Abbott’s plans for Northern Economic Zone

Tony Abbot's plans for a Northern Economic Zone, in the style of those proposed by Gina Rinehart, have been revealed ahead of the election.

There have been calls for the establishment of a Northern Special Economic Zone for some time, with Galaxy poll results released by the Institute of Public Affairs stating that more than half of those surveyed supported lower taxes to stimulate growth in the north.

Hugh Tobin from the Institute of Public Affairs told Australian Mining "a Northern Special Economic Zone, comprising Northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Northern Queensland will allow Australia to make the most of our natural mineral wealth and will reduce some of the problems that exist for people living in these regions".

In Rinehart's book, released late last year, she called for the establishment of a new economic zone, pushing her position as the chair of the group Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV).

Her book Northern Australia and then some outlines a vision for Northern Australia’s future including unleashing its  potential. But it argues that  development will only occur if the right environment is created by government, an environment where private enterprise can flourish and welcome investment.

This environment may now be created under an Abbott government.

A secret draft policy entitled Vision 2030 proposes to establish an $800 million fund for the project, according to the Daily Telegraph.

It seeks to relocate thousands of jobs into the northern region, and to develop it into a new food bowl and population area.

"The Coalition would, in its first term, propose to look to develop key urban zones – Darwin, Cairns/Townsville and Karratha – with the aim of substantially increasing the population in these areas," it stated; all areas in which mining is key.

"In conjunction, the current immigration policy, relocation incentives and personal tax incentives should be reviewed, along with the planning of economic zones centred around these urban areas.

"Relocate substantial and relevant components of federal departments and commonwealth agencies, such as the CSIRO, to key urban zones in northern Australia."

It also looked to triple resource exports from the region, "adding over $100 billion to the economy," as well as the growth "of an energy export industry worth $150 billion with a major proportion of sustainable energy".

As the region's population grows, senator Bob Katter has also called for North Queensland to be granted statehood.

The member for Kennedy, an area which covers more than half a million kilometres, is larger than Spain and runs from the coast to the border, said the region "screams out for a separate state".

"I have long argued for (a separate state) north from Rockhampton," Katter said, adding that if self governing could not be achieved then the state could at least split into two different administrative regions.

"Administratively we could be separate, with each responsible for their own budget," he said.

His comments follow the latest ABS figures which show that Townsville and Cairns now have 3572 more people than Tasmania.