Source: Australian Financial Review Author: Robert Harley
Cities need a voice in government equivalent to their economic importance and contribution to the nation’s tax base, says the chief executive of the Committee for Sydney, Tim Williams .
“Australian cities are the real orphans of public policy,” Dr Williams told the National Growth Areas Alliance Congress in Adelaide on Thursday.
“They create most Australian wealth but their role is not recognised in Federal policy and their infrastructure is not a focus of the federal government’s funding plans. This has to change, in the national interest.”
The coming white papers on reform of the federation and on tax reform offer a chance to address the position.
Dr Williams said that with the end of the mining investment boom, the cities were once again the wealth-making engines of national growth.
“The time is right for a new program of infrastructure investment where most innovation in Australia in forward-looking, knowledge –driven sectors is actually taking place,” he said.
Australia’s five state capitals, and Canberra, contribute over 60 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product, and it is growing, with Sydney leading the way, according to analysis prepared for the Committee of Sydney by SGS Economics & Planning.
Dr Williams said 82 per cent of the tax gathered in Sydney went to the federal government but very little returned for infrastructure investment.
UNDERFUNDING THREATENS COMMUNITIES
“The federal government takes from the cities but on present plans, it will give little back as reinvestment in the wealth-making engines of national growth.
“It will not be co-investing with state governments in the public transport infrastructure of our cities – leaving our cities behind competing cities globally.
“The danger from this underfunding of our cities is not just that the nation will not be investing in the real engine of national economic success,” he said.
“It also means that much of the benefit of growth will be confined to areas and communities already well served by infrastructure.
“The social cohesion of our communities is at stake when city infrastructure is underfunded,” he said.
Dr Williams said many of the urban regions on the fringes of the cities, the areas covered by the National Growth Areas Alliance, had inadequate infrastructure investment, where it was needed for both economic growth and social cohesion.
Dr Williams said the federal government must stop thinking of infrastructure as roads between cities. The Abbott government should “start working with the state governments to identify and jointly fund key infrastructure in our cities,” he said.