Article – Economic plan to ready Northern Australia for Asian population explosion and tap growing `middle class’ demand

10 June 2014
Peter Michael
Courier Mail

NORTH Queensland is pushing to be declared a Special Economic Zone – a tax haven with relaxed migrant work visas, and more dams, ports and power stations to build into its $60 billion-a-year economy.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss will launch the Northern Australia green paper in Townsville today. The paper outlines plans to double Australia’s agricultural output and growing tourism and energy exports.

Asia’s middle class – predicted to soar from about 600 million to three billion people in the next 30 years – will drive demand for specialist crops, beef, seafood and sugar from across the nation’s Top End.

Business leaders and experts believe a north Australian economic zone from north of Rockhampton – as proposed by mining magnate Gina Rinehart – with tax breaks and lower foreign investment controls, may be the solution to long-term investment.
Big mining, like coal, gas and iron ore, accounts for a third of the bush economy, with reports of a predicted shortage of skilled workers in the next decade.
Ms Rinehart, Australia’s richest person, is driving calls for a relaxation of visa rules for overseas migrant workers to fill the shortfall.
As an SEZ, it is suggested the Federal Government offer Queensland a rebate on corporate, payroll and income taxes, as well as land taxes and stamp duty.
Mount Isa City Council last week submitted a petition with more than 4000 signatures in support of zone tax allowances.
The green paper, open to public discussion, as well as the findings of the North Australia Joint Standing Committee, with an interim report out on June 16, will form part of white paper policy that will shape the future of the state’s north.
Premier Campbell Newman has also touted a plan to tie new international immigrants to spending time in regional areas – like a bonded visa program – as a way to encourage new Queenslanders to settle outside the southeast corner.
It comes as an extra 75,000 people – including more than 30,000 from overseas – make Queensland their home each year, at a rate of 1500 a week. More than 70 per cent opt to live close to Brisbane. Figures show north Queensland is an economic powerhouse of mining, agriculture, education and tourism, providing the lion’s share of the state’s economy.

Courtesy of the Courier Mail