Aur­i­zon forced to drop rail loan bid

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - CHAR­LIE PEEL

Rail freight com­pany Aur­i­zon says a lack of con­tracted cus­tomers has forced it to drop its bid for a fed­eral loan to build a com­mon-user rail line that would have served Adani’s Carmichael mine. The LNP said the La­bor state gov­ern­ment’s lack of sup­port for the mine scared in­vestors away.

Aur­i­zon says a lack of con­tracted cus­tomers has forced it to drop its bid for a fed­eral con­ces­sional loan to build a com­mon-user rail line that would have served Adani’s Carmichael mine.

The rail freight com­pany an­nounced yes­ter­day it would with­draw its ap­pli­ca­tion to the North­ern Aus­tralia In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity for fund­ing to help it build a rail link for the Galilee Basin de­vel­op­ment.

The Lib­eral Na­tional Party has said the Queens­land gov­ern­ment’s lack of sup­port for the Adani mine and un­cer­tainty around NAIF ap­pli­ca­tions scared in­vestors away.

Aur­i­zon’s with­drawal comes af­ter months of pres­sure on Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk, who dur­ing last year’s state elec­tion cam­paign ve­toed a loan for a sim­i­lar ap­pli­ca­tion from In­dian con­glom­er­ate Adani and promised no taxpayer funds would go to­wards sup­port­ing the mine.

At the time she said the de­ci­sion to re­verse a com­mit­ment to fa­cil­i­tate the loan was be­cause of a con­flict of in­ter­est re­lat­ing to her part­ner’s work on Adani’s NAIF ap­pli­ca­tion. Later she cited a pre­vi­ous elec­tion com­mit­ment.

Af­ter the elec­tion, anti-Adani pro­test­ers sought to pres­sure the gov­ern­ment into ve­to­ing the Aur­i­zon ap­pli­ca­tion.

Aur­i­zon man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Hard­ing said the com­pany would con­tinue to sup­port the basin’s de­vel­op­ment but could not con­tinue with its plan be­cause of the lack of pro­gres­sion on con­tracts.

“When de­vel­oped, it has the po­ten­tial to pro­vide a ma­jor boost to the na­tional econ­omy and cre­ate thou­sands of jobs in re­gional Queens­land,” he said. But while ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tin­ued with sev­eral par­ties, there were no de­fin­i­tive con­trac­tual ar­range­ments. The com­pany would re­visit de­vel­op­ing a rail so­lu­tion for the Galilee Basin “if mar­ket cir­cum­stances change” and com­mer­cial ar­range­ments were made.

Ms Palaszczuk did not com­ment on the de­ci­sion yes­ter­day.

Min­is­ter for Re­sources and North­ern Aus­tralia Matt Cana­van said he was dis­ap­pointed but not sur­prised by the with­drawal given La­bor’s lack of sup­port: “To get big in­vest­ments away you re­ally do need bi­par­ti­san sup­port to give in­vestors con­fi­dence over the long term.”

Deputy LNP leader Tim Man­der blamed gov­ern­ment “un­cer­tainty” and “road­blocks” for cre­at­ing sov­er­eign risk and “jeop­ar­dis­ing Queens­land’s eco­nomic fu­ture”.

Last week, fed­eral op­po­si­tion spokesman for North­ern Aus­tralia Ja­son Clare said no taxpayer money should go to­wards build­ing the rail line.

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