17 October 2017

JASON CLARE: Im here with my colleagues from Northern Australia. Today weve got business leaders and community leaders from Northern Australia that are down for the Northern Australia update. Every year the Government gives an update to Parliament on what its doing to implement the Northern Australia White Paper. But this morning weve found out that Barnaby Joyce is not going to deliver that update today. Its pretty surprising on the one hand, but on the other hand I can understand why hes too chicken to do it because hes got nothing to say. This is a Government thats talked big and promised big about Northern Australia. Theyve delivered very little.

The best example of that is the NAIF the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. Two and a half years ago this Government promised a $5 billion infrastructure fund for the north. A $5 billion fund to build infrastructure and create jobs in Northern Australia and its delivered nothing. This has been an epic fail. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fail, no money and no jobs.

The conservatives have promised the people of the north infrastructure to create jobs. Theres a lot of people struggling in the north unemployment is high. In some part of Northern Australia the unemployment rate is the highest its been since the Great Depression. So people were pretty excited when they heard about this White Paper, heard about this fund. But theyre bloody disappointed now that this Government has let them down. That bugger all has been spent on infrastructure in the north. And its appalling that Barnaby Joyce is not even going to tell the Parliament why hes failed.

This Government has spent more money in the North Island of New Zealand over the last two years than NAIF has spent on infrastructure in Northern Australia. Barnaby Joyce should come into the Parliament today and explain what hes going to do to fix it.

WARREN SNOWDON: Its great to be here, but so disappointing. We had thought because we work in a very bipartisan way on the Northern Australia Committee we had thought this Government would actually live up to its word and make this statement today. But clearly Barnaby Joyce is not only out of his depth, hes out of ideas. As a result of that were getting nothing from them here today.

At the same time of course as long as were not getting any money spent through the NAIF we know theyre cutting services in Northern Australia. $230 million out of schools. Hows that helping people who are looking for work, who need education as a basis for getting that work? Its a deplorable story.

This Government talks big, does nothing. The person who is to blame for that directly to blame for that is Barnaby Joyce. More concerned as to whether hes going to be here next week than he is about the people of Northern Australia. Hes holding us to ransom, its an absolute insult.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: It is incredibly disappointing; so many people have been looking forward to hearing what was going to happen today in terms of the development of the North. For my colleagues and I here and certainly for people in Northern Australia they desperately do need to know and have confidence that this Government knows what it is doing, and clearly, it doesnt. Just the withdrawal of the statement, may not seem like much too many, but it is a lot.

It says a lot more about the fact that there is no real genuine concern by this government about the people of Northern Australia going forward.

CATHY OTOOLE: Its very clear to the people of Herbert, in the electorate I represent the people of Townsville that this Government has no intention of supporting our water and energy crisis, and that could have been done through the NAIF. Townsville is a city that has level 3 water restrictions and we have had that for more than 18 months. What have we got from the NAIF? Absolutely nothing. It is Labor that has committed $100 million to put towards our long term water security. We have pensioners, low income families, businesses who are struggling desperately with rising costs of energy. What have we seen from this Government and the NAIF to help us address our energy crisis? Absolutely nothing. But I was very proud to stand with Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition when we committed $200 million to a hydro power on the Burdekin Falls Dam. That will deliver some hope, investment and opportunity for our community. A city like Townsville cannot grow and prosper with level 3 water restrictions. That means very little water and no energy solution to encourage investment into our community.

LUKE GOSLING: Extremely disappointing that were not going to get a Ministerial Statement from Barnaby Joyce on what we hear a lot about, Developing the North, but weve seen a lot of talk and not a lot of action. What has become increasingly clear is that Barnaby Joyce has paid about as much attention to the NAIF as he has to his own dual-citizenship.

There has been a disgraceful lack of focus and commitment by the Turnbull-Joyce Government to the people of Northern Australia. Weve got great potential in the people in Northern Australia in transforming the red dirt into pay dirt, but I think the answer to achieving this is a Shorten Labor Government.

Bill Shorten, the Labor leader, has said we will take one billion dollars from the NAIF and put it into tourism infrastructure across the North. Thats the sort of leadership we need to develop the great potential of Northern Australia.

Weve seen nothing from the Turnbull Government which is a disgrace but there is no excuse for what weve seen today by Barnaby Joyce not stepping up in the Parliament and giving us any vision, any commitment to Northern Australia.

PATRICK DODSON: I am one of the few Senators from the North actually. I live in Broome. Any investment is greatly appreciated and that is why this is so disappointing.

There are many people who live in the North pastoralists, Aboriginal people, small business owners people who are trying to make a living, people are trying to get decent services.

It is really, really frustrating and disappointing when those services are lacking, when the investment is lacking when the infrastructure to grow the various industries that are significant to us is lacking.

Whether it is the pastoral industry, land development or whether it is the social infrastructure thats required in order to sustain the quality of services for the citizens who live there, this is about a Australia providing some equity to people who live in Northern Australia.

We have been let down, let down seriously, and the people of Northern Australia know that.

That is the frustrating thing about this. It has been a lot of promise, a lot of wind and a lot of hot air and no hitting of the road with real practical outlays. It is disappointing.

MURRAY WATT: Id just like to join with my colleagues and express great disappointment in the failure of Barnaby Joyce to come forward today with an update on the Northern Australia White Paper.

Labor very strongly believes that regional Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the northern part of Western Australia have a very great future, but we need to see a federal government thats actually prepared to get behind our regions.

What were seeing over and over again from the Turnbull-Joyce Government is promises that arent delivered. The Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility is the best example of that, but there are many other examples, even within that White Paper that was launched a couple of years ago, that actually fail to deliver anything. As well as the NAIF not doing anything apart from pay expensive director and senior executive salaries the Beef Roads Program that was announced in that White Paper nothing has come of it. The Northern Australia Roads Program that was announced there - nothing has come of it.

Weve got Jobs Growth Funds that were announced as part of the election last year, nothing is happening. Weve got the Building Better Regions program, which hasnt even opened applications yet.

I think people in regional Australia are working out that the Turnbull-Joyce LNP Government is all talk. They talk big at election time, and talk about what theyre gonna do, but when it actually comes through to delivering, they fail time and time again.

People in regional Australia are sick of it, and thats why theyre listening to an alternative from Bill Shorten and the Labor team, talking about real jobs for regional Australia, an NBN that actually works, and real hope for regions right across Australia.