OFarrells support for urban infrastructure and economic reform at COAG is spot-on

09 February 2011

Barry OFarrells top priorities for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) are spot-on, according to the Urban Taskforce. Mr OFarrell, as NSW Opposition Leader, today outlined his COAG agenda in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra.


The Urban Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said that Mr OFarrells highest priorities – urban infrastructure and a new generation of microeconomic reform – are precisely the issues requiring urgent federal-state action.


In the next 20 years, around two-thirds of the increase in Australias population and jobs are projected to occur in capital cities, Mr Gadiel said.


Urban infrastructure constraints, such as public transport and arterial roads, threaten to limit growth and divert jobs overseas.


Mr Gadiel said that mobility matters.


A citys future becomes clouded if its citizens lose their ability to be mobile, he said.


Mobility allows more jobseekers to find the right jobs.


More businesses are able to attract extra customers.


More people enjoy higher living standards.


When the benefits of being located in the city begin to be outweighed by the costs of congestion, business will move elsewhere.


If Australia cant offer footloose internationally competitive firms the right environment in our major capital cities, they will go somewhere that can.


More investment is required in new public transport services and new road infrastructure vital for urban growth.


Mr Gadiel said a succession of national governments had ignored this risk to Australias economic future.


To its credit, the current Federal Government has slowly started turning the ship of state around.


Nonetheless, the investments that have been made are not sufficient and there is no ongoing funding framework for urban infrastructure.


Sydney – in particular – has not fared well.


The federal government needs to accept responsibility for our cities’ infrastructure funding requirements – as the demand for housing, shopping precincts and new workplaces continues to grow.


“We’d like to see an annual rolling program of federal urban infrastructure funding, including expanded public transport, motorways and key arterial roads crucial to growth.


Were pleased that Mr OFarrell has placed this issue front-and-centre on his COAG agenda.


We also think Mr OFarrell is right to prioritise Sydneys North West and South West heavy rail links first, out of the large number of potential public transport projects.


These long promised links will help ease Sydneys congestion pressures.


Mr Gadiel said the plight of home buyers and renters is emerging as a major political issue.


A major program of microeconomic reform of land use laws is vital, Mr Gadiel said.


You know you have a real problem when the Reserve Bank is increasing interest rates partly because restrictive land use laws are choking off housing supply.


“The complex system of process and prohibitions is preventing vital urban development projects from getting off the ground.


Its imposing huge economic and social costs on the whole community.


In April last year, the Council of Australian Governments laid down a new road map to guide an urban development reform agenda, but the promised reports outlining reforms have not been publicly released.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.


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