Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility should prioritise people and renewables: poll

Australians don’t want their money funding infrastructure for coal and gas companies under the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), national polling released today reveals.

The NAIF will spend $5 billion of public funds in Northern Australia on infrastructure that is unable to attract commercial financing, which could include subsidising the controversial Adani Carmichael coal mine.

Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute, said “Australians do not want to see their funds misdirected towards uncommercial infrastructure for coal and gas companies. That is money we can’t spend on things like public services where people live now, or in renewable energy.”

“Australian governments have spent billions of public money subsidizing mining infrastructure, while critical urban infrastructure has struggled to cope with surging populations.”

The polling showed:

  • 75% would prefer the funding to go towards renewable energy instead of infrastructure for coal companies. That included 79% of respondents in Queensland, where most current NAIF proposals are located.
  • 62% say more jobs would be created by spending $5 billion on schools and hospitals in existing cities and towns, instead of spending it on fossil fuel infrastructure in remote areas.
  • Asked about priorities for the NAIF, the least popular options were coal ports, coal rail and gas pipelines, while the most popular options were health, education and renewable energy. (See Figure 1 below)
  • 41% oppose spending NAIF funding on infrastructure assisting the Adani Carmichael coal mine. Only 26% support it.
  • The polling found little support for the idea that Northern Australia is the government’s biggest infrastructure priority, with more people thinking southern Australia needed more funding.
  • There was also strong support for the NAIF prioritising infrastructure for indigenous communities.

Question: Which, if any, of the following projects should get these loans as a matter of priority? (Select no more than five)

NAIF Poll

“Australians are right to doubt $5 billion is better spent ‘developing the north’ or fixing critical infrastructure issues in their cities and towns.

“The instinct of those polled demonstrates some learned economic wisdom. Building infrastructure to improve the functionality of cities and towns in the north is a better long-term job creator than subsidising another coal mine,” Oquist said.

The coal project’s initial jobs figure, repeated by many politicians and media outlets, was contradicted by Adani’s own economist in court testified who admitted the mine would cost thousands of jobs in other industries. 

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