Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter is calling on the state government to demonstrate the same foresight with rail as it has today with electricity prices.
Robbie said he supported the government’s decision to direct Energy Queensland not to pass on the full price increase in the Queensland Competition Authority’s (QCA) determination on electricity prices.
“This is very positive,” he said. “This is a great example of government intervention that puts the interests of households and businesses above the bottom line of government-owned corporations. However, it would be completely hypocritical of the government not to take the same action with rail charges on the Mount Isa to Townsville line. The government should follow its own lead and direct Queensland Rail to make its pricing more competitive and not be bound by the QCA framework,” Robbie said.
Yesterday it was reported that Glencore has threatened to wind up its copper operations in Mount Isa, with one of the reasons being high rail costs.
“It’s clear that rail charges are a major factor in the future investment plans of large employers like Glencore. Whether we like it or not the government has a responsibility to create an environment that enables these companies to commit to long-term investment that supports jobs in the region.
“If Glencore pulls out of Mount Isa, 2000 jobs are on the line. There are times when it will be right to override the QCA’s findings. I agree with the government that electricity prices is one, and I don’t see how they can argue that rail isn’t another.”
Robbie said when it came to rail, the government has been very happy to hide behind the QCA regulatory framework.
“Their announcement on electricity today shows they have the ability to move around it, all that’s missing is the will. It’s hypocritical for the government to say they can’t change it for the rail.”
Robbie has been lobbying the government for months to reduce the charges on the Mount Isa-Townsville rail line. The prices have become so prohibitive that a number of mining users have started shifting freight from rail to road, and it’s causing companies to seriously consider their future in the region.
“If the government doesn’t step in and direct QR in the same way they’ve directed Energy Queensland I would say they are more interested in QR’s profits than jobs in North Queensland.”
“It’s dangerous and costly to taxpayers in terms of road maintenance to have more road trains than we already do,” Robbie said. “The rail line is a critical asset that should be used to support our industries and drive job creation.”