Article – Govt unveils plan for Australia's north

18 June 2015
Paul Osborne
7 News

Tony Abbott wants to make tropical topical around the world.

The prime minister on Thursday announced an additional $1.2 billion in spending to go with the $5 billion promised in the May budget to open up the economic prospects of northern Australia and continue to transform the region’s sleepy outposts.

“There’s only a little over a million people north of the Tropic of Capricorn but they are very dynamic people and it is a remarkably dynamic part of our country,” he said as he launched a 192-page northern Australia white paper.

“If the north does well, our country does well.”

Policies include more spending on dams and roads, red tape cuts for business investors and easier access to foreign workers.

But Mr Abbott has ruled out declaring the north a “special economic zone” with tax breaks and other concessions, saying it would be unconstitutional.

Darwin, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay were no longer “sleepy outposts” and the challenge is to improve them further in the next two decades.

The prime minister also singled out Rockhampton, Broome and Karratha as significant areas for development.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said there were enormous opportunities for new investment in resources and energy, agribusiness, technology, infrastructure and tourism.

Investors from the US, China, Canada, the Middle East and Europe will converge on Darwin in November for a forum to discuss some of these new opportunities.

New businesses in the north will be given easier access to seasonal and other foreign workers through a streamlined visa process.

Overseas working holiday makers will have their visas extended for one year if they are employed in northern Australia.

A three-year multiple entry visa will be extended to 10 years to try to promote more tourists, especially from China.

Native title bodies will receive extra funding to conclude negotiation, with the aim of resolving all existing claims within 10 years.

Studies will be conducted into the Nullinga Dam near Cairns and Ord Stage 3 in the Northern Territory.

A “one stop shop” based in Darwin will give major investors in $50 million-plus projects quicker approvals on native title, customs, quarantine and planning.
Upgrades of airstrips, at least eight major roads and rail freight have also been earmarked.

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said the white paper was “about real, tangible investments in northern Australia and particularly in the Northern Territory.”

“We were never going to be able to seal every road in the NT but what we can do is put a sign on the door … that the NT is open for business” and attract private investment, Mr Giles told reporters.

Mr Abbott said the government would also shift more Defence facilities north.
National Farmers Federation chief Simon Talbot said the plan required bipartisan support if it was to succeed.

Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the opposition would consider the report but he was concerned that funding could be part of a “pea and thimble trick” by the government.

The government is banking on more spending to open up the economic prospects of northern Australia.

Courtesy of 7 News


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