Through the Our North, Our Future White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, the Australian Government has been putting in place policies to unlock the north’s potential.
The Office of Northern Australia is actively leading implementation of the white paper and the northern agenda. We’re collaborating closely with over 14 departments and agencies from the Australian Government and northern jurisdictions through the Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian governments.
Together we’ve delivered 45 out of 51 measures, and are on track toward full implementation.
This progress update summarises each measure and what we’ve delivered since 2015.
White paper measures
- Pilot land reform projects in the north
Delivered: The National Indigenous Australians Agency has funded pilot land reform projects that support innovative changes to the governance of land use arrangements to simplify and boost investment. Two tranches of projects continue across the north.
- Aspiration to finalise native title claims within a decade
On track: The Attorney-General’s Department is developing proposals for legislative reform and is examining initiatives to assist in the resolution of claims arising from the COAG Investigation into Indigenous Land Administration and Use.
- More efficient native title processes
On track: The Attorney-General’s Department is developing a range of options to improve the efficiency of the native title system, including a simplified Indigenous Land Use Agreement process. This work is occurring in partnership with the Qld, NT and WA governments and the Indigenous business sector.
- Capacity building for native title corporations
Delivered: The National Indigenous Australians Agency supported a series of Prescribed Body Corporates’ (PBC) regional forums and continues to provide capacity building funding for PBCs to support economic outcomes. The National Native Title Council has developed PBC education material on native title determinations.
- Options to use exclusive native title rights for commercial purposes
Delivered: The National Indigenous Australians Agency with Qld, NT and WA governments remain committed to removing legal barriers to the creation of bankable interests on exclusive possession native title land, while retaining underlying native title.
- Land administration and township leasing
Delivered: The National Indigenous Australians Agency has worked with Gunyangara, Mutitjulu and Pirlangimpi in the Northern Territory to facilitate township leasing land administration. A housing precinct lease in Binjari (NT) was finalised in 2017. Negotiations for a township lease at Jabiru are advanced and negotiations are also continuing in three other communities. Township leases support community and economic development on Aboriginal land.
- New models to manage native title funds for development
Delivered: The National Indigenous Australians Agency considered the Indigenous Community Development Corporation model to manage native title. The determination of native title can provide a valuable income stream for Indigenous people through land related payments that support economic self-determination, business development and job creation.
- More business friendly information on different land tenure arrangements
Delivered: Austrade has delivered web-based, business friendly, investor focused guides on land tenure and native title systems in northern Australia.
- Pursue a set of principles and actions to improve the security, bankability and effciency of pastoral land
Delivered: The National Indigenous Australians Agency northern pilot land reform projects provide a sound framework for the Australian, Qld, NT and WA governments, Indigenous communities and other stakeholders to identify potential pastoral tenure improvements.
- National Water Infrastructure Development Fund: northern component
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications administers the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund that is supporting ongoing and detailed planning necessary to inform new and augmented water infrastructure investment decisions, and provides capital contributions for some northern projects. The 16 feasibility studies and three water resources assessments funded through the White Paper have been completed.
- Northern Australia Investment Forum and Northern Australia Value Proposition
Delivered: Austrade facilitated two Northern Australia Investment Forums. The first was in Darwin in 2015 and the second in Cairns in 2017. The forums brought international investors together to promote secure investment across the north. A Northern Australia Value Proposition was also produced.
- Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce
Delivered: The Treasury supported the Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce to complete an inquiry into options to lower insurance premiums in areas subject to extreme weather events. The taskforce report was released in March 2016.
- Linking the north with ASEAN and APEC connectivity agendas
Delivered: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade links the northern development agenda in the ongoing ASEAN and APEC connectivity agendas as required to support northern Australian business and investment growth.
- Fostering business-to-business links with Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste
Delivered: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade fostered business-to-business links for businesses in northern Australia. Projects include a semi-arid dryland cropping data centre project in Indonesia, business registration and licencing to improve the productivity and business skills of cocoa farmers in Papua New Guinea, and improving business credit to promote private sector growth in Timor-Leste.
- Expanding the Entrepreneurs’ Programme to assist tourism
Delivered: The Department of Industry Science, Energy and Resources’s $13.6 million Northern Australia Tourism Initiative launched in 2016 provides management advice and business support to eligible businesses in the northern tourism industry.
- Enhancing access to the Entrepreneurs’ Programme
Delivered: The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources amended the Entrepreneurs’ Programme eligibility guidelines, lowering the minimum turnover or operating expenditure threshold to $750 000 for small and medium business in the north. As a result, management advice and business support services have been extended to an additional 500 northern businesses.
- A Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia
Delivered: The $75 million Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia is supporting industry-led collaborative research projects where the north has particular strengths, including health service delivery, Traditional Owner led developments and agriculture, food and aquaculture.
- Bolstering tropical health research capacity
Delivered: The National Health and Medical Research Council invested $6.8 million to support a new tailored tropical health and medical research strategy. This high quality research into the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of tropical disease is building strong collaborative networks and domestic capacity in tropical health.
- Turning tropical research into commercial opportunities
Delivered: Austrade funded two Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation grants to develop pathways to commercialise Australian research on new tropical therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics in partnership with international companies.
- Links between tropical health research institutions and world class research institutions and the Tropical Health Short Course program for Indonesian professionals
Delivered: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade funded the Menzies School of Health Research to undertake advanced research into high priority tropical disease threats, and to deliver tropical health short courses to Indonesian professionals. This work is helping to address tropical health issues with the potential to affect Australia. short courses to Indonesian professionals.
- Increased Indigenous ranger biosecurity activities
Delivered: The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment provided $12.4 million to expand biosecurity surveillance activities by Indigenous ranger groups across northern Australian. The number of ranger groups undertaking this work has almost double and provides employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
- Single point of entry for major projects
Delivered: The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has delivered a single point of entry for major projects nationally through the Major Project Facilitation Agency, based in Darwin. The agency supports projects that are investing billions of dollars across northern Australia.
- Reforms to tourism visas
On track: The Department of Home Affairs is reforming tourism visas to boost tourist numbers across Australia. An online lodgement of visitor visas for Chinese and Indian citizens, and an online application facility in simplified Chinese occurred in 2017. Legislative changes to support the full implementation of the 10-year Validity Visitor Visa for eligible Chinese Nationals was passed in the House of Representatives in 2017, the Migration Amendment (Visa Revalidation and Other Measures) Bill 2016 is still before the Senate.
- Improve protections and cut red tape around Indigenous cultural heritage
In progress: The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has been engaging with Indigenous and industry stakeholders on possible amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984.
- Cutting red tape for fisheries
On track: The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is working with northern jurisdictions to develop options for the transition to single jurisdiction management of certain fisheries, including an assessment of risks and benefits for specific species. This is currently pending legislative agreement by jurisdictions.
- Wildlife trade reform
On track: The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is streamlining the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora permit processes to provide greater certainty for the commercial wildlife trade in northern Australia and remove permit requirements for low-risk native species.
- Productivity Commission Inquiry into Australia’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Regulation
Delivered: The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment led the Australian Government response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry on Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture report. The Inquiry’s report and the Australian Government’s response was tabled in Parliament in 2017.
- Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility
Delivered: The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, established in July 2016, offers up to $5 billion in financing on concessional terms to encourage and complement private sector investment in infrastructure that benefits northern Australia and broader public.
- Northern Australia roads package
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications committed $600 million to the Northern Australia Roads Programme and is upgrading high priority roads essential to the movement of people and freight and supporting economic development in the north.
- Improving cattle supply chains
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications committed $100 million to the Northern Australia Beef Roads Programme to upgrade key roads essential for transporting cattle. The programme is improving the reliability, productivity and resilience of cattle supply chains by reducing freight costs and strengthening market links.
- Northern Australia freight rail feasibility analysis
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications delivered the Strategic Options Paper and the Technical Assessment Program in April 2019. A pre-feasibility study on a potential rail line between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek was examined.
- Northern Australia pipeline of projects
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications published a northern Australia pipeline of projects on the National Infrastructure Construction Schedule website in 2018. Priorities were informed by Infrastructure Australia’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Audit and through consultation with northern jurisdictions.
- Northern Australia Infrastructure Audit
Delivered: The Northern Australia Infrastructure Audit assessed critical economic infrastructure requirements to meet projected northern Australia population and economic growth through to 2031. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications has also released the 2019 National Infrastructure Audit including a focus on northern Australia.
- Extension to the Remote Airstrip Upgrade program and additional support for the Remote Air Services Subsidy
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications fund the Remote Airstrip Upgrade program for safety and access works at eligible remote aerodromes across northern Australia. Under rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the program, the north has received over $21.9 million for 63 project upgrades.
- Improving aviation and surface transport connections-business stakeholder group
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications worked with industry experts to prepare the Northern Australia Transport Study, published in 2018. The study focuses on aviation and surface transport connections to, from and within northern Australia.
- Support enterprises in the north through the Industry Skills Fund
Delivered: The Department of Education, Skills and Employmentcontinues to support training for businesses and individuals through a range of skills programs, including the Skilling Australians Fund, the Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Program, Trade Support Loans and the VET Students Loans Program.
- Employment targets for Indigenous Australians, for road projects (and other relevant expenditure) funded through the White Paper
Delivered: The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications agreed to a framework for Indigenous employment targets in 2017. The framework is being applied to Northern Australia Roads and Beef Roads Programs.
- Support the NT Government to allow workers licenced from other Australian jurisdictions to have their licences more easily recognised in the Territory
Delivered: The Department of Education and Training and the Northern Territory Government advised in 2018 that occupational licensing is a state and territory responsibility and continues ongoing.
- Reforms to the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme to allow participants to work in local businesses
Delivered: The National Indigenous Australians Agency launched the Community Development Programme (CDP) in 2015. The CDP allows any organisation or business to place job seekers in their workplace to build skills and experience. Employers are also eligible to take up financial incentives to employ job seekers in local businesses long term.
- Designated Area Migration Agreements
Delivered: The Department of Home Affairs developed Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) to increase the supply of labour required for businesses to operate and grow. A Northern Territory DAMA Deed of Agreement was executed in 2015.
- Expanded Seasonal Worker Programme
Delivered: The Department of Educations, Skills and Employment expanded the Seasonal Worker Programme with the removal of the cap on programme places in 2015. The inclusion of the agricultural sector as an eligible industry, and the launch of a tourism pilot to fill labour shortages occurred in 2016.
- Working Holiday Maker-an additional six months with one employer
Delivered: The Department of Home Affairs amended the Working Holiday Maker Visa program guidelines in 2015 to allow Subclass 417 and Subclass 462 visa holders to work for an additional six months with one employer in specified industries across northern Australia.
- Work and Holiday Visa-second visa if they worked in tourism or agriculture in northern Australia
Delivered: The Department of Home Affairs amended the Work and Holiday (Subclass 462) Visa in 2016. Visa holders who complete three months’ work in tourism and hospitality, or agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries in northern Australia are now eligible to apply for a second Work and Holiday Visa.
- Pacific Microstates – Northern Australia Worker Pilot Programme
Delivered: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade signed memorandum of understandings with Kiribati (2016), Tuvalu (2017), and Nauru (2017) for a five-year pilot programme for workers from the Pacific microstates. The programme works to address unmet demand in industries with labour shortages in lower-skilled occupations in northern Australia. The programme has since been grandfathered into the Pacific Labour Scheme.
- Northern Australia Strategic Partnership
Delivered: The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet facilitate the Northern Australia Strategic Partnership chaired by the Prime Minister. Members include the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia with the First Ministers of the northern jurisdictions. The most recent meeting occurred in August 2019 in Cairns.
- Shift the Offce of Northern Australia to the north
Delivered: In December 2015, the Head of the Office of Northern Australia was appointed and the headquarters officially opened in Darwin. The Office has staff in Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane, Broome and Canberra.
- Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia be made a standing committee
Delivered: A Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia was appointed in the Senate in September 2016 and will therefore be part of all future Parliaments.
- Annual Statement to Parliament
Delivered: The Office of Northern Australia supports the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia to deliver an annual progress statement on the northern Australia development agenda. Statements have been delivered and tabled in Parliament in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
- Public Sector Secondment
Delivered: An agreement between the Office of Northern Australia and the Australian Public Service Commission reconfirmed processes remain in place for secondments across the north to improve the links between tiers of government.
- A northern Australia themed regulation repeal day in March 2016
Delivered: The Australian Government takes immediate and ongoing action on Australian Government regulations considered as red tape, rather than waiting for a specific repeal day.
- Strengthen the Australian Defence Force presence in northern Australia
Delivered: Through the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Australian Government is making a significant investment over the next decade to upgrade defence bases and facilities and establish new facilities in northern Australia. Defence is further developing international military partnerships with a number of countries, including Singapore and the United States.