Northern Australia White Paper Underway

Media Release

WT024/2014

28 February 2014

Joint release with:

The Hon. Tony Abbott MP

Prime Minister

The Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory have agreed to join a new Strategic Partnership to inform the development and implementation of Australia's first Northern Australia White Paper.

The Coalition Government is delivering on its commitment to put in place the policies and plans to develop Northern Australia's potential with more investment, infrastructure, jobs and services.

The White Paper will set out a clear, well-defined and timely policy platform for promoting the development of Northern Australia.

We want to capitalise on Northern Australia's existing strengths and natural advantages in agriculture, cattle and energy as well as to seize opportunities in tourism, education and health services.

The White Paper will provide pathways to harness opportunities which capitalise on the region's strengths, including ways to advance trade, cultural and investment links with the Asia Pacific region, and to provide the best regulatory and economic environment for business.

It will also identify the critical infrastructure needed to support the long-term growth of the region, ways to incentivise public and private planning and investment while tackling impediments to growth.

The Strategic Partnership will be supported by an Advisory Group made up of business, community and Indigenous leaders of the north. This group will meet for the first time in the coming months.

A Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia has also been formed, chaired by the Hon Warren Entsch MP, which is making a valuable contribution to the Government's agenda for the north. This Committee will commence community consultation next month and report to Parliament in July.

These activities will provide strong direction for Government support and action to see Northern Australia prosper through investment, infrastructure, jobs and services.

White Paper on Developing Northern Australia—Terms of Reference

The Government will produce a White Paper on Developing Northern Australia within 12 months.

The White Paper will set out a clear, well-defined and timely policy platform for realising the full economic potential of the north, including a plan for implementing these policies over the next two, five, 10 and 20 years.

Northern Australia is broadly defined as the parts of Australia north of the Tropic of Capricorn, spanning Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland; an area of approximately three million square kilometres with a population of around one million people.

The north has some natural advantages relating to agriculture, mining, energy and tourism. It also has geographic advantages from its proximity to the fast-growing Asian and Tropical regions, presenting opportunities in services such as education and health. The north also has strategic importance, with defence having an important role in the security and development of northern Australia.

However, it faces significant economic, environmental and social challenges, including a sparse population; infrastructure, transport and service delivery costs; competition for skilled labour; harsh and extreme weather; and possible constraints around water resource development.

Purpose

The White Paper will:

  • produce a stocktake of Northern Australia's natural, geographic and strategic assets, and the potential for further development of the region's minerals, energy, agricultural, tourism, defence and other industries, as well as a comprehensive assessment of risks and impediments to growth;
  • set out agreed policy actions to: harness opportunities which capitalise on the region's strengths, including ways to advance trade, cultural and investment links with the Asia Pacific region and provide a regulatory and economic environment that is conducive to business investment, competitiveness and competition.
  • manage impediments to growth, including from regulatory frameworks, land access arrangements, environmental constraints, the lack of coordinated planning, participation of Indigenous people in the economy and access to markets, skills and services, and
  • create the right conditions for private sector investment, innovation, enterprise growth and business formation (including in and for Indigenous communities);
  • identify the critical economic and social infrastructure needed to support the long-term growth of the region, and ways to incentivise public and private planning and investment in such infrastructure; and
  • include consideration of the policy options identified in the Coalition's 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia.

Approach

A cross-agency Taskforce in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will prepare the White Paper. It will comprise Commonwealth officials with suitable expertise from a range of departments. A Secretaries Committee will provide strategic oversight and facilitate collaboration across Government.

A new Northern Australia Strategic Partnership comprising the Prime Minister and the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory will be established. The Partnership will provide national leadership on the development of northern Australia and inform the development and implementation of the White Paper, recognising the need for a focused effort from all governments.

The Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development will support the Prime Minister on the Strategic Partnership, along with relevant State and Territory Ministers from Northern Australia to ensure close engagement with jurisdictions. The Partnership will also be informed by a business, community and Indigenous Advisory Group drawn from northern Australia.

A Green Paper will be released in the next few months. The White Paper Taskforce will draw on submissions to the Commonwealth Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia and will also take contributions from interested parties and conduct targeted consultations with community, business and academia. Consultation will take into account the extreme remoteness of parts of northern Australia.