9 December 2013
In 2010, a small group of like-minded private citizens got together and said, Why hasn’t the development of Northern Australia been given the attention it deserves? We have all been working in the North in some capacity or other for most of our working lives and have a strong connection to the place. So rather than sit around complaining about this policy failure, Mrs. Gina Rinehart said, “Let’s band together and do something about this!” So in August 2010, we set up a volunteer organization called Australians for Northern Development & Economic Vision (ANDEV). The chair is Mrs. Gina Rinehart and I am co-chair. Today we have close to 400 members across Australia.
Australia with its past 22 years of interrupted economic growth can no longer rely on the past being repeated. New revenue streams and increased productivity need to be created to create future jobs and continue the rise in our living standards. This action is vital for our children and grand children. This has been ANDEV’s mission and reason for its formation in August 2010.
The opportunity for the North of Australia is based on rapid and large Asian growth and the North’s comparative advantages: land, water, proximity to major world markets that are growing fast. We need to act now or miss the opportunity.
We have the opportunity to capitalize on the rapid and large absolute growth in our near neighbours.
We now have a Federal Government with the vision and intelligence to have an exciting long-term integrated policy for Northern Development – the first integrated long term plan Australia has had since our Federation. I refer to the “Coalition’s 2030 vision for Northern Development.”
The first year consultation process is already underway, headed by MHR for Leichardt Warren Entsch with the aim of completing recommendations for specific actions in 12 months. We have a promise from the Coalition that the Northern Development policy will be implemented in its first term of Government.
ANDEV’s scenario for the North of Australia looks like this: policy settings that allow for an major expansion in Foreign Direct Investment, tax incentivized infrastructure bonds, Federal Government tax incentives (lower personal tax or tax rebates, no payroll tax, no FBT, no stamp duty), sensible regulation all administered locally in a one stop shop set up in a Special Economic Zone Agency that has a sunset clause in it in selected North cities, infrastructure bonds with tax incentives, increased land supply for housing and industry.
If such a policy framework is established over a long term program, this will catalyze (based on research by a range of organizations) the following industries which will flourish: universities, medical schools, food production and processing, mineral production, mineral processing, energy down streaming industries, population expansions with for example a possible new era high technology 200,000 population city at Lake Argyle and expansions of existing cities in the north of WA, NT and NE Queensland, new dams, food production on pastoral stations, abattoirs, Defence bases and port expansions and many multiplier industries establishing to support the export industries, thereby creating the conditions for self sustaining growth.
Recently Future Directions International released its Northern Australia Future concepts paper. In it they foresee an opportunity of regeneration of up to 300 million hectares of northern and inland Australia. Through the innovative use of existing water, this may also lead to a significant reduction in fire risk, carbon footprint, a trebling of the cattle industry to up to 100 million head which, with the periodic production of grains, could provide sufficient protein and grains for up to a billion people in a given year.
All of this ANDEV sees as best accomplished through Special Economic Zones set up across the North. The first such SEZ could be located across all of the Northern Territory with an SEZ agency based in Darwin. The Select Committee consultation process underway will know doubt unveil other areas that would benefit from the establishment of SEZ’s. These SEZ agencies should be run by a board comprised of a majority of proven private sector people, be located in the North and have specific performance targets and sunset clauses that see them disappear as the market generates growth in the future. They need to be working in cooperation with State Government and or Territories and the ideal situation is where Federal and State/Territory powers are delegated to these agencies so that all approvals can be efficiently dealt with locally and in one place. They report annually to the both the Federal and State /Territory parliaments. China’s unprecedented economic growth began with its first SEZ set up in Shenzhen in 1978 by Deng Xiaoping and China continues to use SEZ’s to drive growth – in October 2013 they set up a Service Sector liberation SEZ in Shanghai.
The World bank in its report estimated that 3, 500 SEZ’s have been used in the world. Why not Australia?
The future is up to us – when we stop waiting for something or someone else, everything changes – everything becomes possible including big picture visions. We have had the USA develop its frontier regions, as have the Chinese and Russians. Australia can do it even better!
So in summary, the North has significant comparative advantages – land, water, energy and proximity to growing Asian markets. The time is right for Northern Development. Trade in areas that are complementary with growing neighbouring countries like Indonesia and China offer long-term growth opportunities. The middle class in Indonesia, for example, is forecast to grow from its present level of 45 Million to 135 million by 2030 and its GDP will surpass Australia’s by 2030. Across Asia the middle class is forecast to rise from 500 Million to 1.2 billion by 2030.
The Asian Century white paper identified the demand by China’s growing middle class for high-end agriculture products like fruit, dairy, high-grade meat and seafood. Australian agriculture, as does the North, generally requires foreign investment as Australia has required historically from Britain and the USA.
Opening up trade is vital in the development of the North and Australia generally and we have major milestones within reach on trade. We have Andrew Robb leading the vital bilateral Free Trade negotiations with China, Japan and South Korea.
Courtesy of Imants Kins
9 December 2013