CQ still wait­ing for share

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

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.

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