Mr BARBER (Northern Metropolitan) — One hundred years ago Labor members would have come into this place and railed against some of the ugly private monopolies that then existed in the Victorian economy; now Labor members have put forward a bill to create a new one through the lease for 50 years of the port of Melbourne. This proposal is an absolute stinker. For the Victorian public it means that one of our last remaining publicly held strategic economic assets is to be handed over to an operator with only profit in mind. Anyone who is a user of the port for export purposes can expect to see their prices rising. That is, after all, the whole point of a private operator leasing the port — to squeeze more juice out of the orange.
At the moment it seems that the coalition is sitting on the fence. As this bill makes its way through the Parliament over the next few weeks the coalition should give serious consideration to where it stands. The Nationals are already losing votes by the bucketload to the Greens over the issue of coal seam gas, and this issue is likely to be of equal concern to farmers across the landscape, never mind the manufacturers, given the increasingly important role manufactured food exports play in our economy.