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Program 1.2: Programs to promote Australia's export and other international economic interests

Developing northern Australia

Under the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, Austrade’s primary role as the government’s trade and investment arm is to use its international networks and business and industry insights to facilitate investor interest in opportunities being developed in the north.

Northern Australia Investment Forum

Austrade organised and ran the second Northern Australia Investment Forum in Cairns in November 2017 to raise awareness of the north among high-end international investors.

The Hon Steven Ciobo MP, the then Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, and Senator the Hon Matt Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, co-hosted the forum, which was developed in close collaboration with the governments of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, with the support of the Office of Northern Australia and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. A total of 179 investor delegates attended the forum, representing 101 companies from 24 countries. The forum attracted the most interest from China and Hong Kong, with 32 and 12 companies attending respectively. Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, India and Taiwan were also strongly represented.

Investors were able to refine opportunities through plenary presentations, projects presented via a ‘marketplace’ run by the states and the Northern Territory, networking with experts, proponents and other investors, and industry-specific roundtables. The roundtables covered opportunities and challenge management for the three key investment areas of agriculture and food; resources and energy; and tourism infrastructure. An Indigenous perspective was integrated into every level of the forum through direct involvement of Indigenous community representatives.

Engagement with traditional owners

Another area of focus for Austrade has been engagement with traditional owners and educating investors on Australia’s land tenure arrangements.

Many investment opportunities in northern Australia have a native title implication and Austrade has approached this in three ways.

First, Austrade encourages connections between investors and traditional owners at the start of the investment process, not the end, and promotes a partnership approach throughout. Austrade is also encouraging traditional owners to look at developing projects on their own land, and then Austrade helps with the investor connections.

Second, Austrade provided investors with access to detailed, specific information about a range of important aspects of investing in the north, including land tenure and native title, through the creation of an investor-friendly interactive online map of northern Australia.

Canadian pension fund representatives attend the Montreal investment roundtable, held in September 2016, with Tony Negus, Australian High Commissioner, Canada and Portia Maier, Consul-General and Senior
Trade Commissioner, Toronto.

Austrade worked with Data61 to develop a web-based guide to northern Australia, including an interactive online map that can be used as a high-level investigative tool for investment opportunities. The map uses various datasets on native title, land tenure, resources, renewable energy, infrastructure, soil, climate, tourism and agriculture. Visit www.nationalmap.gov.au/northernaustralia.

Finally, Austrade showcased successful case studies to explain some of the different pathways to partnerships between traditional owners, project proponents and investors. The case studies cover successful long-term agreements; negotiating land access agreements, partnership agreements, research and commercialisation agreements, memorandums of understanding and joint ventures; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups’ approaches to seeking investment partners and becoming project proponents; and approaches by traditional owners to developing new industries in northern Australia.

Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation grants program

Another role for Austrade as set out in the white paper is to help Australian businesses and researchers to develop pathways to commercialise Australian tropical medicine research in partnership with international organisations.

Austrade, in partnership with AusIndustry, uses the Government’s $7.17 million in funding under the Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialisation grants program to attract matched foreign direct investment contributions. Nine investors from the global health sector have matched government funding to build partnerships with Australian research institutes to commercialise approaches to curing tropical diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, schistosomiasis, rheumatic fever, leishmaniasis, scabies, rotavirus and dengue fever.

The program continues to build connections between Australian research institutes and the global health sector, including international pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic organisations. It has also demonstrated the strength of Australia’s global health research and development to the global pharmaceutical value chain.

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