The federal government is investing $1.6 billion upgrading roads in the Northern Territory. It will improve mobility, it will improve access to tourism in the Northern Territory and it will improve business with lower costs and by helping attract investment and more economic opportunity into the Territory.
Senator McMAHON (Northern Territory) (14:34):
My question is to the Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister. Could the minister update the Senate on the transformative road infrastructure projects the government is rolling out in the Northern Territory?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:34):
I thank Senator McMahon for her question and recognise her strong passion to see the north developed, and to do that we need better roads in the Northern Territory. That is why the federal government is investing $1.6 billion upgrading roads in the Northern Territory. It will improve mobility, it will improve access to tourism in the Northern Territory and it will improve business with lower costs and by helping attract investment and more economic opportunity into the Territory.
Obviously, the Territory is an area of large distances, not just within the Territory itself but also between it and other parts of the economic activity of this nation. That means that, say, the livestock industry in the Territory often faces costs of more than a third of its final value of its product taken up in transport costs. So the more we can lower those costs for the industry the more opportunities that industry will have to attract investment and jobs in the Northern Territory.
That's why we're taking action on specific projects like the Tanami Road, which is between Alice Springs and Halls Creek in northern Western Australia. It was described once on Radio National Breakfast as the worst highway in Australia. It is in need of massive investment. This government is taking action. After decades of talk, finally we're acting to see investment on that. The CSIRO has estimated for us that upgrading or sealing parts of that road could save up to nearly $8 a head for livestock producers in that region. It will be a great benefit to the mining industry as well, who go through trucks like no tomorrow. We are upgrading the Outback Way—a different road. The Outback Way will be sealed progressively over the next decade across our continent, making only the third sealed route from eastern Australia to Western Australia in our nation's history. Finally, it will go right through Alice Springs and will make Alice the true centre of our nation, with a sealed highway to match with significant investment in the north. There are a variety of other roads we're investing in to help industry and to help the Territory get ahead, and that's why we are investing for northern Australia.
Senator McMahon, a supplementary question.
Senator McMAHON (Northern Territory) (14:36):
Could the minister update the Senate on the Regional Deal the coalition government has struck for the Barkly region?
Senator CANAVAN(Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:36):
This is a very exciting arrangement, because it's the first time that we have taken the City Deal-type approach to a smaller community in our nation. We've done significant investments and deals with other larger cities around Australia, but it's great that we are also focusing on areas like the Barkly region and Tennant Creek to make sure they get sufficient focus from our nation's government. We are investing, or have already committed, $45 million in that community in a variety of projects. A very exciting one we did was to get radar services properly established there. During the floods in north-west Queensland we saw how important radar is in those parts of the world. Senator Macdonald knows that well. We're investing $16 million to increase housing supply and reduce overcrowding. We also have various investments in mediation services for youth and for reactivating sporting leagues and creating a business hub in the Barkly region to help the Territory get ahead.
The PRESIDENT: Senator McMahon, a final supplementary question.
Senator McMAHON (Northern Territory) (14:37):
What is the coalition government doing to support the development of water infrastructure in the Northern Territory?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:38):
As I said the other day in this chamber, there are enormous water resources in northern Australia, but we haven't appropriately captured and used those at this stage. Last year, we had the CSIRO look at a variety of catchments across northern Australia, one of which was the Darwin catchment. It's got enormous potential. Some of our best scientists from the CSIRO looked at this and identified a range of off-stream storages on the Mary and Adelaide rivers that could be built in the Darwin region. The CEO of Northern Territory Farmers, Greg Owens, said about this work, 'It is a very comprehensive and detailed report which provides the information that our growers need to make decisions in northern Australia.' We are following up on that report. A few months ago I was with Senator McMahon in Darwin announcing further funding for the Adelaide River Offstream Water Storage project. It could create up to 1,400 jobs and increase farming activity in Darwin and the Northern Territory.