The Hon. Warren Truss MP
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
THE Government has today released its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia: Our North, Our Future.
This is Australia’s first White Paper on developing Northern Australia, building on our Green Paper and pre-election statement.
It is an essential part of our plan for a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.
With a land mass covering over three million square kilometres, and a population of over one million people, the north has untapped potential.
It is home to some of our most treasured icons including the Great Barrier Reef, the wet tropics of Queensland, Uluru, Kakadu and Cable Beach.
The White Paper is a roadmap for achieving our vision for the north by 2035 and we are starting work right away – alongside the people who live and do business in the north.
We have set out an ambitious long term reform agenda for the north because a strong north means a strong nation.
The White Paper delivers an initial investment of $1.2 billion.This is in addition to the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to provide concessional finance for infrastructure projects in the north.
The Commonwealth Government has already committed nearly $5 billion of its $50 billion nationwide investment in transport infrastructure to the north (including $3 billion for northern sections of the Bruce Highway, $172.2 million for the North West Coastal Highway and $90 million for the Northern Territory Regional Roads Productivity Package).
The White Paper includes measures to unlock the north’s potential across six key areas: simpler land arrangements to support investment; developing the north’s water resources; growing the north as a business, trade and investment gateway; investing in infrastructure to lower business and household costs; reducing barriers to employing people; and improving governance.
Land in the north has the potential to support greater and more diverse economic activity. But the complexity of land arrangements has slowed development to date.
The Government is supporting simpler and more secure land arrangements in the north, by investing:
The Government will support the development of more water resources in the north by establishing a $200 million Water Infrastructure Development Fund. The Fund will provide up to $5 million for a feasibility analysis for the Nullinga Dam near Cairns, and up to $5 million for a detailed examination of land-use suitability for Ord Stage 3.
Secure water rights will be a condition for any water delivered through new Commonwealth funded water infrastructure.
The Government will also provide $15 million for water resource assessments of the Mitchell River (Queensland), West Kimberley (Western Australia) and Darwin region (Northern Territory).
More business, trade and investment means stronger growth, more jobs, higher incomes and better living standards in the north and across Australia.
The proximity to the fast-growing Asian and tropical regions means boundless opportunities where demand for Australian goods and services is reaching unprecedented levels.
The Government will help attract more investors to the north by:
For too long, governments have tied up investment in unnecessary red tape. The Government will end these delays by partnering with the Northern Territory Government to establish a ‘single point of entry’ in Darwin to streamline regulatory processes and cut red tape for major investors.
The Government will also remove excessive regulatory burden by streamlining and simplifying cultural heritage, fisheries, and wildlife trade regulations, and supporting northern industries including fisheries and crocodile trade.
Infrastructure is critical to fast tracking growth and unlocking the north’s economic potential.
The Commonwealth Government will focus on funding high priority infrastructure through:
The north’s workforce needs are unique. Many businesses effectively shut down or cut back during the wet season; working long hours in the dry season. For example, tourism workers often need to work outside standard hours, while mining or agriculture workers can be required to stay onsite for extended periods of time.
The Government will build on existing initiatives across Australia, including reforms to higher education, skills and training and the $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business Package to create the right conditions for small business to grow and create new jobs.
The Government is also helping more Australians to work in the north by:
To complement our investment, we will continue to work with Indigenous Australians, the northern jurisdictions and industry so the north can reach its full potential.
The Northern Australia Strategic Partnership — the biannual gathering of First Ministers from the Commonwealth and northern jurisdictions — will be made permanent.
The Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia has been continued for the life of the Parliament to ensure ongoing bipartisan support for developing the north.
Shifting the Office of Northern Australia to the north will also increase links between the north and the Commonwealth.
Northern Australia can grasp its full potential and become an economic powerhouse within our great country.
We will drive down the costs of operating in the north for business; making it a more attractive place to invest and work.
By building a prosperous north, we will build a better future for all Australians.
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