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Ministers commit to shared plan to develop Northern Australia

18 April 2018

Joint media release with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, and the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Keith Pitt MP.

Federal, state and territory ministers responsible for Northern Australia have today committed to a shared vision and forward work plan to increase productivity, encourage investment and create new jobs in Northern Australia.

The second Ministerial Forum on Northern Development, held today in Kununurra, Western Australia, brought together Federal Government ministers with counterparts from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.

At the Forum, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan updated the ministers on the successful delivery of commitments under the Developing Northern Australia White Paper.

“In partnership with the Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory governments, we have successfully delivered 34 of the 51 commitments. These initiatives are already delivering results in making the north an even more attractive place to live and do business,” Minister Canavan said.

“Our $700 million Northern Australia Roads Program and Beef Roads projects are now rolling out. Projects are complete or underway in Queensland, and more roads are set to commence within weeks. All of these road projects are scheduled to be completed by 2021.”

At the Forum, Ministers agreed that the development of strategic economic infrastructure in the north, and supporting Indigenous business, innovation and growth, are priority action areas to ensure prosperity and wellbeing of northern communities and people.

“Investment in infrastructure is vital to improving the productivity and economic competitiveness of Australian businesses, and will open up opportunities for new business,” Minister Canavan said.

“Roads, rail, and regional and remote air services are all critically important to facilitating business and industry growth and ensuring communities remain interconnected throughout the year.

“Valuable infrastructure can help improve access to resources or tourism attractions, and support timely, reliable and efficient delivery of products to market. Today, I announced that the Australian Government will amend the investment mandate of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to increase its flexibility and improve its potential to support projects in northern Australia.”

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion said it was critical that our significant investment in the development of Northern Australia include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

“The Coalition Government is absolutely committed to the development of Northern Australia and we established an Indigenous Reference Group to ensure the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at the forefront of this ambitious work.

“I acknowledge the significant work of the Indigenous Reference Group in highlighting opportunities to support Indigenous businesses and communities to take advantage of and benefit from the significant opportunities in the North.

“The Coalition Government developed the Indigenous Business Sector Strategy, which is the first comprehensive roadmap to grow the Indigenous business sector and we are delivering a range of targeted measures, such as the $20 million Prescribed Bodies Corporate fund, which is delivering support direct to native title holders for the first time to maximise the benefits for Indigenous Australians in owning their own land,” Minister Scullion said.

Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Keith Pitt, representing the Deputy Prime Minister at this important Ministerial Forum, said infrastructure is vital to unlocking the opportunities in Northen Australia.

“I was very pleased to announce the Coalition Government will provide another $160 million to improve the iconic Outback Way between Western Australia and Queensland,” Assistant Minister Pitt said.

“This funding will make it an even better experience for the tourists who travel the Outback Way and, importantly, safer for the locals who use it regularly.”

Ministers agreed to a Shared Development Statement for Northern Australia and a forward work plan which sets out the priorities and measurable goals for the region’s development in the next two years.

Agreed priorities include economic infrastructure like transport, logistics, energy and digital; resources and gas; trade and investment; Indigenous business, innovation and growth; economic diversification; and innovative economic incentives for tourism, defence and tropical health.

“I’m greatly encouraged by today’s commitment to greater collaboration across all jurisdictions in order to fast-track economic development in the north,” Minister Canavan said.

“We have made inroads, but there is still more to do. I’m confident that by working together we can expand this nation-building agenda to turn northern Australia into an economic powerhouse through investment, innovation and cooperation,” Minister Canavan said.

The Forum’s Communique was also released today: http://northernaustralia.gov.au/communique

Media contacts:
Minister Canavan's office 02 6277 7180
Minister McCormack's office 02 6277 7520
Minister Pitt's office 02 6277 4122