I speak to the Port of Newcastle (Extinguishment of Liability) Bill 2022 and make clear that Labor has opposed privatisation of the port from the get-go. It is easily the worst example of this Government's privatisation addiction. It is the worst privatisation we have seen in this country and may be the worst around the globe. It was cooked up and delivered by the secret deal the Liberal-Nationals Government signed, which not only privatised our port but also limited the economic potential of the Hunter region entirely.
Let us recap. In 2013 those opposite sold Port Botany and Port Kembla for more than $5 billion to the NSW Ports consortium. In 2014 they sold off the Port of Newcastle for $1.75 billion, signing a 98-year lease, which included the worst deal struck by a government in the history of New South Wales. Part of it, the Port Commitment Deed, takes the cake for dodgy deals struck by those opposite. It not only placed a cap on the number of containers Port of Newcastle could ship but also forced the taxpayers to pay compensation if that cap was breached. Those opposite need not take it from me and my Labor colleagues. The ACCC described the deed as anti-competitive and illegal, and the productivity commissioner too has spoken against the deed.
The sale of the Port of Newcastle is just one of many dud privatisation deals imposed upon the Hunter region, such as the sale of our transport network or the disastrous privatisation of Vales Point Power Station. Dominic Perrottet continues to refuse to rule out further privatisations. What is next? Hunter Water may come to the table. We should keep that as a watching brief. First up we had the privatisation of the Newcastle Transport network to French operator Keolis Downer. In 2015 Dominic Perrottet was one of the architects of that failed transport privatisation. What did it deliver: services cut, travel times increase, bus stops removed and children left by the side of the road. It is still happening. Vales Point Power Station was sold for $1 million—which is a great little deal if you can get it. A few months ago it was sold for $200 million. Even the Premier could not say that that was a good privatisation deal for New South Wales. That brings me to the jewel in the Government's crown of dud privatisation deals: the sale of the Port of Newcastle and the Port Commitment Deed. It has not just put a handbrake on the Hunter region's economy but it is also an active impediment to the diversification of the Port of Newcastle.
The community has not benefitted from any of these privatisations. They have all ended in absolute failure. Despite this, we have a government and a Premier who every day spruiks privatisation as essential. They have no shame about leaving the taxpayers of this State to pick up the bills into the future. One thing is for sure: As long as the Liberals are in government, everything in New South Wales is up for sale. The people of New South Wales, this great State, are paying for that. What is next? It may be Hunter Water or the remainder of Ausgrid. We have already seen thousands of jobs lost in the Hunter region due to the first iteration of that privatisation. That is not to mention the highest electricity prices ever seen in this State. It may be the privatisation of Essential Energy. Will the National Party members support that? We know that they have all got form because they voted for this. So, of course, the answer is yes.
We know that the diversification of the port is critical to our region as coal exports decline, as many members have said. We need to protect local jobs. The only way we can do that is by diversifying our port. I know that the Deputy Premier likes to wax lyrical about The Nationals being the supposed champions of the regions. Where were the Nationals when this bill came to the Parliament? They were sitting right there, voting for it. How did the then local Liberal representatives of the electorates of Newcastle, Charlestown and Swansea—Owens, Cornwell and Edwards—vote? They all voted for it. I have not since those three names together since Operation Spicer. What about Adam Marshall? He plays the champion but he voted for the bill too. While the bill is well intentioned, it does not extinguish the liability that has been placed on the Port of Newcastle. It still puts taxpayers on the hook. I would like the Minister to confirm in Parliament that the liability will not exceed the money collected from the Port of Newcastle. If the liability that the State will inherit is greater than the amount of money the Port of Newcastle has to pay to the New South Wales Government, the Minister should disclose that to the Parliament today.