The Australian Government’s 2020-21 federal budget has prioritised the development of northern Australia and Australia’s gas and resources sector by focusing on training and education, research and development in manufacturing and supporting industries.
As part of its COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan, the Government has announced a series of reforms to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) aimed at improving the speed and scope of projects to be funded, that will further unlock economic opportunities and more jobs across the north.
The 2020-21 Budget also contains measures to support a gas-fired economic recovery, as well as initiatives to strengthen the resources and exploration sectors, and investing in regional communities undergoing water reform.
A new JobMaker hiring credit will aim to accelerate employment growth for a post COVID-19 recovery, giving businesses incentives to employ job seekers aged 16 to 35 years old.
This $4b pledge will support about 450,000 positions for young people from the 2020-21 financial year to the 2022-23 financial year, aiming to ensure Australians have the right skills for the jobs of the future.
The Government will also reduce regulations that impose costs, making it easier for new mining projects to get up and running.
As part of the gas-fired recovery plan, the 2020-21 Budget includes $28.3m to develop five Strategic Basin Plans which will unlock and accelerate the development of vast gas reserves, increase domestic supply and lower prices for households and businesses. This will start with plans for the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory and the North Bowen and Galilee Basin in Queensland.
In addition, the Government is providing $13.7m over four years to provide quality assured scientific research and information to communities living in gas development regions through the CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance.
Also in the resources sector, the Budget includes $124.5m to fund an expanded Exploring for the Future Program.
The program, operated by Geoscience Australia, will deliver detailed data on potential resources in vast areas that have yet to be fully explored. This funding will help unlock new resources along two major corridors identified as resource-rich in both western and eastern parts of Australia.
The Government is also investing $103.6m to undertake the critical foundational work required to build the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, including establishing a dedicated agency for the management of Australia’s radioactive waste that brings together responsibility and expertise in this important and specialised field.
The new Australian Radioactive Waste Agency will be based in Adelaide and be responsible for all functions of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, including engagement with the Kimba community in South Australia.
Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt said the creation of the new agency was the next important step in developing Australia’s radioactive waste management storage solution and capabilities.
“A single agency ensures a dedicated focus on managing Australia’s radioactive waste in accordance with domestic and international regulations and best practice,” he said.
Reforms for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) will ensure the $5b facility will have more flexibility to bankroll investment in a wider range of projects across northern Australia, and will speed up investment approvals. This comes on top of July’s announcement of a five-year extension to the NAIF until June 30, 2026.
“We are empowering the NAIF to accelerate lending and providing greater flexibility in how it can support projects driving economic and population growth – during the challenging business environment due to COVID-19,” Mr Pitt said.
“We are determined to open up further opportunities to strengthen northern Australia’s contribution to our economy by continuing to support infrastructure and development.
“NAIF has already invested more than $2b in sectors including health, education, resources, energy and agriculture supporting more than 6500 jobs.”
The 2020-21 Budget also includes $3.5m over two years to fund preliminary rehabilitation works at the former Rum Jungle copper and uranium mine in the Northern Territory. The funds will support land management and training jobs for local Indigenous communities.