Article – We're flavour of the month with pollies

17 August 2013
Tony Raggatt
Townsville Bulletin
NORTHERN Australia is on the radar of the major political parties.
Despite the hyperbole, this is a good thing for us and we should be encouraging our political leaders to develop and embrace their new-found positions.
After all, with most of the votes in the south they don’t have to pander to us, just bask in their visionary glory.
Labor leader Kevin Rudd did this on Thursday by joining his Coalition opponents in releasing a policy to unlock the wealth of the North.
Rudd declared he was putting “meat on the bone” of earlier Coalition attempts at policy-making by raising the idea of cutting the company tax rate from 30 to 20 per cent in the Northern Territory and committing to expand the Ord River Dam irrigation scheme.
There was also a suggestion that “over time” special tax zones could be applied to North Queensland and West Australia’s north.
While people should not hold their breath that any of these initiatives will ever see the light of day, and no doubt many will argue against such plans, it does put northern Australia on the agenda of both major parties.
I suppose we should thank mining magnate Gina Rinehart for raising the topic and funding the Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision group.
The Coalition picked up on this, releasing its own 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott chose Townsville to release the Coalition’s policy earlier this year.
The vision seeks to create an agricultural food bowl, grow tourism and further develop an energy export industry in gas.
Mr Abbott committed to releasing a White Paper guide on the development of northern Australia within a year of gaining office.
He said it would consider relocation incentives and personal and business tax incentives in areas including Townsville, devise a priority list of infrastructure projects, accelerate the upgrade of the Bruce Highway, establish a Water Project Development Fund and relocate agencies such as the CSIRO and AQIS into cities like Townsville.
These are all good ideas but what is needed is government investment in infrastructure.
Northern Australia, and particularly Townsville, is in a fantastic position to take advantage of the so-called Asian century.
Our food and minerals will be in demand, but unless our government can get access to these markets and develop the infrastructure needed to get these products exported, the vision for northern development will remain just that.
Courtesy of Townsville Bulletin