The Northern Territory is on a path to pulling its own economic weight, but needs investment in missing infrastructure, its chief minister says.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles looks north for a population top-up and south for a business influx, and says his reliant state is on the path to pulling its own weight.
Investment in key infrastructure is needed to unlock the territory’s potential, he also says, and to support the growth of industries which underpin neighbouring states.
“It’s weird when you think about the mining and development that has occurred in WA and Queensland … I’m no geologist, but I’m sure that there are rocks and hydrocarbons that flow beyond those borders,” Mr Giles told AAP.
“We need to transition ourselves from a receiver of commonwealth money to producing our own income, on a broader scale than what we already do, so we can contribute to the rest of the nation.
“To do that you need to be able open the country up – support mining, agriculture and horticulture and other developments … otherwise you continue to be a mendicant (begging) state with your hand out.”
Mr Giles supports creating a new economic zone for the NT, but says investment in missing transport and other infrastructure could deliver an earlier economic boost.
Projects include an Alice Springs to Moomba gas pipeline, Tanami Road connecting Alice Springs to Halls Creek and a rail link from Mt Isa to Tennant Creek. Telecommunications were also vital.
Mr Giles spoke after a meeting with business leaders in Melbourne. His investment roadshow has also touched down in Sydney and will next visit Brisbane and Perth.
“We want to sell the message of who the NT is, what we’ve got to offer and we want investment from Australia,” he said.
“We are actively encouraging investment from overseas, from Asia, but – fundamentally – we want Australia to invest in Australia.”
A parliamentary report on the development of northern Australia, also released on Thursday, said university graduates could have their HELP debt wiped if they moved to the region to start their careers.
Mr Giles said past schemes aimed at encouraging Australians to relocate were under-subscribed and the NT should instead boost its attractiveness as an educational hub for Asian students.
“Four hours to the south of Darwin there are six major cities … and 23 million people,” Mr Giles said.
“You look four hours north you’ve got eight capital cities of nations, 36 trading ports and 69 international airports and half-a-billion people.”
NT DEVELOPMENT REPORT – MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS:
* Wipe off HELP debt for graduates who move to remote northern locations
* Relocate public service and defence assets to the north
* Appoint a federal northern Australia minister
* Create special economic zones
* Upgrade key roads
* Develop climate change impact planning process
* Improve access to high-speed broadband