Page 4826 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 11 November 2009

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the impact on the ACT of Mr Rudd’s comments last month that the federal government intends to take more control over local planning issues?

MR BARR: For a second I was wondering whether there was some new announcement, but I now know what Ms Le Couteur is referring to. Yes, the Prime Minister did indicate last month that the federal government would be taking a greater interest in urban planning matters. I think, frankly, that is to be welcomed. That interest was unfortunately sadly lacking during an extended period of conservative government in this country. I think we would have to go back to the Hawke-Keating governments and Minister Brian Howe’s involvement—

Mrs Dunne: And let’s not forget Kep Enderby.

MR BARR: Mrs Dunne is considerably older than me, and she does indeed have some history that would go back even into the 70s. I do acknowledge her age—

Mr Corbell: Tom Uren.

MR BARR: Tom Uren indeed. Federal government interest in urban planning matters is not new but it is something that this government and indeed all state and territory governments have welcomed, particularly as it will provide opportunities for partnerships in infrastructure. A particular area of neglect under the Howard government was its absolute failure to invest in nation building infrastructure. The Liberal Party when they were in government federally had their head in the sand around important nation building infrastructure investments.

The opportunities that are presented for Canberra, particularly from the announcements of the Prime Minister, I think are substantial. I would argue, and I am sure many others would agree with me, that Canberra, as Australia’s most planned city and one of the shining examples in the world of urban planning, is very well placed to take advantage of the direction and initiatives that the Prime Minister has announced.

Of course, those who have closely followed this debate would be aware that the states and territories have been involved at the COAG level in these discussions with the commonwealth for quite some time now, so the Prime Minister’s announcement was not a surprise. In fact, it was something that we were eagerly anticipating. We will continue at both officials level and at the ministerial level through the planning and local government ministerial council to work closely with the commonwealth on a range of matters.

In the context of the ACT, clearly we have put forward some infrastructure priorities to Infrastructure Australia, and we are very pleased that one of our priorities made it into the top 12 in the nation, being ranked 11th, and we certainly look forward to it being funded in a future commonwealth budget, hopefully the 2010 budget. That piece of infrastructure, namely the extension of the Monaro Highway to the Federal Highway, will be important for this city but it will be an important piece of work in the overall transport planning jigsaw puzzle when it particularly comes to addressing the major issues that divide the city on the eastern and western sides.

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