Treasurer Scott Morrison is talking up changes to a public infrastructure fund which will allow the federal government to shoulder 100 per cent of the debt risk of major projects in northern Australia.
Changes to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility will be outlined on Thursday following a review of the $5 billion program.
The overhaul will include removing the cap on 50 per cent on the amount of debt the Commonwealth can take on.
“I think this will ensure I think a more effective NAIF, a more flexible NAIF, that I think will see a lot more projects able to proceed,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan said the existing cap was “slightly arbitrary”.
Only one project has been approved, 17 are going through a due diligence process and 90 are being considered across Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.
Senator Canavan suggested some could be accelerated or financed under the changes, but couldn’t say how many.
Mr Morrison, who helped redesign the facility, rejected suggestions an application by Indian resources giant Adani for a billion-dollar loan to build a Queensland rail line could be back in play.
“The NAIF has well and truly ruled on the issue of the Adani application,” the treasurer said.
“That’s not on the table. It’s off the table. They made that decision. This change in no way resuscitates that. That’s done. It’s over. Not proceeding.”
Labor’s Northern Australia spokesman Jason Clare said the changes were a step in the right direction to kick the “constipated” NAIF into gear.
Mr Clare said there were various projects, including a solar hydro site in far north Queensland, which were deserving of government loans.
“For the life of me I don’t know what’s kept them from funding that project,” he told reporters in Townsville.
“Hopefully these sorts of changes are going to do that.”