Lauga and Joyce clashing over NAIF funding reaching CQ
WITH the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce trumpeting his government investing more than $6 billion into Northern Australia, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga is still waiting for the money in CQ.
Mr Joyce, who is the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, said last week that the Coalition Government was investing more than $6 billion to ensure Northern Australia grows as a trade gateway to the Asia Pacific.
He declared that 31 of 51 measures recommended in its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia had been delivered with the remaining 20 well under-way.
"Northern Australia's proximity to Asia and our other major trading partners makes it a critical global gateway," Minister Joyce said.
"Close to 400 million people live within five hours' flying time, our north offers immense export opportunities, and we are ensuring the north can capitalise on these opportunities to benefit the entire nation."
Minister Joyce said investment by the Government included $5b in loans through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), $700m in 38 high-priority road projects across the north, $25.5m in 15 northern water infrastructure feasibility studies and $130m for half of the proposed Rookwood Weir project.
"Building better infrastructure underpins this whole agenda to make living and doing business in the north easier and more productive," Minister Joyce said.
"The north accounts for more than 54 per cent of Australian exports and covers more than 52 per cent of our landmass.
"Our northern communities need better roads, rail links and airports so they can stay connected, travel safely, access services and run their businesses, regardless of the season, and that is a focus of our investment."
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga poured scorn on Mr Joyce's NAIF investment promises saying that over 500 days had lapsed since legislation to create the National Australian Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) was passed by Federal Parliament.
She said Mr Joyce and NAIF had failed Northern Australians abjectly by holding back infrastructure investment in projects like the Great Keppel Island resort and seemed to be "operating in an expensive bubble, filled with inefficiency and secrecy".
"Not a single cent has been spent in Northern Australia, yet over $550,000 has been spent on Board members' salaries, and key meetings regarding Northern Australia strategy are not even held in the north," Mrs Lauga said.
"I know Great Keppel Island proponents Tower Holdings made an application to the NAIF in 2016 to kick start its Resort project, yet (they) have done nothing to approve this application and get this much-needed project off the ground.
"Will the NAIF approve Tower Holdings' application for infrastructure funding? Surely Tower and the community deserve some answers."
A spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Barnaby Joyce said the NAIF was processing loan applications at an appropriate pace.
"The NAIF Board had recently made its first investment decision, proposing to offer $16.8 million to the Onslow Marine Support Base Project in Western Australia," he said.
"The NAIF currently had 63 active enquiries - 32 of them in Queensland - and they ranged across sectors such as renewables, transport, agriculture, energy generation, tourism, water and communications."
He said the two major job-creating projects in the Rockhampton region - construction of Rookwood Weir and the new Great Keppel Island resort - had not been supported by the Queensland Labor Government who were instead focused on the inner-city rail bypass project in Brisbane.