Article – Mr Imants Kins – “Looking to Australia's Future” – Think and Grow Rich Inc. Magazine

A big idea in a big country – that is the aim of the Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV), writes Imants Kins. 
Here in our north we can work to solve many of our trade, foreign relations, food, minerals, and indigenous issues.
The north has natural assets that give it a global comparative advantage: abundant water at a time of increasing scarcity of drinking water, abundant land at a time of decreasing global arable land and rising population from seven billion to nine billion by 2050, explosion in world demand for protein and energy (oil, gas and renewable especially solar) as the global middle class grows from 500 million in 2009 to 3.2 billion by 2030.
It is undeniable that there is great economic potential in the north, waiting to be unleashed. On a daily basis, global economic trends are dynamically magnifying the value that lies undeveloped in the north of Australia. The ANDEV vision is for bold, transformative policies and the leadership required to make the vision a reality. Herein lies a reawakening of Australia as the frontier society that is no longer afraid of big ideas.
ANDEV, of which I am co-chair, was set up by citizens in 2010 to fill the void in public debate regarding the future of northern Australia. The recent report on Services in the Remote areas of Australia was a damning confirmation of the truth of this perspective. ANDEV is a spontaneous positive private sector response to this void and to what Deidre Macken recently wrote in the Australian Financial Review as being the brand Australia: is it “the land of the lost big idea?” ANDEV is about creating and bringing into reality a big idea in a big country.
The organisation is the brainchild of Gina Rinehart, whose efforts have brought together an initially small and now rapidly growing, enthusiastic team of Australians with one simple aim – to advocate for the positive advancement and development of northern Australia. This is not just about mining, it is about the intelligent and integrated development of the north.
Personally, I have been involved through my many years as an economist in Western Australian regional employment and population forecasting, value adding projects, mineral exploration and mining. I have seen first-hand the potential for further development in the north.
The north of Australia that ANDEV is focusing on has only 10 out of the 150 federal electorates in the Commonwealth Parliament and contains only 5% of the population, despite it containing almost half of Australia’s land mass (around 44 %).
With the right leadership, policies and the right people, the north of Australia has the potential to develop beyond our imagination. A food bowl, a centre for world class education, tropical medical services, a booming tourism destination, a source of energy and energy dependent industries, businesses based on new technology like the exciting 3D digital manufacturing supplying to our growing East Asian neighbours like Indonesia (which is estimated by Citibank to be the world’s fourth largest economy by 2040 with a GDP of US$8.27 trillion).
As a result of the economic multiplier from these investments, businesses and populations thrive in towns and cities across the region – these are all realistic goals for northern Australia.
We are however steadily losing our competitive advantage in many areas and this trend must be corrected if Australia is to continue to prosper. As the population ages, productivity becomes the key driver of a rising standard of living.
Economic vision is the major component of ANDEV’s plan and economic reform will need to be the cornerstone of any transformation of the north. We are strong advocates for less regulation and lower taxes in northern Australia.
Rather than ad hoc policies, ANDEV calls for an integrated long-term development model for the north. A key part of ANDEV’s vision for northern Australia is to introduce a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) or series of Zones in northern Australia, with lower taxation, less regulation and a streamlined directly accountable one-stop shop SEZ agency (run by a private sector board and management). Toronto has done it for the mining sector, why can’t Australia?
Although proposals for SEZs have not been commonly debated in Australia before, they are not a new idea and have proven to be successful drivers of economic growth in underdeveloped regions.
There are currently 3,500 SEZs in 113 countries. In reading the recently released book by Ezra F. Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, you can see that the creation of SEZ’s by Deng starting in 1975 was the catalyst and foundation that drove China’s economic and social transformation – and that continues today. We want to see a rigorous public debate on the merits and possible forms that new regulatory and institutional structures could take to catalyse northern development – why shouldn’t this happen?
Our organisation wants to see large and growing cities across northern Australia supporting diverse industries, with communities small and large springing up.
We want to see more Australians choosing to settle permanently, supporting local economies. We want to see the energy and resources sectors continue to contribute to the economic health of the entire nation.
Encouraging people to live and work in the north must be a priority. Freeing up more land for housing is one necessary component of this, as is offering incentives to encourage businesses and individuals to relocate to and remain in northern Australia.
The big picture objective of ANDEV is to generate policies and investments that increase living standards and long-term job opportunities. These policies benefit the entire country, not just northern Australia. If population is more evenly spread, this will also take some of the pressure off existing cities and towns.
It’s important to also remember, as we discuss new policies and proposals to increase northern development, that no idea should be considered too revolutionary, for the radical policies of today can often become tomorrow’s reality.
It would be a mistake though, to think that policy or government alone can trigger a transformation of northern Australia. There has to be a transformation in our consciousness – that way we see the north now, in the future and the introduction of policies that allow the private sector to drive this development.
If the north is to reach its potential, we must encourage the re-ignition of the pioneering spirit of previous generations – the risk takers, the business builders, the ‘I will have a go’ citizens.
Here at the beginning of the Asia Pacific Century, we lucky Australians stand at a crossroads, and what we become tomorrow depends on the choices we make today. Getting this right is an obligation we carry for future generations.
The north has the location and the natural assets to become an exciting and integral part of the Rise of Asia.
We can either be ambitious or we can take the path of least resistance – the path of doing nothing and the negative side to that Aussie saying, “She’ll be right mate.” We can give private enterprise every opportunity to create and build and grow, or we can continue to stunt it through excessive regulation.
We can choose to build our north, or we can let it languish as we have historically done. Now is the time with the billions of investment in energy and minerals in some parts of the north. We need to do this together as a nation and do it intelligently based on the demands of, and in partnership with, our growing neighbours.
Who has stepped forward to provide the leadership for this visionary policy?
Too often Australians ask: where the hell are the courageous visionaries with big ideas? I would encourage the pioneers of Australia to join ANDEV in its mission.
Looking to Australia’s Future