Ferguson backs industry over QR sale

THE tussle between the Queensland government and the rest of the resources industry over the privatisation model for QR National has intensified with federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson slamming the proposal.
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Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson

Lou Caruana

The clamour against the proposed $A3 billion IPO sale comes as the Queensland resources industry is seeking an urgent meeting over the issue with Premier Anna Bligh as early as tomorrow.

“The Queensland model in my opinion is a recipe for disaster,” Ferguson told the ABC 7.30 Report last night.

“I think the coal companies should put a bid on the table and I think the bid could be proven over time to represent a better return to the Queensland budget. But perhaps more importantly, if we don't get this right, we will hold back exports which will undermine royalty receipts to the Queensland government.”

“I simply say time's not on our side. I am not confident that the Queensland government's proposal will deliver the necessary investment.”

An alliance of the 14 largest coal companies in Queensland plans to make a “firm offer” for QR National’s coal chain assets, which are slated for a public float this year.

Queensland Coal Industry Rail Group chairman and former New South Wales premier, Nick Greiner, said the chosen model was “bad public policy”

“Given this is a once-in-a-lifetime, probably once-in-a-century opportunity, it seems very, very important for a very large industry like this and a large exporter to get it right,” he said.

“We think it will restrict the amount of coal over time that gets mined and goes through the port in Queensland.

“What we want is a fair go in terms of being able to submit an alternative offer. And that sort of Banking 101, it's Auction 101.

“If you've got a house to sell you try and get more than one person to buy so you get the best price.”

Greiner said the chief executive officers of the 14 coal companies had written to Bligh, asking her to engage with the industry and consider a “dual-track” sale process for QR National.

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