Turnbull’s appointment of Briggs set to stem the tide

Brand new TBSer, Sean Carmichael, explains how Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s move to appoint Jamie Briggs is an astute one.


Ever since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s appointment of Jamie Briggs as the first Federal Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, there has been debate about whether the appointment is particularly meaningful.

After all, such an appointment could be argued as redundant in duplication, or worse in directly challenging the constitutional separation of powers between state and federal governments; states and delegated agencies such as local government having authority over land, with the Commonwealth managing issues that equally affect the collective citizens of our nation, such as taxation, foreign affairs and defence.

Okay, so on the surface, it potentially breaks protocol. Fine. Is the Commonwealth just in having such a Minister? I believe so.

Stormwater and floodplain management are both good examples of where bad local planning can potentially spill into the Commonwealth domain.; for example, the recent Queensland floods, ultimately resulting in a cost borne by all Australians through a national levy.

Closer to home, Sydney’s torrential rains for days on end earlier this year flooded the city, resulting in untold transport chaos and widespread damage to personal property. Thankfully, this was not classified as a national emergency.

There is surely an argument for the Commonwealth at the very least to apply a risk management approach to prevent a national emergency of the magnitude visited upon the people of Queensland. To effect such an argument would require no additional powers granted to the Commonwealth.

The Minister could theoretically wield a significant stick by assessing the publicly available information on local stormwater infrastructure, thereby shaming local and state governments into action via the media or other internal avenues.

Where the local or state authority is performing adequately but otherwise cannot afford to implement world-best practice upgrades, the carrot approach of a dollar-for-dollar contribution scheme could be applied. For example, an offer to financially contribute towards a repaving of roads with porous top-layer concrete would greatly assist in absorbing the occasional flash-flood or stormwater runoff in known hazardous areas.

The above is one solution, in the theory of solving a bigger issue. But from the outside looking in, it was a forward-thinking first step from our new PM; one that could potentially resolve at least one problem, one which is a rare consistent in our otherwise changing sunburnt land.


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