Privatisation fall-out sends cattle trains off the rails

Mar 28, 2022

Privatisation fall-out sends cattle trains off the rails

Mar 28, 2022

Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has called for immediate intervention from the State Government in the indefinite shutdown of cattle freight on the Great Northern Line (GNL), labelling the fiasco as the “ongoing fall-out of Labor’s failed privatisation of the State’s rail lines”.

Mr Katter’s office has received a series of complaints from truck drivers, cattle producers and meat processors as cattle freight has ground to an infuriating halt since the Palaszczuk Labor Government awarded the livestock haulage contract on the GNL to Watco East West early this year.

Previously Aurizon – who absorbed the operational legacy of the former Queensland Rail, including their cattle yards – had held the contract.

Mr Katter said the whole farce illustrated the big slap in the face that privatisation had delivered to regional communities.

“The Bligh Labor Government’s privatisation of the rail line in 2010 cost hundreds of jobs and precipitated a slow and substantial decline in service delivery,” he said.

“Now, the Palaszczuk Labor Government has thrown the rail freight contract to the control of the ‘free market’ which is all well and good, however they have failed to consider the fact that there is only one rail company who owns cattle yards along the GNL and that company is not the one that won the tender.”

Mr Katter said it was understood Aurizon had reportedly padlocked its holding yards, therefore preventing their use by the new carrier.

This has forced cattle from the rail to the road, increasing transport costs and road safety hazards, and precipitating predictions that the service could be offline for two years.

“This problem has been created by the State Government, which took the contract from Aurizon,” Mr Katter explained.

“Aurizon still holds a great deal of the former publicly-owned Queensland Rail’s legacy including the cattle yards at key locations along the lines, the retention of local staff and drivers where possible and the running of driving training facilities in places like Cloncurry.

“We’ve been informed Aurizon has padlocked cattle holding yards in Julia Creek, Hughenden, Cloncurry and Stuart, making them unusable for Watco.

“This has caused major disruption to the industry but it’s Aurizon’s prerogative and it reflects a failure of the Government to heed warnings and pre-empt the challenges of changing the operator.

“It is hard to believe what in world the Government was thinking – that Aurizon would kindly offer up their assets after losing the cattle contract to assist their competitors? This is a case of a very poorly thought-out decision-making process.“

Complaints to Mr Katter’s office included claims that the new operator Watco had failed to provide cattle producers and processors with timeframes for when trains could resume following a derailment between Gympie and Brisbane, and offer alternative solutions like using QR carriages, or offer sufficient subsidies to truck the cattle instead.

Mr Katter said the current situation could not continue and the Government had to resolve the issue immediately.

“The situation is untenable and the Government needs to urgently find a solution,” he said.