Addressing CEDA’s State of the Territory event in Darwin, Mr Gunner said Darwin and the Northern Territory are best placed to take advantage of the opportunities in Asia.
“Our security in the region that we call home, our leadership on issues that impact our region, our commerce, our cultural and our sporting ties, our artistic links, it is best done from here, the North,” he said.
“We are not near Asia, we are not Asia adjacent, we are not the gateway to Asia, we are Asia.
“It is quicker and easier for us to get to Dili, Denpasar, Singapore, Shenzhen than Canberra.
“The North produces 55 per cent of our exports, 12 per cent of our GDP and we do it all from just 5.5 per cent of Australia’s population.
“And right now we are only a fraction of what we could be.
“Imagine what we could do if more people called the Northern Territory home?
“Imagine what we could be if we invested in Darwin as the capital of the North, adding competition with Singapore not Sydney.
“Imagine if we made things here and got them to market in half the time of Brisbane, or at half the cost to Sydney.
“When I speak with high ranking officers from America, the US marines, the navy, air force, they get it.
“They say to me look at a map, they understand our strategic importance and yet every day we battle our own Australian government that is intent on moving the equipment and people away and who are investing the service and capacity in Perth, rather than Darwin.
“We are hitting brick walls with the current Australian government to get $300 million from them for a ship lift here in Darwin, an economic game changer.
“A ship lift would enable a marine service industry to be established here, defence fleets, fishing fleets, pearling fleets, oil and gas fleets, tourism fleets, international vessels, it makes sense that we compete for this business from here, close to the fleets of our northern neighbours just as a US navy would prefer Darwin to Perth, so do commercial operators.
“This is how we become internationally competitive as a nation, this is how we secure our future prosperity as a country.”
Mr Gunner said that the Northern Territory needed to leverage its resources better and have leaders and capital that would take risk.
“We have 500 trillion cubic feet of gas just in one layer of the Beetaloo, enough to power Australia for 400 years and this is a conservative estimate,” he said.
“We have got gas and the east coast needs it, our gas will provide the next step for the North.
“There are four things you can do with gas, you can put it in a pipe and send it east, you can put it in a train and send it overseas, you can turn it into electricity or you can make things with it, I think we need to think big.
“We are already a world class export hub, a world class service centre.
“But we can be more.
“This is how we break out of the boom and bust, how we create secure jobs, how we create the high paying, high skilled jobs of the modern economy, we can not take for granted that these things will happen.
“But it’s not just about gas, it has to be about energy.
“We will be a global powerhouse for solar, with our incredible, reliable cloud free days in the centre.
“We will have the technology that allows us to export this power and this will happen more sooner rather than later.
“We are also ready to take the next step with our primary industries.
“Pastures for cattle feed, cotton, soy beans as well as our traditional mangoes, are products we can grow better and more of, but we need more water.
“We know from our world class live cattle exports that we can do it from here.
“Only a few weeks ago a business in Darwin was exporting food to Cambodia, exporting food to Dili.
“Our future is north, our future is Asia and we are Asia. It is up to us to make this happen,” he said.
The Hon. Michael Gunner MLA, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory MP3
Kristina Clifton, Commonwealth Bank of Australia PDF
Delegate handout PDF