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Ministerial Forum on Northern Development: Joint Communiqué - April 2018

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Publication Date: 
April 2018

Joint Communiqué

Kununurra, 18 April 2018

Economic development in northern Australia took a step forward today, with the second Ministerial Forum on Northern Development concluding in Kununurra.

Ministers from the Australian Government and the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australian governments kicked off discussion by acknowledging the good will and commitment to work together to create real opportunities for northern Australians.

The Forum provides cross-jurisdictional leadership to drive progress with the northern development policy agenda.

Ministers agreed to work together to continue to fund vital roads and water infrastructure across the north. Funding of more than $1 billion dollars has been agreed for roads and water infrastructure across the north since 2015. Ministers committed to work together to fund future shared priorities including working towards a 10-year rolling roads program.

Ministers discussed the initial list of projects on the Northern Australia Pipeline of Projects, which has now been published. Ministers also agreed to develop improved infrastructure assessment tools to enable better understanding of the benefits and costs of investing in infrastructure in the north.

Ministers welcomed the Australian Government’s announced changes to the Investment Mandate of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, and agreed to work closely together to support the success of this new mandate. These changes will expand the types of infrastructure that the NAIF can fund and will increase the amount the NAIF can lend to any individual project. While the NAIF has developed a strong pipeline of projects, the conversion of these projects to financial close has been challenging. State and Territory Ministers have agreed to ongoing support of the NAIF and welcome the opportunity for a broader approach to the identification of infrastructure priorities to see projects that could be eligible under the amended Investment Mandate of the NAIF.

Ministers also agreed that senior officials would explore opportunities for an approach to regional development hubs.

Northern Australia - Australia’s economic powerhouse

Unlocking the full potential of northern Australia requires collaboration by governments at all levels.

Ministers agreed to continue to advocate for and champion northern Australia, and promote investment opportunities following on from the success of the first two investment forums.

To date the Australian Government, in partnership with the Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory governments, have successfully delivered 35 of the 51 commitments made under the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. These commitments are already making the north an even more attractive place to live and do business.

There is still more to do and together we are expanding this nation building agenda by working together to a shared plan to further build northern Australia into an economic powerhouse through investment, innovation, and cooperation.

Collaborative vision

Today, the Forum has reconfirmed the importance of the northern agenda in addressing the joint priorities of through a shared Development Statement for Northern Australia and agreeing to a program of forward work dedicated to actions that increase productivity, and encourage investment and create new jobs in northern Australia.

Economic Infrastructure

The Forum supports changes proposed by the Commonwealth to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to remove the debt cap, re-define eligibility of infrastructure proposals, remove the requirement to comprehensively test the market gap for finance, and broaden the Investment Mandate. The Forum agreed to work together to support the NAIF and encourage the market to bring forward priority infrastructure projects for support through the Facility.

Ministers discussed the progress of the 37 projects under the $600 million Northern Australia Roads Program (NARP) and the $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Program. Ministers noted that as of April 2018, 27 projects had received formal Australian Government funding approval and that construction is underway on four of these projects. The projects underway are delivering critical upgrades to the Great Northern Highway between Maggie Creek and Wyndham in Western Australia, and the Kennedy Developmental Road, the Flinders Highway and the Clermont – Alpha Road in Queensland.

Ministers also acknowledged that construction on the first NARP project, which delivered upgrades to another key section of the Kennedy Developmental Road, was completed in February 2018.

Ministers discussed the initial list of projects on the Northern Australia Pipeline of Projects (NAPOP) and its intended role in guiding private sector investment in key sectors across northern Australia. Ministers noted that the NAPOP was not intended as a funding program, but to provide high-level information on possible projects that may be suitable for or facilitate private investment. Information on the NAPOP can be found at: https://www.nics.gov.au/project/NAPOPprojects

The next Infrastructure Australia Audit due in June 2019 will include an update on northern Australia, and through its evidence base, support the ongoing development of Infrastructure Australia’s rolling 15 year Australian Infrastructure Plan as well as the Infrastructure Priority List.

Research across the north

The Forum noted the announcement by the CRC for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) to support the Cherabin aquaculture production project with funding of $2.5 million over three years. The industry-led project is a collaboration between North Regional TAFE’s Broome Aquaculture Centre (BAC) and the Ribinyung Dawang Aboriginal Corporation (RDAC) and will develop an Indigenous cherabin business opportunity, whilst building an Aboriginal workforce with transferable skills.

Indigenous leaders enhancing business innovation and growth

Ministers acknowledged the extensive body of work undertaken by the Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) to explore opportunities to unlock and maximise the economic potential of northern Australia for Indigenous businesses, individuals and communities.

Ministers agreed in principle to the 16 recommendations put forward to the Forum by the IRG and undertook to work closely to improve economic outcomes for Indigenous Australians in the north. They welcomed this opportunity to work closely with the Indigenous community and congratulated the members of the IRG for the positive proposals they have put forward.

The Northern Australia Advisory Council and the IRG met alongside the Ministerial Forum on Northern Development to discuss contemporary issues affecting the north including industry development, Indigenous business, economic infrastructure and long-term planning. Members of these groups represent a wide range of industries and groups that are essential for the jobs and economic growth in the north.

The Forum was chaired by the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator the Hon Matt Canavan.

Other attendees were the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, and the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Keith Pitt from the Australian Government; the Hon Michael Gunner, Chief Minister and Minister for Northern Australia, the Hon Nicole Manison, Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics and Ms Selena Uibo, Assistant Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for the Northern Territory; the Hon Alannah MacTiernan, Minister for Regional Development, for Western Australia; and the Hon Coralee O’Rourke, Minister for Communities and Minister for Disability Services and Seniors, for Queensland.

Minister O’Rourke offered to host the next Forum in November 2018 in Queensland. Ministers agreed a focus of the November Forum would be around tourism and defence investment.