Article – Push to triple Top End's population in 30 years

17 December 2013
Dan Harrison
Brisbane Times

Top End MP Warren Entsch is head of a committee investigating ways to increase the population of northern Australia. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The chairman of a parliamentary committee examining ways to turbocharge the Top End wants to see the population of Northern Australia triple within 30 years.
While about 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass lies above the Tropic of Capricorn, only about 1 million people live there.
Warren Entsch, the chairman of the federal parliament’s Northern Australia committee said he would like to see the population of the North grow to 3 million people over the next three decades.
”I’d like to see it tripling,” he said.
”We need those sort of populations to sustain business and industry growth,” he said.
The committee will hold public hearings between February and April, present an interim report to parliament in late May or early June, and will deliver a final report by July. Its recommendation will then be considered by the government as it finalises the white paper.
Mr Entsch said his committee – which includes representatives from Labor and the Greens as well as the Coalition – would consider how to encourage people to relocate to the northern cities of Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton and how to keep people there.
This would include tax incentives, better health and education facilities and cultural and recreational opportunities. He said some people did not want to live in the North because they viewed it as a ”cultural vacuum”.
The committee will also provide recommendations on how to expand trade and investment links with the Asia-Pacific.
Mr Entsch said by 2050, more than 50 per cent of the world’s population would live in tropical zones.
”In 35 years time, you’re going to have half the world’s population living on our doorstep,” said Mr Entsch, whose electorate of Leichhardt includes Cairns and the Cape York Peninsula.
This would create enormous demand for food, and also presented Australia with opportunities to position itself as a provider of expert knowledge on subjects such as tropical medicine and agriculture.
Mr Entsch said the committee would also consider whether further government spending was warranted in infrastructure such as rail, roads and ports to support long term growth.
”With its abundant resources and proximity to Asia, Northern Australia is set to become the new frontier in the economic development of Australia, opening up new opportunities which will benefit the entire nation,” Mr Entsch said.
”With the right policies and incentives in place, Northern Australia has the capacity to become a leader in agriculture, minerals and energy, tourism, research and education. We must remove impediments to growth and set the stage for innovation and investment,” he said.
Before the election, the Coalition promised to develop a white paper on developing Northern Australian within 12 months of taking office.

Courtesy of the Brisbane Times