Paper to the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) President’s Summit
17 February 2014
Thank you, Darren, for your introduction and to the UDIA (Urban Development Institute of Australia) for the invitation to speak here today.
I bring sincere apologies from Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment. Greg was genuinely looking forward to addressing you today, but a late change in timing for cabinet meetings prevents him from doing so, however he extends his best wishes.
However, Greg's loss is my gain, for this is an exciting time to be in Western Australia.
I am not in the least surprised that the State Government's latest tourism advertising campaign showcases some of Western Australia ís most breathtaking and beautiful natural assets ñ your stunning beaches, your mountain ranges, the majestic forests of the South-West.
Your natural heritage is quite extraordinary, which is why places like the Ningaloo Coast, the West Kimberley and the Purnululu National Park are recognised as world heritage places.
Western Australia is a place of rich diversity in flora and fauna ñfrom the arid climate ecosystems of the Pilbara to the heathlands and shrublands of the southern coastal plains.
At the same time, this State is a place of robust urban renewal.
It is great to see Perth and major centres like Mandurah and Bunbury thrive and grow, with so many new opportunities emerging for employment and healthy and productive lifestyle choices.
Western Australia continues to record the fastest population growth rate of all states and territories at 3.3 per cent .
It ís an attractive place to live and the future of its urban development is bright.
With that in mind I would like to outline today how – here and across the nation – the Australian Government will help to create an environment for our urban centres to become even more vibrant, productive and liveable.
Our ambition is for business to prosper, communities to thrive and the unique and iconic aspects of our natural environment to be protected for future generations.
In short, we are getting on with the job of creating a stronger, more resilient Australia.
I am sure that you would all agree that good planning is the foundation of effective and sustainable urban development.
It is the cornerstone of liveable and productive communities ñ both in setting out the long term vision and the elements required to achieve it.
It is vital that planning is an enabler of development, not an impediment to it. Planning laws must operate at lowest cost, in the fastest way possible, without undermining their core economic, environmental and social objectives.
From a federal point of view, the Governmentís commitment to a one stop shop for environmental approvals is central to achieving this vision of effective, enabling and responsible planning.
Put simply, the one stop shop involves the accreditation of state assessment approvals under national environment law.
Or, to put it another way, states will agree to uphold national standards to protect threatened species, key ecological communities and nationally significant places of heritage. No longer will developers have to clear separate state and federal hurdles through separate state and federal processes. They will instead seek assessment and approval against state and federal standards through a state administered one stop shop.
It is important to remember that Australiaís key piece of national environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, already has the provisions for accrediting states to undertake Commonwealth assessments and approvals.
So while the reform may be presented by the ill-informed as controversial, or as a winding back of Commonwealth responsibilities, our commitment means that the Government is actually making good on the process that was originally envisaged when the Federal Parliament passed this Act in 1999.
Its implementation will reduce the regulatory burden on industry and business and deliver more timely assessment and approval of projects, while maintaining high environmental standards.
Streamlined regulation is good for the economy, with lower costs and fewer delays for industry.
As well, these reforms will ëlift all boatsí as states will have to demonstrate how their system meets the Commonwealth standards and deliver sustainable outcomes.
We have already made significant inroads with this agenda. Memoranda of understanding have now been signed with all jurisdictions and the development of bilateral agreements is well underway.
An important focus of these agreements is the development of strategic assessments. This process recognises the cumulative impacts of environmental pressures on an area over time and gives potential developers more certainty about the local environmental factors to be considered.
The process aims to ensure significant investment in protecting some of the most vulnerable parts of the environment. And it builds environmental considerations in to the early stages of development planning, as has happened with the Perth strategic assessment, for example. That will help the city grow to an expected population of 3.5 million by 2030 while protecting iconic species such as the Carnabyís Black Cockatoo.
The Australian and Western Australian Governments have also agreed on a strategic assessment to provide long term certainty and cut red tape in the Perth and Peel regions on the Swan Coastal Plain.
This strategic assessment will provide long term certainty to the community and developers for sustainable urban development and improved housing supply.
Development will be well planned, well designed, and in the right place to benefit both the environment and the community, enabling both governments to map out long term development, conservation and heritage priorities in the Perth and Peel regions.
One element that is important in the discussions about urban infrastructure development is our reliance on water.
The way we manage urban water influences the potential expansion, investment and innovation in our cities. Technology will no doubt help to solve some of the challenges of increasing demands for water and wastewater management, but sound panning is vital to fully realise the opportunities provided by new technologies and knowledge.
The way we approach planning in this area is critical. Harnessing the full potential of urban water management for more economically prosperous and sustainable cities will require building better partnerships between water retailers, local government, land developers and the community.
The focus on creating more water sensitive Australian cities through promoting innovation, capacity building and the development of effective markets for water is a tenet of the nationís broader National Water Initiative reform process, commenced under the Howard Government.
In dry environs like Perth, water reuse, recycling and enhanced self-reliance must feature in planning decisions to meet the increasing water demands arising from increasing urban development.
A further element of good planning is provision for community infrastructure. This is critical to ensuring that urban development can occur in a sustainable way.
Current inefficiencies in infrastructure networks are one of the key reasons why Australiaís productivity has declined in recent years and are also a driver of the cost of living pressures affecting so many Australians.
As part of the Governmentís plan for infrastructure, there will be a 15-year pipeline of major infrastructure projects to be revised every five years based on national, state and local infrastructure priorities.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants to be known as an infrastructure prime minister.
The Australian Government has already committed to invest $1.3 billion in major road projects in Perth. This includes investing $615 million to build the Swan Valley Bypass and investing $686 million into the Perth Gateway project and continuing the Roads to Recovery programme.
The construction of these major infrastructure works for Perth will create jobs, improve productivity, and strengthen the Western Australian economy.
These projects improve social amenity by ensuring people spend more time with families and less time stuck in traffic. And they improve economic productivity by ensuring workers, goods and service providers spend more time on the job and less time getting between jobs.
The Swan Valley Bypass will be the major northern traffic link for the city of Perth. The bypass provides a link between Perth and the mining and tourism regions in the Pilbara, Murchison and Kimberley.
The Swan Bypass will also encourage job creation by facilitating access to the industrial estates around Bullsbrook and Ellenbrook.
The Perth Gateway Project is a longstanding Coalition commitment.
Aside from easing congestion, it will also facilitate further growth at the airport and its surrounds.
Perth Airport has estimated that the costs of congestion and lost productivity stands at $21 million a year.
The Government is committed to building modern infrastructure. West Australians can have confidence in our commitment, as can all Australians given our similar profile of commitments across all major cities.
Plan for a Cleaner Environment
Our plan for better infrastructure is matched by a plan for a cleaner environment ñ but one free of bureaucratic red tape and green tape and unnecessary delays.
The plan sets out the framework for a strong economy supported by a healthy environment and since the election weíve been getting on with the job of implementing it.
It has four pillars – Clean Air (Direct Action), Clean Land, Clean Water and Heritage protection.
These pillars support the Governmentís vision for individuals, businesses and communities getting on with the business of responsible air, land, water and heritage management.
Our Clean Air plan is of particular relevance to the development of the urban environment.
This plan centres on two important reforms: the repeal of the Carbon Tax and the implementation of our Direct Action plan.
The Carbon Tax is a multi-billion dollar impost on the Australian economy that doesnít even reduce Australiaís emissions. Under the Carbon Tax, Australiaís domestic emissions are projected to go up, not down.
Under the previous governments plans we would only meet the bipartisan commitment to a five per cent emissions reduction by 2020 through businesses being forced to buy billions in international permits, in addition to the billions they would be paying in carbon tax liabilities.
The Carbon Tax is a $7.6 billion dollar hit on the economy, yet a recent update of Australiaís National Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows that for the first year of the carbon tax overall emissions fell by just 0.1 per cent. Let me reiterate, a $7.6 billion slug to Australian households and businesses, for a 0.1 per cent reduction in emissions in the first 12 months.
And whatís driving this small decline in emissions is a fall in demand for electricity due to a decline in manufacturing, the increased renewable generation under the Renewable Energy Target and reduced economy activity.
Rather than the punitive Carbon Tax, our new Government will reach the emissions reduction target through our Direct Action plan to efficiently and effectively source low-cost emissions reductions and improve Australiaís environment.
A key element of Direct Action is the Emissions Reduction Fund.
With initial allocations of $300 million, $500 million and $750 million over the next three years, the Fund will provide a pool of capital to create a market for abatement. This will be far more effective at reducing Australiaís emissions than the Carbon Tax because it only targets emissions reducing activities.
This Fund will provide a powerful and direct incentive for key sectors across the Australian economy to reduce their emissions.
By utilising a reverse auction mechanism, the Fund will ëbuy backí low cost abatement.
This low cost abatement may involve projects to clean up waste coal mine gas, clean up power stations or to capture landfill gas from the millions of tonnes of waste deposited in our citiesí landfills each year.
Or it may be a mix of energy efficiency improvements in Australian homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities.
The built environment ñ in particular the commercial building sector which accounts for more than nine per cent of Australiaís total emissions ñ offers significant low cost abatement opportunities.
Indeed, the property industry has a demonstrated capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Property Council of Australia estimates that emissions from the built environment grew by only eight per cent between 2003 and 2011, despite higher growth in commercial and residential floor space of 17 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.
The Emissions Reduction Fund will provide the right incentives to build on this track record.
By contrast, Labor's tax on carbon emissions flows through to the property industry and adversely affects all building products and all sectors of the construction industry. There are costs increases across a broad range of building materials, products, fixtures and fittings.
In October 2011 Allen Consulting released a report commissioned by the Property Council which estimated that the impact of the carbon tax on the cost of building an illustrative 2000 square metre house could be $3,645 in 2012-13. This amounts to around $18 per square meter or a 1.7 per cent increase in cost.
The HIA estimated that at $20 per tonne, significantly less than the current price, the carbon tax adds an extra $6000 or more to the cost of building an average new residence, placing additional affordability pressure on new housing activity.
While the Centre for International Economics estimated a $1 billion cost to the construction sector for the initial period of operation of the carbon tax.
Whatever the exact figure, there is no argument that on top of the burgeoning electricity bills it contributes to, the carbon tax has real impacts on construction costs, flowing through to business costs and family mortgage repayments.
The Emissions Reduction Fund will encourage the property development sector to undertake a range of energy efficiency projects, such as improving the building shell, upgrading major equipment (such as HVAC systems or chillers) or installing co-generation systems.
There remains great potential for the sector to contribute further greenhouse gas reductions and the Fund will help to unlock that potential.
The Government has produced a Green Paper on how the Fund might operation and if you havenít already done so there is still time to make a submission on it – the closing date is 21 February. The more input we have from your sector, the better the design of the Fund will be.
Direct Action also encompasses initiatives that will mean continued progress for our urban areas and how sustainable they are into the future.
For example, the Government believes that renewable energy has an important role to play in reducing Australiaís greenhouse gas emissions.
We are currently considering how best to support the uptake of solar technologies by towns and communities. Options will include a focus on low-income households and regional communities.
As well as the legislative and planning reforms centred on the one stop shop, which I have already mentioned, the Clean Land component of our Pan for a Cleaner Environment includes a new National Landcare programme, 20 Million Trees, and the Green Army programme.
The National Landcare programme will involve merging existing programmes to create a single programme that is simple, local and long term.
This approach ensures targeted local action to improve environmental outcomes helping the Government achieve its national objectives in its Cleaner Environment Plan.
Under the new model, local communities, Natural Resource Management and Landcare groups will be given far greater involvement in identifying and addressing local priorities in their catchment areas.
By changing the centralised approach of the previous Labor Government we are giving local communities the opportunity to use their local knowledge to identify the key areas of need in their regions.
The 20 Million Trees by 2020 programme will re-establish green corridors and urban forests on both public and private land, while making a contribution to meeting our emission reduction target.
Revegetation projects will garner economic benefits such as preventing soil erosion and other land degradation.
The Green Army programme aims to achieve two objectives.
Firstly, it will provide up to 15,000 young Australians with training in conservation management that will equip them well for the future, whether in professional or voluntary capacities.
Secondly, and just as importantly, it aims to deliver long term, tangible outcomes for local environments and heritage places.
The public comment period for the programmeís draft statement of requirements, which will be used to inform the final delivery requirements, closed earlier this month. The comments we received will be extremely valuable to inform effective programme delivery.
The Clean Water plan covers both fresh water and on the sustainable use of our great ocean resources.
A large part of my direct responsibilities focuses on the effective implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, to guarantee the long term health of both our largest river system and the nation's largest food bowl that relies on it.
Our clean water plan also supports a range of region-specific programmes for healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Our a long term plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef and ensure that management of our marine reserves is based on the best possible science is at the heart of our oceans protections.
Earlier this year, the Australian and Queensland governments released the 2014 State Party Report on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area which highlights the significant progress being made to improve the management, health and protection of this amazing iconic area.
The report shows that the Great Barrier Reefís outstanding universal value and integrity remain largely intact.
Since coming into office our Government has begun implementing a number of initiatives to ensure the long-term protection and sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef. We are working to support the Reef through our Reef 2050 Plan, establishment of the Reef Trust, and by funding important projects such as Crown of Thorns Starfish eradication and the Gladstone Healthy Harbours Partnership.
The fourth pillar ñ National Heritage – centres on the preparation of a new National Heritage Strategy that will take a fresh look at how we can best manage and preserve our outstanding natural, Indigenous and built heritage.
Our aim is to have a draft Heritage Strategy made available for public comment during Heritage Week celebrations in April.
We have also committed to a new Community Heritage Grants programme, which will offer local history and heritage groups grants of up to $10,000 to preserve, celebrate and promote our unique local heritage.
The Australian Government recognises that the protection of the environment and pursuit of economic growth are not mutually exclusive objectives but rather two essential elements of a single goal: a stronger Australia.
We cannot sustain economic growth without clean air, safe and reliable water supplies and access to natural resources. Our policies are underpinned by this simple truth.
The carbon tax, the mining tax, red and green tape and high taxes are increasingly making development and innovation economically unsustainable. Ultimately, a prolonged decline of this nature due to such policy failures would result in poorer economic, social and environmental outcomes.
Only through a strong economy will we be able to continue to deliver the services to people and offer the protections to our environment that Australians rightly want and expect.
Our country relies heavily on the productivity of its cities for national prosperity, just as we do our regional and remote communities for much of our traditional export base. The majority of our population and businesses are located in urban areas, which in many sectors act as hubs of economic activity that link Australia to the global economy.
As evidenced in Western Australia, urban development thrives in a strong economy.
That is why our Government is focused on lowering the cost of doing business in Australia by creating more competitive markets, lowering taxes and regulation, streamlining processes across governments, and opening up our economy through free trade agreements, like the one with South Korea, the details of which have been released today and confirm an estimated $650 million economic benefit to Australia.
Our vision of an Australia that is open for business, innovative, dynamic and forward looking is clear.
We are confident that our policy settings will deliver the environmental outcomes we seek, while enabling the growth we need. We look forward to working with your sector to make our vision of a stronger, more prosperous and more secure Australia into a reality.