Thought Leadership | Population and Infrastructure
Thought Leadership: Population and Infrastructure
Committee for Melbourne (the Committee) is looking forward to welcoming Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, for a special members address to be held at Deakin University’s city campus on Wednesday 14 August.
Following the Liberal Coalition Party’s success at the recent federal election, it is timely to hear from Minister Tudge whose decisions will have a significant influence in shaping Melbourne’s future.
As we prepare to welcome Minister Tudge, we wish to share the important policy priorities of the Committee that relate to the minister’s portfolio, and which we anticipate he will address in detail in his presentation; including population, and transport.
Australia’s population was built through immigration, and the country’s continued growth and prosperity must be underpinned by sustainable and sensible immigration into the future. Our national population has now topped 25 million people, with over 5 million people calling Melbourne home.
While immigration has fuelled Australia’s historical prosperity, the rapid rate of population growth over the last 10 years raises challenges and opportunities for cities like Melbourne and Sydney. Road and public transport congestion, housing supply, and affordability, and sustainable health and education systems are challenges that need to be addressed to accommodate this population growth.
Based on our current trajectory, Melbourne’s population will grow to 8 million people by mid-century. This requires critical thinking and planning to face these challenges and embrace the benefits that come from population growth. The Committee has outlined key strategic areas that must be addressed to accommodate population challenges, including integrated transport planning, ensuring digital capability, enhancing future skills of residents and greater collaboration across all levels of government.
Managing population growth continues to be an extremely important challenge, with varying policy proposals being considered. The Federal Government recently announced that permanent migration would be capped at 160,000 people for the next four years (from 190,000 currently). But population is not just a numbers game, it is also a question of quality and ensuring Australia has the talent it needs to build a successful 21st-century economy. The government has announced the Global Talent Independent Program which will establish a high-skilled migration stream to fast-track visas for 5000 skilled entrants with the aim of entrenching high-tech industries in Australia. In addition, officials from the Home Affairs department are traveling to destinations such as Boston, Singapore, Shanghai, and Dubai to attract talent in areas such as agricultural technology, fintech and quantum computing.
The Committee considers that any national visa policy needs to ensure that a sensible balance is struck so that Australia is able to continue to attract and retain talent into the future. As such, this new visa program is an important step towards encouraging highly skilled talent into Australia.
It is important for Australians to be talking about a sustainable and pragmatic settlement strategy for this growing population. This must include considerations relating to transport connectivity and housing and land supply.
We look forward to Minister Tudge discussing this important policy issue.
With great challenges come great opportunities, and one of the biggest opportunities for Melbourne is to design and implement a world-class, integrated transport system that efficiently moves people and freight around our city.
In our most recent member survey, an overwhelming 97 percent of members ranked an integrated transport system as the highest priority for Melbourne. With the city’s public transport system and roads under increasing pressure, there is an opportunity for all tiers of government, industry, the knowledge sector, and the community, to collaborate and find solutions to this most pressing issue.
This notion of a meaningful, collaborative partnership between the Victorian and Federal Governments is foreseeable and we have in fact started to see the benefits of closer engagement already. Thanks to the leadership shown by both of these Governments, the long-awaited and desperately-needed Melbourne Airport Rail Link now looks set to become a reality.
With a rail link to the airport having been debated, discussed, and deliberated for the best part of 60 years, Victorians can start to believe that the time has finally arrived with both Governments having committed $5 billion to the project. The Committee commends all involved for their commitment to this much-needed initiative.
Additional opportunities for collaboration appear to be on the horizon, with the Federal Government announcing its intention to implement two City Deal projects, one in Melbourne’s South East, and the other in the North West.
However, the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 released by Infrastructure Australia this week has shown that even with a forward pipeline of $200 billion planned spend on infrastructure, this is not enough to stem the tide of increasing congestion, rising energy bills, and pressure on our health and education systems, that comes from a rapidly growing population. In fact, there needs to be a “wave of reform and investment” in major projects, like energy, telecommunications, water and transport, for the next 15 years and beyond, with co-ordination from Federal and State Governments, if we have any hope of combatting these pressures on liveability.
We look forward to hearing more from Minister Tudge about anticipated transport projects, a response to the Infrastructure Australia report and the City Deal projects slated for Melbourne.
Australian East Coast Megaregion
In addition, the issues of population growth, as well as the need for transport solutions to solve some of our most pressing challenges, is closely linked with another one of the Committee’s key advocacy items; greater collaboration along Australia’ east coast, with the eventual formation of an Australian East Coast Megaregion.
Effective collaboration between the major cities, and regions, along Australia’s eastern seaboard, will boost our economic productivity and innovative capacity, enabling us to better compete in international markets. Other key benefits include population dispersion to relieve congested cities, regional activation, housing affordability, economic growth, job creation, and improved liveability.
With innovation being the key to our future well-being, we must foster an environment that encourages innovation. For example, collaborative precincts enable people and ideas to collide, and value to be generated. Therefore, creating a framework for increased collaboration is an important step towards fostering a competitive economic environment and greater innovation.
These days, when multinationals are looking to invest, megaregions are increasingly attractive. A greater range of economic activities, distributed across a network of neighbouring cities rather than focused on individual cities, has allowed firms located in megaregions to capture a larger share of global value chains.
Closer integration along our east coast will boost productivity, economic output, and the ability for Australia to remain a magnet for top talent and jobs. Ask any major international investor if they would benefit from investing in an integrated Australian East Coast Megaregion containing over 20 million workers and consumers, you know what their answer would be.
Infrastructure is just one requirement for establishing an Australian East Coast Megaregion. There are many areas of collaboration and integration that are required such as regulatory harmonisation, digital capability, and transport connectivity. However, fast, land-based transport infrastructure is a fundamental step towards underpinning east coast connectivity. High-speed rail at the very least must be thoroughly considered, along with determining options for securing the land corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane.
We look forward to hearing Minister Tudge’s thoughts on infrastructure connectivity options along the east coast and any prospects for high-speed rail.