At the heart of the dispute is a draft decision from the Queensland Competition Authority, which regulates the Aurizon monopoly on the central Queensland coal network. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
At the heart of the dispute is a draft decision from the Queensland Competition Authority, which regulates the Aurizon monopoly on the central Queensland coal network. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Aurizon dispute threat to major coal exports

THE Aurizon dispute is likely to bleed millions from the mining industry before it is resolved, with the State Government claiming it is unable to intervene while court action, which is not likely to occur for several months, is pending.

The major producers, BHP and Glencore, are understood to be pressuring the Government to act, with companies now being forced to alter shipping schedules at significant cost to meet up with changes brought in by Aurizon.

And they warn that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will feel the heat from Japan's steel mills, who buy the coal, when she visits that country on a trade mission this week.

At the heart of the dispute is a draft decision from the Queensland Competition Authority, which regulates the Aurizon monopoly on the central Queensland coal network.

Its decision meant Aurizon would make $1 billion less than forecast so it has undertaken major restructuring of its maintenance of the line, which will mean fewer trains getting to the ports.

The move is expected to cost the industry as much as $4 billion in exports and cut about $500 million from Government royalties.

The court action is a judicial review initiated by Aurizon on the grounds of apprehended bias in which it claims the QCA chairman, Professor Roy Green, accepted a job with a competitor days after handing down the Aurizon draft decision. Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the Government had to tell Aurizon to change its decision.

"The State Government needs to put pressure on Aurizon," he said.

"It should make Aurizon aware of the damage it is doing. It operates a monopoly and uses it in a very crude, industrial way. Aurizon started this and they can stop it by going back to its original maintenance schedule.''

Aurizon rejects that, saying when the QCA decision is finalised it will be made retrospective to July 2017, so it has to implement changes now.

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad said as the matter was before the courts it would be inappropriate to comment, let alone intervene.

"I have ... met with all stakeholders on this issue and encouraged them to work within the regulatory framework,'' she said on Monday.