Australia now has an urbanist Prime Minister

Australia now has an urbanist Prime Minister
Alastair TaylorSeptember 14, 2015

Judging by reports observed on various media platforms over the past 24 hours, it seems there are a lot of people and lobbyist groups waiting to tap the new Prime Minister on the shoulder and talk about their cause.

From people hoping for change on issues such as marriage equality and climate change - which Malcolm Turnbull is well known for having a different view from his party - to more traditional lobbyists such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce: they're everywhere.

It looks like many will be disappointed, at least in the short term. In his own words, at a media conference shortly after the leadership ballot result was announced:

The Prime Minister of Australia is not a president; the Prime Minister is the first among equals. And you can see that the partnership between me and Julie, the partnership with our colleagues will be a very clear cultural demonstration that we are operating in a traditional cabinet manner. And that means Lenore [Guardian Political Editor] that I’m not going to make policy pronouncements from this podium tonight. Of course policies change, they change all the time, but they will be when people should have the confidence that we will be making decisions in a thoughtful and considered manner, recognising the significance of the work we have to do as the Government of Australia.

Malcolm Turnbull, September 14, 2015

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was quick off the mark, exclaiming on Twitter that he is keen to talk shop with the new Prime Minister. Presumably the 'PT' reference relates to undoing the damage the outgoing Prime Minister caused by his dogmatic approach to funding rail projects in cities.

It is worth pointing out Malcolm Turnbull's fervent use of public transport will have been saving taxpayers money, that is at least up until today, assuming the Australian Federal Police put the kibosh on him continuing to commute on public transport from this point on. Imagine how much the following trips would have cost had a Government car (or taxi) been used.

Flinders Street station magnificent in the dawn.

A photo posted by turnbullmalcolm (@turnbullmalcolm) on

Regular users of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram may have stumbled on Malcolm Turnbull's posts, where the new Prime Minister is frequently pictured on public transport or snapping away in our cities.

In the newest mass online media outlet, The Huffington Post Australia, an article published in August has an interesting take on the new Prime Minister's tendency to immerse himself in our cities; "for a guy with a personal wealth estimated in the tens of millions, it's admirable to see him slogging it out on the train with the rest of us".

Attempting to heap praise on Turnbull because he is wealthy but mingles with "the rest of us" on public transport is infantile, and unfortunately is another example where public transport systems are popularly perceived as systems for charity when that proposition could not be further from the truth.

Centralised city planning from Canberra is not going to happen with a Liberal/National Government in power, however it is a welcome change that the new Prime Minister is an urbanist and has a deep interest in public transport and our cities more generally, unlike his predecessor.

After the dust has settled, the challenge for Malcolm Turnbull will be to make his penchant for urbanism somehow channel into a cities narrative - and have it rub off on federal Liberals - so as we are never confronted with a right-wing anti-city Prime Minister like Tony Abbott ever again.

Lead image credit: Malcolm Turnbull on Twitter.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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