Article – North's 20-year investment 'window'

28 June 2014
Vernon Graham
The Land
AUSTRALIA has a 20-year “window” to grab a vast pool of foreign money to develop its Top End as a premium agricultural producer, says federal Trade and Investment Minister, Andrew Robb.
He said foreign investors in many parts of the world were keen to pour many billions of dollars into building the industries and infrastructure to transform northern Australia into a new economic powerhouse.
But the opportunity wouldn’t last and foreign investors were asking for a list of major projects in which they could safely invest their money, he said.
Mr Robb told the Northern Development Summit in Townsville on Friday that the world was now awash with cash looking for an investment destination.
Development of agriculture and tourism in northern Australia had been slow in the past because of limited markets. That was no longer the case with ready-made markets for safe, high-quality food among Asia’s swelling middle classes providing a ready-made market for a new food bowl in the Top End.
“On account of an exploding middle class across the Asia Pacific this will be the century of food, water and energy security,” he said.
The number of Chinese taking overseas holidays was expected to grow from 100 million now to 200m in 10 years, he said. Even capturing a small share of that market would give a major tourism boot to northern Australia.
Mr Robb said everywhere he went in the world he was being asked by potential foreign investors for details on projects in northern Australia in which they could invest their money.
Since last September Mr Robb has attended 30 investment roundtables in 12 countries and at them all there was excitement about investment opportunities in northern Australia.
But he said the question he was being constantly asked was: “Where are the projects?”
The federal government would hold a major foreign investment forum in northern Australia in the second half of next year, he said.
But in the meantime the government had recruited five foreign investment specialists to work with governments across the Top End to look at the types of development and infrastructure projects which would allow the region to reach its full economic potential.
Land needed to be set aside now for infrastructure such as road and rail corridors and airports so they would be available when needed.
Mr Robb said the Top End had plenty of untapped water resources and arable land to successfully build another food bowl in the north. He also said development potential presented further opportunities for Australia’s Indigenous people.
“As we create a policy environment that welcomes foreign investment to drive development in the North, more opportunity for Indigenous Australia will result, and not just in tourism and resources and energy,” Mr Robb said.
“It will occur across all of the investment sectors such as agriculture, agribusiness, aquaculture, water infrastructure, and all of the infrastructure and services that will support these developments.”
Courtesy of the Land