Independent Strategic Analysis of Australia’s Global Interests

Northern Australia & Land Care

Northern Australia, that region of Australia north of the Tropic of Capricorn, provides a wealth of economic opportunities for our nation. This region is also strategically important for the vital role it plays in border protection and as an interface for broader engagement with neighbouring states.

Rangelands: Critical to the Environment and Under Constant Threat

Rangelands constitute a significant proportion of the Earth’s total landmass and they sustain important ecosystems that are under an increasing environmental threat from climate change, habitat loss and soil degradation.

The Drone Revolution and Australian Agriculture – Part Two: Case Studies and Practical Benefits

Detailed industry analysis has identified agriculture as one of the most promising fields for drone based applications. The ability for farmers to make sound business decisions based upon real-time high quality data that is available at a reasonable cost is essential to a successful modern agricultural enterprise. In Part Two of this FDI Associate Paper, Mr Geoff Trowbridge discusses in specific detail the benefits drones can provide to agriculture.

The Drone Revolution and Australian Agriculture – Part One

High technology, unmanned aerial systems or drones are increasingly moving from military to commercial applications and bringing with them changes that are revolutionising a broad range of industry sectors. In this two-part FDI Associate Paper, Mr Geoff Trowbridge of ScientificAerospace firstly discusses the general, high technology innovations drones are bringing to a wide range of applications and secondly the specific benefits drones can bring to agricultural production.

Hot Rock Opportunities for Northern Australia

Geothermal energy continues to be a viable source of clean energy.

Extreme Weather Events: Is this our Agricultural Market Future?

The devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie is likely to significantly influence the domestic, market price of agricultural, aquaculture and fishery produce for the following year. If the predictions of a higher frequency of extreme weather events occurring because of climate change are correct, supply based, price fluctuations may become a more regular feature of our primary produce industry.

The Role of Water in Ensuring Healthy Soils

Water is an essential constituent of healthy, productive soils. Maintaining the availability of water to plants while ensuring healthy, sustainably productive soils, relies on understanding the natural processes of climate and weather and managing complex and often conflicting physical and environmental factors.

Australian Aquaculture and Fisheries Threatened by Marine Plastic Waste

Plans to expand the northern Australia aquaculture industry must include investigation and analysis into potential affects resulting from increasing pollution of the marine environment in the form of marine debris.

Changes to International Defence Partnership Master Plan: Less Land and Smarter Use

Restricting the expansion of land for military exercises will enable and promote opportunities to enhance existing training areas and advances in virtual simulation technology in regional Queensland.

Carbon Sequestration – Why and How?

To meet the targets set by the Paris climate change conference, greenhouse gas may have to be actively removed from the atmosphere and stored indefinitely. Carbon capture and storage technology will also have a key role in reducing future greenhouse gas emissions. Storage deep underground, in the oceans and in the soil, are some of the possible options but there are technological, financial, environmental and time considerations.

New Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils – Closing the Gap between Soil Science and Farm Management

Recently the Federal Government announced that a new Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils will receive nearly $40 million over 10 years to help the agricultural community bridge the knowledge gap between soil science and farm management. The aim is to provide the tools and knowledge needed to make the right decisions on complex soil management issues.

Vegetation Patterns Changing in Australia’s North

The vegetation patterns in Australia’s north are changing as higher rainfall and improved growing conditions promote the growth of native woody species and introduced noxious weeds.

The Impact of Foreign Military Involvement on the Development of Northern Australia

Allowing foreign defence forces to access Australian military establishments and field training ranges is fundamental to maintaining regional security and long-standing strategic alliances. Military facilities can, however, be environmentally and culturally disruptive and can prevent land use for other purposes. The negative aspects of permanent, foreign military bases in Australia notwithstanding, they can be used strategically as a development tool for northern Australia.

Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia

The Federal Government recently established a Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia. This move will ensure a better-informed policy making and legislative process on matters relating to the development of northern Australia.

Developments in Desalination

The shortage of fresh water in the face of an increasing global population is becoming a serious issue but technological advancements in desalination could provide a significant boost to future supplies.

The Marrakech Climate Change Conference – What did it achieve?

This Strategic Analysis Paper discusses the aimed and actual achievements of the Marrakech Climate Change Conference held in November 2016. It highlights its role as the initial implementing forum for the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015. It also discusses the possible consequence of a draw-back from the Paris Agreement by United States President Donald Trump.

The Strategic Importance of Soil, Water and Food in the Early to Mid-21st Century

Julian Cribb, author of Surviving the 21st Century, The Coming Famine and seven other books, discusses how scarcities of fresh water and topsoil, combined with the impact of climate change on regional food production, highlight the growing strategic significance of these primary resources for human survival, health and wellbeing as potential drivers of conflict and mass migration to 2050 and beyond.

World Soil Day 2016 – “Soils and pulses, a symbiosis for life”

The importance to the global community of healthy soils is recognised each year through communication, events and activities to focus attention towards the restoration of degraded soils by increasing biodiversity, improving soil structure and enhancing fertility.

Agricultural Development of sub-Saharan Africa: Who Carries the Burden?

The application of modern land management practices in the sub-Sahara will present African countries with opportunities to make a positive contribution to local and global food security and to combat climate change. Smallholder farmers, however, need to be protected for the risks and financial burden of associated change.

Precision Agronomics Australia: Frank D’Emden

FDI interviews Mr Frank D’Emden from Precision Agronomics Australia, a company providing technology-based solutions to farmers, consultants and industry groups across Western Australia.

Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage: One Strategy to Help to Ameliorate Global Warming

Scientists are investigating and looking at different and innovative ways to lower levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major contributor to rising temperatures leading to global warming.

Biochar Production, Application and Benefits – Part Two: Karry Fisher-Watts

Biochar, when applied to soil as an amendment, is not a fix-all for Western Australian soils that are salt, sodium affected or which are otherwise de-graded. The key strategy is to use natural and organic materials that, functioning in combination with activated biochar will serve to nurture and improve the health of the soil, as described in Part Two of our interview with Karry Fisher-Watts.

Biochar Production, Application and Benefits – Part One: Karry Fisher-Watts

The potential of charcoal, in the form of biochar, to enhance soil fertility, while restoring carbon to the soil, has recently gained considerable attention. Research suggests that biological carbon converted to biochar can sequester about 50 per cent of its initial carbon in the soil for long periods, leading to a more stable and long-lasting soil carbon. FDI discusses with Karry Fisher-Watts her use of biochar as a way of enhancing the fertility of her property.

Increased CO2 Beneficial to Plants – A Climate Change Mythical Fact

Exposing plants to higher levels of carbon dioxide may enhance plant growth in the short term but, in the medium to long term, climate change threatens crop production and food security on a global scale.

“Peak Carbon” Occurred a Decade Ago

Soil carbon plays an essential role in global food security. The ability for plants to grow is being challenged, however, with the term “peak carbon” being used.

Soil Carbon and Soil Organic Matter: Dr Peter Keating

FDI has again taken the opportunity to interview Dr Keating of the integrated resource management company, Bioscience, on the topic of soil carbon; its types, importance, measurement and why Australian agriculture needs to be mindful of its conservation and promotion for general soil health and to enhance crop vigour and yield.

Reforestation Projects Need to Consider Multiple Factors

Tree-planting projecsts to repair environmental damage and reforest denuded landscapes must consider multiple factors, not just the number and location of the trees .

Feral Animals in Northern Australia

Introduced feral animals such as pigs, cattle and cats are having a significant, detrimental effect on the Australian environment through loss of habitat, competition with native species and general damage to land ecosystems and waterways. The cost of control and management measures, combined with reduced agricultural productivity are increasing annually. Resources allocated under current funding arrangements, however, do not provide the appropriate population controls or levels of research into permanent solutions to the problem.

No Trees, No Rain: Land Clearing Laws and the Future of Australia’s Climate

The body of research evidence linking land clearance with increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions continues to grow. Some Australian jurisdictions nevertheless, continue to promote land clearance over conservation, damaging Australia’s international climate management reputation.

Carbon Dioxide Plant Outcomes Study Needs More Consideration

Recent scientific research reporting has suggested increases in atmospheric CO2 could enhance moisture retention in soil. Closer examination, however, of experimental parameters suggests that these predictions may be premature.

Facing an Elongated Ratification Process, is COP21 being Hurried Across the Line before Signatories Hesitate?

Ban Ki-Moon has called on signatories of the Paris Agreement (COP21) to attend a special event on 21 September to quicken the ratification process of the Agreement. This, however, is more than just a diplomatic measure; it is an attempt to take advantage of the remnant diplomatic fanfare of the Agreement before national interest takes over.

Domesticated Ruminants: Climate Change Hero or Villain?

Domesticated ruminants are not just an important food source, they hold great social, cultural and economic significance globally. Some, however, view them as a significant emitter of greenhouse gas. This FDI Strategic Analysis Paper discusses the pros and cons of ruminants in relation to atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and climate change

White House Call to Action to Save One of America’s Most Important Natural Resources – Soil

The President of the United States has issued a national Call to Action and is forming an interagency group to protect America’s soil. This action sends a clear message to Australian policy makers that a nationally co-ordinated approach is essential for the preservation of this critical resource.

Vision Infinity for Food Security: Dr Shashi B. Sharma

Dr Shashi B Sharma is the current Director of Plant Biosecurity at the Western Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Food. He was recently seconded to Murdoch University as Professor and Chair in Biosecurity and Food Security. In this FDI Feature Interview, Dr Sharma discusses key aspects of his recently published and co-authored book, “Vision Infinity for Food Security”, calling for a fundamental and philosophical re-thinking and re-structuring of our food production, distribution and consumption.

The Development of Northern Australia: Reports of Demise May be Exaggerated

The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory appears increasingly pessimistic about the progress of initiatives to promote the development of Northern Australia. At this time, however, his lack of confidence may be premature.

Photosynthesis and its Role in Climate Change and Soil Regeneration

This Strategic Analysis Paper firstly, provides a brief description of the photosynthesis process highlighting its fundamental importance to all life on the planet. Secondly, it describes how photosynthesis can provide a pathway to enable the extraction of climate change inducing, greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere and to promote the regeneration of degraded agricultural soil, enhancing global food security.

What Marrakesh Can Learn from Paris: COP22 and the Need for a Realistic Climate Policy

The next meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP22, is scheduled for November 2016 in Marrakesh. After the optimism of Paris, COP22 will be forced to face the challenge of converting the aspiration of COP 21 into reality.

The Role of Old-Growth Forests in Carbon Sequestration

This article defines and discusses old-growth forests. It explains the important contribution old-growth forest can make to halting and reversing the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases by capturing and storing carbon dioxide. It argues the case for protecting, rather than exploiting old growth forest.

China’s One Belt One Road Policy: Can History Repeat Itself?

This paper describes and discusses the Chinese One Belt One Road scheme. This international treaty arrangement aims to recreate a modern version of the historical Silk Road trading route from China to Europe. It also raises the prospect of benefits to Australia particularly the development of northern Australia.

Carbon Sequestration in Soils for Food Security and the Climate – The 4 per 1000 Initiative

The 4 per 1000 Initiative aims to demonstrate that agriculture, and agricultural soils in particular, can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned. This Initiative acknowledges and aims to address the issue that our capacity to feed 9.5 billion people in 2050 in a context of climate change will depend in particular on our ability to keep our soils alive.

Global Research Increasing to Reduce Domestic Livestock Emissions

The environmental threat posed by increasing levels of methane gas is the subject of investigation and research around the world in order to reduce the amounts of gas produced and emitted by domesticated livestock.

Soil Nutrient Management

The importance of appropriate plant nutrient management in agricultural soil cannot be overstated. If agricultural and pastoral activity is to be maximised in a sustainable fashion, it is imperative that plants are supplied by proper nutrition. The available quantity of many of these essential plant nutrients is finite and, once depleted or degraded, cannot be easily restored.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement and New York Ratification: A Loose Guideline or Urgent Climate Action?

The Paris Climate Change Agreement has brought about excitement bordering on euphoria, but closer analysis reveals a less certain reality. The sense of global unity is indeed progress but, without immediate action, the agreement may become a comforting, though short-term illusion.

WA Biodiversity Conservation Bill – Balancing Environmental Protection and Economic Development

The WA Biodiversity Conservation Bill is currently before State Parliament and aims to provide much-needed improvements and modernisation to existing legislation. It may, however, fail to strike the appropriate balance between protecting the environment and promoting a growing and sustainable economy.

Paris Climate Change Talks, ‘A Genuine Triumph or Total Fantasy’: David Hodgkinson

The 21st UN Climate Change Conference was held in Paris in December 2015. It provided for the first time a universal agreement that aims to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. Associate Professor David Hodgkinson discusses the background and the events leading to COP 21 and the global warming mitigation arrangements contained in the Agreement.

Understanding the Role of Soil Microbiological Ecosystems: Dr Peter Keating

FDI has taken the opportunity to interview Dr Keating of Bioscience Pty Ltd, on the topic of soil microbiology, soil microbiological ecosystems and his research into the analysis and maintenance of healthy soils and soil biological fertility.

Pastoral Lease Reform in Western Australia Offers Agricultural Diversification

The West Australian Government has plans to introduce legislation in June 2016 that would see traditional pastoral leases expand to allow new business ventures.

Grazing and Controlled Burning in Kimberley Pastoral Land Management: Mr John Henwood

FDI recently took the opportunity to speak with and interview pastoralist, Mr John Henwood, the former co-owner and manager of Fossil Downs Station. Mr Henwood oversaw the introduction, over a long period of time, of pastoral and land care practices that establish Fossil Downs as one of the show-piece pastoral properties of the Kimberley.

The Forgotten Resource: Groundwater in Australia

Groundwater usage is increasing and it is the main source of water for much of Australia’s dry interior, even as recent research suggests that replenishment rates may be slower than previously thought.

Soil Structure and the Physical Fertility of Soil

17 December 2015 | Northern Australia & Land Care

The physical properties of soil are at least as important as the chemical properties in determining fertility.

The Chemical Fertility of Soils: Soil Nutrients and Plant Nutrition

17 September 2015 | Northern Australia & Land Care

Download PDF Christopher Johns Research Manager Northern Australia Research Programme   Key Points There are a number of element nutrients that are essential for plant growth. Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, three of the essential plant nutrients, are taken up from the atmosphere and from water. The other essential nutrients come from the soil. The major...

Under Our Feet: Soil Microorganisms as Primary Drivers of Essential Ecological Processes

Download PDF Christopher Johns Research Analyst Northern Australia Research Programme     Key Points Fertile soils teem with microorganisms, which directly contribute to the biological fertility of that soil. Biological fertility is under-studied and our scientific knowledge of it is incomplete. In addition to fertility, soil microorganisms also play essential roles in the nutrient cycles...

The State of Australia’s Soils

Download PDF   Christopher Johns Research Assistant Northern Australia Research Programme   Key Points Australian soils differ from those of northern America or Europe, where much scientific study on soil regeneration is taking place. Australian soils are generally older and have been exposed to constant weathering. Knowledge of the importance of soils and soil science...

Regenerating our Landscapes

Download PDF Christopher Johns Research Analyst Northern Australia Research Programme   Key Points Much Australian soils are old and weathered.  This has partly resulted in depleted levels of biological activity, reduced carbon flow and lower than average rainfall retention. Regenerative practices are essential; without water, carbon, nutrients and critical microbes, and an effective relationship between...

Agricultural Application of Mycorrhizal Fungi to Increase Crop Yields, Promote Soil Health and Combat Climate Change

18 November 2014 | Northern Australia & Land Care

Download PDF Christopher D. Johns Research Assistant Soil Regeneration Research Programme   Key Points A beneficial relationship exists between certain soil fungi and many plants. The relationship is well understood, but has not been promoted by industrial agriculture. There is now a growing group of primary producers who are actively promoting the partnership between fungi...

Climate Change, Carbon and Wildfires

Download PDF Christopher D. Johns Research Analyst Climate Change   Key Points Recent evidence indicates that as much as 10% of wildfire produced carbon remains in the atmosphere contributing to global warming. Even in circumstances where carbon sequestering does achieve balanced levels, for around seven months of the year the carbon released by wildfires still...

Regenerate Australia: Our Greatest Challenge and Opportunity. A Conceptual Paper

22 October 2013 | Northern Australia & Land Care

  Soils for Life and Future Directions International Download PDF   Key Points Soils and bio-systems in northern Australia are in decline, leading to a loss of arable land and fibre production, with consequent social, economic and environmental problems. Up to 30 million hectares burn each year, emitting 5 to 50 tonnes of carbon per...

AUSMIN: Highlights Opportunities, Neglects Challenges and Outcomes

21 November 2012 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Consolidation has been the theme of the 2012 AUSMIN discussions. Looking ahead, with defence reviews, changing regional dynamics and budgetary constraints, the alliance faces a number of policy challenges. Background: Last week in Western Australia, Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, and Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, hosted US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, and Secretary of...

Black Swan in the Engine Room: Australia’s Ability to Manage Catastrophic Disaster in the Pilbara.

Download PDF Liam McHugh Manager Northern Australia and Energy Security Reseach Programme   Key Points Regional development in northwest Australia suggests that the Pilbara will increasingly continue to be a significant generator of wealth for Australia, Western Australia and the region itself. The rise of the Pilbara’s economic profile is accompanied with an increased sense...

Weak Chinese Demand Responsible for Commodity Slowdown

Despite assessments from commentators suggesting the mining boom is over, it is unlikely that Australia will suffer the ‘boom and bust’ pattern of previous resource booms. Background In late-August, as BHP Billiton announced a decline in profits and a decision to delay expansion plans in South Australia, policy makers debated the future of the booming...

East Timor: Xanana Gusmão’s Party Wins Most Seats

Background The National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction has secured the majority of seats in East Timor’s parliamentary polls. Led by charismatic former resistance leader, Xanana Gusmão, the party will require the support of a coalition to secure a majority to govern. With his nation at a crossroad, Prime Minister Gusmão can no longer capitalise on...

Vanuatu Row Highlights Flaws in Regional Policy

Background   In early-May, the 12-member Australian Federal Police (AFP) team in Vanuatu was asked to leave the island nation. This came in response to the alleged treatment of Vanuatu’s Prime Minister and his entourage by Australian immigration officials at Brisbane Airport. While some have dismissed this latest South Pacific diplomatic spat as misunderstanding of...

Federal Budget 2012: Implications for Northern Australia

Background   Federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan, has released the 2012-13 Federal Budget. As promised, and on time, the budget returns Australia to a surplus of $1.5 billion; a remarkable feat, considering the estimated budget deficit for last year totals $44.4 billion. With constrained revenue streams, the surplus relies on fewer tax...

Findings of Defence Force Posture Review Announced

Background In May, almost a year after it was announced, the recommendations of the Force Posture Review were released. The report concluded that generally the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is currently appropriately positioned to meet existing, as well as emerging, challenges to national security. The findings were generally connected to improving the capability of the...

Ongoing Crisis in PNG Places Upcoming Elections in Danger

Background Papua New Guinea’s Electoral Commissioner, Andrew Trawen, is seeking legal advice amidst pressure from MPs to delay PNG’s upcoming elections this June. This comes despite Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s assurance that elections will proceed on time, in a safe and fair manner. The possibility of deferred elections and the widening divide within the PNG...

Australia Key Component of US Asia-Pacific Posture

  Background In November 2011, US President Barack Obama travelled to Australia to reaffirm the alliance. The US has stated its desire to expand its military ties with Australia, including the deployment of US Marines in the Northern Territory and increased rotations of US Air Force planes at RAAF Darwin and RAAF Tindal. In 2012,...

Progress Report Foreshadows Enhanced Defence Infrastructure

Background In late January 2012, former defence secretaries Allan Hawke and Ric Smith released a progress report on the Force Posture Review (FPR).  Media commentary has suggested that it is a pessimistic appraisal of current defence positioning. On the contrary, the brief findings published so far suggest that an enhancement, rather than a large-scale realignment...

The Future Submarine Project: Implications for West Australia

6 February 2012 | Northern Australia & Land Care

Download PDF Key Points Australia is to acquire 12 new submarines. A project of this magnitude comes with inherent risks; a bespoke “son of Collins-class”vessel, built in South Australia, will significantly increase these potential challenges. The Future Submarine Project should engage Western Australia as the key location for development, recognising the state’s infrastructure, naval, maritime...

Mutiny Tip of the Iceberg in PNG Instability

Background The botched mutiny in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is symptomatic of much larger political issues. PNG bears many of the hallmarks of a failing state. Although calm seems to have returned to Port Moresby for the moment, the latest development in the year-long political crisis bodes poorly for a resolution in the short-term. PNG’s...

Halls Creek Boom Could Break China’s Rare Earth Monopoly

Background The Shire of Halls Creek, in north-west Australia, is experiencing a rare earth mining boom. In the most recent example, George Bauk, Managing Director of Northern Minerals, announced in late November that the company hopes to start mining Rare Earth Elements (REE) in Browns Range by 2015. Australia’s expanded role in REE extraction comes...

Defence Minister Forecasts Joint Military Base on Australia’s “Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier”

30 November 2011 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Background In late November 2011, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith confirmed that the Force Posture Review (FPR) will consider the future strategic role of the Cocos and Christmas Islands. Mr Smith suggested that while no formal proposal existed, the Cocos Islands could, in the future, host joint US-Australian naval and air assets. The plan has...

American Military Increase: Limited in Force, Significant in Symbolism

16 November 2011 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Background This week, President Obama will visit Darwin to announce an increase in the American military presence in the region. The agreement, to be announced on the 60th anniversary of the United States-Australia alliance, is expected to lead to more joint military exercises and provision for a number of US military personnel to be rotated...

La Niña Effects Set to Have Impact on Northern Australia

Background According to recent predictions by the Bureau of Meteorology, the potential for climatic conditions to have a severe impact on Northern Australia this summer is high. Adverse weather conditions have the potential to disrupt operations in the coal and iron ore industries, highlighting the importance of accurate climatic predictions to support Australia’s economic interests....

Government Attempts to Link Welfare to Truancy

Background In mid-October, in response to recommendations from the “Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory report”, the Federal Government announced the expansion of initiatives linking school attendance to welfare payments. Comment Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, announced that the government would expand measures linking school attendance to welfare payments in the Northern Territory (NT). The...

Torres Strait Islanders Push for Secession

Background In mid-October, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, reignited debate on the long-term future of the Torres Strait Islands, by backing the Islanders’ long-term aspirations for succession from the state in a letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. As noted by Ms Gillard, however, increased autonomy would have lasting implications for the community. Comment The right...

AUSMIN Talks Confirm Primacy of Alliance

28 September 2011 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Background In mid-September, Australia and the US held the annual ministerial-level meetings in San Francisco, to coincide with the anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty. In attendance were the Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries, who gave joint speeches on the current priorities and future direction of the alliance. It has been sixty years since...

Kimberley Proposed as Possible Tidal Energy Site

Background Plans to build a 100 megawatt tidal station in the Kimberley region of north-west Australia have been revived, almost ten years after the project failed due to cost blow-outs. In addition to providing a clean source of energy, the station has the potential to increase economic and social opportunities in the region. Comment In...

New PNG Leadership provides Opportunities for Australia

Background The appointment in August of Peter O’Neill, leader of the People’s National Congress, as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), will provide much needed stability for the state. As Mr O’Neill outlines his new agenda for PNG, Australia should seek to re-engage with its troubled neighbour. Comment Throughout its history, PNG governance has...

Amnesty Report: Indigenous People Forced From Outstations

Background An Amnesty International report entitled, ‘The land holds us: Aboriginal Peoples right to traditional homelands in the Northern Territory’, published in early August, has urged the Federal and Northern Territory governments to place a greater funding emphasis on Indigenous homeland communities. Comment The report by the human rights organisation alleges current government policies are...

Pilbara to House World-First Tsunami Warning System

Background Geoscience Australia, in early August 2011, broke ground in the east Pilbara on the construction of a sophisticated seismic system that will provide highly-accurate tsunami warnings. Comment The world-first early warning detection system, located about an hour from the town of Marble Bar will, when operational later this year, track earthquakes in the Indian...

Shire President to Chair Pilbara Development Commission

Background Roebourne Shire President, Councillor Nicole Lockwood, has been appointed chair of the Pilbara Development Commission (PDC) board. Comment In an announcement made in late July, Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls appointed Councillor Lockwood to lead the PDC board. Councillor Lockwood will replace Andre Bush, who has been acting chair for the last six months;...

Migration Scheme Aims to Solve Chronic Worker Shortages

Background Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced that Perth is to be classified as a regional employment hardship area. The move will allow Perth to benefit from the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme in an attempt to alleviate projected worker shortages. Comment Mr Bowen’s announcement, made last week at a Perth Mining Conference, will allow...

Caution Required in Shale Gas Boom

Background In an agreement that may signal the beginning of a “shale gas boom” in Australia, Houston-based ConocoPhillips last week agreed to a company farm-in deal with Perth energy junior New Standard Energy (NSE). The $100 million agreement will provide capital for exploration in NSE’s Goldwyer shale gas project in Western Australia’s Canning Basin. Economic...

Carbon Tax Looms Large Over Northern Australia

Background The Federal Government has announced the details of the largest emissions trading scheme outside of Europe. The nation’s top 500 polluters will be taxed in an ambitious attempt to combat climate change and promote investment in renewable energy alternatives. The legislation will provide a mixture of opportunities and challenges for Northern Australia’s future development.   ...

Defence Feasibility Study for Northern Australia

Background Defence Minister Stephen Smith last week announced plans to conduct a Force Structure Review to ensure that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is geopolitically positioned to meet emerging strategic and security issues along the nation’s northern and western coastlines. Comment Mr Smith announced that former Defence Department Secretaries Dr Alan Hawke and Mr Ric...

Common User Facility to Diversify Pilbara’s Economic Profile

Background Anketell Port or Port Hedland’s Lumsden Point have been identified as the most appropriate potential sites for a marine-based Common User Facility (CUF), in a report released on 10 June. Comment The report, announced by Western Australian Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien and Minister for Regional Development Brendon Grylls, identifies the potential location and specifies...

Brazil: China’s New Pilbara

Background The “proximity premium” afforded to Australian iron ore companies and which provides a competitive advantage in the minerals sector, is under threat from Brazilian mining company, Vale. In June, the company announced ambitious plans to heavily invest in a global supply chain network. Comment  The Pilbara region’s primacy as the source of China’s seemingly...

Pilbara Prospects 2020: Challenges and Threats to Regional Security

Download PDF Analysis The economic and social profile of the Pilbara will continue to increase in complexity over the coming decade[1]. Bolstered by vast infrastructure projects, a growing population and a highly efficient, interdependent and maturing economic profile the region’s future seems ostensibly secure. Existing and future vulnerabilities, however, have the potential to destabilise the region,...

Northern Australia Welcomes End of La Niña

Background The end of the capricious La Niña weather pattern will provide ecological stability for Northern Australia. Comment According to climate models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology, La Niña, or “the girl” in Spanish, the weather phenomenon responsible for flooding and increased cyclonic activity over Northern Australia, has begun to dissipate. Since the beginning...

Pilbara Prospects 2020: Developments and Challenges for the Region

Download PDF Summary The Pilbara Cities vision represents a unique and ambitious project. Government and industry have demonstrated a dedication to the development of the region with significant financial and political outlays. Bolstered by the State Government’s Royalties for Regions and resource developments, the economic and demographic profile of the Pilbara to 2020 seems ostensibly secure.  For the Pilbara...

Expansion of Pilbara Ports to Power Region’s Economy

25 November 2010 | Northern Australia & Land Care

Download PDF    Summary The ongoing strategic importance of the Pilbara region's ports is highlighted by announcements made throughout 2010 by major resource companies on the expansion and improvement of their export capacity. North West Australia’s climatic conditions and sometimes extreme weather events, such as the annual incidence of tropical cyclones, provide elements of risk...

Strategic Risk and North West Australia’s Critical Infrastructure

26 October 2010 | Northern Australia & Land Care

Download PDF Summary The Pilbara region is considered ‘the engine room of the Australian economy’.1 This region produces approximately twenty percent of Australia’s exports. According to Regional Development Australia, this is ‘made possible by 0.2 percent of the national population’. Onshore and offshore resource projects, such as Gorgon, Wheatstone and Pluto, continue unabated. The North...

The Impact of Skilled Labour Shortages on the Pilbara Region

17 September 2010 | Northern Australia & Land Care

Download PDF Summary The minerals and energy industry continues to make a significant contribution to employment and wider economic activity in the communities of regional Australia, and to governments directly through taxes and royalties. Skilled labour shortages, however, will continue to have an impact on the nation’s future growth and development prospects, especially in the...

Publication Guide

  • Associate papers are primary source assessments written by FDI associates. The assessment topics range from regional bilateral relationships and opportunities and challenges in our neighbouring countries.

  • Feature interviews are interviews conducted by an FDI Research Manager. Interview topics range from the sustainability of our planet to the improved provision of emergency food aid.

  • Normally issued in hardcopy, these represent a comprehensive study of one of FDI’s four research areas.

  • Strategic alerts are priority current intelligence items. We provide these alerts when events such as military deployments or foreign election results occur.

  • A 1500 to 3000 word, single topic assessment.

  • A number of short articles addressing current intelligence topics, issued each week.

  • A record of discussions resulting from a single, or series of, roundtable conferences.

Donate Now and Support Independent Research

Donate now to help us provide independent research and advice on global issues facing Australia