Interview with Gary Hardgrave - Radio 4BC Brisbane. 21/06/2013

Question: I have on the line Ian Macdonald a Liberal Senator for Queensland who knows all about the North. Good to talk to you Ian, ...(inaudible) it is a big deal, a lot of wealth created in the North and not much money going back

Well its an enormous opportunity for Northern Australia and, indeed, for Australia, Gary. And what excites me particularly today is that at last we have been recognised by the Leader of a major political party and someone who I certainly hope will be the next Prime Minister. It was great for Tony Abbott to be here with Andrew Robb this morning to release this plan for Northern Australia. It is going to get more work done to it, but the sort of infrastructure that your previous caller was talking about, the sort of opportunities that we in the north know are here, have been recognised and at last something is going to be done.

Question: You've been talking about north of the Tropic of Capricorn for a long time with about eighty something percent of the wealth coming from about 8 % of the population

Yep, Gary. Above 60% of Australias export earnings come from north of the Tropic of Capricorn and we have only about 5% of the population. So it has been a great asset for Australia. There are more opportunities bigger opportunities to do things for Australia by developing the north. And thats what our plan it all about.

Question: Inaudible

They are, Gary. And up to date, there have been a few things happening in the north every now and again, but its all been a bit ad hoc. What we are trying to achieve is a long-term vision towards 2030. It will be a vision coordinated by the federal government, but obviously very much involving the Queensland, Northern Territory, and Western Australian governments. Fixing up the over-regulation the green tape particularly, and the red tape.

Trying to harmonising land tenure arrangements. Looking at water storage. We do not believe the word dam is a swear word anymore. The north has huge potential as a food bowl for the burgeoning middle classes in Asia, and in the Tropic zone.

But not only do you need good land, and theres anywhere between 5 and 17 million hectares of good arable land in the north, but you need a bit of water to go with it. So our plan includes getting a real handle on what water storages are needed, and how they are going to be built and funded.

Question: That's going to take a lot of money

Well, we are looking, Gary, as a federal government to clear the way. As you know, we don't havea lot of money; we have a $300 billion debt to pay off. But even if we didnt have that, it really is up to private industry to see the opportunities, and take advantage of those opportunities with their investments. But we as a government have a role to ensure that they are encouraged, not discouraged as happens at the moment.

Question: You're not in Government yet...

Well you're right, should we be fortunate enough to win the election and that is of course up to the people of Australia, I do not get ahead of myself there. But if we are in government, then this is what we plan. And we do have a plan, which is such a contrast to the current government.

Question: Do you think people in the South understand how big an area we are talking about....(Inaudible) how far away things are (inaudible) do you think they realise the difference between where they live and living in the north

Well, Gary, I often tell people that I live closer to the Indonesian and PNG capitals than I do live to the Australian capital - where I go to work every parliamentary sitting. But your comment about whether or not people in the south understand: perhaps they do not understand the differences, but there have been polls and assessments done and most Australians understand that there are huge opportunities here, that it is underdeveloped, that it has been too long since governments really focused on the north. I think you will find right across Australia, that there is groundswell of support to actually do something to harness those opportunities.

Question: Well allI know is that Ian Macdonald, a Queensland Senator (inaudible) you've been on about this for 23 years, maybe we are getting somewhere

Well I hope so, Gary. I have the honour in Tony Abbotts Opposition ministry to be in charge of Northern Australia and it's come to fruition today with this imprimatur by the person we hope will be the next Prime Minister. Tony is focused on it, he understands it. And so does Andrew Robb, one of our senior shadows and as you say, if we win government, he will be have a big say on what will happen with the money.

Both of those are totally committed to the north and that delights me perhaps more than anything. I think things are about to happen.

All right, nice to talk to you - that's Senator Ian Macdonald from Townsville.

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