Browsing articles in "Opinion Pieces"
Jan 10, 2012

Steering Adelaide from the past into the future – Opinion – Adelaide Advertiser

Adelaide’s founders were so convinced of the morals of its free settlers that a gaol was not even considered in the original city plan. And that plan, with its elegant geometric boulevards flanked by parklands, made Adelaide one of only a handful of fully-planned cities since Roman times. Proclaimed as a British colony under a gum tree in 1836 at what it now Glenelg North, Adelaide is now known the world over for the remarkable quality of its arts scene, fine wines and restaurants. But we now know a whole lot more about the city that snuggles so comfortably between the Gulf of St Vincent and the Mount Lofty Ranges.

For instance, the people of Adelaide lead the nation in recycling, returning 70 percent of waste for reuse. They are also quick to turn off the tap with one of the lowest rates of water usage in Australia, not bad for the nation’s driest city. Adelaide is also extremely liveable. In fact it is rated as the most liveable city in the country by its own residents while the influential Economist Intelligence Unit rates it in the top 10 in its league of 140 world cities.

Curiously, despite its liveability and the fact that its houses are more affordable than in any other capital city, Adelaide ranks highest for adult psychological distress, just slightly ahead of Melbourne and then Sydney. It also has the smallest households, the smallest homes and the highest proportion of children in jobless families.

And while commuting by public transport might be growing steadily in other big cities, only Hobart residents use public transport less than the locals of Adelaide. This should change once the electrification of the Gawler line and the extension of the Noarlunga to Seaford line are completed, both funded under the Gillard Government’s Nation Building Program in partnership with the Weatherill Government.

These facts and many more are contained in a unique publication – The State of Australian Cities 2011. It provides a snapshot of our major cities, defined as those with populations above 100,000.  While the report (which can be downloaded) makes fascinating reading, its purpose is much more than that. What this and future editions serve to do is to enable us to compare our cities with each other and to check progress over time, towards becoming more productive, sustainable and liveable.

Australia’s cities have never been more important. They generate 80 percent of our national wealth and are home to three out of every four of us. Despite the charming international perception of us as a nation of stoic miners and bushies, it could hardly be more misplaced. We are one of the most urbanised nations in the world. Those vast farmlands and desert landscapes are well over the horizon for the 85 percent of us who live within 50 kilometres of the coast.

Since 2007, the Australian Government has begun re-engaging with our cities. The reason is that while our cities rate towards the top of almost every international liveability scale, they are facing unprecedented pressures. Population growth, housing affordability, an ageing population, growing congestion and urban sprawl are among the most obvious.

But there are other less obvious ones that require national attention – such as the capacity of our cities to respond to severe storms like those that caused so much suffering last summer along our eastern seaboard. Or how our ports, rail lines and roads will cope with the enormous growth in our freight load given that volumes are set to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. There’s also a pressing need to make sure our new homes and office towers are more sustainable than the energy-wasting designs of the past.

The State of Australia Cities points to a challenge for hot, dry Adelaide. While cyclones and floods in other parts of Australia are clearly devastating, the evidence shows that heatwaves are our deadliest killer. The record highs that hit Adelaide almost precisely two years ago and that persisted for eight long days caused up to150 deaths and 3000 heat-related illnesses. The load placed on the city’s power grid and the extreme heat caused outages, further adding to the misery of residents. The human and economic costs of heatwaves point to the need for greater resilience and preparedness in the face of similar disasters in the future.

Converting 19th century cities such as Adelaide into cities of the future is not easy. It requires fresh thinking by governments of all levels. Traditionally, the growth and policies of cities has been left in the hands of state and local authorities. But now, following an agreement between the Federal Government and State and Territory leaders, all major cities are finalising extensive plans, showing just how they are preparing for the future.

And these plans are important. Future Federal infrastructure funding will depend on how well they address nine key areas of concern. These include planned evidence-based land-release with an appropriate balance of in-fill, preserving corridors at key transport gateways such as ports to allow for future expansion, preparations for climate change and natural disasters, better designed and more environmentally-sensitive new homes and offices, and addressing the housing needs of a growing and older population.

We live in the most competitive and fastest growing corner of the planet. Our cities must be ready to seize the opportunities that come with that. The response to the Federal Government’s efforts to make our cities better places to live and work has been heartening. There is clearly a hunger among Australians for our cities to perform better and a realisation that it is for the benefit of all of us that our cities become more productive, sustainable and liveable.

[ENDS]

Nov 28, 2011

Helping our cities meet the challenges of the future – Opinion – Canberra Times

As Air Force One swooped low over Canberra before its smooth landing on the tarmac recently, it’s interesting to wonder what President Obama thought of the bush capital laid out below him. Because it is from the air that the masterful city plan of his compatriot Walter Burley Griffin most readily reveals its extent and elegance. In 2013, the city that began as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne will celebrate 100 years since Lady Gertrude Denman stood amidst the boulders and scrub on what is now Capital Hill and named it Canberra.

Much has been written about the nation’s capital as it has grown from dusty hamlet into modern metropolis. Burley Griffin’s dream of a successful, beautiful city has indeed been realised for not only does it function well as a centre of government, it also rates highly on just about every social and liveability scale.

But we now know a lot more about the city of Canberra. For instance, the city’s malls and restaurants can rest easy in the knowledge that Canberrans dig deeper into their pockets for goods and services than anyone else. This could be due to their higher than average wages or that unemployment stands at just 2.8 percent, only just behind Darwin as the lowest in the nation and well below the national average of 5.3 percent. The children of Canberra are also more likely than any others to live in a home where at least one parents has a job.

Cycle stores should also be thriving because the people of Canberra love their bikes with the second highest level of bike ownership and bike use of any major city. They also rank highest  for rates of physical activity and lead the nation in volunteering, always a sign of community connectedness and well-being.

We know that Canberra’s rapid suburban spread is slowing with nearly two flats and apartments being built for every new free standing house, a rate unmatched by any other capital city. Canberrans are also doing a great job saving water and are the best recyclers in the country, producing the lowest quantities of landfill waste. These fact and many more are contained in a unique publication – The State of Australian Cities 2011. It provides a snapshot of our major cities, defined as those with populations above 100,000.  While the report (which can be downloaded) makes fascinating reading, its purpose is much more than that. What this and future editions serve to do is to enable us to compare our cities with each other and to check progress over time, towards becoming more productive, sustainable and liveable.

Australia’s cities have never been more important. They generate 80 percent of our national wealth and are home to three out of every four of us. Despite the charming international perception of us as a nation of stoic miners and bushies, it could hardly be more misplaced. We are one of the most urbanised nations in the world. Those vast farmlands and desert landscapes are well over the horizon for the 85 percent of us who live within 50 kilometres of the coast.

Since 2007, the Australian Government has begun re-engaging with our cities. The reason is that while our cities rate towards the top of almost every international liveability scale, they are facing unprecedented pressures. Population growth, housing affordability, an ageing population, growing congestion and urban sprawl are among the most obvious. But there are less obvious ones that require national attention – such as the capacity of our cities to respond to severe storms like those that caused so much suffering earlier this year along our eastern seaboard. Or how our ports, rail lines and roads will cope with the enormous growth in our freight load given that volumes are set to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. There’s also a pressing need to make sure our new homes and office towers are more sustainable than the energy-wasting designs of the past.

The State of Australia Cities report does not paint a completely rosy picture of Canberra. It is highly dependent on a single industry (government) with the lowest level of manufacturing employment of any of the major cities, and low numbers of jobs in the retail and wholesale sectors. Public transport is also less available than in other capital cities.

Converting cities designed in another age into cities of the future is not easy. It requires fresh thinking by governments of all levels. Traditionally, the growth and policies of cities has been left in the hands of state and local authorities. But now, following an agreement between the Federal Government and State and Territory leaders, all major cities are finalising extensive plans, showing just how they are preparing for the future.

And these plans, which will be in place by 1 January 2012, are important. Future Federal infrastructure funding will depend on how well they address nine key areas of concern. These include planned evidence-based land-release with an appropriate balance of in-fill, preserving corridors at key transport gateways such as ports to allow for future expansion, preparations for climate change and natural disasters, better designed and more environmentally-sensitive new homes and offices, and addressing the housing needs of a growing and older population.

We live in the most competitive and fastest growing region of the planet. Our cities must be ready to seize the opportunities that come with that. The response to the Federal Government’s efforts to make our cities better places to live and work has been heartening. There is clearly a hunger among Australians for our cities to perform better and a realisation that it is for the benefit of all of us that our cities become more productive, sustainable and liveable.

[ENDS]

Nov 11, 2011

Jetting into the Smart Era – Opinion – Illawarra Mercury

My earliest exposure to smart infrastructure came from The Jetsons, that great television experience that was the space-age counterpart to The Flintstones.  Time-saving technology meant that George Jetson could keep the whole family fed, watered and clothed via his nine-hours-a-week job at Spaceley’s Sprockets.

Traffic lights and congested roads didn’t trouble the Jetsons.  Across the sky they scooted in their 60s-look flying saucer, which conveniently collapsed into a briefcase when George arrived at the office.  Parking was never a problem in Orbit City.

Let me step back now to our future, and, be assured, I’m not expecting a rapid transit system to provide a personal spaceship any day soon.  But I am excited at what is coming out of the SMART Infrastructure Facility, full of creative minds and energy which is finding solutions to our real-life transport infrastructure challenges.

I was here a month ago with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the announcement of the roll-out into Wollongong next year of the National Broadband Network.

SMART was the perfect venue because it is at facilities such as this where the benefits will be immediately felt.  It is significant that SMART is located in a major regional university, already home to two other leading technology facilities.

What this means is a growing cluster of creative minds and industries that are regenerating the skills base of the Illawarra.  We already know Wollongong’s university produces more IT graduates than any other in the country.  As centres such as this grow and flourish, it will mean more jobs for local graduates and a retention of the brain-power than comes with those young, energetic minds.

The Federal Government’s $35 million contribution to this centre is indeed an investment in our nation’s future.

Already, SMART is performing important research, such as the scenario work surrounding the expansion of the Port Kembla Harbour.  This What If tool allows for the testing of scenarios aimed at eliminating bottlenecks into and out of the port.  What if trains delivering coal were twice the length? What if we could load the coal twice as fast?

Testing scenarios and business cases can save millions of dollars.

This work ties in nicely with the Federal Government’s recent announcement of a further $25.5 million for the Maldon to Dumbarton Rail Link project.  The rail link has the potential to help make the Illawarra to the industrial powerhouse it once was by vastly improving the flow of freight.

Earlier this year, my department and SMART formally agreed to exchange information openly so that good research can become good policy.

Let me finish where I began – with the Jetsons.

The series is now almost 50 years old and as such, has provoked discussion about just how well it predicted the world we find ourselves in.

The American academic Jeffery Tucker wrote this year: “The whole scene – which anticipated so much of the technology we have today – is our world: explosive technological advances and a culture of enterprise that is very fond of the good life.”

I am not sure about ‘‘explosive’’ but I am confident that great technological advances and a culture of enterprise will also mark this impressive institution.

ENDS

Nov 11, 2011

Steering Hobart from the past to the future – Opinion – Hobart Mercury

 

HOBART is home to the nation’s oldest brewery, producing golden ale for close to two hundred years. Its harbour means safety and sometimes victory for exhausted sailors in the famous race from Sydney. And Australia’s first legal casino rises high from the green banks of its clean flowing river. The city of Hobart has many claims to fame. But we now know a whole lot more about the nation’s southernmost capital that enjoys more summer daylight than just about any other city on earth.

For instance, the men of Hobart deserve a pat on the back – fewer of them are overweight or obese than those living in any mainland capital. It would not be prime territory for psychiatrists because its residents have the lowest levels of psychological distress. That could be in part because commuting distances are the shortest in the nation, or that it is ranked the safest city for both people and property. Or maybe it is because so many people volunteer, one of the surest signs of community connectedness and well-being.

These fact and many more are contained in a unique publication – The State of Australian Cities 2011. It provides a snapshot of our major cities, defined as those with populations above 100,000.  While the report (which can be downloaded) makes fascinating reading, its purpose is much more than that. What this and future editions serve to do is to enable us to compare our cities with each other and to check progress over time, towards becoming more productive, sustainable and liveable.

Australia’s cities have never been more important. They generate 80 percent of our national wealth and are home to three out of every four of us. Despite the charming international perception of us as a nation of stoic miners and bushies, it could hardly be more misplaced. We are one of the most urbanised nations in the world. Those vast farmlands and desert landscapes are well over the horizon for the 85 percent of us who live within 50 kilometres of the coast.

Since 2007, the Australian Government has begun re-engaging with our cities. The reason is that while our cities rate towards the top of almost every international liveability scale, they are facing unprecedented pressures. Population growth, housing affordability, an ageing population, growing congestion and urban sprawl are among the most obvious.

But there are other less obvious ones that require national attention – such as the capacity of our cities to respond to severe storms like those that caused so much suffering earlier this year along our eastern seaboard. Or how our ports, rail lines and roads will cope with the enormous growth in our freight load given that volumes are set to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. There’s also a pressing need to make sure our new homes and office towers are more sustainable than the energy-wasting designs of the past.

The State of Australia Cities report does not paint a completely rosy picture of Hobart. For instance, it has the lowest number of green-star rated buildings, perhaps because the city’s low population growth means there is little call for new commercial buildings. And while more residents might live in a detached house than in any of the major Australian cities, this means that fewer live in apartments or townhouses which might be a better style of living for singles, the aged and less physically active, particularly in the future. Hobart also has the lowest levels of public transport use in the nation, a figure that has not improved in a decade.

Converting 19th century cities such as Hobart into cities of the future is not easy. It requires fresh thinking by governments of all levels. Traditionally, the growth and policies of cities has been left in the hands of state and local authorities. But now, following an agreement between the Federal Government and State and Territory leaders, all major cities are finalising extensive plans, showing just how they are preparing for the future.

And these plans, which will be in place by 1 January 2012, are important. Future Federal infrastructure funding will depend on how well they address nine key areas of concern. These include planned evidence-based land-release with an appropriate balance of in-fill, preserving corridors at key transport gateways such as ports to allow for future expansion, preparations for climate change and natural disasters, better designed and more environmentally-sensitive new homes and offices, and addressing the housing needs of a growing and older population.

We live in the most competitive and fastest growing corner of the planet. Our cities must be ready to seize the opportunities that come with that. The response to the Federal Government’s efforts to make our cities better places to live and work has been heartening. There is clearly a hunger among Australians for our cities to perform better and a realisation that it is for the benefit of all of us that our cities become more productive, sustainable and liveable. The citizens of Hobart can breathe easy on yet one more front. The air they breathe is some of the cleanest in the nation, indeed the world.

Sep 13, 2011

Shipping reforms will make us a maritime player once more – The Australian

The Australian Government has proposed the most comprehensive package of reforms in Australian maritime history. These reforms will bring jobs and return Australia to a major force in world shipping. The alternative to these bold and innovative reforms is for Australian shipping to pass the tipping point where it ceases to exist.

Our industry has declined from 55 ships in 1995 to just 22 today. This is in spite of the fact that Australia accounts for ten percent of the world’s entire sea trade. But while 99 percent of our international trade is carried by ships, only one half of one percent of that is carried by vessels that proudly display the Australian flag. Those 22 Australian ships that still service our ports average 20 years of age, around eight years older than the world average. Our seafarers are also getting on in years with half of them aged older than 45.

With so few ships, an ageing fleet and a declining workforce, our industry has reached the point where it is facing extinction. Such a collapse is not just an economic tragedy. There are also sound security and environmental reasons why an Australian shipping industry is essential. We all watched with dismay when the Chinese bulk-carrier the Shen Neng 1 ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef. Cleaner, better maintained Australian ships would provide greater environmental certainty for our precious marine ecosystems. More Australian ships would also improve our broader maritime security, particularly at our ports.

In 2008, the newly elected Labor Government commissioned a parliamentary inquiry into coastal shipping. It unanimously recommended revitalising Australian shipping. During the 2010 election campaign, a commitment was given that a re-elected Gillard Government would revitalise not just the coastal sector, but the Australian shipping industry as a whole.

Last December, I released a discussion paper with a list of proposed reforms. Since then, separate industry groups have tackled the complex tax, regulatory and workforce elements of the package. They represent the breadth of the maritime industry – ports, shipping operators, regulators, unions and training providers.

Bringing together the collective intelligence of people from across the maritime sectors has paid great dividends. What has been produced is a bold package that follows no precedent or formula. It is uniquely crafted to suit the complexities of a sector that employs Australians but for the most part, operates internationally.

At the heart of the package is tax reform. We recognise that foreign operators enjoy very competitive rates. We want to not simply catch up but lead them. Thus the tax arrangement agreed to includes a proposed zero tax rate. In other words, Australian-based companies with vessels registered here, including those that will operate internationally, will pay no company tax. There are conditions – ships must be Australian-flagged, they must embark on training for new mariners, once they elect into the exemption they must remain there for 10 years and there will be a 10 year lock out period to curb tax avoidance.

To encourage cleaner, younger vessels, we are also halving the depreciation rate from 20 to ten years. There’s an economic benefit here because the cost of operating a 20 year old bulk carrier is at least 40 percent more than for a five year old ship. This will also encourage more ship-building in Australia with the benefit flow-on of jobs.

We are creating an Australian international shipping register to address the cost disadvantage faced by Australian ships. This will bring us into line with other successful maritime nations. Under the new deal, crews operating via this register will work according to the terms and conditions of the International Maritime Convention. When vessels work the domestic coastal route, Australian workplace laws will apply.

Encouraging Australian-flagged ships to work our own blue highway is a prime aim of this reform agenda. Remember, the more we use the blue highway the less we need spend on land transport systems that are certainly not free of cost. Not only are ships the lowest carbon emitters, every tonne carried in a ship’s hull is not being transported along our public roads and highways. We are also removing the disincentive to employ Australian crew on vessels chartered by Australian companies by removing the royalty withholding tax for bareboat charters. These reforms will not close the coast to foreign shipping. What they will do is set clear and fair rules for all operators.

There can be no industry revival without a serious commitment to training. The Australian Government recently funded a new simulator at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston. It is the best of its kind in the world and, supported by a large educational funding package, has set the foundations for the training of a new workforce. Governments can do only so much. It is in the interest of the industry to also address the skills lag and share this vital training task.

This momentous reform package will turn Australian from a shipper to a shipping nation. We will once again be participants rather than simply customers. “This policy provides the necessary elements to allow shipowners to base their operations in Australia and add value to the economy by doing so,” says the Australian Shipowners Association. The Maritime Union of Australia says the reforms greatly increase the potential for Australian businesses to participate in international shipping and address “the critical shortage in maritime skills that Australia so desperately needs.”

Given the dire straits that the industry is in, we have brought forward these reforms by 12 months to 1 July 2012. They come on top of the deal struck last month at COAG that will see a single maritime regulator replace the multiple costly state-based rules that have burdened the industry since Federation. With a national port strategy now advanced, Australian shipping is embarking on a brand new era. There is nothing stopping us taking our place as a global maritime player, a fitting place for the world’s largest island nation.

Aug 19, 2011

Premiers Must Not Be a Block on Road To Reform – Opinion – The Australian

The nation’s leading transport companies on Wednesday night delivered an open letter to the Australian Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers demanding they reach agreement at COAG today on the most important reform to their sector since Federation. They are seeking an end to 110 years of duplication, confusion, conflicting regulation and red tape that the nation’s truck drivers have been forced to comply with in the course of their daily business. What they are demanding is a decision to abandon state by state regimes in favour of a single national regulator, with one set of laws that will apply from Broome to Burnie to Bundaberg.

The letter from CEO of Linfox, Michael Byrne, the Managing Director of Toll Paul Little and the head of the Australian Logistics Council Michael Kilgariff was directed in particular at potential waverers among the political leaders: “…for leaders to vote against the concept as a whole would be a significant mistake.” It argued that support from the leaders for a single transport regulator would be an important indicator of the seriousness of their resolve to boost productivity, increase efficiency and safety and move towards a seamless national economy.

The proposal being put to COAG today extends beyond heavy road freight. It also includes single regulators for the maritime and rail sectors. These are also strongly supported by industry groups across their sectors. The need for this reform is stronger than ever with figures showing that cutting our transport regulators from 23 to three will boost national income by $30 billion over the next two decades. Talks between the Federal Government and the States and Territories have been underway for three years now. In May, transport ministers met in Alice Springs and signed up to this long overdue reform.

Transport regulations may not be sexy or at the top of the public agenda but those businesses that are forced to pay fresh fees and adjust to different rules each time they cross a border know that this is a critical microeconomic reform. It is system that has existed since the nation was federated in 1901 but has no place in a modern Australia.

It does not make sense that a hay farmer taking a load across the border from Victoria to NSW must stop and rearrange his load because in Victoria you can carry a load three metres wide, while in NSW it’s restricted to two.

It does not make sense that a cattle farmer transporting animals from Queensland to NSW must unload some or transfer them to a second vehicle to meet the lower mass limits in NSW. It is stressful for stock and adds up to $9 per head to freight costs.

Nor does it make sense that every time a fishing vessel crosses territorial waters between the Northern Territory and Queensland – and back again – each crew member’s qualifications must be freshly assessed and a fresh seaworthy certificate obtained.

Across the maritime sector alone, there are seven different regulators and 50 separate pieces of legislation. In the rail sector there are also seven regulators with 46 pieces of legislation including seven safety acts, nine occupational health and safety acts and seven dangerous goods acts. Heavy road freight users must work within nine different regulatory regimes.

While everyone knows about the madness of different sized rail gauges, the inconsistencies in the rail sector are far greater than that. For instance, in NSW a green over red signal means ‘caution’ and in Victoria green over red means ‘all clear’. A track worker moving from NSW to Victoria must get fresh accreditation and rail operators must undergo separate safety audits in each State.

A long distance truck driver travelling the busy Brisbane to Melbourne route must carry in his cabin road access permits from three states. NSW requires drivers to fill out a log book from the start of each journey. In Victoria it is required after 100 kilometres and in Queensland after 200 kilometres. When drivers rarely carried loads far from home base, these variations hardly mattered. But now, with drivers regularly crossing the nation, it is an unfair and unnecessary burden.

Replacing mountains of paperwork and multiple fees so that transport operators deal with one regulator only is clearly a saving for all. That’s why the $61 billion transport industry has been demanding this reform for years. To weigh it down with outdated rules from another age is wrong. This issue must be above politics. Australia’s State and Territory leaders must not miss the opportunity to advance this critical productivity reform.

Jun 23, 2011

Time to seek a cleaner future for our cities – Opinion – Canberra Times

In early October 1957, a small satellite was launched from a rocket in the skies above earth and the world learned a Russian word – sputnik. While people almost everywhere marvelled at this leap of human achievement, a giant shiver ran down the American spine. If the Soviet Union could get ahead of them in the space race, in what ways could it get ahead of them on earth?

It became known as America’s sputnik moment and prompted a massive investment in space investment that saw Neil Armstrong step onto the lunar surface just 12 years later. Recently, President Obama used his State of the Union address to call for another sputnik moment to address environmental challenges and invest in the clean energy technologies “to strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people.”

The environmental issues here in Australia differ little from those in Obama’s America. Though vastly smaller in population, we face much the same problems of urban sprawl, road congestion, management of waste, water and energy and how to integrate green solutions into cities built for an entirely different age. And as Australia moves to place a price on carbon like our regional neighbours in New Zealand, we are also reappraising the way we make our nation more productive, sustainable and liveable.

It is just over a month since I released the Federal Government’s National Urban Policy Our Cities, Our Future. The policy was the result of three years of consultation, including meetings in all 18 Australian major cities with populations above 100,000 residents. I said at the launch that I wanted the policy to spark a national conversation about the future of our cities.

“The urban policy framework fills a yawning policy gap in Australia’s efforts to foster more competitive, sustainable and liveable communities,” said the Property Council of Australia. “The [policy] is a positive foundation for much-needed change in the way our cities and regional areas are planned and serviced,” said the Real Estate Institute of Australia, and the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors: “…the Gillard Government is making a long-term commitment to invest in and engage with Australian cities.”

The facts are cities have become too important to ignore. We know they are home to 75 percent of us and it is our cities that generate 80 percent of our national wealth. We also know that the population of Australia is growing and ageing. That is why the Federal Government is turning a national eye to our cities, to make sure they are prepared for the inevitable changes ahead.

One of the biggest challenges is something no-one living in a major Australian city can escape – road congestion. Not only does congestion steal time from our families but idling engines add pollution to the air we must all breathe. Left unattended congestion will cost our economy $20 billion by 2020 according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.

One way of reducing congestion is to encourage people onto trains. While this is the responsibility of the States, the Federal Government is investing $7.3 billion in an urban rail project in every mainland State capital. In fact we have committed more to urban rail than all previous federal governments – collectively – since Federation.

We’ve also allocated funds for smart technology where road sensors and electronic signage can make a big difference to the speed and flow of traffic, reducing crashes and cutting emissions. The budget also backed the Henry Review’s recommendation to abandon the old car fringe benefit tax which encouraged people to drive further, with a simpler single rate system.

For a city to really work we need to make our homes and our public spaces more liveable. This week, around 200 architects, planners and green building experts are descending on the national capital to place their ideas before parliamentarians. The Government is working hand in hand with these groups in a range of areas, such as the construction of demonstration urban renewal projects and design standards so our homes can be more sustainable and adaptable to changing needs.

By 1 January next year, the State and Territories have agreed through COAG they will have in place strategic plans for their capital cities. Future Commonwealth infrastructure funding will be tied to these plans. This is no takeover. It is an opportunity for leaders across the country to work together to help create cities that serve our people and our country better.

Australians deserve cities that are productive, sustainable and liveable and that can adapt as our population grows and ages. America’s race to the moon showed what can be done when a nation pulls together for a common aim. As President Obama now asks his people to turn their eyes to a cleaner future, Australia must do what we can to help our nation fulfill that dream.

[ENDS]

Jun 9, 2011

Turning a national eye to our cities – Opinion – The Punch

As friends and family gathered to celebrate my friend Tom Uren’s 90th birthday recently, he had many reasons to be proud of his contribution to Australia. History books abound that record the unique achievements of the Whitlam Government in which Tom was a senior figure. But there’s a big one that is barely remembered – the role the pair played in getting rid of the septic tank. These famously malodorous mosquito and cockroach breeding pits lay beneath the lawns of suburban homes everywhere, including the then home of Prime Minister Whitlam in western Sydney.

As Tom tells it, by the time he was elected to power Gough had decided enough was enough – a modern Australia deserved a modern sewerage system. So he appointed his Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Tom Uren, to clean up the country by funding new sewerage plants across urban Australia.

What’s unusual here is that this was one of the first forays by a Federal Government into something that had until then been the absolute province of the States – disposing of waste. But the Whitlam Government realised that left to the States, this public health issue could take forever to fix. Hence Tom Uren’s unusual federal assignment.

In 1990, Federal Labor once again took direct interest in our nation’s major cities. The Better Cities program set out to revitalise our inner-city communities but this worthy program was abandoned six years later with the election of the Howard Coalition.

And now, the Gillard Government is once again turning a national eye to our cities. Not because it’s easy, not because it’s without risks, but because it’s necessary. Cities are home to three out of every four Australians making us the most urbanised nation on the planet. It is our cities that produce 80 percent of our national wealth.

And as a planet we are becoming ever more urbanised. For the first time in human history, one night last year more people in the world slept on a bed in a city than in the countryside. That’s unlikely to change. People are drawn to cities for all sorts of reasons and life in an Australian city offers much. Access to high-quality medical and educational facilities, a wide variety of jobs and social activities are just some of them.

But the facts are that our cities are facing unprecedented pressure. Anyone who has sweated their way through the morning traffic on their way to work will know what I mean. Congestion is sapping away at the productivity of our cities. It is stealing time from our families and workplaces. In fact the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates that if nothing is done to arrest it, congestion is likely to sap $20 billion from our annual national wealth by the end of this decade.

One way this Government is tackling this issue is through investing in urban rail. Like sewerage, urban rail is something that has traditionally been left up to the States. But we believe that public transport is an issue of such importance that we are now funding a major urban rail project in every mainland State capital. Since we came to office in 2007, we have committed more to urban rail projects than all previous governments – collectively – since Federation. We are also investing in Smart Motorways, where data sensors on our major highways can improve real time vehicle movements. This improves the speed and flow of traffic, reducing the stop-start behaviour of congested roads, reducing accidents and greenhouse emissions.

But it’s not just about traffic congestion and the loss of productivity. As our cities grow, we also need to make sure that they are sustainable. We know the planet is groaning as the population grows and that means we need to be much smarter about how our cities are planned and how we deal with waste, water and energy use. We also need to account for the reality of climate change in the design, location and construction of our city buildings and structures to protect against the kind of disasters we’ve seen in Australia in recent years.

I am particularly impressed with the leadership show by the City of Sydney at Green Square – visionary and sustainable development that by 2030 will be home to 40,000 people and a workplace for 22,000. We know that by mid-century one in every five people will be aged 65 or over. That means a smaller workforce and an eroded tax base. We must be smarter about how we sustain our workers with variety of affordable housing and job opportunities close to home where walking, cycling and public transport are genuine alternatives to the car.

For a city to really work it’s got to be liveable. That’s why in the budget we announced $20 million in seed funding to invest in demonstration urban renewal projects. We will be working with the States and Territories on a set of design standards so that our homes can be more sustainable and adaptable over time to changing needs.

Reaching this point has been a national process with the Commonwealth working hand in hand with the States and Territories through COAG. By next January, all of our capital cities will have in place strategic plans to show how they will meet a nationally agreed set of criteria. This is a condition of future Commonwealth infrastructure investment.

We know there is a very long way to go. But the interest that has greeted the release of the policy – Our Cities, Our Future – has been heartening. There’s clearly a hunger among Australians for our cities to perform better and a realisation that it’s for the benefit of all of us that our cities become more productive, sustainable and liveable.

[ENDS]

May 25, 2011

Setting the record straight on Sydney’s roads – Opinion – The Australian

In recent days there has been a serious level of misreporting based on the assertions of unnamed sources regard my motivations as Federal Infrastructure Minister when it comes to tackling Sydney’s infrastructure challenges.

I am taking this opportunity to set the record straight.

I love Sydney. No ifs. No buts. No maybes.

And I’m proud to be part of the Gillard Labor Government which actually believes that Federal Governments can make a difference by investing and building infrastructure across the suburbs of our major cities.

We have our sleeves rolled up and want to work with the NSW Government and the private sector to improve Sydney’s transport infrastructure.

So far, Federal Labor has allocated $3.5 billion for transport projects in Sydney alone. This is part of the $12.1 billion we’re investing in NSW – one in every three infrastructure dollars goes to NSW, their fair share per person.

There is no such thing as a quick fix for the city’s transport issues. Sensationalist headlines and politicisation will not fix them. Considered policy making, investment, cooperation between governments, as well as engagement with the private sector is what is required.

We’re investing almost $1 billion to detangle the freight and passenger rail network coming in from the north of Sydney. The Memorandum of Understanding is awaiting NSW Government approval so work can begin this year.

We’re widening the F5 close to Campbelltown. We’re upgrading rail infrastructure around Port Botany. We’re investing in the proposed intermodal terminal at Moorebank which could take a million trucks off the M5.

We’ve allocated funds for planning for a future M4 and M5 expansion. This is in recognition of the fact that you need to get the planning for major infrastructure right.

We’ve allocated the federal funds for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link. This is an important part of fulfilling Parramatta’s role as Sydney’s second CBD and will take pressure off the main western line, providing enormous benefits for Western Sydney.

Compare our record to that of the Coalition. They had twelve years in office with record tax revenues and only ever invested in one Sydney project, $350 million towards the construction of the M7.

The Gillard Labor Government has already committed ten times as much.

What’s now on offer from Mr Abbott and the Coalition is nothing. Zero dollars. They have a clear record of leaving Sydney in the lurch.

Mr Abbott has never made one commitment to a single transport project in Sydney. He’s not interested in urban policy or improving our cities. In his own words, “transport infrastructure is a state responsibility” and the provision of Federal funding for such projects is as silly as “…the State Government having to buy new tanks for the army”.

He’s just interested in opposition for opposition’s sake. That’s simply not good enough.

Building better infrastructure for our cities is the economically responsible thing to do.

When we took office, the Coalition had neglected Australia’s major cities for twelve long years. Their transport investment stopped at the borders of our cities.

We knew we needed to change this and focus on real national productivity. That’s why we set up Infrastructure Australia to critically and independently assess the nation’s infrastructure priorities. When public funds are used, projects need to stack up. The work of Infrastructure Australia plays a crucial role in making sure this is the case.

They are also looking at private financing options including for the F3 to Sydney Orbital and the M5 East projects.

They have undertaken cost-benefit analysis of projects and have also been at the forefront of micro-economic reform to advance the nation building agenda which Australia requires to secure of future prosperity. Their first piece of work was to have adopted uniform national guidelines for Public Private Partnerships.

If imitation is the greatest form of flattery then the decision of the O’Farrell Government to replicate the Infrastructure Australia model through the creation of Infrastructure NSW is a high complement indeed.

As the most urbanised country on the planet we must have a framework in place for our cities. That’s why we have developed and released a National Urban Policy. Not because it’s easy, not because it’s without risks, but because it’s necessary. Cities are home to three out of every four Australians. Our cities produce 80 percent of our national wealth.

The Commonwealth is working hand in hand with the States and Territories through COAG in this area. By next January, all of our capital cities will have in place strategic plans to show how they will meet a nationally agreed set of criteria. This is a condition of future Commonwealth infrastructure investment.

We are determined to make all our major cities more productive, sustainable and liveable.

[ENDS]

May 15, 2011

Time to end the horror toll from hell’s highway – Opinion – Sunday Telegraph

Just before dawn on 20 October 1989 not far from Grafton, the driver of a semi-trailer loaded with fruit juice went to sleep. With a massive concentration of ephedrine in his blood, he’d done everything he could to stay awake. His vehicle careered across the road into the path of a passenger bus, splitting it open and throwing passengers onto the road. Twenty-one people died in that crash and a further 22 were injured. It was the worst accident of its kind in Australian history.

That record didn’t last for long. Two months later at Clybucca near Kempsey two fully-loaded tourist coaches, each travelling at 100 kilometres per hour, collided head-on. Seats were ripped from their anchor bolts, people were trapped within the bus and 35 people died, with 41 injured. The coronial inquiries that followed both disasters produced a long list of improvements to vehicle and road safety. But at the top of the list was the call for the Pacific Highway to be duplicated.

Some things must be above politics. I believe the saving of lives on our roads is one of them. And it’s a sad reflection on governments of all persuasions that almost 22 years after those tragic deaths, much of the Pacific Highway remains single lane.

When I became Transport Minister in 2007, I made the duplication of the Pacific Highway a top priority and have set 2016 as completion date. With the money announced this week in the Federal Budget, our spend on this road so far stands at $4.1 billion.

As I told the Federal Parliament this week, there is something of a personal note to my campaign to make this road safe. My own name, Anthony, comes from my young cousin who I never got to meet. After WWII, his parents built a motel and service station on the Pacific Highway at Halfway Creek between Grafton and Coffs Harbour. My uncle was an ex-serviceman and he and my aunt built the Halfway Creek Motel with their own hands. Just before I was born, little Anthony rushed onto the Pacific Highway and was killed. In their grief, my aunt and uncle renamed their business Anthony’s Motel and I was called Anthony in his memory.

The work underway right now on the Pacific Highway makes it the largest road construction project in the nation. There are more than one thousand people working on the Kempsey bypass, the Bulahdelah bypass, the Ballina bypass, duplication of the road between Sapphire and Woolgoolga and at Glenugie. Work will begin shortly on two more big stretches – duplicating the road between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale and at Devils Pulpit.

During the 12 years of the Howard Government, the spending on this critical national highway was just $1.3 billion, less than one-third of what we have invested so far. Had the Howard Government funded this road appropriately, it would be fully duplicated by now.

I welcomed NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s words in the Northern Star last month that “The Pacific Highway should be above party politics.” The Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner is also committed to the 2016 duplication date telling ABC Mid North Coast “It’s an ambitious target. We think we can do it by streamlining the planning processes and also by putting forward additional money.” In Opposition, the now Roads Minister, Duncan Gay on ABC News urged the former NSW Government to “match that money and save the lives of people in NSW that have to use that highway.”

The fact is that funding a road the size of the Pacific Highway must always be a partnership. The Federal Government cannot do the heavy lifting on this alone. Duplication by 2016 is a mighty goal and I look forward to working with Barry O’Farrell and his team to achieve it together.

It is more than two decades since Australians shared the grief of the families who lost fathers, mothers, children and friends in those early morning bus smashes. The tragedy is that in the intervening years a further 574 Australians have died on the Pacific Highway and another 14,500 injured. This simply can’t go on.

Let’s work together and dig deep to make this road safe for the locals who use it each day and for the families of the future as they head north for a holiday in the sun.

 

[ENDS]

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

Important items

Enrol to vote Parliament of Australia Australian Labor Party Clean Energy Future