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Australian ports may face federal takeover

Sydney: Australian prime Minister John Howard (pictured) has hinted at a possible federal take over of Australian coal ports including Newcastle and Queensland if the current congestion doesn't ease. Speaking to local newspaper The Australian, Howard said, "I would like cooperation to work, we all would, but if cooperation doesn't work we have to look at some alternative."

The Prime Minister is expected to use this week's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting to ask for increased consistency in state-based port regulation particularly pertaining to planning, environmental assessment and competition laws.

Authorities at both ports have contested the threat and have attributed the congestion to an unavoidable consequence of expansion and upkeep to their premises. During an interview with The Brisbane Times, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie added "If the commonwealth took over the control of ports - and legally they would have difficulty doing that, but if they did - quite frankly we would end up with delays, we would end up with all sorts of problems. I don't think they could run them. I think they'd be basically incompetent and I'm not going to have Queensland's coal industry affected by federal government incompetence."

Queues at Newcastle port this week are at a record high of 71 ships with an average waiting time of 27 days following closure due to planned maintenance works.  [12/04/07]

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