Probe to lift lid on secret rail deal

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Probe to lift lid on secret rail deal
Camera IconProbe to lift lid on secret rail deal Credit: The West Australian

Three State Government backbenchers have broken ranks with ministerial colleagues to launch a potentially explosive inquiry to WA's rail freight network.

The inquiry will delve into the secret terms and management of a lease agreement between the Government and Brookfield Rail covering the Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 lines CBH uses to cart grain from Wheatbelt farms.

The powerful Economic and Industry Standing Committee, compromising Liberal MLAs Ian Blayney and Jan Norberger, Nationals MLA Shane Love and Labor's Fran Logan and Peter Tinley, agreed unanimously to launch the inquiry.

Committee members have already gained access to the lease and associated amendments on a confidential basis. They are expected to request all relevant documents from the Public Transport Authority in a move that could see details of the lease, which gives Brookfield exclusive rights to operate the taxpayer-owned rail lines, made public.

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It is a highly sensitive issue for the Government, Brookfield and the PTA after the Auditor-General raised concerns in a report released early last year.

Premier Colin Barnett and former transport minister Troy Buswell have been under pressure to reveal the terms of the lease and to act to keep open Tier 3 lines which are set to close.

Mr Blayney, the committee chairman, said he was not concerned about political fallout from the investigation into recent policy decisions, regulatory arrangements and the PTA's management of the network.

"We obviously think there is an issue there and we'd like to have a dig around and see behind it," he said. "Maybe within that there is potential for a better outcome."

Mr Blayney said he had worked as a farmer for about 25 years as had Mr Love, whose electorate of Moore included Tier 2 lines under threat.

"When country people talk we understand their language and what they are talking about," he said.

The committee asked for briefings from CBH, Brook- field, the PTA and Mr Buswell before launching the inquiry, which is due to deliver findings in August.

Mr Buswell declined to meet the committee but agreed to hand over a copy of the lease.

CBH and Brookfield are locked in a bitter dispute before the ERA over a new access agreement for the entire network.

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