PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has been accused of ignoring Northern Australia in his new Cabinet announced on Monday.
Opposition spokesman on Northern and Remote Australia, Senator Ian Macdonald, said Mr Rudd had ignored “the vital” portfolio of Northern Development in his ministry, while Acting Queensland Premier Jeff Seeney questioned Mr Rudd’s decision not to appoint a single Queenslander – other than himself – to his new Cabinet.
“How can Queenslanders have any confidence at all that their interests are being represented, when they don’t even have a voice in the ministry?” Mr Seeney asked.
Senator Macdonald said Mr Rudd’s decision not to create a portfolio for Northern development was a slap in the face for the region.
“In direct contrast to the Coalition, which has released a Green Paper on Northern Development and our vision for 2030, Mr Rudd has completely ignored the region and its possibilities,” Senator Macdonald said.
He said the two ministers given responsibility for Regional Australia, Catherine King and Sharon Bird live in Ballarat and Wollongong and would have “no idea of what was needed to take advantage of opportunities in the North”.
“Add to that, Joel Fitzgibbon whose electorate is Hunter, part of the Greater Sydney region, has been made Agriculture Minister and I would guess it’s a very long time since Mr Fitzgibbon had anything to do with the business end of farming,” Senator Macdonald said.
“This new ministry will be going to an election with no knowledge or understanding of what is needed in the North to revive the cattle and agriculture industries, hit hard by the live cattle ban, drought and bushfire.”
The Coalition has promised to commission a White Paper on the development of Northern Australia within a year of the election of a Coalition government.
In June, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott released a document titled The Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia.
It says that Northern Australia could drive economic growth by developing a food bowl, including premium produce, which could help to double Australia’s agricultural output. The tourist industry could be grown to two million international visitors a year, and an energy export industry worth $150 billion to the economy could be built, with a major focus on clean, efficient energy.
It will be the focus of a series of forums conducted by Senator Macdonald to elicit the views of stakeholders, starting in Townsville this Wednesday, July 3, at the Mayoral Reception Rooms, Townsville City Council at 10am.
Further forums will be held in Cairns on July 8, Mackay on July 10, Darwin on July 22, Kununurra on July 23, Broome on July 24, and Mt Isa on July 25.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.