Responsibilities - Third Party Access
Third party access supports competition by enabling competitors (ie "third parties") to access essential infrastructure which cannot be economically duplicated. Infrastructure which may meet these criteria includes electricity transmission and distribution grids, rail tracks and port terminals and channels. In some markets, competition cannot occur until competitors have this type of access.
Third party access enables competitors to use essential infrastructure on commercial terms so they can compete with the owner of that infrastructure and others in related markets (such as rail haulage and electricity generation).
To what does it apply?
Third party access applies to the services of all significant infrastructure facilities in Australia.
In Queensland, the Authority oversees regimes relating to the coal handling services provided by the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and the tracks and associated below-rail infrastructure operated by QR Network Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of QR National Ltd) and Queensland Rail Ltd.
Third party access also applies to Queensland’s electricity and gas networks, but the regulation of the terms and conditions of access to these facilities is governed by the National Electricity Rules and the National Gas Rules rather than under the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997.
How is third party access applied?
Under a third party access regime, the owner of the infrastructure and an applicant for access are encouraged to reach an agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 provides for dispute resolution by the Authority.
To instigate a dispute resolution, the service provided by the essential infrastructure must first be declared under the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997. If a service has not been declared, an application can be made for a Ministerial declaration.
To apply for a Ministerial declaration a submission must be made to the Authority seeking to have the service declared. The submission should explain why the service meets the following criteria:
- gaining access to the service would materially increase competition;
- the essential infrastructure providing the service cannot be economically duplicated;
- the facility is significant to the Queensland economy;
- access to the service can be provided safely; and
- gaining access to the service is not contrary to the public interest.
The Authority will then:
- assess the submission;
- ask interested parties for their views; and
- make a recommendation to the Treasurer and Minister for Finance, who will make a decision having regard to the access criteria.
In addition to legislation specific to gas pipelines (such as the National Gas (Queensland) Act 2008), the following legislation applies to third party access in Queensland:
Part 5 of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 establishes a State based third party access regime which applies to services provided by significant infrastructure in Queensland.
Where the owner of a facility providing a declared service and a person seeking access are unable to agree on the terms and conditions for access, either party may refer the dispute to the Authority for resolution. The Authority then resolves the dispute by stipulating the terms and conditions which bind the parties.
The Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 sets out the matters the Authority must consider when resolving a dispute.