “costly regulation”.