US readers watching the Federal budget process, in which one major party is proposing Federal disinvestment in city-serving infrastructure, might note that Australia is moving the other way. The Labor government created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to be a conduit for federal funding of transit infrastructure, a role similar to that long played by the Federal Transit Administration in the US. Now, the more conservative opposition — the "Coalition" of the Liberal and National parties — has endorsed the contination of that policy, signaling that this role is likely to continue regardless of who is in Government. On his party website, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott states:
The Coalition supports Infrastructure Australia (IA) and in government will strengthen its role, creating a more transparent, accountable and effective adviser on infrastructure projects.
We’ll keep it, we’ll fund it and we’ll listen to it because important infrastructure decisions should be made on the basis of rational planning …
The Coalition will ensure that Infrastructure Australia has guaranteed ongoing funding. … The Coalition’s commitment means that IA will be provided with the resources necessary for it to do its job properly.
It's interesting to think about why urban issues that are bipartisan in Australia seem to become Democratic concerns in the US. In both countries, most of the population lives in urban areas, but there is a crucial difference in language that creates a difference in habits of thought. Americans think of big "cities" as separate from their "suburbs," and often use these terms as shorthand or euphemism for a range of other oppositions. (Only in America, for example, would a style of music associated with black people be called "Urban.") Americans also have the idea of a suburban center (what Joel Garreau calls an "Edge City') that clings to the outer orbit of a big city but can think of itself as unrelated to it. Hence someone in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, say, may be happier thinking of their metro area as "Northern Virginia" rather than "greater Washington DC."
Those word choices lead to a US political reality in which big cities — narrowly defined in exclusion of their suburbs — represent a minority of the population and thus attract the interest of only one side of the political divide.
By contrast, when Australians say "Sydney" or "Melbourne" they usually mean the entire urban area — the continuous patch of lights that you see from an airplane. So people who live in what Americans would call the suburbs of Sydney think of themselves as living in Sydney. This way of speaking encourages them to accept that the problems of Sydney are their problems, whereas a resident of Tyson's Corner may feel quite removed from the problems of "Washington." When cities are understood in that inclusive way, it follows that most Australians live in cities, so naturally both sides of the political divide must care about them.