Feb 14, 2016

Turnbull downgrades cities role

Malcolm Turnbull has downgraded the importance of Australian cities in his Cabinet reshuffle, failing to replace dumped Cities Minister Jamie Briggs and instead appointing Angus Taylor as a parliamentary secretary.

The appointment has also underlined Mr Turnbull’s disinterest in genuine action on climate change, given that Mr Taylor is one of the Coalition’s strongest critics of meaningful steps to reduce carbon emissions.

When he was stalking former Prime Minister Tony Abbott last year, Mr Turnbull incessantly tweeted pictures of himself riding trains, buses and trams to underline his claimed interest in government action to improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian cities.

But since taking office, Mr Turnbull has failed to take any meaningful action on issues like traffic congestion and urban design and has not reversed Mr Abbott’s massive cuts to public transport investment.

While he appointed Mr Briggs Minister for Cities last year, the Prime Minister has now downgraded this important role by making Mr Taylor his parliamentary secretary for Cities and Digital Transformation.

The ministerial reshuffle represents a missed opportunity to upgrade this critical ministry and place it within the important infrastructure portfolio.

It is extremely doubtful that Mr Taylor, a long-time strident critic of genuine action on climate change, will do anything to address the harmful effects of climate change on Australian cities.

We know that poor urban design means our cities are already baking in summer heat, a situation that will worsen as temperatures increase.

Governments need to work together in areas like building design and maintenance of open space, something unlikely to be on the list of priorities of a minister who talks down the need to reduce carbon emissions.

Australia needs a Minister for Cities who understands cities and the role of the commonwealth in ensuring they are productive, efficiency and liveable.

Our nation also needs a Prime Minister whose dedication to urban policy goes beyond Mr Turnbull’s approach of government by selfie.