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Brisbane is the key to Queensland's growth

By Ross Elliott - posted Wednesday, 15 November 2000

One hundred years ago, Australian cities prospered when the rural sector prospered. The country rode on the sheep’s back and in the miner’s barrow. Today, in the 21st Century, it’s the other way around - not just for Queensland but globally.

In Queensland, that message is not getting through and it seems to be having a noticeable effect on the economic fortunes of the city – and the state.

Queensland’s capital has fallen behind most state capitals and is a long way behind the prosperity that has been enjoyed by residents of ‘new economy’ cities like Melbourne and Sydney.


While Sydney and Melbourne enjoy increasing economic growth, Brisbane needs to think back to the Expo days for the last time it felt prosperous and ‘on the up.’

Consider what’s happened over the past five years. Growth in Brisbane house prices has been the worst of any capital city – beaten even by Hobart and Adelaide.

The city has reported the worst trend in hotel occupancies of any capital, and unemployment is among the worst – only exceeded by Hobart and Adelaide.

There are no city figures for retail sales, vehicle registrations or bankruptcies, but the statewide figures, heavily influenced by the urban south east, are similarly depressing. In terms of retail sales we are running 5th over the same five year period, we have the highest growth in personal bankruptcies as a percentage of the population and the worst trend performance in terms of vehicle registrations of any state.

As an urban economy, the Brisbane region even compares poorly with some of the large provincial cities in Queensland. Of the worst 20 places for unemployment in Queensland, 13 are in and around the Brisbane region. Of the best ten places in terms of unemployment, only one is from the Brisbane region.

Government boosters and real estate agents are actively talking up the city’s prospects, and every sign of improvement is naturally welcomed. But on any cold assessment of the facts, Brisbane has fallen behind in the race of capitals and by doing so, the economy of the State is being held back.


The Property Council has for some years argued the case for Federal and State Governments to take a more positive approach to the needs of the Capital city and the reason is that it will be the fortunes of the capital city economy which will help drive growth of the state. This has been true of the Sydney and Melbourne experiences, and also explain much of the performance of other major cities in Australia.

But these arguments have generally foundered.

Politically, most parties are still transfixed by the 'One Nation' issue and its related 'bush politics'. The argument that 'the bush is doing it tough while the city prospers' has been allowed to go unchallenged in a politically correct climate where it’s more important to appease than to explain.

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This article first appeared in The Courier-Mail on 18 October 2000.

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About the Author

Ross Elliott is an industry consultant and business advisor, currently working with property economists Macroplan and engineers Calibre, among others.

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