Thank you all so much for making the effort to take part in this summit.
As the Acting PM and Anthony were saying earlier on, today is all about our collective efforts to put local government at the heart of our nation building agenda.
Councils are critical to our nation’s productivity and infrastructure, but too rarely have they played a role in these discussions and debates about our nation’s future. That is why the Rudd Government is taking action and reaching directly to that level of government closest to the community.
And given the challenges presented by the global financial crisis, it’s never been more important to talk about the role of infrastructure in our response to this crisis, and its role in building the modern, productive economy Australia needs when this crisis is over.
At the outset can I welcome Kim Houghton, and thank him for agreeing to facilitate this discussion. And I also want to welcome our speakers Brian Howe and Clover Moore.
I am happy to keep my opening remarks pretty brief. This gathering is all about giving local communities a real voice in Australia’s future – so I want to do more listening than talking.
Today, our focus is on how our two levels of government can work together to make our major cities more liveable, productive and sustainable.
More than 13 million people currently live in Australia’s capital cities and by around the middle of this century, it will increase to almost 23 million. Think about that for a moment: that’s almost a doubling in population by 2050.
Obviously this growth will mean even more pressure is placed on our urban economic and social infrastructure. Housing. Roads. Transport – the movement of both people and goods. Water. Energy. Schools. Hospitals. Child care. And community infrastructure like sporting grounds and community halls.
Our major cities are home to so many million Australians. But they are also centres of major economic activity, and major transport hubs for rail, road, sea and air.
Most goods produced and consumed in our economy are transported at some stage through our cities, placing pressure on our fixed transport infrastructure.
Over the long-term, population growth, higher income levels and increased mobility will mean even greater demands are placed on our major cities.
This has important implications and challenges. Economic challenges. Environmental challenges. Social challenges.
No doubt we’ll touch on all these themes in the discussion.
Let me just say a couple of things about the issue of urban congestion.
Congestion has major economic impacts and affects the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our cities.
Now, one thing you may have picked up about the Rudd Government is that we’re obsessive about infrastructure and obsessive about nation building. That’s why we created Infrastructure Australia – to advise on our infrastructure gaps and bottlenecks.
And it’s why we have earmarked billions and billions of dollars for critical, essential, overdue nation building through the Health and Hospitals Fund, the Education Investment Fund, and the Building Australia Fund.
This represents a massive new investment in Australia’s productive capacity, and it will help leverage many more billions of dollars in private investment as well.
We’re excited about what we can do with these funds, in our major cities and right around the country – as part of the broader suite of policies that Anthony and the PM have already touched on in their remarks earlier on.
But enough from me. We’re here today to share views and ideas and really get the dialogue flowing. We’re here to be innovative. To think laterally. And to consider how we can improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of our major cities.
We’re not expected to come up with all the solutions in one morning. These are complex questions with important economic, environmental and social dimensions.
Today is a very good start.
And to help frame this session, we will have two short presentations from our speakers before opening up the floor for discussion.
Our purpose is to come up with three to five priority issues based on our theme to help inform the future work of the Australian Council of Local Governments.
Thanks again for being here.
Before I throw it open to discussion, I’ll hand over to our two speakers, Professor Howe and Lord Mayor Moore.