On good common sense and common ground amid a sea of rubbish

Well something woke up the Labor Party. It turns out to be cities.

Anthony Albanese, a minister in the former government who held responsibility for cities is back in the game, was announced as shadow minister for cities on Wednesday.

His speech to the National Press Club was sharp and to the point. It’s about time.

There’s no mistaking how important cities are and how wrong the current government is to ignore the issues. When the Major Cities Unit released its last State of the Cities report in 2013 it had three million downloads.

When we posted the story on the new alternative “Cities Unit” announced in late August – New tripartite, cross-sectoral cities think tank launched to fill Major Cities void – it went straight to the top of the hit list for the month and it’s stayed there ever since, bumped off only in recent days by the one topic that is even more volatile than cities, planning in NSW, and a new people’s charter for planning.

Albanese says he’s “particularly attracted to consideration of the 30-minute City concept promoted by some policy thinkers in this area including the Bus Industry Confederation”.

Wait till you see the book we’re producing on sustainable precincts – it goes to the heart of the cities of the future, and it’s all about urban development and redevelopment, and an even more compact 20-minute city.

What’s astounding in the copy that’s now come in and we’re currently processing is the range of exciting and provocative projects under way that will change the game. They’re about connected and off grid infrastructure; community engagement to the point where the governance models are getting really challenging to existing paradigms such as elected local councillors.

These projects are everywhere and the most interesting demands for better cultural capital is driving some in the most unlikely of places. The Gold Coast, for instance, where young people  don’t want to be known as “Schoolies” and they’re sick of the dumb blonde image of the place and want to deepen and explore far more meaningful narratives.

Albanese proposed 10 keys to great cities:

  1. Investing in properly integrated transport systems involving public transport and roads
  2. Investing in active transport solutions which connect up with public transport, education and employment hubs
  3. Addressing housing affordability through the use of urban planning, land supply and use of incentives
  4. Aligning greater housing density with public transport corridors
  5. Promoting jobs growth in outer suburbs. This could be through direct investment such as Badgerys Creek Airport and Moorebank Intermodal project, or by giving consideration to incentives for location of business
  6. Promoting jobs growth in middle rings around cities by investing in research precincts around universities and hospitals
  7. Supporting connectivity and productivity through fibre-to-the-premise National Broadband Network
  8. Supporting renewable energy including buildings and precincts that produce their own power in new developments
  9. Enhancing sustainability and resilience of household and industrial water supply and rehabilitating our urban waterways which for too long were used for industrial waste
  10. Cooperation between Governments to promote the development of second or third CBD’s to decentralize jobs growth

He pointed to the big mistakes of the current Feds when it:

  • Abolished the Major Cities Unit
  • Attempted to water down the independence of Infrastructure Australia
  • Cancelled all Commonwealth investment in urban public transport, including the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project, which had been prioritised by Infrastructure Australia
  • Handed out $3.5 billion in advance payments for East West and Westconnex, making a mockery of their commitment cost benefit analysis and milestone payments

It’s as screamingly crazy as the pro-coal anti clean energy stance that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dared to take to the world stage. Not in person. But sending foreign minister Julie Bishop to the Climate Summit in New York and earning the ire of US President Barack Obama who said it was time for the laggard nations to step up in a chillingly frank speech that pointed to devastating climate already wrecking the lives of so many.

Albanese’s speech is a huge lift for anyone who believe common sense and common ground are the way forward.

One reply on “News from the front desk: Issue No 210”

  1. Yep! a great move with many moving in the same direction.

    Had a meeting the greens campaign manger for the NSW State seat in the next election. The greens are proposing to make at least a suburb a net zero carbon on energy. They are wanting to bring business and community together to make it happen.

    I was also talking to Gareth Johnson from National Energy Efficiency Network (NEEM) which is a dynamic, member-based network providing community organisations with the information, inspiration and support to become more energy efficient and take charge of their energy future.

    So there is lots happening with more to come. It is up to us all to get involved and make it happen.

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