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Above image of Jamie Briggs and Malcolm Turnbull by Andrew Meares.
Out of the recent Liberal cabinet reshuffle comes a new minister for cities and built environment. Malcolm Turnbull announced the appointment of former assistant minister for infrastructure and regional development, Jamie Briggs, as Australia’s first minister in the newly created role.
“Historically the federal government has had a limited engagement with cities, and yet that is where most Australians live, it is where the bulk of our economic growth can be found,” Mr Turnbull said, in a doorstop interview conducted the day of his new cabinet announcement.
“We often overlook the fact that liveable cities, efficient productive cities, the environment of cities, are economic assets. Making sure that Australia is a wonderful place to live in, that our cities and indeed our regional centres are wonderful places to live, is an absolutely key priority of every level of Government,” Turnbull said.
How will Turnbull’s new government focus affect change at the urban level? One marked point of difference between Abbot and Turnbull is in their prioritisation of transport infrastructure. While Abbot was a firm advocate for the optimisation of roads, the new government will push for the development of public transport, though Turnbull maintains that his cabinet’s approach to matters of infrastructure will be considered on a case-by-case basis rather than rolled out across the board.
“Roads are not better than mass transit or vice versa, each has their place. Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits there is no place for ideology here at all,” Mr Turnbull said.
Briggs will work with environment minister Greg Hunt to form a new Australian Government agenda for cities in conjunction with states, local governments and urban communities.
The new minister has a large portfolio to contend with, as developments in infrastructure across the country move to accommodate demands for adequate transportation for increased urban populations. This week alone, the Victorian Government has announced that hundreds of homes and properties will need to make way for a $11 billion Melbourne Metro Rail project beginning in 2018, causing public unrest as the scope of affected areas are brought to light.