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Costello takes the lazy way out on Pilbara rail access.

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Martin Ferguson MP Joel Fitzgibbon MP

Shadow Minister for Primary Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Industries, Resources, Forestry Shadow Minister for Revenue, Small and Tourism Business and Competition

May 23 2006

Costello takes the lazy way out on Pilbara rail access

Last night at midnight, the National Competition Council’s recommendation to declare BHPBilliton’s Newman railway under the Trade Practices Act, was deemed rejected.

This is the right outcome, but it came only because Peter Costello was too gutless to make a decision.

Peter Costello demonstrated yesterday that he is no leader and no potential Prime Minister.

No-one would argue against an effective and efficient access regime for rail haulage for all Pilbara iron ore producers.

But the NCC’s recommendation failed to protect the initial investment of BHPBilliton and its billion dollar export industry.

Nor will it provide any comfort to Rio Tinto which will face similar access claims in the future.

And in effect it favoured access seekers over the operations of existing owners who have borne the risk of investment, who maintain the infrastructure, and who operate a sophisticated logistics chain to supply their export markets.

Instead of doing the right thing and clearly articulating the national interest case, Peter Costello went missing in action.

As a result, there remains no investment certainty for BHPBilliton and Rio Tinto, and the inevitable appeal from Fortescue will go to the Tribunal with no guidance from the responsible Minister, the Treasurer.

The same Treasurer who took this decision away from his Parliamentary Secretary, saying just last Wednesday:

“Well look, under the Act the decision is given to the Treasurer, the Treasurer can delegate it but because it is such an important decision I thought that it was important that the Treasurer do it himself personally…”

It was such an important decision that Peter Costello’s decision was to do nothing!

Contact: Tracey Winters 0407 099 104, Sue Cant 0417 866 204 or Brendan Long 0408 421 447