Wednesday, 11 November 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Ruston, the Minister representing the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia. Northern Australia is abundant in opportunity, providing the resources and an array of natural environments for agriculture and tourism, and an accessible Asian market. From Cloncurry to Tennant Creek to Townsville, from Burdekin to Broome, from Carnarvon across to Cairns, and all the places in between, we have the right people and natural assets to drive the north's future.
Opposition senators interjecting—
It gives me great pleasure to be able to talk about the extraordinary importance of northern Australia to the social and economic fabric of this nation. Those opposite will probably not be surprised to hear that northern Australia has been hit really hard by the COVID pandemic, and nobody would understand that better than many of our National Party colleagues at the other end of the chamber, some of whom actually live in that region.
That's why this budget had a raft of measures to support people living in northern Australia. In fact, we have invested more than $4.15 billion in new initiatives to create jobs and accelerate economic recovery from COVID-19 in the northern part of our country. We're also investing more than $3 billion in defence funding, through Senator Reynolds' portfolio, for our facilities in northern Australia. We will also ensure that northern Australia continues to play an absolutely pivotal role in the safety and security of all Australians.
We'll also continue to invest in the safe and efficient northern transport corridors, with a further $655 million investment in road infrastructure across the north of our country. This includes $120 million to upgrade the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory, a road on which I've driven; $38 million for the Cape York community access road from Cooktown to Weipa, a road on which I've driven; $20.6 million for the Great Northern Highway from Broome to Kununurra, a road I have driven on as well. Furthermore, we've invested a further $124.5 million for mapping mineral resources in two high-potential corridors as part of the Exploring for the Future program. We are absolutely committed as a government, understanding the importance of the regions. We are backing people from northern Australia.
Can the minister outline how our government's 2020-21 budget announcement regarding our Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility reforms will turbocharge the north and help drive new industries and innovation, strengthen small businesses and create jobs for northern Australia?
Honourable senators interjecting—
I can assure the Senate that the NAIF is playing a key role in supporting northern Australia during these challenging times. In fact, the Morrison-McCormack government is working tirelessly to create and to deliver jobs and economic development for people living in northern Australia. The fund has been designed to fill the gap where projects would not be delivered if they relied on traditional sources of funding. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility has now committed $2.4 billion of the $5 billion war chest. Of the $2.4 billion, approximately $1.1 billion worth of projects have now reached the critical milestone of contractual close between the NAIF and the project proponents. We've adjusted the NAIF's risk appetite and expanded the range of potential projects in which the fund can invest. Our government continues to deliver on its commitments. We're delivering for the people of northern Australia.
I thank Senator McDonald for her really important question around the risks that are facing northern Australia. Firstly, I can say that we are absolutely committed, as a government, to delivering for northern Australia, and that means economic infrastructure and delivering on economic opportunities for northern Australia. In fact, as of 30 October, the NAIF had made 23 investment decisions: 10 projects in Queensland, six projects in Western Australia and eight projects in the Northern Territory. These projects represent $6.6 billion worth of economic benefits supporting 7,800 jobs. However, the NAIF is being weighed down by the lengthy approval time taken by the ALP governments in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The time it takes for decisions to be made to enable these projects to progress is totally unacceptable. More infrastructure means more jobs, and I would recommend that those opposite lobby their colleagues in those governments to get out of the way. (Time expired)