Analysis and Commentary

PM insists NRF money available now, though application process unclear

Analysis and Commentary

By Brent Balinski

It is the time of year when many of us are reopening, if we aren’t already open for business.

Being open for business can have different meanings for different people, as prime minister Anthony Albanese’s description of the National Reconstruction Fund on Monday morning showed.

The independent National Reconstruction Fund Corporation is tasked with making investments for the government’s $15 billion NRF. 

Its chairman and board were appointed in August, a first meeting held in September, and at last check it was on the lookout for a CEO. Its website describes the NRF as “currently in its set-up phase”.

Can companies currently apply for backing (available through loans, equity and guarantees) via the NRF’s website? No, pointed out ABC Radio National Breakfast fill-in host Sally Sara, during an unusual exchange with the PM.

There is “still no way on the Fund’s website for industry to apply, even for a dollar of the money. Why is it taking so long?” she asked Albanese. His reply was that no, the NRF is indeed “open for business”, before the predictable spiel about the worthwhile goal of adding more value here. 

Sara asked the PM to return to the question, and to the NRF Corporation Fund website, where there is no apparent way for companies to apply for investment.

The previous federal government’s centrepiece industry support item, the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, was scrapped, so how should manufacturers make use of its replacement? If they can’t, then it’s not operating, right?

“No, it is operating. It is operating. It is open for business,” insisted the PM, who suggested companies refer to the NRF’s investment mandate and make a proposal.

He twice pointed to a media release in November from finance minister Katy Gallagher, “setting out what the process is” and including the NRF’s investment mandate.

The release does not appear to set out any such process. The linked investment mandate doesn’t help, either.

Maybe the PM is right, and there is a way to access investment through the NRF Corporation, but it’s very hard to get any information on the subject. 

There is no contact number on the corporation’s website for queries. In its defence, it self-describes as being in a set-up phase, rather than open for business.

Picture: credit


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