Sep 24, 2014

Labor to target regional city productivity

A returned Labor Government will focus on greater economic development of Australia’s regional cities to ease pressure on the nation’s congested capitals.

This will include continued preparatory work for a High Speed Rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne, which would turbo charge growth in cities and towns along its route.

Today in a speech to the National Press Club I outlined a comprehensive Labor plan to promote the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities by working closely with states, councils and business.

Too often in the past when legislators have talked about cities the conversation has stopped at the city limits of our state capitals.

But Australia has 10 major regional communities with more than 100,000 residents – the Gold Coast/Tweed, Newcastle, Wollongong, the Sunshine Coast, Geelong, Townsville, Cairns, Toowoomba, Albury-Wodonga and Launceston. Ballarat and Bendigo are not far behind.

Each of these cities represents untapped potential for growth in economic activity and population growth – potential enhanced by the rise of the Internet and the opportunities it provides for decentralization.

While Tony Abbott has no policy whatsoever when it comes to cities, concentrated action to boost urban productivity in the regions would take enormous pressure off the state capitals, which are struggling with urban sprawl and traffic congestion.

One way to drive that prosperity will be to proceed with plans for a High Speed Rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

Completion of this project would revolutionise interstate travel, allowing people to travel between capitals in as little as three hours.

Just as importantly, it would provide huge opportunities for cities along the route, including Grafton, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

High Speed Rail could provide genuine opportunities for companies to take advantage of lower costs in regional cities, safe in the knowledge that the capital would be a short train ride away.

In Government Labor provided funding to establish a planning authority for High Speed Rail and to begin to secure the corridor before it is built out by urban sprawl.

While the current government dumped that plan, a returned Labor Government will continue to pursue High Speed Rail for what it is – a potentially game-changing public infrastructure project.

Labor will also bring to bear the same concentration on economic productivity to all of our regional cities as it applies in the capitals.