We have a 20-year plan to develop northern Australia, and we need to keep the pace going. We need to have persistence to see this plan through and to develop opportunities for all Australians but, of course, particularly those Australians that live in the 40 per cent of Australia that makes up northern Australia.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:30):
My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. Can the minister please update the Senate on the Liberal-National government's progress in developing northern Australia?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:30):
I thank Senator Stoker for her question and her interest in the development of northern Australia, particularly North Queensland in her home state. It's been just over three years now since the government announced the first white paper to develop northern Australia in our nation's history. Tonight I will join a function of more than 150 people from northern Australia here at Parliament House to recognise the annual statement that is made to parliament around the development of northern Australia. It's important to remember this is a 20-year plan. We have a 20-year plan to develop northern Australia, and we need to keep the pace going. We need to have persistence to see this plan through and to develop opportunities for all Australians but, of course, particularly those Australians that live in the 40 per cent of Australia that makes up northern Australia.
Since announcing that white paper just over three years ago, we have provided $700 million for roads right across northern Australia. That includes 37 projects, 32 of which are complete, underway or fully approved. We have put aside more than $200 million to develop water infrastructure across northern Australia, including $176 million for the Rookwood Weir in Central Queensland, as well as 15 other feasibility studies, nine of which are complete. The CRC funding innovative research in food, agriculture and tropical health in northern Australia has also been established; there is $75 million towards it. Overall, 38 of the 51 measures that were in the white paper three years ago are now complete, and the rest are continuing to be underway and moving towards completion.
As I said, this is a decades-long nation-building plan for our country. The key thing now is that we do get buy-in from all sides of politics and from state and territory governments to continue to push forward with the development of our nation, not just for the people of northern Australia but so that all Australians can benefit from the development of Australia and more economic opportunity therein.
Senator Stoker, a supplementary question.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:32):
How is northern Australia already benefiting from this much-needed investment and opportunity?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:32):
In the time permitted, I might just focus on a few particular projects, because our agenda is project focused. It is focused on delivering tangible, concrete things that can deliver results for northern Australia. The Rookwood Weir in Central Queensland that I mentioned earlier will double agricultural production in the Fitzroy Basin, the second largest water catchment in our whole nation. That will deliver 2,100 jobs. It will drought-proof the towns of Rocky and Gladstone as well. There are some of the roads I mentioned. The development of the Hann Highway will make the first sealed route from Cairns to Melbourne in our country. That road will cut travel times by eight hours for the freight sector and shorten the trip by 800 kilometres, an enormous benefit, particularly to our banana growers and horticulture producers in North Queensland. We're also building the Outback Way. We've put $330 million towards building just the third sealed route across our continent in our nation's history, a massive nation-building project. Almost $1 billion has been allocated by the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility towards projects that will create jobs in northern Australia too.
Senator Stoker, a final supplementary question.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:33):
What more can be done to ensure that northern Australia reaches its true potential?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:33):
We've already built on the $6 billion white paper process to develop northern Australia in this year's budget, where a further $1½ billion was allocated to the Roads of Strategic Importance program. This program is to build on the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program and the Northern Australia Roads Program, which I mentioned in answers to previous questions. That will help unlock even more economic opportunity for northern Australia. We are receiving back some of those water feasibility studies which show that dams can be built across northern Australia, including recent CSIRO work which has identified six new dam proposals across northern Australia. We must support development for our Indigenous Australians, who make up more than 15 per cent of the population in northern Australia, and particularly respect their views when they want development to occur, whether it's in the cape or with the development of the Carmichael coal project, where 294 out of the 295 Wangan and Yagalingu people who voted on this project voted for the Adani mine. They want it to go ahead, and we should support the views of the Aboriginal Australians who want to see jobs.