Article – Tony Abbott to detail plans to 'substantially increase' population of northern Australia – Steven Scott, Courier Mail

AUSTRALIANS could be offered new tax perks to move to north under a Coalition plan to “substantially increase” the populations of cities including Cairns and Townsville.
Public servants from the CSIRO and AQIS could be forced to move north and defence facilities in the region expanded as part of the plan.
Funds from Australia’s foreign aid budget could also be used to pay for research into tropical diseases to tackle the risk of malaria and tuberculosis entering the country.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will today outline a raft of options to dramatically boost investment in northern parts of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
A Coalition policy options document sets targets to double Australia’s agricultural output, attract two million foreign tourists a year to northern Australia and boost energy and resource exports.
The plan does not commit the Coalition to any changes or provide any costings.
But Mr Abbott will pledge to produce a white paper with detailed proposals within 12 months if the Coalition wins the election.
The calls to boost investment in the north come as the Liberal National Party is actively wooing preferences from Bob Katter’s party, especially in regional Queensland seats.
Mr Katter is a strong advocate of increasing population and economic activity to turn the north into a “food bowl” for Asia.
Options in Mr Abbott’s plan include investigating new dams and groundwater projects to support an expansion of farming in northern Australia.
Infrastructure Australia could audit of all major projects in the region to set priority improvements over the next 15 years as part of the plan.
The Coalition will also soon commit new funding to the Bruce Highway, along with a faster timetable of upgrades.
Cairns, Townsville, Darwin and Karratha are targeted for massive population boosts, with a review of existing relocation payments and regional tax perks planned to encourage people to move to these cities.
Premier Campbell Newman and his WA and NT counterparts will be consulted on the plans and will be asked to audit regulations that discourage people from moving north.
“For too long, families have been reluctant to move to northern Australia because of the absence of adequate infrastructure and governments and the private sector have been reluctant to invest in major projects because of insufficient population,” Mr Abbott said.
The Opposition Leader said developing northern Australia was the best way to tap into the booming economies of our Asian neighbours.
“We want to capitalise on northern Australia’s existing strengths and natural advantages in agriculture, cattle, and energy as well as to seize opportunities in tourism, education and health services,” he said.
“We are determined to break the ongoing development deadlock that has held northern Australia back for so long.”