Transcript - Developing Northern Australia Conference, Darwin

Hello, I’m Madeleine King, Minister for Northern Australia and Minister for Resources.

Unfortunately, I am unable to join you in Darwin for the Developing Northern Australia Conference today, but I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of the conference over the next few days.

I really enjoyed attending the Developing Northern Australia conference in Mackay in Queensland.

I want to begin by acknowledging the Larrakia people, the Traditional Custodians of the lands you are gathered on today, and the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, the traditional owners of the land I am speaking from.

I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

I extend that respect to all First Nations peoples with you today, and to the many communities that make up Northern Australia.

I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues and other dignitaries who will be participating in the conference over the next few days.  

At last year’s conference in Mackay, I spoke about Northern Australia’s natural and strategic advantages, as well as the work that would need to be done to secure these advantages for the long-term.

By understanding and harnessing the unique features of Northern Australia, we can improve the lives of people in our communities across the north.

And as I have said before, a strong north is good for all Australians.

This time last year, I also committed to reignite the Northern Australia Ministerial Forum.

The forum has since met twice, first in Darwin in October last year and again in Kununurra last month. The next meeting will take place in Northern Queensland later this year. 

The Ministerial Forum, in its re-established state, ensures cross government focus on key issues and priorities.

These forums bring together Federal and State Government Ministers, all of whom have key responsibilities in Northern Australia.

In this year’s Budget, I announced the refresh of the Our North, Our Future: White paper on Developing Northern Australia.

The refresh will be informed by engagement with stakeholders to understand priorities, challenges and opportunities which will feed into a new five-year action plan for the north if the refresh has the support of the Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian governments.

The Albanese Government’s support for the north will not be limited to resources and agriculture-based proposals though. We will also look further afield to smaller projects that create social infrastructure for the benefit of the wider community.

Through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, the Government is investing millions in social infrastructure projects, including staff and student accommodation, airport upgrades and university facilities.

Last month the Albanese Government passed legislation to deliver on our commitment to provide the NAIF an additional $2 billion, bringing the NAIF’s total appropriation to $7 billion.

The amendments also deliver our commitment to include the Indian Ocean Territories within the definition of Northern Australia, to allow the NAIF to invest in eligible projects that support the development of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

And can I acknowledge and thank Senator McDonald for her bipartisan support in passing this legislation.

The Albanese Government is working with industry to ensure Australia is in a position to provide the critical minerals the world will need to transition to net zero, and northern Australia will have a large role to play. 

Last month, I released the Albanese Government’s new Critical Minerals Strategy. 

As one of the first policy decisions under the Strategy, we have targeted $500 million of new investment into critical minerals projects, via the NAIF.

The NAIF is leading investment in critical minerals projects and supporting the development of this emerging industry in the north.

This updated strategy will help grow our sector and reflect the important role our critical minerals can play in helping Australia and international partners achieve their net zero targets.

As you know, Northern Australia is strategically important to the security of our nation.

A key priority identified in response to the Defence Strategic Review, is improving the ability of the Australian Defence Force to operate from northern bases.

As announced in the latest Budget, we are committing $3.8 billion over the next four years to significantly boost northern bases and deliver long term growth and liveability of the regional areas that support them. 

I am delighted to see that there will be members of the Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group participating in the conference this week.

Building on the work of the previous Indigenous Reference Group, the current IRG have identified several systemic barriers to economic prosperity for indigenous Australians in the north.

We are taking a broad approach, to strengthen Indigenous business outcomes and achieve social and economic improvements for First Nations people.

Thank you for your time today and for the opportunity to speak to you all.

I am sure you will all enjoy the inspiring and informative presentations on offer over the next three days.

Thanks again.