The message to Canberra from the Northern Territory is clear – Prime Minister Scott Morrison must stop neglecting the Top End.
That’s the message from meetings with First Nations communities and representatives of the tourism, agriculture, business and cattle industries from Darwin to Katherine this week.
These meetings only reinforced the feedback we have received right across Northern Australia for the last six years. The Government’s Northern Australia Agenda, led by Minister Matt Canavan, has been a failure
People across the north remain keen to see the agenda move forward, but are frustrated by the Government’s failure to follow through.
For instance, the once exciting prospect of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF), has released so little money in its four years that most communities fail to see any real impact.
The Northern Territory is an increasingly important economic and strategic centre for Australia, given its proximity to Asia.
The region is full of potential for growth, yet the Morrison Government is nowhere to be seen.
Since the Federal Election, the Prime Minister has not stepped foot in the Northern Territory. Nor have most of his ministry. We have not seen the Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer, Agriculture Minister, Tourism Minister, Defence Minister or even his Minister for Northern Australia make the trip.
In contrast, in the same period, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition have visited, in addition to several other Shadow Ministers.
There are many things the Morrison Government could do, to get behind the Northern Territory:
- Commit to funding the ship lift along with the Territory Government, to stamp Darwin as a hub for marine maintenance and servicing in Northern Australia and create long term local jobs.
- Bring forward infrastructure projects such as the Alice Springs to Darwin Corridor upgrade, the Central Arnhem Road upgrade or the Tennant Creek to Townsville Corridor upgrade, which won’t see most of their funding till after 2023.
- Stop the delays and get on with the Darwin City Deal
- Speed up the roll out of the $20 billion in 20 years Defence Infrastructure investment.
- Fast track the promised funds for Kakadu.
But the Morrison Government isn’t doing any of this.
It’s time for this third term government to get moving on Northern Australia. They’ve been in power for six years, but the north has little to show for it.