Article – Urgent Need for Systemic Change to Govt Policies

15 November 2013
Gerry McCarthy
Tennant & District Times
Barkly MLA Gerry McCarthy.

POPULAR political discourse reflects northern Australia becoming the food bowl for Asia as Asia’s food security becomes its economic development priority in the 21st century.
This requires a major policy shift for the Australian Government where southern states need to support the radical macro agricultural project in the north at the expense of urban development on the coastal fringe!
Desert Knowledge Australia in a paper Fixing the Hole in Australia’s Heartland: How Government Needs to Work in Remote Australia (by Dr Bruce Walker, Dr Douglas Porter and Professor Ian Marsh) stated:
“We are reminded that over the past 30 years Australia has become the most urbanised continent in the world, shrinking to its coastal fringe with more than 85 per cent of our population living within 50km of the coastline with our system of democracy and national economy progressively altered to serve the coastal areas and the large mass of people in urban Australia.”
Walker, Porter & Marsh argue, “in numerous ways, this has been at the expense of how remote Australia and its people and communities are governed, leading to what is nothing less than a crisis in governance and an urgent need for systemic change.”
As previous Minister for Infrastructure lobbying Canberra for nation building projects like the Darwin Port, I discovered the Northern Territory competing against urban projects such as the ‘fast train’ from Chatswood to Central Station in Sydney!
Apart from geography, science, economy and ideology I see the deal breaker for the Northern Australia food bowl project in massive private sector capital investment including significant foreign investment.
This presents a new and complex relationship between political policy driving the agricultural boom in Northern Australia and the Public Sector managing and administering its massive infrastructure requirements.
Mega-infrastructure supporting the agricultural boom in Northern Australia features dams, irrigation channels, production bores on aquifer water resources, broad acre land clearing, fencing, road and rail infrastructure, bulk commodity ports and new power generation, transmission and supply.
The new discourse fanned by powerful political opinion makers is embraced by both Federal and State Governments requiring a national shift in infrastructure policy backed by foreign investment and delivered through complex public private partnerships!
The nature of this new millennium governance hell-bent on cutting red and green tape for delivering mega-infrastructure will challenge the public sector providing the administration and management of the Crown’s assets and budget appropriation through public private partnerships.
The reality sees politicians and public servants swimming in a school of 21st century global corporate sharks with substantial financial backing demanding a maximum return for shareholders and company profits.
Walker, Porter & Marsh argue, the governance of remote Australia should be about effective government arrangements, engagement and national interest in the face of global economic activity driving government capability.
However, bi-partisan policy for Asia’s food bowl requirements means governing and administering nation building projects while respecting the heritage and environmental constraints of Australia’s last wilderness and bio-diversity!
Courtesy of the Tennant & District Times