Article – Plan for the north now on paper

18 June 2015
Colin Bettles
Farm Weekly

THE Abbott government’s Northern Development White Paper will outline a plan and funding for a dedicated agricultural research facility to pursue commercially-focussed opportunities specific to the region’s needs.

The long-anticipated White Paper will be unveiled at joint launches in Canberra today (Thursday) and in Cairns, Queensland, tomorrow (Friday) highlighting significant initiatives aimed at bolstering agricultural productivity, like water and transport infrastructure.

It’s understood the Cairns event will be attended by the document’s key proponents; Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Queensland LNP MP Warren Entsch   Northern stakeholders, including those from the agricultural sector, will also attend the event to formalise unveiling of the key strategic document’s broad ranging contents.

May’s Federal budget included funding for specific measures already announced for the Northern White Paper and Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper including; $100 million for beef roads; additional drought support programs; enhanced tax depreciation measures for farmers; and $15.4m to support tropical medicine research.

It’s understood funding for other measures in the two papers was included in the budget’s contingency reserve funding program but specific details will only be released when the policy documents are unveiled.

It’s understood Federal cabinet signed off on the Northern White Paper at Monday night’s meeting which was considered a formality, after recently passing the Abbott government’s Expenditure Review Committee.

Reports have suggested the total spending program could be in the vicinity of $1.7 to $2 billion, significantly overshadowing Labor’s proposed vision for the farm sector during its last term in government.

The Commonwealth’s agricultural portfolio identified $30.9 million in budget savings over four years in the recent budget, by cutting uncommitted funding for initiatives linked to the Labor government’s National Food Plan.

Mr Truss is also Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister in the Abbott government and will be responsible for overseeing the northern paper’s implementation.

He told Fairfax Agricultural Media a Northern Australia Co-operative Research Centre would be announced by the government this week which was good news for the farm sector.

He said the new Northern Australia CRC would partner with the private and public sector, to concentrate on agriculture and food and tropical health specific to the region.

“The tropics account now for 40 per cent of the world’s population and that’ll rise to 50pc by 2050,” he said.

“That means that Northern Australia is uniquely placed, and the only developed country in the tropics, to be a global leader in areas like agricultural research and tropical agriculture but also tropical medicine, education, tropical sciences and the like.

“We certainly want the north to be a focus for developing those skills as well.”
Former National Farmers Federation president David Crombie has been leading a bid to develop the Northern Australia research centre and said he didn’t know what was due to be unveiled this week by the Abbott government including the dollar figure but would be in Cairns for Friday’s launch.

Mr Crombie said a bid team was established 18 months ago comprising representatives from the Northern Territory, WA and Queensland governments; the CSIRO, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and the University of Queensland, James Cook University, Charles Darwin University and Ernst & Young.

He said the concept was originally named AgNorth but had expanded its focus and changed title to growNorth.

It’s understood funding will also be bolstered for improving the Office of Northern Australia Development which will have cross jurisdictional powers between Western Australia, Queensland and the NT governments.

Courtesy of Farm Weekly

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