Is the white paper a game-changer for northern Australia?

The white paper on developing northern Australia outlines a solid vision, with new money and sound principles for cost-benefit analysis. Former environment portfolio executive Andrew Campbell say implementation will be critical.

The White Paper on Developing Northern Australia released by the Prime Minister yesterday represents the most comprehensive attempt yet to think through the development possibilities of the north.

For me, there are two big tensions in this whole exercise. How they play out will determine whether it represents a genuine paradigm shift in the development of the north, or yet another case of southern Australia focusing ephemeral attention on the quirky distant north, throwing some money at it, and then lamenting failed projects down the track.

The first is the tension between developing a northern economy based primarily on export commodities, versus one based around distinctive environment, demography, knowledge and services.

The second is the perennial struggle associated with trying to achieve long-term objectives with short-term funding and even shorter electoral cycles.

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