Cuts could show little interest in northern fix
Cuts to the office in charge of developing northern Australia mean remote communities will continue missing out, some say.
The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has confirmed in Senate Estimates that Office of Northern Australia staff numbers have dropped from 15 to nine since last July.
Six members of the nine-person staff are based in Canberra.
The Office was set up to prepare the first ever White Paper on developing the north, providing resources and advice to Coalition ministers.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss's office says this will still happen, but others disagree.
“The Office of Northern Australia (ONA) is working closely with the taskforce, with the White Paper to determine the shape of future work on developing the north,” a statement from Mr Truss’s office reads.
“ONA is also continuing its important program of foundational research and policy analysis relating to the development of northern Australia.”
Shadow Minister for Northern Australia, Gary Gray, has argued that projects launched under Labor are in jeopardy.
“You need to have a capable Office of Northern Australia understanding where for instance the issues are in say, horticulture,” he told reporters this week.
“That requires an understanding of land use and land management and land title issues at state and territory level.”
“The government's got a Green Paper and parliamentary report, which a number of parliamentarians from all sides worked very hard to produce, but we haven't yet seen the White Paper.
“They said the White Paper would be published within a year of establishing office.
“We haven't seen it and we don't know the content of the broader framework.”