In James McAuley’s deeply sardonic poem The True Discovery of Australia (Gulliver’s description of Australia/Lilliput) Gulliver notes:-
Yet as a wheel that’s driven in the ruts
It has a wet rim where the people clot
Like mud; and though they praise the inner spaces
When asked to go themselves, they’d rather not.
Yes, Gulliver, we do so clot, especially in Sydney with a population of 4.92 million, making up 20.7% of the national population of Australia, and Melbourne, where its population of 4.53 million accounts for 19% of the national total. The two greater cities–not the two states of New South Wales and Victoria–make up 40% of Australia’s population!
Both cities are sorely underdone for public transport, especially rail, Gulliver, yet though they are hopelessly clogged, people still prefer to clot where the greater services lie and governments overspend, thereby denying the regional areas of their fair share.
As economic times become tough, people will look askance and sell down into cheaper locations, just as mainlanders moved to Tasmania in 2004 in the greatest numbers in a decade. Similarly, Melbourne currently seems to be attracting some Sydneysiders.
Sir Douglas Copeland noted in a national conference on balanced development in 1962 that since the 1954 census some Victorian Councils had grown at a rate faster than Melbourne’s. Could that have related to the fact that six out of the seven of them did not apply rates against improvement, but only on land values, Gulliver?
Could abolishing stamp duty and applying an all-in Australia wide land tax help those people in the regions more than Sydneysiders and Melburnians, and also assist to offset their higher transportation costs, Gulliver?
I believe so.
We have proven that subsidies, concessions and incentives such as moving government departments to the regions don’t really cut it in the long run, so taxing land values–which are far lower in the regions–would certainly be a catalyst for Australia if we are ever to decentralise, Gulliver!