Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Capricornia Electorate: Developing Northern Australia Conference
I wish to take this opportunity to speak about an important event: the annual Developing Northern Australia Conference, which was held in my electorate of Capricornia last week. As a proud Central Queenslander and as Assistant Minister for Northern Australia, it was my privilege to welcome 300 delegates from across the country and over 200 virtual delegates to the region I call home. It was a great opportunity for all delegates to discuss the challenges and the opportunity Northern Australia has. The topics of new infrastructure, trade opportunities and emerging technologies were key focuses for the conference over the three days. I want to thank the event organisers, the exhibitors and the presenters who made the conference a huge success. This was not an easy achievement during a pandemic.
Also, I welcomed the release of the CRCNA's State of the north 2020 report during the conference. The report calls for industry, the community and all levels of government to come together in developing a shared vision for Northern Australia as we start to address some of the common themes identified by the centre's research. Northern Australia is continuing to be supported by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, or the NAIF, by delivering key projects that boost the economic prosperity across the region. So far, around $2.4 billion has been committed to projects, generating around 7½ thousand new jobs and supporting projects worth more than $4.4 billion. Despite what some people on the other side might say, this is real money for real projects and real jobs. Just last week I announced the contractual close of a $76 million loan between the NAIF and CQUniversity, alongside Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Klomp. Contractual close is an important milestone: it means the university can now start project design and construction, further driving local employment and economic growth. The loan will go a long way in assisting the university to position itself after the COVID-19 pandemic. The loan will be used at campuses across regional Australia for construction work and renovation. It will also go towards upgrading their digital networks to improve delivery of remote learning. With the NAIF's investment the university can now plan for the next two years and be ready to welcome back more students.
We are also finalising a review of the NAIF. In response to these findings, we are pushing on with speeding up its process, making it easier for vital projects to apply for finance and have loans approved. We are listening, and these changes will result in business development, business growth and job creation right across the north. The role northern Australia will have as our economy recovers from this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic is crucial. Both industry recovery and growth will need to be fostered, but the potential of the northern Australia remains as strong as ever. The Australian government is committed to developing the north to reach its full economic capacity.