Tony Abbott when he visited Mackay in May. Photo Peter Holt / Daily Mercury
Tony Abbott when he visited Mackay in May. Photo Peter Holt / Daily Mercury Peter Holt

'Ambitious' plan to tap into northern Australia's potential

THE Federal Government has outlined its multi-billion dollar vision for northern Australia in its bid to turn the region into an economic powerhouse.

New roads, dams, trade and investment initiatives, changes to land use laws as well as air and rail infrastructure form the cornerstone of the government's ambitious blueprint for the region.

The plan also includes $5 billion in concessional loans that was announced in last month's budget.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Thursday the government's vision would help drive down the cost of doing business in northern Australia.

"We have set out an ambitious long-term reform agenda for the north because a strong north means a strong nation," he said.

"If the north does well, our country does well.

"It is directed towards making the north more attractive for people to live and work."

National Farmers Federation chief Tony Maher told ABC Radio the organisation had been pushing for a long-term plan to boost agricultural production in the north.

"There is certainly available land up there and there is also available water," he said.

"There is certainly opportunity up there but what we really need is the infrastructure that will allow agriculture to develop in parts of Northern Australia."

James Cook University vice-chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said developing the north would deliver tremendous benefits for the entire nation.

"There is great untapped potential in Northern Australia and I believe this is a giant step towards enabling the development of our northern regions," she said.

"A new idea of Australia is required ... that new idea is that the development of the north and the tropics around us holds the key to Australia's future prosperity."

Federal Opposition spokesman Gary Gray told ABC Radio the plan was big on vision but light on achievable measures.

"Grand northern Australian development dreams are nearly as old as the nation itself and have repeatedly failed to materialise," he said.

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