15 August 2013
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has promised to boost Australia’s economic future with a special economic zone in the Northern Territory where businesses will pay less tax.
While Opposition leader Tony Abbott was south offering to boost Tasmania’s economy, Mr Rudd was north touting his special economic zone, a boosted Ord River Irrigation Scheme and 20-year growth plans for Darwin, Cairns, Townsville and Mackay to increase trade and investment.
His plan was called “catch-up politics” by Mr Abbott, who in June, to ridicule by the then-Labor leadership, announced a coalition government would produce a white paper on northern Australia.
Mr Rudd’s plan was slammed by Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Adam Giles as a last-ditch effort to win votes and Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien as a “ridiculous” notion that could pinch jobs from other states.
Under Mr Rudd’s plan, which is subject to talks with the NT government and business chiefs, NT-based companies would enjoy a corporate tax rate a third lower than the rest of the country, simplified investment rules and streamlined regulation.
“Mr Abbott’s plan is a plan for a white paper – this is putting forward something very concrete for the future,” Mr Rudd said.
The special zone would begin from 2014 and be fully operational by 2018, when the new tax rate would kick in.
Mr Rudd said Labor was still working through the cost details.
He contradicted himself several times on the proposed tax during a press conference.
At first he suggested it would be for all businesses operating in the NT, then only those based in Darwin before saying corporations based across the NT would benefit.
Mr Abbott called it another “thought bubble” from Mr Rudd.
The prime minister put in a marathon campaign day on Thursday. He will end in Perth where Labor has three seats after starting before dawn in Queensland stopping in Darwin to thank troops for their “sheer professionalism” before going to Kununurra.
He called the Ord country “one of the most unique parts of creation” and said his plan would open up 14,000 hectares of agriculture, providing a $150 million annual economic boost to northern Australia.
“It is a beautiful country – whenever you come here it takes your breath away,” Mr Rudd told the Miriuwung Gajerrong elders.
One, Edna O’Malley, told Mr Rudd Labor’s announcement was the “beginning of a another chapter” in the Ord story, which had provided massive economic benefits to the local indigenous community.
Courtesy of AAP