New NAIF revelations show inquiry must be uncompromising in holding board to account

Press release - 12 September, 2017
September 13, 2017: Two new potential cases of conflict of interest within the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) revealed by documents leaked to media are a clear indication something has gone badly wrong in “Canavan’s slush fund”.

Media reports published on Monday reveal potential conflicts of interests for NAIF Chair, Sharon Warburton, and NAIF board director, Justin Mannolini, in relation to a project that is being considered for a taxpayer subsidised loan. This is in addition to a previously highlighted possible conflict of interest involving director Karla Way-McPhail that sparked the Senate inquiry in the first place.

“These leaks reveal yet another potential conflict of interest at NAIF and are disappointing but sadly not surprising,” Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner, Nikola Casule, said.

“When you fill a board almost entirely with current or former mining executives and ask them to make decisions about distributing $5 billion in taxpayer money, largely to mining companies, you can’t be surprised when you find yourself in this situation.”

The report reveals that the NAIF board have been approached for funding by the proponents of the Balla Balla project, which comprises a port and railway to the Pilbara Iron Ore project in Western Australia. The Balla Balla Infrastructure Group (BBIG) is majority owned by NZ's Todd Corporation.

The project poses a potential conflict of interest for the chair of the NAIF board, Sharon Warburton, who is also a non-Executive Director on the Board of Fortescue Metals - the fourth largest iron ore producer in the world and owner of the The Pilbara Infrastructure (TPI), which owns and operates a rail line and port facilities in the Pilbara.

NAIF director Justin Mannolini is a Partner with the WA law firm Gilbert + Tobin - a firm hired to advise the Balla Balla Infrastructure Group on the execution of a State Agreement with the Government of Western Australia for the project that it is seeking a loan from NAIF to fund. The firm’s advisory role for the Balla Balla Infrastructure Group is ongoing.

Mannolini is also the Chairman of the Board of Jindalee Resources - a company which has an interest in a number of iron and base metal projects in the Pilbara and other parts of Western Australia.

“The consideration of this project poses a potential conflict of interest for both a NAIF board director and the board’s chair, Sharon Warburton,” Casule said.

“When you combine this with the other potential conflicts within the board, NAIF’s refusal to respond in a substantive way to freedom of information requests, and assertions by prominent figures such as the former federal treasurer that it was setup to operate as a ‘slush fund’, it is clear that the NAIF is not fit for purpose.

“The ongoing Senate inquiry into the NAIF has an obligation to get to the bottom of these new allegations and to call a second hearing as part of their inquiry. In the meantime, NAIF’s operations must be suspended until all outstanding questions regarding conflict of interest and transparency are addressed.”

Last month the Senate ran a hearing into the NAIF and any potential conflicts of interest on its board after it was revealed one of the directors also runs mining labour and equipment hire companies and had made “hyper-partisan comments” online in support of the coal industry.

For interviews contact:

Simon Black

Greenpeace Senior Media Campaigner

0418 219 086 /

Martin Zavan

Greenpeace Media Campaigner

0424 295 422 /