Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

The race to the bottom of the harbour

By Michael Naismith

The Port of Melbourne, one of the last big public assets in Australia, is set to be sold to private investors. The Victorian Labor government expects to reap about $6 billion from the sale and plan to use the windfall to cover the costs of replacing 50 level crossings.

Both major parties agreed on the privatisation plans, arguing only about how long the new owner should be protected from the competition of another port handling facility being built.

The community would be much better off if the port remained a state owned facility. At present the port makes a profit of $121 million from which it pays the government a $33 million dividend. With interest rates at record lows Labor could easily borrow the money needed to fix the rail crossings.

Once the port becomes a privately owned monopoly it will inevitably usher in an era of extensive price gouging. This will be a drag on the cost of producing exports and will further burden manufacturing, leading to job losses. Farmers will also pay dearly for putting the port into private hands.

Socialists oppose the privatisation of public assets and argue that all key sectors of the economy be publicly owned and controlled so that production can be planned for human need rather than capitalist profit.