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Thursday, 4 September 2014
Page: 6530

Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (16:04): I would also like to associate my comments with those of Senator Macdonald, Senator Canavan and Senator Siewert and congratulate the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia on this report. I would also like to draw attention to the great work that former senator Alan Eggleston did, a former Mayor of Port Hedland. He was a very strong advocate for the north-west of our nation. I hope in my own little way to be able to continue his contribution in this place.

It is important for us to remember when thinking about northern Australia that it is not a homogenous set of communities. In fact, Western Australian communities across the north of our country are vastly different from those that we might find on the east coast of our country in Queensland. The towns of Port Hedland, Newman, Derby, Wyndham, Kununurra and Broome are very different to those that will be more familiar to Senator Macdonald and Senator Canavan in Queensland. I think this demonstrates a very important point. It is when we look at communities individually and understand their particular circumstances that we are best able to develop a response and maximise the opportunities that are available to them and to us in our country.

Of course in the north-west of Western Australia this is more about the fantastic opportunities that Asian development and Asian growth are presenting to us. It is easy to look at our success as a country through the prism of minerals resource development and minerals exports, but with the rising levels of income in India and China people are going to require greater quality in their food. I am very much an optimist when it comes to Australia's agricultural exports and the opportunities that are presented for them in China particularly and certainly in India. Later this year I look forward to having an opportunity to inspect those opportunities myself.

In my final remarks I want to read briefly from a prime ministerial media statement. The media statement says:

Today the Prime Minister and Commonwealth ministers met with the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia to discuss means of achieving closer cooperation in the development of Northern Australia.

The media release goes on to say:

It was agreed that this arrangement provided the most appropriate machinery upon which to develop closer cooperation and coordination of activities between the two states and the Commonwealth, including the Northern Territory.

It goes on to state:

The ministers agreed that appropriate Commonwealth and state ministers would meet together from time to time to review progress in northern development, to coordinate thinking and give directions to those who will be required to investigate particular proposals.

The meeting that this media release refers to was attended by Mr McEwan, Mr Holt, Senator Sir William Spooner and Mr Barnes. It was issued in May 1964. Of course, the Prime Minister was the Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies. But it goes to demonstrate a very important point: The challenges are not new, the will and enthusiasm to make the most of these opportunities are not new but, dare I say, it will require constant vigilance, and I am sure that the work of the joint committee over the coming 12 to 18 months will keep the government honest to make sure that we are doing everything that we can.

I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.