NAIF boss resigns hours before Senate Estimates hearing

The head of the Federal Government's $5 billion loan facility for stimulating development in northern Australia has resigned suddenly, hours before he was due to appear before a Senate Estimates Committee.

Key points:Neither NAIF nor the federal government has revealed why Mr Wade resignedMr Wade had been CEO since January 2020The opposition's spokesperson for Northern Australia told the ABC that Mr Wade's sudden departure was a "very unusual situation"

Staff from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) were told about CEO Chris Wade's immediate resignation in an all-staff email around 5pm on Wednesday, Senate Estimates heard.

Amanda Copping was installed as acting CEO and faced a series of awkward questions about Mr Wade's departure at the Senate Estimates hearing.

She did not say why he left the organisation.

"I think Mr Wade's decision to resign is a matter for Mr Wade," she said.

In a statement to the ABC, NAIF chair Tracey Hayes said: "The NAIF board thanks Chris for his service".

"We also acknowledge the ongoing dedication and commitment of all NAIF staff to achieving the NAIF's mission."

A man wearing a blue shirt sits in an office
Chris Wade joined NAIF as CEO in January 2020.(ABC Landline)

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Labor: resignation 'clouded in mystery'

Labor's Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, Murray Watt, told the ABC that Mr Wade's sudden departure was a "very unusual situation".

"Even senior staff only got about five minutes' notice that this [resignation] email was going to go out," Senator Watt said.

"[Mr Wade] didn't seem to even get the chance to say goodbye to staff, didn't address staff on departure.

"It's all extremely abrupt, and the fact that the government hasn't given a reason for the CEO's departure really just clouds it in even more mystery."

In a statement, Minister for Northern Australia, David Littleproud said "the NAIF board has informed me of Mr Wade's resignation. I wish him all the best for the future".

Senator Watt said he had never witnessed anything like this during his time in politics.

"I certainly had a lot of questions lined up to ask the NAIF CEO about his performance, about the performance of the NAIF overall," he said.

"So to have the CEO of the organisation depart without any reason, within 24 hours of appearing at Senate Estimates, just has to make you even more suspicious that there's another story here."

a barramundi held in hands with pond behind.
The NAIF was launched in 2016 as a loan facility to help the development of northern Australia.(ABC Rural: Daniel Fitzgerald)

In his questioning of acting CEO Ms Copping, Senator Watt asked about alleged bullying within NAIF management — to which Ms Copping replied that she was not aware of any bullying allegations relating to Mr Wade.

Mr Wade had been the CEO of the organisation since January 2020.

Senate Estimates also heard that NAIF currently had more staff based in Sydney than in the entirety of northern Australia.

Up until September 30, NAIF had lent $427.6 million to projects across northern Australia — around 8 per cent of the NAIF's $5 billion fund. 

Posted 29 Oct 202129 Oct 2021Fri 29 Oct 2021 at 7:07am, updated 29 Oct 202129 Oct 2021Fri 29 Oct 2021 at 7:22amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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