Malcolm Turnbull has ushered in a new and reshuffled cabinet following his appointment as the new Prime Minister of Australia.  One particular position has caught the attention of Collie, with Jamie Briggs being appointed to the new role of the Minister for Cities and the Built Environment.  In his speech announcing the new ministry, Turnbull stated, in respect of Cities and the Built Environment:

Liveable, vibrant cities are absolutely critical to our prosperity.  Historically the Federal Government has had a limited engagement with cities and yet that is where most Australians live, it is where the bulk of our economic growth can be found.

We often overlook the fact that liveable cities, efficient, productive cities, the environment of cities, are economic assets.  You know, making sure that Australia is a wonderful place to live in, that our cities and indeed our regional centres are wonderful places to live, is an absolutely key priority of every level of Government.  Because the most valuable capital in the world today is not financial capital, there’s plenty of that and it’s very mobile.

The most valuable capital today is human capital.  Men and women like ourselves who can choose to live anywhere.  We have to ensure for our prosperity, for our future, for our competitiveness, that every level of Government works together, constructively and creatively to ensure that our cities progress.  That Federal funding of infrastructure in cities for example is tied to outcomes that will promote housing affordability.

Integration is critical.  We shouldn’t be discriminating between one form of transit and another.  There is no — roads are not better than mass transit or vice versa, each of them has their place.  Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits.  There is no place for ideology here at all.  The critical thing is to ensure that we get the best outcome in our cities.

Now of course, we have a Minister for Regional Development and the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, but cities have been overlooked, I believe, historically from the Federal perspective.  So within the Ministry of Environment, I’m appointing the Honourable Jamie Briggs MP to be the Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, to work with Greg Hunt, the Environment Minister, to develop a new Australian Government agenda for our cities in cooperation with States, Local Governments and urban communities“.

Whilst we welcome the Federal Government acknowledging the important role that cities play in our nation, this new portfolio is yet to be defined in terms of its specific role.  Some immediate questions that spring to mind include:

  • will the Minister for Cities and the Built Environment be able to significantly influence urban policy – given that the majority of planning and development policy is generally controlled by State and Local Governments?
  • what will it mean for infrastructure funding – this is a particular point of interest for example, given that new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is well known for his support of public transport, which is in stark contrast to Tony Abbott who preferred funding road projects?
  • will the government now actively seek to engage in urban planning and development issues or will this new Minister simply oversee and produce reports on the status of our cities?

It will be interesting to see what impact (if any) appointing a new Minister for Cities and the Built Environment will have on urban planning and development in Melbourne and across the nation.  However, given that Prime Minister Turnbull specifically highlighted the importance of Australian cities with regards to population and economic growth, in his changes to the Ministry speech, perhaps we might see a Turnbull led federal government that actively engages in important urban issues or at least provides indirect influence, ideas and support.