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Wednesday, 7 June 1995
Page: 935


Senator BROWNHILL (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (10.09 a.m.) —In relation to the tabling of this report from the chair of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, I am still concerned about the questions that I asked regarding clause 73, which were on competition in New South Wales with respect to the cartage and transport of coal. New South Wales is going to be in a very bad position as far as competition policy goes if its state government does not go ahead with the reforms such as the ones that Queensland has already signed off at. It is going to give the coal producers in Queensland a distinct advantage over the coal producers in New South Wales.

  The people that I am most concerned about are the coal producers in the Hunter Valley, for example, because of what I think is called `the third provider'. They will not get access to the reforms that other companies will if the New South Wales government does not go ahead in the way the previous coalition state government in New South Wales did. The submission put by the Hunter Valley rail project stated clearly that it was going to be at quite a disadvantage.

  One of the problems we have with the coal industry in Australia is that we are at a disadvantage compared with our competitors in other countries in regard to freight rates. Our freight rates are something like $7 per tonne; we will have to reduce them by about $3 a tonne to really be competitive with other parts of the world.

  But the main concern that I have here, and one which I do not really think was answered to my satisfaction, is that the people who are producing coal in the Hunter Valley—up as far as Boggabri and out as far as Ulan on the other spur of that group—basically will not be a part of it. There will be a disadvantage for those people if the state government does not go ahead. As I understand it the state government is just going to leave it on the backburner for those people in that area for the next five years. I think that is something, as far as competition policy or the competition reform bill goes, that really has to be thought about. I am referring to clause 73. I believe there should be an opt-in, opt-out arrangement as regards the latter concern so that the reforms will go through to the end users, that is, those coal producers in those areas.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.