Traeger MP Robbie Katter said the state government was "a hair's breadth away from hammering the final nail in the coffin" for Queensland's former publicly-owned rail freight service.
Mr Katter was reacting to the news Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey announced the cattle rail freight contracts for the central-west and south-west regions for 2022-28 would go to Watco East West, a subsidiary of the US-founded and majority-owned Watco Companies.
Mr Katter said that although no decision has yet been made regarding the North-West (Townsville-Mount Isa) route he was concerned current provider Aurizon would not have its contract renewed.
He said the Aurizon absorbed the former Queensland Rail National in 2010 and retained its public legacy.
"Dozens of precious, local rail jobs and Queensland Rail's 150-year-old legacy are now at stake," Mr Katter said.
"I am very much looking forward to the Minister explaining to me what his plans are for the North West region's cattle freight contract, as well as how his Government's competitive tender process determined a Kansas-based company as superior to the former QR National that has retained much of its public predecessor's social legacy."
Mr Katter said he had no allegiance to the Queensland-based Aurizon but, "out of all the rail service providers operating in the region, it has at least shown some commitment to retaining workers locally and investing in the communities to some degree."
"If we are talking about dollars, and the fact that one provider may have outpriced the other as these things often go, then I challenge Minister to explain why the savings are better off in the Government's back pocket than to be directly invested in the community through jobs and associated economic opportunities," he said.
"If you have $15 billion-plus dollars to put towards the Brisbane Olympics over the next decade, then surely some consideration can be given towards the impact significant economic decisions like the awarding of state-wide rail contracts will have for the communities on the ground."
He said Aurizon operated a train driver training centre at Cloncurry and employs drivers and other rail employees locally in communities like Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Hughenden and Charters Towers where it can.
Mr Katter said this was unlike other rail operators in the region who had largely moved to FIFO or DIDO models for their staff, with most based on the coast.
He said the loss of even one rail job in the bush was equivalent to dozens on the coast.
"In the south and central west, the Government has now gleefully handed over this vital service to a foreign company in favour of the Queensland option," Mr Katter said.
"I am very much looking forward to what commitment a new company, such as Watco or any others, will have towards providing local jobs and investing in the communities its trains run through."
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