Melbourne, most liveable but a tale of two cities

Melbourne, most liveable but a tale of two cities. By Andrew Giles MP.

Published in the Herald Sun on 21 August 2015.

THIS week the Economist Intelligence Unit - again crowned Melbourne as the world's most liveable city.

Like most Melburnians, I took some time to soak in this triumph; in particular, to make sure my colleagues from Sydney were aware of it.

But then, I reflected on what this really means. And for whom.

Let's remember The Economist's report is aimed at wealthy expats, who may well have very different expectations of what matters than working families, for example.

I'm deeply concerned that my home town is becoming two distinct urban communities.

A prosperous core, filled with jobs and social amenity, and a residual outer ring where people just don't get a fair share of Melbourne's opportunities.

And, while I'm excited by the possibilities of Melbourne's rapid growth, this also raises the risk of compounding this divide.

Especially as jobs are increasingly located in and around the CBD and affordable housing for first-home buyers is further and further away from there.

Australia's fastest-growing suburb, South Morang, is in the Scullin electorate.

The Andrews Government's extension of the train line will make a real difference here, but state and local governments can't do all the lifting to make Australia's major cities all that they should be.

A baby born this year in South Morang should grow up enjoying the same quality of life as one born next to the CBD.

But I'm not confident this will be the case.

And this isn't good enough. It's not fair.

If we are to meet this challenge we need a co-ordinated, national approach. Councils like the City of Whittlesea appreciate the sorts of infrastructure investment that are required to support growing communities, to ensure that they thrive.

And we have a State Government that appreciates the need to tackle head-on the choking congestion that hurts both productivity and the quality of family life.

But there's a missing piece in this puzzle. We live in the world's most urbanised nation, yet Australia under Tony Abbott has no national plan for our cities. He abolished the Major Cities Unit and refuses to fund public transport. He has nothing to say about the places in which four in five of us live, and where 80 per cent of our GDP is generated.

If Melbourne is to stay liveable, this must change.

On this issue, as on so many others, the Prime Minister is isolated. Elsewhere in the world, conservative leaders like David Cameron take cities seriously.

Here, our business leaders are crying out for national leadership, just like so many of the people I represent.

These calls aren't falling on deaf ears. Labor has a vision for the future of our cities.

A plan to support suburban jobs, to fund public transport as well as roads and to address housing affordability.

A plan to harness the opportunities of growth, to unlock productivity and release the pressures on busy lives in "drive-in, drive-out" suburbs.

In a Shorten Labor government, Anthony Albanese would be minister for cities - a strong voice for urban and suburban Australia at the Cabinet table.

And, because Anthony's a friend of mine, I can say this: in time, he might even be able to get Sydney into second place on the liveability rankings.

ANDREW GILES IS FEDERAL LABOR MEMBER FOR SCULLIN, VICTORIA


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