A new port in Darwin is expected to boost jobs, manufacturing and help industry export more gas and critical minerals to southeast Asia.

Campaigning in the Northern Territory on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the $1.5 billion investment at Middle Arm would make it a world-leading industrial hub for gas processing, hydrogen and high-value minerals processing and refinement.

“Our investment will deliver this, supporting port infrastructure, including a wharf and offloading facility, and dredging of the shipping channel,” he said.

“This is real. What we assigned here today is not about a promise for the election. It’s about what’s actually in the budget. It’s been legislated.”

Mr Joyce said the invest would also help Darwin develop as a manufacturing and energy centre.

“To make Darwin not only a port, but a vital gateway, a real gateway to the wealth of southeast Asia,” he said.

Darwin’s existing port was controversially leased to Chinese company Landbridge for 99 years by the NT government in 2015.

“Australia still owns this port. We’re talking about a management right. We’re talking about lease. We’re not talking about ownership,” Mr Joyce said in response to questions about the lease.

Mr Joyce said Australia must become stronger and more resilient in the face of geopolitical tensions.

“We are very aware that the investment that we make, that it will be absolutely strategic and looking after the interests of Australia,” he said.

He said the critical minerals development would reduce Australia’s reliance on imports.

“They’ll be developed in Darwin, critical minerals are important from nuclear submarines to the iPhone in your pocket,” Mr Joyce said.

“In the past we’ve had to import this product predominately from China and now we’re going to start doing it as Australians.

“Darwin is going to be one of the hubs of manufacturing in Australia.”

The plan includes $440 million to build new logistics hubs at Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek and $300 million for low-emissions LNG and clean hydrogen production at Middle Arm, together with associated carbon capture and storage infrastructure.

As well there is $200 million to further develop the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct, delivering a rail spur and new road network and $110 million to continue to upgrade and further seal the Tanami Road.


Paul Osborne and Aaron Bunch
(Australian Associated Press)