White Paper on Developing Northern Australia

18 June 2015

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was joined by senior cabinet ministers today to release the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, a policy framework for increasing business activity, encouraging investment and addressing infrastructure challenges in Northern Australia. The White Paper includes $1.2 billion in new investment for the area, which is in addition to the $5 billion Infrastructure Loan Facility announced in last month’s Federal Budget. It also proposes a number of changes to encourage better use of land and water resources, facilitate investment by reducing regulation, and recommends improving governance functions to keep the development of Northern Australia on the Government’s agenda. For the purposes of the White Paper, Northern Australia is identified as all of the Northern Territory as well as the areas of Queensland and Western Australia that sit above the Tropic of Capricorn.

The White Paper is the result of a policy commitment made by the Coalition prior to the 2013 election – Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia – and has been informed by the Northern Australia Strategic Partnership comprising the Prime Minister and premiers of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, with strong support from the Northern Australia Advisory Group and the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia.

The White Paper includes an implementation plan setting out goals at two, five, 10 and 20 years, with the ultimate objective being that policy proposals are fully implemented by 2035.

Key Priorities

  • Allocate $200 million to build water infrastructure in Northern Australia – an additional $20 million is planned to assess the best locations for water infrastructure, taking into account population distribution
  • Create a Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce to investigate options for lowering the overall cost of insurance in Northern Australia
  • Set a target of finalising all existing native title claims within the next decade to encourage on-land economic activity
  • Foster connections with Asia by adding Northern Australia to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) connectivity agendas
  • Pursue more flexible visa arrangements for foreign workers in high demand areas, and simplify visa procedures for visitors from China and India
  • Allocate $75 million for the establishment of a Cooperative Research Centre on Developing Northern Australia
  • Create a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, which will provide concessional loans for major infrastructure in the north
  • Allocate $600 million for priority road projects including the Great Northern Highway, Arnhem Highway, Flinders Highway, Barkly Highway, Hann Highway, the Outback Way and the Tanami Road
  • Allocate $39.6 million to upgrade airstrips and subsidise air services in remote areas of Northern Australia
  • Spend $5 million on rail freight analysis for Northern Australia
  • Strengthen the presence of the Department of Defence in Northern Australia – further details of this plan will be outlined in the 2015 Defence White Paper
  • Hold an investment forum in Darwin in late 2015 to draw overseas investor’s attention to opportunities in Northern Australia

Further Reading

White Paper on Developing Northern Australia

Terms of Reference

Prime Minister’s Media Release


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