Article – ANDEV to play role in Coalition taskforce – North Queensland Register

by 28 June 2013

AN influential private-sector business group led by billionaire Gina Rinehart will lobby to be part of a taskforce promised under an Abbott government to drive a 20-year economic plan for northern Australia. Under the plan, part of the foreign aid budget would be diverted for medi cal research and training in northern cities. The Coalition promised on Friday it would produce a white paper within 12 months of the election to set out how Australia can develop large-scale agricultural developments on pastoral land, build dams to capture seasonal rainfall, and review the region’s land-tenure arrangements to give miners, farmers, power generators and tour ism operators better access.

The strategy paper will look at ways Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and the Federal Government can work together to double agricultural output, increase tourism and build a $150 billion energy-export industry. One of the first steps the Coalition says it will take if it wins the September 14 election will be to establish a Northern Australia Strategic Partner ship led by the prime minister, state and territory premiers, and leaders from business, community and indigenous groups.

Many of the ideas to be considered by a Coalition government have been promoted by the group, Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV), which was founded by Ms Rinehart and West Australian gold miner Imants Kins in 2010. They include a ‘one-stop shop’ for green tape, plans for dam construction and more infrastructure development.

The Coalition stopped short of promising low personal income tax rates for people living in northern Australia, as advocated by ANDEV, but agreed to review the current relocation incentives and other proposed personal and business tax incentives.

ANDEV wants northern Australia to be declared a special economic zone with low personal income taxes, no payroll taxes, no fringe benefits tax and no stamp duty. Mr Kins said the Coalition was to be congratulated for making northern Australia part of the economic mainstream. He said special tax breaks for the region might be needed temporarily to kickstart development.

“The north, at this point in time in its evolution, requires a catalyst,” he said.

The private sector group, which includes many northern small businesses and the odd mining magnate, is reported to have attracted the sup port of Northern Territory chief minister and NT Country Liberal Party Leader Adam Giles. Many previous northern development visions have failed, according to the National Farmers Federation and the Wilderness Society, which agree about the challenges of tropical farming.

“Many people have tried and failed to develop agriculture in the north due to a number of challenges,” NFF president Duncan Fraser said.

“While it has a guaranteed wet season, it also has a long dry season, tropical pests and diseases, labour shortages and faces the tyranny of distance.

“Most concerning, local knowledge and expertise has often been overlooked in the discussion around developing northern Australia, at the peril of those leading the charge.”

The Wilderness Society said more than $1.3 billion had been spent on the Ord scheme in Western Australia, yet all attempts at large-scale crop-ping failed, including rice, sugar and cotton.

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