Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Questions without Notice
Northern Australia: Infrastructure
My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. In his capacity, mainly as the minister for northern Australia, I ask Senator Canavan if he could advise the Senate of recent developments in northern Australia that will mean more jobs and greater economic growth for the north.
I thank Senator Macdonald for his question and longstanding passion to see the development of the north. Senator Macdonald's efforts are certainly starting to bear fruit now. It is great to have been able to announce in the last few weeks a major investment and project in the Northern Territory in particular. I did so with my colleague Senator Scullion in Darwin a couple of weeks ago. We were there to announce a major investment in Northern Territory airports across the whole of the Territory, a $300 million project that was being helped to get across the line through a $150 million loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. So that's $150 million from this government to create jobs and opportunity in the Territory. This project will deliver 1,500 jobs in construction and another 140 jobs in the ongoing work, following construction, of the project.
More importantly, these investments, our northern development agenda, are about increasing the capability of northern Australia, not just the direct jobs involved in this investment. This project will go towards expanding storage at the Darwin airport. That will allow horticulturists and farmers in the Territory to export more of their produce, like high-class mangoes and other high-class, high-value products, to the growing markets of Asia. It will also improve the energy requirements across Northern Territory airports, with solar and batteries going in across Darwin, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. The investments will also include increases in taxiways and runways at the Alice Springs Airport. All of these investments help the Territory and respond to the fact that Darwin and the Territory are facing challenges with the wind-down of the large INPEX gas project at the moment. But the Commonwealth government is providing investment, is providing jobs and is backing the development of northern Australia, and it's great to see these programs finally bearing fruit.
I thank the minister for that answer, which I know Senator McCarthy, as a Northern Territorian, will be interested in. Can the minister tell us if there are future projects that could help the Northern Territory continue to grow? Senator McCarthy advised us that there is a Northern Territory minister in the building today, so perhaps, Minister, it's a good time to tell us what can be done in the Northern Territory in the future.
Senator Macdonald is correct. Today I will be joining Senator Scullion at a Facing North initiative, done in cooperation with the Northern Territory government—they are here in the building today. The Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, is here and I welcome him to Canberra. This evening, here in Canberra, we will promoting the great investment opportunities that there are in the Northern Territory. Another big thing the government is doing is our defence white paper process, which is putting a lot of investment into Defence assets in northern Australia, including the Northern Territory. Twenty billion dollars is earmarked for the Northern Territory over the next 20 years. Most importantly, we are ensuring that that investment, the billions of dollars of investment, is broken down so that small and local businesses can tender for it. I recognise the work Senator Payne did in this regard. It is already bearing fruit. I have met with businesses from the Master Builders Association just this week, who have already won contracts, thanks to the efforts of the government to support small businesses in the Territory.
I have a two-part supplementary question, the first one arising out of the answer. Minister, can you tell those senators who don't know—I do—the time and the place of that wonderful event tonight promoting the Northern Territory? Secondly, can you tell us if there are any risks to employment and opportunities in the Northern Territory?
My diary indicates it's in Mural Hall A and B on level 2 of Parliament House. I will see you there at six o'clock. Be there or be square! I'm sure Nigel will put on great hospitality for us, as he always does at these events, along with the Territory's politicians. But there are risks to growth in the Northern Territory. There are important established industries in the Territory, like the cattle industry. It has huge exposure to the live export trade. It needs a sustainable live export trade, a supportive live export trade, to survive. The live export industry accounts for $431 million in the Territory and employs 1,800 Territorians. We need people to support the industries that support jobs in the Territory. I'm concerned that in the last fortnight the likes of Senator McCarthy, and Mr Gosling and Mr Snowdon in the other place, have all voted against the live trade. How can they go back to the Territory and say that they support live exports when they know—they have been in a government that has done it before and they will likely do it again. (Time expired)