The Turnbull Government’s National Housing Infrastructure Facility (NHIF), has all the hallmarks of a Coalition slush fund.
In the Budget, the government announced a $1 billion finance facility available to local governments to finance infrastructure needed to accelerate the supply of new housing.
According to the government’s announcement, the facility, to operate from 1 July 2018, will be comprised of up to $600 million in concessional loans, $225 million in equity investments and $175 million in grants.
When asked by Senator Doug Cameron how the composition of the fund’s concessional loans, equity investments and grants to be made available to local government to finance infrastructure was arrived at, a Treasury official said:
“I don’t think there’s anything set in stone about the allocation of $1 billion between equity funding, grant funding and concessional loans. I think there’s been an assumption made about what the split might be …It’s essentially just an assumption at the moment for the purpose of costing the initiative.”
On top of this, the fact sheet clearly says:
“The government will be able to direct the NHIF to invest in particular projects where this addresses a significant housing supply issue.”
When challenged as to whether the NHIF could be used as a slush fund, because the government could direct it to fund certain projects, Treasury said:
“The precise nature of the governance, including of power of direction is yet to be determined.”
The fact sheet clearly states the NHIF will provide finance to local governments to provide power and water infrastructure. When asked which local governments actually provide power and water infrastructure that could be financed by the facility, the Treasury official said:
“Senator, I couldn’t answer that question.”
The NHIF has all the hallmarks of another Coalition slush fund with no evidence of prior planning and policy development work.
The government has many questions to answer about NHIF and Labor will hold the government to account.