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2019 Federal Election

Catch Up with the Outer Suburbs: State of Play on getting 5 million to work, study or home on time

Australia’s population is booming and so are its outer suburbs. More than a third of our nation’s population growth from 2011-2016 occurred in the outer suburbs, where National Growth Areas Alliance councils are located. The rate of population growth in the outer suburbs is faster than any government planned or expected.

Every year, around 136,000 people move to new suburbs on the outskirts of our capital cities. And while families, houses, neighbourhoods, communities and local businesses are being built, vital supporting infrastructure is not.

Planning for Australia’s future population growth is important. But so is delivering infrastructure and services for the five million people who are already here as part of the population boom. Infrastructure has the capacity to transform our economies and communities. It is time for governments to Catch Up with the outer suburbs, and match the vitality and pace of growth in new communities.

Councils at the forefront of population growth have made three common sense recommendations this election year:

  1. Get 5 million people to work, study or home on time
  2. Create jobs where the workforce lives
  3. Build the facilities to build communities.

Impact of the outer suburbs on the Federal Election

The outer suburbs will play a critical role in deciding which party will form government. Through retirements, redistributions or simply being caught up in the tumult of the 45th Parliament, at least seven of the 31 growth area electorates will be very close contests on 18 May.

We argue that changing demographics have also impacted political leanings since the 2016 election, with significant shifts in some areas of not only population size but also cultural diversity, educational attainment, average income and employment status.

One significant change in the landscape over the last three years has been the major advancements in cities policy, most notably the proliferation of City Deals, the production of a cross-portfolio plan for future population growth, and the acknowledgment of the need for targeted and substantial investment in transport infrastructure, through the Urban Congestion Fund.

However there is a marked difference between the application of a policy during an election campaign and the subsequent three year cycle. Both the NGAA secretariat and our Member Councils now need to ensure that we present to both major parties a well-argued case for election commitments to our Members’ priority projects. Simultaneously, we all need to be preparing to work within evolving policy frameworks as soon as a new government is formed.

Highlighting the outer suburbs on the national agenda

One of NGAA’s main objectives since the 2016 election was to place growth areas firmly on the national agenda. The rhetoric and focus of both major parties in the 2019 election clearly show we have achieved that objective, with growth areas, outer suburbs, ‘catching up’ and ‘getting to work on time’ all widely articulated by the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Ministers and Shadow Ministers.

Below is our analysis of the first of our three election campaign priorities (transport, jobs and skills, community infrastructure) where NGAA members stand to benefit both in the short and long term.

Getting 5 million people to work, study or home on time.

Within the Government’s policy framework Planning for Australia’s future population, the Urban Congestion Fund and the City Deal model are two initiatives that directly impact NGAA Members and are a clear reflection of NGAA’s advocacy including on dedicated funding and cities policy.

NGAA welcomes a continued commitment to City Deals but would prefer a transparent approach to the selection process recipients. We also welcome the recommitment to the Urban Congestion Fund, but again feel its impact would be enhanced through a transparent process to prioritise spending in areas of greatest need.

We also welcome the Government’s position on managing growth and ensuring population growth supports liveability through new infrastructure and better services. This is vital for NGAA Members, who have received 35 per cent of population growth ( 2011-2016) and only 13 percent of the infrastructure spend.

Importantly, the Government has also acknowledged the role of skilled migrants to the Australian economy and will continue to ensure this is managed appropriately. NGAA supports policies that support increased engagement of migrants in communities and workforces.

The ALP policy platform also contains positive plans for collaborative governance and transport funding, including an intention to “strive for sustainability and equality in high growth outer urban areas with long-term plans to address these challenges.” It notes the “national government has a distinct responsibility in leading and coordinating urban development in a growing nation.”

The ALP would replace City Deals with City Partnerships and establish a Major Cities Unit within a boosted Infrastructure Australia, to enhance transparency and planning in the creation and funding of major infrastructure projects within City Partnerships. NGAA welcomes the ALP Platform’s specific mention of growth areas as a focus for intergovernmental collaboration and planning for productive, liveable and sustainable urban communities.

Whilst both parties have a strong commitment to cities policy and collaborative governance models such as City Deals and City Partnerships, the Outer Suburbs need a dedicated voice to inform the planning frameworks. NGAA calls on both parties to commit to an Outer Suburbs Reference Group to guide further urban policy development.

NGAA Policy Position

NGAA’s ‘Reform and Rebalance’ and ‘Connect Communities’ platforms are both positively impacted by the major parties’ current policies and funding, although gaps remain. We will continue to pursue these either through the Catch Up with the outer suburbs campaign or with the new government.

In particular, we will pursue priority consideration of growth areas for City Deals/City Partnerships, and specific transport projects identified by our members as having the capacity to get their residents to work, study or home on time.

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