Trade Minister Andrew Robb says investors from Canada and the United States could be the key to northern Australia’s future.
Canadian and US investors could be the key to opening up development in northern Australia, Trade Minister Andrew Robb says.
A discussion paper on northern Australia’s future will be released by Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss at an event in Townsville on Tuesday.
The green paper will be the first stage in the development of a long-term policy for the region, fulfilling a coalition election promise.
Mr Robb, who is in Canada with a 20-member business delegation, told AAP that pension funds in North America – which were already involved in a billions of dollars of Australian infrastructure projects – were looking for new opportunities.
“These pension funds could end up in agribusiness investments through the supply chain,” he said.
“It makes a lot of sense because they are long-term investments.”
He said opening up northern parts of WA, the NT and Queensland would also require rail, airports and ports linked to the major new agricultural projects.
The growth in Asia’s middle class – from about 600 million to three billion people over the next three decades – would drive demand for specialist crops, horticulture and sugar.
“These sorts of ventures across the north, in what is currently just cattle country, are in prospect for the first time ever because of the size and sophistication of the market that is emerging,” Mr Robb said.
“We would never be able to supply all of these people, so we ought to aim for the high end.”
The minister said Australia’s capital markets were not deep enough to fund this development and take the long-risks associated with it.
“That is why I am on my bike all over the world.”
The government will also on Tuesday release a feasibility study into a baseload power station in the Pentland area west of Townsville.
The study, involving Guildford Coal Ltd and Mackay Sugar Ltd, was initiated in April 2013 by the Labor government.