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Capital cities offer brand identity

WHEN you travel overseas, people don’t talk about Victoria, New South Wales or WA. They talk about Melbourne, Sydney and, sometimes, Perth.

Australia’s capital cities are the great brand names of this nation.

Cities are the main home of small business. They are the country’s largest employers and offer the greatest opportunity for employment growth.

Industries located in cities generate the lion’s share of government revenue through taxes on corporate activity, land tax, payroll tax, stamp duty and capital gains tax.

These facts make our capital cities Australia’s greatest asset, yet most are under threat – not of extinction but of neglect.

Funding priorities set by State and Federal governments increasingly reflect the vocal demands of rural and regional Australia. Yet these constituencies represent less than 20 per cent of the Australian population.

It is interesting that you have to go back to 1972 and Bill McMahon to read a speech by a Federal conservative politician about the importance of urban Australia.

Currently in WA we are fortunate to have a Premier who has shown he understands the need to reinvest in our capital city. Unfortunately, this level of understanding appears to be lost even on his own ministers.

Of course education, health and justice should be the core funding activities of government. That’s why over the past six years they have been given priority and why most of our taxes are spent on these services.

That they should be funded at the exclusion of infrastructure and capital works is nonsensical and economic folly.

We live in a competitive environment and developed countries around the globe have recognised the importance of their cities as economic powerhouses and have strategies to nurture these assets.

The vision they share for their cities is captured by US Urban Land Institute chair of Public Policy William Hudnut in his book Cities on the Rebound.

His six-part vision for cities is:

1. The successful city of the future will have a vigorous visionary leadership in its public and private sectors

2. The successful city of the future will welcome the information age while providing ways for people to come together

3. The successful city of the future will be driven by collaborative strategies. It will find strength in diversity and partnership and citizen participation in the community building process

4. Leadership reaches from neighbourhood to regional to global

5. The successful city of the 21st century will deliver services efficiently and cope effectively with urban problems such as security, education, housing, transportation, infrastructure and environmental degradation

6. Cityship (his word) creates “places worthy of our affection”.

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