Essential infrastructure that is vital to the economy should be accessible to all potential users.
The QCA regulates third party access to essential infrastructure.
This allows competitors to enter the market, and related markets benefit too. For example:
- Opening access to electricity and gas distribution systems enhances competition in electricity and gas retailing.
- Opening rail tracks enhances competition in rail transport.
The Queensland third party access regime is contained in part 5 of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 (Qld) (QCA Act). Currently, three services are declared for third party access:
- the use of a coal system for providing transportation by rail. The relevant ‘coal system’ is defined to include rail transport infrastructure that is part of the Blackwater, Goonyella, Moura and Newlands systems
- the use of rail transport infrastructure for providing transportation by rail, where the railway manager is Queensland Rail, or its successor, assign or subsidiary
- the handling of coal at Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal by the terminal operator.
Services become declared for third party access under our Act, through either of the following:
- ministerial decision, in accordance with the QCA Act
- direct inclusion in the QCA Act.
Three services are declared by direct inclusion in section 250 of the QCA Act:
- rail transport services provided by the central Queensland coal network (operated by Aurizon Network Pty Ltd)
- rail transport services provided by Queensland Rail Limited’s intrastate passenger and freight network
- coal handling services at Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT).
Other services can be declared for third party access under the Queensland access regime by applying for access.
Once services are declared the applicable regime can be applied to them.
The Queensland access regime:
- established by part 5 of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997
- administered by the QCA
- broadly modelled on the national access regime, as established by part IIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA).
The Queensland Rail access regime
- formed by the declarations of the services provided by the Aurizon Network and Queensland Rail networks together
- certified by the relevant Commonwealth Minister as an effective access regime, for the purposes of the CCA, for 10 years from 19 January 2011.
The DBCT access regime
- certified as effective for 10 years from 11 July 2011.
Any person may apply to the QCA for a recommendation to the relevant Minister that a service provided by a facility be declared for third party access under the Queensland Access Regime. The framework for the declaration process is contained in part 5 of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997.
The QCA must assess an application against the access criteria in section 76 of the QCA Act, which are as follows:
- that access (or increased access) to the service, on reasonable terms and conditions, as a result of a declaration of the service would promote a material increase in competition in at least one market (whether or not in Australia), other than the market for the service
- that the facility for the service could meet the total foreseeable demand in the market, over the period for which the service would be declared; and at the least cost compared to any two or more facilities (which could include the facility for the service)
- that the facility for the service is significant, having regard to its size or its importance to the Queensland economy
- that access (or increased access) to the service, on reasonable terms and conditions, as a result of a declaration of the service would promote the public interest.
The QCA must recommend that a service be declared by the Minister if it is satisfied about all of the access criteria for the service.
The Treasurer is responsible for administering the QCA Act.