The federal government says a leaked draft coalition plan on splitting Australia into different tax zones and moving public service jobs north shows the opposition is economically irresponsible and at war with itself over policy.
A draft discussion paper, Vision 2030, includes tax incentives to lure private sector workers to cities such as Darwin, Cairns and Karratha, while forcibly relocating tens of thousands of public sector jobs from areas like western Sydney.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Thursday told reporters it was not a policy but only a draft being circulated to key people for their feedback before being released for public comment.
Details were published in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday.
'It's a draft discussion paper which had a reasonably wide circulation and obviously, someone's decided to share it with the media,' Mr Abbott said.
Nationals MPs have welcomed the plan.
However, Trade Minister Craig Emerson said the ideas were 'wacky' and 'shambolic', and if introduced could cost tens of billions of dollars.
'They have produced a document that is very, very expensive, ill-thought out, leaked by disgruntled people and already condemned by the Liberal Party,' he told reporters in Canberra.
'So there are divisions between the Liberals and Nationals within hours of their first policy document hitting the deck.'
Dr Emerson said the government was in talks with governments of northern states on trade and economic development, based on recommendations in the Asian Century white paper.
'We need to look at the range of possibilities so we can sensibly develop the north,' he said.
Mr Abbott said the coalition was determined to make the most of northern Australia and decentralising public services was 'not a bad thing'.
He dismissed the idea of separate tax regimes for different parts of the country, saying the coalition was instead looking at 'carefully targeted incentives'.
Mr Abbott said he hadn't intended for the draft paper to be released.
Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said the discussion paper contained some 'very good ideas' that needed pursuing but he ruled out plans to forcibly relocate people.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne described the plan as 'madness'.
'It's Tony Abbott doing what Gina Rinehart wants ... different tax laws, different tax zones, maximising the profits,' she said.
Nationals MP for Gippsland in Victoria, Darren Chester, said he was a 'huge advocate for decentralisation'.
'There are huge opportunities in northern Australia. It has been underdeveloped. It's not a question of neglecting other parts of Australia,' he said.