Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud has addressed the seventh annual Developing Northern Australia conference in Darwin, saying the government is fully committed to increasing the focus and momentum of Northern Australia’s development.
In his first speech since taking on the Northern Australia portfolio, the Minister said the next phase of the northern agenda would build on the substantial progress made since the 2015 release of the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia.
“We’ve collectively achieved a lot in the last five years, but there’s so much opportunity in Australia’s north to grow the economy and make it a more attractive place to live, which will benefit all of Australia,” Minister Littleproud said.
“The Australian Government has already invested $6.1 billion in Northern Australia.
“We will continue to invest in the drivers that we know will unlock the north’s potential, now and into the future – securing supply chains, building infrastructure, and expanding and diversifying industries.
“This next five-year phase is about getting market conditions right so the private sector has the confidence and certainty it needs to invest alongside government.”
$3.1 billion of the government’s $5 billion loan facility for infrastructure projects, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), has been committed to finance projects.
They include fish farms, power stations, resources and energy projects, airport and hospital infrastructure.
“I want to see the remaining NAIF funds committed to strategic investments that will transform the region,” Minister Littleproud said.
“I am also fully committed to enable our Indigenous communities, who are the custodians of over 75% of Northern Australia’s landmass, to share in this transformation.
Newly appointed Special Envoy for Northern Australia, Townsville-based Senator Susan McDonald, also addressed the conference and said she understood the challenges and the potential of development in the north.
“In my view, there are four pillars that must be established to grow Northern Australia. They are: Affordable and reliable electricity; Access to insurance and finance; Suitable infrastructure, namely road, rail and flight; and high-quality medical care, aged care and childcare,” Senator McDonald said.
“The Federal Government has invested billions of dollars into these areas, and we are very keen to establish a legislative and regulatory framework that gives the private sector – including our superannuation funds – the confidence to invest in the North also.
“Aside from the traditional industries of agriculture and mining, there are opportunities in defence industry, space technology and lithium battery manufacturing just to name a few.
“It is time that we, as leaders for this half of the nation, ensure we are communicating effectively and working outside of our own agencies and businesses, reaching out to other like-minded people across government and regions to ensure we have leveraged every agency, every announcement and every budget dollar to realise the Northern agenda.
“I want governments to positively discriminate in favour of the North. To demand that appointments are filled with people who live in the North, that contracts for consultants are awarded to companies based in the North, and to support projects and organisations that are based in the North.”