Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Passes the Parliament

Legislation to establish the Government’s $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has passed the Parliament enabling it to commence from July.

This important initiative is a cornerstone of the Northern Australia White Paper, which sets out the Government’s development plan to unlock economic and population growth opportunities across the north.

As recently announced, the facility will be headquartered in Cairns, Queensland.
Contributing over 11 per cent of Australia’s GDP and with 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass, northern Australia still only has five per cent of our population, highlighting its enormous economic growth potential.

“From July, this facility will provide financing to build the transport, energy, water and communications infrastructure needed in our north. This will create jobs, enhance investment, and unlock the full potential of this vibrant region to grow the northern Australian economy,” Minister Frydenberg said.

The Government has also extended the coverage of the $5 billion NAIF. Following detailed consideration, and strong representations from the Member for Durack, Melissa Price, the facility will now include the wider areas of Exmouth and Carnarvon and the local government shires of Meekatharra and Wiluna, in Western Australia.

“The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility continues the legacy of other great nation building initiatives that Australian governments had taken in the past, like the Snowy Mountains scheme and interstate railways. The Commonwealth Government, in partnership with state and territory governments and the private sector, has over our history done a lot to develop specific areas of our country and left a great legacy for future generations. The NAIF builds on this tradition. It will play an important part in providing basic infrastructure across northern Australia for new investment, creating more jobs,” Minister Canavan said.

The Government has also announced the independent board that will make the investment decisions for this facility and finalised the Investment Mandate by which investment decisions will be governed.

“We have chosen an outstanding board with extensive experience and expertise across a range of sectors and skills. They are also knowledgeable and passionate about the opportunities and challenges we face in developing Australia’s north and now, with the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, they have an important opportunity to turn the Government’s vision into a reality,” Minister Frydenberg said.

Ms Sharon Warburton (WA) has been appointed Chair designate of the board and from July, she will be joined by:

  • Mr Barry Coulter (NT)
  • Mr Justin Mannolini (WA)
  • Mr Khory McCormick (QLD)
  • Dr Sally Pitkin (QLD)
  • Mr Bill Shannon (QLD)
  • Ms Karla Way-McPhail (QLD)

These board members bring a strong understanding of northern Australia along with extensive experience in their respective fields, including in infrastructure, government, finance, and the law.
Ms Warburton will immediately begin working with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to identify a pipeline of potential projects to ensure decisions on project finance can be made following the establishment of the facility.
The board’s investment decisions will be governed by an Investment Mandate. Following the release of a draft mandate for public comment in March 2016, consultation took place with more than 75 stakeholders, including financiers, project proponents, construction and infrastructure sector experts, Indigenous organisations, and the Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory Governments.
The Investment Mandate will include the following criteria:
Mandatory Criteria

  1. The proposed project involves construction or enhancement of economic infrastructure.
  2. The proposed project will be of public benefit.
  3. The proposed project is unlikely to proceed, or will only proceed at a much later date, or with a limited scope, without financial assistance.
  4. The proposed project is located in, or will have a significant benefit for northern Australia.
  5. The Facility’s loan monies are not the majority source of debt funding.
  6. The loan will be able to be repaid, or refinanced.
  7. The project includes an Indigenous engagement strategy.

Non-mandatory Criteria

  1. The proposed project is seeking financing from the Facility for an amount of $50 million or more.
  2. The project has been identified through a previous Commonwealth, State or Territory assessment process, pipeline, or priority list.

Further information about the NAIF, including the Investment Mandate, can be seen at:

Board Member Overview
Ms Sharon Warburton – Chair (WA)
Ms Warburton brings extensive experience in strategy, corporate governance, finance, construction, accounting and risk management. She is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and has worked at a number of Australia’s largest companies, including Rio Tinto, Citigroup and Brookfield Multiplex.
She also has extensive board experience, serving as a non-executive director of companies such as Fortescue Metals Group, Wellard Limited, and Western Power, and was last year appointed to the Takeovers Panel by the Australian Government.
Ms Warburton has extensive involvement in community organisations, including as a director of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. In 2014, she founded Steel Heels, a mentoring organisation aimed at increasing the self-confidence of working women. Ms Warburton was named Western Australia Telstra Business Woman of the Year in 2014 and NAB Women’s Agenda Mentor of the Year in 2015. 
Mr Barry Coulter – Member (NT)
Mr Coulter is a former member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, serving for 16 years. During this time he served as Deputy Chief Minister and in a range of portfolios in the Northern Territory Government, including as Treasurer. One significant achievement during this time was the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway Project, spearheaded by Mr Coulter.
He has over 35 years’ experience in the infrastructure sector, currently serving as a director of Northern Territory Airports Pty Ltd, and was previously Chairman of Darwin Port Authority, Chairman of Airnorth and Executive Chairman of Sherwin Iron Ore Limited.
Mr Justin Mannolini – Member (WA)
Mr Mannolini is a lawyer and investment banker with extensive expertise in mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, strategic advisory and corporate governance. He has over 20 years of experience in the legal and financial sectors, including as an executive director of a major Australian investment bank and a partner in one of Australia’s largest law firms.
He also serves with a number of professional and community organisations, including as a member of the Law School Advisory Board at Curtin University and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the WA Museum Foundation.
Mr Khory McCormick – Member (QLD)
Mr McCormick is a partner at a major Australian law firm with over 30 years’ experience in the areas of finance and insolvency, resource commodities and infrastructure and engineering projects. He has been the recipient of a number of professional honours and awards, including being named a Leading Lawyer by Chambers International in 2013.
He currently serves on a number of boards, including as Vice-President of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration and Member of the International Chamber of Commerce Australia.
Dr Sally Pitkin – Member (QLD)
Dr Pitkin is a lawyer with over 30 years’ experience in corporate and banking law, and over 20 years’ experience across diverse sectors as a non-executive director of ASX200 listed companies, federal and state government business enterprises, private companies and not-for-profit organisations.
She is currently a non-executive director of a number of major companies including Billabong, Super Retail Group and Star Entertainment Group. Dr Pitkin is also President of the Queensland division of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and an adjunct professor of the UQ Business School.
Dr Pitkin has previously served as deputy chairman of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation and was a partner at a major Australian law firm.
Mr Bill Shannon – Member (QLD)
Mr Shannon is a former mayor of Cassowary Coast Regional Council in far north Queensland, serving from 2008 until 2016. He is a chartered accountant, company director and farmer. Mr Shannon is also a former director of Advance Cairns and member of the Governance Institute of Australia and as a result has extensive experience working in and advocating for northern Australia.
Ms Karla Way-McPhail – Member (QLD)
Ms Way-McPhail is Chief Executive Officer of a number of northern Australian mining and training firms, bringing extensive experience in operations and business. She also brings extensive board experience, having served on the boards of the Resources Industry Council Central Queensland and the Capricornia Chamber of Commerce.
In 2012, Ms Way-McPhail was the recipient of the prestigious Hudson Private and Corporate Award at the Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Awards. She is currently Patron of the Mining Womens Support Group.

4th May 2016

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