Senator Murray Watt says the Government needs to work with project proponents of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to get cash out the door. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Senator Murray Watt says the Government needs to work with project proponents of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to get cash out the door. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

Coalition told to get NAIF money flowing

The Federal Coaltion Government needs to "roll their sleeves up" and work with project proponents to get the cash flowing from its $5 billion infrastructure fund, Labor says.

Meanwhile, Katter's Australian Party wants a development bank established to focus on "industry enabling infrastructure" rather than "soft" projects like the Cowboys training centre.

The political parties were responding to an announcement by the Government to extend the time under which loans after available from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility by five years to 2026. Labor spokesman for northern Australia Murray Watt said the latest data he had available was that just $1.7 million had been paid from the fund in Queensland for the Townsville Airport expansion - a project which now appeared to be deferred.

"We've always supported the North and we welcome the fact that the funds will still be available but I think people in the North are right to be sceptical that today's announcement is going to mean anything given the poor track record they have," Senator Watt said. "It's important the Government explain why the next five years are going to be any different to the last five years."

According to data released by the Government last month, as of May 25 almost $2 billion had been committed from the fund but just $130.1 million had been paid out since it was established in 2016.

"They have to find a way to get money out the door," Senator Watt said.

"They have to roll their sleeves up and work with proponents to work through whatever the roadblocks are."

While $50 million has been committed to the Townsville Airport expansion, the Government says NAIF has been working with the airport owners, Queensland Airports Ltd, to defer capital expenditure until they are ready to draw down funds.

Katter's Australian Party leader Robbie Katter said the fund had been a "big failure" but that the Labor State Government had also played a role as a "disrupter".

Mr Katter called on the Government to form a development bank, providing it with more flexible lending, and to focus on industry enabling infrastructure. He said the Cowboys training centre, for which $20 million had been committed, was "nice to have but you don't build that first".

Robbie's father, Federal MP for Kennedy Bob Katter, said if he were in control the Hells Gates Dam, the Copperstring transmission line, a Galilee rail line, Hughenden irrigation project and North Johnstone water transfer project would all be built, increasing North Queensland's economic output by $25 billion a year and increasing export earnings 10 per cent.

Mr Pitt said the timeline extension was the first step in a review to enable more flexible and faster approval processes.

Originally published as Coalition told to get NAIF money flowing


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