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Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Page: 2043


Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (16:08): It is not often in this place that you can walk in and get a basketball lobbed right through the middle of the net for those of us who come from Northern Australia. When I saw the MPI today, I thought: 'Wow, an opportunity for my colleagues such as Senator Sterle and Senator McLucas to talk about what is happening in Northern Australia—bring it on!' If there is one great story that we have to talk about over the last five years of the Labor government, it is about the financial investment, the hard work that has been put in by ministers in this government and the absolute spotlight that has been put on Northern Australia in this country. I only have about nine minutes left so I am going to have to hand it over to my colleagues to continue this, but there are so many terrific things happening up there. I will try to go through some of them. I will concentrate on what is happening in the Northern Territory.

I do not want to criticise your contribution, Senator Macdonald. I know you probably spend most of your time gazing at the ocean from the east coast of Queensland, but when you actually jump across the border into the Northern Territory and you have a look at the concentrated effort that has gone into building the Northern Territory, its natural resources, its education hubs, its medical hubs, its infrastructure and its support for diverse industries, I think the work that has gone on in the last five years has been absolutely spectacular.

There are a number of particular ministers to whom this credit is owed: Nicola Roxon, Minister Ferguson and Simon Crean. I start with Simon Crean. When the former Howard government came into power they abolished the Office of Northern Development. When we came into power in 2007, we re-established that—a one-stop-shop so that northern development and Northern Australia could get back on its feet again and have a place where it could go for advice, for support, for ideas and for innovation. So in 2008 we established the Office of Northern Australia. It has been able to provide a focus on sustainable economic development in Northern Australia. As a result of that, $6 million has gone into the Northern Australia Sustainable Futures program, which was announced in August 2010 to address key challenges in the development of the North.

Out of that we have the establishment of the Northern Australia Ministerial Forum, which has now met five times. It has included ministers from conservative governments in Queensland and WA, the previous Labor government in the Northern Territory and now the Country Liberals. It has met in Darwin, Port Hedland, Mt Isa, Alice Springs and Kununurra and is due to meet again in Cairns. Out of that we have experts groups like the Northern Australia Indigenous Experts Forum on Sustainable Economic Development, chaired and led by Pat Dodson and Peter Yu. What is it doing? It is bringing together Indigenous experts from across the North. It has drafted a framework for Indigenous participation in Northern economic development based around the theme of 'resilient communities through reliable prosperity'.

There is also the expert advisory panel—a panel of experts who have knowledge in the industry and in the habitat of what is happening in Northern Australia. The panel consists of 30 academic and industry experts coordinated by Dr Andrew Johnson from the CSIRO. What is it doing? It is looking at opportunities and challenges in emerging markets for carbon. Out of that we have the Aboriginal Carbon Fund, which has been established in Alice Springs under the umbrella of the Central Land Council, which is moving ahead in leaps and bounds in providing alternative industry for Indigenous people in respect of carbon pricing, carbon marketing and the emerging market that we see under climate change.

That is what is happening in terms of actually getting together some expert advice, looking at what needs to be done in Northern Australia and capitalising on Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous expertise to see how Northern Australia can work side by side with Indigenous people and make use of their knowledge and expertise to provide some decent economic development and outcomes for these people.

If we have a look at what else has happened in the North, there is the Ichthys LNG Project. This has got to be one of the most substantial outcomes in terms of the future of this country, let alone the Northern Territory. This is a $34 billion gas plant and project that will be based in Darwin and harvest gas off the coast of Western Australia. It is the second largest industrial program to have ever been signed up to in this country.

Senator Ian Macdonald: What did the Gillard government have to do with that?

Senator CROSSIN: I will take that interjection, Senator Macdonald. You say, 'What did the Gillard government or the Rudd government do to secure this? I put it to you that I know personally that Minister Martin Ferguson and his department worked day-in and day-out. They undertook many trips to Japan and had many discussions convincing this operator based in Tokyo that it should in fact, first of all, look at Australia and look at Darwin in which to base this gas hub. This is of enormous benefit to Northern Australian. It was a major project that was facilitated through the Department of Infrastructure and Transport and through Minister Ferguson's department. Undeniably a lot of hard work went into this project in order to get it to go ahead.

The Ichthys major project facilitation status was granted by this government. Let us not underestimate this. We are talking about a $34 billion infrastructure and export market in relation to gas here. We are talking about the employment of more than 3,000 people. We are already talking about 700 people being employed during the operation phase of this and additional jobs being created during the offshore construction. Already JKC have a shopfront established in Darwin Mall. They are recruiting people right now to try and get the workers village built and established in rural Darwin, and from there the major LNG plant will be established. That is what this government has done for Northern Australia. It has secured the second largest ever infrastructure in gas and gas hub in this country. That is what we have been doing.

Hand in hand with that, we have worked with the INPEX project to encourage Larrakia Development Corporation to get on board with the local Indigenous people. This is not just about a Japanese company coming to Darwin and setting up and creating jobs for 3,000 people. This is also about the work that has gone on behind the scenes ensuring that INPEX and the Japanese consortium provide employment opportunities for Indigenous people. It does not happen without a plan, it does not happen without a vision and it does not happen without hard work either.

The other thing I want to talk about quickly is the infrastructure that we have put in places like Darwin to grow and create our own doctors. The Flinders Medical School has been established at Charles Darwin University. Last year, for the first time ever, this government purpose-built a facility so that people in Northern Australia and particularly in the Northern Territory could train in Darwin to become doctors. We know that if you train in Darwin to become a doctor you are highly likely to stay in Darwin and undertake your work there as a doctor. We have put a lot of effort and emphasis into training and recruiting our own so that the number of doctors we have in Northern Australia increases because we are training them locally.

Finally, I just want to talk about our plan to put more health infrastructure in Darwin and Palmerston and our commitment to build a $70 million hospital in Palmerston, in one of this country's fastest-growing cities. Even today in the NT News we have a headline 'Plan to move Royal Darwin' about the CLP and the hospital. They plan not to replace it but to knock it down and to try and build a new one out in Palmerston. Such foolishness shows to me that the Liberal Party and the Country Liberal Party have really no vision for the growth and the expectations of the people in Darwin and Palmerston. If you think you can simply relocate the Royal Darwin Hospital, move it out of the infrastructure and the grounds that it is on, move it away from the oncology unit, move it away from the private hospital and try and create some megastructure in 10 years at $3 billion cost, you have no plan. (Time expired)