Getting cities policy right

If Australia’s past is told by the stories of the bush and the outback, the stories of our future will be defined by our cities.

We might glory in our wide brown land, but our wealth, jobs and future will be found in our cities.

Making our cities more liveable and more sustainable, and doing so in a way that is affordable, is one of the big policy challenges of our time.

Fortunately, we are seeing both sides of politics start to grapple with the issue.

Last week, the Turnbull Government committed itself to delivering UK style ‘City Deals’. As the Prime Minister put it at our 10th Green Cities conference, the Federal Government must be a passionate and involved partner in how our cities grow and change.

We’ve all seen the results when federal, state and local governments work at cross purposes. City Deals are about creating the incentives and accountabilities for all levels of government to move in the same direction.

It’s that financial discipline and accountability which is at the heart of the UK City Deals program and needs to be the centrepiece of the Australian version. 

We want to see City Deals implemented in Australia, but the deals must be based on rigour. We don’t want to see quick deals, we want to see good deals that draw out the economic strengths and potential of a city and drive change where it is needed.

Both sides of politics must resist the temptation to turn City Deals into a ‘pork barrel’ or a prize to be awarded to marginal seats. To that end, we intend to hold them to account.

The City Deals must be demanding of all partners – because it is only through delivering substantive economic change that the deals will deliver jobs and growth.