Bill's Speeches

Opening Remarks: Urban Policy Dialogue








Now, more than ever, Australian cities matter.

Australia remains a nation in love with its cities.

-       89 per cent of our population is housed in urban areas.

-       By 2060 our population is expected to double, Sydney and Melbourne will be approaching eight million people.

Economically, our cities are places of incredible opportunity, knowledge and advancement. They are the incubators of innovation and productivity.

-       Engines of national economic growth, producing 80 per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

-       Hives of artistic creativity, excitement and diversity.

If we care about planning for the future, it is absolutely vital that we get our cities right.

Good cities reflect back to us the best of Australian values: opportunity and inclusion.

-       Good jobs, affordable housing, ease of movement and safe streets, underpinned by sense of trust and community.

-       Protecting our living standards and building a secure economic future

If we fail to get our cities right, that too is reflected back to us.

-       Division, injustice, inequality and alienation.

-       Poverty, crime, economic and social injustice and fear.

Well-designed cities can unite our people, providing secure, sustainable environments where creativity and productivity can thrive.

Lucky enough to have cities which regularly rank in the top ten best places to live in the world, in some ways Australia has become the victim of its own success.

Take the daily commute.

Aside from the enormous cost to the environment, next year traffic congestion will cost the economy $8 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.

This is not to mention the cost to our daily lives - time that should have been spent with family or friends is instead being spent behind the wheel, or waiting for a train.

The new Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, won Saturday’s election with a clear commitment to public transport.

He has a mandate from Victorians to deliver on his commitments – improving rail services and easing congestion by eliminating 50 level crossings.

Labor believes in investing in roads and public transport, with investment decisions based on proper cost-benefit analysis.

Take housing affordability.

A recent BIS report found that Australian house prices are among the world’s most expensive when measured against incomes and rents, second only to Norway.

In a single year to July 2014 the median house price climbed by $100,000 to $812,000 in Sydney and $609,000 in Melbourne.

The economic difficulties this presents not just for first home buyers but for low-income renters can be monumental.

Labor has established this forum because the future of Australia’s cities cannot remain, as they are under the Abbott Government, somebody else’s problem.

This is why I have formally added the role of Shadow Minister for Cities to Anthony Albanese’s portfolios, to reinforce Labor’s commitment to developing strong, engaged and effective urban policy.

I want this to be a genuine dialogue.

We need your energy, your knowledge and your passion.

We want to partner with you in developing Labor’s urban policies leading into the next election.

Our Federal Government must be engaged in the development of Australia’s cities.

State Governments alone cannot meet the major infrastructure challenges that our big cities present.

For the Australia of the future:

-       Creating jobs

-       Protecting living standards.

-       Environmental sustainability

-       And a fair society

All depend on the future development of our cities.

Thank you all for being part of this dialogue and I wish you all the very best for today’s inaugural meeting.