Article – Raising Stakes in the North

9 May 2015
Courier Mail
TROPICAL medical research, water projects and upgrades to airports are all set to be funded as part of the Abbott Government’s push to develop northern Australia.
The Courier-Mail yesterday revealed the Government had set aside $1.7 billion to fund its long-awaited White Papers on Northern Australia and Agriculture, with a $100 million roads package the first of the measures to be funded in next week’s Budget.
Further water and road works will be included in the package, with the first Infrastructure Australia report on the region calling for increased investment to cope with its growing population which could reach 2.1 million by 2031.
A second part of the package to be released today will be aimed at boosting tropical medical research, with $15.4 million to trial new drugs. The funding includes $8.5 million to commercialise research into treatments for tropical diseases such as dengue, malaria, Hendra and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
Another $6.9 million will be spent on boosting research activities at centres including James Cook University.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who is in charge of developing the Northern Australia White Paper, said he wanted to increase medical research to tap into markets in the fast-growing tropics.
“Tropical medicine is one of our national strengths and we are only beginning to grasp the scale of opportunity of this and there is great untapped potential, now and into the future,” hesaid.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised at the last election to release it within his first year in power but yesterday said he wanted to get the detail right and it would be released next month.
“There are a lot of exciting plans in the pipeline,” he said. “This is a document to outline a plan for the north not just for today or tomorrow but for decades to come.’’ Mr Abbott yesterday flew into Cairns, which he dubbed the “tourist capital of Australia”, after a visit to the “beef capital” of Rockhampton.
He told how was “midwife” to yesterday’s launch of the Northern Australia Alliance, who advocate “nation-building projects” such as Nullinga Dam, expanding defence and naval bases, and funding for medical research in Cairns and Darwin.
Mr Abbott promised “insurance justice” for the north where premiums are more than five times that of southern regions.
He announced the Hann Highway, long touted as the missing inland road link between Cairns and Melbourne, would be upgraded as part of the package to improve beef cattle trucking routes.
HERE’S THE STEER: What we know already about the Budget
CHILDCARE AND FAMILIES • New means-tested childcare payment to be paid direct to childcare centres • Wealthy families to receive lower childcare subsidies • ‘Activity test’ to limit child care subsidies to parents who work or study • $840 million to guarantee that all four-year-olds can go to preschool for 15 hours a week • A two-year trial for a program to subsidise the cost of nannies to be aimed at shift worker, at a cost of $250 million
PENSIONERS • Individuals with assets on top of the family home will no longer be eligible for a pension if their assets are worth more than $547,000 ($823,000 for couples) • Those without a home will lose the pension when their assets reach $747,000 ($1.02 million for a couple) • A plan for cut to indexation rate of pensions in last year’s Budget has been axed
SMALL BUSINESS OPERATORS • 1.5 per cent cut to the company tax rate for small businesses • Small enterprises to get immediate tax deductions for start-up costs
TAXPAYERS • GST will be charged on some online purchases such as downloaded books, music and videos under $1000 • Fringe Benefits Tax exemptions for charity and not-for-profit staff members to be tightened, saving $300 million
HEALTH • Pharmacists given the option of cutting the price of many scripts by $1, as part of reforms that could help save $3 billion • Cost of commonly prescribed anticholesterol and other medicines to be cut • Major review of how much Medicare pays doctors for a range of services
EDUCATION • Graduates who move overseas will have to pay back their HECS debts from July 1, 2017 (based on 2016-17 incomes) • Deregulation of university fees is still on the table
REGIONAL • $1.7 billion funding package for Agriculture and Northern Australia white papers, with focus on infrastructure and dams • $100 million on road upgrades for beef industry • A ‘stimulus package’ for drought affected areas of Queensland and NSW • Review of proposal to tighten Wine Equalisation Tax rebates and use the savings to fund international marketing campaign for Australian wine
PUBLIC SERVICE • Defence personnel will receive a 2 per cent pay rise at a cost of $200 million over the next four years• $250 million to upgrade Bureau of Statistics computers so that 2016 Census can go ahead
Courtesy of the Courier Mail

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