Aurizon coal export claims in doubt
DOUBTS have been raised over the claims by Aurizon that millions of tonnes of coal exports have been lost because of its dispute with the Queensland Competition Authority.
Treasurer Jackie Trad said the Palaszczuk Government believed the claims were exaggerated and has been rebuffed by Aurizon when Treasury had asked for modelling to prove their claims that 20 million tonnes of coal would be lost, worth an estimated $4 billion to the state's economy.
Ms Trad said the budget estimated that overall coal export volumes would be higher this year than last year and Aurizon had now admitted the impact was predominantly a "foregone opportunity''.
Export figures from Queensland ports remain at or near record levels, indicating there is little measurable impact. One industry report said coal shipments from Australian ports were up 9 per cent in the week to 24 June and 1 million tonnes higher than the long-term weekly average of about 7.4 million tonnes.
McCullough Robertson adviser and former Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said claims from industry and Aurizon about rail maintenance-induced impacts on coal shipments "are hard to square with the strong volumes of coal shipped from Queensland terminals in May and reports of above-average volumes in June''.
"Some terminals have apparently been operating at above 100 per cent of nominal capacity. Don't they say that truth is the first casualty in war?"
Aurizon has used its claims of a loss of 20 million tonnes of coal exports to question the draft decision from the Queensland Competition Authority relating to how much the company could earn on its monopoly central Queensland coal network, which is used by about 40 mines to get product to the ports.
The amount determined by the QCA was $1 billion less than Aurizon's submission and to deal with the potential impact from the company radically altered its track maintenance schedule on the network, which will result in substantially fewer trains getting to the ports.
Aurizon said the estimated loss of 20 million tonnes predominantly reflected tonnages above previous forecasts that would have been shipped and represented a foregone opportunity for Queensland.
"The estimated loss of 20 million tonnes predominantly reflects tonnages above previous forecasts that would have been shipped and represents a foregone opportunity for Queensland,'' an Aurizon spokesman said.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said it was up to Aurizon to provide the modelling and explain if these numbers are correct.
"Whatever way they want to cut this up, Queenslanders are losing up to 20 million tonnes of coal exports per annum because Aurizon refuses to respect the independent regulator. That is royalties that could have been used to pay for more roads, hospitals and schools,'' he said.
"If this doesn't impact the budget's surplus than that is good news for Queensland, but with up to 20 million tonnes of lost exports Queenslanders are still be short-changed by $100 each every year.''