A quirk of history has seen Australia – and Queensland in particular – develop differently to other similar countries around the world.
Instead of having cities of varying size, from major metropolitan hubs to mid-sized cities and smaller provincial centres, much of the population is concentrated in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
About 60 per cent of Australia’s population live in capital cities, as compared with, for example, the US, where the top five cities account for less than 10 per cent of its people.
“Australia has just one non-capital city that has more than 500,0000 people, I think that’s a disgrace,” says Minister for Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan.
Outside Queensland’s southeast corner, no cities have a population larger than 200,000 people, while Brisbane itself bustles with 2.2 million residents.
North of Rockhampton, there are just 700,000 people. And, while the capital is enjoying opportunity and growth, the regions are hurting.
The north’s unofficial capital of Townsville has hit a road bump in its development, with unemployment reaching 10.6 per cent, while youth unemployment is even higher.
It’s a similar story in Mackay, Bundaberg and many of the smaller cities and towns spread throughout the vast state. Each have their own challenges but all of them are cut off from the opportunities which present themselves in the southeast.
Demographer Bernard Salt says it could have been very a different story if early European settlers had sailed up the Fitzroy River, instead of the Brisbane River.
“It would have made much more sense if somewhere like Mackay or Rockhampton were the capital city, in the same way Sydney is midway along the NSW coast and Melbourne is perfectly positioned in the geographic centre of Victoria,” Salt says.
“Brisbane is at a disadvantage. It’s off centre, which leads to separationist dissent.”
Salt says as Queensland heads toward a population of six to seven million people by the middle of the century, it needs to be serviced by a range of bigger cities of varying size.
“If any state has the capacity to develop a decentralised network of cities, it’s Queensland and it should to deliver job opportunities and services to the local people,” he says.
Originally Published by The Courier Mail, continue reading here.