13 December 2016

Townsville sold out by PM Turnbull Smart City Deal

On the face of the Turnbull Government's Smart Cities Plan and the execution of the first "City Deal" in Australia by the Mayor of Townsville, Jenny Hill and Premier of Queensland, Annstacia Palaszczuk, the residents and property investors of Townsville can be justifiably excited by the promise of more jobs and prosperity.

Now with a solid commitment of Federal funding, accompanied by the personal attention of Australia's commander in chief, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, executing a nationally strategic innovation reform in the midst of a struggling regional City brings with it invaluable public influence and political power.

Grasping a sharp looking glossy brochure focusing on big funding project deals, and a well orchestrated signing ceremony coordinated purposefully in front a national Canberra press gallery, the first "City Deal" of its type was indeed an epic event in local political history and a moment to savior for two pioneering female leaders.

However by deed of acquiesce or maliciousness, voters are being deceived or woman-handled with the undisclosed detail of the underlying program being a "citizen-centric" data gathering technology, which could be robbing people of their own property rights using personal identity information.

"..become an unintended volunteer in the largest civil and commercial integrated network of digital and robotic systems ever conceived in Australia."
The average local taxpayer is being lead to believe that department heads and their silo cultures will be picking up the phone more often than usual. Department line managers and technical experts sharing files with each other on an as free basis. It is a lot more sophisticated than the usual glossy political funding announcement of projects like the North Queensland Stadium and Townsville Eastern Access Rail Corridor.
Needless to say to local ratepayers enduring strict water restrictions, some of whom are watching their favourite plants dying before their eyes as the brown grass crackles under their feet, the most urgent and immediate need is the construction of greater water infrastructure for the City. Unlike the former two projects, this priority infrastructure has not received a funding commitment from any level of government apart from the typical preliminary impact studies.
Despite the fact the City has less than 15% of its water capacity remaining in the Ross Dam catchment, the Mayor and Premier have been caught sleeping at the "water wheel". So a glossy funding launch with the Prime Minister doesn't get any better then perhaps a photo opportunity at the local childcare centre during an election campaign.

In this climate of political sensitivity, a cash grab from the federal purse is a sure way to divert the media and public attention away from a highly emotive local services issue, including economic recession and an out of control crime report. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister gets to pull the wool over the eyes of the Mayor and Premier with his personal data-centric Smart City Plan.

If this isn't enough to ponder, the signature project of the Smart Cities funding announcement was the North Queensland Stadium and entertainment precinct. Queensland and the Commonwealth are contributing funds while the Council is offering the land. Yet the medium term economic value-add to the economy of Townsville from this project is nearly negligible. In fact local businesses report this week that tendering on the design and construction works was not feasible, confirming profits and jobs will not be filled by existing local residents.

Private business and investors have lost confidence and trust in the local leadership. Read the Townsville Real Estate Blog (TREB) article; North Queensland Stadium Vision Impaired here.
Downsizing the bureaucracy, treating the paralysis of administration and governance, and focusing on a stronger economy for the greater good is a refreshing concept for small to medium size business.

Achieving productivity and greater efficiency in the systems could be partly true of the Smart Cities Plan. But robust planning and development processes still require decisions to be taken by bureaucrats, officers and Ministers representing a wide variety of national and public interests.

So what is the practical vision of a "City Deal" that could bring sustained economic benefit?

Under a Smart Cities Plan, would the Adani Coal mine project been approved faster and in a more timely manner to enable better management of job stimulation? At least before the 15,000 workers abandoned the City after Clive Palmer's Queensland Nickel fell into administration would have been excellent management. 

Is it going to appease the political jousting, influence the Canberra or Brisbane-centric politicians to prioritize funding to safe seats over marginal seats, minimize the protest movement's capacity to disrupt development or speed up the court processes in the midst of a native title, heritage or environmental challenge?

In the absence of cynicism over healthy skepticism, a deeper, more secretive agenda is in motion as part of the Federal Government's economic strategy. And neither the Prime Minister, Mayor or Premier (Queensland's first female leaders in their respective entities) are willing to disclose the full exposure of the Smart Cities Plan to its citizens because of the possible fallout to their political skin and service legacy.
Effectively the Mayor and Premier have conceded to the Prime Minister that their departments and their own leadership is inadequately capable of making tough strategic decisions, hence the lack of autonomous influence in attracting private capital interests to the City, their bungled infrastructure and business services policies and now an acquittal of conscience or even malicious disregard for the people's personal security and safety.
The length to which all three levels of government are promoting a coordinated approach to Federal policy implementation in Townsville is unprecedented. It is refreshing to see, and if the "big data" depository and smart technology behind the Smart Cities Plan works, the size of government itself and the bureaucracy could be more efficiently outsourced due to advances in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital applications.

Again, more jobs lost yet more profit gained by multi-national corporations like IBM, KPMG, Intel, or Huawei, China's largest network and communication services provider who are inventing and manufacturing the technology. Yes these companies are the partners of the British inspired Smart City policy. Unless Townsville attracts the companies that design, build or distribute the technology, or win the owners of the networks to our region, the implementation of Smart Cities in a regional economy with less than 200,000 in population could be unfeasible.  
It is the plan of the Turnbull government to embed on every material object and person in the City micro sensors. If a person unknowingly acquiesce to an impromptu push notification on their personal device, they too will become an unintended volunteer in the largest civil and commercially integrated network of digital and robotic systems ever conceived in Australia.
Townsville Real Estate Blog is a strong advocate of building new technologies, creating new industries and sustainable economic opportunities for North Queensland. This has been reported openly on this platform and across various social media services.
"Building a resourceful, resilient and technically superior enterprise culture in the City will ensure second and third tier employment and business growth for decades to come." (Townsville Real Estate Blog)

So what is the Smart Cities Plan really all about? How does a local public service leadership disregard their citizens personal identity risks? And, why isn't Townsville attracting private capital interest that create sustained Jobs in the City?

Stay turned for more insight and information about the Smart Cities Plan and other issues impacting the Townsville Real Estate market.

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