Article – Build it, they’ll come

8 May 2014
Anika Hume
The Cairns Post

PHOTO: Federal Indigenous Advisory Council chairman Warren Mundine and MiHaven student Lilly Matthew discuss the Far North’s potential when they met in Cairns. (Anna Rogers)

THE head of Tony Abbott’s indigenous council says infrastructure development in Far North Queensland must be a priority if Australia is “fair dinkum” about engaging with a growing South-East Asia.

Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council chairman, Warren Mundine, was speaking from Cairns yesterday when he called on government and private sectors to examine “how to really get investments right” to open Queensland’s north to business and enterprise.
“For me, it’s about how we create the environment for expansion and growth in Far North Queensland, and to me it’s not rocket science,” he said.
“Northern Australia is our door into Asia and South-East Asia, so we have to have the infrastructure in place here – that includes airports, roads, shipping, plus the services that need to come here to attract others here.”
Mr Mundine said SouthEast Asia was the next “major boom area”, particularly Indonesia, which he said was set to surpass Australia in the next 15 years in terms of economic growth, and Australia should focus on free trade agreements with Japan and Korea “if we want to be a part of that”.
“The agricultural industries in northern Australia, including Far North Queensland, are the ones who are going to benefit most from these agreements, so it’s about making sure we have the infrastructure in place that we can take advantage of that,” he said.
The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation chairman also threw local schools into the spotlight, describing Far North Queensland as “the innovation centre” for indigenous education, saying the Government was examining initiatives such as the explicit instruction teaching method called “Direct Instruction” used in some Cape York schools and some programs through the Cape York Institute.
“We’re looking at the literacy and numeracy levels they’re getting and how they’ve incorporated indigenous languages and culture into classroom programs,” he said.
“We’re closely researching and reviewing these and over the next 12 months you’ll see some of the results of that.”
But despite Queensland reportedly leading the way in achieving significant improvements across a number of indigenous primary health care areas, Mr Mundine said smoking and diabetes rates among indigenous people were “going through the roof”, particularly in Cairns and Cape York.
He also wanted the private sector to be added into processes to tackle indigenous housing in Far North Queensland “or we won’t be able to get the housing we want”.
“It’s not hard to work out that in larger centres like Cairns (private investors) know they can get a return on their investment, but in remote areas like the Cape it gets harder,” he said.
“It’s about how we get that modelling right to get private investment in there so we get cost efficiencies back to the taxpayer so we can reallocate funds into areas we need to.
“Looking at Northern Australia we need businesses and job creation that happens with it, otherwise you’ll be looking at depopulating areas, and for Far North Queensland that is not an option,” he said.
Courtesy of the Cairns Post