Paragraph 11 is the only valid argument the ACCC is putting forward - the question has to be asked why it i staking them so long?
The above nowithstanding, competition in the Hunter is an ACCC furphy. Close to 100% of ORA's coal business in the Hunter
is with one customer - Glencore on a long term contract. Glencore were instrumental in introducing ORA to the Hunter so would be unlikely to have any competition concerns, which then just leaves the status quo of Aurizon and Pac Nat competing as they have done since 2005. The ACCC forgets that prior to that Pac Nat had a monopoly in the Hunter and Aurizon had a monopoly in Queensland and the ACCC let that happen with barely a word.
As hbedriver says, the ACCC are also questioning the impact of Aurizon's ORA purchase on the non-bulk sector. This is just meddling for meddling's sake. Road is the clear competitor in this sector.
It needs to be borne in mind that competition policy principles were never meant for rail. They were meant for things like water, gas and electricity, and somehow rail just got dragged along. While it can be argued that the principles should be applied to areas like the Hunter coal, their application to other areas of rail transport has raised costs and seen rail traffic lost to road.
Given what they say in para 11, Id suggest that they dont have enough experience with such a divestiture to make a quick decision. We are a small economy and there would be limited instances of an equivalent deal feature to draw from that can guide the ACCC decision.
Re the Hunter, I don't think it is a furphy. if you go back and read the ACCC contemplation of the PN/AZ possible deals, they were going to shut down those deals. The issue I see is what ACCC has said - can this thing stand up on its own feet or will we be back to the ACCC having to shut down a PN takeover in the future after it fails, which would lead to uncertainty for the Hunter coal chain. Barriers to entry are relatively high for rail and coal rail, so keeping another operator in the sector places competitive tension on PN to limit their market power. Having ORA disappear doesn't help anyone but PN, who arguably dont need anyone to help them more than their extremely beneficial privatisation already has.
And re your comments about historic monopolies (PN in Hunter and AZ in Queensland), I don't think ACCC can realistically act on monopolies that exist without major political pressure - ie major impacts on a broad range of consumers, and given that these situations were industrial oligopolies, the political will to intervene was clearly low. Ie it was a B2B issue where the bargaining powers were about equal instead of a B2C issue where the consumers have next to no power at all. Its only when monopolies may form that ACCC can get involved.
Re competition policy causing rail volumes to be lost to road - theres definitely some issues eg intermodal terminals being captured by the operators (looking at you PN and AZ) that i think have been poorly done. And I think creating big rail companies with no competitive spirit has also been a problem (if i was able to id go back and split PN into 3 or maybe 4 smaller companies and force them to slog it out instead of gifting a big monopolist to shareholders). And I think that is more the issue, more competition hasn't been forced into the sector and the big players have been allowed to skim margins and obstruct new entrants (eg through maintaining regulatory status quo, scrapping rolling stock they got as part of the privatisation etc).
If you want an example of how competition policy has worked well - look at the Queensland NCL and the Linfox acquisition of Aurizon's NG intermodal. Lots of you were saying that PN should be allowed to buy it otherwise the service will die (I was a lone voice against a PN acquisition this) but I think the results speak for themselves - @Sulla1
has commented that (and correct me if im wrong please) Linfox BD activities have translated into greater volumes on the NCL than previous. The ability of Linfox to 'innovate' to integrate, or rater the removal of the barrier between their road and rail operations, has seen rail do well.