Ports, land first assets to be cashed in

Gareth Parker State Political EditorThe West Australian

Port infrastructure and government landholdings are shaping as the first assets to be sold as the Barnett Government tries to win back the AAA credit rating.

The West Australian believes that significant work on port privatisations has already been done within the Treasurer's office - whose Transport portfolio also gives him responsibility for ports.

The Government will not sell State-owned ports such as Fremantle, Albany or Esperance wholesale but is likely to sell pieces of infrastructure to private investors.

Examples could include the Kwinana Bulk Terminal, loading and jetty facilities at Dampier Port or common-use infrastructure at Port Hedland's Utah Point - the sale of which could net a combined $500 million.

The Government will also look to sell landholdings such as the Riverbank Centre on riverfront land in Caversham, which is held by the Department of Corrective Services.

_Though Treasurer Troy Buswell has suggested utilities are under review, the full sale of the Water Corporation and Western Power are not on the agenda. _

Possible partial or full privatisations of other electricity assets held by Verve and Synergy, which will merge from January 1, are considered longer-term propositions.

"We will not be selling a Western Power or Water Corporation or Fremantle Port - we won't be doing that," Premier Colin Barnett told Parliament yesterday.

"We haven't had that discussion but we're about to have it - a very forthright discussion - and there will be extensive asset sales."

WA Treasury has long held the view that a handful of government trading enterprises - the TAB, Goldcorp (including the Perth Mint) and the Insurance Commission of WA - are not part of the core business of government and should be sold.

Treasury gave that advice to former treasurer Christian Porter when he came to the portfolio in May 2011, according to briefing notes obtained under Freedom of Information.

On 6PR radio yesterday, Mr Buswell cautioned that selling assets alone would not be enough to restore the AAA credit rating.

"That in isolation is not going to solve the challenge," he said. "I mean, if we don't resolve issues between recurrent spending and revenue, the proceeds of any asset sale will effectively be swamped."

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said it was unlikely Labor would support widespread asset sales.

"We're now apparently rushing to sell assets despite the fact that just a few months ago Colin Barnett said he wouldn't be selling assets," Mr Wyatt said.

"I would be very surprised if WA Labor supports this panicked response by Colin Barnett."

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails