Labor will tackle the development of drive-in, drive-out suburbs where people live but can’t find work with a multi-pronged policy attack on the worsening mismatch between population and jobs growth in Australian cities.
Traditionally, population growth in Australia has been strongest in the suburbs, where average Australian families could afford to buy their own homes.
But in the past decade, jobs growth has slowed in the suburbs and shifted to the inner-city where businesses in knowledge-intense industries like financial services, research, the digital media and the arts are thriving.
This means more and more Australians are travelling further to work in areas where they cannot afford to live.
We must reverse this trend now or watch increasing urban sprawl and traffic congestion rob workers of time with their families.
Left unchecked, the situation will cripple economic and productivity growth, with resulting reductions in jobs growth.
Tony Abbott has no policy for Australian cities.
Since taking office, he has scrapped the Major Cities Unit, cancelled billions of dollars in public transport investment and refused to engage with industry on any issue relating to cities.
Labor believes the Commonwealth must provide leadership to other levels of government and industry to drive productivity gains in cities, which produce about 80 percent of national GDP.
A Labor Government will confront drive-in, drive-out suburbs with a range of policy responses including:
- Promoting jobs growth in the outer suburbs through possible business incentives and improved infrastructure planning;
- Investing in better public transport;
- Working with councils and state governments to boost housing affordability;
- Creating more jobs in middle suburbs through investment in hospitals and universities;
- Lifting housing density along existing public transport corridors;
- Improving inner-city amenity to attract more residents, including promoting inner-city housing options in cities that work not only for single people, but also for families.
Paying particular attention to the housing needs of older Australians, whose proportion of the entire population will increase in coming years with the ageing of the baby boomer generation.
The challenges facing our cities are too complex to address without Commonwealth engagement.
Simply saying that cities are a matter for councils, as is Mr Abbott’s approach, is about as useful as claiming you can reverse climate change solely by planting more trees.