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Slicker cities for city slickers

By Ross Elliott - posted Friday, 15 October 1999


In Brisbane, we hear much of the city's coming of age, but I'd like to suggest that the State and Nation are doing more to hold back Brisbane's coming of age than at any time in the last 20 years.

Because of negative political and policy thinking, Brisbane's future (and by extension every other major city’s) as a competitive, world-class city will not materialise unless State and Federal politicians change their attitudes.

If they don't, increasing anti-capital city sentiments will handicap us in the race to retain jobs, investment and a livable environment. Ultimately they may cost Australia its future as a prosperous nation.

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We are now, and have always been, a nation of cities.

And the brand names of our nation have been - and are - our capital cities. People from overseas don't visit Victoria - they go to Melbourne. The Olympic games is not known as the 'NSW Games' but the 'Sydney Olmypics.'

But it has become part of national folklore that many city slickers identify with the 'bush' image of Australia, even though many have rarely experienced anything beyond the boundaries of suburbia.

The post-WWII period of national prosperity strengthened that myth. The phrase: 'Australia rides on the sheep's back' may have suited its times, but could hardly hold true in the modern age where unsaleable wool stockpiles, falling global commodity prices and declining rural sectors are features of the national and world economies.

Australia rides on the back of its city economies and will increasingly find its prosperity tied to the jobs and investment which take place in the cities.

The 'new economy' of an educated, professional workforce choosing to work where they want to live rather than live where they want to work, is shaping how our cities - Brisbane included - respond to opportunities.

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In Brisbane, we already know that the city accounts for almost half the jobs in Queensland. Within just a 3 kilometre radius of the GPO, there are one in ten of all jobs in the state - some 164,000 workers.

The city centre alone generates a massive $9.15 billion per annum of gross economic output - 15% of the state's total and worth more than all the farming, mining and transport industries put together.

Its tax bill of almost $2 billion per annum represents a $62.6 million dollar per square kilometre contribution to government coffers, compared with a $570,000 per square kilometre tax contribution by non-urban Queensland.

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About the Author

Ross Elliott has more than 20 years experience in property and public policy. His past roles have included stints in urban economics, national and state roles with the Property Council, and in destination marketing. He has written extensively on a range of public policy issues centering around urban issues, and continues to maintain his recreational interest in public policy through ongoing contributions such as this or via his monthly blog The Pulse. (http://thefingeronthepulse.blogspot.com/)

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