Additional comments from Coalition Senators

Additional comments from Coalition Senators

1.1The Coalition supports the majority report recommendation that the Senate passes the bill, and acknowledges that the substantive amendments proposed by the Government were originally announced by the Coalition.

1.2The Coalition has always supported Northern Australia. It was the Coalition who first set up the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) in 2016—a landmark investment platform designed to drive economic infrastructure across the North—and who developed the Northern Australia White Paper, to outline the challenges that face an area which covers 51 per cent of our landmass.

1.3Under the previous Coalition Government, the NAIF made over 31 investment decisions totalling $3.4 billion, supporting projects with an estimated total capital value of $6.5 billion across Northern Australia. These projects ranged from airports and higher education facilities to clean energy infrastructure, resources and agricultural ventures. The projects that the NAIF supported are forecast to generate around $25 billion in economic benefits and create more than 13000 jobs. The Coalition also extended the NAIF's lifetime by an additional five years—to 30 June 2026—to continue delivering critical investment to the regions.

1.4There are two substantive amendments within this bill, which the Coalition previously announced, and one technical clarification of a Coalition reform.

1.5The first substantive amendment expands the NAIF's area of operation. InDecember 2021, the Coalition announced that the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands would be able to receive support from the NAIF. This extension will allow the NAIF to continue delivering vital investments across more of Northern Australia.

1.6The second substantive amendment will increase the NAIF's funding from $5billion to $7 billion. In January 2022, the Coalition further committed to the development of Northern Australia by announcing a $2 billion funding increase for the NAIF, from $5 billion to $ 7 billion. This increase will support additional projects throughout Northern Australia, and it is good to see this commitment honoured.

1.7The Government's backing of these two Coalition announcements is an affirmation of the good policy that we developed for Northern Australia.

1.8Additionally, this bill includes a technical clarification and is simply a continuation of the Coalition's policy of expanding the NAIF's remit, which included economic development for the benefit of Indigenous persons. Following the NAIF's Statutory Review in December 2020, the Coalition amended the Act in 2021. As a part of the expanded scope, amendments were made to allow the NAIF to provide financial assistance to entities other than the States and Territories, and provide loans in addition to grants, including for the benefit of Indigenous persons.

1.9Whilst it is good to see the Government continue to fund the NAIF, it is concerning to see cuts to other regional funding that is so critical to Northern Australia and regional communities across the country. Cuts and delays to infrastructure in regional Australia amount to billions of dollars, and Northern Australia will feel the impacts of this. Giving with one hand and taking away with the other is not a formula for success.

1.10The Coalition will continue to fight for Northern Australia and will support this bill which puts Coalition policy into law.

Senator the Hon Matthew Canavan

Deputy Chair

Nationals Senator for Queensland

Senator Gerard Rennick

LNP Senator for Queensland

Senator Susan McDonald

LNP Senator for Queensland

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3511