Smart Cities Expo World Forum Address, Sydney, release of Smart Cities and Suburbs draft guidelines by The Hon. Angus Taylor MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, with responsibility for cities and digital transformation. Federal Member for Hume.
Good Morning and thank you – Dr. Yasar
I’m pleased to be able to talk to you today about the Australian Government’s Smart Cities agenda as a policy area, recognising the Federal Government doesn’t do planning but the Federal Government has very significant roles in our cities and so this has been a first and what I thought I’d do today is just spend a bit of time talking about our policy and in particular I’ll spend a moment towards the end focusing on a program that we’d love people like you to be involved in. It’s a well-funded program and one that I think many in this room have the potential to participate in.
I may be biased but I do think this is one of the portfolio areas where we’re pushing harder than almost any other.
Some of the things I’ll describe today that we’ve achieved in the last six months or achieving I think are very significant for Australia and have the potential to have impact both in the short term and the much longer term.
Now I don’t need to tell anyone in the room about the importance of cities. You all know that. I do want to say that I think we underemphasise it in Australia, not just in terms of our capital cities but in terms of our regional cities. You only have to look at the geography of politics in the western world to see the role that cities play.
When I look at the Brexit result or the Trump result or even the Federal election result, I can see the pattern. As a politician I see the pattern which goes right back not just to the politics, but to the underlying economics and cultural issues that are going on in our cities and as someone who represents suburban areas and regional cities I see this every day. Our cities are changing dramatically and we need to adapt our policy with it.
There is no doubt in my mind that we are continuing to see rapid growth in high income jobs in our CBDs, particularly our capital city CBDS like this one and Melbourne. But our outer suburbs and our regional cities are not participating in the same way and much of what you’ll see in what we are doing in cities policy is addressing exactly these issues.
We do think it’s important to keep our CBDs, our capital city growth centres which are typically in the centre of our cities, growing, that’s incredibly important but we need to make sure our regional cities and our outer suburban areas are also part of it
Now when we announced our Smart Cities Plan back in April we said there were three parts to our Plan – the first was Smart Policy, the second Smart investment and the third Smart Technology – and I’ll spend a little bit of time on each of those.
Australia overhauls federal infra funding
The federal government will consider funding Western Sydney Airport’s rail connection via a newly created infrastructure unit.
Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor told InfraAsia that a new method of funding developed under its Smart Cities’ policy would move away from grants and could be applied to pay for the rail line being built as part of Sydney’s second airport.
Partnerships between governments and the business sector were seen as critical to bolster transport, urban planning and the roll out of new technologies, in submissions to the Smart Cities’ plan published today.
Local governments and community groups broadly welcomed the initiative – first outlined in April – but called for better coordination across three tiers of government.
Assistant Minister Taylor said the Smart Cities policies would allow cities to incorporate technologies including autonomous vehicles and the internet of things.
“We are really only starting to understand the potential of these technologies in our cities,” he told an industry forum in Sydney today.
To be finalised in March 2017, the Smart Cities initiative would have local governments partnering with business or community groups to roll out “smart” initiatives such as street lighting, waste collections with sensors or real time transport updates.
A cornerstone of the plan is the AUD 50m (USD 37.3m) infrastructure financing unit overseen by the Prime Minister’s department that will invest directly in road and public transport projects.
Assistant Minister Taylor said the government did not simply want to continue handing out the AUD 5bn to 10bn a year in grant funding as it had been doing, but wanted to measure the returns of money it invested in projects.
“Traditionally what you did with infrastructure is you handed the money over – there was no return required and the state government and the developers around that infrastructure were deliriously happy. We can’t afford to do that and our infrastructure needs are too great,” he told InfraAsia on the sidelines of the forum.
The federal government is looking for ways to fund infrastructure that stays off its balance sheet – such as the AUD 2bn concessional loan is has put forward for the WestConnex motorway in Sydney.
The Cross River Rail project in Queensland is another potential candidate for this type of funding, Taylor said, confirming the government had already spent some of the AUD 50m to assess the business case.
Asst Minister Taylor said a proposed rail line to the Western Sydney Airport at Badgery’s Creek, which will not open until the mid2020s, could also be funded this way.
The Smart Cities’ plan has three pillars – Smart Investment, Smart Policy and Smart Technology. Under the plan infrastructure is treated as a longterm investment, not a grant and will draw on innovative financing approaches such as value capture, the plan stated.
Progress on the Smart Cities’ plan followed the signing of the first City Deal on Friday (9 December) between the federal government, Queensland and the City of Townsville.
The 15year plan will foster development in the northern regional town, helping it rebuild old industrial areas around the port and replace its ageing football stadium.
A newly created Townsville Development Corporation will oversee the plan and the council will contribute land along the waterfront for urban renewal. The federal government will contribute AUD 100m while the state government will provide AUD 140m.
Assistant Minister Taylor said he was confident that the stadium – for which his government has set aside AUD 100m – will be “fully funded” but did not reveal whether this would involve the private sector.
Forthcoming City Deals will be signed with Launceston in Tasmania and Western Sydney, as the government announced earlier this year.
The government will roll the feedback it has received into the final Smart Cities’ plan to be released in March 2017.
Taking place at Oman Convention Center between 28th & 29th of March 2017, under the theme “Empowering Smart Nation” the event will focus on what defines a smart city as well as explore how to adapt the concept to best meet the unique needs for each city. Speakers will include thought leaders from Oman and experts presenting case studies from around the world. For more information, visit www.smartcityoman.com