Melbourne is one of the safest and most liveable cities in the world and this is perhaps its greatest asset. As half the world' population, and rising, now live in cities, we know how important it is to compete with the other great cities of the world.
In Melbourne we are creating a city where people will find employment and investment opportunities, cultural, artistic and sporting outlets, stimulating landscape, educational facilities, diverse housing and a lively street life.
The number of people setting up house in central Melbourne is growing at a rate of about 8 per cent a year - attracted by the new opportunities for an inner city lifestyle, our streetscapes and restaurants, our parks and access to transport. This demand is fuelling a significant boom in public infrastructure projects - many of which will transform our cultural life and skyline, and the business opportunities available in this part of the world.
For this reason, we are focusing on partnerships with the key decision-makers in our cities - the architects, planners, other levels of government, industry groups, and the growing number of residents - the people and structures which will be vital to the shape and detail of our future development.
One issue that is abundantly clear, and that underlies the directions laid down in our new City Plan, is that we must engage as part of the global economy. It is no longer true that it is countries that must compete for trade and business investment opportunities - cities and their regions are the real competitors.
Cities are the gateway to the state and regional economies, and the City of Melbourne is becoming a major gateway for those wanting to visit and do business with Australia. Its 24-hour airport and modern transport infrastructure arguably make Melbourne Australia's most efficient gateway.
My views on this issue have been brought into sharp focus by my travel and contacts in Asia, confirming the high level of interest in our region, providing we can find new ways to provide the goods and services the market will require in the next decade.
It is through partnerships that we have established a Capital City policy, a joint policy between the State Government and the City of Melbourne - the only one of its kind in Australia. This policy provides the framework for many of the infrastructure changes you may have observed taking place in the city as it becomes a focus for business, international trade, the arts, entertainment and sporting activities.
The Docklands redevelopment presents an unparalleled opportunity for this city to complement and strengthen its existing economy, and to create a truly twenty-first century urban environment.
Business Partner City network
Looking to the future we know that our links with Asia will be increasingly important. It is therefore timely that the City of Melbourne is about to join the Business Partner City (BPC) network, established in 1988 by the City of Osaka and Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
We believe the BPC, representing cities with a combined population of more than 70 million, provides one of the most significant opportunities for Melbourne to promote and build business links with Asia over the next decade. It contributes to the mutual economic development of each member city - in particular creating opportunities for small to medium sized enterprises - to establish links with their counterparts throughout the network. Current BPC membership takes in eleven cities including Osaka, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, Seoul, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai (Bombay).
Our membership of this network confirms Melbourne's status as Australia's gateway to Asia and raises the question of how we are going to capitalise and build on this hard-won opportunity.