Shadows over NAIF finance decisions

Ian Rogers Business lending

The board of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility will publish wider commentary on its investments, if a report of the Senate Economics References Committee bears any weight.

The committee recommended that subsection 17(2) of the NAIF’s Investment Mandate Direction 2018 “be amended to include a requirement that within 30 days of an Investment Decision, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility publishes a statement addressing how the project proponent has met the mandatory criteria and information about the loan conditions.”

The Senate also wants to read “expected repayment rates, rate of return and length of investment” and a catalog of the “approvals need to be completed before a project can commence (e.g. environmental and Native Title approvals). ?The NAIF, with A$5 billion to dole out, has made few investments.

The first was a loan of $16.8 million to the Onslow Marine Support Base in Western Australia for the development of a marine supply facility including the expansion of the existing wharf and harbour.”

The second was $7.18 million to the “Northern Territory's Humpty Doo Barramundi Pty Ltd. “The loan will finance the first of a three stage infrastructure investment, including the development of a solar farm, and a medium fish nursery as well as providing processing equipment and adult fish feeding systems.

James Cook University received the third NAIF dollop, $96 million for “the development of the Technology Innovation Centre on JCU's Townsville Campus. “This social infrastructure project is part of a larger Enterprise Bundle which has a total project value of $174 million.”

The Adani railway line from the Carmichael coal mine to the coast was to be NAIF’s third investment, but this was vetoed by the Queensland government.

Mine opponents won support from the Senate committee on one pet topic.
“The committee recommends that the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner undertake a review of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility's transparency and freedom of information procedures, with a view to removing the veil of secrecy the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility operates behind.”