A politician who has spent his parliamentary life advocating for Northern Australia has warmly welcomed the launch of the Governments White Paper on Developing the North.
North Queensland-based Senator Ian Macdonald said the White Paper was a good start to the further development of Northern Australia.
"It contains a direction and a substantial amount of money and will do much to encourage investment growth and confidence in the North.
Many of the initiatives in the White Paper were foreshadowed in the Coalitions 2013 Election Policy document "The Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia’ but the White Paper does contain some welcome new initiatives and money.
Building on the 2015/16 Budget’s road and infrastructure funding announcements, the Government has set up a Water Development Fund to assist with the technical studies needed before new water storages can be commissioned in the North
“I welcome the White Paper’s commitment to land tenure simplification and the many new initiatives for Aboriginal people encouraging them into business and their own homes, and the new initiatives on visas that will help the Tourism Industry in the North which will build upon the opportunities created by the signing of a Free Trade Agreement with China,” said Senator Macdonald.
“The creation of a Cooperative Research Centre in Northern Australia will cement the leadership role of northern universities in tropical science and medicine, and increase the value of export education opportunities throughout Asia and the Tropic Zone.
"But there are a couple of omissions,” he said.
“There is no mention of reform of the Zone Tax Rebate Scheme and my hopes for specifics about the movement of defence forces and public servants to the north have not materialised at this time.
“The return of the Office of Northern Australia to Townsville and Darwin is sensible and good but I would have hoped for the establishment of new public service nodes in the North.
“The White Paper does however indicate that there will be further details of Defence build ups in the Defence White Paper to be released later this year.
“And while i applaud the announcement of work on a dam on the west of the Atherton Tablelands and progression of Ord Stage 3, I was disappointed to find no specific mention of the Urannah Dam west of Bowen. But that and other proposals along the Flinders, Burdekin and Dawson/Fitzroy River systems will be developed as implementation of the White Paper proposals gathers momentum.
“But I repeat, this White Paper is only the start.
“There is a lot of promise in the White Paper and it will be up to me and MPs like Melissa Price from the north of Western Australia, and Natasha Griggs from the Northern Territory and my Queensland northern colleagues, to keep the Government accountable for the timely delivery of the massive infrastructure and service delivery spending announced. I am delighted that the Prime Minister has facilitated this oversight by announcing a Coalition Implementation Oversight Committee which I will Chair.
“Now the commitment has been made the Coalition’s northern politicians will be working with the Government to expand the development footprint and assist northerners in their aspirations to develop their country for the benefit of all Australians,” said Senator Macdonald.