I was recently asked to comment on the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, which has largely dropped from sight since its apparent primary purpose, channelling public money to the Adani mine project, was vetoed by the Queensland government. Here’s my response
The NAIF is a failed political solution to a non-problem, harking back to the developmentalist ideology of the mid-20th century.. It reflects an outdated view of Northern Australia as a largely homogenous, underdeveloped region, in need of special government action to get growth going. In operation it has proved to be little more than a slush fund, dribbling out modest amounts of assistance to a grab-bag of projects with no coherence.
Whatever the individual merits of these projects, including regional universities and airports, fish farms and power plants they don’t differ in any important way from similar projects that don’t happen to be located north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
The NAIF should be wound up, and the funds allocated to a coherent program of infrastructure investment based on national needs rather than arbitrarily geographical distinctions.
5 thoughts on “NAIF Naivete”
It’s a fair comment even from an FNQ perspective where a cargo cult mentality has been driven by a media campaign that our “fair share” has been denied. I’m not aware of any numbers that don’t say the opposite.
Among the great contradictory ironies of the Newman Gummint was that the size of the public sector was a problem for Queensland but moving more public servants to regions would be just fabulous for those regions. As if Darwin, Townsville and Cairns don’t already top the lists of public sector employment.
I suspect Ken Parish may query but I don’t see how the NT can be regarded as anything other than a failed state within Australia.
The top end of Australia has unique problems in terms of infrastructure investment. My parents lived north of Townsville in the early part of their lives. They grew up with peers who were convinced that “southerners” did not care about their welfare, I taught with an Englishman who lived for a long time in Darwin. He said that attitude existed up there too. As for the Northern Territory being a failed state it must be considered as a special case. With a small scattered population this territory needs public infrastructure to contribute to its own economic development.
Would it be a mode employed for legitimizing of pork barrelling?
They want further misappropriation of aboriginal lands or failing that, fair compensation or rent?
About the environment in general, would (Abbott’s?) plan lead to the intense sort of corrupt fouling that has happened with the Murray-Darling system?
A quick reading has me sensing that Prof. Quiggin has it right again.
The only good thing that I know about is that it gave some support for the Kidston renewable project.
All rural regions think the capital is taking all their money and giving none back – and in almost all cases the complete reverse is true. Its certainly not just an FNQ phenomenon (its not even just an Australian phenomenon). I grew up in SW NSW and we used to refer to ourselves as “the forgotten corner”.
I also don’t get the extraordinary amount of political attention FNQ is currently getting – there just aren’t that many seats up for grabs there. The next federal election will be won or lost in the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, as they have been since the 1972 one..