Address to the Facing North Forum


Thank you, Daniel, for your introduction and to the Facing North Delegation for inviting me to address today’s forum.

Thank you, Natasha and Avril, for your opening remarks, and welcome all to Parliament House.

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this meeting place - the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples.

I acknowledge their Elders, customs, and connection to country – and indeed that of all traditional owners of the lands across our nation’s north.

I extend this respect to all First Nations people who join us here today.

Can I also acknowledge all Northern Territory Members and Senators here today – Luke Gosling, Marion Scrymgour, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Senator Jacinta Price.  

This year, we have an historic opportunity to say Yes to the Voice, which will guide a brighter future for First Nations Australians, for all Australians.

To this end, let me note the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Fyles unwavering support for a Voice to Parliament in the Northern Territory and federally.

As the Prime Minister said at the Garma festival, almost a year ago today.

“In years to come, we will be able to measure success not just by the number of people who vote for a Voice … but by the lives it helps to change. 

“The communities it empowers, the opportunities it creates, the justice it delivers, the security it will bring to First Nations people.”

This will be the legacy of 2023.   

The Northern Territory’s contribution to our north, and indeed the entire nation, cannot be overstated.

With a population of around 250,000, the NT punches well above its weight - contributing an impressive $61.5 billion to the Australian economy.

Critical minerals, resources and Defence contribute to this. So too do industries like agriculture and tourism, the small and medium-sized businesses and Territorians themselves.

As Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia I know this well.

I have seen the strength, resilience and innovation of Territorians who enable existing and emerging industries to thrive.

And I might note that nowhere was this innovation and commitment better on display than at the weekend when a group of about 30 divers drove a modified 1978 Landcruiser underwater from Mandorah to Mindil Beach. What a superb effort! This is the kind of ingenuity this didn’t know it needed.

I have experienced the energy and optimism of the young people in the north, the culturally diverse communities, the strong connection to country and the unending commitment of those pioneers that make the Territory the great place it is today.

The Albanese Government is committed to the north, and we understand the enormous potential the NT has to offer.

And we will continue to work across government, together with industry, to deliver sustainable and resilient growth for decades to come.

Our north, our future  

A strong north means a strong nation.

We are updating and refining the policy focus of the 2015 Developing Northern Australia White Paper to further promote sustainable and diversified economic development.

It will define actions to address contemporary challenges and opportunities; I invite your insight and input throughout the engagement process.

The refreshed White Paper was on the agenda when I met my state and territory counterparts at the recent Northern Australia Ministerial Forum in Kununurra – on the land of the Miriwoong people.

We discussed ways to better mitigate risk, to save lives, livelihoods and infrastructure in the wake of the devasting floods.

We discussed how to strengthen business resilience and support development in the current economic climate.

And we considered the importance of sectors like agriculture and biosecurity.

To this end, let me acknowledge the northern farmers and producers – including the mango industry – who play an integral role in our nation’s food security.

The NT is strategically important to our national security in general.

The Defence Strategic Review highlights the importance of the Australian Defence Force’s operations from its northern bases.

This is why we are providing $3.8 billion to these bases, with a focus on the long-term growth and liveability of the regional areas that support them. 

Capitalising on critical minerals

Addressing climate change is also vital to protecting national security.

We are committed to Net Zero and positioning Australia as a renewable energy superpower.

The road to Net Zero runs through the resources sector.

Harnessing the globally significant critical mineral, rare-earth reserves and renewables in the NT is key to realising this.

I spoke about the challenges and opportunities at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Darwin Dialogue in April, ahead of the launch of our new Critical Minerals Strategy.

The strategy sets out how we will develop new industries and secure supply chains, engaging First Nations communities to be partners and advisors.

The Critical Minerals Strategy sets aside $500 million for critical minerals projects through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

Since its establishment in 2016, the facility has supported ambitious and transformational projects that will grow the Northern Australia economy and support higher living standards for decades to come.

Last month the Government passed legislation committing an extra $2 billion to NAIF financing, making a total of $7 billion available.

In the NT, NAIF has provided $747 million in financing for diverse economic infrastructure projects, including:

·      $37 million for the Hudson Creek Power Station and Batchelor Solar Farm;

·      $300 million towards the Darwin Ship Lift;

·      $150 million for upgrades to Darwin, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek airports, and

·       $151.5 million for Charles Darwin University campus upgrades.

To date, NAIF investment in these projects has created around 3,600 jobs.

NAIF-financed projects support local jobs, local business and local communities.

Importantly, NAIF-financed projects also support better outcomes for First Nations peoples.  This is because financing is conditional on project plans that incorporate First Nations’ participation, procurement and employment throughout.

Beyond NAIF, our government is investing $1.5 billion to transform Middle Arm on Darwin Harbour into a globally competitive export and manufacturing precinct.

This investment offers opportunities for a range of industries including green hydrogen and renewable storage, carbon capture and storage, minerals processing, and more.

The Middle Arm project will be a gamechanger for economic activity and job creation in the Northern Territory. In that context, it has been disappointing to see it mischaracterised and demonised by some in the south.

As well as supporting Middle Arm, we are investing $440 million to support development of Regional Logistics Hubs and infrastructure upgrades along the Northern Territory rail network.

This is important work, helping to progress economic opportunities across the Territory.


As I said earlier, a strong north means a strong nation.

The Albanese Government’s substantial investment in the north is already unlocking economic, social and environmental benefits for the NT and its people.

We can’t unlock the north’s full potential without partners like you.

This Facing North Forum is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the best of the NT and discuss ways we can work together to accelerate development in the Territory.

I commend you for taking this initiative on behalf of all Territorians; and thank you one again for inviting me to join you here today.