Many people in Northern Australia do
not see the need to develop secondary
and tertiary industries when the returns
from their primary industries are already
adequate to support a comfortable lifestyle.
However, Northern Australia needs to move
away from this focus on primary industries
and toward the value-adding secondary
and tertiary industries. It is these that
will provide opportunities for greater
Arguments supporting the development
of Northern Australia have been around
for many years. Reasons include the need
to use the land fully before exploitation
by overseas companies and the need to
develop the resource extraction industry
to meet both domestic and international
demand for raw and processed material.
Those arguing against development see
the associated infrastructure as vulnerable
to attack in times of war.
There is widespread recognition that
Northern Australia is rich in natural
resources. An estimated 9 million hectares
of land in Northern Australia is being
used for agriculture. Forests occupy a
further 800,000ha. Other minerals, fisheries
and water resources are spread across
To date, the economy of Northern Australia
has been dependant on the production and
export of these raw materials, either
in their or part-processed state. Three
industries support most of Northern Australia.
- Pastoral: convenient because it stretches
over a large area of semi-arid to arid
land and involves the relatively simple
export of live cattle and carcasses.
- Mineral: with the raw product sold
to countries or taken out of the region
to be further processed.
- Agriculture: crops such as tobacco
are grown and dried at the farm then
transported out of the region for processing
Some people argue that our dependence
on primary industry is simply due to the
local environment and the tyranny of distance.
However development would improve the
quality of life for Northern Australians,
and the money required to create services
and infrastructure would in turn generate
Northern Australia's emphasis on primary
production means it misses out on the
benefits of value-adding. With abundant
raw materials the North would be well
situated to provide a constant and reliable
supply of goods for value-adding, thus
ironing out some of the price fluctuations.
Price fluctuations for raw commodities
are also common and if a region relies
on one industry and the price of the commodity
declines, the economy of the whole region
is adversely affected. People and business
relying on a steady flow of income can
often not tolerate such fluctuations;
they struggle through, close down, or
never open in the first place. On the
other hand, if a region has multiple industries
it is better positioned to absorb the
impact of fluctuating commodity prices.
Most economic theorists and planners
argue that, in order to develop, a country
or region needs to move away from an emphasis
on primary production such as agriculture
or mining. If northern Australia were
to invest in more infrastructure to diversify
industrially it would attract other industry
and more services.
The development of infrastructure in
northern Australia is essential for its
future. Investment in more efficient modes
of transport and communication and environmental
management infrastructure would not only
increase the efficiency of existing industry,
but provide the incentive for new and
For example, more money were invested
in telecommunications in rural areas would
benefit not only the people in those places
but also the national economy. Effective
communication between individuals and
companies is essential for trade and industries
to flourish in an area.
Such infrastructure would also enhance
existing and new secondary and tertiary
industries. For example, the money generated
by a tertiary industry such as a university
specializing in health or commerce would
benefit secondary industries like mineral
processing and food processing and its
graduates could use their knowledge to
provide a service to primary and secondary
industry. It would also enable partnerships
between these different levels of industry
to be formed. Such a top-down focus would
allow improved use of infrastructure to
generate further local income.
Business services to both public and
private sectors would best complement
existing and likely future primary and
secondary industries in Northern Australia.
Of particular value would be those dealing
with marketing, economics, community and
welfare areas and administrative activities.
With these improved services possibilities
for economic growth would increase, including
a boost to tourism which currently brings
in $2 billion to Australia annually. This
economic boost would revolve around increased
demand for the districts' food, transportation
and accommodation services.
A combination of improved infrastructure
and diversified industry would allow the
people of Northern Australia to absorb
better the fluctuations in commodity prices.
Income would become more reliable, enabling
service industries to establish with confidence.
More money would consistently enter the
community, and it would stay in the community
Northern Australia would become a more
attractive place to live. Australia would
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