2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia

by 14 April 2014

Northern Australia, defined as the parts of Australia north of the Tropic of Capricorn that span Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, is often regarded as Australia’s ‘last frontier.’ No longer will Northern Australia be seen as the last frontier: it is in fact, the next frontier.

Over many decades Northern Australia has given rise to outstanding resource, agricultural, business, scientific, and cultural assets, vibrant and growing communities in some areas, and the promise of much more. Nevertheless, it remains underutilised relative to the rest of the country, despite its natural, geographic and strategic assets.

Australia is unique among the developed countries of the world in that we sit at the intersection of the two great regions of global economic and population growth – the Asian region and the Tropical region. The Tropical region encompasses everything between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn and includes 40 per cent of the world’s population.

The rise of these regions, underpinned by a set of global macro-trends, will create significant opportunities for Northern Australia to capitalise on its strengths and unlock major economic value. This growth will ultimately create new jobs, greater income and better prospects for all Australians.

Australia is a high cost country, but we also have a reputation for quality. To capitalise on emerging markets, we should focus at the quality end, rather than at the low cost, mass market end which is fiercely competitive. ‘Australia equals quality’ is the brand we should leverage.

This paper outlines a range of potential opportunities to develop Northern Australia.

The paper proposes that by 2030 Northern Australia could drive growth by: developing a food bowl, including premium produce, which could help to double Australia’s agricultural output; growing the tourist economy in the North to two million international tourists annually; and building an energy export industry worth $150 billion to the economy, with a major focus on clean and efficient energy, providing major increases to resource exports.

There are also opportunities to leverage some of Australia’s broader strengths within the region, including: establishing world-class medical centres of excellence in the North; creating an education hub with world-class vocational and higher education campuses in selected areas; and growing Australia’s exports of technical skills related to resources and agriculture into a $7 billion a year industry.

Capitalising on these opportunities will require a strong policy platform for the long term sustainable development of Northern Australia. This includes governance, population growth and streamlined land access legislation, as well as a better basic set of infrastructure and water facilities.

Government leadership and private sector initiative will be vital.

Buy-in by investors will be essential. In this regard, the main task for government should be, largely, to create the right climate and environment to encourage the establishment of viable enterprises, not to direct or be the principal financier of development. In doing so, it must follow strict requirements and key performance indicators to deliver strong outcomes.

Collectively, we have an obligation to develop the great strengths of our country.

This paper seeks to identify potential Northern Australian strengths and to promote discussion on further developing the region.

A WHITE PAPER ON DEVELOPING NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
The Coalition has engaged in extensive consultation over the past three years with industry, the community and interested parties about the development of Northern Australia.

There is substantial interest across Australia for a comprehensive process to further develop the North of our country.

The nation’s interest in developing the North must be translated into a clear, pragmatic and concrete plan for action. This plan must systematically address the multitude of Labor Government policies and market failures that constrain the region’s growth. It must also ensure a ‘whole of government’ approach that achieves concrete, tangible outcomes within clearly defined timeframes.

The Coalition is committed to realising far more development for Northern Australia.

To this end, we will produce a White Paper on the development of Northern Australia within twelve months of the election.

The White Paper will set-out a clear, well-defined and timely policy platform for promoting the development of Northern Australia. The White Paper will define policies for developing the North to 2030, including an outline for the implementation of these policies over the next two, five, ten and twenty years.

The development of Northern Australia is too important for our nation to leave to a haphazard, ad hoc policy process that could be captured by political imperatives or the interests of any particular stakeholder group.

Our approach to developing Northern Australia should be guided by national interests.

A White Paper process is the best way to ensure an objective and clearly defined pathway for the longer term development of Northern Australia.

The White Paper on developing Northern Australia will be produced by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Coalition’s extensive consultation to date on this issue has identified a set of policy initiatives that the White Paper will consider.

While there is some suggestion that the Commonwealth should take an interventionist approach, the Coalition is emphatically of the view that the development of the North is best maximised through private sector investment and ingenuity. The role of government will be to provide the best regulatory and economic environment for businesses – large and small – to realise this vision.

The Coalition’s White Paper on developing Northern Australia will provide the policy platform necessary for private sector investment, market competition, job creation and ultimately higher standards of living for our northern regions.

Our White Paper on developing Northern Australia will consider, as a matter of priority, the following policy options: Establishing a high-level Northern Australia Strategic Partnership comprising the Prime Minister, the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. This partnership would be supported by a business, community and Indigenous advisory group drawn from Northern Australia to develop, drive and implement a 20- year strategic plan for Northern Australia.

Working with the States and the Northern Territory to complete an audit and to act on unnecessary bureaucracy, green and red tape. Adding flexibility to land use controls (e.g. removal of non-pastoral restrictions on leasehold), reducing regulation, and streamlining Commonwealth and State environmental approvals through a ‘one stop shop’ process could be immediate priorities.

Inviting representatives of a number of neighbouring Asian, Pacific and Indian Ocean partners to regular talks to maximise partnership opportunities and to expressly seek out the valuable insights of our Asian neighbours.

Looking to build on existing key urban zones – such as Darwin, Cairns, Townsville and Karratha – with the aim of substantially increasing the population in these areas. To this end, the efficacy and targeting of current relocation incentives and personal and business tax incentives could be reviewed.

Tasking Infrastructure Australia to conduct a comprehensive audit of Northern Australia’s infrastructure and to devise a 15 year rolling priority list of projects of various scales, guided by cost-benefit studies.

Accelerating the upgrade of Queensland’s major transport artery into the north, the Bruce Highway, in conjunction with the Queensland Government.

Establishing a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) responsible for Developing Northern Australia. The CRC would foster the collaboration of research bodies, institutions and individuals across Australia, including the involvement of commercial interests in relevant research and development.

Accelerating the conclusion of a range of bilateral free trade and taxation agreements, as well as the establishment of a greater consular presence and making the coordination of targeted and regular trade missions a government priority.

Investigating the establishment of a Water Project Development Fund to support the advancement of meritorious proposals for water infrastructure across Northern Australia, including dams and groundwater projects – further discussion will be in the Coalition’s Dams and Water Management Discussion Paper.

Allocating funds from the foreign aid budget to advance tropical health and medical research (centred around Darwin, Cairns and Townsville) and capacity building in training doctors, nurses and all other medical specialists to meet our neighbourhood foreign aid obligations.

Relocating relevant components of Federal departments and Commonwealth agencies, such as CSIRO and AQIS, to key urban zones in Northern Australia.

Examining the range of appropriate private and public education provider options to best develop technical skills in resources, agriculture, tourism, healthcare, infrastructure and education.  PREPARING FOR THE WHITE PAPER ON DEVELOPING NORTHERN AUSTRALIA The purpose of this paper (the Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia) is to set out the policy options that the Coalition intends to pursue in our subsequent White Paper on developing Northern Australia.

The Coalition regards the extensive consultation over the past three years on the development of Northern Australia as an effective and responsive approach to formulating the White Paper.

On the basis of the consultation to date, the Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia represents, for all intents and purposes, a Green Paper on the region’s development.

The Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia clearly sets out the policy priorities for developing Northern Australia that the White Paper will consider. It is not, however, a final set of policy options.

As with any other Green Paper, the Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia is intended to facilitate discussion, comments, feedback and suggestion from industry, the community and interested parties about the development of Northern Australia.

The Coalition believes that positive, constructive and effective policies can only be developed through meaningful and genuine public consultation. It is critical that any policy decisions on Northern Australia are well thought through, practical, achievable, and likely to further promote the region’s economic development.

As a nation we would be negligent if we did not strive to capitalise on the opportunities within Northern Australia.

To capture the opportunities in our North, Australia needs a Federal Government with the vision to develop Northern Australia in partnership with the governments and communities of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory; a government not afraid to take big decisions, mindful of today, but with an eye to tomorrow.

The Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia is aimed at stimulating debate and attracting constructive input for the White Paper.

Consultation will help shape concrete initiatives for the economic development of Northern Australia. It will also inform the ongoing development of government policy on Northern Australia if the Coalition is given the honour of forming government following this year’s election.

Northern Australia is a unique part of our country. It has been neglected in the past and Northerners quite rightly feel that Canberra is out of tune with their daily lives, the challenges they confront and the opportunities they could pursue.

Unsurprisingly, many people in Northern Australia believe their aspirations and constraints are not properly understood by politicians and bureaucrats in the south.

The Coalition is committed to changing these perceptions.

This paper is an important part of that endeavour and is intended to facilitate outcomes that benefit both Northern Australia and the nation more broadly. It is about restoring hope, reward and opportunity.

This paper seeks to promote discussion on further developing Northern Australia. It identifies a range of potential opportunities and some of the conditions and infrastructure necessary to realise them.

It also lays out a range of actions which governments could consider to foster private sector investment and development of the region. These actions are not intended to be definitive or fully comprehensive, but represent an attempt to advance thinking on a vision and future directions for Northern Australia.

This vision is about the future wealth and livelihoods of all Australians, as well as present and future residents of the North, including traditional owners.

IMMEDIATE POLICY INITIATIVES
Three years of policy work has identified measures to enhance productivity, jobs and growth across Australia. These immediate policy measures are equally relevant to Northern Australia.

When combined with the longer term potential initiatives identified in this paper, these measures provide a sustainable and realistic policy platform to unlock the potential of the North: The Coalition will provide significant incentives for investment in Northern Australia by repealing the carbon tax.

We will provide tax cuts and fortnightly pension and benefit increases without a carbon tax so that families have more spending power and businesses have greater incentive to invest and create jobs.

The Coalition will boost the resources sector in Northern Australia, and the local industries that supply it, by scrapping Labor’s failed but damaging mining tax.

We will cut business costs from red tape by $1 billion per annum Australia-wide. This will make it easier for businesses to invest, innovate and create jobs in Northern Australia.

To promote more business investment, we will implement a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals. By removing pointless and costly duplication, large- scale projects that create jobs will be able to get going sooner without compromising high environmental standards.

We will boost investment and productivity growth in the construction sector by restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission and requiring office-holders of registered organisations to be as accountable as company directors.

The Coalition will restore policy stability and certainty to our live exports trade.

Businesses in Northern Australia, both small and large, should compete on a level playing field, so we will conduct a ‘root and branch’ review of competition laws to ensure fair and effective competition in all sectors of the economy.

We will encourage greater workforce participation by introducing mandatory work for the dole for all long-term unemployment beneficiaries under 50, and suspending dole payments for people under 30 in areas where unskilled work is readily available.

To promote education opportunities, we will establish a new two-way ‘Colombo Plan’ to enable the brightest talent from Australia and our neighbours to build relationships and learn in each other’s countries.

We will keep interest rates as low as possible by ending government waste, balancing the budget and starting to pay back Labor’s record debt.

To support the development of the health sector, we will work with the States to ensure their hospitals are managed by local hospital boards, so that local communities and experts can help improve hospital performance, get better health services and receive better value for money.

We will deliver more new jobs by building a more diverse, 5-Pillar economy – through Manufacturing Innovation, Advanced Services, Agriculture, Education and Research and Mining Exports – that unleashes Australia’s real economic potential.

More information here.

Courtesy of the Liberal Party

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