Defence, First Nations aspirations and economic growth in focus at Northern Australia Ministerial Forum

The Northern Australia Ministerial Forum has met in Cairns to discuss initiatives to support communities in the north, including improvements to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and working with defence industry to maximise investment in the regions.

The Federal Minister for Northern Australia, the Hon Madeleine King MP, chaired the Forum and was joined by:

  • The Hon Glenn Butcher MP, Queensland’s Minister for Regional Development
  • The Hon Don Punch MLA, Western Australia’s Minister for Regional Development
  • The Hon Nicole Manison MLA, Minister for Northern Australia and Trade (Northern Territory)

Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite also joined the Forum to brief ministers on the Defence Strategic Review and its implications for Northern Australia.

The meeting was the third time the Forum has convened since it’s re-establishment in Darwin in October last year, following the pandemic.

Identifying opportunities to work with defence industry to ensure maximum community benefits was a key focus of the forum.  

The Forum also discussed the additional $2 billion committed to the NAIF as part of this year’s Federal Budget, taking the total financing available to $7 billion.

Recent changes to the NAIF mean that those living in the Indian Ocean Territories will be able to benefit from financial assistance provided by the Facility.

The Forum acknowledged the $491 million in loans that NAIF approved in 2022-23 and the 1,000 new jobs supported through the Facility in the north.

Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Northern Australia, Madeleine King:

“The Forum provides a much needed platform to discuss issues important to the north, and to ensure communities and businesses and getting the support they deserve.

“When Northern Australia is prosperous, the nation is prosperous.

“We are working with the Australian Defence Force to maximise opportunities for communities in the north through the Australian Government’s $3.8 billion investment over four years in Australia’s northern bases as part of the Defence Strategic Review.

“There is no region more strategically significant to our national security than Northern Australia.”

Quotes attributable to Federal Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite:

“Defence bases and infrastructure in Northern Australia are vital for Australia's capability and are major drivers of economic activity in regional and remote areas. 

“The Albanese Government is committed to maximising opportunities for local industry and Indigenous companies in Northern Australia to be involved in delivering works.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Minister for Regional Development, Glenn Butcher:

“As the Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing in Queensland, I know the capability of our northern regions – they really are an economic powerhouse for this state.

“Queensland has just celebrated its first manufacturing month, which highlighted many of Queensland’s leading manufacturers, including here in Cairns. The sector is strong, it is growing and creating more jobs for locals which is important for servicing the defence industry.

“It’s great to be here, on Queensland soil, working with other Northern Australia Ministers and the Federal Government, on how we can further strengthen Northern Australia, particularly given the strategic importance of the north.

“It’s also an opportunity to identify how we can improve liveability in our regions in order to attract more people and families to Northern Australia.”

Quotes attributable to Western Australia Minister for Regional Development, Don Punch:

“Developing a shared goal to diversify and strengthen the north’s economy and community resilience is a key focus for the Northern Australia Ministerial Forum.

“Northern Western Australia is well placed to play a bigger role in our nation’s defence, with the Curtin RAAF Base located about 35 kilometres south-east of Derby.

“Growing industries like manufacturing, critical minerals and agricultural exports will also be crucial for providing a strong and sustainable future for the north.”

Quotes attributable to Northern Territory Minister for Northern Australia, Nicole Manison:

“We welcome the funding changes for NAIF, particularly the investment mandate for critical minerals. The Northern Territory has what the world needs for the energy transition.

“The Territory and more broadly, Northern Australia, are crucial in the defence of our nation and I look forward to working together to ensure we have the infrastructure and the defence force personnel needed up North.”

For more information on the Australian Government’s Northern Australia agenda visit