Third party access supports competition by enabling competitors (i.e. ‘third parties’) to access essential infrastructure that cannot be economically duplicated, such as:
- electricity transmission and distribution grids
- rail tracks
- 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 owners of that infrastrucutre 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 QCA oversees regimes relating to declared coal handling services provided by the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and the tracks and associated below-rail infrastructure operated by Aurizon Network Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of Aurizon Holdings Ltd) and Queensland Rail (a statutory authority).
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, we help facilitate a solution under our Act.
To instigate a dispute resolution, the service provided by the essential infrastructure must first be declared under the Act.
If a service has not been declared, an application can be made for a ministerial declaration.
To apply for a ministerial declaration, a submission should be made to the QCA, seeking to have the service declared. The submission should explain why the service meets the following criteria:
- Gaining access (or increased access) to the service on reasonable terms and conditions, as a result of declaration, would materially increase competition.
- The facility for the service could meet the total foreseeable demand in the market for the service.
- The facility is significant, having regard to its size or its importance to the Queensland economy.
- Gaining access (or increased access) to the service on reasonable terms and conditions, as a result of declaration, would promote the public interest.
When the QCA receives a submission, it may:
- assess the submission
- ask interested parties for their views
- make a recommendation to the Treasurer, who will make a decision having regard to the access criteria.
Further details about the declaration of services are set out in divisions 1–3, part 5 of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997.
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 us for resolution.
We then resolve the dispute by stipulating the terms and conditions which bind the parties.
The Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 sets out the matters we must consider when resolving a dispute.
More information on access disputes under the QCA Act can be found in this summary guide to access disputes.