Lock the Gate Alliance fears it will become easier for fracking companies to access Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility funds for polluting gas pipelines, including in the south, after the Morrison Government and Labor joined forces to pass changes in the Lower House.
The Alliance believes these changes to the NAIF could divert money from other, more sustainable priorities in Northern Australia, such as the urgent need to assist the ailing tourism industry which has suffered due to Covid-19.
Despite attempted amendments from Zali Steggall to rule out funding fossil fuel projects, the Bill passed the Lower House yesterday afternoon, and is now likely to be debated in the Senate in May.
Disturbingly, among the changes to the NAIF that passed the Lower House was an amendment that will make it easier to fund projects that aren’t even based in Northern Australia (see amendments 2 and 3)*.
"Publicly funded loans intended for Northern Australia should not be lent to companies who want to build dirty gas pipelines at all, let alone in the south, particularly when the north's tourism sector is suffering so greatly due to covid-19,” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Carmel Flint.
"The gas industry is notorious for talking big, but employing very few people, particularly compared to sustainable industries like tourism, which is a major employer in parts of the Tropical North.
“The NAIF is no longer about supporting Northern Australia or the people who live there. It has become a shadow fund to support the Coalition’s ill-fated obsession with spending taxpayer money on backing big gas companies to open up Australia for fracking.
"We’re calling on the Senate to ensure there is thorough scrutiny of this Bill, and that changes are made to ensure that it doesn’t sell out rural and regional Australia and drive dangerous global warming that is already hurting communities across the nation.”
*Previously, the NAIF required projects to both ‘provide a basis for economic growth’ and ‘stimulate population growth’ in Northern Australia to be eligible for funding if located outside of Northern Australia. The changes would mean that a project will only need to contribute to economic growth or population growth, which will free up the fund to be used for projects, like gas pipelines, that occur outside Northern Australia even though they do nothing to grow the population of the north.
As a result, projects in southern Australia are likely to be eligible – including controversial gas infrastructure like the strongly opposed Queensland-Hunter Gas Pipeline.