Brookfield cancels WAFarmers tour

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Relations between Brookfield Rail and WAFarmers have further derailed, after the State's largest lobby group had an invitation to a tour withdrawn.

The already frosty relationship between Brookfield and WAFarmers turned to firm ice this week after the Canadian-owned rail operator cancelled a guided "familiarisation" tour for the group of its WA rail operations.

Brookfield said it made a last-minute decision to cancel the invitation because of recent WAFarmers media statements highly critical of Brookfield's Asciano rail buyout.

WAFarmers has been a long-term and loud critic of Brookfield's 49-year lease of the State's freight rail network, which has seen 740km of grain track closed, track speed and weight restrictions on the remainder of the network and grower rail access fees skyrocket.

Now, the federation has caused Brookfield more problems after it made a damning submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about Brookfield's proposed takeover of east-west rail and port operator Asciano Limited.

The 3500-member lobby group called for a block of Brookfield Infrastructure's planned $8.9 billion takeover of Asciano, arguing it would hurt the international competitiveness of the State's grain industry.

In its submission to the regulator, WAFarmers successfully argued that the vertical integration, as a result of the company's merging, would lead to a substantial lessening of competition in related markets for the supply of above rail haulage services in WA and Queensland.

Brookfield Rail chief executive Paul Larsen said he believed WAFarmers did not want to engage with his company in a "meaningful" way.

His company had offered the tour to the lobby group three times prior to itaccepting the withdrawn offer.

"WAFarmers has a keen interest in the grain freight rail network, we extended an offer to some of the group's representatives for a briefing with us and later, for a network familiarisation tour," Mr Larsen said.

"We took this proactive step in the hope that we could foster an environment of genuine discussion and engagement with WA Farmers, and assist them in building a greater understanding of our business, network and operations," he said.

He said the tours provide a true behind-the-scenes insight.

"They require significant time and resources from a number of our employees to co-ordinate," he said.

Meanwhile, WAFarmers president Dale Park said he believed the tour was a public relations stunt.

He said his organisation would not be backing away from its views on the buyout, which have now been supported by the ACCC.

"We were all wondering what we were going to get out of the tour," he said.

"But we had been keen to attend the tour and find out more about how Brookfield operates.

"We are disappointed about the tour being cancelled, but we stand by all of our criticisms of the Brookfield's monopolistic behaviour."

The ACCC invites further submissions from the market in response to the Statement of Issues by Wednesday, November 4.

The ACCC expects to announce its final decision on Thursday, December 17.

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