Article – State Election blamed for Northern Australia white paper delay12 March 2015
27 February 2015
The Cairns Post
THE Queensland election has been blamed for further delays in the release of the report into unlocking the economic potential of Northern Australia.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to soon make an announcement about the Coalition’s white paper, which will recommend policies to boost population and economic growth across the region.
Tax incentives, infrastructure upgrades, reducing the cost of insurance and relocating public servants have all been recommended in an early report tabled by the Northern Australia Committee.
The report was last expected to be published by the end of February, however a Senate Estimates Committee heard on Tuesday the government intended to release the white paper by midyear.
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development secretary Mike Mrdak told the hearing the government was currently considering the various elements that had been pulled together for the white paper process.
“At this stage, my understanding is the government intends to release the white paper by the middle of the year,’’ he said.
In a separate hearing on Monday, Northern Australia Taskforce first assistant secretary David Williamson said the process was “well advanced”, after receiving more than 180 submissions following the green paper mid-last year.
“We are in the final stages of preparing the white paper,’’ he said.
Northern Australia Taskforce Committee chairman and Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said he expected the report to be released ahead of the Federal Budget.
He said the Queensland election had led to the latest delay, which involved the taskforce’s advisory council.
“A critical part of this … is making sure that the state and territory governments are on-board,’’ he said.
“Now, you’ve just had an election … premiers are part of this advisory council, and they’ve all got to sign off on it, on the report.’’
He said Mr Abbott was expected to make a statement about the progress of the white paper today or tomorrow.
“He’ll just give an overview on the things that are being looked at: roads and water and things like that,’’ Mr Entsch said.
Cairns-based Labor Senator Jan McLucas said $2.3 million had already been spent on the process, and with no known date for release it was possible the cost would be even higher.
“It seems the Abbott Government is simply paying lip service to people living right across Northern Australia and it’s becoming increasingly clear this is another promise that has been well and truly broken,’’ she said.
Courtesy of the Cairns Post