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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8163


Mr TURNOUR (8:51 PM) —I rise today to speak on this motion as a passionate advocate for Northern Australia. As the member for Leichhardt, I represent the great city of Cairns, Cape York and the Torres Strait. I see my parliamentary colleague Mr Katter, the member for Kennedy, who is also a passionate advocate for Northern Australia, here in the chamber. It is also great to be here with the member for Dawson, Mr Bidgood. Not only do I represent Northern Australia—and I see you, Mr Deputy Speaker, nodding and wanting to be associated with Northern Australia.


Mr Katter —I’m not so sure about that!


Mr TURNOUR —I know. I agree with the member for Kennedy—we are not too sure about that. But I can assure you that, having been born in Darwin to a family that grew bananas and small crops at Batchelor, near Adelaide River, and now being the member for Leichhardt, I have a passion for Northern Australia. It is fantastic to be here in the federal parliament and to be able to work with the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Northern Australia, the Hon. Gary Gray, to bring forward projects and to develop this important part of the world.

The Australian government is serious about the development of sustainable opportunities in Northern Australia. This government is committed to encouraging sustainable development in Northern Australia after a decade of neglect. In 12 years, there was not a lot of action from the former government in infrastructure, skill development or any of the areas that lead to development. In the last 12 months or so, we have set up the Northern Australian Land and Water Taskforce. We are committed to that task force and we want things to happen as a result of it. We have taken our time to review it, and I am pleased that very soon we will be announcing a new membership of that task force and new terms of reference. We will be removing the opposition politicians that are currently on that task force and replacing them with skilled members, skilled representatives with experience in that part of the world and that can give us genuine advice. There are fantastic opportunities, whether they are in agriculture—I have a strong background in agriculture—mining or tourism, to help us develop that part of Australia. I look forward to working with the parliamentary secretary and that task force in building on some of the project ideas that will come out of that.

We have already established the Office of Northern Australia. We are going to bring forward big projects up there, so we need an office that can work with big project proponents and that can work with state and local governments to cut through red tape and make sure that we can get the job done. We are committed to that. I know that the parliamentary secretary and members from this side of the House are committed to making sure that we can support development, whether it is in mining, agriculture or tourism in that part of the world.

The new Office of Northern Australia will, as I have said, enable better communication and coordination across governments and inject a better understanding of Northern Australia into the Canberra policy mix. The office is establishing strong links between governments, industry and communities right across the north and these links will allow us to develop a shared vision for the future and to pursue ideas that build the capacity for economic prosperity and the potential of Northern Australia. I know that in my electorate there is a fantastic opportunity in bauxite development on the eastern coast, at Cape York Peninsula. We have Chalco, a major Chinese investment, there looking to work with the Indigenous community of Aurukun and the Queensland government. This is an important project for my electorate that will provide jobs to Indigenous communities, whether in Aurukun or in other parts of my electorate. We are looking forward to working on this project with the Queensland government and also local communities to ensure that it goes forward.

There has been some talk of Western Australia. I have had the great opportunity to get across to Lake Argyle and have a look around the north-west. I know there are some fantastic opportunities up there. We need to ensure that any development in the north not only is economically sustainable but also protects the environment. We are going to get the balance right. We are going to make sure that we support development in that part of the world, whether it is in agriculture, mining, tourism or other areas. We are going to make sure that we get that development right. I am looking forward to working with the Office of Northern Australia and the new task force that will be announced soon and to making sure that jobs, economic opportunities and taxes continue to pour into the north to support those local communities and support that general part of the world.

We have fantastic incomes that come in through taxation to this part of the world, and we want to make sure that they are invested back up there to support development in that part of the world. I commend the development of Northern Australia in a sustainable way and look forward to working with the parliamentary secretary and others. (Time expired)