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Development of Northern Australia

I am very pleased to speak on this private member's business which is of fundamental interest to me and my constituents in Durack and, I would like to think, people throughout our nation and internationally—what we like to call the 'great untapped North'. I acknowledge the importance of northern Australia and the government's intent to unlock its potential through the northern Australia white paper process and the importance of strengthening links between the east and west, regionally and internationally, through good planning and good investment in vital infrastructure.

I am a member of the joint select committee that undertook the inquiry into the development of northern Australia. Whilst we have completed that inquiry and published our report, Pivot north, our work continues as we review the green paper on the development of northern Australia. Our committee looks to the imminent white paper on northern Australia, noting that Pivot north's recommendations will dovetail into the white paper. That will be the process.

Turning to the private members business raised today, I agree that the provision of customs and border security at Townsville Airport is worthy and in line with the recommendations in Pivot north. While such an investment would underpin trade and tourism growth for Townsville and Queensland, the recommendations in the report promote a more expansive view. We must think of northern Australia holistically and cease thinking of single sites and focus on development of the northern region in its own right. If we do that, we will all benefit.

I am a proud country girl and very proud to be representing the regions—in particular the north-west—however, as a federal politician, I look forward to the day my constituents say, 'Welcome to the north of Australia.' That will be because they are all looking east-west, rather than as they do in Western Australia now, north-south. If they start looking east-west, I am sure there will be more business solutions and opportunities for them.

I highlight recommendation 26 from Pivot north, which promotes the design and implementation of a 20-year strategy for staged development of capital infrastructure in northern Australia, including increasing the capacity of ports and airports to facilitate an increase in volumes of traffic and trade. Our airports in the north, including Townsville, Broome, Kununurra, Exmouth, Derby, Darwin—to name a few—should be developed, and I believe they are the key, to increased trade and tourism across the whole of northern Australia.

To further illustrate the importance of adopting an inclusive predisposition to the development of the north, I just thought I would mention a few of the recommendations from the Pivot north report. These include the creation of a department of northern Australia; committing funds to key roads such as the Tanami Road and National Highways; investigating potential for a special economic zone for northern Australia; and development of a tourism strategy for promoting northern Australia, domestically and internationally. I would just pause there, as I would like to mention and strongly support the development of a casino in Karratha as a fabulous tourism opportunity not only for northern Australia but also the whole of Western Australia. Other recommendations included the investigation of transfer facilities for cattle across Australia—very important to the people of Durack; the creation of a cooperative research centre for northern agriculture; the design and implementation of a 20-year strategy for staged development of horticulture and agriculture.

Speaking of agriculture, I just want to acknowledge Mr Philip Hams, who is visiting Parliament House today. Philip hails from Gogo Station in the Fitzroy region of the Kimberley. Philip is very passionate and he is here to lobby for development of agriculture in the Fitzroy region in conjunction with the local Indigenous people. He is indeed a northern warrior.

The development of the north, as we have heard throughout this debate today, needs to be planned for the long-term benefit of our children and our children's children. But let us not kid ourselves. We know that there are impediments, but they can be overcome. These impediments include the requirement for population growth, the absence of physical capital infrastructure, and also the absence of social infrastructure in many places. People will need to be encouraged to go to the north and to stay there. I and many of my colleagues who represent people from the northern parts of Australia know that it is a great place to live. We also know that in many parts there is a high rate of liveability.

I am very proud that this government is committed to delivering a white paper on developing Northern Australia that will set out a clear and well-defined policy platform for unlocking the potential of the north. But, like many of the speakers before me today, I actually want action—I am tired of talk and I am tired of papers—and the people of the north deserve nothing less.

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