Premier stands by ports criticism
UPDATED: PREMIER Campbell Newman is not backing down from his brutal criticism of Gladstone Ports Corporation, despite its massive increase in profit.
The GPC annual report was tabled in Parliament last week, showing a 26% increase in profit for the 2011-12 financial year.
That increase came despite the Premier stating in June that the "current management team and board are not listening to what the government is saying in relation to financial management".
Asked yesterday if he still held that criticism of GPC despite the big profit boost, Mr Newman provided a simple response: "Yes".
Mr Newman did not explain why the increased profit had not altered his accusations of "financial mismanagement".
However, Mr Newman did say he was confident GPC was now on the right track.
That new confidence is presumably caused by the appointment of his friend Mark Brodie as chairman of the GPC board.
It is no secret that GPC, like all government owned corporations, is influenced by the vagaries of state politics.
Mr Newman was criticised for appointing Mr Brodie to the board, but in reality both political parties have used the strategy over the years. Dumped chairman Ian Brusasco was a dedicated member of the Labor Party.
Mr Newman said any further changes to management at GPC were a matter for the board.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story stated that Mr Brodie was a member of the LNP. He has never been a member of the LNP, nor any other political party.
- 26% increase in profit from the previous financial year.
- Achieved a total coal export of 59.8 million tonnes, up on the previous year's total, but still below forecast.
- Revenue for the financial year was $822.6 million, an increase of 67.1% on the previous year and 22.7% higher than the target. Of that total, $480.7 million was from contract dredging and other recoverable works.
- Operating costs for the financial year were $742 million, 30.4% higher than expected.
- GPC identified $3 million in operational savings. There is little detail about where those savings came from, but they may have been made after the new State Government ordered the corporation to cut back spending on events and sponsorship.
- For the financial year 2012-13, GPC has set a target for an after tax profit of $58.0 million.
- The report identified three areas of "corporate intent" that were not achieved: commence analysis for introduction of port-wide vessel management system; develop a master plan for Port Alma, including sea.
- Hill investigations, and continue strategic planning and business development for Port of Bundaberg.
"IT HURT me badly."
Those are the words Peter Corones uses to describe his emotions when Premier Campbell Newman accused Gladstone Ports Corporation of financial mismanagement.
Mr Corones, a respected former mayor of Gladstone City who received the Order of Australia for service to his community, served on the GPC board for almost two decades.
His tenure was not renewed when it ended recently, but he said there was no reason to suspect he had been axed for political reasons, since he had never been a member of any political party.
Mr Corones said last week's GPC Annual Report proved finances had not been "mismanaged".
"The figures that were read (in parliament in June), were read in isolation," he said. "The proof is (now) there in the document."
He also backed GPC chief executive Leo Zussino, who he said was "right up there, parallel with the likes of (former CEO) Reg Tanna".
"We were extremely vigilant," he said of the board's financial management.
As a passionate Gladstone advocate, he said the Premier's statements had been a massive blow.
He said the data presented as "financial mismanagement" by the Premier had been taken in isolation, instead of being read in a complete context.
"Statements were made that were untrue," he said. "The proof is there in the document (last week's GPC Annual Report)."
"Of course if you are a director and you hear the figures being read in isolation (rather than taking into account all of the facts), it does hurt.
"The audits make it very clear what the truth is."
The GPC board, like most government owned corporations, is made up of part time directors. Mr Corones said he was proud of the performance of the board in the past.
Mr Corones said he had no ill feelings about not having his tenure renewed.
"The fact is, I served on the board for a very long time," he said. "Eventually you always get change and often change is a good thing."
GPC chief Leo Zussino has been through a period of intense pressure as the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project has been a source of controversy, but Mr Corones said he was "absolutely" the right person for the job.
"He is up there with the best CEOs I have seen," Mr Corones said.
"He is right up there parallel with the likes of (former GPC chief) Reg Tanna."
Speaking more broadly, Mr Corones was typically passionate in discussing Gladstone's industrial boom.
"Of course there are challenges," he said. "But how much do you think Barack Obama wishes he had a Gladstone right now?"
He said the problems Gladstone was facing during its boom were a far cry from other regions, such as the Gold Coast, which were experiencing economic decline
"Having to manage prosperity is a lot better than managing decline."