3 September 2015
North Queensland Register
A KATHERINE forum has been told that more than 95 per cent of the country’s population needs to rethink how it views its northern cousins if the public drive to develop above the Tropic of Capricorn is to fulfill its potential.
Speaking at a forum to outline where Katherine fit into the plan to develop northern Australia on August 31, Northern Australia Development Office general manager Luke Bowen said he believed the majority of Australians did not fully understand what the northern section of the country – including the Northern Territory – had to offer.
More than 50 Katherine locals listened as Mr Bowen explained that only one million Australians – less than five per cent of the entire population – lived in the section of the country currently being targeted for major growth.
The lopsided statistic created a perceived problem when it came to justifying why billions of dollars needed to be invested in the NT and northern parts of Western Australia and Queensland over the next decade, according to Mr Bowen.
He added that unfair political representation had also hindered the push to sell the northern Australia agenda to the eastern states.
“We need to convince the other 22m people, with their 213 politicians, that it’s in their interest to develop northern Australia,” Mr Bowen said.
“That mindset [that it is not worth investing in northern Australia] has got to change,” he said.
The former chief executive officer of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association said that energy production, resources, tourism and agribusiness formed the framework for Katherine to develop with the rest of the Territory.
With almost $500m scheduled to be invested by the federal government at RAAF Base Tindal in coming years, Mr Bowen said defence also had a major role to play.
When the forum was opened up to questions, attendees raised concerns that a lack of mobile telecommunications infrastructure in the Katherine region could inhibit development.
In response to a question about whether alternative energy was viewed as a growth platform locally, Mr Bowen admitted the federal government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia “didn’t tackle energy at all”.
Courtesy of the North Queensland Register