Westport announcement welcomed, but more work required

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCIWA) acknowledges the State Government’s commitment to a further four-year process for the Westport proposal today, with $97.2 million to develop a business case, conduct environmental works and undertake preliminary planning work. 

CCIWA recognises that Fremantle Port, albeit significantly below capacity today, may not sustain WA’s container trade beyond the next 20 years. It is therefore a prudent step from the State Government to do some preliminary planning work on such an important issue.  

At the same time, CCIWA looks forward to the Westport Taskforce sharing modelling that outlines evidence on the merits of a new port. CCIWA is particularly keen to see scenario modelling of the costs of trade borne by the business community under alternative levels of future container trade. 

Key assumptions made by the Westport Taskforce include trade volumes increasing by a factor of five, and Western Australia’s population exceeding 5 million. If these and other projections do not eventuate, there is a significant risk that the cost of using a new port will be higher for the business community. This would put at risk the future international competitiveness of industries like manufacturing and agriculture. 

Although there will undoubtedly be cheerleaders for this project, it remains critical to our members that a sober assessment is made of whether costs of trade will be lower or higher under an alternative port option. 

We are currently in one of the most uncertain periods of our economic history. As such, it is vital that Government continues to update its forecasts for future container trade and evaluates potential costs of trade for the business community as part of developing a business case, and takes a cautious approach to future decision making on the Westport project. 

Aaron Morey

CCIWA Chief Economist

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