Article – Coalition pushing hard to lift the Top End

1 March 2014
Amos Aikman
The Australian

KEY themes of a Coalition green paper on developing Australia’s north will include infrastructure investment, land-tenure reform, improving water management, and boosting trade, innovation, research and education.

More than 40 meetings have so far been held with about 84 organisations across northern Australia. Development of the green paper is well advanced, ahead of its expected release next month.
Visiting Darwin yesterday, Tony Abbott revealed that his government would also co-ordinate a “stocktake” of natural and strategic assets across the Top End in preparation for a northern Australia policy white paper, due within 12 months.
The white paper would look for ways to enhance private investment, and identify the critical economic and social infrastructure needed to support long-term growth, as a means of capitalising on northern Australia’s strengths.
The Coalition has committed to developing a “clear, well-defined and timely policy platform” with implementation plans for the next two, five, 10 and 20 years.
Releasing the terms of reference for the white paper yesterday, the Prime Minister said northern Australia had “so much potential”.
“Look at the way the Ord (River irrigation) scheme has flourished,” he said. “There is so much more that can be done.”
He flagged getting rid of red and green tape, and said tax concessions to promote development would be considered, provided they were not unconstitutional.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett welcomed the news, saying expanding the Ord scheme into the Northern Territory would be a priority, as would developing a supply base for offshore oil and gas. Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said his top priority would be building more bridges and roads.
The Coalition’s northern Australia policy will be developed by a taskforce within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, with help from representatives of the West Australian, Teritory and Queensland governments.
Those governments will put forward members to an advisory council of indigenous, business and community leaders.
The Weekend Australian understands Western Australia has nominated four people, representing the pastoral industry, the Ord development and indigenous communities. The Territory is considering two nominations, one of which is likely to be Cattlemen’s Association head Luke Bowen.
Development of the white paper will also be informed by the outcome of a federal parliamentary inquiry.
Wilderness Society spokesman Gavin McFadzean said the Ord project had been a “taxpayer-funded environmental disaster from its inception”.
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s northern Australia program manager, Graham Tupper, said a massive expansion of agricultural or extractive industries, or an “unsustainable” population boom, would damage the environment.
There have been signs of disagreement between Coalition partners. Mr Giles recently said northern Australia policy development was being politicised, with Queensland and Western Australia gaining the upper hand.
Courtesy of the Australian