Article – Rinehart 'ecstatic' at PM's bid to transform Territory

August 17, 2013
Andrew Burrell and Sid Maher
The Australian
GINA Rinehart has welcomed Kevin Rudd’s promise to establish a special economic zone in the Northern Territory, declaring she is “ecstatic” that both major parties have now embraced her push for lower taxation and less regulation in the nation’s north.
But the Prime Minister was forced to defend the policy after two key ministers, Employment Minister Bill Shorten and Resources Minister Gary Gray, conceded they were unaware of the timing of the announcement.
Under Labor’s plan, companies based in the NT would have a lower corporate tax rate by 2018, along with simplified investment rules and streamlined regulation.
The support by Mrs Rinehart for Mr Rudd’s northern Australia plan, comes after several years of tension between the billionaire head of Perth-based mining house Hancock Prospecting and the federal Labor government.
Former treasurer Wayne Swan labelled Mrs Rinehart, Australia’s richest person, a “threat to democracy” over her opposition to the mining tax.
“For those who think less taxes aren’t important to economic growth, just look at what happened when Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, when premier of Queensland, eliminated death duties in Queensland,” Mrs Rinehart said in a statement to The Weekend Australian.
“Many migrated to Queensland, and billions of dollars were invested in new accommodation and facilities.
“Sir Joh became Queensland’s longest serving premier, and despite no record resource boom and consequent increased revenue that Australia has enjoyed these last five or six years, when Sir Joh left office, he left no debt and cash in kitty.” The Coalition has accused Mr Rudd of borrowing its northern development idea, despite ridiculing the opposition’s proposals as a wacky plan that would divide Australia in two.
Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said it was now clear the announcement had been made without consultation and “Mr Rudd’s northern Australia frolic is being made up as he goes”.
Sources have said that Mr Rudd took the policy to Labor’s policy development committee, of which Mr Shorten is a member, on regaining the prime ministership.
Mr Rudd said he had consulted Treasurer Chris Bowen and Finance Minister Penny Wong, who are also on the committee and had worked on the policy for six weeks.
“You would expect that during an election campaign, that when the final product of a policy is put out, that the ministers are informed of that at that time,” the Prime Minister said.
At a media event in Perth alongside Mr Rudd, Mr Gray said he knew about the Ord River element of the policy but not the other elements.
Mr Shorten, who told Melbourne radio he had found out about it yesterday, clarified that it had been discussed in the leadership group for a number of weeks, and he had been referring to the timing of the announcement.
“These ideas have been under discussion by the leadership group for a number of weeks,” he said.
Courtesy of The Australian