QR National avoids first strike but investors vent anger at board

QR NATIONAL has suffered a significant protest vote against its controversial executive pay report but avoided a "first strike".

QR NATIONAL has suffered a significant protest vote against its controversial executive pay report but avoided a "first strike".

Australia's largest rail company also received a backlash against the granting of equity to the chief executive, Lance Hockridge, at its annual meeting in Brisbane on Wednesday.

The final tally revealed that just over 17 per cent of votes were cast for the executive pay report. Excluding the Queensland government's large stake in support, the no vote amounted to about 23 per cent.

A strike is recorded if 25 per cent or more of votes are made against the remuneration report. Two strikes in as many years would automatically trigger a spill of the QR National board.

Influential proxy adviser Ownership Matters and the Australian Shareholders' Association had urged a vote against the executive pay card because they believed QR National had used accounting changes to boost the bonuses for its senior executives.

The ASA's spokesman, Stephen Mayne, told the meeting it was a "complete outrage" that the state government would vote in support of the board.

"You deserved the ignominy of a strike," he told the board.

The state government, which remains QR National's biggest shareholder, was not able to vote those shares which were due to be bought back by the company.

Ownership Matters had also urged a vote against the granting of performance rights to Mr Hockridge because it believed the hurdles he has to meet are too low.

After the government again lent its support, the final tally against that resolution was 17 per cent.

Almost 8 per cent of votes were also cast against the re-election of Graeme John, who sits on QR National's remuneration committee.

Ownership Matters had recommended a vote against his return to the board.

Earlier, QR National's chairman, John Prescott, told shareholders that the changes made to the executives' pay were not "merely accounting adjustments that give our executives a free kick".

"These are not simply end-of-year adjustments," he said.

"Quite frankly, they're what we expect management to do to enhance shareholder value," he said.

The CEO received a total pay package of $4.56 million for the year to June.

QR National also announced that coal tonnages this financial year will be at the lower end of its guidance range of between 195 million and 205 million tonnes, compared with 186 million tonnes in 2011-12.

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