20 September 2015
Mr Briggs, the Federal Member for Mayo and current Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, was announced as Minister for the new portfolio yesterday as part of a Cabinet reshuffle.
Announcing the appointment Mr Turnbull said the role would focus on encouraging greater co-operation between all levels of government.
“Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits, there is no place for ideology here at all,” the Prime Minister said.
“The critical thing is to ensure that we get the best outcome in our cities… liveable cities, efficient productive cities, the environment of cities are economic assets,” he said.
Mr Briggs grew up in the River Murray town of Mildura and went to school at St. Joseph’s College in Mildura where he excelled in cricket before moving to Adelaide to pursue dreams of playing for Australia.
In 2008, he won a by-election held to replace the retiring Alexander Downer in the federal seat of Mayo. In 2010, he was appointed the Chairman of the Coalition’s Scrutiny of Government Waste Committee; working with Tony Abbott to identify Labor’s waste and mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.
Following the 2013 election, he was appointed as the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development in the first Abbott Ministry.
The Property Council welcomed the appointment of Mr Briggs.
“Malcolm Turnbull is perhaps our most urbanist Prime Minister ever and has lost no time in placing cities firmly on the federal agenda,” Property Council Chief Executive Ken Morrison said.
“The move recognises that in the most urbanised country in the world Australia’s productivity challenges are going to be need to to be met in our cities,” he said.
The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has been among those advocating for appointing a Minister for Cities by the Federal Government and in August presented a report outlining the need for such a portfolio.
ASBEC’s members include the Property Council, the Institute of Architects, the Planning Institute and Engineers Australia, so their opinion carries a lot of weight.
The report recommends that “through a Minister for Cities, the Australian Government lead the development of an intergovernmental agreement with the states and territories supporting: better data collection and research to understand our cities; evidence-based investment to drive productivity; new financing arrangements that leverage the strengths of every sphere of government helping to deliver more productive, liveable and sustainable cities”.
The surprise appointment was roundly welcomed as a major step forward for town planning and urban development in Australia.