A Federal Labor Government will overhaul and replace the Coalition’s City Deals with a City Partnerships program that will foster more genuine collaboration between the three levels of government.
This will transform the existing top-down system into one in which councils are seen not as casual stakeholders, but genuine partners in urban policy.
Cities around the nation face a number of complex challenges including urban sprawl, traffic congestion and a shift towards greater population density.
To overcome these challenges and ensure quality of life for all people, regardless of whether they live in inner cities, outer suburbs, growth corridors or regional cities, genuine collaboration between the three levels of government is required.
As it stands, the City Deals program does not achieve this.
More than 18 months after the first deal was signed in Townsville, it is clear City Deals have fallen well short of their stated objectives, which are intended to align federal, state and local governments with a shared vision for the future.
A key problem with Mr Turnbull’s City Deals is that there are no clear guidelines about how they work.
City Deals have either been in marginal electorates framed around single election commitments or are simply missing depth and detail.
This is the case for the Western Sydney City Deal, which excluded Blacktown Council for no good reason. And the Deal’s centrepiece – a north-south rail link through Western Sydney – is still unfunded.
The Coalition’s model also limits meaningful engagement with the private sector.
But most worryingly, there is no independent oversight of Mr Turnbull’s City Deals, which are subject entirely to political whim.
Labor will address this deficiency by re-establishing the Major Cities Unit within the independent Infrastructure Australia and requiring it to use transparent measures to both recommend and assess the progress of City Partnerships.
The Major Cities Unit will also refresh the National Urban Policy that Labor released when last in government to ensure City Partnerships align with its objectives, for example, in areas like sustainability and smart technology.
Labor will establish an expert panel to update strategic planning guidelines for cities as well as the development of guidelines for City Partnerships, in consultation with the Minister, which include benefits to the economy.
Labor accepts that City Partnerships must be tailored and flexible.
But we expect them to set out a strategic vision that aligns with the National Urban Policy and delivers on pre-determined performance indicators.
This announcement builds on Labor’s proud legacy of urban policy development.
Federal Labor has been involved in urban policy development since the 1970s. We seek to work with local communities, particularly through their local councils, to develop responses to the challenges of growth.
We understand that to ensure the ongoing productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities, investing in people and their communities is critical.