University graduates could have their student debts wiped if they moved to remote areas in northern Australia, under proposals to turbo-charge development in the Top End.
A report from federal parliament's Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, tabled on Thursday, recommended the appointment of a federal minister for northern Australia, who would be served by their own department which would be based above the Tropic of Capricorn.
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The report, Pivot North, prepared by members and Senators from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens, is intended to inform the government's white paper on northern Australia, which is expected next year.
More than 267 pages, the report calls for major upgrades of road, rail, port, airport, water and broadband infrastructure in the north, and the relocation of defence assets and public service functions, including elements of the departments of agriculture, environment, foreign affairs and immigration departments.
"The development of northern Australia is one of the great challenges and opportunities facing the nation," the committee wrote in the report's introduction.
"Northern Australia covers over 40 per cent of Australia's land mass but contains only 4 per cent of Australia's population ... Northern Australia is on the doorstep of Asia and a significant portion of it is part of the tropical world, which by 2050 will encompass over half the world's population.
"There are great opportunities for the people of northern Australia within the tropical zone. But the development of northern Australia has in the past lacked a commitment by governments at all levels to pursue investment and development in a consistent, sustainable and coordinated way."
The committee acknowledged its report was just the latest of a number of inquiries on the potential of northern Australia since 1937 which were "gathering dust on shelves".
"It is now up to us to prove the sceptics wrong and get things moving," the committee wrote.
Among its other recommendations, the committee recommended the creation of a research centre on northern agriculture and further research on the idea of special economic zones.
"The committee acknowledges the constitutional issues surrounding the creation of special economic zones and the possible distortions in investment decisions caused by creating different legal regimes within the same polity. Nonetheless the committee considers that limited use of special economic zones will provide a mechanism," it wrote.
with Phillip Thomson and AAP