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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 3925


Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (10:47): On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia I present the committee's advisory report, incorporating a dissenting report, on the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill 2016.

The Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia was pleased to undertake and report on the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill 2016, or the NAIF bill.

Throughout this parliament the Northern Australia Committee has been considering new approaches to tackle the economic and social issues which have plagued northern Australia for over 100 years.

The committee's first report, Pivot north, which underpinned the government's white paper on developing northern Australia, recognised infrastructure's vital role in stimulating the economic and social development so crucially needed in northern Australia.

Fourteen of the recommendations in Pivot north concerned the provision of new or existing infrastructure in northern Australia, these being: the development of critical road, rail, water resource, agriculture, digital communications and energy infrastructure, and the creation of a rural investment fund to make it easier for rural infrastructure projects to access capital investment.

Importantly, as part of the NAIF bill inquiry, the committee further considered the official geographic boundary of northern Australia as defined in the NAIF bill.

The original NAIF bill defined northern Australia as: the whole of the Northern Territory, and the areas which lie above the Tropic of Capricorn in Western Australia and Queensland, including the areas below the tropic of Capricorn which capture the statistical areas level 2 of Gladstone, the Gladstone Hinterland and Newman. The Exmouth Statistical Area Level 2 which lies above the Tropic of Capricorn was excluded, with the exception of the town of Exmouth. The definition of Northern Australia was raised with the committee by the members for Durack and Perth and later by the Chairs of the Gascoyne and Pilbara Development Commissions, the Shire Presidents of the Shires of Upper Gascoyne, Exmouth, Carnarvon and Shark Bay.

In discussions with the minister, it was agreed that the definition of Northern Australia, as included at clause 5 of the NAIF Bill, should be amended. This amendment of the NAIF Bill will expand the definition of Northern Australia to include in the Western Australia Statistical Area Level 2 of Exmouth and Carnarvon, as well as the local government shires of Meekatharra and Wiluna. The definition will be amended to include additional regions in Western Australia that are viewed as operating as part of Northern Australia.

Broadly the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, established by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill 2016, will provide the necessary financial assistance to begin to address the infrastructure gaps the committee highlighted in its Pivot North report. The facility is one of the government's white paper key proposals, and it places the development of infrastructure at the centre of the government's plan to unlock the economic and social potential of Northern Australia.

The facility will partner with the private sector to develop projects that, despite being commercially viable, have not been able to attract sufficient investment to go ahead. In its own right the facility's $5 billion investment in infrastructure is significant, but by leveraging private sector capital, the value of the infrastructure projects it supports will be far greater than $5 billion. Northern Australia is a region of vast potential. The facility will accelerate the development of an infrastructure base that can underpin the long-term social and economic development that is crucial to realising this potential. For these reasons, the committee recommended that the parliament pass the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Bill 2016.

Mr Speaker, I would like to thank all those who participated in the inquiry by providing submissions and appearing at public hearings. I would like to thank the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for their timely responses to questions on notice. I would especially like to thank the committee secretariat for their assistance in enabling the committee to develop this high-quality report in such a short time frame. To Stephanie and Tim, thank you very much indeed for your cooperation. Finally, Mr Speaker, I would like to thank my fellow committee members—including the member for Perth, my very able deputy—for their support and participation in this inquiry. I commend the report to the House.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e)