Palaszczuk Derailed Over Repair Bill For New Trains
By SARAH ELKS, QUEENSLAND POLITICAL REPORTER – The Australian Newspaper
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has ordered $100 million be redirected to Queensland manufacturer Downer to fix the state’s new Indian-made trains, in a bid to shore up the super-marginal ALP seat of Maryborough.
The controversial New Generation Rollingstock trains — commissioned by the Newman government in 2012 for $4.4 billion from Canadian company Bombardier— have been used by Labor to attack current Liberal National Party leader and Newman government treasurer Tim Nicholls.
The carriages need to be fixed because people with disabilities cannot use the trains’ hallways or toilets, and the $100m for repairs will be redirected from Bombardier to Downer, based in Maryborough.
But Ms Palaszczuk and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad were unable yesterday to acknowledge Labor’s role in the project’s history, after Downer withdrew from the tender process in 2011 under the Bligh Labor government.
Downer was in a joint-venture tender with Bombardier to build the new trains, but withdrew in March 2011, when Ms Palaszczuk was transport minister.
Downer’s chief executive at the time, Peter Borden, wrote to staff of the company’s rail division and said the company had decided not to tender to build the Queensland Rail trains.
“In Downer’s view, the terms and conditions of the probity deed relating to the bid and the terms and conditions of the contract itself are too onerous, and the risks borne by the contractor are too great, to proceed with the bid and incur tender costs in excess of $10m,” his March 2011 letter read.
The withdrawal of Downer and Townsville company UGL meant there were no Australian companies vying to build the trains when the Newman government awarded the tender.
Ms Palaszczuk yesterday refused to even acknowledge Downer had pulled out under the Bligh government. “That’s a matter for the company, I don’t know the circumstances of the company, you’d have to ask them,” she said.
When told the company said its withdrawal was partly due to the $10m government tender fee, Ms Palaszczuk denied knowledge and said it was “hypothetical”.
“What we know very clearly is the people who signed the contract … for the NGR rolling stock was Tim Nicholls. OK?” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“So it’s hypothetical what happened in the past; that’s a matter for the individual companies. They signed the contract, and now we have to fix up their mess in terms of the modifications.”