Rail Tram and Bus Union Queensland Branch
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Privatisation of North-West Corridor (Mt Isa to Townsville)

I refer members to the RTBU QR Circular dated 16 April 2014 (link below) in which I advised that the Queensland Government Treasurer, Tim Nicholls, indicated that consideration of selling the North-West Corridor along with the Port of Townsville was on the Agenda.

In March this year, the Queensland Transport Ministers Office sought a meeting with me as Secretary of the RTBU in which present was a Senior Advisor and for a brief period the Minister for Transport. During discussions with the Senior Advisor I received a briefing on their proposal for ARTC to take over the operation of the QR network for all regional freight corridors. That is, everywhere with the exception of the corridors already in the hands of Aurizon and the Brisbane metropolitan passenger area.

They were quite enthusiastic about this proposal and indicated specifically to me, during discussions, that the plan for the potential privatisation of the Townsville to Mt Isa corridor which was contained in the Queensland Commission of Audit (Costello Report) would not go ahead if ARTC took over.
Subsequent to this I met with the Chief Executive of ARTC who indicated their intention to carry out an investigation into the viability of this proposal and again it was clarified that they were looking at the whole of the regional freight corridor.

At this point, the RTBU had no specific position on this given that there was a need to talk to members as well as further information to be provided.

Subsequent to these meetings I made a point of visiting all the work depots between Mt Isa and Townsville including the control centre and advised members at these meetings of what I had been briefed on by Government.

Shortly after that, it came to my attention that QR was not providing information on the North-West corridor to the ARTC, contrary to advice I had received from both the Minister for Transportís office and ARTC.

I contacted the Ministerís office and was advised that the proposal for ARTC to examine the North West corridor had been overturned and subsequently had discussions with the Chief Executive of the ARTC who confirmed that this information had not been provided to them.

At this point I want to make it clear that the ARTC were far from happy with this withdrawal and our understanding from the discussions we had with the Chief Executive at the time that it was not part of the original proposals put to them when the investigation of the viability of ARTC taking over was originally announced by the Queensland Transport Minister and the Federal Infrastructure Minister. The ARTC study is nearing completion and I understand that the relevant information in respect of the North-West corridor was withheld from them by the Government contrary to the original position.

It therefore looks likely that the Governmentís agenda is to privatise the North-West corridor. The discussions I had with the Queensland Treasurer, last month, certainly gave me the impression that that was the preferred option at that time. However, confirmation is unlikely to be provided before the Budget, next Tuesday.

The RTBU believes that the idea of having yet another network owner in Queensland is not only wrong, but quite frankly bizarre.

The RTBU will be fighting any moves towards privatisation just as fiercely as we did previously in respect of Aurizon. My understanding is that there is also significant opposition for the sale of the Port of Townsville not only from the relevant Unions, particularly the MUA, but also from port users.

This circular is designed to provide members with what we understand the situation is likely to be but, naturally, the Union hopes that this further anti-privatisation battle will not be required. However, all signs at this point are that the privatisation of the large part of the QR network is now in the vision of this Government.

I will keep members advised of all developments.

Unity is Strength

Owen Doogan
State Secretary
Qld Branch

Privatisation of North-West Corridor Back on Government Agenda