29 April 2016
The West Australian
The heads of all Gascoyne councils and the development commission have written to Federal MPs to protest against the region’s exclusion from a Federal definition of northern Australia that favours Queensland and the Northern Territory.
While the gas-rich city of Gladstone in the Sunshine State has been included in the Turnbull Government’s definition of northern Australia, key WA towns have been snubbed.
The decision puts Carnarvon, Coral Bay, Denham and surrounding areas at a multimillion-dollar disadvantage because inclusion in the definition is a condition for being considered for a $5 billion loan scheme for infrastructure that was rushed through the House of Representatives last week.
For an unexplained reason, a small piece of WA above the Tropic of Capricorn has been excised from the legislative definition of northern Australia.
Yet the boundary has been extended below the Tropic of Capricorn to include all the NT and Gladstone in Queensland.
The letter, signed by the chairmen of the Gascoyne and Pilbara development commissions and shire presidents of Upper Gascoyne, Carnarvon, Exmouth and Shark Bay, calls for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill, now before the Senate, be amended to “respect and acknowledge WA’s north-west” by including the Gascoyne.
“The Tropic of Capricorn boundary creates unnecessary problems and complications in WA and seriously disadvantages the Gascoyne region,” the letter says.
Federal Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan, who is deputy chairwoman of the joint select committee on northern Australia, has proposed an amendment to the Bill to include all areas above the Tropic of Capricorn and Carnarvon and yesterday wrote to Premier Colin Barnett asking him to join the campaign.
“Given the financial advantage that is attached to being included as part of northern Australia, this is an outrageous economic gerrymander,” Ms MacTiernan said.
Carnarvon fruit and vegetable grower Michael Nixon said the new definition had the potential to set Carnarvon up for long-term failure.
Northern Australia Minister Josh Frydenberg said the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility was great news for WA, with a “significant part of the State” in the running for concessional loans for infrastructure.
He said it was disappointing Ms MacTiernan had not previously raised the matters with him.
Courtesy of the West Australian