21 May 2014
Neda Vanovac & Zach Hope
As federal parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia sat in Darwin yesterday, Mr Giles said creating a special economic zone could help attract people to the north.
However he said it would take a psychological shift to move Australians up from southern cities.
“People think Darwin is further away than the Moon,” he said, adding it would be easier to encourage migration from Asian neighbours, which was consistent with Darwin’s multicultural history.
Mr Giles told the hearing that roads, bridges and ports were crucial to the development of the north and that the previous Labor government, as well as the Abbott administration, had both rejected his requests for $577 million in roads funding, without which it would not be possible to capitalise on Asia’s growing demand for food.
To build a road in the NT costs about $800,000 per kilometre compared with about $250,000 in WA, because of the higher cost of gravel and water transport, Mr Giles said.
Federal Labor MP Warren Snowdon, who is a member of the Joint Select Committee, said the Federal Government needed to understand the specifics of the region.
“The Budget has made it very clear that Canberra, at least currently, is not keen on investing in the north,” he said.
Committee chairman and Liberal MP Warren Entsch said the federal Budget had in fact freed up more money for investment.
He said there was no point in more funding being allocated to the NT until the committee makes recommendations at the end of this year.
Other submissions included the need to make Charles Darwin University as competitive as its southern counterparts to encourage Asian student enrolments, the need for internet infrastructure to service the young and far-flung populations of the north, and that Darwin needed development to capitalise on urban drift and its proximity to Asia.
Courtesy of Perth Now