North Australia Digest – 21/11/2012

The Australian
The Chinese Development company that has won the rights to develop stage two of the Ord River project, Shanghai Zhongfu, will inject $700 million to develop a giant new irrigated sugarcane region. As part of the plan a $425m sugar mill will be built, providing an estimated 400 jobs during its construction and another 400 jobs once operational.
A $1.4 billion tourism development has been approved at Ella Bay in Far North Queensland. QLD Premier Campbell Newman said the proposal could boost the far northern economy, which remains subdued since it was struck by category 5 Cyclone Yasi in February last year.
Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese believes China’s new leadership may implement a moderate stimulus, boosting steel demand amid volatile iron ore prices. Speaking in Tokyo yesterday, Mr Albanese said “the remarks that we have heard suggest there is an objective for 7.5 per cent economic growth or more over the coming years and we would expect that would probably include some stimulus over the course of 2013.”
Stephen Bartholomeusz argues that Australia must lift productivity or the economy will hit the wall by 2015 once current resources investment runs out.
The Australian Financial Review
Kimberley Agriculture Investment group, owned by China’s Shanghai ZhongFu, has been announced as the preferred developer of West Australia’s Ord River irrigation project. WA premier Colin Barnett said more Chinese companies should be encouraged to invest in the state’s agriculture. Mr Barnett said, “you can produce papers on the Asian Century but if you don’t actually engage in Asia it is all a waste of time. This is a very welcome investment and I think it will be the forerunner of more overseas investment, particularly from China, into agricultural industries.”
Over 5,000 jobs lost in Queensland coal-mining in recent months have been offset by the creation of 7000 jobs in the states coal seam gas industry, the Queensland Resources Council says.
The economic transition from mining investment to other drivers of growth may take time, leaving it vulnerable if a significant gap emerges between the two phases, Reserve Bank governor Glen Stevens has warned.
Addressing high costs is the biggest concern facing the Australian businesses, cooperate leaders have told The AFR’s Chanticleer lunch in Melbourne yesterday. In response to recent resource project blowouts, Lindsay Maxsted, director of BHP and chairman of Westpac Bank, said 2012 was the year when the nation “woke up to the fact Australia was rapidly losing its cost competitiveness”
The Age
Former Treasury secretary Ken Henry has said big mining companies are to blame for the high-cost culture which has developed in Australia. ”Business people talk a lot about Australia being a high-cost, low-productivity country, but the fundamental reason labour costs have been increasing at the rate that they have is the mining boom,” he said.
The Courier Mail
Federal environmental approval could halt development of a $1.4 billion resort in North Queensland.
The West Australian
Traditional owners see the Ord river as a major opportunity to create jobs in the region. MG Corporation chairwoman Edna O’Malley warmly embraced Shanghai Zhongfu president Pui Ngai Wu yesterday but said the corporation would not be rushed into decisions on the Ord project or its expansion into the Northern Territory
A landmark bid to build the Pilbara’s first genuine multi-user iron ore rail line involving QR National, Atlas Iron and Brockman Mining has been delayed by up to six months, highlighting the difficulty of delivering big infrastructure projects in WA.