Submission to the green paper on developing Northern Australia
In November last year, the RAI released a research report Re-thinking the Future of Northern Australian Regions. Since then, the development of northern Australia has remained an area of significant interest.
The most recent contribution by the RAI is the submission to the Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia.
This submission is the result of a collaboration between the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), Ninti One and the northern universities: James Cook University (JCU); Central Queensland University (CQU); and the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA).
The RAI has worked with the universities and Ninti One to develop and consolidate 14 papers on a range of themes including health, human services, tourism, agriculture, education, defence, climate change, land tenure and economic equity and major development.
The RAI’s earlier work on northern development emphasised the diversity of regional situations in the north. It promoted wariness of the ‘one-size fits all’ approach to northern development and challenged the belief that one large new project could substantially shift the fortunes of this vast region.
There is no doubt that the north faces many challenges to rival its enormous opportunities.
Infrastructure and human capital are the two most serious bottlenecks for growth in northern Australia. Business sophistication is also weaker on average compared to the rest of Australia and is likely to act as a constraint in many areas.
In contrast, economic fundamentals in northern Australia have been very high, reflecting the extent to which the resources boom has occurred, and continues to occur in northern Australia.
The findings of the submission, based on the work of experts living and working in the north on issues of the north, reinforce this perspective. They also emphasise that as well as facilitating investment from outside to meet national and regional growth ambitions, northern development needs the people of northern Australia to take leadership of future opportunities.
Overall the submissions highlight that quick wins and new initiatives will inevitably be a feature of the current process – however this should not be the sole focus. We also need to ensure that the more challenging objectives of seeking better information and building the capacity of leadership and governance in the north gets ample attention and effort.
The RAI will continue to work with the Northern Australia Taskforce and all stakeholders to help the people and communities in northern Australia make the most of their potential.
The full submission is available here.