A massive chunk of Newcastle Port is up for sale, and a mining company controlled by the Chinese government wants to buy it.
Newcastle Port is already 50 per cent owned by a Chinese state-owned company, China Merchants Group. Now another Chinese state-owned company, Yancoal – which already owns 27 per cent of one of the terminal operators – wants to buy another 36 per cent stake in yet more terminals. This would give China a significant ownership position in all aspects of the port.
Yancoal is carrying large amounts of debt, and has reportedly been boasting to investors it will not pay any taxes on these assets for years. This would deprive the Treasury of $100 million a year, meaning less money to fund our schools, hospitals and police.
As the biggest coal export terminal in the world, Newcastle Port is a unique and irreplaceable national asset. We should not be giving it away, piece by piece, to a foreign government just to make a quick buck – especially when that government has an obvious strategic interest in controlling our ports.
This is not the first time China has gone after our key infrastructure. Other assets they’ve targeted include Ausgrid (Australia’s largest electricity network), the Port of Melbourne (Australia’s largest container port), the iconic Kidman estate (including the world’s largest cattle station), and the Port of Darwin (a strategic defence port).
Our economy depends on seaborne trade. The more of our ports China owns, the more leverage they have over our most important export industry. As a free and sovereign nation, this is not in our national interest.
The Treasurer has to do the right thing and protect Newcastle Port, safeguarding Australia’s national interests as he has in the past with Kidman Station and Ausgrid. China and the international banks advising on this deal are already trying to pressure him behind the scenes. We have to show him that if he stands up to them, he’s got our backing.