Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP Speaks on the NAIF Bill 2023 Amendments

10 May 2023


Ms STEGGALL (Warringah): I move the amendment circulated in my name:

The amendment that I move is to ensure that the NAIF, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, which now has its allocation of funds increased from $5 billion to $7 billion, is not used to assist, pay for or fund infrastructure relating to fossil fuel projects. Fossil based infrastructure, we know, over the long term is highly likely to become stranded assets. These are mature technologies. They have developed business cases. They have been in operation for many years. More often than not, we are talking multinational companies that, ultimately, are making record profits over the export of the resources they are obtaining. That investment into the infrastructure should not be coming from public funds. It's really a simple proposition. The public money, through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, should not be used to prop up the fossil fuel industry.

Investment in resource extraction by government, particularly fossil fuel, remains a concern for many Indigenous people and people across the country, so these amendments prevent investment in fossil fuel infrastructure. We're not talking about small amounts of taxpayer money, we're talking about billions of dollars—huge sums—that will be spent, and we can't allow it to become a government controlled slush fund. We must ensure that taxpayer money is not used to support and pay for such infrastructure.

We know from emissions reduction targets and our obligations under the Paris Agreement that we should not be further developing oil, gas and coal projects. We know this is a problem. Projects such as Beetaloo and other things that have been considered and have received funding under the NAIF from the previous coalition government are incredibly problematic. We know projects like the one in the Beetaloo basin risk absolutely blowing our commitment to the Paris Agreement. Conservative reports project the basin may release some 117 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum, equivalent to one-fifth of Australia's annual emissions. We must reject such projects.

We know gas is as polluting as coal and methane. It is up to 80 times more potent at warming over 20 years than carbon dioxide. It's also incredibly poor economics. Right now, gas companies are making record profits and they ought to be able to invest in their own development. Over the longer term, we know that the revenue of the gas industry is being eroded by the continual price deflation of the cost of renewables. The result is fossil fuel majors are destroying their shareholders' wealth and writing down billions in assets. Santos, for example, since 2014 has written down over $8 billion of its assets' value. Many gas projects have been abandoned and R&D spending has been downsizing.

Oil and gas are in a precarious position, caught between a confluence of forces. It's a structural decline. The industry knows this. The market knows this. Lending knows this. That's why they've got their hands out for subsidies from sympathetic governments. The answer for the minister should be an unequivocal no. The act for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility already includes that it may consider the impact of climate change or of proposals put before it. But in circumstances where there are so many beneficial projects that are nation building, wealth building, generally improving the circumstances for those living in the Northern Territory under this act, this amendment should be passed to make clear what the purpose of this fund should be.

Instead of redirecting funding to fossil fuel projects, the NAIF should be promoting a clean technology vision for northern Australia. It has so much potential to supply the world with energy harnessed from remarkable wind and solar resources. We're seeing projects already in development but we need to really encourage that there be more.

These amendments would make it sure and send that clear message of where the focus should be, in relation to the spending of such large sums of public money.