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March 4, 2014
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White paper to plan for growth in Australia’s north

By Pamela Nathan

Re: ‘White paper to plan for growth in Australia’s north’, by Amos Aikman, The Australian, 28 February, 2014

Amos Aikman reports: “that the Coalition will conduct a “stocktake” of Northern Australia’s natural and strategic assets and set clear goals for removing impediments to growth in a white paper to be released within 12 months.”

He continues that the Northern Australia white paper, promised in the lead-up to last year’s federal election, will examine the policy conditions necessary to capitalise on Northern Australia’s strengths.

It will look at ways to enhance private investment, and identify critical economic and social infrastructure needed to support long-term growth.

In a statement, Tony Abbott committed his government to developing a “clear, well-defined and timely policy platform” with implementation plans for the next two, five, 10 and 20 years.

The Prime Minister said Northern Australia had “so much potential”. Northern Australia has natural advantages related to mining, energy and tourism, and its proximity to fast-growing regions in Asia. But the region faces significant economic, environmental and social challenges, including through its lack of infrastructure and sparse population.

The Coalition white paper will be developed by a cross-agency taskforce within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. A green paper is expected next month.

Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles, welcomed the news. “The Northern Territory is the natural centre of Northern Australia, and I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead,” he said. “After years of inertia on plans to bring development to the North, I am happy to say we are now seeing a partnership from Canberra.”

Comment: There is no doubt that Queensland has been in receipt of bi-partisan support and a huge injection of funds to support community Cape York Welfare Reform in the past few years. NT seems to have lagged behind and had the Intervention instead. I guess we have to wait and see whether the motivation to see the potential and reap the productivity is motivated by the dollar to be gained from mining and tourism (a political grab) or whether it is to provide infrastructure in remote communities and training, education and employment in these areas for Aboriginal people in order to mine their potential and enrich their resources, lives and futures. It seems the latter may well be the case under the leadership of Abbott and his public commitment to closing the gap.