Sure looks like it:
The independent board overseeing Australia’s $5bn infrastructure agency is again under fire over potential conflicts of interest that now involve half of its directors as a result of mining industry links.
Fresh potential conflicts involving two Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility directors, including its chair Sharon Warburton, emerged after the body was approached about funding a Western Australia iron ore venture.
Balla Balla Infrastructure Group (BBIG) reportedly sought Naif advice on whether it would be eligible for a concessional taxpayer-funded loan for a rail link as part of its $6bn venture in the Pilbara.
Warburton also sits as a non-executive director on Fortescue Metals, whose own iron ore mine, rail and port in the Pilbara would be in direct competition with BBIG.
In a statement Warburton said Naif “in accordance with good governance”, including guidelines issued by the Australian National Audit Office, “does not release details of specific recusals” made by its directors.
She said directors were aware of their obligations to disclose and manage conflicts, and had “significant experience in deciding whether their personal circumstances give rise to an actual, apparent or potential conflict of interest”.
Fellow Naif director Justin Mannolini is a partner in the law firm Gilbert and Tobin, which BBIG is paying for ongoing advice over the execution of a state agreement with the WA government.
Mannolini is also chair of the board of Jindalee Resources, which has an interest in iron and base metal projects in the Pilbara. Mannolini did not respond to a request for comment.
This means three of the agency’s directors – half of the Naif board – now face questions over potential conflicts of interest in ruling on concessional loans for mining companies.
Classic Australian corruption.
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