February 7, 2013
A leaked draft discussion paper ---"Developing Northern Australia - a 2030 vision ---- reveals Coalition draft plans to create a new economic zone in northern Australia and to compulsory move thousands of public sector jobs to north of the Tropic of Capricorn to Darwin, Cairns, Townsville or Karratha.
The aim is to boost populations in those areas through immigration policies, relocation allowances, and personal income tax incentives. The paper also indicates that $800m of foreign aid money would be redirected to build tropical health centres and increase medical training opportunities, and a relocation of hundreds of public servants.
It is a plan to transform the nation by rapidly developing its least populated regions. There'd be new dams, PNG hydro-electricity to supply baseload power and a 15 year 'rolling priority list' of infrastructure spending. The big government interevention is supported by the free market Institute of Public Affairs. So much for their commitment to market based solutions.
The proposal includes:
– Developing a food bowl including premium produce which could double Australia's agricultural output.
– Growing the tourist economy in the north to $100 billion and 2.5 million tourists.
– The growth of an energy export industry worth $150 billion with a major proportion of sustainable energy.
– Tripling of resource exports, adding over $100 billion to the economy.
– Relocation of defence facilities to the north to support our strategic and regional objectives and allies.
– Establishing at least two world class medical centres of excellence in the north.
– Creating three to five leading vocational and higher education campuses with world class strengths in selected areas.
– Growing Australia's exports of technical skills related to resources and agriculture to a $7 billion industry.
It's a mixture of 1950s style developmentalism and Gina Rinehart's northern economic zone with its different tax laws, different tax zones and maximising the profits.
This northern development old style developmentalism because holds that the northern parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia are the "last frontier". It is in the same vein as turning back the rivers and building the Ord River dam in the Kimberleys.
This food bowl and dams is in the form of the cornucopian 'Australia Unlimited' dreaming. The north is underdeveloped; the land is there; just add water. And we have large-scale irrigated agriculture in northern Australia. The dream is the massive transformation of landscapes akin to that of the Murray-Darling Basin--ie., large scale land clearing and weakening environmental laws
To make the most of these foodbowl for Asia opportunities, the anti-development ideology that has locked up large tracts of northern Australia must end so that Big Agriculture can overcome the Green's irrational aversion to building new dams. However, the CSIRO argued, based on its research for the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce, that northern Australia is “water limited” thanks to high evaporation rates (of water in dams) and a lack of rainfall for six months of the year. They say:
The north’s annual floods make people and places inaccessible, render much of the landscape unsuitable for development, and are responsible for the teeming fish stocks of the north’s rivers and oceans. The north’s annual droughts make large parts of the landscape unattractive to humans, inhospitable for animals and present a considerable impediment to development.
Northern Australia will not be the food bowl of Asia, simply because it doesn’t have the amount of water and land to spread irrigation without doing major damage to our rivers, and to the countryside.