$200 million Agricultural Fund is not enough: Purcell

Swanston Dock Port Melbourne. Image CC by David Wallace

Swanston Dock Port Melbourne.
Image CC by David Wallace

Western Victorian MP James Purcell has warned regional businesses not to be taken in by a promised $200 million Agricultural Fund attached to the proposed lease of the Port of Melbourne.

Mr Purcell has been appointed to a Select Committee of eight members to inquire into and report on the proposed lease of the Port of Melbourne as contemplated by the Delivering Victorian Infrastructure (Port of Melbourne Lease Transaction) Bill 2015.

Mr Purcell says he welcomes the opportunity to represent the interests of Western Victorian farmers and businesses in this important decision.

“I will do my utmost to ensure that the interests of Western Victoria are at the forefront of this process,” he says.

Mr Purcell says while an Agricultural Fund is welcomed and very much needed, the numbers just don’t add up.

“The Government is promising $200 million for an Agricultural Fund. However, if the Port of Melbourne is leased the proceeds are estimated to be at least $6 billion. This means less than 3% of the proceeds will be earmarked for our regions,” says Mr Purcell.

“Regional exporters contribute a significant portion of the more than $11 billion in exports that pass through the Port of Melbourne each year.

“Our farmers and local businesses like Murray Goulburn, who process and export their produce, will be impacted the most by these changes. To offer just 3% of the benefits to those who will be most affected by increasing costs to use the port services is insulting.”

Mr Purcell says the potential economic benefits of leasing the Port of Melbourne must be funneled back to those who will bear the brunt of any changes in cost structure and process.

“It is vital that the revenues of this lease are used to compensate our regions and create opportunities for growth and development for those businesses that are most effected. “

Mr Purcell says it would be devastating if the bulk of these revenues were used to fix Melbourne’s transport and infrastructure problems at the expense of our rural industries.