30 July 2014
In Sydney yesterday to promote the Territory’s growing economic footprint and to flag the lease of Darwin’s port, Mr Giles said the Territory was on track to be Australia’s seventh state.
“It’s on our agenda, we are looking at section 121 of the Constitution,” he said, referring to the mechanism that admits new states to the commonwealth. “There’s a whole lot of politics involved in terms of senators, etc, but it’s up to us to drive it. We have to bring the NT along with us and sell the opportunities and the benefits.”
Elected Australia’s first indigenous government leader last year, Mr Giles said the Territory was flourishing despite a bigger cost problem than the rest of Australia due to its remoteness.
“But we can use the tyranny of distance to our advantage in terms of our proximity to Asia,” he said.
He noted that four hours flying to the north covered eight capital cities, 36 trading ports, 69 international airports and 500 million people.
Mr Giles backed Mrs Rinehart’s concerns high costs were driving resource firms to set up in other countries. “We need to be more commercially competitive, otherwise Australia will lose all our industries and become a quarry rather than intelligent value adders,” Mr Giles said.
“Wages is one issue, but it’s also about process — reducing the time and effort and money required to initiate business and development.”
He singled out environmental approvals while lauding his government’s issuance of new oil and gas licences outside Alice Springs.
Mr Giles said coaxing workers to the north was challenging. “We have a labour force participation rate of 76 per cent, an unemployment rate of around 1.3 per cent, and still Australians looking for jobs don’t move up there,” he said.
Mr Giles hoped the government’s anticipated white paper into northern development included scope for tax and depreciation concessions for individuals and business that shifted to the Territory.
“Even if the feds don’t go down that path, we’ll make sure we work out ways to develop the NT,” he said.
He highlighted potential for agriculture, horticulture and onshore gas in the Territory.
“We’ll be developing the north and replacing some of those lost industries occurring down south.”
The Giles government has increased the flexibility of pastoral leases, which make up 50 per cent of the Territory, with the remainder largely under native title.
“In the last 12 months we’ve modified pastoral leases and now 30 per cent of land can be used for non-pastoral activity for 30 years,” he said.
“We’ve created a tradeable commodity that can be sold as a going concern.”
Mr Giles said he hoped a pipeline linking the Territory’s natural gas with energy users in NSW and Queensland would be up and running by 2017, pointing to a $2 million feasibility study overseen by APA Group.
The Chief Minister also said he wanted the Territory to benefit from the federal government’s asset recycling incentives for states and territories. “We won’t sell the port, but are considering selling management rights and long-term leases,” he said.
He ruled out sale of the state’s electricity assets for now.
Courtesy of The Australian