A Joint Submission to the Green Paper on Developing
Northern Australia
by the
Communities of Central Queensland
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Overview
The Central Queensland (CQ) region is a social and economic powerhouse of Northern Australia. On
almost every measure – whether that be population & growth; economic scale, expansion and
diversity; the key industries of agriculture, mining and tourism; or education, training and research –
the CQ region is a standout performer in Northern Australia. CQ hosts a density, diversity and scale
of social and economic enterprise almost unmatched anywhere else in Australia. Driving this are the
industries and communities built around the major population centres of places like Emerald,
Mackay, Rockhampton, Longreach, Blackall, Gladstone, Moranbah, Proserpine, Yeppoon, Barcaldine,
and Winton. CQ is a region 600,000 square km in size, which is three times the size of Victoria. It has
a population of 411,000, which is the size of Newcastle – Australia’s 7th largest city. And CQ has a
Gross Domestic Product almost twice the size of that of the state of Tasmania.
Yet the CQ region is almost utterly invisible in the Commonwealth Government’s Developing
Northern Australia policy development process being driven by the Northern Australia Taskforce.
This stark exclusion of the CQ region was reflected in both the initial 2030 Vision for Developing
Northern Australia Discussion Paper, and the subsequent Commonwealth Green Paper on
Developing Northern Australia (the Green Paper). Despite the CQ region clearly positioned within
the defined boundaries of ‘Northern Australia’, there was virtually no mention of the role the CQ
region and its main population centres play in the prosperity and potential of the North. Instead
there seemed to be an almost exclusive focus on the cities of Darwin, Cairns and Townsville, and the
role that these regions will play in Northern Australia’s development over the next 25 years. This
seeming bias is also being reflected acutely in the formation of the related Agriculture North
Cooperative Research Centre proposal, and in the membership of the Northern Australia Advisory
Group – the panel that will advise the Prime Minister on the final Development of Northern Australia
White Paper policy.
This joint submission to the Green Paper on behalf of the communities of CQ does not seek to
discredit the immense strengths and contributions being made by the vibrant cities of Darwin, Cairns,
Townsville and their surrounds. These three cities are tremendous performers and they have helped
to shape Northern Australia into what it is today, and what it has the potential to become in the
future. However given the almost exclusive focus on these three northern cities in the Developing
Northern Australia policy development process, this submission will highlight the remarkable degree
to which the CQ region performs in a host of key social and economic indicators when compared to
the Darwin/NT, Cairns and Townsville regions/statistical divisions.
Likewise, the signatories to this joint submission do not wish to discredit the intent that the
Commonwealth has to develop a long-term policy strategy to expand the enormous opportunities of
Northern Australia. The focus on Northern Australia by the Government has unanimous support
from the signatories of this joint submission. Likewise the work of the Joint Select Committee on
Northern Australia led by The Hon Warren Entsch MP, including the public hearings and the
presentation of the Interim Report, is to be commended. This joint submission does seek, however,
to highlight the extent to which the CQ region has been excluded from the initial Developing
Northern Australia Discussion Paper, subsequent Green Paper, the Northern Australia Advisory
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Group formation, the proposed Agriculture North Cooperative Research Centre and the critical need
to rectify this glaring omission in the final White Paper.
This joint submission to the Green Paper on behalf of the communities of CQ calls on the Northern
Australia Taskforce to broaden its somewhat limited focus of Northern Australia to include the single
greatest contributor to the top half of the nation – the CQ region.
Population & Growth
The Mackay, Fitzroy and Central West statistical divisions (which define the region identified as CQ)
have a combined population of more than 410,000. This is almost half of all people living in Northern
Australia. In other words, two in every five people that comprise the approximately one million
people identified in the Green Paper as living in Northern Australia, call CQ home.
By contrast the population of the Darwin region is just 131,900 (or 235,000 in the entire Northern
Territory), the population of the Townsville region is just 229,000, and the population of the Cairns
region is just 236,000.
CQ saw a population increase of 44,700 in the 10 years to 2014, representing 24% population
growth. This exceeds the growth experienced by the Cairns region of just 21%, the Townsville region
of 20%, and the total for all of Northern Australia of just 1.9%.
CQ has an enormous labour force of 199,000 people, which far exceeds that of the Townsville region
(111,000), the Cairns region (110,000) and the Darwin region (65,000, or just 104,000 for the entire
Northern Territory).
And CQ housing affordability on average is $20,000 cheaper per dwelling than Darwin, Cairns and
Townsville combined.
Economy
CQ’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $44.4B is larger than that of the combined GDP of the
Townsville region ($18.4B), the Cairns region ($12.2B) and the Darwin region ($7B). CQ’s GDP is
almost twice the size of Tasmania’s GDP.
The ten year growth rate of CQ’s GDP of 211% far outpaced that of the Townsville region (just 98%),
the Cairns region (just 83%) and the Darwin region (just 79%).
The CQ economy is one of the largest and fastest growing of any region in Australia, far outperforming that of the Darwin, Cairns and Townsville regions.
Agriculture
The CQ region produces one-third of Northern Australia’s entire annual agricultural wealth. The
Gross Value of agricultural production in CQ is over $2.1B per annum, which is larger than the
combined annual Gross Value of agricultural production of the Townsville region (just $640M), the
Cairns region (just $686M) and the entire Northern Territory ($448M).
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There are almost double the number of cattle in CQ (4.8m head) than all of the Northern Territory
(2.2m head), the Townsville region (657,000 head), and the Cairns region (162,000) combined. CQ
has the greatest beef stock density of any region in Australia, and CQ is the internationally
recognised Beef Capital of Australia with the majority of the Northern Australian beef Herd having
been derived from CQ genetic-derived stock.
Over 16% of CQ’s workforce is employed in the Agricultural sector, compared to just 3.3% in the
Townsville region, 4.7% in the Cairns region, and 0.9% in the Darwin region. CQ has over 51M ha of
Agricultural commodities, which is equal to that of the entire Northern Territory enterprise. This
figure dwarves that of the Townsville region at just 6.3M ha and the Cairns region at just 1M ha.
There are over 8,400 registered businesses in the Agricultural sector in CQ, compared to just 505 in
the Darwin region, 2,634 in the Townsville region, and 3,288 in the Cairns region.
The CQ region plays host to two of the most respected Agricultural Training Colleges in Australia at
Emerald and Longreach, and CQ’s own University, CQUniversity, is the highest ranked Australian
University for Agricultural Research in the latest Commonwealth rankings.
The CQ region is the unrivalled Agricultural giant of Northern Australia.
Mining
CQ is the mining and resources epicenter of Northern Australia. CQ Mineral wealth grew 419% in the
10 years to 2011/12 to exceed $29B, whereas the mineral wealth of the Cairns/Far North region
grew by 158% to just $839M and the Townsville/Northern region shrunk by 53% to just $442M.
CQ has 19,800 people employed by the resources sector representing $3.5B in wages, compared to
just 5,300 employed in the Cairns/Far North and Townsville/Northern regions combined
representing just $714M in wages for both regions.
The direct and indirect value of the resources sector is worth $25.7B to the CQ economy, or 67% of
CQ’s Gross Regional Product, compared to just $4.6B of value to the combined Townsville/Northern
and Cairns/Far North region economies representing just 19.5% of their combined Gross Regional
Product.
The resources sector directly or indirectly supports 75% of CQ jobs compared to just 13.3% of all
combined jobs in Townsville/Northern and Cairns/Far North regions, and there are 414 registered
businesses in the Mining sector in CQ, compared to just 61 in the Darwin region, 106 in the
Townsville region, and 127 in the Cairns region.
The CQ region’s contribution to Northern Australia’s resource wealth is unmistakable.
Tourism
Despite the CQ region not having a perceived strength in this sector, the latest 2013 visitor statistics
show that the Mackay/Whitsunday/Southern Great Barrier Reef (ie, CQ region) generated $2B of
domestic and international visitor revenue, which is 80% of the value of the entire Far North
Queensland market and 125% of the value of the Townsville region market. The CQ region is the
most highly underestimated contributor to tourism enterprise and potential in Northern Australia.
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Affluence
The CQ economy and its workforce is one defined by its size, mobility and affluence. The entire CQ
region is generating as much total wage/salary income as the Darwin, Cairns and Townsville regions
combined, at approximately $13B.
Average annual wages in CQ is $58,000 compared to just $50,000 in Townsville, $55,000 in Darwin &
$44,000 in Cairns. Furthermore this is not just high-paid blue-collar jobs in the mining sector driving
CQ’s high wages and affluence. There are 39,000 ‘white collar’ workers (Manager/Professional
positions) employed in CQ compared to just 18,000 in the Darwin region, 17,500 in the Townsville
region, and just 17,000 in the Cairns region. CQ vehicle ownership per 1,000 population is 11%
higher than Townsville, Darwin & Cairns regions combined (840 vs 749).
Education, Training & Research
The CQ region hosts some of the best performing schools in the country, both Private and Public,
providing quality education to the highest cluster of school children in Northern Australia. The
Agricultural Training Colleges at Emerald and Longreach are two of the most highly respected
institutions of their type in the nation. And the CQ region headquarters the single largest regional
University in Australia, CQUniversity, which is also the region’s public provider of all Vocational
Education and Training following its merger with CQ TAFE to establish Queensland’s only
comprehensive University. CQUniversity has 36,000 students and is the second fastest growing
University in Australia for domestic numbers. It has the greatest reach of any tertiary education
provider in Australia with over 20 campus locations nationwide, including 12 spread throughout
Northern Australia. CQUniversity has leading strengths in key Green Paper areas such as agriculture,
health, mining, training and international education, and its main campus in Rockhampton is the
single largest employer in the city shire of 120,000 people.
The Invisibility of CQ
While sitting firmly within the defined “Northern Australia” boundary, CQ is all but invisible in the
initial 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia Discussion Paper and the subsequent Green
Paper on Developing Northern Australia.
Instead, the focus seems to be almost exclusively concerned with the role that Darwin, Cairns and
Townsville will play in Northern Australia’s development over the next 25 years.
The word ‘Mackay’ is mentioned just eight times in the text of the 116 page Green Paper document,
the word ‘Rockhampton’ just four times, and the words ‘Emerald’, ‘Longreach’ or even ‘Central
Queensland’ are mentioned just once each. In stark contrast, the words ‘Darwin’, ‘Cairns’ or
‘Townsville’ appear at a rate of almost once-per-page.
Rockhampton doesn’t even appear on the Green Paper’s own map showing Northern Australia –
instead there is just an unidentified dot where a city-shire of 120,000 people live.
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The Green Paper refers to Northern Australia being ‘sparsely settled’ and having ‘no permanent
human presence’ outside of North East Queensland and Darwin, despite almost half of the entire
one million population of Northern Australia living in CQ.
CQUniversity, the single largest university in regional Australia, was completely absent from the
Green Paper, despite the institution providing abundant input into the multiple consultation
processes and being renowned for its leading strengths in key Green Paper priorities such as
agriculture, health, mining, training and international education. In contrast, the universities based
in Darwin and Townsville/Cairns recorded almost 15 mentions in the Green Paper.
Both CQUniversity and the CQ region are also absent as primary players in the formation of the
Agriculture North Cooperative Research Centre, a $150m research group which is expected to be
established as a result of the final Developing Northern Australia White Paper policy. This despite
the CQ region being the most diverse, productive and valuable farming region in Northern Australia,
and CQUniversity being the most highly ranked university in Australia for Agricultural research
(Commonwealth Excellence in Research Australia ranking of 5 – Well Above World Standard).
The CQ region has also been completely excluded from The Northern Australia Advisory Group – the
11 member panel that will advise the Prime Minister on the final Development of Northern Australia
policy. While all appointees are outstanding and deserving individuals, not one of the 11 members
of the panel represent an area south of Townsville. There are three members representing the
Advance Cairns group alone. There are also three members of the panel representing Top-End cattle
stations, despite the CQ region - Australia’s Beef Capital - holding more than double the number of
cattle than the entire Northern Territory.
Conclusion
We, the signatories below, have long understood that the CQ region is the social and economic
powerhouse of Northern Australia on almost every measure. Its presence and contribution is
undeniable and unmatched anywhere in Northern Australia, or anywhere in regional Australia for
that matter. It is almost inconceivable that the CQ region could be overlooked to the extent which it
has been in the initial 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia Discussion Paper, the
subsequent Commonwealth Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia, the formation of the
related Agriculture North Cooperative Research Centre, and the composition of the Prime Minister’s
Northern Australia Advisory Group.
The degree of disproportionality of focus towards Darwin, Cairns and Townsville undermines both
the contributions other regions are making in Northern Australia, and the validity of the long-term
policy framework itself. Quite simply, a policy setting on Northern Australia would be virtually
pointless without a serious inclusion of the CQ region. And perhaps of even greater concern for the
communities of CQ, our long-held fate as a political ‘rain shadow’ region would be locked in place for
a further 25 years if these urgent disparities are not addressed in the final White Paper. We seek
that the Northern Australia Taskforce give genuine consideration of the CQ region as the White
Paper on Developing Northern Australia is produced.
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Signed:
Mary Carroll
Chief Executive Officer
Capricorn Enterprise
Cr. Graham Scott
Chairman
Capricorn Enterprise
Ted Malone MP
State Member for Mirani
Rees Banks
Chief Executive Officer
Regional Development
Australia Fitzroy and
Central West
Michelle Landry MP
Federal Member for
Capricornia
Bruce Young MP
State Member for Keppel
Glenn Churchill
Chief Executive Officer
Gladstone Area and
Promotion Development
Ltd
Ken O’Dowd MP
Federal Member for
Flynn
Bill Byrne MP
State Member for
Rockhampton
Sandra Hobbs
Chief Executive Officer
Central Highlands
Development Corp.
Stephen Schwer
General Manager
Mackay Tourism Ltd
Julie Boyd
General Manager
Resource Industry
Network
Royce Bishop
Chair
Reef Catchments
Cr. Bill Ludwig
Mayor
Livingstone Shire Council
Cr. Margaret Strelow
Mayor
Rockhampton Regional
Council
Cr. Ron Carige
Mayor
Banana Shire Council
Cr. Jennifer Whitney
Mayor
Whitsunday Regional
Council
Cr. Gail Sellers
Mayor
Gladstone Regional
Council
Cr Gail Nixon
Acting Mayor / Deputy
Mayor
Central Highlands
Regional Council
Senator Matthew
Canavan
Queensland
Hon. Tim Mulherin MP
State Member for
Mackay
Tim Miles
Chair
Mackay Region Chamber
of Commerce
Prof Scott Bowman
Vice-Chancellor and
President
CQUniversity Australia
Cr. Rob Chandler
Mayor
Barcaldine Regional
Council
Chair, RAPAD
Justin Commons
Chief Executive Officer
Livingstone Shire Council
Correspondence c/o Capricorn Enterprise, 34 East Street (PO Box 1313), Rockhampton Qld 4700
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Reference List
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Data by Region reports 2012
http://stat.abs.gov.au/itt/r.jsp?databyregion
Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Regional Profiles reports, 2008
http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/NRPPastIssues!OpenView&Start=1&Count=1000&Expa
nd=1.1.3&RestrictToCategory=Main%20Areas#1.1.3
Tourism and Events Queensland, Regional Snapshot Summaries year ended December 2013
http://www.teq.queensland.com/Research-and-Insights/Domestic-Research/Regional-Summaries
Queensland Resources Council, What are Qld Resources Worth to me? Statistical Division reports
https://www.qrc.org.au/01_cms/resource.asp?action=search&varKeyword=pdf&numResourceType
=3&filterAID=4&page=274
Regional Development Australia Fitzroy and Central West, Regional Roadmap 2013 - 2016
Queensland Treasury & Trade, Experimental Estimates of Gross Regional Product, March 2013
Advance Cairns, press release; Advance Cairns welcomes Northern Australia Advisory Group
Announcement 10 June 2014
http://www.advancecairns.com/files/media/original/026/f7c/media-release-nth-aust-advisory-gp10-jun-14.pdf
The Australian Government Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia, 2014
http://northernaustralia.dpmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/papers/green_paper.pdf
The Coalition’s 2030 Vision For Developing Northern Australia, June 2013
http://www.liberal.org.au/2030-vision-developing-northern-australia
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