Senate will now scrutinise $15bn reconstruction fund bill


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Senate’s economics committee will probe the legislation behind Labor’s $15 billion industry restart plan over the summer, with any changes to be recommended to Parliament by its second sitting period next year.

The inquiry is not unexpected, but adds to scrutiny and planning through the current public consultation and the yet to be appointed reference group for the landmark National Reconstruction Fund (NRF).

The $15 billion fund, modelled on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, will offer loans, co-investment and guarantees to Australian organisations in priority areas of advanced manufacturing, emerging technologies, medical science, clean tech, transport, defence and value-add resources and agriculture.

Senate Legislation Committee chair Jess Walsh

It represents one of the biggest peacetime investments in local industry in the nation’s history. Industry minister Ed Husic is working to set up the fund as soon as practical to get money flowing, but still needs to establish governance structures and investment mandates.

Mr Husic introduced legislation last week that will establish the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation and let the government set priority areas for it to invest in.

The seven priority areas are set but public consultation is now underway to determine what types of projects the government should direct the NRF to focus on, or not invest in, and how to measure if the fund is achieving its transformational goals.

The underpinning legislation was quickly sent to the Senate’s Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by February 28 next year.

Parliament will by then have already sat once in the new year, but the final report should arrive in time for the second sitting in early March.

Mr Husic has said he wants the legislation passed by early next year, with the next financial year seemingly the logical start date and when the government departments overseeing it receive most of their dedicated NRF funding.

The chair of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, Labor senator Jess Walsh, said the feedback to the NRF so far has been positive and she invites stakeholders to contribute to the inquiry over the summer.

“If I’ve heard one thing over and again in my time in office it’s that Australians want to make more of what we need right here, so we want to partner with industry to deliver the jobs and products of the future,” Senator Walsh told InnovationAus.com.

“I’m really looking forward to getting into our inquiry next year and hearing from industry, unions, research institutions and other stakeholders about their ideas for the operation of the NRF”.

Senator Walsh said the NRF will meet industry’s desire “go to market with the Australian government as a partner” and boost the innovation ecosystem.

“We have great ideas coming from our universities and research institutes. But we can do more to turn them into jobs for Australians and products for the world, and the NRF is designed to help do that,” she said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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