A coalition of Labor MPs and senators representing northern electorates have joined forces to criticise the government for failing to provide an update on its white paper to develop northern Australia.
Labor MP, Warren Snowdon, says the government's lack of bipartisanship is an insult to the people of the north.
"This Government talks big, [but] does nothing. The person who is to blame for that, directly to blame for that, is Barnaby Joyce. More concerned as to whether he’s going to be here next week than he is about the people of northern Australia. He’s holding us to ransom, it’s an absolute insult," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Northern Australia, Barnaby Joyce, was expected to deliver an updated statement to the Parliament on the 'White Paper on Developing Northern Australia' to community and business leaders.
But Labor's Jason Clare says Mr Joyce failed to deliver because he has nothing to say.
"It’s pretty surprising on the one hand, but on the other hand, I can understand why he’s too chicken to do it – because he’s got nothing to say. This is a Government that’s talked big and promised big about northern Australia. They’ve delivered very little," he said.
'We have been let down, let down seriously'
Released more two years ago under the Abbott government, the white paper outlined plans to invest in the economic development of the north, like new roads and telecommunications.
It's described as 'a vision to unlock the great potential and opportunities of the north'. With a focus on 'building priority roads, developing water resources, removing red tape, building a sustainable workforce and ensuring effective governance arrangements'.
The paper also says it will work in full partnership with Indigenous Australians, focusing on 'creating opportunities through education, job creation' which will help contribute to objectives the government's Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
Last year the government delivered an update on the same day that community and business leaders came to Canberra. But Labor discovered Mr Joyce was not delivering an update this year.
Indigenous Labor Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy, says its incredibly disappointing.
"So many people have been looking forward to hearing what was going to happen today in terms of the development of the north. For my colleagues and I here, and certainly, for people in northern Australia, they desperately do need to know and have confidence that this Government knows what it is doing, and clearly, it doesn’t," she said.
Fellow Labor Senator and Broome resident, Pat Dodson, says the people of Northern Australia have been let down.
"There are many people who live in the North: pastoralists, Aboriginal people, small business owners, people who are trying to make a living, people are trying to get decent services," he said.
"It is really, really frustrating and disappointing when those services are lacking, when the investment is lacking; when the infrastructure to grow the various industries that are significant to us is lacking. We have been let down, let down seriously, and the people of Northern Australia know that."
The government was approached for comment.