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Plenty of inspiration to make our city great

by December 30, 2016 General

End-of-year housekeeping of the column’s correspondence, interviews and files produced plenty of inspiration to make our city, region, nation and especially, inland Australia, the places they ought to be.

It began on November 30 when The SMH‘s page one story reported research which revealed “a yawning growth gap has opened between city and country as Sydney’s dynamic economic hubs streak ahead of the rest of the state”; it came two weeks after Bruce Hedditch reported from Queensland that like other centres outside Brisbane, Bowen  – his home these days – was in dire straits.

Matt Wade’s SMH story revealed “millions in rural areas were being left behind as cities boomed”.

In February, Chris Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Committee4Wagga, one of the rising institutions within our city, gave the column his list of “must haves” for a regional city. They included, diversity of employment opportunities; clean industry such as agriculture and related value-added businesses; multicultural opportunities (immigration provides 52 per cent of population growth); choice of university and education opportunities; good transport infrastructure; safety and security; community pride and volunteering; a progressive council with strong leadership and a strong local media presence.

Cricket coach, Warren Smith, offered this exciting prospect. Move the sports hall of fame to new, bigger premises on the Edward Street side of Bolton Park (the south-eastern corner would be ideal) to make it more tourism-friendly. Provide cable-cars from the park to the top of Willans Hill and down into the Botanic Gardens.

More than 25 years ago there was a proposal to create in the valley between Willans Hill and Macleay Street, a huge bird park similar to the Jurong Bird Park (0.2 sq km) in Singapore. We got a less imaginative facility which is adequate but imagine the prospects Smith’s idea would produce for the city?

The column’s Queensland political contact in December took aim at the federal minister for cities, Angus Taylor, asking: “Why aren’t they doing more about developing the regional cities that the minister claims are also as important as the metropolitan ones? I can find only mention of Launceston and Townsville in their grand scheme.”

Possibly the best political speech of the year came in October, not from any party leader (the year was notable for its lack of political acumen and leadership), but from Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer and rising star, Andrew Leigh.

Entitled, The Age of Ambition, Leigh covered Labor’s seven ages from the beginning in 1891 when the ALP exploded on the scene sweeping all before it; through the fallow ages from 1916-41 and 1949-72; to the great eras of Curtin and Chifley; the social reform era of Whitlam and, of economic reform under Hawke and Keating.

In an inspiring speech to the Thirroul party branch (now in its 104th year) Leigh said: “There’s nothing wrong with personal ambition in politics – the problem arises with those whose ambition for themselves exceeds their ambition for the nation. To be truly ambitious is to want as much for our nation as every parent wants for their children”.

The challenge as we head into 2017 is, as Leigh put to his own party members, “to pick the issues that will define our age, articulate the problems and craft solutions. There should be no limit to reform ambition today”. May the year be good to you all.