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Parliamentary speech: Infrastructure report

17 September 2018

Infrastructure report

Photo of MP Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (15:10): Today I present the report of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities’ inquiry into the Australian government’s role in the development of cities, titled Building up and moving out.

Australia is undergoing rapid change. Population growth, urbanisation, the ageing of the population and the transformation of the economy towards service and knowledge based industries are causing profound changes in the urban and regional landscape. The outcome of these changes will depend on how they are managed. In recent decades, there has been no plan for how to accommodate the growth in our cities and population. Managing these challenges requires a national vision—a national plan of settlement.

The national plan of settlement must set out a vision for our cities and regions for the next 50 years and beyond. It must take account of the fact that Australia’s cities and regions are not sustainable in their current form and will become less sustainable as the population grows and ages. Achieving the required economic, social and environmental outcomes for the sustainability of our cities and regions will require a high level of integrated planning. This is not achievable without the coherent vision which comes from master planning both land use and facilitating infrastructure. The successful development of both cities and regions is intrinsically linked. Regional development needs to be seen as part of a broader pattern of national development, with cities, towns and regions being developed as part of an integrated whole. Greater connectivity is an essential element of this joint development. Well-connected cities and regions means that opportunities can be distributed across a wider population. High-speed rail can bring distant communities within close proximity of each other. This in turn would enable a more dispersed pattern of settlement and the creation of polycentric cities, without the attendant vices of urban sprawl.

Value capture should be part of the conception of any infrastructure project to equitably capitalise on taxpayers’ funds invested. It should be incorporated organically into its planning and development. Suitable value capture mechanisms should be identified and applied from the outset. Ideally, this should involve coordination between different levels of government and project developers to ensure a maximum return on investment. The potential for value capture to contribute to the development of infrastructure was discussed at length in the committee’s previous report, Harnessing value, delivering infrastructure. The committee considers that the recommendations in that report are more relevant than ever and should be adopted by the Australian government.

Parliamentary inquiries are an underappreciated tool that gathers on-the-ground evidence for the benefit of ministers and departments. Months of work have gone into this document both from the deeply committed secretariat and from the scores of Australian organisations who felt the need to give their independent and critical insights in this vitally important policy area. This is a good, substantive report that contains a strong evidence based plan for how to solve the many problems of our settlement. Previous reports by this committee have received delayed and token responses from the department; I strongly recommend this one is given better consideration. In conclusion, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this inquiry. The governing of Australia is at its best when representatives from both sides can come together to determine the facts and deduce the best course of action in consideration of only one thing—the wellbeing of the Australian people now and in the future. I am, therefore, indebted to my deputy chair, the Hon. Sharon Bird MP, and equally grateful to each member of the committee.

We have, I believe, produced a bipartisan vision for the future settlement of Australia.

On behalf of the committee, I commend this report to the House. I move:

That the House take note of the report.

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