CHAIR - The scrutiny of the Tasmanian Railways will now begin. The time scheduled for the scrutiny is two hours. We will be breaking at 1 p.m. for a one-hour lunch break.
I welcome the minister, the chair and CEO to the committee.
Mr FERGUSON - Good afternoon, Chair and colleagues. I introduce TasRail Chair, Samantha Hogg; Chief Executive Officer, Steven Dietrich; and Corporate Affairs & Strategy Manager, Neale Tomlin.
CHAIR - I remind members about practice of seeking additional information for GBEs. The question must be agreed to be taken by the minister or the chair of the board, and the question must be handed in writing to this committee's secretary.
Minister, do you want to make a brief opening statement?
Mr FERGUSON - After a decade of operation, TasRail continues to demonstrate that it is an integral part of the supply chain for Tasmanian heavy industry, miners, the forestry sector - which is growing - and freight forwarders, safely and efficiently hauling a broad and growing range of commodities, linking industry with their export supply chains and customers.
In addition to servicing industry, TasRail is also responsible for managing the Tasmanian rail network. The year 2018-19 marked the successful completion of tranche one of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program. The four-year $119.6 million program of works that started in 2015 was jointly funded by the Hodgman Liberal Government and the federal Liberal Government, continuing the task of addressing longstanding network issues.
I am pleased to report to the committee that tranche 1 was completed on time, and on budget, and to a high standard. Tranche 1 addressed longstanding rail network issues, such as single points of failure that can lead to derailments, and temporary speed restrictions that reduce train running speeds and efficiency. In 2018-19, TasRail reported an outstanding 23 per cent reduction in temporary speed restrictions across the network, meaning that 92 per cent of the network, as at 30 June, was at its planned operating speed. I am also pleased to report to the committee that the work achieved, in many cases, exceeded the planned quantities set out in the project scope for tranche 1. This occurred as a result of experienced in-house project management, and constructive partnerships with the Tasmanian civil construction sector that has specialised into the rail sector.
I have been fortunate to have been out on the network with our CEO and his team in a hi rail truck, and out on the western line inspecting the works that have been completed. It was a delight to be able to witness that. The Tasmanian rail network crisscrosses much of our state, often in regional areas, meaning that the benefits of this major infrastructure investment are spread throughout the state. Investment in the future of freight rail continues with tranche two of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program, now underway as of 1 July 2019. Yet another $119.6 million invested in vital rail infrastructure by the two Governments.
The condition of the network and service to industry will continue to improve during this four-year tranche. It is estimated approximately 150 people will be employed in this delivery. Based on the success of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation to date, the Australian and Tasmanian Governments have committed a further $136 million for a future tranche 3. As the committee would be aware, the Australian Government has brought forward its commitment to the replacement of TasRail's bulk minerals shiploader at the port of Burnie as part of this tranche. With ship-loading volumes up 22 per cent in 2018-19, and more demand coming online because of our growing economy, this investment is critical.
The balance of tranche 3 - the $96 million - will be invested in rail renewal. The Hodgman Liberal Government has committed significant investment to the revitalisation of freight rail. This means that the civil construction industry has a strong pipeline of future work, and TasRail's customers can be assured that they will have access to reliable and efficient rail logistics into the future.
Ms O'CONNOR - Are you going to read another whole page, because you've been talking for three-and-a-half minutes?
Mr FERGUSON - TasRail has also continued its productive relationships with other key Tasmanian industries, embracing new projects and business opportunities to diversify and grow its business and customer base.
The forestry sector, which we support, continues to show a strong level of interest in using rail as part of its supply chain solutions. I hope we might be able to explore that during the scrutiny hearing.
TasRail experienced two mainline derailments in 2018-19. The very first serious incident at Devonport was discussed at these hearings last year. It has been the subject of a full and forensic investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the outcome of which I am told is set to be released in the first half of 2020.
The second incident was in May 2019, and while it was a low-speed low-impact incident approaching the yard at Conara, it still constitutes a mainline derailment under TasRail's reporting standards.
Excluding the impact of these incidents, TasRail's above-rail business returned a modest net profit in 2018-19.
Due to the timing of funding allocations, TasRail did close the financial year with substantial borrowings. However, I can tell the committee that these borrowings were repaid in full in July, and TasRail is in a strong financial position, with a bright future ahead.
In rounding out my comments, I would like to announce to the committee the resignation of TasRail Chair, Samantha Hogg, who is with us here at the table, and the appointment of an interim Chair. I take this opportunity to thank Samantha most sincerely for her dedication and contribution to TasRail over the past four-and-a-half years, which have been four-and-a-half of the most productive and constructive years of the company. In her role on the board, she has been instrumental in providing oversight of the financial governance and risk management practices at TasRail, and has set this company up with Steven for future success.
As TasRail's second-ever chair she has overseen the successful delivery of tranche 1 of the Freight Rail Revitalisation Program, started TasRail on its journey towards becoming a more diverse workplace and continued its ongoing pursuit of a zero-harm environment. I wish Samantha well in her future endeavours. She will continue through to the end of December.
The current director, Stephen Cantwell, has been appointed as Chair of TasRail from 1 January 2020. Stephen joined TasRail's board in October 2016 and brings a wealth of operational experience with freight rail, heavy industry, mining and ports, and with the delivery of tranches 2 and 3, including a new shiploader at Burnie and new customer projects all occurring in the next four years, Stephen's operational and commercial know-how will be of great assistance to TasRail. I know that our Chair would like to say a few words to the committee as well.
CHAIR - You only have one minute because time is ticking, so be brief.
Ms HOGG - Thank you, Chair, I will give a short response. I have really enjoyed being part of TasRail over the last four years. Since I joined the board in August 2015 I have witnessed a continuing maturing of all facets of the TasRail business and, like you, I am very confident that the company has a bright future ahead. Over that time, there has been more than a 15 per cent increase in the total freight task haul by TasRail. This has been achieved by TasRail being committed to providing tailored logistic solutions to key Tasmanian industries.
TasRail has become a reliable and a sustainable part of the forestry sector supply chain, growing forestry tonnages by 25 per cent in 2018-19. For some time now, we have been working with the forestry industry on plans to reopen the log siding at Parattah. On Monday this week we conducted our first trials for a limited number of truck deliveries and the first trains will depart later this month.
In my time on the board I have noticed a changing dynamic with our customers beginning to value the safety and environmental benefits of freight rail. Freight transported by rail provides our customers an opportunity to significantly reduce their carbon emissions.
TasRail is also particularly proud of the service it provides to the Tasmanian mining industry, ensuring that the west coast mines have a reliable and low cost means to export their products from the state. The growth in the volumes through the bulk minerals export facility and the shiploader are testament to the importance of that service to the mining sector. Securing the $40 million in funding for the new shiploader is a major coup for these industries.
One element I want to highlight is that the infrastructure is only as good as the people operating it. I am particularly proud of the program of work that has been undertaken to make TasRail a place where people feel included and respected, where they are happy to come to work every day.
Finally, I thank the shareholding ministers for their support, along with my fellow directors and Steven Dietrich, our CEO. I congratulate Stephen Cantwell on his appointment.
Dr BROAD - Was it a surprise to learn that the funding for the shiploader would be coming out of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program rather than being additional funding?
Mr FERGUSON - We would always like as much as funding as we can get, Dr Broad, but it is a massive coup for our Government to get any of those revitalisation tranches secured and we are very pleased with that. From a delivery point of view, it sits quite neatly in terms of our infrastructure program to be delivered, and we are very pleased that the Commonwealth has seen fit to bring forward the shiploader funding as well.
Dr BROAD - I do not think it was discussed as being brought forward. When it was announced, it was announced as if it was additional funding.
Mr FERGUSON - I do not know if that is correct, Dr Broad, but it is a commitment that the federal Liberal Government made at the May election that was not matched by federal Labor and it is a very welcome asset for our state.
Dr BROAD - When it comes to the shed, when is that program to be upgraded and how will that be funded?
Ms HOGG - We are currently undertaking a full project review of the new shiploader and the design of it, and that also includes the whole supply chain. We are not calling it a shed. We are calling it a bulk export facility. We are doing an end-to-end study on that right now to make sure we optimise that as well as building the new shiploader. That is what we are working on.
Dr BROAD - What was the cost of the runaway train incident in Devonport that you referred to earlier?
Ms HOGG - At the last hearing, after insurance returns the cost to the company to date is $1.46 million. Basically the first $1 million of the damage to the locomotives has to be covered by a deductable, and that is $1 million.
Dr BROAD - Part of the issue was the automation at the other end. Is the ban on automation still in place?
Ms HOGG - It is still in place at the moment. We are doing a thorough review and we wouldn’t look to reintroducing that until we had a full safety clearance on that. We are working on that as we speak.
Dr BROAD - Has the improvement notice that was put to you by the National Rail Safety Organisation been put in place?
Ms HOGG - Yes, we did a thorough review of all our track safety on the back of that PIN notice and that has now been removed. As a result of that we are putting three additional catchment points in place so if that were ever to occur again it would be caught through the catchment points. I will turn to my operating experts.
Dr BROAD - By catchment point do you mean a run-off?
Ms HOGG - Yes, running off into ballast. Sorry, I was using the wrong term - they are catch points.
Mr DIETRICH - The catch points will deviate the train to a safe location before going back onto the main line.
Dr BROAD - Just that line to Railton, or in other areas as well?
Mr DIETRICH - Three key areas.
Dr BROAD - Where are those other key areas?
Mr DIETRICH - Western Junction and Burnie, and that has been subject to a very detailed risk assessment through a consultant and our own team to identify those other areas.
Ms O'CONNOR - I am interested in understanding more about TasRail's approach to protecting threatened species of flora and fauna. Is there available publicly anywhere a copy of TasRail's weed management plan?
Mr DIETRICH - From a public perspective we have a weed management plan. I would need to revert back to you if it is made public and on our website, but we certainly do have weed management plans within the business.
Ms O'CONNOR - Would you be in a position to make sure the committee is provided with a copy of the weed management plan?
Mr DIETRICH - Absolutely.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. I am also interested to find out about TasRail's sensitive areas list which of course works alongside a weed management plan. Can you confirm that in terms of threatened species on the sensitive areas list there is only one listing and that is for burrowing crayfish?
MR DIETRICH - That would be my confirmation at the point in time. Correct.
Ms O'CONNOR - Is it TasRail's position that there is only one threatened or endangered species that needs consideration in weed management practices?
Mr DIETRICH - No, we have a list of other potential protected species that we want to accommodate and also any pests and weed control management. We have recently engaged and brought into the business an environmental specialist for the first time in TasRail's history. We have used consultants once in the past who specialise and are experts in this area. Our environmental manager is documenting all the key critical areas for endangered species such as burrowing crayfish and protecting the penguins, particularly around our coastal erosion projects on the north and north-west coast, and also identifying areas of toxic weeds.
Ms O'CONNOR - For operators who are contracted by TasRail to undertake weed management operations, at the moment their only guidance on threatened species is through the sensitive areas list which only has one threatened species on it. It is pretty reasonable to come to the view that that is potentially placing threatened species at significant risk. Would you agree?
Mr DIETRICH - I can't answer that at this point. We are identifying where we see the particular sites and where the endangered and the protected species are. We have a lot better visibility than in years gone by and that is a focus for the business as we go forward.
Mr TUCKER - Rebuilding the forestry industry has been a strong position of the Government since coming to power. The Government has made a significant investment in a new log siding at Parattah, in my electorate of Lyons. Can you advise the committee what the objects behind this strategy were and how it will benefit the forestry industry?
Mr FERGUSON - Mr Tucker, I know you are a good friend of the forest industry -
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, before the courts for land clearing. It is on the pecuniary interests form. You would be a big fan of log clearing and logging.
CHAIR - Order, that is totally irrelevant to what we are talking about now.
Mr FERGUSON - Mr Tucker, I am pleased to advise that the forestry sector continues to be a key area of focus for TasRail. One of the key recommendations of the report that was received into the challenges with transporting southern forest residues to markets was to greatly increase the proportion of whole logs transported by rail to northern export ports as opposed to road transport. Members would recall that the challenges particularly arose under the former Labor-Greens government when it basically helped to shut down the industry and put a lot of people out of work.
Ms O'CONNOR - Would that be the industry that came to government on its knees for help, would it? Then why are you telling fibs at the table?
CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor
Mr FERGUSON - The same government that assisted in the closure of the woodchip export facility at Triabunna, which caused mass social harm. This was a massive loss to the industry, thereby stranding the resource from its markets and, some would say, deliberately. Six years later we await the delivery of the great promises made by the purchaser of that site. Scores of businesses went to the wall and forestry towns were devastated and families were broken up.
We have taken advice that transport by rail could not only be more cost effective on a cost per kilometre basis but it would reduce log traffic on the state road network, including the Midland Highway. I am pleased to indicate that while the economic support of the transport of the resource from the Derwent and Huon valleys to the Brighton Rail Hub by road, this was not the case with residue resource from the lower east coast and the southern midlands.
Acting on the report recommendations, the Government responded with TasRail and made a strategic investment in the Parattah Rail Siding which I am pleased to say is now operating with excellent customer support in getting the resource from this important part of the state's forestry sector to Bell Bay. The siding is located south east of Oatlands on TasRail's south line. It was once a very busy log terminal but that has not been operational since 1989. The Parattah Log Siding is strategically located for two reasons; one, it is a practical catchment geographically for logs from the south east, as I mentioned, but also freight trains can stop at Parattah and, in approximate terms, double the number of wagons being hauled north without additional locomotive power. It is a great business outcome. TasRail and industry have been discussing the benefits of reopening the Parattah Log Siding for a number of years but now it is happening. Operations commenced at Parattah in late November. TasRail and its customers are working closely to optimise that operation and grow volumes, which is something we all want to see.
Industry has identified start-up volumes of around 120 000 tonnes per annum. TasRail has executed contracts with the baseload customers. When combined with log volumes from Brighton, this will see around 260 000 to 280 000 tonnes of logs on rail per annum and five different forestry customers.
The Parattah Siding reconstruction was funded through the federal and state Liberal governments' Freight Rail Revitalisation Program. One aim of the program is the construction of sidings to facilitate new rail business. To reduce upfront capital costs, TasRail has also reconditioned and upgrade legacy intermodal container wagons to provide the rolling stock capacity. This capital cost was $1.1 million and was funded internally by TasRail. Through the 2019-20 state Budget, $575 000 of capital was provided by equity injection to TasRail to construct a truck weighbridge and associated infrastructure works at Parattah. This will significantly add to the safety and the efficiency of the supply chain which I know will be welcomed by you, Mr Tucker.
Dr BROAD - We welcome the siding at Parattah and its implementation. The Riley report discussed the rail extension into the Derwent Valley to link up with the Plenty Link Road and discussion of a new rail head at Lawitta or potentially Boyer or the Brighton Hub, yet that is not mentioned on page 29 of your discussion on forestry. Does that mean that TasRail does not support a rail extension into the Derwent Valley?
Mr FERGUSON - I have different advice to you. We have actually acted on the Riley report, which was necessary for the Riley report to be done, because of your party's awful deal with the Greens, Dr Broad.
Dr BROAD - Come on.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair. Mr Ferguson is a minister of the Crown. He is putting falsehoods out here at the table. Is there a set of standards, at all?
CHAIR - It is not a point of order. I cannot put words in the minister's mouth, as you are quite aware. Minister, you will continue.
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Chair. I am happy for the Chair and the CEO to further respond. The other advice is that we are taking steps to pick up this industry and to help it grow and do well in the face of what your Labor-Greens government did to the industry.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, it was the Tasmanian Forest Agreement. It was an agreement between the industry and environment movement that both sides asked for.
CHAIR - Order.
Mr FERGUSON - You keep saying that.
Ms O'CONNOR - You keep lying.
CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor. Again, for the benefit of Hansard, I ask that disruptions are not made and allow the minister to make his response.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, I am happy to take it.
CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor. Thank you, minister.
Mr FERGUSON - You constantly claim to be offended.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, you constantly tell untruths.
Mr FERGUSON - I will ask the Chair and the CEO to further respond to the questions, specifically around the Derwent Valley.
Mr TOMLIN - Thank you, Chair. TasRail provided input into Mr Riley's report, which canvassed a number of options. As the minister and the Chair have pointed out, a number of those initiatives have already been taken by TasRail with the reopening of the Parattah log siding and also growing volumes out of the Brighton terminal. To your specific question, do we support the Derwent Valley?
Dr BROAD - It is completely absent from your discussion on forestry.
Mr TOMLIN - In terms of our commentary and the Annual Report 2018-19, it was focused on the activities which we have underway with our existing customers and the new customers coming on line at Parattah. We were very pleased that Mr Riley's report saw an important role for rail with the forestry industry and ensuring that the forestry industry has safe and low-cost supply trains. Our existing customers are very pleased and satisfied with the services that we provide from our existing terminals at Brighton and Parattah.
We did not make any observations in our annual report around that option because that is not an undertaking on which we are working at the moment. If members of the forestry industry are keen to explore it with TasRail, that is something that we are open to explore with them.
Dr BROAD - So there is no modelling on the cost or the feasibility?
Mr TOMLIN - We provided inputs to Mr Riley's report on the capital costs to reopen the line between Boyer West to Lawitta. We also provided some high-level estimates on rolling stock as well.
Dr BROAD - What were those estimates?
Mr TOMLIN - I have to take that on notice. They were quite substantial sums of money.
Mr DIETRICH - Significant amounts of money.
Dr BROAD - Tens of millions, hundreds of millions?
Mr DIETRICH - Tens of millions.
Dr BROAD - You would take that on notice?
Mr TOMLIN - Absolutely.
Ms O'CONNOR - I want to come back to the threatened species issue, if we may. When is the work updating the sensitive areas list to include threatened and endangered species likely to be complete and available to everyday Tasmanians, contractors.
Mr DIETRICH - We are far more proactive in that space, as I described earlier.
Ms O'CONNOR - Since when?
Mr DIETRICH - Certainly since we have been undertaking a lot of the capital programs because we are very conscious of that. That is forefront of our mind around environments, around the areas we transport and haul through. Burrowing crayfish and penguins have been a key area of focus for us, along with the Tasmanian devils and any of those areas we transit through the west coast. Over the next six to 12 months, we will have a very clear plan and a very documented strategy around our network on where the endangered threatened species are, along with the vegetation side of things as well.
Ms O'CONNOR - Perhaps, minister, you could explain as the minister responsible, why it is that in 2019, with scientists advising us that there is about a million species at risk of extinction, that the state's railway GBE does not have a contemporary sensitive areas list. It does not have a contemporary understanding of threatened and endangered species and in fact it's not able to undertake weed management at the moment in a manner that protects threatened species.
Mr FERGUSON - Nearly everything you said in your question, Ms O'Connor, is your opinion and I won't back you up on it.
Ms O'CONNOR - Then take it apart. The scientists have said a million species are at risk of extinction.
CHAIR - Order. One person speaking at a time.
Mr FERGUSON - The CEO has given strong answers to your reasonable questions. The fact is that TasRail has the usual obligations that any other corporate entity has under environmental legislation, and they are discharging that prudently and appropriately. I don't understand if your question is implying that they have some special extra responsibilities here. The company operates within the law and proactively. As the CEO has indicated, there is a new specialist staff member to support the company in meeting not only its obligations but indeed the positive things it wishes to do as a sustainable operator in Tasmania.
Ms O'CONNOR - It is important to understand this. How are contractors employed by TasRail, or anyone who is working for TasRail, able to understand what areas are actually sensitive from a threatened and endangered species point of view at the moment? We are here in 2019. There has been a lot of talk around the table about how TasRail is participating in the increase in native forest logging exports and a lot of talk about money.
Mr FERGUSON - Yes, it's good, isn't it? We think it's good.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, it's not good for the planet, it's not good for our children, it's not good for the climate, but carry on. There has been a lot of talk about money at the table, but one of basics you would expect a government GBE to do is understand what threatened and endangered species are potentially at risk as a result of spraying operations. That is a failure on the part of the GBE and you as minister.
Mr FERGUSON - We obviously reject that because that is your opinion and your assertion based on that opinion.
Ms O'CONNOR - The facts say there is only one threatened species on the sensitive areas list.
Mr FERGUSON - We have given a commitment to sharing the weed management document.
Ms O'CONNOR - And the sensitive areas list.
Mr FERGUSON - Maybe when you have an opportunity to have a look at that, you might moderate your rather extreme opinions in this regard. TasRail is operating within the law as a good corporate citizen.
Ms O'CONNOR - If you don't know what threatened and endangered species are there, how can you operate in a safe way?
CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor.
Mr FERGUSON - That is your assertion based on your opinion.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, it's not. It's on the evidence that has been put to us that people who are contracted by TasRail are not given proper guidance on where species are at risk.
Mr FERGUSON - I conclude my response by saying that when you have had an opportunity to inform yourself further and look at those documents -
Ms O'CONNOR - Could you be any more patronising?
CHAIR - Order. The call will now go to Mrs Rylah.
Mrs RYLAH - The Port of Burnie is the biggest in Tasmania by volume and is critical to our resources industry, particularly the mining sector, which is reliant upon the bulk minerals export facility, also known as the minerals concentrate shed, and the shiploader to export our products to the world. Can you explain to the committee the plans for these TasRail-owned and operated assets infrastructure at the Burnie Port?
Mr FERGUSON - We are very proud of our support for the mining industry. It is very strong support, and it is consistent and loyal support. It doesn't change with different elections sequences. TasRail owns and operates Tasmania's only open access bulk mineral shiploader. This unique and critically important infrastructure is able to directly load a range of different bulk commodities from the port and is seamlessly connected to the rail and road network via the bulk minerals export facility, also known as the shed.
Located within the Burnie Port, TasRail's shiploader has been the export gateway for many of the west coast mines for over 50 years. In 2018-19 TasRail shiploaded 564 000 tonnes of zinc, lead, pyrite and high-grade iron ore for export. I am pleased to say this is a 22 percent increase on the previous end year.
TasRail maintains the shiploader in a fit-for-purpose condition, but planning and consideration for the replacement of the 50-year-old infrastructure has now been underway for some time. Frankly, we need to be looking beyond the horizon of its serviceable life.
On 9 May 2019 the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack and Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck, along with our Liberal candidate for Braddon, Gavin Pearce, who was subsequently supported at the election by his community, committed $40 million in funding for the new facilities at the Burnie Port. This is being funded through tranche 3 of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program which I would hope, Dr Broad, having visited and seen it for yourself you might now welcome as a good investment. It would have been good if federal Labor had promised it as well but did not. The investment is notable not only for its importance to industry but unfortunately from its lack of support from the Labor Party at both the state and federal level and I hope that changes soon.
Recognising the importance and urgency of the new shiploader allocating funding from tranche 3 is about prioritising delivery of this critical project. It is anticipated that the new shiploader will take between two and three years to design, construct and commission and TasRail is well underway. We touch base on this and get updates on it almost every time we sit down together. The benefits of the new shiploader to industry will include much higher load rates per hour, the reliability associated with the new machine and contemporary safety and environmental features. The new shiploader will provide certainty -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair. Under the arrangements that were agreed by parliament to establish these committees minister's answers were to be confined to three minutes.
CHAIR - But your questions are supposed to be confined to one minute. So just as I give you latitude in asking questions that go for a lot longer than one minute, it has been convention that latitude is given. I do ask the minister to wind up.
Ms O'CONNOR - On the point of order, Chair, no member here has asked a question of even close to one minute in length at the table today.
CHAIR - Your statement is noted.
Ms O'CONNOR - Well, I'll count them when we get the Hansard.
CHAIR - Minister, I ask you to wind up.
Mr FERGUSON - I will wind up and am happy to explore it further if the committee would like to further explore this exciting investment. The new shiploader will provide certainty to TasRail itself but more importantly it will provide certainty to TasRail's customers such as the mining industry, of which the Liberal Government is its strongest supporter. We want to help attract investment into the new mining projects and we don't want to hear grizzles from the Labor Party. It was the Labor Party that did all those awful deals with the Greens. We're planning for the future.
Ms O'CONNOR - Stop being so juvenile. You're at a GBE table. You're a minister of the Crown. Show some dignity.
CHAIR - Order. Dr Broad has the call.
Dr BROAD - Thank you, I will, if the minister refrains from trolling.
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, trolling - that's a good word.
Dr BROAD - That's exactly what those sorts of comments are.
Minister, $105 000 was paid to BD James Consulting for industrial relations advice between July 2018 and March 2019. What work was performed under the consultancy and what were the outcomes?
Mr DIETRICH - BD James Consulting was engaged to support us through the EA negotiations with the majority of our workforce. That company has been engaged in previous negotiations through the history of TasRail and had very good history and understanding and a good relationship with the union.
Dr BROAD - I'm not sure if I am pronouncing her name correctly, but Alice Vujanovic, the general manager of people and culture, left TasRail on 18 March 2019. It is interesting that the head of people and culture left TasRail in the same month a consultancy providing industrial relations advice concluded their work. What was the reason for Ms Vujanovic's separation from TasRail?
Mr DIETRICH - Ms Vujanovic's separation from TasRail was for her own professional development reasons. There's no coincidence between those two dates. BD James Consulting was engaged probably 18 months prior. We look at the EA negotiations as a project so we started 12 months prior before the EA was ratified and it just so happened to coincide that Alice effectively tendered her resignation.
Dr BROAD - Okay. Ms Vujanovic received over $33 000 as a termination benefit. What was that payment for?
Mr DIETRICH - The majority was her leave entitlements and one month's pay in notice.
Dr BROAD - In lieu of notice.
Mr DIETRICH - In lieu of notice, correct. As part of her contract there was one month's notice and Alice and the business decided to separate on the day she resigned.
Dr BROAD - Is that standard in TasRail?
Mr DIETRICH - No, it's not standard but that was the circumstances Alice was looking for, with some other commitments outside of work, so we honoured those in support of her.
Dr BROAD - More than $100 000 in bonuses were paid to senior executives. The annual report says that these were for achieving specified performance goals in specified time frames in the prior year. Specifically, what were the specified performance goals that were achieved and were any performance goals not met?
Ms HOGG - There is a whole list of individual key performance indicators that are achieved by each of the executives. They are all objectively measured and ratified through a board process. No-one received 100 per cent of their entitlement; it was always a percentage. Most of them ranged between 65 per cent and 75 per cent, but that is off the top of my head. We could get the numbers for you. Each executive has probably eight different areas in which they are looking to achieve certain milestones to receive an incentive. They get a proportion of that.
Dr BROAD - The COO's total remuneration, including long-term benefits, increased by more than 10 per cent compared to 2017-18. What was the reason behind that?
Ms HOGG - I will have to have a look at that.
Dr BROAD - Did the remuneration associated with other senior executive positions increase by a similar amount?
Ms HOGG - No. I might need to take that one on notice because I cannot recall exactly what the issue was. It was just an individual -
Mr DIETRICH - One of the key elements to that, Dr Broad, is the movement in leave accruals and other entitlements. The CEO did not take as much leave through that period, which added to his total TRP.
Dr BROAD - It was to do with leave and not to do with a pay rise?
Mr DIETRICH - No.
Ms HOGG - We abide by the Government's directive on increases in salary. We do not go above what is guided by the Government.
Dr BROAD - What are you saying, 2 per cent?
Ms HOGG - The 2 per cent for the executives.
Ms O'CONNOR - When did TasRail develop its weed management plan. Can you confirm there was no weed management plan in place in April 2018?
Mr DIETRICH - TasRail has always had a weed management plan in place. We have a completed works review of the TasRail eco risk data set to test its effectiveness for identifying priority conservation sites along the rail corridor. This was followed by a natural values pilot study that included visual inspection of lines between Brighton and Conara, mapping eco and environmental values that were identified. Data analysis of each site and the creation of attribute tables for each value class were mapped and quantified and the extent and occupancy for each value.
At the moment, TasRail is reviewing, through its natural values pilot study report, the outcomes which will inform the development of a broader weed management strategy across the network. This is expected to be completed by January 2020. TasRail intends to replicate the same approach across other parts of the network throughout 2020.
Ms O'CONNOR - There is a difference, isn't there, between a weed management plan which, our advice is, was not in place in April 2018, and a broader weed management strategy to guide TasRail staff and other users, as well as contractors?
Mr DIETRICH - There is a strategy in place because it is a dynamic environment we live in and everything is changing -
Ms O'CONNOR - I just need some clarity here.
Mr DIETRICH - We had a weed strategy. TasRail prides itself on Tasmania fauna. Our work with our contractors is first-class at protecting the fauna. We focus on toxic species of weeds and also protected species. That is our priority and our commitment to the community and how we work with our contractors. It is as important as safety that we see these initiatives through.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Dietrich. It is hard for contractors to understand their obligations under a threatened species act or under their contract with TasRail if the information provided to them in a sensitive areas list does not contain any more than one threatened species, isn't it? So that statement you made just before is somewhat contestable because there is no up-to-date information on threatened species, either flora or fauna with TasRail at the moment.
Mr DIETRICH - There are updates. I am more than happy to provide those to you.
Ms O'CONNOR - To be clear so I can move on, which I am sure you would like, TasRail is confirming that there is a weed management plan in place. It is working on a weed management strategy. Its sensitive areas list only has one threatened species on the list. Mr Dietrich, you are committing by January next year to having a contemporary guide to TasRail staff, users and other contractors of all the threatened and endangered flora around the 843 kilometres of the network?
Mr DIETRICH - We are committing through the period 2020, certain sections by January 2020, and the rest of the network throughout next year.
Mr TUCKER - Minister, the rail corridors between Burnie and Hobart are increasingly important for industry and jobs, exporters and other businesses and consumers. Can you update the committee on the share of freight transport being won by rail and the benefits of this competitive tension with the alternative of road transport?
Mr FERGUSON - The Government supports both sectors of our transport industry but we have an ongoing Infrastructure Australia project, which is called the Burnie to Hobart Freight Corridor Strategy. An important part of that strategy is to look at the parallel road and rail networks that offer competition and to provide choice for industry so they can choose what is fit for their purpose.
Business understands that competition keeps services operating at high levels and puts downward pressure on prices, which ultimately flow through to consumers. TasRail works closely with my department on that strategy. Likewise, TasRail briefs both the Department of State Growth and Infrastructure Tasmania on their business performance each month to ensure the Government understands TasRail's significant operations for both infrastructure and freight in the corridor. TasRail operates major terminals in Brighton and Burnie and operates multiple services per day across the corridor.
TasRail estimates that it carries around 70 per cent of the contestable container freight on the corridor and continues to add to this with growth in its log and general intermodal service markets, which we discussed earlier. The figure is a great demonstration of the growing awareness by business of the cost competitiveness and the reliability of rail. It is also reflective of the great strides we have made in recent years with the Australian government to improve the track infrastructure through the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program.
It is improving the infrastructure and making it more feasible for TasRail to provide a reliable and cost-effective solution to its customers. Customers are choosing it. Gone are the days of frequent derailments and speed restrictions, which were symptoms of decades of under-investment. Tranches 2 and 3 will build on this investment as we strive for an even more reliable, safer and more cost-competitive rail service. Another benefit of the investment is the removal of significant heavy vehicle pressure on the state road network, which is welcomed by motorists.
Through the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program, TasRail will continue to invest in the state's most strategic and important freight corridor. About $80 million of tranche 1 funding has been invested in improving the Burnie to Brighton corridor and, consistent with Government policy and industry demand, this is set to continue with further renewals and upgrades planned for tranche 2, which has now commenced. We continue to look forward to planning for what tranche 3 should contain.
Dr BROAD - In relation to the management of the rail corridor - as this one comes in terms of drainage and water logging - I received a letter back from the Devonport Council in relation to a constituent I have been dealing with. I will not identify the complainant, but the pipe on this particular property - the western boundary flows to an open drain in the rail corridor. The drain is maintable by TasRail. Over the years TasRail has allowed the invert of this drain to lift so now it is almost fully blocked by both pipes that once flowed to the drain. Council has made several approaches to TasRail who have not shown any inclination of wanting to alleviate this issue. At the very least, lowering the drain to its former height would make inspection planning an ongoing council pipe a low easier. What are your comments in relation to these sorts of issues?
Mr FERGUSON - My comments would be that we are a responsible rail corridor manager and with the management - you have heard the tone of it - we are very responsive to genuine concerns and real issues. If the Chief Executive Officer would care to add to my comments, that would be welcome. If we are not aware of the specifics today, I would be happy for you, Dr Broad, to write to me and I could seek further advice, if that is helpful.
Mr DIETRICH - That is helpful minister. Dr Broad, we have hundreds of culverts throughout the network that we maintain, diligently and professionally. If there is a concern there, we will certainly address it; from a safety perspective, that is the number one priority.
We take a very professional, dedicated focus to maintaining our culverts, because it is important around our formation and our track quality that we continue to ensure that the maintenance, the upgrades and renewals of all of our culverts throughout the whole 830 kilometres of operational network are maintained. Certainly, through the minister, we are very happy to review this particular instance directly.
Dr BROAD - Thank you. How many of your horn complaints do you estimate are coming from the same people? When you publish the results of your horn complaints, which have been relatively stable over the last three years, do you keep separate statistics for people who complain over multiple years, or are the complaints that are registered in the annual report new complaints?
Mr DIETRICH - The complaints registered in the annual report are complaints that are coming through within that year - so that could be from a constituent from a previous year, or someone else has made a complaint previously.
Dr BROAD - How many would you estimate come from the same people? Would you be able to determine that?
Mr DIETRICH - I would have to take that on notice. I cannot answer that directly, at this point in time.
We get a frequency in terms of geographic areas, particularly around Spreyton through to Ulverstone and Devonport. From that, one would suggest that we are probably getting complaints from some people who have complained previously, but that is our main area of complaints for horn blowing. We have changed our policy in recent years. We have moved from a four-second horn blow at high decibel approaching a level crossing and one-second horn blow as we enter the level crossing, to a one-second blow before the crossing, and a one-second horn blow into the crossing at low decibel. The low-decibel is from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Dr BROAD - Do you have two horns, or can you switch the decibels down?
Mr DIETRICH - You can switch the decibels down. We have effectively moved from a four-second blow on one second, to a one-second blow and one-second blow at a lower decibel between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. which has certainly helped with our complaints.
As you can see with level crossing safety, we are still having some level crossing incidents with the public, which we continue to educate, so we are continuing to make sure that both the community and our TasRail employees are kept safe.
Dr BROAD - There is an increase in vegetation complaints from last year to this year. Is that in any way related to disputes between TasRail and current or former spray contractors?
Mr DIETRICH - Not at all.
Dr BROAD - What would you put the increase in complaints on vegetation management down to?
Mr DIETRICH - Just to ongoing challenging conditions. We are continuing to focus and are revising our strategy on how we address vegetation. We previously used two separate contractors - one for wheat spraying, and one for slashing and mowing. Our strategy going forward is to tender out a process that allows a contractor to do both. That way we will get far more productivity and far more action throughout the corridor.
We are seeing it as very challenging, as you would appreciate, with everything between floods in 2016 to bushfires. We are working very hard at the moment to protect the network and the communities and Tasmania around bushfire risk, working with the fire department and continuing to manage vegetation where we can, on a very proactive basis.
Dr BROAD - Would that be one statewide contract, or do you break it up into regions?
Mr DIETRICH - That is to be determined. I cannot answer that at this point as it is part of a tender process.
Dr BROAD - That would be in the tender though, wouldn't it?
Mr DIETRICH - We may choose one, or we may choose five. That is to be determined. The tender evaluation committee has not reviewed the responses yet.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, page 29 of the annual report details TasRail's involvement in the forestry industry. It says 'log haulage services to the forest industry recommenced in 2013', obviously before you came to government, so I am assuming that is largely plantations.
There was some information earlier about five customers that TasRail has secured to haul timber. Can you provide the committee with any information on those customers?
Mr DIETRICH - I am more than happy to talk about the customers. I guess from a commercial perspective, commercial sensitivity, in 2012 we had zero logs, and zero customers. Today on a per annum 12 month basis, we are moving towards 280 000 tonnes of bulk logs on rail, which is split between 60 per cent plantation, 40 per cent native, of which 80 per cent of our overall volume is with private industry. Excluding private industry, that is Sustainable Timber Tasmania, and we have contracts in place with Reliance Forest Fibre, Les Walkden Enterprises, Midway and PF Olsen.
Ms O'CONNOR - The native forest resource that is being transported on TasRail, and through you, minister, which parts of the state is that coming from?
Mr DIETRICH - They are predominantly from the southern regions of the state, the south-west corners. It is southern residues. Effectively, the peeler logs and the saw logs coming from those regions are going through Hobart port, and as part of that process there are the residue logs which are for chipping, and we are transporting those from Brighton through to Bell Bay, to both customers Artec who have their chippings plants there, and Reliance Forest Fibre.
Ms O'CONNOR - Can you confirm to the committee that all these contracts to transport timber products are undertaken on a full cost-recovery process, or is there government support for some of those contracts?
Mr DIETRICH - I can confirm that it is absolutely on a full cost-recovery basis. There is no government support, and we cost each of these opportunities with commercial terms and a contract with the customer. Some of these customers are approaching us in terms of surety of supply, surety of pricing, and particularly around chain of responsibility and their ability for forestry certification with green credentials.
Mrs RYLAH - Two out of three jobs, minister, were lost in the forest industry which was decimated under the former Labor/Greens government -
Ms O'CONNOR - Have you had a look at the data? All the jobs started going in 2006. You are supposed to be a numbers person. I am just trying to get the truth told at the table.
CHAIR - Order.
Mrs RYLAH - Since the election of the Hodgman Liberal Government in 2014, the industry is recovering. According to the Sherman report, there are now 5700 Tasmanians employed directly or indirectly in the sector.
Ms O'CONNOR - False claim.
Mrs RYLAH - This is the Sherman report I am quoting. One way of tracking the trajectory of an industry is to look at volumes of product moved. What does TasRail's annual result for 2018 tell us about the health of the industry?
Ms O'CONNOR - You have the annual report, Mrs Rylah.
CHAIR - Order. Mrs Rylah has the call, Ms O'Connor. Thank you.
Mr FERGUSON - I think it is a reasonable question to be asking, particularly from a member of parliament who has been a strong and consistent supporter of the forest industry. I am very pleased to advise that the forestry sector is represented in the numbers that we can see when we look at the annual report for TasRail in 2018-19, because the forestry sector is rebuilding, and it is going from strength to strength. It is a key area of focus for our business. From extremely modest beginnings in 2013, TasRail continues to grow its services to the industry, which this Government strongly and consistently supports.
My advice is that the volume of logs moved in 2013 - the last full year of the former Labor-Greens government - was effectively zero. The contrast now is a good news story that should please everybody. In 2018-19 TasRail provided haulage services from southern Tasmania to Bell Bay for three customers. In response to industry demand, TasRail increased its five-day-per-week service to six between Brighton and Bell Bay. This has helped TasRail achieve record forestry tonnages, with a 25 per cent increase in volume over the previous year. That is an extraordinary result, significant growth, the likes of which most businesses could only dream of.
In addition to providing heavy haulage services to the industry TasRail also provides stockpile and log-loading services, using a specialist forest industry company at the Brighton hub and at Parattah.
Acting on the recommendations of the Riley report, the Government responded to TasRail and made a strategic investment in the Parattah rail siding, which I am pleased to say, as we reflected earlier, is now operating with very strong and positive customer feedback and support in getting the resource from this important part of the state's forestry sector to Bell Bay. Of course, this would not have been necessary if Labor and the Greens had not shut down Triabunna.
CHAIR - Thank you.
Ms O'CONNOR - Another lie at the table. It was Gunns that shut down Triabunna even before we were in government. You could not lie straight in bed.
CHAIR - Order. We will now take a break. We will resume at 2 p.m.
The committee suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
CHAIR - Welcome back. The time being 2 p.m., we are in the last hour of Tasmanian Railways' scrutiny. Minister, you indicated you had some responses.
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Chair. There were a couple of questions raised earlier in the day which I said I would take some further advice on.
The first is in response to the facial recognition questions. I was asked where the Tasmanian data is stored for the facilitation of facial recognition. I am advised that the data is stored at secure data centres in Canberra. There are multiple centres, one being the production environment and the other for disaster recovery. I take the opportunity to re-emphasise my earlier points around other agencies' access. I was asked how many Tasmanian driver licences are held in the database. Images of approximately 410 000 Tasmanian licence holders are part of Tasmania's partition within the National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution.
Dr WOODRUFF - You didn't ask my permission.
Mr FERGUSON - This data is kept secure and separate. Currently there is no access to Tasmanian data for face-matching services by any agency. Access will only be granted where there are legislated bases to do so.
Dr WOODRUFF - Currently without our permission.
CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Dr WOODRUFF - It's pretty outrageous stuff we are hearing here.
CHAIR - You can ask a question after the minister has finished his response. Allow him to be heard in silence, please.
Dr WOODRUFF - I'm just absorbing this on behalf of Tasmanians who will hear for the first time that their photograph has been sent into the Cloud.
CHAIR - Your comments are noted. I ask that the minister be allowed to make his contribution.
Mr FERGUSON - Keep it nice.
I was asked when the privacy statement was updated on Tasmanian driver licence forms. The personal information protection statement on Tasmanian driver licence renewals and application for driver licence forms were updated in April 2018 to reflect that information collected will be used for national identity-matching and verification purposes.
I was also asked in the earlier session on Metro by Ms Dow about the quarter 2 deliverable for the Derwent ferry in the Agenda 2019 document. I should correct the record. The wording for the quarter 2 Derwent ferry deliverable is as follows:
Planning will commence for the land-side infrastructure at Bellerive and Sullivans Cove needed to realise the commencement of commuter ferry service on the Derwent River which could potentially take thousands of vehicles off roads in and around Hobart.
In response to that, I can confirm that planning for land-side infrastructure has now commenced and has included investigation of opportunities to provide improved cycling linkages to ferry terminals; assessment of potential sites for park-and-ride; planning for pedestrian access across Cambridge Road; planning for land access to ferry piers; and bus route design and interchange points between bus services and ferry terminals.
Dr BROAD - How many locomotive drivers have received injuries due to the design and ergonomics of the TR class locomotives?
Mr DIETRICH - Up to the point of reviewing the TR cab layout and employing a physiotherapist and an ergonomist, we had 17 incidents reported, none of which resulted in a lost-time injury. I am pleased to say that since we have redesigned the cab we now have an asset users' group which incorporates train drivers to continue to review cab layout and performance of assets, not just in our above-rail business but also below-rail. I am pleased to say the incidence of some repetition due to throttle movements are now all but ceased.
Dr BROAD - Are you saying that there are no ongoing issues with these locomotives?
Mr DIETRICH - There are no ongoing issues with these locomotives. For each driver, the chair was modified, armchairs, footwells and throttle positioning, and each driver now can adjust their seating arrangements to make sure it is suitable for their profile.
Dr BROAD - What impact has this had on TasRail's insurance premiums for workers compensation? How many times has the insurer for this coverage changed in the past six years?
Mr DIETRICH - There's been no impact on our workers compensation. Each time we've had a repetitious sort of injury out of these incidents our drivers have been able to perform light duties, so they have continued to work, and over the years we have probably had two changes in our workers compensation underwriter since that time.
Dr BROAD - Two changes. What was driving those changes?
Mr DIETRICH - Changes in price as we go to market each year for underwriting capability, and we do that across all our policies - property, public liability, but also workers compensation - and we also evaluate it on performance and claims management. There was no reason that there was a change in the provider of workers compensation insurance due to any of those incidents.
Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, we heard earlier that 60 per cent of TasRail's forest products that are carted are plantation and 40 per cent are native. Could you please provide details about the tonnage for each of the forest company customers TasRail has had since 2014, especially forest product from the southern forests, but all product?
Mr DIETRICH - We don't have that split in detail. I could take that on notice but I can provide to the committee that Sustainable Timber Tasmania was our main customer for the first two to three years before Les Walkden and Reliance Forest Fibre came on board and more recently PF Olsen. We are not contracting or moving volumes for Midway at this point. They are starting effectively with the opening of Parattah.
Mr FERGUSON - We will take that on notice.
Dr WOODRUFF - Tonnage by company by year since 2014. Thank you.
Mr FERGUSON - Hang on, I'm not sure. I'll just query this. I'll take the original question on notice.
Dr WOODRUFF - That was the question. I read it out and it's sitting here in front of me.
Mr FERGUSON - I'm not sure that I will commit to giving individual company's breakdowns by that level of granularity, which was not in the original question.
Dr WOODRUFF - It was, minister. I read it out and I think Hansard will record it.
Mr FERGUSON - I am happy to take it on notice and will answer it to the extent that is appropriate under commercial-in-confidence arrangements with our customers.
Dr WOODRUFF - Is there any possibility it would be secret that we are providing certain companies with -
Mr FERGUSON - I will provide you with the information that is appropriate.
Dr WOODRUFF - Are you trying to shield the activities that are happening in a part of the state around this area? Surely that wouldn't be in TasRail's interests?
Mr TUCKER - Minister, there have been periods where large sections of the Tasmanian rail network have been operating on speed restrictions. These restrictions, which are often as a result of inadequate infrastructure, are a productivity trap and a disincentive for businesses and industries to contemplate the switch from road to rail. Can you please update the committee on the latest data with respect to speed restrictions?
Mr FERGUSON - I can advise that TasRail reported a significant reduction in the percentage of the operational network under track temporary speed restrictions in the financial year. I did touch on this in my opening statement.
As at June 2019, temporary speed restrictions were at their lowest level since January 2012 when TasRail started collecting data, and at that point the low level was 8 per cent. As at that date 92 per cent of the network was operating at track speed. This is a further improvement over the performance results reported in the 2017-18 annual report when temporary speed restrictions were at 10.5 per cent. A temporary speed restriction is a risk and prevention measure to protect the safety of the network and may be applied to a section of track following detection of an issue such as a non-compliant track geometry measurement or a fault.
Other examples of where a speed restriction may be applied include hotter extreme weather conditions with potential to create tensile or compressive force in the rail, warping, and this explains why there can be an increase in speed restrictions during winter and summer peaks. Not all speed restrictions are related to asset condition. Some may be applied following a reported public safety incident in the corridor or where animals may be roaming. While variables such as extreme weather and animals are outside of TasRail's control and mean that it is impossible to always completely eliminate temporary speed restrictions, a trend is clear. Speed restrictions are in decline across the network. This is a direct result of the Morrison and Hodgman Liberal governments' investment in the operational rail network which we are thrilled with.
The $120 million tranche 1 has been delivered on time and on budget. The results are speaking for themselves. Indeed, the results are speaking in answers to questions like this one. Tranche 2 is underway. Started this year, and I'm confident it will deliver further measurable improvements so we can help our customers get their goods to market.
Dr BROAD - Is TasRail in dispute with William Adams over any aspects of the maintenance work they have performed?
Mr DIETRICH - TasRail is not in dispute with William Adams in terms of any work performed on the locomotive component changeout program. We did have two incidents of some workmanship that have subsequently been resolved. We've now seen 10 locomotives go through the workshops. We are seeing high rates of utilisation and very good service from that point onwards.
Dr BROAD - Does TasRail consider the monies paid to William Adams for mechanical maintenance on the TR class to be of good value?
Mr DIETRICH - Absolutely.
Dr BROAD - Are there any potential savings to be had by maintaining those locomotives in house?
Mr DIETRICH - We maintain those locomotives in-house on our ABC-type servicing arrangements. This was highly specialised overhauls, particularly around the engines that are in the locomotives. The TR class have a Cat engine for which William Adams supplies technical specialist support and parts to the mining industry on the north west and that's replicated with our locomotives as well. We've utilised the expertise within the state, utilised William Adams' people within the state. This was a very detailed overhaul program of our locomotives.
Dr BROAD - The DQ class locomotives are reportedly becoming a liability due to their age and overall condition. It is understood that TasRail has this year embarked on a business case for their rebuild or replacement. Where is that currently at?
Ms HOGG - Yes, we're looking at undertaking a process to review the DQ class and our total rolling stock in actual fact, so wagons as well as the locomotives. We have not got to an end position as a company on that yet, but it is in process now looking at the efficiency gains potentially or what approach should be taken.
Dr BROAD - Does TasRail consider these locomotives to be integral to the business? How urgent do TasRail consider their rebuild or replacement to be?
Ms HOGG - They're integral to the business but they're still suitable for the business so we are just now working through in planning for the future what approach we should take.
Dr BROAD - So, it's not urgent?
Ms HOGG - It's not urgent but it's something that's on our plate and it's something we're looking at and analysing.
Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, the backlash against companies that are involved in thermal coal projects across Australia has already been enormous and it's going to continue to grow into the future. There are multiple thermal coal projects being pursued by the Government that plan to use the rail network for exporting coal. Has TasRail had any discussions with potential thermal coal export companies about using the rail network? Would TasRail be happy to give contracts to thermal coal companies to use their network?
Mr FERGUSON - I picked up the question. I will ask the Chair to respond as well. I personally am not aware of any discussions between the company and Midlands Energy since December 2016. Indeed, it's been a considerable period of time. I am advised that such discussions would have been had. TasRail doesn't have a contract to supply services to this company, but I know exactly where your question is coming from, and I make the point that the company is here to service the customers who are providing, who are employing people in Tasmania -
Dr WOODRUFF - And all Tasmanians for the future as well as for now.
Mr FERGUSON - I couldn't have finished the sentence better than that.
Ms HOGG - No, exactly as the minister has said, we haven't had any communication with Midlands Energy since 2016 and there's no ongoing conversation.
Dr WOODRUFF - Okay, what about Hard Rock Coal Mining? They are another company that's also currently operating under external administration. They've been working on the construction of a thermal coal mine so that is active now.
Ms HOGG - It's been 18 months since there has been any conversation with them.
Dr WOODRUFF - The other part of that question was: would you be happy giving contract to thermal coal companies to use your rail network? There is a reputational risk and there is also a financial cost just bearing in mind.
Mr FERGUSON - Only for people who attack our company.
Dr WOODRUFF - No, minister, as it stands currently Tas Rail freights about up to a maximum of 150 000 tonnes of coking coal between Fingal and Railton each year. But we are not talking about coking coal; we are talking about thermal coal. The quantities proposed by Midland Energy, for example, are starting at 1.1 million tonnes a year going up to 3 million tonnes a year. Fingal's are starting at 1 million tonnes a year. These are vastly different numbers, so have you been doing an analysis of reputational risk?
Ms HOGG - As I say there is no conversation going on so, no, there is no risk analysis going on. There is no conversation going on about the thermal coal you are referring to.
Dr WOODRUFF - Given what has been happening with the Adani coal mine and environmental activists and young people who have been actively protesting about the railway there, do you think you should be looking at the reputational risk for Tasmania?
Mr FERGUSON - These questions have been answered.
Dr WOODRUFF - Not at this point. At what point would you decide it was an issue for you to look at given there are two companies?
Ms HOGG - There is no engagement with either of the companies at this point.
Dr WOODRUFF - I am flagging that you should be thinking about this because it is an issue around the world, in Australia and it would be an issue in Tasmania. It would affect TasRail.
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you for the advice.
Mrs RYLAH - Minister, can you explain what role TasRail is playing to assist the tourist and heritage rail sector? My interest is Don River, particularly.
Mr FERGUSON - The Hodgman Government does support the aspirations of tourist and heritage rail groups in our state in accessing the non-operational and indeed in some circumstances even the operational rail network in Tasmania. There are separate access arrangements for heritage groups depending on whether they intend to operate on operational or non-operational lines.
In terms of the non-operational network, the Government has legislated with both Houses of parliament supporting the Strategic Infrastructure Corridors (Strategic and Recreational Use) Act. Where these groups seek access to an operational rail network, that is a different matter. TasRail therefore has a well-defined role because of the interaction of other rail traffic.
The Hodgman Government has delivered a clear and transparent process to facilitate the commencement of tourist and heritage rail operations where those operators can demonstrate that they have the resources, capacity and the competency to do so. Rail operations, regardless of whether they are for tourist or heritage passenger or freight rail service, are all governed by a strict legal and regulatory framework. There are a number of issues that need to be satisfied before a rail service can be approved to operate by the independent Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator.
The Government has no role in the ONRS accreditation process but we have ensured the pathway to securing access to either operational or non-operational rail network. If a tourist or heritage rail component or any other third-party rail operator would like to see how this works, they can apply directly to TasRail for a network access agreement. The policy that underpins that is available on the Department of State Growth website.
Examples of operational parameters that need to be considered include the interface with TasRail's train control system, competencies and compliance with the safe operating rules. Also, public liability insurance is another condition. This is a challenge for a number of heritage rail operators. Under the Rail Company Act 2009 any costs associated with facilitating third-party access to the below rail network infrastructure do need to be borne by the applicant.
I make those points. While we do try to encourage and support those aspirations, there are challenges and barriers to it. TasRail's considered to be a very helpful neighbour in terms of doing everything that is plausible and reasonable, particularly in regard to the operational lines.
Dr BROAD - Minister, what caused the removal and effective closure of the Colebrook closing crossing loop?
Mr DIETRICH - I may need to take that on notice, Dr Broad. My understanding was, it was a maintenance and safety issue. That particular set of points is part of our next program of infrastructure investment funding, part of tranche 2. They are being considered for replacement in the near future.
Dr BROAD - Why hasn't this important piece of Tasmanian Rail infrastructure been reinstated following what was a work-site-related derailment?
Mr DIETRICH - Because there hasn't been a practical need. It hasn't impeded our operational activities. As we are growing the business, our trains are getting bigger, longer, and we are looking for areas where there are additional passing routes through the network. That area, plus other areas, are being considered. Colebrook, areas around Deloraine, and so forth, will be considered for additional passing loops.
Dr BROAD - Isn't it concerning that there are no operational crossing loops between Parattah and Brighton, given that this makes it in excess of a 145-minute section?
Mr DIETRICH - I appreciate that, but again it hasn't impeded our operations to date. In November 2018 we hauled the greatest number of containers in the history of the business. We did it with 100 percent freight availability.
In October 2018, we hauled the most containers between all our intermodal customers and all our other customers in containers, such as Norske Skog. Some of those infrastructure elements you are raising didn't impede the operations. We were able to safely do it.
We met the customer expectations. We are reviewing all those particular elements and in line with our infrastructure funding, some strategic projects about improving the sustainability and performance of the south line so we can grow our trains, maximise the horsepower and liberate further above-rail capacity. This is a dividend from the infrastructure program, to grow our above-rail business and make it more profitable.
Mr FERGUSON - As the portfolio minister, and the Treasurer would agree with me, we would look to the company to use its expertise and its industry knowledge to take a risk-based approach to infrastructure program.
With the significant infrastructure investment that has occurred, we have seen a significant reduction in derailments. We have seen a significant reduction in temporary speed restrictions, and we are seeing more product getting to market. This is because the company and the Government, as its owner on behalf of taxpayers, expects that infrastructure upgrades are done in a way that deals with the greatest risk, and the greatest need, as the more urgent priorities.
We will continue to take the same approach, which is why I am so pleased to see an accelerated replacement of the Burnie shiploader. It is coming to the end of its economic life and we don't want to see it fail. That is why we would approach it in that way, rather than picking other infrastructure projects that may not add that kind of value compared to the ones that have.
Dr BROAD - In relation to this crossing loop, does TasRail have any safety concerns for its employees that are forced to facilitate shunt movements in and out of the southern end of what is left of this crossing location? To my understanding, somebody has to be on the ground facilitating the shunt, because it is no longer a loop. Is that a safety issue?
Mr DIETRICH - No, that is normal practice.
Dr BROAD - In that location?
Mr DIETRICH - In that location and in all locations we provide shunting activities. They are done in the safest manner. We have had a lost time injury frequency rate where we have not injured a TasRail employee for over 1000 days. Safety is our number one focus. We have implemented a system called Safety Circle, which is a real cultural based system. In everything we do, safety is at the forefront. We will stop productivity in light of any safety concerns. If we have a safety issue, we would stop the operation and rectify it. It meets our policies and procedures. We are a safety-first focused business.
Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, what requirements would a thermal coal export company need to meet in order to be given access to the TasRail network?
Mr FERGUSON - It is a hypothetical question. We have answered that line of questioning as thoroughly as we can. Now you are asking a hypothetical. I am more than happy to allow the Chair to respond further but, as a customer-focused organisation, I am not sure it is really about providing access to the network. It is about providing a service to industry, which is something I have gone over a lot of times in our hour-and-a-half together. Chair, would you like to add to my answer?
Dr WOODRUFF - It is not hypothetical. There are two companies right now planning to export, so it is a simple question. They would become a customer if that were to happen, so what requirements would they need to meet? Would they -
Mr FERGUSON - What is the question? Is it about access to the network, or is it about becoming a customer?
Dr WOODRUFF - It is about what requirements they would need to meet as a company in order to be able to ship thermal coal through TasRail?
Ms HOGG - As I said before, there is no active conversation going on with either of these companies. It is not something we would pre-emptively look at until it was a point at which we would start engaging. At this point, there is no conversation. There has been no interaction for 18 months with one, and close to three years with the other. We are not considering what would be required, we are not looking at that.
Dr WOODRUFF - Four million tonnes of coal a year is on TasRail's mind. What proportion of freight would that represent for TasRail in a year?
Mr FERGUSON - We are happy to reflect what portion of the freight task our current customer may represent -
Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, in this current year it has gone up 22 per cent.
Mr FERGUSON - provided it does not breach our commercial-in-confidence arrangements with our customer. If we have the information, I am happy to provide it. I am not prepared to enter into new hypotheticals with you about proposed ideas.
Dr WOODRUFF - I beg your pardon, I do not understand. I am not talking about a customer. I do not want any information about a customer. That is not the question. The question is about what proportion of TasRail's total annual freightage that you moved across the lines would 4 million tonnes represent?
Mr FERGUSON - I have to intervene here, you are linking a hypothetical to our actual freight task. I am not prepared for us to be dragged into such a line of questioning. I am more than happy to allow and encourage answers on what our real and actual freight tasks consist of and allow that to be examined.
Dr WOODRUFF - Could you give me the number for tonnage of freight that was moved?
Mr TOMLIN - Around 3 million tonnes of freight was moved in the last financial year.
Dr WOODRUFF - Three million tonnes across the whole network? So, 4 million tonnes a year would be more than twice -
CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Dr WOODRUFF - The minister has not answered one of them yet. We just heard one answer and this is the supplementary. Four million tonnes a year, which is what these two companies are proposing to move, would more than double the tonnage currently moved across TasRail's networks. You are not having any conversations about this? What would the impact be on TasRail?
On the one hand, you are giving these businesses a licence and money, $50 000 to one of them that could go into the hospital. You are giving them money to go ahead, but another GBE is not looking at the impacts on their business? How is that possible? We can only work by railing it. It sounds like something right is not happening here.
CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, can you allow the minister to answer?
Mr FERGUSON - In fairness, you are trying to present yourself as being fair and reasonable in asking the question, but we have answered the question as best we are able to.
Mr TUCKER - Minister, how can TasRail assist the tourism and heritage rail sector with donations of equipment?
Mr FERGUSON - There are donations provided. I explored with Mrs Rylah the questions around our support for heritage rail groups. TasRail has a disposal of assets policy, and that policy recognises that tourist and heritage rail organisations do have an interest and a need for rail assets - and a special interest, particularly from a Tasmanian point of view - and it commits to providing advance notice of significant or planned disposals.
This consists of early advice as to whether an item will be made available through a tender, a sale or an expression of interest process, or through direct offer of an item at a discounted price or donation. Damaged rail is not offered for donation, due to derailment risk or asset failure, for obvious reasons. Any replaced rail that is in reasonable condition is retained by TasRail for its use.
A range of factors influence a decision whether to sell, discount or donate, including the value of the item, the impact it has for TasRail of any foregone revenue from sale of the asset, and in some cases board approval may be necessary.
Where tourist and heritage organisations request it, purchasers are offered the donation of an asset. Consideration must be given to the timing and logistics for collection, including, in some cases, the need for track protection or heavy haulage transport.
A recent donation I can offer is the donation of a redundant ballast plough to Don River Railway. This is a relatively large machine, understandably, that had not been operational for many years. It was located at Conara, but required transport to Don via the highway. It required a crane lift at Conara to load the machine onto a low-loader, then transport of both crane and truck to Don. This example demonstrates that there is a cost to safely handle and transport donated assets, but the funding to do so is generally beyond the financial capacity of the organisation. For this reason, TasRail may determine that it is prudent to scrap some assets in order to offset the transport costs associated with a donated item.
Briefly, TasRail committed to the donation of 15 000 replaced sleepers for tourist and heritage groups to be stored at a central location. As at last month, a total of 10 500 sleepers had been moved to Conara, ready for donation. The cost to purchase a comparable amount of new sleepers would be about $1.25 million, and TasRail has, to date, scrapped 12 500 redundant sleepers to fund the cost to bundle and transport the sleepers to Conara. A range of items donated have benefited, amongst others, the Don River Railway; Derwent Valley Railway; Laynah; Tasmanian Transport Museum at Glenorchy; TAT Rail; Launceston Tramway Museum; and Rail-track Riders.
Dr BROAD - Does TasRail consider the ANCS to be a safety-critical piece of infrastructure?
Mr DIETRICH - Absolutely, Dr Broad. That is our automated Advanced Network Control System. It is a state-of-the-art system that monitors our activities both above and below rail. It has been in place for over five or six years, and is critical to the safe operations of our business.
Dr BROAD - Is TasRail concerned at a number of errors, some apparently serious, that were within the update package recently rolled out across the system?
Mr DIETRICH - TasRail identified those errors very quickly, and we have responded and rectified those. It was done in a managed environment and responded to very quickly.
Dr BROAD - What do you mean by a 'managed environment'?
Mr DIETRICH - It was done over a period of non-activity on a Sunday, where we had little train activity, where there were some software updates, and the majority of the updates, 90 per cent, went as planned. With 10 per cent there were some changes in yard limits and speed restrictions, which were very quickly identified, and rectified in the system accordingly.
Dr BROAD - Was the TasRail change management process fully adhered to, including all documentation and consultation with stakeholders?
Mr DIETRICH - The change management process was adhered to. I will be honest, further consultation could be improved, and that is something for the future.
Dr BROAD - Could you elaborate on that?
Mr DIETRICH - Making sure that communications go out in a timely manner.
Dr BROAD - That lack of communication going out in a timely manner, how did this occur, and what is being done to ensure a large number of mistakes do not happen again, and what action has been taken against the individual concerned?
Mr DIETRICH - It was a small number of minor software programming requirements. Going forward, there was communication. It wasn't released in a timely fashion, but it did make it out to our drivers. Going forward, the consultation will be far in advance to any changes to our network control system.
Dr BROAD - I have received reports that the ANCS system continues to be plagued by broader issues. Do you believe you will ever have it functioning reliably?
Mr DIETRICH - Our Automated Network Control System is one of the best in Australia, and around the world, and has been recognised from that perspective. Like all systems, there are teething problems. We operate in some areas in a very remote environment, here in Tasmania, so it is sometimes difficult for communications. We can continue to invest in communication towers. It is a GPS-based system. It provides 'in cab' signalling in terms of speed. It gives lots of alerts to the driver when they are approaching yard limits - absolutely critical safety responses for the drivers to manage the trains effectively. The minister was able to see that firsthand as he travelled in a hi rail vehicle with us, as well as how the system worked, both from our network control centre but also inside a hi-rail vehicle, because this equipment is not only in locomotives, it is in all our infrastructure hi-rail vehicles, and to date has worked extremely effectively.
Mr FERGUSON - What I am hearing as well - whether it is your own claim, or on behalf of some other individual - is that your claim that it is plagued with problems is refuted. It is an unhelpful claim to bring into this committee, Dr Broad. Equally, your reinterpretation of the CEO's comment to then allow you to say 'a large number of faults', has been corrected to 'a small number of errors'. Obviously, this is an area where safety comes first. I am sure you would agree with me on that. I wouldn't want the matter misrepresented the way I think it has been.
Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, given that we have just heard there would be more than a doubling of TasRail's annual freight from the previous year, were the two companies that are actively exploring thermal coal mining in Tasmania - HardRock and Midland Energy - to succeed in their bids, I would be interested to understand whether any modelling has been done, or will be done, on the significant loading associated with thermal coal exports on tracks, and on crossing maintenance?
Mr FERGUSON - I am happy for the Chair to address the question, but I think we will not be able to satisfy whatever your motivation is on this. It is not a current conversation that is being held between the company and those proponents. I am happy for the Chair to add to the answer in any way you feel appropriate. Chair, I'll also indicate I have a further answer to an earlier question.
Ms HOGG - Yes, any of the issues that you are asking would tend to be looked at if and when there was a potential contract in play. Really, we are not involved in any conversation.
Prior to going into something like you are referring to, a big feasibility study would look to all of the issues. It would look to the commercial issues. It would look to the risk issues. It would look to environmental issues, and all the stakeholder issues. If there was a likelihood of something like that occurring, a big project would be kicked off, and all of those issues would be sought to be addressed in that project. We don't undertake that sort of work when there is no conversation going on. It is not in a strategy document of ours, or anything like that. This is not on the agenda.
It would come up if there was engagement, there was a need, and we would kick off a big feasibility study at that point internally.
Dr WOODRUFF - Who would pay for that feasibility study?
Ms HOGG - It would often be a joint payment.
Dr WOODRUFF - So TasRail would pay a proportion of that?
Ms HOGG - As in any commercial negotiations on something like this, you would often have a 50:50 split or some sort of mechanism where you would split the feasibility cost of looking at that. That would be both the proponent and TasRail if that were to be the case.
Dr WOODRUFF - Is there any public consultation as part of a process like that? Is it an open process?
Ms HOGG - No, it would probably be more like a commercial-in-confidence sort of process.
Dr WOODRUFF - So it would be a closed process.
Ms HOGG - Yes.
Dr WOODRUFF - How would you assess reputational risk if it was a closed process?
Ms HOGG - We would assess it as we would in any other situation.
Mrs RYLAH - Minister, level crossings are always a difficult risk for rail operators to manage. That is where rail interfaces with road. Can you outline for the committee the steps that TasRail is taking to mitigate this risk?
Mr FERGUSON - TasRail has about 230 rail crossings on public roads and 124 of these are active level crossings that are protected with lights and bells. The other half are passive and are protected with warning signs. The percentage of crossings protected with active controls in Tasmania at 50 per cent is consistent with the national average.
TasRail continues to be proactive in safety compliance activities and has reinvigorated its promotion of level crossing safety in the community - I hope everybody has seen the social media from the company on that - with a renewed push to future drivers as well as part of the Beacon partnership. Also current motorists are targeted by a feature due to appear in a high-circulation Tasmanian magazine this month. This is complemented by radio as well as social media advertising campaigns. TasRail also worked closely with the Australasian Railway Association and Track Safe to development educational material and also on national initiatives, including Rail Safety Week. TasRail's chief operating officer is an active member of the National Rail Level Crossing Safety committee to ensure it keeps abreast of the latest technology and initiatives relating to level crossing safety and improvements.
In terms of the location of incidents, the north-west remains the region where the occurrence is higher, which is no doubt a consequence of the number of level crossings in that area and the higher population density around operational lines where people are working and producing economic activity.
Chair, I would like to add to an answer provided to Ms Dow in relation to Metro. This might be my last outstanding one for the day. Average remuneration for Metro executives over the last five years has been $1.13 million per annum. Compared to the actual remuneration for the 2018 19 financial year in the annual report of $1 350 104, I am advised remuneration between years has fluctuated with the size and make-up of the executive team, including acting arrangements during periods of recruitment for vacant positions. I earlier provided a percentage figure which indicated the increase.
Dr BROAD - In relation to tourist rail, when will the network access agreement guidance notes be completed and published on TasRail's website?
Mr DIETRICH - I am pleased to advise that they have been published recently and are available on our website as of today.
Dr BROAD - In regard to public liability insurance and access to rail lines for tourist rail, minister Rockliff in last year's GBE hearings said:
I have met with these groups for all my 17 years in parliament. I am considering how the Government may be able to assist with this burden and I am continuing to take further advice on this matter.
Minister, do you have further advice on his matter?
Mr FERGUSON - Can you be a bit more specific for me?
Dr BROAD - In terms of public liability insurance issues that will result from tourist rail accessing TasRail's lines.
Mr FERGUSON - I do not have a lot to add to what my predecessor minister has already had to say about it. In fact in one of my earlier answers today, I think in response to Mrs Rylah, I indicated that we understand that there are barriers for heritage rail to gain access to what is effectively a commercial operational rail line. We understand that and through the legislation we provided the Government is doing everything it reasonably can to provide opportunity for access to non-operational lines.
Dr BROAD - Okay. Who has responsibility for managing vegetation on lines that are currently not in use by the TasRail network? For example, the East Tamar line?
Mr DIETRICH - TasRail as the rail infrastructure manager still has responsibility for non-op lines that haven't been removed through the Strategic Infrastructure Corridors Act.
Dr BROAD - Does that include maintenance of vegetation? I've noticed that along the corridor from Burnie to Wynyard there are significant amounts of vegetation actually overgrowing the rail corridor. Is that TasRail's responsibility?
Mr DIETRICH - It is TasRail's responsibility but as you can appreciate, TasRail has limited financial resources which we put towards our operational network to make sure it's the safest, operationally viable, reliable and dependable network, which doesn't provide a lot for our non-op lines, but we do have a program and some allocated funding over the course of the next 12 months to address not all but some of the issues on non-op lines and to ensure public safety. That's the paramount focus, to ensure public safety. On the non-op lines we have a lot of bridges and culverts and different areas that we continue to maintain and ensure from a climate perspective that the waterways are kept clear and that's where we focus our priorities.
Dr BROAD - The southern line has a significant number of tight 100-metre radius curves between Rekuna and Rhyndaston. What impact are the TR locos having on rail wear around these tight curves and how many of these curves currently have speed restrictions on them?
Mr DIETRICH - The TR locomotives are state-of-the-art fantastic locomotives. As you can appreciate, these have been a key part of our growth in the industry and why we are seeing industry come towards us to provide services. There has been some noticeable maintenance in some of those areas but it is very geographically challenging. If it wasn't a TR it would be another locomotive with the previous fleet. We have a program of maintenance that continually focuses on that area because of the tight radiuses and the inclines. As part of our tranche 3 program we are looking at some strategic programs within that funding allocation. One of them is to remove those exact areas, so the benefit there will be bigger, larger trains that will be able to operate out of Hobart, more hazardous heavy freight onto trains and hence public safety. That will provide those benefits along with reduced maintenance and ensuring that track is fit for purpose.
Dr BROAD - Would that be a curve easement as well as a gradient easement program?
Mr DIETRICH - That's correct, Dr Broad.
Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I understand that thermal coal requires a substantially different rail track network than other sorts of products. It's very heavy and I understand it requires concrete slab design with rails that are supported on pedestals. What type of track exists between Woodbury and Burnie, or between Fingal and Burnie?
Mr DIETRICH - Between Fingal and Burnie the track is a combination of mainly steel sleepers and some concrete.
Dr WOODRUFF - Do you know the proportions?
Mr DIETRICH - No, I don't offhand. Mostly steel. Sorry, what was the other location?
Dr WOODRUFF - Woodbury to Burnie.
Mr DIETRICH - Where's that, down near Tunbridge? We have a combination there of majority steel with some concrete and we still have some wooden sleepers in some of those sections from the track north of there.
Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. With past projects has TasRail paid anything for infrastructure upgrades to facilitate new customers being able to move product or has that been solely at the expense of the company?
Ms HOGG - Again, the IRP funding, and I will not use the acronym, the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program allows for money to be spent on infrastructure to facilitate new business and new customers, so the program does allow for that.
Dr WOODRUFF - If a customer were to add a significant maintenance burden to the network, would TasRail expect them to foot the bill?
Ms HOGG - Obviously, it would be built into the total cost of providing that service and you would expect, as a company, to get a return on that total cost.
Dr WOODRUFF - That would be a commercial-in-confidence arrangement that the public would not know about?
CHAIR - Mr Tucker has the call.
Mr TUCKER - Safety is of paramount importance to any business. Minister, can you provide an update to the committee on TasRail's safety performance, please?
Mr FERGUSON - Safety is paramount in this business. Our Chair and CEO have made it very clear that we live by that statement. It is a daily task to make sure that we keep our people safe.
TasRail achieved its best ever safety results from an injury-free perspective in 2018-19. They should be credited with that because that is a wonderful result. In the reporting period, there was one recordable injury; in the previous reporting period, there were four. I am advised that the reportable injury was initially classified as a medical treatment injury relating to a soft tissue shoulder complaint after a fall. Subsequent medical intervention has seen this incident reclassified to a lost time injury that has been backdated.
Including contractors, TasRail accumulated a total of 442 702 exposure hours in the reporting period. This equates to a recordable injury frequency rate of 1.84. TasRail employees worked a total of 1014 days lost time injury free, from 2016-19.
I am sure members here would agree that these are impressive statistics for any industry, but given the nature of TasRail's 24/7 business and a heavy haulage business and the level of infrastructure upgrade works that have been taking place across the network, it is appropriate to recognise and congratulate all of TasRail's workforce and its leadership for its commitment to making choices consistent with working inside the safety circle and supporting each other to go home safe and well each day.
I witnessed that when I joined some staff on a journey to Burnie. I was interested to note the amount of back-seat driving that occurred, including from the CEO, to the driver. It was things like, 'Rail-crossing coming up'. The driver knew full well there was a rail crossing coming up, but there is encouragement by people to speak up and say the obvious because it might not always be that obvious, and ensure that we keep each other safe. I was impressed by that, not just because the people in the back seat of the cabin were doing what they were instructed to do, but the driver was just as happy to hear it without feeling as though somebody was undermining him. I was really pleased that these are the sorts of human policies that are introduced in a business like this one, that are obviously working to keep people safe. Thank you for the question.
Dr BROAD - Was the Burnie shiploader part of the original proposal for tranche 3 of the Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program?
Mr FERGUSON - Both were announced in the context of the federal election campaign. The shiploader is being delivered as part of tranche 3.
Dr BROAD - No, was it in the original tranche 3 proposal?
Mr FERGUSON - Can you reframe the question so I can understand it?
Dr BROAD - The documentation that we found for the tranche 3 when it was originally proposed does not mention the Burnie shiploader at all. I am just trying to get some clarification on whether the shiploader was part of the original tranche 3 bid?
Mr FERGUSON - I would have to invite you to raise it with the Deputy Prime Minister as minister responsible for that federal initiative.
Dr BROAD - It was a bid put up by TasRail, so I imagine TasRail would have some idea on what was in the original tranche 3 bid.
Mr FERGUSON - I am happy to discuss our needs and what we envisage. I hasten to add, Dr Broad, that Mr Dietrich has already said to you in this committee that we are currently working through tranche 2 with a view to planning what might go into tranche 3 at a future date. We are not currently implementing tranche 3 at all. However, we are now planning for the accelerated replacement of the shiploader. That is a specific commitment as part of tranche 3 that we do have definition on. That does include the shed expansion as well. I am happy to contemplate your question but I am not sure how to answer it.
Dr BROAD - Can you refer to the CEO or the Chair to clarify whether the Burnie shiploader was part of the original tranche 3 of Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation Program as there is no mention of it here. It talks about culverts to be strengthened, drainage and formation works undertaken, and level crossings upgraded. There are references to the different lines but there is no reference to the Burnie shiploader at all, nor on the maps. I was wondering whether it was in the tranche 3 bid.
Mr FERGUSON - You seem very grumpy about the shiploader being replaced.
Dr BROAD - No, I am wanting to see whether the $40 million promised is additional to what was promised in tranche 3, or is the tranche 3 funding different to what was proposed when it was first bid for.
Mr FERGUSON - Dr Broad, I would like to help you there, but I don't exactly know how to answer the question. I can only refer you to the commitments made by the federal Liberal team.
Dr BROAD - You don't want to.
Mr FERGUSON - Sorry, I don't want to what?
Dr BROAD - You don't want to get some clarification from your TasRail colleagues?
Mr FERGUSON - If the Chair would like to add to my answer, then she is more than welcome to. But this is a federal commitment that has been made. It is very welcome; we are thrilled that we are seeing the replacement of the shiploader. If that were not to be the case, Dr Broad, you would be asking today when will TasRail pay for that using Tasmanians taxpayers' wealth. We are thrilled with it; we are pleased. I know you are expressing some insecurity that federal Labor was not able to make the same commitment.
Dr BROAD - Don't get nasty. Just pass the question on.
Mr FERGUSON - No, today is the day to finally break the silence and say that you welcome it.
Dr BROAD - This is what you always do. Can you refer the question? Is the Chair going to make a statement?
Ms HOGG - There wasn't a defined set of projects in tranche 3. There still isn't a defined set of projects in tranche 3 in the funding that was sought. The fact that the shiploader is part of tranche 3, we welcome the fact that we have funds to start working on it the pre-feasibility and the scoping of the project. There was also potentially an element of overlap on the spend if it was all in civil construction would it be difficult to implement in a cost-effective way. The fact that the shiploader and the related project is part of it is making that part of the project quite separate and allowing us to get on with it which is very useful.
Mr FERGUSON - In concluding, all I can do is invite you, Dr Broad, to welcome. It is a good thing for Burnie; it is a good thing for Tassie.
Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, given that TasRail is looking ahead to next April when you are will be going into the 356 000 hectares of carbon-rich forests and logging them, and given that the Government is pushing hard for thermal coal expansion in Tasmania, I wondered if the board had a view on the anti-protest unconstitutional attack on peaceful protesters laws that you pushed through parliament last week, and whether that is something that TasRail would see as good for their business? Or do you see it as many of us do as an attack on our democracy and a reputational risk for TasRail?
Mr FERGUSON - You have just spoken a little adjournment speech in the last minute you had available. The fact is that is a lot of conflation of your opinion. We note that Labor and the Greens voted against that legislation, which is about protecting workplaces. We note that you voted with the Labor Party again.
Dr WOODRUFF - You gagged the debate so you didn't get to hear the constitutional lawyers' views.
CHAIR - Order.
Mr FERGUSON - The rest of it is just conjecture. We are getting on with business.
Dr WOODRUFF - This is a reputational risk for a government business. It is a fair question to ask.
CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Mr FERGUSON - If I may finish, TasRail is a customer-focused organisation.
Dr WOODRUFF - They should be focused on all the customers and the risk to the business because it will continue. This is what happened with Horizon. Big protests there. I know that TasRail went to the AusRail Conference. Were reputational risks discussed at that conference?
The Committee suspended at 3 p.m.