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Extract from Maiden Speech, 28 October 2010

“There has been talk in the past of decentralisation and a conversion from the lucky country to the clever country, but little has been achieved. It is now time for us to make our own luck and not squander our inheritance. We must look beyond three-year cycles and embrace long-term vision.

The growth of our two largest cities has been disproportionate to the rest of the country, and infrastructure development has not kept pace. It is outrageous when you consider that the air corridor between Sydney and Melbourne is the fourth busiest in the world, and yet the highway linking these two cities is still not four lanes all the way, and the railway line reduces to a single one-way track for parts of this journey!

I witnessed similar growth pressures whilst based in Atlanta, Georgia in the 1970s. During this time the great northern cities of the United States were encountering problems of overdevelopment and the infrastructure was not keeping up. The cost of living was skyrocketing and the cost of doing business was rising in line. The deterioration of the quality of life in overcrowded and underserviced cities brought with it the prevalence of crime. Does this sound familiar?

Atlanta seized on this opportunity of selling the competitive advantage of relocating companies south, where housing prices and business costs were a fraction of those in the north. Infrastructure was vital. Highways and railroads were built to anticipate demand. Hartsfield-Jackson airport was upgraded to the point that it is now the busiest airport in the world. There is a saying in Atlanta: ‘If you die in the south, you got to go through Hartsfield to get to heaven.’ And that is true.

This phenomenal growth in Atlanta triggered the boom in the sun-belt from Florida to California. Where is our Atlanta, to trigger a broader, more sustainable, efficient and competitive plan for growth in Australia? The current path of relentless expansion of two or three cities, and little more than a welfare mentality of handouts to regional areas, is simply not sustainable. By partnering with business and planning long-term infrastructure programs, government can help develop a far better outcome for our citizens. Through this comes sustainable economic development for those regions, allowing them to lift themselves up and stand on their own strong, proud feet. Sydney and Melbourne will remain our two greatest cities. This greatness should not be judged by population and size but by liveability and efficiency.

If we continue to focus our growth largely on these two cities, we are limiting how much we as a nation can grow. If, through infrastructure, we can encourage the development of tens of cities, our potential for growth is enhanced commensurately. Strategic long-term planning is essential for optimal growth.”

– John Alexander MP, 28/10/2010