(L-R) Martin Haese, Robert Doyle, Clover Moore, Katrina Fong Lim, Sue Hickey, Graham Quirk

Australia needs to prioritise smarter, more sustainable and liveable cities. That is the message the lord mayors of Australia’s capital cities have travelled to Canberra to deliver to the three major political parties this week.

Today’s (Thursday) meetings with Australia’s political leaders follows the launch of the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors policy platform – Cities Matter – in Canberra last night.

Chair of the CCCLM and Adelaide Lord Mayor Dr Martin Haese said the delegation aimed to advise the federal government on the key issues and opportunities for cities, and to influence the policy agenda of each of the three main parties in advance of the next federal election.

City sustainability, he said, was the “opportunity of our generation”, promising technological advances, economic prosperity, jobs and improved environments.

“The business of climate change”, as Dr Haese calls it, promises benefits for all stakeholders, and the opportunity to put Australian cities on the global stage.

The delegation also included Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, Hobart Lord Mayor Sue Hickey; Darwin Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim; Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore; Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle; and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Speaking to The Fifth Estate by phone on the way to last night’s launch, Dr Haese said there was unity amongst all the lord mayors on three key priorities for cities: economic growth and development; transport and infrastructure; and the need for climate resilient sustainable cities.

This unity, he said, crossed all the mayors’ varied party political lines.

“We will each be spruiking our own cities, and also our common message,” he said.

“When it comes to climate change and sustainability we are totally unified in the importance of this to all our capital cities.”

Dr Haese said this was reflected in how every capital city had developed policies around energy efficiency, sustainability and addressing climate change.

Following the release of the Cities Matter online platform, which aims to keep the key issues and policy agendas front and centre for the public and for policymakers, meetings were held with politicians from all three major parties today.

The first meeting was with Shadow Minister for Cities Anthony Albanese, followed in quick succession by meetings with Greens leader Richard Di Natale and Greens cities spokesperson Scott Ludlam, then new minister for cities Jamie Briggs, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and, finally, opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Dr Haese said the goal of the meetings was both to talk about specific policies, and also project-specific matters. The three priority areas are also where cities have advantages in terms of creating a more sustainable country, he said. “When it comes to technological innovation, research and development, greening and sustainability, all of that is coming out of the city environments.” The reason the CCCLM delegates are meeting with all three major parties, he said, is because tripartisanship is increasingly going to “rise to the forefront.”

“These opportunities and challenges [of sustainability] are bigger than our election cycle,” Dr Haese said.

“The Lord Mayors are well positioned to advise from this level, as we are coming into this debate from a cities framework, not a party framework.

“Cities have a longer life than political cycles.”

He said shifting beyond short-term thinking was crucial.

“Climate change adaptation is the opportunity of our generation, from a technological perspective, from an environmental perspective, from a jobs perspective.”

He said energy efficiency was a good example, where new jobs and new technology have been created, leading to reduced costs for businesses that therefore increase competitiveness.

Dr Haese said that, particularly in the area of technology, the potential of the move towards sustainability was “just extraordinary”.

“I call it ‘the business of climate change’. There is a benefit in embracing climate change adaptation for every stakeholder,” he said.

“And from a reputational perspective, for Australia to lead the debate is a huge opportunity.”

Dr Haese has been invited by the Premier of South Australia to attend the COP 21 talks next month in Paris. There is a “lot of solidarity” between the council and the state government, he said.

“In South Australia the whole [climate adaptation] agenda is seen as a key point of difference that will encourage people to live and invest in the state. It is a huge differentiator on the world stage.”