Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility
Consideration in Detail – Federation Chamber
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The minister just mentioned the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, and I want to ask him a question about it. The NAIF was announced by the government more than three years ago. In fact, it was three years and 40 days ago that this government announced the NAIF. Not much has happened since. I’ve called it the most constipated organisation that this government has ever created. Finally we’re starting to see some movement. We’ve had one announcement of a project in Western Australia, one in the Northern Territory and I see today that the government has just made an announcement of a project in Queensland, the Genex project in Kidston, west of Townsville. I welcome that. It’s a good project. I’ve been calling on the government to fund this project now for almost 12 months. So I say it’s about time that this project was funded. But, even with that, the NAIF has still now only funded three projects in three years. It could do a lot better than that.
Minister, I draw your attention to the fact that, whilst the NAIF has announced funding for three projects, it still hasn’t allocated any funding to any of those projects. As a result, the NAIF still hasn’t done what it’s supposed to do, which is to help build infrastructure, to create jobs in northern Australia. It has, however, spent a lot of money on a lot of other things. It has spent about $1 million on executive salaries and hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel. It has spent millions of dollars on wages, for a lot of staff who don’t even live in northern Australia. Most of the staff who work for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility live in Sydney or Melbourne.
Let me make it clear to the chamber: the Labor Party opposition wants the NAIF to succeed. It is a big and important opportunity that this parliament needs to get right—$5 billion of funding to help drive investment in infrastructure that’s going to help the north grow and help to create jobs in the north, in places like Townsville, which the member for Herbert represents, and where, as she knows better than most, people are desperate for work. The NAIF can help to fix that, but it can’t do that if it’s not investing in projects to create the jobs. Three projects in three years is not good enough, and announcing three projects and not allocating funding to them is not good enough.
I want to draw the minister’s attention to the NAIF’s corporate plan, because it sets a benchmark of what the NAIF will achieve. It says that, by the end of this financial year, it will have completed transactions worth $300 million to $1 billion. That’s the target—that the NAIF will have completed transactions to the value of $300 million to $1 billion. As I just said before, as at two weeks ago, when we asked this question in estimates, it still hasn’t allocated a dollar to any project. The end of the financial year is coming. It’s next Saturday. It’s only 10 days away. So my question to the minister is directly on this. You’ve announced three projects. You haven’t completed transactions on any of them, to the best of our knowledge. Will the NAIF complete the transactions on these three projects by next Saturday? Most particularly, will it complete the transaction on this Genex deal that’s been announced today, as promised in the corporate plan, within 10 days time, by next Saturday?
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