Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:15): I take great pleasure in commending this report to members of the parliament; to the government; as the esteemed chair of the committee said, to the departments that have contributed to it but also, we would hope, will work with the government to respond to the report; and, in particular, to all of those various organisations and individuals across the country who, through the period of time, took the time and effort to put submissions in and raise their issues. I won't canvass again some of the key issues that the chair of the committee, the member for Bennelong, has just addressed, other than to say I think the report brings together a very in-depth, well-considered proposition for the government to look at ways in which, at a federal level, we can go beyond the national planning of infrastructure—which is something that we believe is critically important—and take into consideration a national plan of settlement as well so that, across our great country, we can actually get better, more effective and more committed to looking at population growth and its disparity across the nation. Some places—including, clearly, our two major capital cities Sydney and Melbourne—are struggling under the pressure of that, while other places have potential that's being unrealised. Bringing those two things together—population settlement, whether it's internal movement or new arrivals, and infrastructure planning—in a way that fosters the opportunities across the nation is a really solid proposition, and there are a number of recommendations in this report that go to that issue.

I also want to, for the parliament's interest, draw people's attention to the fact that there are quite a lot of recommendations in this report around sustainability and liveability as well. We know that places are under a lot of pressure. We heard great evidence of really innovative actions in terms of water management, waste management, smart cities and the capacity for technology to revolutionise the way that people are living in cities, but we also heard about some of the challenges. Just a simple example is that, with more people using online purchasing, we heard about the challenges that creates for small courier based companies trying to move around our cities, because people expect things to be delivered to their front door, but also the broader freight challenge and the impact that's having on our cities.

I think the power of the report is the fact that it looked across capital cities and, obviously, the challenges that they are facing, it looked across our regional areas and it also looked at our regional cities. That's a space where I think—maybe I'm biased coming from Wollongong with my own perspective—there is capacity for regional cities if they're properly supported through hard infrastructure, particularly transport infrastructure and communications infrastructure, but also what we might call the soft infrastructure—the placement of universities and TAFEs in those places, the development of community facilities and the assurance that health facilities are available. Those things allow the potential of those regions to be realised so that, beyond just governments looking at decentralising jobs, they're actually set up to really get the private sector interested and investing into those regional capitals.

We heard some great evidence of where that's happening.

One example is the connections into the Melbourne centre that Bendigo and Ballarat now have and how they're developing expertise in particular areas of the economy that complement well the capital city. We have a network of cities, and the regional cities servicing their regional hinterlands are just as important to be considered. I think that's a great strength of this report. There are 37 recommendations. There is something for everybody in there if you're interested in our cities and support for our regions.

I thank all my colleagues on the committee. I particularly thank the chair, the member for Bennelong, who brings to this role what I would call the traditional view of the parliamentarian, which is to interrogate the evidence and let it stand on its own two feet. To reach an evidence based bipartisan outcome is a great commendation of his leadership. I also thank all the members of the committee, who were a great pleasure to work with. It was a really good group of people. I also acknowledge Lyn Ducker, Bill Pender and Samantha Leahy from the committee, who did an enormous amount of work, because it was a big report—we could be a bit troublesome, but they persevered with cheerful positivity through our more demanding times—and Cathy Rouland and Kelly Burt from the secretariat. We appreciate their very professional support, as we always get from our committee secretariat. If you're a bit light on reading, I think this report will take you a good month, so I encourage people to get a copy and have a look at it.

Debate adjourned.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.