We are living in the century of the city – and this demands fresh thinking, smart policy and committed political leaders.
Four out of every five Australians live in our cities. Our four biggest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – are expected to double in size over the next 15 years. And we are needing to build the infrastructure for an extra million Australians every four years.
This challenge puts our cities at the frontline of a host of issues from climate change and congestion, to housing affordability and attracting human capital in the global war for talent.
We have our most urbanist prime minister in Malcolm Turnbull, who has set the tone for a distinctive discourse around cities as engine rooms of economic growth. In his first moments as Prime Minister, Turnbull flagged a new focus on city infrastructure, declaring: “liveable, vibrant cities are absolutely critical to our prosperity.”
“Liveable, vibrant cities are absolutely critical to our prosperity.”
Since then, he’s recommitted to renewables and to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and is expected to announce a sweeping cities policy before the Budget.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly said his government wants to be a “partner, supporter and collaborator” in the development of cities – something the industry has been calling for over many years.
We’ve also called for a federal minister for cities – and got one in Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor. An insightful, incisive minister, Taylor is engaging deeply with industry, and promises a future in which the federal government is an “investor” in our cities.
Taylor is currently looking at the UK-tested City Deals model which uses ‘value capture’ to deliver the large-scale infrastructure projects.
Sustainability must be central to this – and Minister Taylor agrees. While opening Green Cities last month, he said he was “absolutely convinced that some of the best opportunities we face in delivering carbon emissions will be in the way we build our cities.”
The Australian Government has signed the Paris Climate Agreement, and this means charting a course towards zero net buildings, precincts and cities.
We also have an experienced, able and passionate Shadow Minister for Cities and Infrastructure in Anthony Albanese. During his term of office, Albanese drove the development of the first national urban policy, established the Major Cities Unit and created Infrastructure Australia.
Albanese has promised that, if elected, a Labor Government would make private investment in nation building easier through a $10 billion infrastructure financing fund – and that sustainability must be considered in every new project.
Whichever way we turn, the policy rhetoric is sounding better for cities – but we have a long way to go. We look forward to announcements of strong, integrated policies that will deliver solutions for the social, economic and environmental challenges we face as a nation. As the election race hots up, we’ll also be announcing our own advocacy agenda, and will be working hard to get the commitments our industry needs to build the sustainable, liveable and productive cities of the future.
Watch this space!