02 February 2018


SUBJECT/S: NAIF Senate Inquiry in Darwin

ADAM STEER, ABC MORNINGS DARWIN: Developing the north is still a real thing which will have a massive impact on you and your familys lives.

This morning some heads are going to be butting together or at least they are getting together in Darwin to try and figure out what developing the north really means. Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy is the Acting Chairwoman of the Senate inquiry into the Northern Australia infrastructure facility.

Senator, good morning, has any money actually been awarded in the three years since the federal government announced the NAIF funding.

MCCARTHY: Good morning Adam and the answer to your question is no. Its a real concern that a $5 billion infrastructure facility is not transacted any financial contracts across Northern Australia. While there is still certainly a start in WA, its still a long way off in terms of actual transactions.

STEER: You are as I said are the Acting Chairwoman of the Senate Inquiry into the NAIF. There has been some concern for a while that the NAIF funding was just set up to pork barrel, particularly parts of Queensland is your Senate Inquiry bipartisan enough to look at that?

MCCARTHY: The Senate Inquiry is a References Committee and it has certainly been initiated by Labor Senators who are deeply concerned about where NAIF is at across Northern Australia, having said that we certainly have members of the Greens and the Government on the References Committee and this is a very very genuine Committee to inquire into the processes and the transparency and just what is exactly is happening with NAIF.

STEER: I understand the proposed prawn farm could apply for some money but are you aware of any interest from the Northern Territory at this stage for any NAIF funding?

MCCARTHY: I am certainly aware that there is a lot of interest. Having read through the submission and preparing for todays inquiry Adam, we have got the Northern Land Council, the Northern Territory Farmers Association, Darwin Major Business Groups, environmental groups the Northern Territory Government and Tourism NT who will be appearing before the Committee many of those groups have provided submission which have alerted me to the concerns that they will be raising. The Northern Land Council for instances is very concerned that the NAIF process doesnt adequately address Indigenous engagement and certainly what the values are in terms of working with many Indigenous stakeholders. The Darwin Major Business Group has already identified that there are serious concerns in the North in relation to business development. These are the issues that are going to come forward but what I want to examine more thoroughly with these witnesses that come forward is where they see the Government and the Parliament can actually act to get NAIF more transparent.

STEER: Its a 5bn fund to lend money to private enterprise. With such big drops of cash, of course, there will be big environmental risks. Some environmentalists are saying the NAIF board is stacked with fossil fuel and miming members. Do you agree?

MCCARTHY: Again, these submissions have come forward certainly the environmental groups have expressed their concerns. The role of the References Committee is to take on those concerns and we report back to the Senate, to the Parliament in April and everything that everyone that people a re bringing forward is of concern and I think it is important to be having these committees across the North.

STEER: Do you think the NAIF is a good idea in general?

MCCARTHY: $5bn is an extraordinary amount of money Adam and there are no two ways about it. I can speak specifically for the Northern Territory; we do require incredible investment here. What is of concern, deeper concern, is the fact that this money has been promised to be used in the north and yet not one cent has been spent in nearly 3 years, and that is a disgrace.

STEER: Finally, Senator have you watched Utopia as part of your Inquiry?

MCCARTHY: (Laughs) Not part of the inquiry but I have certainly seen Utopia.

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