ALICIA POZNIAK (MArch ’16)
Days after submitting a paper exploring the “Suburban Dreams and Realities in Sydney,” news from home revealed that the first Australian Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, Jamie Briggs, resigned after only three months in the federal cabinet over an inappropriate drunken gaffe in China involving a young female public servant. I was amused and dismayed at how perfectly this incident summed up the Australian laissez-faire attitude to both the politics and planning that is breaking down our cities. My paper speculated on the glimmer of hope that the new Ministry, along with new State regional planning policy, would provide for Sydney and its housing affordability crisis. Housing costs have hit historic highs against the average household income to house price ratio. Australia’s nation building ideology of homeownership is under threat, while Sydney’s predominant suburban life is struggling with traffic congestion, hopeless public transport, inflated living costs, and growing pockets of disadvantage. Jamie Briggs didn’t act like it was too much of a problem, and thankfully he’s out. Our new PM Malcolm Turnbull, with his flashy business background, understands that our GDP is reliant on functioning livable cities, not rocks in the ground. His wife Lucy (former Lord Mayor of Sydney), also just got a new job leading the Greater Sydney Commission, the first state legislated body tasked with implementing a metropolitan plan for Sydney. Let’s hope Malcolm and his wife Lucy, Australia’s first neo-liberal power couple, are ready to start fixing our cities.