COMMENT: Northern Australia - and particularly North Queensland - must get ready to embrace the vision being devised right now, which will provide a blueprint for decades of development and prosperity.
Released by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, the Preliminary Report into Agricultural Development and Tropical Health Servicing in Northern Australia gives an insight into the progress, threats and solutions regarding projects that can grow Northern Australia.
It highlights the vast array of economic and job opportunities available for the North, particularly in aquaculture, beef, broadacre cropping, forestry, and health services.
This is the first time we will have detailed Northern Australia-specific data for a range of industries which will inform policy and budget discussion at the highest levels of government.
This study is an offshoot of the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia which outlines the Coalition Government's plan to make the North stronger and more prosperous.
This includes improving roads and telecommunications, as well as water infrastructure, health care and zonal taxation.
As this report notes, it remains clear that the northern development agenda is critical to a more prosperous and secure future for all Australians.
Indigenous-led involvement, particularly in Cape York and Townsville, has been identified as a key component of northern progress in fields such as bush foods, aquaculture and modes of delivery for health services.
It remains clear that the northern development agenda is critical to a more prosperous and secure future for all Australians.
About 78 per cent of Northern Australia is subject to indigenous interests, so I encourage Aboriginal corporations, native title holders and healthcare providers to continue contributing to the planning.
This report also notes that while just 5.2pc of the population lives in Australia's North, the region produced 10.7pc, or $187 billion of the nation's GDP in 2016-17.
This is a staggering figure that underpins why I have been lobbying in Canberra for continued and increased political focus on our North.
This report also highlights the fact Northern Australia produces 13.8pc of Australia's agricultural yield, and cattle grazing is responsible for the largest use of land in that zone, producing $5.03b in economic value to Australia.
This is why our Government is investing in better roads across the North and investigating - via the CRCNA - the region's capacity for broadacre cropping of fodder for cattle and food crops, particularly around the Gilbert and Mitchell River catchment west of Cairns, and near the Flinders River around Richmond and Julia Creek west of Townsville.
The CRCNA has also identified impediments to northern development such as lack of skilled labour, high energy costs, distance to markets, and mobile phone and internet connectivity.
There is also a keen demand for workers throughout North Queensland and many businesses struggle to attract and keep employees.
But I see this demand being filled with continued improvements to infrastructure, education and services in the regions which will bring in and retain people eager to work in long-term, good-paying jobs in a range of industries.
I am excited by this recent snapshot of Northern development, and I look forward to the final report being released mid-year.