This week’s capitulation – that’s what it is – by communications minister Paul Fletcher sets us on a course that hopefully will see Australia start moving in the right direction again as we head further into a digitally-enabled future. It’s a welcomed move, but we’d be wise to take a close look at the detail in his National Press Club address before getting too excited.
Australia’s Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is right. In his latest vision speech he pointed to the benefits of decentralisation. It’s time we stopped cramming more and more people into already overcrowded cities. It’s predicted that pretty soon 90 percent of all Australians will live in our sprawling capitals. But does that really make sense?
The current health crisis has seen people forced to work from home. We’ve discovered that with modern technology we don’t all need to gather in CBD offices. It’s likely home working will continue when we emerge from the threat of the coronavirus.
Back in January I wrote about my disappointing time at the helm of the Australian Smart Communities Association. Since then all the Annual Reports have been taken down from the ASCA website. This happened only days after I’d asked for a copy of the latest report, having noticed that it had not been posted on the website along with all the others.
When I inquired about the return of these reports I was informed that they had been removed as part of a major website upgrade. While I couldn’t quite understand the logic of the argument (no other changes have been made to the site) I nevertheless accepted it and repeated my request for a copy of the latest Annual Report. Despite numerous subsequent requests I still have not received one.
There are numerous regional centres across Australia crying out for economic development and keen to encourage businesses and the people they employ to move there, voluntarily of course. Both would benefit from a lower cost of living, cheaper housing and so on.
It’s not about how many people live in our country, or where they come from we should be thinking about. It’s where we’ll all live in the future that matters. And it’s about how we leverage modern technologies to make living outside a handful of overcrowded and increasingly dysfunctional capital cities more viable.
Australia has roughly the same land mass as the United States yet a fraction of the population. Despite accommodating 300-plus million people only a handful of American cities are anywhere near the size of greater Sydney or Melbourne.
Government agencies all argue immigration creates economic growth. So it’s not about how many of us there are, it’s about where we all live.
In The Fifth Estate’s report on the conference, it said: “By 2053, about 89 per cent of all Australians are expected to live in capital cities. As more and more people enter these cities, residents are becoming increasingly concerned with impacts on liveability”.
One of the solutions proposed was to build more public transport systems within cities, and specifically in the case of Sydney to continue the current trend for building new metros.