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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2254

Mr COLLARD (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Northern Development. I refer to the income tax zone allowances which, not having been adjusted for a number of years, are gradually losing value in relation to their purpose. Is it correct that any attempt to increase those allownaces would endanger their retention in the Act? If so, does that danger not exist irrespective of whether they are increased or not? Would the termination of the allowances or a substantial loss in value seriously affect northern development, particularly with regard to attracting and retaining an adequate work force? If this is so, has any consideration been given to preparing some other form of legislation which could not be challenged but which would serve the same purpose as the zone allowances, thereby assisting and encouraging further development and population in northern areas?

Dr PATTERSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Northern Development) - The policy of the Australian Labor Party in this respect is quite clear. A review will be made of existing zonal boundaries which are predominantly in northern Australia - I refer to zones A and B - and at the same time there will be a revision of the basic allowances for those zones, having regard to living conditions, income tax deductions and social services. The honourable member will know that the zonal system has been in operation since 1945. Its introduction was a recognition by the Chifley Labor Government of the severe economic disabilities suffered by people working and living in northern Australia. These boundaries were reviewed and altered in 1956 by the Menzies Government. The basic allowances pertaining to the zones have not been altered since 1958-59. So it is clear that there is some need for a review of the boundaries.

In recent years there has been a change in the economic structure of people living in northern Australia, in terms of the development of townships, and today there are some very serious anomalies For example, some of the new mining towns in north Queensland, despite the fact that they are in remote areas, are outside Zone B. Obviously this is causing some problems to people living there, in terms of justification of the present zoning. I cannot offer any comment on whether a move such as that suggested by the honourable member would be challenged in the courts. All I can say is that the zone allowances system has been in operation for 28 years and is designed to correct an obvious disability of people living in remote areas where living and other costs are well ahead of those people living in the capital cities. Whether any alternative system is available would be, of course, a matter for the Government and particularly the Treasurer.

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