Rail freight hike fears

31 Oct, 2001 10:00 PM
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AUSTRALIA Western Railroads (AWR) and the WA Farmers Federation (WAFarmers) have agreed to attend a meeting to be convened by WA Agriculture Minister Kim Chance to discuss this harvest's 15.87pc rail freight hike.

Welcoming the opportunity to call a meeting between the two and act as a mediator, Mr Chance will speak to both parties and propose they meet to discuss the issue.

Mr Chance said he was particularly concerned about the 15.87pc freight increase, predicated on a poorer than normal harvest, and the likelihood that more grain may bypass rail.

However, the government stands firm that it will not offer a direct subsidy.

While WAFarmers shares these fears, it still believes rail should be a more efficient way of transporting produce between rural and metropolitan areas, and is committed to promoting its view.

Meanwhile, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) won't change its view that it is time for WA farmers to give a little back after eight years of benefitting from the agreement.

PGA Western Grain Growers Committee chairman Leon Bradley estimated WA farmers have saved between $40m and $50m in the past few years because of the grain freight agreement and this year may be giving back an estimated $10m.

"I'm sure when we get back to normal seasons, everyone will see this as a one off, will see the efficiencies of the arrangement and prices will resume their downward projectory," Mr Bradley said.

He also reminded those contesting the increase that the agreement was a contract and WA farmers were committed to honouring it, and that it must also not be forgotten that AWR was committed to $400m capital upgrades and was making a significant contribution to fast-rail upgrading at CBH facilities.

Mr Bradley urged farmers not to give up on the agreement.

"The last thing WA farmers need is freight rates being determined by political parties because in the past rail freight went up according to the Consumer Price Index and the government's need for finance," he said.

"Any agreement is better than that."

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