Make My City Work – spine up now

When Paul Keating snarled that John Hewson was “a shiver looking for a spine to run up”, the virtues of courageous political reform were a given – a badge of honour.

In those days political leaders backed themselves.

Big beasts such as Hawke, Keating and Howard/Costello totted up nine election wins, even while vending hard economic medicine with interest rates at 17 percent and unemployment rocketing to 11 percent, not to mention selling a GST in the face of appalling polls.

That was then.

Last month, Kevin Rudd’s former media supremo, Lachlan Harris, accused the Labor Party of “an unhealthy hostility to showing real leadership”.

In Trivial Pursuit – Leadership and the End of the Reform Era, George Megalogenis observed, “Government is weaker today because the public it serves is quicker to anger … no mandate need be respected because the Opposition can trust the media to set impossible standards …”

Traditional politics involved mobilising a constituency to secure a mandate – political parties went to the people, won their support and implemented their manifesto.

In these days of soluble mandates, it’s little wonder voters resort to political channel surfing when politics resembles a shambolic soap opera.

Activist groups such as Australia’s GetUp! (with close to 590,000 members) and Avaaz (“... a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere”), grasp the community’s craving for more meaningful, anchored, conviction leadership driven by compelling ideas.

These groups are using social media platforms to revolutionise the way citizens interact and influence governments. They mobilise crowds of individuals who don’t fit into neat or typical socio-political categories.

In doing so, modern activists promise to skirt traditional political intermediaries and influence the political process directly.

This ‘crowdsourcing’ is a new and powerful mandate-making machine.

On March 28 the Property Council journeys into this arena with its Make My City Work campaign launch at the National Press Club in Canberra.

The goal is to mobilise massive online community support for better planned, financed and managed cities.

The campaign aims to send these messages to the political establishment: 

  • Cities are popular – there is strong voter support for investing in cities based on visionary long-term plans 
  • The community will reward politicians who achieve smart growth that reduces stress and delivers tangible benefits 
  • There is no political future in over-promising and under-performing on cities – that’s dumb planning that results in dumb growth 
  • Citizens want to see regular delivery of infrastructure that meets both current demands and future growth.

The Make My City Work campaign will:

  • Invite Australians to sign up to express their interest in better planned cities 
  • Provide a home for genuine debate about the shape of our cities 
  • Help Australians declare their views to government.

We know that solutions need to be crafted to local needs and so our campaign will cover all capital cities and a handful of regional towns (with more to come).

Make My City Work will seed a candid debate about cities by providing helpful background facts and raw materials on current planning policies.

We’ll also give users free access to the Property Council’s revolutionary new Our Nation app – a time machine to Australia’s future needs based on demographic drivers.

At its heart, the purpose of Make My City Work is to give voice to the views of Australians.

City-based surveys and blogs called My City Needs … will encourage citizens to share opinions about what they want from their neighbourhoods and the wider metropolis.

The site will also showcase and celebrate success stories around the country.

What are the Make My City Work campaign KPIs?

One measure is the number of individuals who sign up.

Another is the breadth of campaign allies.

There is striking common ground between environmental groups, social justice organisations, unions, business bodies, community networks and the property industry.

Yes, there are diverse views. However, we all see urban policy as a massively underutilised gateway to a more prosperous, fairer and productive society.

Make My City Work will succeed if it forges a new mandate between these unlikely bedfellows and citizens so powerful that it jolts governments into action.

Make My City Work launches on March 28 –

Please sign up and make a difference.