Steven Ciobo: It's terrific to be here in Cairns for this the second Northern Australia Investment Forum. This is an opportunity to showcase the incredible potential of Northern Australia. We have assembled more than 500 delegates, representing something like 21 different countries; each coming with a thirst to find out more about opportunities for investments in Northern Australia. Of course, this Forum is consistent with the Government's very strong focus, as embodied in our White Paper that was put together a number of years ago, about realising the huge untapped potential of Northern Australia. So, investors that are here represent people that are interested in investing in agriculture, agribusiness more generally, resources and energy, tourism, tropical medicine, health, education, as well as common user infrastructure and that's things like, for example, ports, railways, bulk water supply, roads, those types of matters. The fact is that this forum, like its predecessor in Darwin, will prove to be a catalyst for foreign investment into our country. And foreign investment coming into Australia is critical. Yes, we are a rich country. Yes, we've got a strong domestic savings score. But the fact is, if we want to reach our full economic potential, if we're going to drive the Australian economy, if we're going to create jobs for not only people in Northern Australia but, indeed, throughout the Australian economy, we must have foreign investment that's consistent with our national interest to make sure that our country can reach its full potential. We put a very strong focus on opening up global markets to Australian businesses. We've done that in particular through the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement. Each of them opening up markets and I'm very confident that, through smart investments in Australia, the partnering of domestic savings with foreign investment, we'll see Australia reaching more potential, which means stronger growth and more jobs.
Matthew Canavan: Thank you very much Steve. It's great to be here in Cairns to showcase the opportunities right across Northern Australia. It's a beautiful city and it really is something we can all be proud of. As Steve was saying, the more than 500 delegates here today area testament to the attractiveness and opportunity that exists here in Northern Australia. There's a great degree of interest in partnering with all Northern Australians, the Australian Government, and State and Territory Government, to deliver on the opportunity to exist for Northern Australians. At the Australian Government level, we've put more than $11 billion aside to invest in infrastructure from the Bruce Highway to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, to other strategic roads right across the north. But we need to multiply that amount to really develop the north and that's why it's so great to see people from all over the world here, helping us potentially to do that, to deliver jobs and investment for Northern Australia. This conference is about the Australian Government doing the hard yards. We're doing the hard yards to try and attract jobs investment to our region. What that means for people is more opportunity, more ability, to have a secure job and about providing for their family and ultimately, to grow our own communities here in the north, to provide better and more secure services over time. I've often said that we live in a wonderful part of the world. We live in a beautiful part of the world here in Northern Australia. There are many, many beautiful places like Cairns right across it. But you need something to do between Monday and Friday to live in a place. You can't just enjoy things on the weekend. And that's why this conference is all about attracting the investment; provide the jobs and opportunity for businesses and individuals right across Northern Australia into the future. We've already made massive strides in the Northern Australia agenda. All the roads funding is out the door. The water funding is there but we're waiting on the State Government to tick off on it here in Queensland. And, of course, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility has made its first investment proposal now and there's another nine projects in due diligence and close to being ticked off. We're getting on with the game here of developing Northern Australia and it's great to see this is not just an opportunity we're excited about, it's an opportunity the world is excited about.
Steven Ciobo: Any questions?
Journalist: -so I'm wondering how you view China's Belt and Road Initiative and the opportunity that maybe the investment coming with it?
Steven Ciobo: There's no doubt that there are opportunities from alignment between Australian initiatives and China's Belt Road initiatives. I had the privilege of attending the Belt Road Forum, which took place in Beijing earlier this year. More recently, I was in China for the Strategic Economic Dialogue. The Treasurer and I took part in that with a view to looking at opportunities for collaboration. The fact is the Belt Road Initiative is going to be, for China, a game changer. Australia has its own initiatives that we're undertaking and clearly, there are complementarities between, for example, Northern Australia and China's Belt Road Forum.
Matthew Canavan: Look, I would just add and confirm with Steve that the Australian Government has an ambitious agenda to attract investment in Northern Australia and I'm sure that there will be many opportunities for Australian businesses and Australian Government to partner with Chinese businesses and Chinese Government, to help our shared goals of developing our region. Of course, the investments to this country go through a rigorous screening process and the Australian Government will ensure investments are carried out our national interests.
Journalist: Why are there so few staff with the NAIF and the office in Northern Australia not living and working in Northern Australia?
Matthew Canavan: Well it was always the case when we set up the NAIF that it was going to use the back office facilities of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. They are housed in Sydney and Brisbane. It is good, though, that we've brought the CEO here to Cairns and five staff are here, based in Cairns. It's a good thing for our region but, of course, we need to get this thing moving and we're using expert staff right across Australia help do that. More than 100 staff across the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation have been working on projects to do with the NAIF and primarily, they're housed in EFIC, which have offices elsewhere in the country.
Journalist: Obviously, China is big opportunity here, are we looking at anything more specific as we move forward for investments in Northern Australia and in specific areas in the country?
Steven Ciobo: The tremendous benefit that comes from an investment forum like this is the chance to showcase many different investment opportunities across a range of sectors. We're welcoming not only foreign investment, but domestic investment from Australia in areas as diverse as agriculture, resource and energy, tourism industry, tropical health medicine and it builds upon all the strengths of Northern Australia, from its people and, of course, the tremendous knowledge. The fact that James Cook University, for example, has real strength, especially around tropical medicine, right through to our traditional strengths and resources and energy and agriculture. The marketplace that's operating here will see investors presented with opportunities to invest in all of these sectors, and they'll get the chance to actually talk to project proponents, that is the people that are putting these deals together, and see if that works for them.
Journalist: How many of these nine projects that are being kicked off are actually funded with Queensland?
Matthew Canavan: I'll have to get you those figures. There's about three-quarters of the projects that the NAIF is looking at. They're looking at more than 50 in Queensland, in the North Queensland part of Northern Australia. In terms of the nine, I'll have to take that on notice and get you the detail.
Journalist: Can you name them at all?
Matthew Canavan: Well they are, they tend to be projects which are commercial in confidence, in nature, but there is a large energy project here in North Queensland. That's common knowledge, the Kidston Project, second stage of that. And of course, the opportunities in opening up the Galilee Basin, as well. But I have to respect the commercial in confidence nature of some of those proposals, of course, because our ultimate goal is to finalise the deals, not to promote the process.
Journalist: Sorry, you said Kidston and Galilee Basin in Far North Queensland?
Matthew Canavan: Well, Kidston isn't - Sorry?
Journalist: Specifically in Cairns?
Matthew Canavan: Well in Cairns, again, I can't go into all the details of the nine because of commercial confidence arrangements. You'd appreciate the businesses that are making proposals here are also talking to other financiers. This is a process where we're trying to finalise deals, not just talk about trying to do deals.
Journalist: How important is today in terms of getting all the investors here, together?
Matthew Canavan: Well, look, it's extremely important that we do attract, as Steve said, the investment opportunities from other countries. The way business normally works it's best done face to face rather than Skype, so it's really important to get people here together, talking with each other, realising opportunities. We had a great function last night, hosted by the Queensland Government, where there were a lot of discussions where people were talking about what the opportunities are and progressing deals and business and that's the way things happen. This Government, as Steve said, has quite a significant role in finalising free trade agreements in our region, but also in hosting Australia weeks in China, and India, and other countries, where a lot of business is done and I'm sure that will be an outcome of the Northern Australia conference today.
Journalist: How many local businesses are going to benefit from this?
Matthew Canavan: Well, look, it's hard to put a precise number on that exactly. It is good to see a mix of both those with local ideas and local projects on the books here as well as a strong international contingent. Look, we've got more than 500 people here, so we're talking about opportunities that are right across Northern Australia and certainly, that could touch and potentially benefit hundreds of businesses across the north.
Journalist: Do you have a first comparison with the first forum?
Matthew Canavan: Neither of us were at the first forum but I believe there were about 300 or 400 delegates at that forum, so we're in a similar sort of number. I'm advised that the results of that forum did lead to large scale investments in the Darwin Port. We've also seen investments in the Ord agricultural district there. And we're hopeful we can get similar sort of outcomes from this conference today.
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