Leaked document reveals plans to create new economic zone

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott Vicki Wood

THE Federal Coalition may create new incentives for southern Australians to move north if elected, a leaked policy document has revealed.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was quick to emphasise the proposal was not a final policy.

Mr Abbott and his team have been at pains to keep crucial election policies under wraps since Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the poll date last week.

But the leaked policy revealed plans to create a new economic zone above the Tropic of Capricorn, including different tax rates and strategies to grow agriculture, mining and populations in the north.

Mr Abbott said the Coalition had no plans to change the tax system, but was considering incentives for residents of the north as well as businesses.

"Well, obviously there are some zonal rebates that have been in place for many years and we are looking at how they can be made more effective," he said.

"We did, in the aftermath of the last election, look at some trial sites for further rebates and these are the sorts of issues that we are looking at and discussing with the public in the run-up to the election.

"I make no apologies for being a consultative leader."

Several of the proposals were markedly similar to ideas that avid northern Australia supporter Gina Rinehart spoke about last year and brought praise from independent MP Bob Katter.

He said he had held numerous discussions with Coalition MPs on such ideas over the years - stretching back to former Prime Minister John Howard's days.

He said the release of the draft policy was a positive move and showed the Coalition was prepared to shine a light on such issues.

From possible dams, to targets of tripling Australia's resource exports and growing the nation's energy industry, the "Developing Northern Australia - A 2030 Vision" document had numerous ideas which have circulated in northern political circles for years.

But the document was qualified by a statement that it was a draft document, circulated for internal Coalition feedback.

It was also understood the draft policy was also revealed to some conservative state governments in recent weeks.

The leaked policy sparked a round of attacks from several government ministers, including Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean, who dubbed it a "grab bag full of wacky ideas".

Mr Crean said the policy had Ms Rinehart's fingerprints all over it, and the government had already achieved a lot for northern Australia.

A list of government achievements circulated by his office showed the creation of the Northern Australia Ministerial Forum, an expert government advisory panel and several other economic initiatives.

The list also included the release of the $10 million North Queensland Irrigated Agriculture Strategy and the northern Australia beef strategy.

Topics:  coalition julia gillard tony abbott

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