Perth businessman Len Buckeridge should drop his billion-dollar lawsuit against the State Government over a private port development and get on with the project, Premier Colin Barnett says.
Lawyers for Mr Buckeridge have lodged a claim in the WA Supreme Court, blaming the Government for his consortium’s decision to abandon the private bulk shipping and container port near Kwinana, in Perth’s south.
Mr Barnett told ABC radio today that it would cost the State millions of dollars in legal fees if it were sued for $1 billion.
“Where would that billion dollars come from?” he said.
“In reality, if he was successful, it would come out of education, health (and) services for disabilities.
“I don’t think for a moment Len Buckeridge wants to do that.”
Mr Buckeridge claimed several State Governments had failed to honour a 2000 agreement allowing a consortium led by the Buckeridge Group of Companies to build and operate the port at James Point.
His lawyers say the Government’s decision to prevent construction of a container-handling facility makes the project unviable.
Mr Barnett said he supported the construction of the berth but not the offshore container facility.
He said he did not want a “huge chunk” of Cockburn Sound turning into a parking area for ships and containers.
“I would hope Len would drop all this nonsense and get on and build his bulk products port, or berth, because it is needed,” Mr Barnett said.
The premier said his Government had offered Mr Buckeridge land to buy, as well as some of the transport, road access and rail access.
“But I’m not going to be giving Len Buckeridge land at zero price or heavily discounted prices,” he said.
“He’ll pay a proper price for land and that offer has been on the table for quite some time.”
James Point spokesman Michael Hotchkin said the premier’s comments on the radio were as offensive as they were untrue.
“(The company) wants to build a port in a manner consistent with the 2000 contract. No more, no less,” he said.
Mr Hotchkin said if the Government did not change its position, the matter would be concluded in the courts.