Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rudd flags special economic zone for Northern Territory - Business Spectator

AAP

Federal Labor would set up a special economic zone in northern Australia if re-elected, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

Mr Rudd says companies based in the Northern Territory would have a lower corporate tax rate, simplified investment rules and streamlined regulation.

"My personal objective for the Territory is it would be great to have a company tax rate here one-third lower than that of rest of the country," Mr Rudd told reporters in Darwin.

The new tax rate would kick in by 2018.

Mr Rudd said the constitution allowed for the NT to have a different tax regime to other states and territories.

The plan would also expand the Ord River Irrigation Scheme to open up 14,000 hectares of land in the Northern Territory for agriculture.

The major project would drive $150 million worth of agricultural production in the region.

"This would unleash an enormous amount of agricultural land for the future and, economists tell us, $150 million worth of agricultural production," Mr Rudd said.

"This is about investing in a huge new project for Australia, the future of agribusiness."

Labor would work in partnership with the Northern Territory government, which needed $10 million to deal with native title negotiations in order to secure the land.

Key centres across northern Australia would also be bolstered through 20-year strategic plans, to be developed by Infrastructure Australia.

The plan for Darwin would focus on liquefied natural gas and mining development, agribusiness, engineering and opportunities presented by the NBN.

Townsville would capitalise on transport networks, proximity to ports, education and agriculture.

Cairns would develop on its tourism, with particular attention to hospitality and the influx of large numbers of Chinese tourists.

Mackay meanwhile would exploit its proximity to the "fantastic" Galilee and Bowen Basins and the great future mining potential they hold.

When asked the cost of the plan, Mr Rudd said Labor was still working through the details.

"What we need is the national imagination to harness the enormous agricultural potential of northern Australia," Mr Rudd said.

If Labor wins, the plan will be finalised by 2014, and will be fully operational by 2018, the prime minister said.

Mr Rudd said his plan for northern Australia was "concrete", while Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's plan was only to write a white paper.

Abbott says coalition vindicated

Mr Abbott said Mr Rudd had vindicated the coalition's position on northern Australia.

"I am pleased Mr Rudd has finally woken up to the potential for northern Australia," he said in Hobart.

"Mr Rudd is playing catch up politics."

Asked about Labor's offer of a lower tax rate for NT businesses, Mr Abbott said the coalition would look at it carefully.


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