CQ still waiting for share
THE Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has cost taxpayers $2.4 million, but has not approved a single project after 15 months.
There are fears the fund could remain in limbo with a constitutional cloud hanging over its minister.
But Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s office said his citizenship issues had no effect on the approvals time frame and more time was needed to set up the NAIF from scratch.
Government sources said the first NAIF loan decision could be “just weeks away”.
By comparison, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a similar body, approved its first financing after just 11 months.
NAIF costs so far include $1.1 million for staff wages, $630,000 for directors’ fees, $410,000 for its CEO’s salary, $100,000 for travel allowances, $10,000 for transport and $13,000 for functions.
Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt said it had been more than two years since the fund was announced but it was still sitting on its $5 billion which was intended to create more regional jobs.
“(Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull keeps forking out millions in pay for directors and bureaucrats with nothing to show for it,” he said.
He said the NAIF had fallen victim to the citizenship issues facing its initial Minister Matt Canavan, who resigned from the frontbench upon discovering he was an Italian dual citizen, and Mr Joyce.
But a spokesman for Mr Joyce said, according to legal advice from the solicitor-general, he could continue to act as an MP and there was nothing to suggest he was unable to make Ministerial decisions.
He said as the Minister he only had veto powers over the NAIF board, not approval powers, so that funded projects could not be challenged.