Question without notice – Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility: CopperString Project

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Mr KATTER : Minister, NAIF: in six years—

The SPEAKER: No, no—you’ve just said ‘Minister’. There’s a lot of them here! Can you just say which minister?

Mr KATTER: The one responsible for NAIF!

The SPEAKER: No, you’ve actually got to say who it is. Do you want me to go to the next question and come back?

Mr KATTER: The resources minister.

The SPEAKER: Thank you. Okay. We’ll start the clock again. You’ve got your 45 seconds.

Mr KATTER: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. In six years, all NAIF’s done is extend a JCU building. Minister, you are the hero cutting the Gordian knot, unleashing the locomotive of prosperity. Won’t your NAIF CopperString initiative stop the strangulation of the North West Minerals Province and overcome the crippling effects of diesel generators and a tiny gas-fired power-station monopoly, which create electricity costs crushing what should be the world’s greatest mineral province? Minister, with NAIF’s CopperString, won’t we build the golden pit of prosperity?

Mr PITT : Can I thank the honourable member for that question. I’ve heard a lot of associations with my last name, but that’s a new one!

I’m asked about the NAIF itself and of course the CopperString project, which is expected to extend from Townsville to Mount Isa. It is an important project, which we are taking seriously, I say to the member for Kennedy.

We intend to continue to deliver for the north. We intend to continue to deliver for the people of northern Australia—the people in the member’s electorate and right across the north. I understand the value of the North West Minerals Province and the particular value that something like CopperString could provide to the North West Minerals Province. It could generate around 750 jobs. But we’ve already provided some $5 million of support, in 2019, and another grant of around $11 million recently to help the proponents in terms of their design.

But I am asked about NAIF considering the project. It is inappropriate for me to comment on something completely in the NAIF’s purview. However, my understanding is that—they have an independent process—they are meeting regularly with the proponent and they will make their advice in terms of that decision and put it to me as the minister. I’d encourage them to continue to do that, particularly for the CopperString proponents. This is a project which has been around for some time. But, if it gives any comfort to the member for Kennedy, in part of the review of the NAIF we have announced that we have got regions of growth, and one of those pilot locations is from Townsville to Mount Isa, as the result of a lot of lobbying from colleagues, right across the north. That is a particular area which we are focusing on as part of the work we expect to do with the NAIF.

But I do have to take issue with one of the points in the question, and that is around what the NAIF has done, particularly in Queensland and how many projects it’s actually supporting. It’s over $1 billion in Queensland already. We know that we have Signature Onfarm out at Clermont—the Anguses—a $24 million loan for a processing facility out there, a fabulous facility. That is underway. We’ve seen photos of that construction—

The SPEAKER: The minister will just pause for a second. The member for Kennedy.

Mr Katter: Point of order: misrepresentation. I meant before he became minister. He’s been great.

The SPEAKER: The member for Kennedy will resume his seat. That really is a new one, I’ve got to say.

Mr PITT: There is Metro Mining, with some $47 million for a new floating terminal up north of Weipa, and, of course, the North Queensland Cowboys, the new centre of excellence up there—some $20 million in support for a loan. James Cook University, Mater Health, Queensland Airports, Central Queensland Uni—there is a significant amount of support from the NAIF into those areas. We have made changes recently with legislation. I want the NAIF to be able to provide more money for projects of a different type. We have absolutely ensured that they can be more reactive, that they can fund projects of a different type. We want to make sure that the NAIF, if it does eventually allocate all of the funds—it’s got roughly $3 billion allocated already—

Mr Bowen interjecting

Mr Thompson interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McMahon and the member for Herbert can leave under 94(a). That will lower the volume.

The member for McMahon and the member for Herbert then left the chamber.

Mr PITT: The NAIF has already allocated almost $3 billion. There is around $2 billion left in the current $5 billion facility. I’d be happy to go back to the PM and the ERC and ask for more if that’s necessary. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: We don’t want ERC in here!

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