Regional development

NT must be involved in northern Australia development strategy: ACT Chief Minister

The Northern Territory must be an equal partner to Western Australia and Queensland in the development of northern Australia says Chief Minister Adam Giles.

Speaking at CEDA's Economic and Political Overview in Darwin, Mr Giles said during a meeting with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, he expressed the need for the Territory to be involved in the region's development strategy.

"If we are not going to be an equal partner in the development of northern Australia, we (NT) will go it on our own," he said.

As indicated by the Coalition's 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia and Mr Abbott's announcement of Australia's first Northern Australia White Paper, the Territory should play a key role in developing export relationships with Asian markets.

Mr Giles said Asia is already a critical component of the Territory's economy and expected to grow with Indonesia's emerging middle class.

"I expect to sign a joint trade agreement with Timor and Indonesia in the next month or two to help develop trade and social relationships between the NT as a jurisdiction and these two countries," he said.

He also said the demand for safe and nutritious food will increase and present more export opportunities.

"More than 70 per cent of the fresh produce in Indonesia's major supermarkets is imported and demand for quality imports is growing faster and faster," he said.

On the topic of the Territory's economic development, Mr Giles said the Government is pro-business and private investment.

"This government is unashamedly pro-business, we legislate to create certainty for investors…and we're working hard to reduce administrative burdens that slow down investors," he said.

He said building infrastructure will help the Territory supply gas to state markets where energy crises are looming.  

"My plan on building a gas pipeline from Alice Springs to Moomba…would see us be able to sell gas to the south east corner of Australia into the markets of NSW and Victoria," he said.

Mr Giles also said infrastructure projects such as the six new major roads to be built will not only ensure greater business and community connectivity but create jobs.  

Also speaking at the event, ANZ Senior Economist Justin Fabo said the employment outlook in the NT is positive but jobs growth will have to happen in non-mining sectors.

"Looking at the NT, clearly the positive part of the labour market has been Darwin," he said.

"The unemployment rate has really stuck around the three per cent mark for several years now whereas the deterioration in the overall labour market has been outside Darwin."

At a national level, the employment outlook is also positive as indicated by job ad measures and firm capacity.

"We have some confidence that the unemployment rate could be close to peaking out…but it will probably stick around that six per cent mark for an extended period of time," he said.

Speaking about the Australian dollar, Mr Fabo said it has performed well for longer than expected in part due to international factors.

"Going forward our view is that as commodity prices come off a bit more then the currency should drift lower," he said.

"In terms of the medium term outlook, the currency should lower over the next couple of years…in broad terms the Australian economy…is more or less in line with the rest of the world."