Morrison's fix for congestion no solution for cities
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Morrison's fix for congestion no solution for cities

From the Prime Minister who brought us "fair dinkum power" comes a new kite sure to fall to the ground before it has fully taken flight.

On Tuesday, Fairfax Media reported Scott Morrison's latest innovative idea to cut the nation's permanent migration intake by 15 per cent, from 190,000 a year to 160,000.

Mr Morrison, of course, linked migration to congestion in the nation's two most populous cities, Sydney and Melbourne, claiming incorrectly that cutting the migration intake would somehow provide the solution to the toll roads clogged with cars.

"We're running 30,000 below where it has been and it wouldn't surprise me if any process we went through would arrive in that sort of territory," he said.

Despite lowering the cap on permanent migration making no real difference to the number of people coming to Australia, as the Opposition's Tony Burke pointed out later in the day, it seems the idea comes devoid of any real proposals to solve the infrastructure problems gripping the biggest cities.

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Mr Morrison's latest thought bubble also came just hours after the government's self-appointed Mr Fix-it, Christopher Pyne had already relegated such a proposal to the ideas scrapheap.

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Mr Pyne told Sky News there was no need to put a 'handbrake' on migration, and that frankly, the nation - one of the worlds most sparsely populated - could take many more than the 25 million that currently call Australia home.

Perhaps Mr Morrison's latest comments on migration were not actually about reducing congestion, but rather some sort of ham-fisted attempt at linking the fear of the unknown, people yet to move to the country, to that common first-world problem of driving for an hour or more to get to work.

The reality, as some have since pointed out, is that the entire nation is already trying to deal with a decades-long backlog of under-investment in critical transport infrastructure and of poor investment decisions made by governments with an eye to pork-barrelling in election campaigns, rather than directing funds where they would best be spent.

While Mr Morrison has praised migrants for the role they have played in Australia, it may raise some hackles among those who came to this nation with nothing and literally built it, that the government would see cutting new arrivals as a solution to a problem created by politicians.

The thought bubble also seems to have neatly side-stepped the increasing calls from those outside the 'Canberra bubble' for major infrastructure project decisions to be entirely taken out of political hands, given the way such calls have been repeatedly manipulated for short-term political gain.

In Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, state and territory governments have proposed major works, only to see oppositions in varying forms promising to tear up the deals, all while the squeakiest wheels in federal government, often in marginal seats, get the dosh.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a body that could independently assess the merits of major projects, perhaps compiling a list of the most feasible, biggest potential win projects.

But there is such a body - Infrastructure Australia - an agency that just four weeks ago released a virtual road map of how to improve public transport accessibility in major cities' outer suburbs.

Mr Morrison would do well to read it; and perhaps even help states and territories to fund some of the ideas contained therein.

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