Speech to Property Council of Australia Leaders Summit 2010
Parliament House, Canberra
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
Regional Development and Local Government
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
Sunday, 20 June 2010
It’s great to be here for the start of your Leaders Summit.
Opportunities like this to engage with some of the key players on infrastructure and the development of our major cities are important.
As you know, we’ve put our cards on the table when it comes to cities.
The Rudd Labor Government is serious about bringing national leadership to the future of our cities.
More than three quarters of our population live in our cities.
Nearly 80 per cent of Gross Domestic Product comes from our cities.
Seventy-five per cent of our workforce is in cities.
Seventy per cent of Australia’s businesses are located in cities.
You simply cannot be a responsible national government unless you care about what goes on in our cities.
Our cities – capitals as well as regional centres – face great challenges.
The growing costs of urban congestion, declining housing affordability, a changing climate, a growing, ageing population – these need to be addressed.
But we cannot address them unless we work together – all levels of government, the private sector and the community.
That’s why, this week, the Prime Minister announced the membership of the Expert Panel to help the COAG Reform Council review capital city strategic planning systems.
In December last year, we sought and received COAG’s agreement for all capital cities to have in place long-term strategic planning systems that meet nationally consistent objectives by 2012.
The Expert Panel will provide advice to the COAG Reform Council to implement this agreement.
It will be chaired by Brian Howe, former Deputy Prime Minister and pioneer in urban policy, particularly through the Better Cities program.
The Deputy Chair is Lucy Turnbull, who as former Lord Mayor of Sydney brings a wealth of practical wisdom to this issue.
The other members of the panel are Rod Pearse, Jude Munro, John Denton, Sue Holliday, Duncan Maclennan and Meredith Sussex.
And Geoff Gallop, who is Deputy Chair of the COAG Reform Council will play an important role in linking the Reform Council with the panel.
The calibre of people involved should send a message – we are in the business of making a difference in our cities.
And I value your engagement on this issue. The KPMG audit of capital city planning systems that you released last week is an important contribution to the urban policy debate.
It is further evidence that for the first time in over a decade, we are having a genuine national debate about the future of our cities.
It’s worth noting here that we are already talking about the future, only some months after the worst global financial crisis shook the nation.
The fact that all of us here can even think about the future, instead of just getting through the here and now, is testament to the success of the Government’s response to the financial crisis.
Today Australia is among the best-performing advanced economies, with unemployment around half that of the US and Europe, and a budget deficit a small fraction of other developed countries.
Our investments in social housing infrastructure, the incentives to purchase new dwellings, education infrastructure, our record investment in rail, roads and ports and in fast-tracking vital projects kept Australia working.
That’s the beauty of infrastructure investment – it supports jobs today while delivering benefits for the generations to come.
In my portfolio alone, our investment in infrastructure comes to a record $37 billion.
It includes projects that will boost the productive capacity and improve the quality of life in our cities.
Our $3.2 billion investment into the Regional Rail Link in Victoria is the largest investment in urban public transport in history.
The Gawler rail line modernisation and the Noarlunga to Seaford extension in Adelaide will ease urban congestion and revitalise Adelaide’s northern and southern suburbs.
Sinking the rail line at Northbridge will change the face of Perth and make it an even more vibrant and productive city than it is today.
The Ipswich Motorway project is critical to support growth in south-east Queensland.
It is a rare privilege in a transport minister’s career to both turn the sod on a major project and to go back to declare it open.
I was able to do that with the Wacol to Darra section of the Ipswich Motorway, which was ready eight and a half months ahead of time because of the Economic Stimulus Plan.
Even as we develop the first urban policy, even as we work with states and territories and local governments to implement capital city strategic planning, we continued to make record investments in urban infrastructure.
I know the Property Council has taken a keen interest in the national urban policy.
I released the first State of Australian Cities report earlier this year, a significant piece of work by the Major Cities Unit.
It was an important benchmarking exercise in understanding how our cities fare against their global competitors.
The national urban policy is about leading thinking on how Australia should position itself with respect to future cities investments.
It is about partnering with state and local governments and the private sector to make our cities more productive, sustainable and liveable in the future.
I welcome your interest and your engagement in the national urban policy.
I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of your Leaders’ Summit and to continuing our discussions on how we create the environment for each of our major urban centres to build their future and the nation’s future.