The Commonwealth Government has produced a White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, whose vision is to unlock the great potential and opportunities of the north we live in.
We all know the difficulties we face here – remoteness, long distances, poor roads, expensive airfares and limitations on education, health, job diversity and entertainment.
The White Paper has 51 recommendations which are intended to ease these difficulties. They include investment in roads, supply chains, water infrastructure, tourism and a Cooperative Research Centre, which does research in areas that may result in new industries, or which may help existing industries to be more efficient or increase their output.
Although not a White paper recommendation, the Developing Northern Australia Conference is aligned with its vision and as I mentioned in my previous column, Karratha has been awarded the 2019 event.
The Conference is an annual gathering and includes business, government, academic and not-for-profit enterprises who live, work or are responsible for development in the northern third of Australia – roughly the country north of the Tropic. Among other things, its intent is to find out what we are doing in each jurisdiction across the North to diversify our economy, increase productivity, improve liveability and provide new employment opportunities – and to learn from each other’s experience. We also learn about the latest research, government initiatives, regulations, road-blocks and ways forward.
While remote from the large population centers, the North is a wealthy area. It comprises 53% of Australia’s land mass and contributes 12% of Australia’s GDP, yet has only 5% of the Australian population.
The North exports some $140 billion annually (60% of which comes from the Pilbara), which for our 1.3 million people equates to over $100,000 per man woman or child. We all contribute massively above our weight here, but with help, we could do so much more.