Will the party of urbanism please stand up?

Alastair TaylorJune 29, 20130 min read

Fun [sarcasm] times this week in politics.  If you were like me, glued to ABC News 24 on Wednesday afternoon and night, you might have felt the same revulsion as the Federal Government gave itself another public lobotomy.  

I suppose it's futile to expect the Liberal and Labor parties to have any real pro-urban policies going into the next election - Federal politics has traditionally stayed out of city development in most respects.  However we can't gloss over how much the Federal Government has a firm grasp on the nation's, and therefore the state's, purse strings.  They own the largest public purse, and it's the purse which is best equipped to invest in our cities, our core centres of productivity across the nation.

In the last Federal budget, the now former Treasurer announced Canberra's intention to help fund the Metro Tunnel project over the next decade (that's the realistic timeframe should the project start today) and Tony Abbott has already committed $1.5billion of public money to the East-West tunnel should he his coalition win government - a project the public has not seen the business case for (a project which really only rubs the collective tummies of the industry and road lobby groups) and will simply shift congestion from Collingwood/Clifton Hill to Parkville/Ascott Vale.  No prizes for guessing which policy I and other UrbanMelbourne.info contributors thinks is the clear winner.

Infrastructure Australia - a Federal body set up to assess infrastructure projects on merit and advise the Federal Government what to allocate funds to - looked to be the beginning of the end for infrastructure paralysis for cities.  The future of this agency isn't all that certain with a potential Abbot-led Liberal Government coming to power in the next couple of months given the aforementioned commitment to a dubious road lobby gravy train project.

Is it furthermore futile to hope for an NDIS-like rare show of bipartisanism on how to raise capital for new infrastructure through some kind of levy increase like the NDIS will have through the Medicare Levy?  If history is any guide, then yes it is futile.  We need to think out of the box with regards to new capital raising - and no I'm not proposing a further increase to the Medicare levy - for infrastructure, but increases in the GST and the carve up of the extra income derived from it must be on the table.  Likewise property value taxes which capture the increasing value of a property through local council rates when new public transport infrastructure is built should also be explored.

We don't need to have an infrastructure debate: we need to have a Federal Government-led future city debate because it will include anything and everything that a city is comprised of, naturally including infrastructure.  The Federal Government shouldn't pick winners and State Governments should steer away from complacency and ensure their cities, no matter how big or small, remain competitive on a national and global level, but the Federal Government must get involved with supporting cities more than ever before.

Will the party of urbanism please stand up?

 

Indulging for a moment: best cartoon I saw this week - the ever hilarious First Dog on the Moon over at Crikey, Leadership of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Partyopoly!

Photo credit: UM user Glennwilson.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.
Tags:
Federal Government
Politics
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