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Finding a balance on PA boards

WHILE most ports are “steaming along very nicely”, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan acknowledges she and some port authorities have faced several difficult situations in the past two years.

Among these are industrial relations at Broome, safety issues at Dampier and conflicts of interest at Geraldton – three ports where new chairmen have been appointed to the board in the past year.

Some authorities had experienced trouble when “ideology” had intervened in their management, Ms MacTiernan said, pointing to a one-time “mad rush to outsourcing”.

The minister has some future decisions to make which could be controversial.

The Dampier Port Authority board is reported to have chosen a new CEO, one expected to take up the position in May, but Ms MacTiernan, who ratifies such appointments, holds a right of veto.

And Bunbury Port Authority, keen to introduce containerisation next year, is preparing a business case to put to the Government in support of container trade.

However, Ms MacTiernan said industry trends and world markets indicated this would not happen within five years, and the claim that containerisation could defer the need for overload facilities at Kwinana “makes no sense at all”.

“We want to develop coastal shipping, but we also need to be realistic,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan has refuted claims of political appointments to WA Port Authority boards.

She pointed to several re-appointees who first joined their boards under the previous government, and denied any shake-up philosophy.

A 60 per cent turnover for the Esperance Port Authority board was no reflection on the previous board make-up, Ms MacTiernan said.

“Esperance is a very successful port, and well run,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan said no-one could question the proven performances, skills and broad range of business contacts of both past and new appointees at Esperance.

Nonetheless, her overall strategy when making new appointments was to ensure each board did not have exactly the same types of people as members.

“You need a broad range of skills – maritime, commercial, industrial relations – and those with good community networks,” Ms MacTiernan said.

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