THE Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, has this week given Parliament a progress report on key Northern Australia White Paper initiatives.
Mr Entsch was supporting a Private Member’s Motion put up by the Darwin-based Member for Solomon, Natasha Griggs, which noted that the north will account for 42 per cent of the Australian economy by 2040, up from 35 per cent in 2011.
He also commended the Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, for his “tireless efforts in this area”, saying that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will help to “set our country up for long-term prosperity”.
Mr Entsch said a Northern Australia Investment Forum will be held in Darwin from 8-10 November.
“It’ll focus on attracting investors and exposing them to opportunities in the north, supported by a publication of investor-ready projects,” he said.
“I’m aware of many projects that will be put forward, and there’s a great deal of enthusiasm for participation in that event.
“As I have said before, the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia is all about government being an enabler; attracting investment and promoting the right investment conditions for projects to get off the ground, independent of financial support from government.”
Mr Entsch provided an update on a number of the White Paper initiatives, including:
– The $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility opened on 1 July. Draft criteria covering geographic eligibility, the types of infrastructure able to be supported and financial criteria are being finalised by Treasury and will soon be released for consultation.
– Discussions are underway with the Northern Territory and Queensland governments to start the pre-feasibility of the Mount Isa to Tennant Creek railway, and looking at feasibility for the upgrade from Mount Isa through to Townsville port rail system.
– Submissions from Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia on the $600 million Northern Australia roads package will be invited later this month.
– The first industry forum on the $100 million 'beef roads' investment will be held in Rockhampton at the start of October. Priorities are expected to be finalised in early 2016.
– The Attorney-General working group on the pilot land reform projects in the north has been established and will be inviting applications for funding in late 2015.
– Moves towards more efficient native title processes are progressing through the COAG Indigenous land review, as are options to use exclusive native title rights for commercial purposes.
– The Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce is on track to report back in November. “We would expect to see some significant positive outcomes there in dealing with the current crisis that we have,” Mr Entsch added.
– The design and implementation plan for the $500 million Water Infrastructure Development Fund is in the process of being signed off.
– The government is on track to begin a feasibility assessment of Nullinga Dam in Queensland and the Ord stage 3 in Western Australia. Discussion has started with the Queensland government, and more updates are expected in the coming months.
– The Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia's inquiry into developing aquaculture opportunities in northern Australia continues. A hearing with relevant government departments was held in Canberra on Tuesday.
– The establishment of the Office of Northern Australia is underway ? the office has been purchased in Darwin, and is now advertising for a CEO. Staff will be seconded from the Qld, NT and WA governments.
– Work has started to set up the CRC for Developing Northern Australia, which is aiming to be operational this calendar year with involvement from all the universities in Northern Australia.
“The implementation of all the initiatives in the White Paper will require a massive, sustained and coordinated effort, but I’ll continue to work with the Government to maintain momentum and to meet community expectations,” Mr Entsch ended.