FINALLY, there is a clear group to blame for the lack of progress on Port of Newcastle's container terminal plans: "bedwetters".
Colourful language aside, Nationals MP David Littleproud's confirmation that the project "just makes economic sense" means that both sides of politics appear to see the logic in diversifying NSW's largest coal port into the future.
As in politics more broadly, however, intention matters less than execution. The fact remains that the Morrison government baulked at its pre-election chance to float Newcastle's container terminal, an internal decision that carries far more ramifications than what they almost did. One will be remembered by history, while the other is an insight into a somewhat cavalier decision-making process during a campaign. Both are important, but only one now has the potential to reshape the Hunter and NSW economies.
It hardly bucks expectations for a Nationals MP to argue that a federal Labor government should be doing things differently, but Mr Littleproud has a point that the Albanese government took its support of the project to the polls. Of course, there is plenty of time for that support to take corporeal form. But in a region increasingly grappling with the realities of uncertainty surrounding fossil fuels and mining, the beacon of diversification shines ever brighter.
Outside of politics things progress more clearly. Cranes from Germany will give the port a small capacity to handle containers, estimated at about 40,000 in the first year. Such a scale may help bolster the bid for more if it proves successful.
Ultimately, though, governments cannot allow the container terminal to join a long list of Hunter projects that live in limbo for far too long. The Raymond Terrace M1 extension and final stage of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass remain in stasis, while the Glendale Interchange and cruise terminal have both slipped down - or off - the list as time went on.
Hunter MPs are on board. The business case appears to stack up, according to several reports. Only funding and the secret state levy revealed by this newspaper in 2016 appear as impediments in need of removal. Clamouring for the former approaches fever pitch, and there are certainly murmurings about the need for the latter to go.
"I am appalled by the outrageous impost that has been placed on our region by the contractual obligations that were put in place by the Baird government. It was an outrageous impost and constraint on the future of our region," Independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said in June.
Former NSW Premier John Barilaro has said it will likely require federal leaders to drag state ones kicking and screaming, but the container terminal will proceed. His optimism is heartening, but cynics would say many good projects have stayed only plans. It's time to give this one a chance to float.
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