Oct 9, 2014

Abbott Bows to Labor Cities Pressure

Labor welcomes news that the Abbott Government will continue to produce the annual State of Australian Cities report.

After months of Labor prodding the Government has revealed the Bureau of Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Economics will produce the 2014 edition of the State of Australian Cities Report, created by the previous Labor Government to provide a snapshot of the economic and social health of Australia’s 18 largest cities.

The previous three State of Australian Cities reports were produced by the Major Cities Unit and provided critical information for urban policy decision makers at all levels of government.

The Abbott Government abolished the Major Cities Unit on its first day in office.

The 2013 State of the Cities Report identified the fact that while population growth is strongest in outer suburbs of our cities, jobs growth has shifted to the inner suburbs, meaning many Australians face longer trips to work on increasingly congested roads.

This has led to the emergence of drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people live but cannot find work – a phenomenon that requires a meaningful policy response incorporating all levels of government.

The State of Australian Cities reports provide the evidence from which Government action should flow.

Given the Abbott Government has axed the Major Cities Unit, abandoned the Urban Policy Forum and scrapped billions of dollars of investment in public transport it is hoped that the 2014 State of Australian Cities report prompts a rethink by the Abbott Government on cities.

Australian cities are home to four out of five Australians and produce 80 per cent of national GDP.

The Government’s only response to worsening traffic congestion is to build new toll roads, none of which have been the subject of cost-benefit analysis to determine whether they represent value for money.

There has never been a more pressing need for Commonwealth involvement in urban policy.

The former Labor Government took a proactive approach, releasing Australia’s first National Urban Policy, appointing the Urban Policy Forum, and forming the Major Cities Unit to provide national leadership and coordination on urban policy in Australia.

Labor has also created the Urban Policy Dialogue and a cities portfolio to ensure that urban policy is accorded the highest priority in government.

Labor’s national agenda for better cities includes: 

  1. Investing in properly integrated transport systems involving public transport and roads;
  2. Investing in active transport solutions which connect up with public transport, education and employment hubs;
  3. Addressing housing affordability through the use of urban planning, land supply and use of incentives;
  4. Supporting greater housing density with public transport corridors;
  5. Promoting jobs growth in outer suburbs. This could be through direct investment such as Badgerys Creek Airport and Moorebank Intermodal project, or by giving consideration to incentives for location of business;
  6. Promoting jobs growth in middle rings around cities by investing in research precincts around universities and hospitals;
  7. Supporting connectivity and productivity through fibre-to-the-premise National Broadband Network;
  8. Supporting renewable energy including buildings and precincts that produce their own power in new developments;
  9. Enhancing sustainability and resilience of household and industrial water supply and rehabilitating our urban waterways which for too long were used for industrial waste;

10. Cooperation between Governments to promote the development of second or third CBDs to decentralise jobs growth.