Budget 2011–12: Urban infrastructure and transport safety
Matthew L James
The Federal Government used the Budget to release ‘Our Cities, Our Future—A National Urban Policy for a productive, sustainable and liveable future’. This ministerial statement by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, outlined the Government’s objective and directions for Australia’s metropolitan areas, and noted the uniqueness of the urban initiative.
It recognises the critical roles of State, Territory and local governments, the private sector and individuals, in planning, managing and investing in cities. This is the first time that an Australian Government has sought to outline its overarching goals for the nation’s cities and how we will play a role in making them more productive, sustainable and liveable.
The Budget allocated $20 million over two years, for planning, feasibility assessment, design and/or capital works projects to improve the quality of life in capital cities, outer suburbs and major regional areas under the ‘Sustainable Communities–Liveable Cities’ program. The objectives of the program are to invest in the development of major urban renewal projects with improved access to jobs and housing, and to improve the urban design of public spaces and streetscapes. Examples might include planning for transit-oriented design, improved housing services access, or cycle-ways.
Under the Sustainability, Environment , Water, Population and Communities portfolio, a separate ‘Suburban Jobs’ $100 million initiative (over four years) will assist state and local governments to plan and provide greater employment opportunities in the outer suburbs of metropolitan areas.,
Infrastructure Australia received an extra $36 million over four years to enhance its capability assessment and financial advisory activities. An increase in funding will enable Infrastructure Australia to encourage private sector involvement in nationally significant infrastructure. The Government also announced in the Budget a statement of expectations for Infrastructure Australia and three new members to its governing council of twelve, plus an infrastructure investment incentive measure.
A further $61.4 million commitment over three years was made to a national smart managed motorway trial, involving anti-congestion initiatives in major cities. An initial set of projects eligible for funding have been identified in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. All projects will be jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the relevant jurisdiction; funding will also be subject to state and territory governments signing National Partnership Agreements.
With such new Federal metropolitan initiatives, the Lord Mayors of Australia’s capital cities welcomed the overall $180 million investment in our cities as a down payment towards delivering more productive, sustainable and liveable metropolitan areas. However, they were awaiting the release of an Australian Government National Urban Policy and Sustainable Population Strategy, which occurred just after the Budget, on 13 May 2011.
Subsequently on 18 May 2011, the Government released its ‘National Urban Policy - Our Cities, Our Future’ which it described as a long-term blueprint for making the nation's eighteen biggest cities. As well, on 13 May 2011 the Government released its population strategy ‘Sustainable Australia - Sustainable Communities, A Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia’.
Special note should be made of a one-off Centenary of Canberra grant to the ACT of $42 million for the redevelopment of Constitution Avenue, an urban renewal project through Civic to Campbell. However, there is some dispute as to whether this is a re-allocation of existing committed funds.
National safety regulation and airports
The 2011-12 Budget provided $25.2 million over two years to establish national regulators for heavy vehicles, rail safety and maritime safety activities. Of this $4.8 was for the Commonwealth’s contribution to the project implementation teams for the national heavy vehicle and rail regulators; $10 million for the Australian Maritime Safety Agency to undertake regulation responsibilities for all commercial vessels , and $10.4 for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to establish a national investigation framework for maritime and rail safety  This was additional to the $8.3 million provided in the previous Budget.
An additional $28 million over the next two years was committed to improving airstrip safety in remote and Indigenous communities under the Regional Aviation Access Program. As well, the Government will provide $10.4 million over four years to uphold building standards for public safety in infrastructure development at airports on Commonwealth land. The cost of this is to be offset by an increase in the building application fees paid by developers at the airports.
. Council of Capital City Lord Mayors (CCLM), Capital City Lord Mayors welcome Gillard Government’s $180 M down payment on cities, media release, CCLM website, 10 May 2011, viewed 12 May 2011, http://www.lordmayors.org/Home/tabid/36/ctl/Details/mid/490/ItemID/63/Default.aspx