On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia I present the committee’s final report entitled Pivot north-Inquiry into the development of Northern Australia, and I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
Before I start, I have to say it is great to see my deputy, the member for Perth here and also another Warren-Warren Snowdon, member for Lingiari-here in the chamber as we deliver this report today.
This inquiry has formed one part of a broader process aimed at looking at ways to develop Northern Australia.
The Australian government had made a commitment to produce, within a 12-month time frame, a white paper outlining its vision for the future of Northern Australia. The committee’s findings and recommendations will inform the white paper process, assisting the government to formulate its policy for the future development of Northern Australia.
The inquiry into the development of Northern Australia has been greeted with a huge amount of enthusiasm and anticipation, but also with scepticism about possible outcomes.
Since 1937 there have been numerous investigations, reports and recommendations aimed at developing Northern Australia, which are certainly gathering dust on shelves. It is now up to us to prove the sceptics wrong and get things moving. The development of Northern Australia is one of the great challenges and opportunities facing the nation.
Northern Australia covers over 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass, but contains only four per cent of the population. It has abundant land, water and mineral resources. It has medical and educational institutions with world-class facilities. Northern Australia is on the doorstep of Asia and is part of the tropical world, which by 2050 will encompass over half of the world’s population. There are great opportunities for the people in Northern Australia within that tropical zone.
The development of Northern Australia has in the past lacked a commitment of governments at all levels to pursue investment and development in a consistent, sustainable and coordinated way.
The committee has made 42 recommendations covering a wide range of very important issues considered essential for the development of Northern Australia. The first is the creation of a department of Northern Australian development based in Northern Australia. This will give a high-level political focus to Northern Australia, ensuring that the recommendations of this report and the directions set out in the white paper are given priority in the development of government policy.
Several priority recommendations target urgent infrastructure with the capacity to rapidly facilitate economic development, including major roads, rail links and water infrastructure. Other priority recommendations call for the investigation of special economic zones, address the availability and affordability of insurance in Northern Australia and urge the continued funding of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative. I thought you would find that interesting, Deputy Speaker Scott; I note that you took particular note of that.
The remaining recommendations include particular development proposals and measures to address opportunities for and to overcome impediments to development.
To realise the opportunities that development could bring, the committee has made recommendations to establish a CRC for northern agriculture and to develop a national institute for tropical sports and sports medicine.
The committee also recommended the exploration of new methods to engage the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce. This is particularly significant, given the large and growing proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Northern Australia.
The committee has recommended the implementation of long-term strategies for the development of capital infrastructure and agriculture in northern Australia. These strategies will underpin the long-term growth and development that northern Australia needs.
There are serious impediments blocking northern Australia’s development which must be addressed. To do this, the committee has recommended improved regulatory arrangements for aquaculture and better regulations for fisheries to enable sustainable growth of the industry.
The report also addresses growing concerns over fly-in, fly-out employment, calling for improved taxation arrangements to encourage local employment in the resources sector. The main purpose of the committee’s recommendations is to promote investment and liveability in northern Australia. One major constraint that Australia faces is growing the population in the north. This is absolutely critical.
In conclusion, I would like to thank all those who contributed to the inquiry. The committee undertook a very extensive program of travel for public hearings and inspections and certainly received a very large number of valuable submissions. I would like to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of my fellow committee members. As I said, we have two with us here today, and I thank them as well as the other members of the committee very much for their support and participation.
I thank the committee for its endurance in the face of very tight time frames and extensive travel commitments. This report has the support of the whole committee and, as such, will live beyond the life of this parliament and well into the future. I commend the report to the House.To view the official Hansard, click here