23/06/2009 - 13:58

Call for BHP, Rio to leave port boards

23/06/2009 - 13:58

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Opposition spokesperson Alannah MacTiernan has called for the removal of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto representatives on port authority boards due to constant conflict of interest.

Call for BHP, Rio to leave port boards

Opposition strategic infrastructure spokesperson Alannah MacTiernan has called for the removal of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto representatives on port authority boards due to constant conflict of interest.

The call comes as BHP and Rio move forward with their plans to merge their Pilbara iron ore operations.

Ms MacTiernan said today it was no longer appropriate for the companies, which are major users of the port facilities in the Pilbara, to have rights to seats on the port boards.

"Their presence on these boards, which is enshrined in various State Agreements, creates understandable anxiety for their competitors seeking access to port capacity and presents constant conflict of interest issues," Ms MacTiernan said.

"While theoretically, it is possible for the representatives to declare an interest, the conflicts go to the heart of the strategic planning for the ports."

She added that other representatives on the port boards may feel constrained by the presence of BHP and Rio, and that could intensify when the two majors merge.

Meantime, Ms MacTiernan said the possibility of creating a single Pilbara Port Authority should be considered.

"When boom times return and the producers are wanting to ramp up production, it will be highly desirable to strengthen port management capacity by sharing rather than competing for expertise across the Pilbara," she said.

"The ability to pay well for expertise and to attract and retain staff means that the port authority can negotiate from a position of strength equal to that of the mining companies.

"The BHP-Rio Tinto joint venture will add to the force of its constituent companies so it is critical that we look at bringing the same benefits of merger to government port operations."

Premier Colin Barnett is pushing for state agreements with BHP and Rio, secured in the 1960s, to be amended to bring the mining companies in line with new iron ore companies and developments.


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