Article – Northern plan edges closer

by 17 June 2014

12 June 2014
Daniel Bateman
The Cairns Post

LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch expects some of the recommendations from the Federal Government’s Northern Australia taskforce to be funded by the 2015 Budget.

It comes as green groups raise concerns about the Government repeating in the Far North “costly mistakes” made in the Murray-Darling.

Mr Entsch, the chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, said the Government was at the “pointy end” of formulating policy that would drive development across the region.

The Coalition’s Green Paper, released on Tuesday, includes a six-policy plan covering economic infrastructure, land use and access, water access and management, business, trade and investment, education, research and innovation and governance to realise the untapped potential of Northern Australia.

“I think we’ve made amazing progress,’’ Mr Entsch said.

“We’re now locking it into whole recommendations across the whole spectrum.

“By the 2015 Budget we will have initiatives that will be sitting there. Some of those will be floated in that Budget so that we’re starting to physically do things on the ground.”

Mr Entsch was part of the Howard Government’s Northern Australia Taskforce in 2007, but was removed from it by the Labor government.

He said the Coalition had put “everything on the table” this time with the Green Paper, including water development.

The CSIRO has been tasked with assessing Northern Australia’s river catchments to find the ideal places for dams.

Previous studies by CSIRO found water resources in the North were neither unlimited nor wasted, and the potential for Northern Australia to become a “food bowl’’ was not supported by evidence.

Australian Conservation Foundation Northern Australia program manager Graham Tupper said any new developments must avoid repeating mistakes, such as the massive extraction of water from the Murray-Darling Basin.

“Our priorities for Northern Australia should be to protect and build on our strengths,’’ he said.

The Green Paper also says there is excellent prospects for expansion in agriculture, suggesting potential to grow the crocodile meat industry.

Mr Entsch, who has worked as a crocodile farmer, said the northern Australian croc meat industry would only grow further in Queensland if there was an attitude change.

“There’s always going to be that strong influence in Queensland from people who oppose any change because it suits their marketing of their product and they need to be seen as the champions of not killing crocodiles,’’ he said.

Courtesy of The Cairns Post

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