Energy, food production and tourism are all areas that, with the right investment, could boost economic prosperity in Northern Australia according to Coalition Leader Tony Abbott.

The Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia highlights the establishment of an energy export industry worth $150 billion to the economy, with a major focus on clean and efficient energy; the development of a food bowl, including premium produce, which could help to double Australia’s agricultural output; and growing the tourist economy in Northern Australia to 2 million international tourists annually.

With Asia’s real GDP expected to grow from US$27 trillion to US$67 trillion by 2030, and given Northern Australia’s proximity to the tropical region, Northern Australia is well placed to capitalise on the key economic, strategic and environmental macro-trends that will shape both the Asian and tropical regions. 

The Coalition says Northern Australia has historically suffered from a development lag due to the absence of adequate infrastructure. This has meant families have been reluctant to move there, which in turn has led to governments and businesses being reluctant to invest in major projects due to insufficient population.

The White Paper on developing Northern Australia considers a number of policy options.

Infrastructure Australia would be tasked with conducting a comprehensive audit of Northern Australia’s infrastructure and  devising a 15 year rolling priority list of projects of various scales, guided by cost-benefit studies.                                                                                              

In collaboration with the Queensland Government, the Coalition would accelerate the upgrade of Queensland’s major transport artery – the Bruce Highway – into the north.

They would also investigate the establishment of a Water Project Development Fund to support the advancement of meritorious proposals for water infrastructure across Northern Australia, including dams and groundwater projects.                                                                       

Other wider initiatives for Australia outlined in the Coalition’s ‘Real Solutions Plan’ include abolishing the carbon tax, scrapping the mining tax, implementing a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals and boosting productivity by restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Consult Australia State Manager – SA & NT Jan Irvine agrees that things need to change across Australia to help struggling consulting firms.

“The varied operating environments faced by consulting firms in the built environment across Australia is illustrative of our patchwork economy. Different circumstances across jurisdictions are creating numerous challenges for businesses that are increasingly making cutbacks to staff in the face of declining infrastructure investment,” she said. “A renewed focus by all governments on a sound pipeline of projects across the short, medium and long-term, attracting investment, and developing business should be a focus across Australia. An adaptable approach to infrastructure investment and economic policy, that is responsive to the needs of a particular region, state or territory makes good sense and will carry strong productivity benefits.”