Swan takes serve at NAIF program

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VideoThe $125m Onslow Marine Support Base has been opened. Stage 2 is waiting on NAIF funding confirmation at the State Government's tick.

Former Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has taken a swipe at the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility on social media, labelling it “as dodgy as the Lehman brothers”.

As WA Premier Mark McGowan and Northern Australia Minister Matthew Canavan signed a master facility agreement last week, Mr Swan referred to his speech in Parliament in March, where he raised wide-ranging concerns about the fund.

“The flimsy investment mandate of the NAIF is now how conservatives in this country operate; the Turnbull Government wants to turn it into a boondoggle machine in pursuit of its ideological and political pork-barrelling,” he said.

“The NAIF appears to have been intentionally set up without the ability to operate independently, with a board that has been stacked to favour mining investments and with an investment mandate so broad and vague so that Minister Canavan can essentially treat the NAIF as his own private slush fund.

“The Government has stacked the board with pro-mining persons who are unwilling to assert NAIF’s independence and that is the most alarming aspect of NAIF.”

The agreement between State and Federal governments means eligible projects such as stage two of the Onslow Marine Support Base can now receive funding under the program.

Mr Canavan said the agreement set out legal and financial obligations when projects receive funds from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

“The opportunities are vast and already there are 140 potential projects in the pipeline, with 10 in due diligence and execution, including three in Western Australia,” he said.

“Signing the MFA with WA was the final important step in the process that will allow funds to flow from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to these nation-building projects.”

Mr McGowan said the State Government would formally review the OMSB proposal in the coming weeks.

“I’m delighted to see a Western Australian project as the first proposal to receive conditional NAIF support,” he said.

“We’ve taken our time to negotiate an agreement with the Commonwealth for the NAIF that does not expose Western Australia to unnecessary financial risk.”

The Onslow project includes a $16.8 million loan and is tippedto contribute $100 million to the economy.

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