Debate could spark rail rebirth

27 Mar, 2014 01:00 AM
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The Tier 3 debate has highlighted the enormous opportunities for growing WA's rural economy, says Opposition Agriculture and Transport spokesman Ken Travers.
I think there is an opportunity out of the Tier 3 debate to look at the whole of the Wheatbelt.
The Tier 3 debate has highlighted the enormous opportunities for growing WA's rural economy, says Opposition Agriculture and Transport spokesman Ken Travers.

THE Tier 3 debate has highlighted the enormous opportunities for growing WA's rural economy according to the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Transport Ken Travers.

Speaking at the WAFarmers annual conference last week, Mr Travers said the Tier 3 debate could initiate the rebirth of rail across regional WA and the State's freight network.

"I think there is an opportunity out of the Tier 3 debate to look at the whole of the Wheatbelt," he said.

"There are an enormous array of opportunities and we have got to work out how to get the economy going, apart from just the grains industry.

"Although you are increasing the amount of grain you're growing, the reality is you are doing it with less, and with less people, so if we want to maintain the communities of the Wheatbelt we have got to find another economic driver.

"We haven't had that debated for a long time and I think we can bring the rail debate in as part of a grander vision."

Mr Travers said the State Government had shown a clear lack of strategic development and engagement with industry throughout the Tier 3 debate.

"For many years I think geographically and as an industry, the agricultural industry has sat in a position in the political debate in WA where one side of politics takes you for granted because they think they can continually count on your vote," he said.

"It is probably fair to say that on my side of politics they have looked at it and said 'it is all too hard, let's go away and do something else and try and work with other parts of the community'.

"The end result of that... is you have had what I think are some very bad decisions made that affect your industry."

Mr Travers said the government's strategic assessment of Tier 3 rail failed to look beyond the present to the future.

"CBH made an incredibly brave decision to invest in new rolling stock which completely changes the economics and that was not even dealt with at the time of the assessments about how we deal with the supply chain," he said.

"It continues to be a case that the government has failed to re-look at the circumstances of that."

Mr Travers said the Barnett Government had failed to account for cost shifting by government.

"Traditionally rail had been picked up by the State Government as a cost and if you change it from rail to road then it is going to be your local government's (responsibility) and it will come back into your rates to pick up the cost to maintain those roads," he said.

Mr Travers said the government needed to be clearer about who would be responsible for supply chains.

"They take one decision when it is a supply chain leading into CBH, they take another decision when it's a supply chain for some of CBH's competitors," he said.

"Government shouldn't be doing that, we should have one set of rules that apply to everyone.

"The rules shouldn't change depending on who is operating that supply chain."

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READER COMMENTS

seethelight
27/03/2014 9:56:34 AM, on Farm Weekly

So the rail was cheaper because the state government 'traditionally' covered the cost of rail.Has Mr Travers never heard of the McColl Royal Commission?One of its key findings was that state governments were bleeding the grain industry into oblivion as they were using rail service charges as a cash cow. As exporters, WA producers don't have the luxury of funding cost plus services.The operating principle has to be the least cost pathway if improving net farm gate returns is the objective.An ideological commitment to rail at any cost might be good for CBH but not for growers.

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