It’s wonderful to join you today to carry on a conversation I’ve been having with the NGAA ever since I was first elected.
Our growth areas have borne the brunt of the health impacts of the pandemic- 7 of the 10 local government areas with the highest caseloads across the country are NGAA members.
These are the places where most essential workers live - the people who’ve kept us going these past 18 months.
They also saw some of the most dramatic social and economic changes too- bottlenecks into and out of growth areas clearing as people worked from home during lockdowns, families exploring the parks and neighbourhoods within 5km of their homes, and some making the decision to move further out of their city, or to regional areas, to access more space both in and around their homes.
The forced disruption to the way we live has revealed new opportunities for our suburbs to thrive.
Working from home will continue to be attractive to many - offering the chance to avoid spending hours in traffic on a daily commute.
It’ll offer the opportunity for local businesses to thrive too, as people spend more time in their own communities.
But the pandemic has also confirmed and magnified the pressures on our growth areas.
Last year the number of new housing lots sold in some areas tripled- without matched investment in transport or social infrastructure.
Long term shifts to working from home could see congestion worsen within local streets, with few or no public transport options for those looking to move around our cities, not just into their CBDs.
Both the challenges and opportunities presented require, and deserve, the attention of our national government.
But instead of listening to those closest to local communities- local government- the Morrison Government excluded them from National Cabinet.
Nor has the Government shown an interest in allowing local governments meaningful involvement in the creation or operation of City Deals.
The scope of a number of existing City Deals fail to recognise the importance of our suburbs in the functioning of our cities, and leave relevant local government areas out altogether.
Like the exclusion of Blacktown City Council from the Western Sydney City Deal.
Or the most recently signed City Deal, Perth, where all of the projects are contained within the City of Perth or just outside its boundary.
Nowhere is Mr Morrison’s lack of interest in the liveability of growth areas clearer than his Government’s Commuter Car Parks Fund.
Supporting commuter car parking is crucial for tackling the last mile transport challenge- especially in new and growing suburbs.
But of the car parks promised at the last election, only one third were in a growth area.
The rest were in inner-suburban, established suburbs, where many commuters live within walking distance to the station - and overwhelmingly in Government or marginal seats.
Last week it was revealed at a Senate Inquiry that the selection process used to allocate these car parks, a process slammed by the Auditor-General and suggested by eminent jurists as potentially amounting to corrupt conduct, could extend to the entire Urban Congestion Fund.
That's potentially $4.8 billion worth of projects allocated without a strategy to identify worthy projects, without genuine consultation with experts, local or state governments and without proper governance or implementation mechanisms.
The Morrison Government’s dependence on making decisions solely on the politics, not the evidence, has time and time again resulted in under-investing and under-delivering on infrastructure in growth areas.
Already, we can see the Government failing to recognise the particular opportunities and challenges faced by growth areas as they prepare for the next election.
Mr Morrison’s Future Fuel Strategy, announced last week, provides nothing to ensure or incentivise the equitable delivery of electric vehicle infrastructure across our cities.
In the first round of the Future Fuels Fund, funding for public charging sites were concentrated in the inner suburbs of cities or in regional centres- overlooking the economic and environmental opportunity in providing this infrastructure in growth areas.
Of course, to realise these opportunities electric vehicles need to be made more affordable - something the Morrison Government has made clear it is unwilling to do.
I’ve discussed the importance of supporting strong EV take up in our suburbs with our Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen.
As an outer-suburban representative himself and a former mayor, he understands the importance of getting this right.
As we look to build back better from the pandemic, we need mechanisms at a national level to support investment across our cities.
Growth areas account for more than 10 percent of our GDP, and will be a significant contributor to our economic recovery - if they are not held back.
A fair deal for the one in five Australians living in growth areas starts with listening to them.
And requires a government that makes decisions based on evidence, not elections.
That’s our approach.
Earlier this year, Anthony Albanese outlined Labor’s vision for cities and for urban policy.
With a plan to address the fractured responsibilities for cities - within governments, and between government, the community and the private sector.
Our cities have the capacity to be the home of twenty minute neighbourhoods- providing people the opportunity to meet most of their needs locally, and creating healthy, liveable local communities.
The rise of hybrid work makes this a critical opportunity, which Labor is determined to help communities seize.
Labor will establish a Cities and Suburbs Unit - note the name! - within Infrastructure Australia.
This new Unit will make recommendations to Government on the design of a new National Urban Policy framework, informed by expert evidence and community input.
They will also release an annual State of the Cities report- to measure the progress and performance both across and within cities.
Additionally, we will bring together a renewed Urban Policy Forum to complement the Unit.
The Forum will bring together experts from across all levels of government as well as industry and academia, to make sure we get the long term policy-settings right.
Given the importance of our suburbs to the success of our cities, the voices of growth areas will be heard, and valued, in the Forum.
This fixes a missing link, which has been preventing a dialogue with the Commonwealth around the planning of our cities, and denying the possibilities of effective collaboration to grow and rebalance our urban economies.
We have a once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild our cities for the better.
And we can’t allow this opportunity to be wasted.
An Albanese Labor Government won’t.