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Westrail heading on the right track

Now it’s Westrail’s turn.

Bids for the public freight train company close next month as the State Government prepares to offload another major asset.

There is likely to be four bidders – Australian Railroad Group, Freight WA, Western Freight and Black Swan Rail.

An adviser to the latter, World Rail president Ed Burkhardt, spoke to Business News this week about his vision for the company.

He was convinced there were many opportunities for the company to grow.

There should be much more to WA’s rail freight business than grains and

minerals, he said.

There were a number of other factors that could be improved – streamlined management, more aggressive marketing, different approaches to maintenance procedures and better wagons and locomotives.

Burkhardt’s words are not to be

dismissed.

He has successfully led consortiums that successfully privatised government-owned rail freight companies in New Zealand and Tasmania.

The Tasmanian operation recorded its first profit in its history of more than 100 years after the privatisation.

The New Zealand business also improved and the business of Britain’s railway freight increased by 35 per cent after Burkhardt made a successful bid for the enterprise.

That he has an excellent track record does not mean a successful bid for Westrail would result in a revolution for the company.

However, it is the expertise and experience of people such as Burkhardt that can help WA grow and continue to meet its many challenges.

Burkhardt guaranteed that Black Swan Rail (an international consortium with a local name) would make WA businesses internationally competitive.

And he is smart enough to realise that the consortium would work closely with its customers to ensure they were

competitive.

“We have to keep our customers healthy in their markets or we’re just going to be sitting there looking at empty track,” he said.

That is the key. The State needs to benefit from the sale of Westrail, not just its new owners.

The Opposition lays cards on the table

The reaction to Labor’s Industrial Relations direction was predictable.

Dr Gallop said Labor preferred collective bargaining to individual bar-gaining and announced the party wanted to abolish the WA Workplace Agreements Act and replace individual contracts with Employer Employee Agreements.

That is a big call when more than 250,000 Western Australians have signed workplace agreements.

Labor’s carrot was the promise that WA’s lowest paid workers would be $50 better off each week.

Business representative bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Combined Small Business Association of WA lambasted Geoff Gallop’s announcement.

And rightly so.

The CCI was concerned the measures would derail changes that had “helped WA’s economic and job growth”.

WA cannot afford to return to an era where development hinges on the whims of powerful unions.

The State has moved on – and moved forward. It cannot afford to go back.

Labor’s announcement holds little for business.

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