28 February 2014
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says tax concessions will be considered as part of the Federal Government White Paper on northern Australia.
Mr Abbott is in Darwin and will attend meetings to discuss terms of reference for the report.
He has flagged water resources, getting rid of red tape, and building appropriate infrastructure as key priorities for the development of the north.
He says tax concessions are possible, provided they are not unconstitutional.
The Prime Minister cited the Ord River project in Western Australia as an example of how a northern food bowl could be successful.
“Look at the way the Ord scheme has flourished,” he said.
“Everyone thought the Ord scheme was a white elephant.
“But, over the last couple of decades, the Ord scheme has become a very important contributor to agriculture in Australia.”
However, an environmental group says the Ord irrigation scheme is not an example of successful agricultural production because it is mostly trees, not food, produced there.
Northern Territory Environment Centre director Stuart Blanch is urging the Federal Government to abandon any plans for a northern food bowl.
“The Ord is not a food bowl; it is a wood pile,” he said.
“About 60 per cent of the Ord irrigation area is growing sandalwood trees, not food.
“The PM really needs to look at the realities of northern Australia rather than repeat the failures of the past.”
The Prime Minister says the Territory will have a central role in plans for the development of the north.
“We are going to adjust the boundaries of the White Paper consideration to include Alice [Springs] because the major Territory centres should all be part of the … process,” he said.
Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles recently said Queensland bureaucrats have been dominating discussions on the plan.
He says he is being approached regularly by foreign investors wanting to be involved in Territory development.
He says the Territory Government is working towards making the concept of a northern food bowl happen.
Mr Abbott says international investors want to get involved in the development of northern Australia.
“There are any number of investors, particularly overseas investors, who want to make the most of this great country of ours,” he said.
Courtesy of ABC News
28 February 2014