Tony Shepherd (centre) with then treasurer Joe Hockey (left) and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in 2013.
Tony Shepherd (centre) with then treasurer Joe Hockey (left) and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in 2013. Andrew Meares

Businessman paid $45K for secret Government review of NAIF

BUSINESSMAN Anthony 'Tony' Shepherd was paid $45,000 to conduct a secret review of the Federal Government's Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

The former president of the Business Council of Australia was awarded the 18-day contract on December 5, 2017 - meaning he earned about $2500 per day.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Mr Shepherd is "a prominent Liberal Party Supporter" and "was the architect of the Coalition's Commission of Audit - the document that paved the way for Mr Abbott's austere first budget".

It is understood no other consultants were considered to carry out the 18-day review, which ended on December 22.

A spokesman for Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan said the review conducted by the former head of Transfield centred on the investment mandate for NAIF as well as the broader governance and the relationship with states and territories.

He said the completed review had been submitted to the Federal Government on January 17 and was now being considered, however, it had yet to be "decided whether or not the report will be made public".

During Senate Committee proceedings on March 3, Senator Canavan said the review, which was not announced by the government, was given to someone more than appropriate for the job.

"Mr Shepherd has extensive skills and experience ... he's well respected in this field," he said.

Mr Shepherd is well respected for his business experience and particular expertise.

Mr Shepherd was paid $10,000 less than the original budgeted amount of $55,000, which Austender had the job listed as.

Senator Canavan's spokesman said Mr Shepherd's contract arrangements and payment were "appropriate for someone with his level of expertise and experience".

NAIF is a $5 billion fund intended to finance infrastructure development in Northern Australia. It was announced more than two years ago but has only invested in one project since then.

On September 29, 2017 the NAIF Board made its first Investment Decision regarding the Onslow Marine Support Base Project in Western Australia.

It will provide supply and support services for onshore and offshore businesses such as logistics, fuel suppliers, waste management, and construction and maintenance companies in the Carnarvon Basin.

Labor Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment and Shadow Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Jason Clare, said the government had to "fix NAIF" so that it could "start investing in job-generating projects".

"The fact that Turnbull is desperately scrambling for secret advice proves what we've been saying all along: the NAIF is broken and it's failed the north. Turnbull should release this report now," he said.

The NAIF has been surrounded in controversy since its announcement. Adani applied for a loan to build a railway from its proposed Carmichael mine to Abbot Point.

However, the State Government vetoed the loan in the throngs of last year's state election.