Labor growth plan for north

MACKAY will get a new 20 year regional growth plan as part of a Labor election pitch aimed at boosting the northern Australian economy.

While Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement was scant on the detail of what it would entail, it would be based on a similar plan created for the Townsville-Mt Isa region.

Mr Rudd said boosting investment in business and focusing on mining would be key to the "regional hub" plan for Mackay.

It would also be led by Infrastructure Australia in a bid to get more private and public investment in the region.

Mackay would be one of four northern cities - along with Townsville, Darwin and Cairns - to get such a plan.

Mr Rudd said it aimed to create more jobs to capitalise on "the rise of an increasingly affluent Asian middle class", but did not explain how the plan would directly increase jobs in the Mackay region.

While Labor hit out at the Coalition's northern Australia plans released earlier this year, both policies are similar

The Labor plan largely hinges on the Northern Territory getting a 30% discount for companies based in the Territory, while the Coalition says it will look at similar special tax zones for the north generally.

Mr Rudd said the policy would also pour $10 million into expanding the Ord irrigation scheme in the Territory.

The Coalition's policy also aims to expand the Ord, but also promised to look at development of the beef industry in north Queensland.

Mr Abbott said Mr Rudd was merely "playing catchup" and described the policy as a "thought bubble".

Neither Mr Rudd nor Mr Abbott has outlined how much their northern Australia policies would actually cost taxpayers.

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