Government Senator Ian Macdonald has today called for a comprehensive review of the Zone Tax Rebate system that currently operates in remote Australia.
The higher effective cost of living in remote Australia due to lack of services and tyranny of distance must of course be recognised and mitigated said the Senator
But an in-depth review must consider the administration of the rebate in a manner that is both equitable and, where possible, revenue-neutral.
Some media outlets have incorrectly reported that I have called for a removal of the Zone Tax Rebates in certain regional centres. On the contrary, what I actually said on 630ABC Radio this morning with Paula Tapiolas was:
I dont claim to be an expert, but it really needs a proper review by experts in the area, and thats what our Northern Australia policy indicated we would do.
We do pretty well in Townsville and Cairns but we can always do better. But with a limited amount of money we have to seriously look at all these aspects and thats why Im calling upon this review that we flagged in our Northern Australia policy to start straight away so we can get moving on it.
Im trying to help in providing greater assistance to isolated communities, as well as to larger population centres across northern Australia, he said.
In Darwin, which is Zone A, a single person with no dependants and no other offsets who resided in the Zone for the full tax year will receive a Zone tax Rebate of $338 for the year.
In Cairns and Townsville, which are in Zone B, the same person will receive $57.
The question we need to be asking is whether the provisions put in place in the 1945 amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act - amendments that provide what are today very small rebates in what are now sophisticated major regional centres - remain relevant and proper today.
The Senator also flagged amendments to the Resident Test that is used to establish eligibility criteria for the Special Areas in Zone A and Zone B.
We have a large fly-in fly-out workforce in the North who are benefiting from the rebate without contributing in an effective way to the development of local communities.
We need to clarify the criteria to ensure that the taxpayers dollar is being spent in the most productive way in remote and Northern Australia fostering communities and development that will in turn benefit the nation.