AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Not too late to reverse Sydney Harbour flog-off, forum hears

<p>The New South Wales Government’s plan to close Sydney Harbour to commercial shipping was the &#8220biggest flog-off in the harbour’s history&#8221, veteran broadcaster Alan Jones told a packed forum at Sydney’s Town Hall last night (Wednesday, February 7).</p> <p>Mr Jones told the Save Sydney Harbour Forum that shifting vehicle trade to Port Kembla would add only another 180,000 trucks to the road corridor each year and would strip the harbour of its role as a working port.</p> <p>He likened it to the ineffectiveness of the State Government’s plans for a desalination plant instead of better water-saving methods. </p> <p>The forum attracted several hundred people questioning and many campaigning against the State Government’s push to clear vehicle and other break bulk trades from the White Bay, Glebe Island and Darling Harbour precincts.</p> <p>Although the night also included speeches by state opposition leader Peter Debnam and Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, who both wanted the decision reversed, the influential Mr Jones was the star turn.</p> <p>His knowledge of maritime and transport matters was shaky in detail, particularly on the role of an inland port, but his firm opposition to shifting Sydney work to Newcastle and Port Kembla was Mr Jones at his radio audience-winning best.</p> <p> &#8220We spew all that sewerage and refuse into the harbour and let all the stormwater go into the ocean and let the whole lot salinate and then desalinate it to bring it back here,&#8221 he declared.</p> <p>&#8220What person completely brain dead would approve moving cargo to Port Kembla only for it to return to Sydney?&#8221 he asked.</p> <p>&#8220What the hell is to happen to the city and to our main thoroughfare between Port Kembla and Sydney, and between Newcastle and Sydney?&#8221</p> <p>Ms Moore demanded an audit of publicly-owned harbour land after separate revelations in the <em> Sydney Morning Herald</em> about waterfront regulation changes. </p> <p>&#8220I call on the Government to abandon the disgraceful proposal to give a free cut lunch to waterfront development,&#8221 Ms Moore said.</p> <p>&#8220We demand that privatisation of the harbour stop now.&#8221</p> <p>Many shipping types and local residents fear that the State Government will allow extensive development of the land once the shipping industry packs up from 2008.</p> <p>The State Government has previously maintained that the areas would remain part of a &#8220maritime precinct&#8221 and would not be sold off.</p> <p>Mr Debnam said he would reverse the decision to move the vehicle trade to Port Kembla should he be put in office at the March 24 state elections.</p> <p>&#8220Yes we want to, in the case of Port Kembla and Newcastle, see the economic activity at the port,&#8221 Mr Debnam said.</p> <p>The reversal would not be at the expense of Sydney, he said.</p> <p>&#8220Let’s lift all three ports,&#8221 Mr Debnam said.</p> <p>&#8220Let’s re-introduce the concept of transparency and accountability and stop all these decisions being made behind closed doors in the government office blocks.&#8221</p> <p>Organisers said that NSW premier Morris Iemma was invited to the forum, but declined the invitation. </p> <p>A letter from Mr Iemma’s staff in January said that the premier sent his &#8220best wishes&#8221 for the success of the event.</p> <p>The long-serving and immediate past president of the National Trust of Australia, Barry O’Keefe, said Mr Iemma could guarantee the success of the event by reversing the Government’s decision to close the harbour to shipping.</p> <p>It was not too late to change the decision, Mr O’Keefe said.</p> <br />