Transcript – Imants Kins, ANDEV Co-Chair – ABC Darwin 03/04/13

Presenter:                   ANDEV, when you go to their website, has a range of discussions for you to read. As I’ve mentioned it is Gina Rinehart who is really the driving force behind the organisation but it is made up of a range of individuals and businesses in Australia demanding that our government welcome investment and provide economic vision for our country’s future. It is also co-chaired by this chap, he is our guest, Imants Kins. Imants Kins joins us on the line, lovely to have you with us.
Imants Kins:                Thankyou very much Richard, it is wonderful to be here and good afternoon to all of your listeners throughout the Northern Territory.
Presenter:                   You’ve been here for the last few days, you have been talking to Adam Giles about northern development. One of the things that I have noticed was that if you go onto the website you can read your own writing, Australia’s Future: think and grow rich inc. “It’s a big country and a big idea”. One of the things you say is that ANDEV’s vision is for bold transformative policies and leadership required to make vision a reality.  Is Adam Giles the kind of leader you are looking for to develop the Northern Territory?
Imants Kins:                Absolutely, it has just been a breath of fresh air to meet Adam and also some of his ministerial colleagues. There is a wonderful ‘can do’ approach to developing the Northern Territory and increasing the level of awareness of everyone in Australia about the potentiality and the wonderful kind of people who live in the Northern Territory. I was struck by meeting so many people who have lived in the Northern Territory – I was in Alice Springs as well – who have lived there for twenty to forty years and they’ve all come up there starting with nothing and they have all developed thriving businesses. This is the sort of can-do pioneering attitude that Australia needs, and we need to celebrate that attitude and that motivation.
Presenter:                   You speak quiet extensively about the North and its potential and talk particularly about the idea of spirit, the pioneering spirit of previous generations. The idea that risk takers and business builders and ‘have-a-go’ citizens are what you need. Is that what’s already here in the Northern Territory, or are you intending to kind of create an idea of ‘can-doers’ arriving in the North?
Imants Kins:                No, I think it is already there as I was saying when you meet people who have lived in that area for a long space of time and you hear the stories of how they have created, basically, something from nothing, based around the resources that are available in the Northern Territory. That spirit is already there and I want to awaken everybody that lives south of Tropic of Capricorn to that spirit and to encourage people in the south, that there is this, 44 per cent of Australia’s land mass is waiting for them to be the pioneers, the modern day pioneers that Banjo Patterson has written so beautifully about.
Presenter:                   Getting away from those ideas of the spirit of the North and the feeling of the north and coming up with a specific project, if ANDEV had to name one specific project to start the development of the North what would it be?
Imants Kins:                Well Adam spoke about the need to put a framework in place, and that is exactly what needs to be done. Our key aim is to see the establishment of special economic zones or one zone across the whole of the Northern Territory, which would provide an integrated and holistic structure within which we can introduce free market and free enterprise policies that can act as a catalyst for investment, for increases in living standards.
Presenter:                   How would they differ from something that exists already in Australia as a free enterprise? I would have thought we were.
Imants Kins:                The World Bank did a study on special economic zones, there are about 3,500 of them, and Australia is one of the few countries in the world that fundamentally hasn’t really experimented at all or embraced special economic zones. What fundamentally happens in those is that you focus and you approach, in a long-term way, economic and social development where all of the polices are working together so the sum of the parts becomes much greater than the whole.
Presenter:                   Are we talking about specific tax structures and specific development structures. Is it about individuals? Or is about corporations? When we talking about development are we talking about the development for individuals or for corporations?
Imants Kins:                Well they go hand in hand. One of the key points is that in a market system, it’s the private sector that creates the jobs, creates the tax revenue so that government’s can do the important work that they are required to do. But fundamentally you want to encourage people to set up new enterprises, to basically take the risks to see the potentiality in the Northern Territory. It starts from individuals but it also requires companies to be more confident about expanding their businesses in the Northern Territory and bringing foreign direct investment.
Presenter:                   Are we talking about resources companies, because Gina Rinehart is well known as a resources person, you’ve spent time since the seventies you worked for Ochre Resources, you’ve worked for ABM Resources NL, you’ve worked for Petrochemical plants, you’ve worked for governments as well, are you talking about resources development? Is that principally what would drive ANDEV’s version of the North?
Imants Kins:                No, I think one of the success drivers for these special economic zones is that they have to be tailored to the specific competitive advantages of that specific area. Now if we look at the Northern Territory, fundamentally it’s the water – there is significant water up there. There is significant water up there, both rain water and the water that is captured and re-charged in aquifers. You’ve got the land and they are fundamentally the key elements. You have the beginnings of some significant infrastructure particularly in Darwin. You have the resources there that can be developed through focusing all policy activities on making sure that we can encourage the development of jobs and an increase in living standards.
Presenter:                   I’m going to play you something because I would have though one of your soldiers, so to speak, is somebody you might not have joined up with Bob Katter. I’ve talked to him on several occasions about Northern Australia; here he is talking about the cost of living and the cost of doing business in the North.
(Bob Katter audio)
Presenter:                   The reality for most of us is that the cost of living is quiet high, for building and basics and food and all that sort of thing. If you are to develop, whatever you are to develop, you’ll need people and people can’t afford to live here very well at the moment.
Imants Kins:                No, it is a very valid point and I think one of the elements in a special economic zone in an agency that is aware and sensitive to the supply and demand situation. We’ve had this situation in the Pilbara where one government agency, Land Corp, is responsible for the release of land and it’s been a dismal failure.
Presenter:                   If you’re talking about one of the things within that special economic zone, the change of the tax regime potentially, is that a change in tax for corporations or for individuals?
Imants Kins:                It would be for individuals and for companies. We are talking about a big idea for a big country. For this to be successful we need to be ambitious and really look beyond small incremental and marginal changes. We are talking about changes in the taxation system or regime or framework for individuals and corporations. One of our aims is to increase the level of awareness and get that conversation going about the importance of the development of the north. So one scenario may well be, given the population of the Northern Territory is about 250,000, there could be a tax holiday for about five years for everyone living in the Northern Territory and companies operating in the Northern Territory. Initially it will have a small impact on the federal government’s budget but what everyone has found globally is that within three to five year period the actual tax take revenue has actually increased.          
Presenter:                   You talk about Australians choosing to settle more permanently in these sort of economic zones,  but resources companies have prevented that. They haven’t built towns; they’ve made fly-in fly-out operations.
Imants Kins:                The key driver there has been government. The imposition of fringe benefits tax has been one of the key driving forces and the lack of availability of land. Those two elements together are the reason why we have fly-in fly-out workers, they are all within the hands of government and they can be changed.