Freight services to western Queensland could be affected if Aurizon’s bid to shut its rail and road businesses is successful.
The ACCC began court proceedings in July over an alleged "understanding" between Aurizon and Pacific National that the regulator said would have monopolised rail lines and substantially damaged competition.
Gregory MP Lachlan Millar said the pending Federal Court decision could affect services around western Queensland.
“Closing this rail freight service will cripple western Queensland,” he said.
“This service is not just about livestock transport, it is also about the supply of essential goods-inwards to stock local businesses from food stores to hardware and more.”
Mr Millar said he had been trying to get the government to address the issue but could not get a meaningful response from Transport Minister Mark Bailey.
“I have asked if he has a plan to ensure a western rail freight service continues when Aurizon withdraws. In May 2018, I asked the Transport Minister to ensure subsidised regional freight services would continue, regardless of Aurizon’s decision – he fobbed the question off,” he said.
Mr Bailey said Lachlan Millar should stop scaremongering constituents.
This service is not just about livestock transport, it is also about the supply of essential goods-inwards to stock local businesses from food stores to hardware and moreLachlan Millar
“Mr Millar knows as well as anyone else that this is a matter for the ACCC and the operators in question. The State Government has no jurisdiction in relation to this dispute,” Mr Bailey said.
“However, the Palaszczuk Government understands the concern this is creating for people in west and north-west Queensland, and we are committed to keeping freight going while this process unfolds.”
Mr Bailey said Longreach would not be left without subsidised freight services under the Regional Freight Transport Services Contract (RFTSC) from January 1.
“We also understand the ACCC has applied for an injunction ensuring Aurizon continues operating the intermodal business, including services subsidised under the RFTSC which means these services will continue to operate while the court process is ongoing regardless,” he said.
“As this matter is before the Federal Courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
An Aurizon spokesperson said the latest communication with employees in September advised that should exit by way of closure be agreed to by the court, then the business would continue to operate for 90 days following the delivery of judgement.
“This would see the business continue to operate through to at least mid-March, based on an estimated judgement date of mid-December,” an Aurizon spokesperson said.
“Aurizon management has been in regular contact with Intermodal employees on changes in response to matters in the Federal Court.
“Our intention continues to be to exit the Intermodal business and we are complying with the orders of the Federal Court which were issued on August 13, 2018.
“We will continue to operate on a ‘business as usual’ basis.”
Traeger MP Robbie Katter said this was a perfect example of why Labor and the LNP should never had sold off these government assets.
“Keeping the operation of the intermodal transport going – which no one really wanted - was part of the deal for buying these assets,” Mr Katter said.
“The privatisation of our assets has been a complete failure and this is part of a basket of issues as a result. I think it’s a bit rich the LNP is trying to have a dig when they were just as enthusiastic about selling these assets off as Labor was.”
Aurizon said the Federal Court hearing commences on November 19, 2018 and Justice Beach has advised that he intends to deliver judgement prior to Christmas 2018.