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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7121


Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (12:45): Australia is unquestionably in its first urban century, and our future will be defined by our cities. Like the rest of the world, Australian cities are not only the engines of our economies but also the source of innovation, new technology and, dare I say it, social progress. Cities, not countries, now compete for investment and attention. With over 100 cities in China having more than one million people, Australia's cities must act in a nimble, coordinated way to survive and prosper, leveraging off our competitive advantages and developing a strong brand to attract people, investment and visitors.

Putting our cities on a trajectory to long-term success requires building a dynamic economic base, one that doesn't rely upon single industries; economies that are able to grow and can adapt to changing global market conditions. This is why this government, the Turnbull government, appointed the first ever minister for cities, and why the Turnbull government recently released its Smart Cities Plan, the first comprehensive plan which places a renewed focus on our cities and enables our urban centres, whatever their size, to realise their full potential.

The coalition's Smart Cities policy starts with a commitment from all levels of government—the private sector and the community—to work together to deliver common goals, including reforms that make our cities easier to invest and do business in. It provides a pathway for all levels of government to capitalise on revolutionising our inner cities and take advantage of the unprecedented pace of technological progress that can make our cities more prosperous and stable. Key to this is the City Deals program, which is a partnership between the Australian government, a state or territory government and local government, which aims to make our cities better places to live and, critically, better places to do business. By bringing together all levels of government, the private sector and the community, City Deals provides a coordinated investment plan for our cities, all of our cities, including those in regional Australia.

The government has already signed deals for Townsville and Launceston, and is working on a city deal for Western Sydney. The Townsville city deal is a 15-year commitment between three levels of government which will deliver more than 16 individual commitments, including the North Queensland stadium, which will support over 750 design and construction jobs and Indigenous employment opportunities, and maximise local procurement. The deal will also establish the Townsville Development Corporation to develop urban renewal and drive further investment across the city, refine the business case and identify funding and financing options for a new entertainment centre and enhance Townsville as a major port city, working with the Port of Townsville to build trade and export growth.

The Launceston city deal will include the $260 million relocation and redevelopment of the University of Tasmania's main Launceston campus to Inveresk, which is the largest single infrastructure investment in Launceston's long history. The local community is expected to benefit from the increase in economic output to the tune of $362 million per annum over 10 years. During the construction phase, it is estimated that the direct and indirect economic impact will total $965 million. An impressive 2,760 new jobs are likely to be created as a result, with 430 of those new jobs being directly related to the construction industry. The potential for student participation is also significant. There is capacity by 2030 for 10,000 students to be engaged and, of those, 1,500 will be international students. The university campus will eventually be able to house 16,000 students, researchers and staff. Complementing the university campus redevelopment is a $19.4 million investment in the city heart project. This will enliven Launceston's historic CBD and create a competitive, vibrant and compelling city centre for locals and visitors.

Our economic success, our urban and national identity, our physical and social health, our environmental future and more, all depend on how well our cities perform. Ensuring that these investments and many other needed initiatives are focused smartly, within a better understanding of what cities truly need, requires not only strong leadership at a federal level but also strong leadership at a community level. People listening in to the broadcast might find it a bit peculiar that a West Australian Liberal senator is talking about Launceston or Queensland or Western Sydney. This brings me to my core point about why City Deals and Smart Cities are so important, not just to my home town of Perth but also to my home state of Western Australia.

Nowhere is this truer than in my home state of Western Australia, where the economy is transitioning from the mining and investment boom, which saw unprecedented growth and much-needed investment in rural and regional communities, to more high-tech and knowledge-based industries centred in urban environments. Like many cities, Perth is at a crossroads. After a historic boom, WA's capital city is under pressure. Despite a rush of development and major projects, there is now an overwhelming sense of a vacuum, with no clear vision or focus on how the city can or should move forward. Perth's inner-city population has surged in recent years. However, it is surging from a relatively low base. The area still has densities that are low on a national and international scale.

For those residents already living in central or inner-city Perth, some core essential facilities and services are still missing. On some measures, new residents in greenfield areas have better access to facilities and services than those living in inner-city Perth. New suburbs, for example, are provided with well-appointed parks and facilities, while city residents are not receiving the same investment in new or existing spaces. While Perth's inhabitants are sparsely populated compared to some in other regions across our country, they have traditionally been spread out over a larger area. Changing demographics and community attitudes, however, are increasing demand for high-density living around Perth's suburbs. Younger people, for instance, are looking for greater or more diverse housing choices. The biggest challenge Perth faces is finding the right balance between infill development and urban sprawl and the increasing cost of congestion. More than 30 per cent of residents in the Greater Perth area travel more than half an hour to or from work each day—the fourth-worst performance of Australia's 21 biggest cities. Some commuters spend 600 hours a year in the car—the same amount of time it would take to walk to Adelaide.

In July, I was pleased to host Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor during his visit to Perth. It was during this visit that he announced that the Commonwealth was eager to progress the City Deal with WA as soon as possible, and offered access to billions of dollars in earmarked funding if the state government signed up to this important, historic agreement. A City Deal with Perth would be the fourth signed by the federal government and the first for a capital city. Funding for the new agreement will come from the $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility, the $10 billion rail infrastructure fund and the $1.6 billion already allocated to WA rail and road projects. It will address the issue of traffic congestion by generating precincts around train stations. It will promote investment attraction and employment through reduced big regulation, investment in skills and the removal of barriers to employment, including a focus on youth and Indigenous employment. It will improve housing affordability through support for increased supply and housing diversity, including improvements to planning and zoning regulations and higher density developments in appropriate locations. It will improve environmental and liveability outcomes, including streamlined and coordinated biodiversity conservation, and support for clean air, green spaces, and vibrant arts and cultural experiences. It will improve coordination between governments to deliver regulatory reforms that better integrate infrastructure, land-use, housing and environmental planning decisions to facilitate government. But most importantly, a City Deal will ensure better urban outcomes for Perth residents.

I'm excited. I'm hopeful that a City Deals opportunity for Perth, Western Australia, will enliven community initiatives like the Future Bayswater project, leading those civil society groups in Perth's inner suburbs and outer suburbs to find local solutions to local problems. I have every confidence that the federal government's City Deals initiative, if landed on Perth, will provide a fantastic new life for that great city of Perth in Western Australia.