State Of Our Cities Report Launch
Qld Media Club
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
Minister for Infrastructure & Transport
Leader of the House
Federal Member for Grayndler
5 March 2010
Thank you for your introduction, and also for the opportunity to speak to representatives of the media in Brisbane, one of the cities that drives the Australian economy.
The majority of Australians live in them.
I do, and most of you do.
We love the city life, the vibrancy, the culture, the social engagement, and much more.
But, we can get awfully frustrated by life in the cities.
Congestion. Cost. Pollution. Infrastructure, or the lack thereof.
Like me, though, most of you here today won’t move out.
You might think about it, you might even imagine it, but that’s about as far as it goes.
What we need are better cities for the people who live in them and work in them.
That takes planning, funding, co-operation between governments, partnerships between the public and private sectors and, most importantly, the involvement of the people who live in our cities.
State and Territory Governments and the 155 Local Governments of our major cities will significantly influence their future direction.
However, given the Australian Government’s primary role in economic policy, infrastructure provision and social welfare it is clear that a national framework can only be achieved by a national collaborative approach.
In the tradition of Labor Governments, the Rudd Government has renewed engagement with our nation’s cities.
That modern tradition goes back to the Whitlam Government.
Gough Whitlam may have been criticised for some acts of his government, but it was Whitlam and Tom Uren who had the temerity to propose that newly developing urban areas in the nation’s capitals should have basic water and sewerage systems.
Today, to question that, would be absurd.
Today, those systems are taken for granted.
That tradition was continued by the Hawke-Keating Government which established the Better Cities program to revitalise inner urban communities.
Unfortunately, it was one of the first programs abolished by the incoming Howard Government.
I want to make one thing clear.
A commitment to urban policy does not detract from this Government’s recognition of regional and rural Australia.
Far from it.
These regions make an enormous contribution to Australia’s prosperity.
Cities and our regions are interdependent.
Our cities connect the commodities, the produce from our farms and the products of our mines to national and global markets.
Our country’s economic growth is dependent upon both.
Governments have a responsibility to ensure that every Australian, no matter where they live, has equitable access to social, educational and economic opportunity.
The Rudd Government has developed a range of programs for regions including the establishment of Regional Development Australia.
The former government also had programs for regional Australia, but when it came to cities policy, it regarded it as none of its business.
To the contrary, I believe that Cities Policy is core business for the National Government.
We are, after all, one of the most urbanised nations in the world.
Three quarters of our population live in the 17 major Australian cities with a population in excess of 100,000.
Those major cities deliver nearly 80 per cent of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product and the employment of 75 per cent of our workforce.
The major cities are the principal location for some 70 per cent of Australia’s businesses, including nearly two-thirds of the principal employers of Australians – small business.
The major cities are clearly drivers of this nation’s economy, employment and prosperity.
We must ensure that our cities are productive.
We must ensure their development is sustainable.
We must ensure they are liveable.
Good policy is never created in a vacuum.
We need evidence based policy.
That’s my objective here today – to outline the evidence, to establish some facts and to lay the groundwork for a future cities agenda.
The State of Australian Cities Report 2010 is the most comprehensive document of its kind produced.
This report brings together in one place a diverse range of data about how productive, sustainable and liveable our cities are, as well as how they match up against the rest of the world.
There are now 17 Australian cities with populations greater than 100 thousand, six of them here in Queensland.
In addition to our capital cities they are the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba, Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong and Launceston.
Another seven cities will join them over the next 20 years including Mackay and Hervey Bay.
The Inter Generational Report projects Australia’s population to grow to 36 million by 2050.
It is worth noting that this rate of growth – 1.2 per cent annually – is slower than what we have had for the past 40 years.
Brisbane and Perth are expected to more than double in size. Sydney and Melbourne to reach 7 million.
Our other major cities are also expected to grow significantly, but not to the same magnitude.
The growth we will experience presents significant challenges by itself, considering the associated increase in demand for services, infrastructure and housing.
There will also be substantial change in the makeup of our population.
Like other western countries, Australia’s population is ageing.
The proportion of our population aged 65 and over will nearly double from 14 per cent to 23 per cent by mid century.
This has implications for workforce participation, the national costs of healthcare and demands a policy response from governments.
Whilst growth can present challenges, it also brings opportunities.
For example, increased population density in our cities makes public transport options more economic, particularly if growth is concentrated around public transport corridors.
Australia is not alone in considering the future of our cities.
This is an international trend.
For example, international consultants, the Mercer Group, conduct an annual world-wide Quality of Living survey of 235 countries.
It showed that in the five years to 2009, Sydney slipped in the quality-of-living ranking from 5th to 10th.
Melbourne from 12th to 18th.
Perth from 20th to 21st.
Adelaide from 24th to 30th.
And, Brisbane from 24th to 34th.
Mercer commented that the cities that supplanted the Australian cities were generally ones that had invested in infrastructure during that period.
This critical investment in infrastructure has been recognised by the Rudd Government and we’ve acted with public transport, road, urban water, social housing, education and community projects across the nation.
This has supported jobs and resulted in the Australian economy avoiding recession, virtually alone amongst advanced economies.
It has also provided a platform for future economic prosperity.
Productivity growth in our cities will be critical for our economic future.
Major cities were responsible for some 84 per cent of Australia’s economic growth in the 2003-2008 period, and 81 per cent of the employment growth between 2001 and 2006.
Even during the resources boom, the major cities’ share of the national economy increased.
Over half, actually 53 per cent, of Australia’s economic activity occurs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with a further 15 per cent in Perth and Adelaide.
There are signs that our cities may be slowing down.
For example, the Report shows that between 1976 and 2009, our major cities recorded economic growth that was on average 0.2 per cent higher than the national average.
Over the last decade however, that growth was just 0.037 per cent above the national average.
In fact, growth in non capital major cities was below the national average during this decade.
We know that productivity is reliant upon connectivity between businesses, people, goods and services.
Urban congestion is a major handbrake on productivity.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) estimated that the avoidable cost of road congestion for the Australian capitals was approximately $9.4 billion for 2005.
Left unchecked, this is projected to rise to $20 billion by 2020.
Congestion costs are real and they’re substantial.
Urban congestion contributes to traffic delays, increased greenhouse gas emissions, higher vehicle running costs and more accidents.
It is a tragedy that many parents spend more time travelling to and from work, than at home with their kids.
Relieve urban congestion and we improve our quality of life as well as our productivity.
Take the vital and important freight task in Australia’s eight capital cities as an example.
It is expected to grow by 70 per cent between 2003 and 2020.
Our infrastructure investments in rail, road and intermodal transport are already addressing this threat to productivity.
Productivity is one issue, sustainability is another.
Sustainability is not an add-on – rather it is an essential component of future urban policy direction.
The State of Australian Cities Report provides the information and the context to address this issue.
While Australia in the recent past has been very much focused on climate change emissions, the relationship between Australian cities and the environment has been evolving over the last two centuries.
White settlers sought to tame the wild land to meet the European perception that every aspect of the land was to be used and exploited.
The cost and long term impacts of that use were often not factored in between the 18th and mid 20th centuries.
We have had, and will continue to have, an ongoing debate about what is a reasonable use of natural resources versus an unacceptable impact on the environment.
This debate has been brought into even sharper focus by the combined pressures of population growth and climate change.
Since 1950, much of eastern Australia and the far southwest, where our largest cities are located and the majority of the population lives, have experienced an annual decline of up to 50 mm in rainfall per decade.
Residential energy use, which accounted for seven per cent of total energy consumption in 2007-08, is increasing faster than other sectors.
Transport emissions are projected to increase by 22.6 per cent over the period 2007 to 2020.
Efforts by all spheres of government, the private sector and communities to address sustainability have been increasing, but with variable success.
The cities of tomorrow will need to confront our energy-intensive lifestyles, our water consumption, the growth in motor vehicle dependency, in congestion and transport emissions.
Liveability is a concept increasingly used to describe what people experience as positive in their environments.
It means such things as low levels of pollution, good public transport, neighbourhoods which enable pedestrian traffic, tree lined streets, well designed buildings and civic centres, useable public spaces, access to open and green space, and the availability of recreational and cultural facilities.
It is our personal experience of the city.
For some it might mean vibrant inner city living.
For others it may mean leafy suburban communities with a backyard and open space.
The Report highlights research in Perth which links high amenity locations with increased physical activity, which we know has positive health outcomes.
How we plan and shape our cities, right down to neighbourhood level, is critical for our quality of life.
Housing affordability is a big factor in liveability and it’s been on our agenda in Australia now for some years.
We must remember, though, that the dollar amount for the land, bricks and mortar, is only part of the price we pay.
What we also need to be thinking about is the concept of living affordability, that is, the cost of running a home and costs associated with location.
Patterns of outward urban expansion to areas with limited access to employment and services, and few public transport options, have left some Australian families particularly vulnerable to increases in fuel costs.
Despite a trend towards smaller households, in some states and territories up to 80 per cent of new dwellings are single detached housing, largely on greenfield sites.
The average number of people per household dwelling declined from 3.1 in 1976 to 2.6 in 2006, but the average number of bedrooms per dwelling rose from 2.7 to 3.
The proportion of dwellings with 4 plus bedrooms increased from 17 per cent to 28 per cent.
This mismatch between demographic trends and housing stock is unsustainable.
PLANNING AND GOVERNANCE
Planning for our cities must include providing employment opportunities where people live, promoting sustainable and affordable housing and integrating land use planning with transport and other infrastructure provision.
Planned cities are central to the nation’s continued economic growth and to the wellbeing of local communities.
That’s why we are bringing national leadership to the future planning of our cities.
Firstly through the Major Cities Unit.
This report, produced by the Major Cities Unit, is a critical step in elevating the cities agenda to the national stage.
Over the coming months, using this Report as a baseline, the Major Cities Unit will contribute to the Government’s national urban policy.
It will inform our thinking, expand our understanding and target our actions.
It will encourage and broaden debate to include new dynamics such as the use of smart infrastructure.
The Parliamentary inquiry I have commissioned into Smart Infrastructure will commence next Friday.
Smart infrastructure will be a central component of the shift towards a systems approach to infrastructure, planning, design and delivery.
Our leadership also extends to COAG, which will be taking a strong and active interest in planning for our cities.
There was a lack of alignment within some jurisdictions between metropolitan land use plans and infrastructure proposals submitted for Infrastructure Australia’s consideration.
This led to the establishment of the COAG Cities Planning Taskforce and to COAG agreeing to national objectives and criteria for future strategic planning of capital cities in December last year.
COAG has agreed that, by 1 January 2012, all States will have in place city plans that meet the criteria.
And we will not be shy about tying future Commonwealth funding to those city plans.
Change is already happening.
The South East Queensland Plan is best practice in integrating transport, water, energy and services infrastructure planning up to 2030.
This has provided a pipeline of projects to encourage both public and private investment.
Just weeks ago, the NSW Government announced the creation of the new Sydney Metropolitan Development Authority to drive future transit-oriented development and urban renewal. This Authority will include a Commonwealth representative.
This follows the establishment in December of a joint planning taskforce to identify strategies and locations to meet the additional aviation capacity for the Sydney region.
The taskforce will link aviation infrastructure planning for the Sydney region to land use and transport infrastructure and identify opportunities to maximise economic and employment benefits.
The Victorian Government’s Investing in Transport Report and the recently announced 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide are other examples of good planning for our cities.
The Australian Government is providing support to the Adelaide Plan through our Local Government Reform Fund.
Our work on planning and developing a coherent policy framework has not stopped us from getting on with the job of investing in the future of our cities.
Investment in vital public transport – including the largest ever national investment in urban passenger rail.
Investment in a National Broadband Network – recognising that in the digital age, connectivity is about more than cars, buses and trains.
Investment in water infrastructure.
These are long term investments which will serve the needs of Australians now and into the future.
We – all levels of government – have a big task ahead of us and a responsibility to do it well.
I am looking forward to the challenge.
I look forward to the unfolding discussions on the future of our cities. It’s an exciting and necessary debate.
I want to finish with a quote that resonates and encapsulates what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.
In January 1962, John F. Kennedy asked the United States Congress to approve a new department of urban affairs. He said – "We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them, we neglect the nation."
In 1962 JFK got it right.
In 2010 the Rudd Government is determined to get cities policy right, and take the action necessary to ensure our cities are productive, sustainable and liveable into the future.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.