Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd unveiled on Thursday his party's plan to drive growth in the largely underdeveloped northern Australia.
The new plan, named Growing the North: A Plan for Northern Australia, is a three-point strategy to develop and diversify the economy of northern Australia, which straddles a vast area across North Queensland, the Northern Territory and northwest Australia.
It includes a commitment to establish a Northern Special Economic Zone focusing on the Northern Territory to encourage businesses to expand and to attract new businesses to the region.
"My personal objective for the territory is it would be great to have a company tax rate here one-third lower than that of the rest of the country," Rudd said.
The special zone would begin from 2014 and be fully operational by 2018, when the new tax rate would kick in.
The plan also pledges to build the third stage of the Ord River irrigation scheme in Western Australia, and 20-year growth plans for northern hubs including Darwin, Cairns, Townsville and Mackay to increase trade and investment.
Expanding the Ord Irrigation Scheme Stage 3 includes 10 million AU dollars (9.1 million U.S. dollars) to the Northern Territory government to help facilitate expansion of the scheme from its current 29,000 hectares to 43,000 hectares.
This will increase economic output in northern Australia by an estimated 150 million AU dollars (136.5 million U.S. dollars) every year, mainly through expanded sugar production and agricultural crops.
Rudd's plan, still subject to talks with the local government and business chiefs, was labeled "catch-up politics" by Opposition Coalition leader Tony Abbott, who in June, to ridicule by the then- Labor leadership, announced a Coalition government would produce a white paper on northern Australia.
Labor said northern Australia has tremendous natural advantages. However development in the region has been held back by infrastructure shortages, high business and living costs and a lack of economic diversity.