Less than six months after the design community collectively welcomed the federal government’s new Ministerial Portfolio for Cities and the Built Environment, it has effectively been downgraded.
Following months of speculation, the inaugural Minister for Cities and the Built Environment MP Jamie Briggs has now been replaced by Assistant Minister Angus Taylor who will serve as what was formerly known as the parliamentary secretary to the PM with special responsibility for Cities and Digital Transformation.
Briggs resigned from the position in December 2015, just three months after he handed the portfolio by Turnbull. The decision by Turnbull to not replace Briggs with another Minister has left an element of uncertainty in the air, a far stretch from the harmony of optimism brought on by Briggs’ appointment back in September 2015.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), Consult Australia, Master Builders Australia and the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) were all unanimous in their supportive of Turnbull’s appointment of Briggs to the new portfolio back in September 2015, the then-AIA CEO David Parken noting that a federal champion was crucial for driving reforms that better connect built environment policies and programs across all levels of government.
It seems now that that federal champion for cities will be Turnbull himself which isn’t a far stretch considering his and his wife Lucy Turnbull’s long-held interest on the topic.
NSW Premier Kristina Keneally was the first criticise Turnbull’s “downgrading” of the Cities and the Built Environment portfolio, taking to her twitter account on Sunday to address the issue:
GBCA WELCOMES APPOINTMENT OF NEW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CITIES
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) was the first to welcome the appointment of Angus Taylor to the role of Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation.
GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Romilly Madew explains that 80 per cent of Australians already live in the country’s capital cities with the four largest cities expected to double in size over the next 15 years. The situation warrants a more active role by the national government in making sure Australian cities are liveable, productive and sustainable.
According to Madew, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has constantly urged Australians to embrace disruption and harness the opportunities presented by technology. Following the new appointment, GBCA is optimistic that this new combined portfolio of cities and digital transformation will lead to a renewed focus on innovation and investment in the country’s cities. Minister Taylor will be reporting directly to the Prime Minister.
GBCA looks forward to working with Minister Taylor to focus the discussion on the importance of cities as powerhouses of economic growth, and to drive real action to make cities healthier and more resilient.