9 May 2015
The Cairns Post
Jetting into the city with a raft of announcements to develop Northern Australia, Mr Abbott demanded urgent action from the taskforce, putting insurance companies on notice that he meant business in his bid to tackle the “cruel disparity” between premiums copped in the Far North compared to southern states.
“I want (this taskforce) to do their work as quickly as possible because the insurance crisis has been dragging on for a long, long time here in Cairns and elsewhere in Northern Australia,” he said.
“They will get cracking in days rather than weeks and I want them to report to me as soon as possible.
“It’s probably not realistic to ask them to report in a month or even two months, but I want the taskforce to report as quickly as they can so we can take action as quickly as we can.
“It’s just not right that people in Cairns and elsewhere in Tropical Australia are paying five times more the insurance premiums than those in Sydney and Melbourne.
“It’s not right, not fair, and it can’t continue.”
The taskforce is headed by former Treasury deputy secretary Mike Callaghan, but its other members yesterday remained undisclosed.
The initiative was one of three major revelations by Mr Abbott at the Shangri-La Hotel in a morning event where he unleashed major plans to further support development in the country’s northern regions before a 100-strong room of local business and government leaders.
The long-awaited Northern Australia White Paper will be released next month and will include an upgrade of the Hann Highway, he said, linking the agricultural areas of Mareeba and Dimbulah to markets in Victoria.
But he later stopped short of saying when the highway would be addressed and how and when it would be funded.
“I’m going to leave that detail to the relevant final announcement, but I do want the people of Far North Queensland to know we’re not just going to be talking about it, we’re going to be getting it fixed,” he said.
Mr Abbott also released the first Infrastructure Australia audit of Northern Australia, which outlines the current asset base and its potential long-term needs.
Its findings affirm the Commonwealth’s objective to further develop the north – especially a pipeline of critical infrastructure such as roads, rail and water – and to encourage greater levels of private sector investment in infrastructure in Northern Australia.
The Prime Minister was in town to launch the Northern Australia Alliance, which includes Advance Cairns, the NT Chamber of Commerce and Broome Future Ltd.
The role of the alliance will be to research, validate and build community support for concepts and ideas that will significantly improve the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of their communities.
Mr Abbott applauded business-focused groups for uniting to look at private sector opportunities that Northern Australia has, while Cairns Mayor Bob Manning pledged the city’s full support for the nation’s leader in his mission to boost the north’s development and contribution to the country’s economy.
“We have been crying out for this … because we want a fair go,” he said.
Courtesy of the Cairns Post