Rail end gain for Nalder in-laws

Neale Prior and Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The family of besieged Transport Minister Dean Nalder's wife operates a Wheatbelt trucking business poised to benefit from the closure of big sections of the State-owned grain rail network.

Tianco Pty Ltd, a trust company formerly directed by Mr Nalder's wife Colette, carts grain and farm materials at a time when communities are pleading with Mr Nalder to reopen more than 500km of rail shut soon after he took up the transport portfolio.

The communities face tens of thousands of extra truck movements a year on roads already considered among the most dangerous in Australia.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said the revelations raised more concerns about Mr Nalder and the Government's actions in closing the Tier 3 lines and refusing to intervene in the row between CBH and Brookfield Rail over access to other lines.

"There will be a high level of concern in the Wheatbelt about this latest potential conflict," he said.

Mrs Nalder was a director from 2006 to 2010 of family company Tianco, now directed by her brother Andrew Lange and father Graeme Lange.

Tianco operates Brookton-based Tianco Transport via the GJ Lange Family Trust.

The Government shut the so-called Tier 3 grain rail network in June after several deferrals of a decision made in 2010. Mr Nalder became transport minister in March.

_Countryman _asked Mr Nalder whether he, his wife or their children were beneficiaries of Tianco Pty Ltd, trusts it operates or of Tianco Transport.

The Minister said in response: "Neither my wife nor I are beneficiaries of Tianco Transport. To suggest anything to the contrary would be incorrect." Mr Park said Mr Nalder appeared to lack understanding of the rail issue and the impact on road safety and communities.

"If there is potential for a conflict of interest, it has to be declared up-front," he said.

"My understanding is that Mr Nalder's failure to do that is probably driving his demise."

Former Wheatbelt Rail Retention Alliance president Bill Cowan said it was disappointing the public was not told about Mr Nalder's family link.

He said trucking operators had helped cause an anti-rail feeling within the Liberal Party.

Mr Cowan said farmers affected by the rail closure were banding together in a legal challenge against the Government, which signed away its rights over the lines in a secret deal with Brookfield.

Tianco Transport is ideally positioned to truck grain into Brookton from areas where the Tier 3 lines no longer run. Under the Brookton Strategy, endorsed by the Barnett Government as a solution to rail closures, scores of trucks would be used to cart grain from areas services by Tier 3 into the town.

Tianco trucks could also service the new Bunge grain terminal in the South-West after Mr Nalder flagged major road updates along the route into Bunbury.

Opening the Bunge terminal in Bunbury in September, Mr Nalder said the Government was considering roadworks around Arthur River to streamline truck movements.

Mr Nalder said the Government was considering realigning the road from Wagin to Arthur River and from Arthur River to Collie so they intersected Albany Highway at the same point.

A major roundabout would be built on Albany Highway at Arthur River to truck traffic flow to and from the Wheatbelt.

The Government has spent about $73 million improving access to Bunbury from the Coalfields Highway.

Premier Colin Barnett, who this week removed Finance from Mr Nalder's portfolio, said he "looked very, very carefully" at Mr Nalder's assets and investments and was convinced "he has not sought in any way to get personal gain from his position as a Minister".

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