Hopes and fears in port free trade area
ONE of the major proposals being spruiked to the McGowan government’s Westport Taskforce as it considers the state’s port and transport future is to create a special economic zone (SEZ) near a proposed new Kwinana port.
The SEZ is being put forward by the Western Harbours Alliance, a coalition of businesses, councils and community groups including Rethink the Link who are championing the outer harbour cause, with the aim to create something akin to a free trade zone with its own regulations.
Alliance chair Kim Dravnieks says a new port in Kwinana can deliver social and economic benefits to WA, but cutting red tape will be a key.
The WHA proposes that a SEZ in Kwinana will allow “goods to be imported, stored, exhibited, assembled or manufactured without duplicating customs entry procedures and duties”.
It says a SEZ can also include environmental protections and standards that businesses have to meet.
Ms Dravnieks says the SEZ might allow WA to own more of the supply chain and reap rewards for the state.
“At the moment we basically dig it up and ship it out for absolutely minimal value,” Ms Dravnieks told the Herald.
“For a product like lithium, WA gets .5 per cent of the final value of that lithium. Point five percent. If we can get that secondary processing happening, that moves up to 17 to 22 per cent.
“That’s a huge amount. That’s billions of dollars of value and it means longer term job creation in WA.”
SEZs have been successful in countries like South Korea, China, and Malaysia, however Australia has seen limited success and there are criticism that they undermine local labour and environmental laws.
Darwin’s SEZ failed, with over-interference from the Australian government blamed. The NSW government approved a regional plan to develop a SEZ at Parkes in July of this year, however it’s far too early to consider the approval a success.
Ms Dravnieks is hopeful that Kwinana can be another chance to try again.
“Companies will basically have an area where they don’t have to go through a lot of red tape,” says Mrs. Dravnieks. “A lot of the permissions for an industry to work in an area has already been sorted before they get there.”
“It’s an exciting time for us and for WA,” Ms Dravnieks said. “I think we need to get the community really engaged in discussions about where they see Fremantle going in the next, you know, 10 to 50 years.
“Our role is really to get the debates happening. That’s why we had some large forums which where both packed out last year and early this year. And we’re talking to people as much as we can on all sorts of different levels.”
The laundry list of items to address includes: protecting Cockburn Sound; the corridors used to take freight to and from Kwinana; the limits on getting freight in and out of Fremantle port; the future of Fremantle port; and owning entire supply chains to mine, refine, and export raw materials like lithium which will see increased use for electric vehicles in the future. All of these points are largely in first draft mode, or have been sitting dormant in reports for decades.
by KAVI GUPPTA