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Ministerial Forum on Northern Development: Joint Communiqué - November 2018

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Third meeting in Mount Isa, Queensland
Publication Date: 
November 2018

The Ministerial Forum on Northern Development met in Mount Isa, Queensland, on 8 November 2018. The forum provides leadership on the collaborative agenda to unlock northern Australia’s potential and build a stronger northern economy.

Joint Communiqué

Accelerating growth of the northern economy is critical to a more prosperous and secure future for all Australians.

The third Ministerial Forum on Northern Development has today mapped out a joint approach to grow our northern tourism and defence industries sectors, and agreed to actions to further position Indigenous businesses as major players in the north.

Northern tourism

Northern Australia is a tourism drawcard, filled with bucket list experiences, world-class natural wonders and a dynamic population passionate about the region’s future.

Ministers acknowledged the report Northern Horizons — Unleashing our Tourism Potential produced by the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia. The Forum agreed that development of new tourism products and destinations, including investment in tourism infrastructure in northern Australia, is a priority to ensure the region can compete in the highly contested international and domestic tourism sectors.

Funding of $150,000 was announced at the Forum to expand the Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT) model to include tourism data. TraNSIT, which was developed by Australia’s eminent science agency, CSIRO, is now used by governments and industry to support decisions on road investments and was first used for the Beef Roads in northern Australia.  The tool has been expanded to all agriculture and forestry supply chains, and more recently to fuels and mining. It will now be expanded to include tourism which will provide greater understanding of tourism movements across Australia‘s vast road network which will receive an additional investment of over $3.5 billion over the next 10 years to support Roads of Strategic Importance.


Northern Australia is strategically important for our nation’s defence and national security.

Ministers today endorsed a joint Northern Australia and Defence Statement which affirms the ongoing commitment to defence and industry and ensures an ongoing strategic dialogue on defence investments and initiatives. This will equip the north with the right industry skills and technological capability to do its part in delivering upon the nation’s strategic defence needs.

Ministers committed to maximising the Commonwealth’s $28 billion defence investment in northern Australia by strengthening defence capability. This investment will create jobs, expand the already skilled workforce and create a long term pipeline of infrastructure projects for future planning and investment.

Indigenous leaders enhancing business innovation and growth

Ministers acknowledged the importance and complexity of the work of the Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) to maximise the economic opportunity and contribution of northern Australian Indigenous businesses, individuals and communities. Ministers have committed to progressing the implementation of the IRG recommendations agreed in-principle at the second Ministerial Forum on Northern Development. The Office of Northern Australia and Forum Governments will work to progress key actions including expanding fee-for-service opportunities for ranger groups and scoping a Northern Australian Indigenous commercial research plan.

Ministers agreed to capture the extensive and collaborative work of the IRG on Indigenous economic development through a Northern Australian Indigenous Development Accord for consideration by the Northern Australian Strategic Partnership.

Other activities

Ministers discussed the Northern Australia Water Resource Assessments for the Fitzroy River (WA), Mitchell River (QLD), and Finniss, Adelaide, Mary and Wildman Rivers (NT) and agreed to consider the assessments in line with water plans to inform decisions about future infrastructure and development options.

Ministers welcomed the changes brought about by the Australian Government’s amendments to the Investment Mandate of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), which has now approved loans totalling over $1 billion, including conditional approvals.

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, and noted that 32 have approval with construction underway on 18 of these projects.

The Ministers acknowledged the Australian Government’s Budget commitment for a 10‑year $1.5 billion rolling roads program through the northern Roads of Strategic Importance program and agreed to continue to engage further to ensure that projects are prioritised and funded to ensure a continuous pipeline of road upgrades across the north.

Ministers noted the importance of working in partnership with Infrastructure Australia to explore options for cost benefit analysis that better reflect northern contexts.

Ministers remain committed to a shared vision for the development of northern Australia and are working together to increase productivity, investment and create new jobs.

The Hon Lauren Moss MLA, on behalf of the Northern Territory Chief Minister, offered to host the next Forum in the Northern Territory in the second quarter of 2019.

Details of the forum

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

Other attendees from the Commonwealth were Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and the Hon Mark Coulton MP, Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Representatives of the three northern jurisdictions were the Hon Jackie Trad, Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (Qld), the Hon Lauren Moss MLA, Minister for Tourism and Culture and Corporate and Information Services (NT), and the Hon Darren West MLC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Minister assisting the Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade (WA).

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Read more about the Ministerial Forum on Northern Development.