Nalder derailed on grain network

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Nalder derailed on grain network
Camera IconNalder derailed on grain network Credit: The West Australian

Transport Minister Dean Nalder admits he failed to read key documents tied to the closure of 500km of rail lines in the Wheatbelt, but does not think it was his responsibility as a member of Cabinet.

Mr Nalder said yesterday that after some initial misgivings he also had no concerns about his department's failure to notify him of a profit-sharing deal between the State Government and Brookfield Rail, which holds an exclusive lease over the taxpayer-owned freight network.

Asked if, as Transport Minister, he should have read the documents and been aware of the profit-sharing deal, Mr Nalder said: "A sub-clause in a legal document? Are you serious? I can't see how that could have occurred."

Mr Nalder took up the portfolio in March. Three months later Tier 3 lines were shutdown.

Mr Nalder attended meetings to discuss the future of the freight network with communities facing tens of thousands of extra truck movements on their roads because of the Tier 3 closure.

However, he concedes he was in the dark about the terms of the Brookfield lease and its financial arrangement with the Government-run Public Transport Authority. Under the deal, the PTA is entitled to 15 per cent of profits Brookfield makes on the Tier 1 and Tier 2 lines used to cart grain following upgrades largely funded by the Commonwealth.

The Government hid the deal from the public and CBH, which is facing big fee increases as it tries to negotiate a long-term access agreement with Brookfield.

Mr Nalder remained unclear on the terms of the profit-sharing deal yesterday, claiming it was only relevant from 2017-2023. The deal kicked in on July 1 when the Tier 3 lines closed.

Mr Nalder defended the deal, saying the Government did not expect to "make a cent" out of it.

"We are going to audit those lines and, should they make a profit, yes we will claw back some funds," he said.

Mr Nalder also denied there was a conflict of interest in the PTA managing Brookfield's lease while in a profit-sharing deal with the company. He said a cap on access fee rises until 2016 had been introduced to protect farmers, but could not explain who was supposed to notify grower-controlled CBH of its existence.

The lease details and agreements were secret until a parliamentary committee made them public earlier this month.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails