Joyce backs rail reform

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Peak farm lobby group WAFarmers met Federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce as part of his State tour last week.

After the meeting, WAFarmers president Dale Park said he had been keen to discuss rumours the Rural Financial Counselling Service was under review and was also looking for a response from Mr Joyce on the contentious Tier 3 railway closures.

"Regarding the RFCS, Mr Joyce has assured me that there would be no changes to the service," Mr Park said.

"This service has the capacity to work with farmers who are in trouble to assist them through a variety of services to get out of trouble."

Mr Joyce said as part of a review into the RFCS, he wanted to ensure it worked properly across Australia.

"I find it to be vitally important that the service we provide to the people of Queensland and New South Wales is the same as the service people get in WA," he said.

"I have no intention of removing the RFCS, which is an important conduit between the Government and people on the land. I've made sure that the RFCS will be maintained as a vital part of the service that we provide."

Mr Park said he was also pleased Mr Joyce had been willing to comment on the State's contentious Tier 3 railway closures and the grain freight railway access negotiations between Brookfield and CBH.

"Mr Joyce realises that what Brookfield Rail are doing by holding a monopoly of WA's freight rail network, they could not get away with in their home country of Canada," he said.

Mr Joyce said he believed monopolies to be inherently anti-competitive. "If you've got a monopoly and people are exploiting their position as a monopoly player, you haven't got a market," he said.

Mr Joyce said people in WA were concerned about rail transport and, with the monopoly situation, how to get a fair price for cartage by rail.

"An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission commissioner, as announced in the White Paper, will be dedicated to agricultural issues regarding situations like this," he said.

"A market means you've got multiple suppliers and buyers, ease of market entry and exit, transparency of action and the capacity to get real competition between alternate services.

"Monopoly says you have none of those components, so even if it's a poor mimic you must have the government regulatory processes in place."

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