Gig guide: NAIF CEO’s surprise exit, economist behind net zero modelling

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The head of the troubled Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility unexpectedly resigned the day before his scheduled Estimates appearance, while the economist who led the still unreleased modelling behind Australia’s Net Zero “plan” has been revealed.

The chief executive of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) Chris Wade resigned on Wednesday, telling staff in an email the day before he was to front a Senate Estimates hearing.

Former NAIF chief executive Chris Wade visits a Queensland pumped hydro project. Image: LinkedIn.

NAIF, the $5 billion lending facility set up by the Coalition government in 2016 to provide loans to infrastructure projects in Northern Australia, is under scrutiny for releasing less than 10 per cent of its funds in five years.

Mr Wade, who spent decades in the banking sector before taking senior government roles, started at the NAIF in January 2020 and was paid more than $435,700 a year.

NAIF chief investment officer Amanda Copping is now acting chief executive officer.

“The Minister for Northern Australia, David Littleproud, owes it to the north to explain why the CEO has suddenly resigned,” said Labor Senator Murray Watt.

“Is it about the NAIF’s ongoing poor performance, high staff turnover, or a sign of increasing politicisation of the NAIF in the run up to an election?”

Estimates also unearthed the man behind the modelling that informed Australia’s Net Zero “Plan”, which includes no new policies and relies largely on yet to be invented technology to reduce emissions.

Steve Hatfield Dodds, an ANU policy economist specialising in climate, agriculture and sustainable development, led a cross-agency modelling team alongside Industry department deputy secretary Jo Evans, with $6 million of McKinsey expertise thrown in for good measure.

It remains unclear exactly how much the 126-page plan, which has been heavily criticised for a lack of detail and rosy outlook, was influenced by the modelling, because it is yet to be released.

Ms Evans told Senate Estimates Australia’s net zero plan was finalised in the early hours of Tuesday morning following a Monday night cabinet meeting which produced some “final changes”. Hard copies are being printed to accompany prime Minister Scott Morrison to Glasgow but the modelling behind it still needs a “write up” for public release.

The Australian Research Council has added six new members to its advisory council, including UNSW Scientia Professor of Quantum Physics Michelle Simmons.

The new council members also include:

  • Professor Calum Drummond, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation and Vice-President, RMIT University
  • Professor Mark Hutchinson, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, University of Adelaide
  • Ms Su McCluskey, Commissioner, Commission for International Agricultural Research
  • Mr Mark McKenzie, Director, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia
  • Professor Chris Moran, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Curtin University
  • Professor Deborah Terry AO, Vice Chancellor, University of Queensland
  • Emeritus Professor Maggie Walter, Commissioner, Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, Victoria

Two members from the previous advisory council – Professor Deborah Terry and Mr Mark McKenzie – have been reappointed to the council which advises chief executive Professor Sue Thomas.

Hotel industry veteran Michael Issenberg has been named as the next chair of Tourism Australia. Mr Issenberg worked for Accor for more than 25 years and was appointed by Tourism minister Dan Tehan.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has named Stephen Smith as its new chief information officer, replacing Gayan Benedict, who left the central bank for a chief technology officer role at Salesforce.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw will chair the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group within the multilateral alliance.

Dr Krispin Hajkowicz will no longer be taking up the position of Queensland chief health officer due to personal reasins.

Deputy CHO Dr Peter Aitken will act in the role until a permanent replacement is appointed.

Commissioner Kershaw will lead the group which shares intelligence and facilitates global criminal investigations with five eyes countries Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Fujitsu this week announced the appointment of Branko Panich as executive general manager of consulting, Australia and New Zealand. Mr Panich has been an executive organisations including Deloitte Australia, Booz & Company and National Australia Bank.

ASX listed product innovation company Hydrix Limited added Paul Lewis to its Board as a non-executive director.

Secure network provider Orro has made three senior hires. Jonathan Plaskow  was appointed director, cloud services; Matthew Counsell was appointed director, network services; and Manuel Salazar was appointed director, cybersecurity.

Hotel commerce platform company SiteMinder has appointed Pat O’Sullivan and Jennifer Macdonald as independent, non-executive directors.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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