Speech to Tourism and Transport Forum – Better transport means better cities
Parliament House, Canberra
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
Minister for Infrastructure & Transport
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
20 September 2011
The last time I had the pleasure of joining you was in February at the launch of your report – “Accessing our Airports”.
I said then that the report was an excellent example of the way the Tourism and Transport Forum helps us find answers to our most pressing public policy questions.
I’m happy to repeat that sentiment today and congratulate you on your recent report into public transport — Improving Your Commute.
Your understanding of the complexities of cities – the need to make them more productive, sustainable and liveable – also lies at the heart of the Australian Government’s national urban policy.
But we are more the exception than the rule.
Throughout history, towns and cities have tended to grow in a haphazard, organic fashion.
Medieval cities were notable for their crooked streets, their lack of amenities, and their overcrowded dwellings.
Bad planning contributed to plagues and disasters like the 1666 Great Fire of London.
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution we saw the start of the daily commute and the problem of urban congestion.
There were of course no idling cars or trucks.
But in large cities there was plenty of road rage as armies of pedestrians battled it out with horse drawn carriages, carts and wagons.
Some urban policy responses were very basic.
In London in 1868, when unfortunate MPs struggled to cross the road to get to the Houses of Parliament, the members voted with their feet in favour of the world’s first traffic lights.
The signal used semaphore arms by day and gas-powered red and green lights at night.
NATIONAL URBAN POLICY
In May, I released our national urban policy – Our Cities, Our Future to drive better infrastructure planning.
The policy is the result of three years of consultation — including with TTF — and meetings in all 18 Australian cities with populations over 100,000.
As part of this reform process and in partnership with the COAG Reform Council, all states and territories have been asked to have in place strategic planning systems for their capital cities by 1 January 2012.
These planning systems must meet nine criteria, agreed to by COAG – all designed to ensure that effective, coordinated long-term planning is embedded right throughout the government process.
- Cities must show how they are providing for nationally-significant economic infrastructure such as for transport corridors, airports and ports, intermodal connections, communications and utilities.
- They must show how they are providing for evidence-based land release and an appropriate balance of infill and greenfield development.
- And they must address big policy issues such as how they are planning for population growth and demographic change, climate change mitigation, housing affordability and how to better connect people to jobs.
The COAG Reform Council is now reviewing these planning systems and will report on them before the end of the year.
Future Commonwealth infrastructure funding will be tied to these plans and to the principles laid out in the National Urban Policy.
Improving our cities requires more than good policy and planning – we also need good infrastructure.
The Government has risen to the challenge, and is making record investments with some $36 billion in urban roads and rail.
We have doubled federal spending on roads and raised spending on rail a remarkable tenfold.
The Government recognises that rapid population growth requires mass transport solutions.
Rail is especially effective in moving large numbers of people quickly and reliably.
We have committed $7.3 billion in major urban rail projects in every mainland state capital.
Since 2007, we have committed more to urban public transport than all other Federal Governments – collectively – since Federation.
INFRASTRUCTURE – INVESTING INTELLIGENTLY
As everyone here today would know, when you are devising an investment program it is critical to choose the right investments.
So in 2008 we boosted our analytical firepower with the creation of Infrastructure Australia.
Its brief was to look beyond the short-term nature of the political cycle that has driven far too many decisions in the past.
Since then, based on a national audit of our infrastructure needs, IA has prepared a priority pipeline of projects to guide future funding.
It has also created national strategies for our ports and freight corridors.
Three years on and Infrastructure Australia has become an international model for management and coordination of transport infrastructure.
Infrastructure UK, formed in 2009, is based largely on our own IA model –
– and other European countries such as Italy, Spain, Belgium and Germany are drawing IA work for their own land transport and port strategies.
And of course we have seen the NSW Government establish its own hybrid model.
In addition to our record infrastructure investment, we have also been working to remove the regulatory burden on the transport industry.
We have agreed through COAG to abandon from January 2013 the multitude of conflicting and costly State-based transport laws in favour of a single national regulator.
This will bring considerable savings to the tourism sector, in particular pleasure craft and coaches.
A bus company operating around Australia is currently subject to eight different fatigue laws.
And a tourist cruise boat, operating across the waters between – for example – Queensland and the Northern Territory, must get fresh seaworthy certificates from the respective transport departments.
Get caught in Queensland waters with only NT permits and there’s a hefty fine and no insurance coverage should something go wrong.
It’s the same with crews – each time a vessel passes between the Territory and Queensland, the qualifications of each crew member must be freshly assessed.
Under the new agreement, there will be only one set of laws, consistent across the country, from Burnie to Bundaberg to Broome.
And big saving on compliance fees and red tape.
Let me briefly turn to shipping reform. vYou may have heard recently that the Australian Government has secured a historic deal to revitalise our shipping industry.
It has been in a state of terminal decline for some decades but the reform package agreed to by both the unions and operators will return our island continent to its rightful role as a shipping nation.
It includes a big investment in training and that should be good news for the cruise industry.
I notice figures from the International Cruise Council of Australasia show that nearly half a million Australians took a cruise in 2010, up 27 per cent on the previous year.
Our reforms to shipping will place Australia in the best possible position to benefit economically from this tourism growth.
Our support for the cruise industry goes beyond our shipping reforms.
In June the Minister for Defence, Steven Smith, announced an independent review of the future use of the Royal Australian Navy’s Garden Island facility by visiting cruise ships.
The review will look at opportunities for greater civil-military cooperation in the use of berths for very large vessels.
HIGH SPEED RAIL
I’ll finish up this afternoon with a few words on high speed rail — a topic that grabs the imagination and the headlines.
Last year, I announced that the Government would put high speed rail back on the national agenda.
I kept that promise last month when I released Phase One of an 18 month feasibility study.
The Phase One report identifies the short-listed corridors for high speed rail between Brisbane and Melbourne.
These corridors minimise travel times, provide a raft of regional development opportunities, and serve major tourism destinations, such as the Gold Coast.
As you know, most long distance travel between cities is by air, with nearly 25 million domestic air trips made within the study area in 2010.
The Sydney to Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane air corridors are extremely busy.
In fact, the Sydney to Melbourne leg is the fifth busiest in the world.
The second, more detailed report due towards the middle of next year will analyse the issues in much greater detail.
It will develop detailed capital and operating cost estimates, revenue forecasts and potential financing and staging models.
As with all big nation building projects, the capital cost upfront is large — depending on the eventual route it is estimated to be between $61 billion and $108 billion in today’s dollars.
Let me finish with a story about the world’s first international urban planners’ conference, recounted in Superfreakonomics.
The book is a terrific read – in fact a best-seller – by American economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner.
This planning conference was held in New York in 1898 and was a coming together of some of the world’s leading planners to discuss an intractable transport problem.
It was a problem that was leading to gridlock, high insurance costs, toxic emissions, air pollution and an unacceptably high rate of road deaths.
The conference was scheduled to run for 10 days but folded after three when the delegates agreed they were totally stumped by the crisis.
And what was the cause of the crisis? It was the horse.
And how was it eventually solved? It wasn’t.
The problem simply vanished with the invention of a new form of transport technology, the car.
As we grapple with the problems of the 21st century it is a comfort to know that there is a forum such as your own, that brings intelligent, creative thinking to the public policy debate.
Once again, thank you for the invitation to join you this afternoon.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.