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The government is playing games on Northern Australia; let's get real



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THE HON GARY GRAY AO MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA MEMBER FOR BRAND

THE GOVERNMENT IS PLAYING GAMES ON NORTHERN AUSTRALIA; LET’S GET REAL

Shadow Minister for Northern Australia the Hon Gary Gray AO MP pointed to the lack of detail and understanding around the Government’s Northern Australia Budget announcements.

“Two weeks after the Budget, we still have no detail about this scheme. The information provided through the Budget process is sorely lacking in detail,” said Mr Gray.

“The Government’s big ticket $5 billion loan facility has no information on how loans will be prioritised and what the money will be spent on.

“There is no information on the role of Infrastructure Australia and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Audit, or how the Western Australian, Queensland and Northern Territorian Governments will be involved. Nor is there mention of jurisdictional accountabilities, investment frameworks, or prioritising of projects.

“The Government has spent over $3.5 million developing the Northern Australia White Paper, has set aside $3.7 million in this Budget to develop an infrastructure projects pipeline, and $8.5 million to hire consultants to create the Infrastructure Facility.

“That’s over $15 million to fund bureaucratic processes in Canberra. And still no sight of the Northern Australia White Paper, and no sight of any detail, because the Government’s Northern Australia strategy is to pump up expectations instead of being realistic.

“Infrastructure Australia’s Report Northern Australia Audit: Infrastructure for a Developing North provides a blueprint for infrastructure investment in Northern Australia. That blueprint should be given careful consideration.

“The Report’s focus on improved policy process is critical and we welcome the emphasis on the importance of detailed cost-benefit analysis for every investment project.

“Recent reports of plans to allow foreign airlines to fly domestic routes in Northern Australia have blind-sided people living in the North and Australia’s airline industry.

“The Government’s Northern Australia Green Paper had no mention of an open-skies policy — there has been no consultation on this. There were no demands for this. Worse, this idea creates uncertainty in aviation in Northern Australia.

“The consequences of such a bad idea have not been thought through by the Government. Unilaterally allowing foreign airlines to fly domestic routes would put Australia at odds with the rest of the developed world. It would destroy businesses and risk air services across Northern Australia.

“After 20 months in office, all we have from this Government is haphazard announcements, puffed-up plans and reviews.

“It’s hard getting fit for purpose plans in place for Northern Australia, so the Government should settle down, get serious and stop pretending that there are quick fixes.

“Labor in Government established the focus on Northern Australia by creating the Office of Northern Australia and the Northern Australian Ministerial Forum. It is positive for Northern Development that this focus is continuing.

“Labor notes the specific commitment of $101.3 million to improve northern cattle supply chains and looks forward to the detail and the associated cost-benefit analysis of that commitment being released.

It is important that the Federal Government has a Northern Australia focus. But it is disappointing to see that this focus is on pumping up expectations, and not concrete deliverable initiatives.”

WEDNESDAY, 27 MAY 2015

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