Smart Cities Expo World Forum Address, Sydney, release of Smart Cities and Suburbs draft guidelines

Release Date: 
13 December 2016

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.

City Deals – Smart Policy

Let me start with Smart Policy.

Part of our approach to policy in this area is a mechanism that was first used in the UK in 2011, called City Deals.

And a City Deal is a very simple idea.

It is that Federal, State and Local government should collaborate, align behind a set of objectives for a city, and that we should, arm in arm, go out and say to that city, there are no excuses now, we can’t all point the finger at each other and say no that’s the local government’s problem or that’s the state government’s problem. We are here to meet those objectives.

And that’s what we’re seeking to do in City Deals and it’s what the UK has been seeking to do in City Deals for a number of years.

Most importantly their aim is to secure investment and reform across governments, the three levels of government in Australia, the private sector and the community and by doing that we’re cutting across the silos we normally see in our cities. That really means looking at the city as a whole, looking at the way we spend money, the way we drive programs and re-casting that for the needs of that individual city.

We announced during the election campaign that we’d pursue initially three, one in Townsville, one in Launceston and one in Western Sydney – and harking back to my earlier comments, two regional cities and one outer suburban.

The first of those was completed last week for Townsville and I’m very pleased to say we now have a City Deal in place and if you want to see it you can go on and see it on the Department  of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s website. It gives you a very strong sense of what we are trying to achieve in this area. It was signed by the Premier, the mayor of Townsville and the Prime Minister last week and it really is an attempt to get every aspect of all three levels of government aligned behind a set of objectives for Townsville.

Top of the list is jobs. In regional cities it is jobs, jobs and more jobs and in Townsville, we see through that City Deal, a very strong focus in the short term on construction jobs, renewal of the city centre around the riverfront there and also renewal of the industrial area out around the port and railway industrial zones. Those two construction projects are incredibly important.

And for longer term jobs, medium term jobs, we will see them in tourism, education and in defence. Government of course plays a huge role in Townsville in defence. So that alignment across the three levels of government has worked and if you speak to the Deputy Premier who led the work from the Queensland Government’s side, or the Mayor, there is no doubt that all of us were surprised at how effective it was to actually start alignment behind the interests of this great city of 180 thousand people, Townsville.

So that’s the first of our Deals and we’re very proud of what we’ve been able to get to there and where that is taking us. The second is Launceston and I was there yesterday. This is a city with enormous potential. It’s northern Tasmania’s largest city and a key services hub for norther Tasmania. It has a strong focus on tourism, agriculture and forestry and increasingly on education as well.

In fact it poses a number of challenges but the heart of the City Deal is turning Launceston into a genuine university town. One of the things that we forget is that some of the greatest universities in the world are regional universities. This is often lost on Australians and I say if you want to transform a regional city, one of the best ways to do it, is to turn it into a university town.

I was lucky enough to live for a couple of years and study in one of the great university towns in the UK, which was Oxford and of course, not in a capital city.

We haven’t got that tradition in this country but it’s time I think to change it and that’s exactly what we’re seeking to do in Launceston and while doing that we’ll be revitalising the CBD and creating conditions for lasting jobs and growth through industry led skills development. So again, a regional city and one where we see enormous potential.

And then the third and probably the biggest we’re working on at the moment is the Western Sydney City Deal. Some of you will have seen press in the last day or so about Western Sydney Airport. We see this as an opportunity to create a city in its own right. The idea that Sydney can continue to be a city where people work in the east, and live in many cases in the west, is not sustainable and anyone who drives from west to east in the morning or east to west in the afternoon, the squinters as many people like to call us because we’re always driving into the sun, anyone who does that on a regular basis will understand at how desperate the need is to transform the way Sydney works and in particular create Western Sydney as a city in its own right where we don’t have 300 thousand people leaving every day to get to work - and so the Western Sydney Airport is an absolutely crucial initiative. Around it, jobs, infrastructure, skill development, universities and so on are absolutely central.

We’ve negotiated one City Deal and two are on the way and more are to come. For regional cities it will be a contestable process and for capital cities we will work our way progressively through the capital cities across the country.

Now building on the engagement we’ve had on this to date, I’ll be establishing a number of smart policy initiatives in the new year and one of these is a Cities reference Group and this will draw participants from academia, industry groups, NGOs, experts in cities and urban issues and really there to advise us on our cities policy in coming years, to shape the policy and also to shape the way we measure performance in our cities and this  is a big focus for me.

We announced just last week we will be putting in place a National Cities Performance Framework which will help guide our City Deals and help guide our cities policy more generally. So this is measuring the things that really matter, economic, social and environmental, in our cities and we’ll be asking our Cities Reference Panel to support is in that work.

Smart Investment

Now the second pillar of the Smart Cities Plan is Smart Investment and if we’re to achieve what we want with our cities, if we are to create the high income great jobs, the access to jobs and services, the amenity, the liveability, the sustainability we all want for our cities, that requires investment. And let’s be frank, in Australia we have underinvestment in our cities in recent years, on any measure, and I would argue across most of the western world, we’ve under-invested in our cities.

But we’re coming to that recognition at exactly the time when our budget is stretched more than ever before. And so how do we resolve that?

The answer is we have to find smart ways of financing investment in our cities and that is what we are doing through the establishment of an Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department. We also announced during the election campaign, a Sustainable Cities Fund, with investment that will come from the Clean Energy Financing Corporation, $100 million a year, but on top of that the Infrastructure Financing Unit will provide finance and investment in our cities to try and close that gap we have between the needs of our cities and the ability of our Budget to achieve that.

Because those investments will be on balance sheet, but off Budget.

Now the idea that Government should invest, not just give out grants, is one that the Prime Minister is particularly passionate about. He talks regularly about the importance of not being an automatic teller machine for the states. In many ways the way cities policy has been done by governments in the past, including the last Labor Federal Government, is that the states get upset about something and they treat us like an automatic teller machine, when things get desperate they come and ask us for money.

Well, by establishing an Infrastructure Financing Unit, we can say no, we actually want to invest in our cities not just hand out grants. We’re changing the way we engage with the states and local government for that matter in our cities. So that’s the second limb of our Plan and it’s extremely important and all of that requires much better planning and the truth is I see a lot of plans for projects in our cities - but are they investable, bankable plans for our cities and the answer is no.

So we’ve allocated $50 million to improve business planning for our cities

Smart Technology

Now let me move in to the third pillar and one I know many of you will be interested in, which is Smart Technology and I’ve been a believer throughout my career that technology is a great gift because it can enable us to do more with less and as I said about the great challenge we’re all facing as governments is that we just don’t have the money we once had. That means technology, that can do more with less, is absolutely crucial to delivering what we need to for our cities. I am seeing very rapid improvements, change, in the way technology is being deployed in our cities and I’m sure many of you are seeing those changes as well.

We’re seeing cities using smart poles, Wi-Fi, sensor networks and data analytics to improve service delivery, use of infrastructure, citizen engagement which I think is one we need to focus much more on, and safety.

We’re witnessing the rise of autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, the sharing economy, intelligent urban precincts, and smart buildings.

And all of these things are being enabled by modern technologies.

All this and we are really only just starting to realise the full potential of smart technology.

So to accelerate the transformation, earlier this year I joined the Prime Minister in announcing a $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

The program’s designed to deliver our commitment to provide innovative technologies to those really tough urban problems that we’re all trying to solve.

Now we’ve held a number of roundtables, we’ve had about 550 people contributing to those roundtables, to try and design this program in a way which is going to deliver maximum impact for that Federal investment of $50 million and today I am pleased to announce the release of the draft Smart Cities and Suburbs Program guidelines for public comment.

You can find these on our Cities website, through the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and I strongly encourage any of you who are interested in this program to put forward your views to make sure this is a program that’s really going to hit the mark.

As  said, it will support collaborative tech projects but we want projects which involve local governments, industry, not for profit organisations and research organisations. It’s those collaborations we’re looking for. We think that’s where we’re going to get bang for our buck. We don’t want back office technology projects, we want projects where the application is occurring from day one. We want local councils to actually use technologies, use new ideas, to get impact from day one and by proving up these projects in one region we are looking from there to get a rollout and application across the country.

Ultimately we are looking for projects that will improve the lives of citizens and we need to remember always that this is about people, it’s very easy to lose sight of that. A city can have all of the technology in the world, but if it doesn’t meet the needs of citizens—if it doesn’t help deliver the types of services or information they use in everyday life—then it can become no more than an expensive diversion. And that is central to our thinking about this program.

To my mind, smart technology uses data to help citizens and local governments make better decisions and better use public assets, services, resources and spaces.

It would be unfair I think to expect local governments to create Smart Cities all by themselves. We have for the most part pretty small councils here in Australia, they’re bigger in Queensland, and they vary across different states but let’s face it for the most part they’re not big.

And so it is crucial we have private sector services to help us and work across towns across Australia on new technologies, new ideas, new innovations, to make our cities work better for the good of the citizens.

Now, the advantage we see in this collaborative approach where we have service providers, NGOs, private sector players, working with councils, is twofold.

Firstly, we can leverage investment, and we’ve seen in other countries, like the US, the power of this.

Earlier this year, the city of Columbus, in Ohio was named the winner of the $40 million US Smart Cities Challenge.

The city has leveraged more than $100 million in private resources as part of that program. By getting a relatively small investment up front they’ve been able to leverage a range of private  sector resources and we think the collaboration we’re looking for in this program will help us to do that.

But secondly, as I’ve already said, we want to see good ideas spreading quickly across council boundaries.

We also see that it’s important that we help incubate these projects. I’ve been involved with technology all of my career and some things work better than others and all new ideas need some form of incubation, so the program will provide local governments which are new to smart technology the opportunity to access expertise, build capability, establish partnerships and develop innovative proposals.

The consultation on this program will run until 20 January 2017. It is the holiday period but we’re all excited by technology so I’m sure we’ll get lots of good input and I know there are many in this room seeking to provide that input.

We look forward to formally launching the program early next year.

So thank you for having me here today.

This is a big project for the Federal Government, it’s an important project, as I say it is one that is close to the Prime Minister’s heart and is being driven from his Department.

I think the Federal Government has a very significant role to play in delivering great cities for this country. It will be a very strong focus for the Government in 2017 and we really look forward to working with you on that in the course of the next 12 months and beyond.

Thank you.