Hands off our port: Giles

SURVIVALIST Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles has slammed New South Wales Senator Sam Dastyari for bringing a fly-in fly-out Senate Committee to Darwin today as being about scoring cheap political points and potentially threatening the Top End’s port expansion.

Anthony Barich

Dastyari called Giles a “coward and a liar” for refusing to attend a Senate Economics Committee into the privatisation of state and territory assets and new infrastructure, specifically questioning the NT Parliament approving the sale of the besieged Territory Insurance Office in November.

"The Senate has come all the way to the NT to hear his side of the argument," Dastyari told reporters in Darwin.

"If the reason why he wanted to flog off (the Territory Insurance Office) and is looking to do the same to the port is so good for Territory families, why won't he front the inquiry?"

Dastyari said Giles was being dishonest by relying on $5 billion in federal funds to contribute an additional 15 % of reinvested asset sale proceeds.

"Adam Giles has gone out there publicly to the people of the NT and claimed he's going to get a share of that money, but the fact is none of it has passed the Senate," Dastyari said.

The Senate committee is due to report its findings to parliament on March 20, which will then be followed by a debate.

German insurance giant Allianz will buy TIO’s insurance arm for $236 million, while the People’s Choice Credit Union will acquire the banking and loans service for $48 million.

The NT government has been setting up a new regulatory framework for its port, putting out feelers in November for private sector investment to expand its size and capacity ahead of expected trade growth with Asia.

Jan van der Schalk, senior insurance analyst with stockbroking firm CLSA, said just before the bill went though that the sale gave the government much more certainty around its own budget and expenses, and “when we look at the price it seems to be in line with the kind of prices that currently insurers like IAG and Suncorp are trading at”

“I understand how important it is for Territorians to have confidence that the model we are proposing for a lease of the port is the best model available,” Giles said yesterday.

Giles said this was why he announced last week that the legislation would be reviewed by a Parliamentary Committee, which will look at options for enhancing the current model with a focus on variables such as the duration of any lease, mechanisms for an ongoing return to taxpayers, and what kind of partners can best help us to grow this important infrastructure.

“Importantly, it will also examine existing Northern Territory public/private partnerships such as the Marine Supply Base (MSB) at the port and what lessons can be learnt from the way the former Labor government set up the deal,” Giles said.

The MSB is just one of numerous public assets sold or established as public/private partnerships by Labor governments around the country, he added.

These include the Commonwealth Bank and which were privatised by federal Labor governments, Queensland Rail which was sold by former state Labor Premier Anna Bligh and Victoria’s State Insurance Office, which was sold by former state Premier Joan Kirner.

“Labor’s cheap political motives in bringing a fly-in fly-out Senate Committee to Darwin have been made plain today with the chairman [Dastyari ] choosing name calling over real debate on the future of our port,” Giles said.

“Sam Dastyari has no business jetting into Darwin on a 24 hour stop-over and telling Territorians what to do with their port.

“He’s just here to score cheap political points as he proved today with his name calling and abuse. He should go home to Canberra if that’s the best he can do.

“Sam Dastyari and his Labor mates like Michael Gunner, Natasha Fyles and Nicole Manison are tied to the idea that governments must run everything. Even when we’re talking about a highly specialised field such as running a port, they refuse to concede that the private sector might have the skills and finances to assist in growing the port.

“I beg to differ. [Today’s] committee hearing is a political stunt that Sam Dastyari and his union mates have repeated around the country in a bid to help state Labor oppositions. It’s sham cooked up by one of the NSW Labor Party’s biggest back room hacks. I won’t be part of it.

“The committee, which also includes Labor ‘captain’s pick’ Nova Peris, is simply not interested in hearing about the need for us to grow and expand our port – something that will only be possible if we can attract private investment to pay for the necessary infrastructure.”