Ministerial Forum on Northern Development - Joint Communiqué

Monday, 4 September 2017

MINISTERIAL FORUM ON NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT

Joint Communiqué

Darwin, 1 September 2017

The Ministerial Forum on Northern Development held its inaugural meeting in Darwin today, attended by Ministerial representatives from the Federal Government and the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australian governments.

The Forum was chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP. Other members of the Forum are the Hon Michael Gunner MLA, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and Minister for Northern Australia; the Hon Coralee O’Rourke MP, Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland; and the Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC, Minister for Regional Development from Western Australia.

Ministers reiterated the strong commitment to developing the north from all four jurisdictions and agreed the Forum will initially focus on the following shared development priorities: economic infrastructure (including transport, logistics, energy and digital); agriculture and aquaculture; resources and gas; Indigenous business, innovation and growth; defence; innovative economic incentives; and social infrastructure.

Ministers noted the Deputy Prime Minister’s options to make the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility more flexible to better deliver transformative investment in the north.

Ministers will develop a programme of joint actions to be agreed at their next meeting. To avoid duplication and regulatory burden, these collaborative actions will be informed by an audit of existing government-led investments and policy measures being delivered across all four jurisdictions.

Ministers also noted the importance of understanding infrastructure needs across important sectors such as transport and logistics, energy, and resources and planning for new infrastructure in a collaborative manner. To this end, they agreed to invite relevant Infrastructure Ministers to attend the next meeting of the Forum to discuss strategic infrastructure priorities and ways to deliver these.

In terms of immediate actions, Ministers agreed to work together to identify roads of significance that will deliver productivity and safety improvements across the northern Australia road network, including roads used in the resources, agriculture, beef and tourism industries. This collaboration would build on the comprehensive engagement and prioritisation approach developed as part of the $700 million in Commonwealth funding for the Northern Australia Roads and Northern Australia Beef Roads programmes delivered through the Australian Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. Each jurisdiction will consider how longer term plans (focussing on initial priorities for the next five years) can be developed to provide certainty for industry, investors and communities.

The first meeting of the Forum was also attended by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion and senior Indigenous leaders from across northern Australia. The presence of senior Indigenous leaders at this inaugural meeting ensures that the northern development agenda is inclusive of Indigenous interests and provides tangible benefits for Indigenous land owners, workers and businesses.

This first meeting focused on Indigenous business, innovation and growth. Ministers committed to support ongoing engagement with the Indigenous leaders. The leaders were invited by Ministers to bring to the next Forum suggested actions to develop the Indigenous business sector, grow the capability of Indigenous land owners to engage in development and support Indigenous innovation in northern Australia.

Mr Peter Yu, a Yawuru man from Broome and CEO, Nyamba Buru Yawuru, noted on behalf of Indigenous leaders that this was an historic day and that never before had there been such engagement at a senior level from governments of this matter of national importance.

Ministers agreed that the beef industry is part of the fabric of northern Australia, with common opportunities and challenges and there is potential to build greater cooperation and innovation through the entire supply chain. 

Ministers noted the opportunity for new and exciting aquaculture developments in northern Australia and agreed to work together to assess actions required to accelerate the development of aquaculture industries in northern Australia to attract private investment and grow jobs.

Ministers also discussed the importance of the resources sector, including new and emerging opportunities in rare earth minerals.

The Ministers welcomed the invitation from Minister MacTiernan to meet in early 2018 for the next Forum in Kununurra, WA.