Notes for a speech delivered by Senator Pocock at the Canberra Region Tourism Advisory Forum on Tuesday 1 August 2023, launching the ACT infrastructure investment campaign A Vision for Canberra.
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Thank you Dr Marshall.
It’s great to be with so many of you here today on beautiful Ngunnawal Country, and I pay my respect to elders past, present and emerging.
And thank you to the Chief Minister.
Now, about that City Stadium…
I’m joking, well, sort of.
I think by now pretty much the whole of Canberra knows the Chief and I have a different view when it comes to the location of a stadium.
But that’s a debate I am keen to park - for now at least - and focus on what we do agree on.
What we ALL agree on.
That Canberra needs a new stadium.
And not just a new stadium.
Somewhere we can host major gigs.
A new convention centre.
More affordable housing.
Better transport infrastructure to connect our growing city and a faster heavy rail connection to Sydney.
More support for our nation-leading and in many cases world-leading startup and innovation sector.
Consulting as I have been doing over the past year with you, with others in the business sector and others across the community, these are the four big pillars that emerge when we talk about what we want for the future of our city.
Housing. Innovation. Events. Transport.
These are the four pillars that underpin what is our collective vision for Canberra.
A vision I’m excited to be launching with you all this morning.
But before getting into the detail of that vision, let’s first talk about the investment needed to realise it.
NATIONAL CAPITAL INVESTMENT FRAMEWORK
Just over a week ago, the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister announced a new National Capital Investment Framework.
While still light on detail and absent any concrete funding commitments for now, as the Chief outlined this new partnership agreement will provide a process for collaborating more closely on economic development.
This is warmly welcome, and long overdue.
This is what community members across the Canberra Region have been calling for.
It’s what together 35 of us signed a letter to the PM and the Chief asking for earlier this year – a partnership and framework to realise an ambitious vision for Canberra’s future.
Under the previous federal government almost $10 billion in federal funding - for everything from stadia to convention centres and a whole host of infrastructure in between - went out the door as part of the twelve City or Regional Deals agreed since 2016.
Here in the ACT we saw none of that.
Zero dollars out of $10 billion.
That’s not good enough.
We are the fastest growing capital city in the country.
We need more investment from the federal government.
And not just in basic maintenance of the national institutions we host as the nation’s capital.
While welcome, patching holes in the roof of key cultural buildings is not the same as replacing what is the second oldest convention centre in the country.
That won’t drive the economic activity that a new, multi-use arena would.
Analysis this year found that of 37 high-profile music acts touring Australia, only four played in Canberra compared to 36 in Sydney and Melbourne, eight in Wollongong, six in Fremantle and five in Newcastle.
An expansion of the Australian War Memorial or a new National Security Precinct won’t help us capture some of the tourism and related revenue from being able to host more and bigger business events.
Of the 145 international business events listed publicly on the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux’s forward calendar from 2023 to 2029, none are being hosted in Canberra.
These events are forecast to be attended by almost 200,000 delegates for a total visitor spend of approximately $600 million.
That’s a huge chunk of business to be missing out on.
So I want to work constructively with the ACT Government.
Putting aside for now disagreement around particular details –
I want to focus on leveraging the maximum amount of federal funding for our city going forward.
I’ll keep pushing both the ACT and Federal governments for more ambition.
In particular I want to work with them through this new framework to see some serious commitments in next year’s federal budget.
I know we can’t afford to build everything all at once.
But what I keep hearing time and again talking to people across our great city is that you want a pipeline – you want certainty.
A long-term plan that you can work around and use to build capacity.
Now that we have the outline of the National Capital Investment Framework, I want to work with you and with both governments to fill in the details and agree on that plan.
The release recently of the ACT Government’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Infrastructure Plan Update was a good first step.
It was particularly welcome to see a new convention centre featured.
But again, there’s scope for more detail, greater ambition and to leverage federal funding to bring forward a range of projects.
I believe there’s also scope to explore different ways of plugging the housing, transport and innovation gaps.
A VISION FOR CANBERRA
So what could that look like?
Hopefully something like this.
My team and I have brought together the feedback and ideas from a year’s worth of consultation and research into a new Vision for Canberra website.
The site is intended to be a repository of ideas, plans and feedback that can grow and evolve over time.
It’s a conduit for community input.
Importantly, it’s also getting the broader community excited.
Harnessing their support for the kind of future we want for our city.
You’ll see there are a range of key projects we’re putting forward for consideration.
Unlocking land for more higher density housing in established areas is key and must feature as part of the framework.
I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been involved in the development of this project.
And I’d also encourage you to please keep engaging.
This will form the basis of a major pre-budget submission I will be looking to lodge on behalf of our community later this year.
We have a unique opportunity to start reversing decades of underinvestment in our city and our region.
I look forward to continuing to work with you to invest in Canberra’s future.