City Talk shines light on poverty amid plenty

Tonight I'm pleased to host our second City Talk for 2012. This innovative program of talks allows us to engage with, question and debate the big issues we face as a city and a society.

Tonight's topic is Poverty Amid Plenty, and our keynote speech will be delivered by the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Paul Gilding. He'll be joined by a panel of experts from economics, government, business and a representative from Occupy Sydney to discuss the causes and solutions of growing inequality.

Many people argue that valuing economic growth above equality is creating serious long-term problems. A society driven by economic growth alone fuels consumption, and adds to resource-depletion and carbon pollution - pushing our planet to its limits.

These problems aren't only environmental; they are social and economic as well.

We are not immune from the problems of inequality. Like Britain and the United States, Australia has one of the greatest gaps in equality.

The City of Sydney does not have access to the big levers of change. But we are the level of government closest to the people and we take seriously our responsibility to nurture communities, to close the gap where we can, and to improve the quality of people's lives.

Sustainable Sydney 2030 is built on this premise: that city government must plan for a future that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

Housing affordability remains a major issue in Sydney. Sustainable Sydney 2030 aims to make 7.5 per cent of all city housing affordable, so that people can live close to their work rather than face the burden of a lengthy commute from outer Sydney to a job in the CBD.

We're also providing an increasing number of low-cost living and working spaces for artists.

To build a sustainable city and society, we must ensure that everyone has the chance to take part in community life, to build positive and supportive relationships, and to have access to the facilities, the information, the services and support that they need.

The City has developed a draft set of 100 indicators and 159 measures covering a range of social, cultural, environmental, governance and economic issues. We recently had draft Community Wellbeing Indicators on public exhibition and feedback is now being assessed.

Collectively, they provide a "health check" of the status of our community. They are the most comprehensive set of indicators developed by local government in Australia and consistent with world-leading research from the UK and Europe.

Some policy areas can be dealt with directly by city government; in others we try to influence other decision makers; and finally there are areas over which we have no control or influence but know are of concern to the community and affect community well-being.

We are measuring the full range so we can make informed choices about how to direct our efforts and to track the progress of our community over time. We want to be in an informed position to advocate on the community's behalf to other levels of government, the private and not-for-profit sectors.

I look forward to seeing you at tonight's City Talk. If you cannot join me, a video of the talk will be made available on the City of Sydney's website:

http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/podcasts/citytalks/default/default.asp

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