Undoubtedly, there will be a serious economic crisis, originated domestically or imported, in the short to medium term future. Then, the major infrastructure project of interstate High Speed Rail would be undertaken to stimulate recovery and budget repair.
The tsunami warning for the 4th Industrial Revolution has been sounded in Australia. The first modest early ripples are clearly in sight. The main wave is approaching rapidly. Some companies are already preparing and upskilling their workers. The danger is that too few will be prepared enough to adapt, and high unemployment will result. This is an imminent, real and certain crisis. HSR must be initiated now.
After a feasibility study of 18-24 months, maybe 200,000 or more jobs, both every-day and skilled, would be created, many of them in the regions, with more indirect jobs also created. This would take up some of the people who lose their jobs in the 4th IR. It would stimulate growth and generate more jobs. It would soften the transition to the 4th IR world, or underpin the Australian economy domestically should companies be slow to adapt to the new international competitive situation. It would regain effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policy by lifting growth and inducing further investment.
The main driving force of the 4th IR is robotics and artificial intelligence applied broadly to almost all activities. It is a digital revolution. The concern is that many jobs will be lost, first those which are routine and amenable to robotics. The resulting large scale direct and indirect unemployment would slow economic growth, even cause a deep recession after 26 years recession free. This can be countered by retraining and upskilling people and making them more employable. The major banks are engaged in this already. Other companies are no doubt doing the same, but maybe not enough yet.
NAB is to dismiss 6,000 employees and hire 2,000 IT personnel in the next 3 years. A leader in robotics here indicated that Australia is about 2 years behind the US and Europe in application of robotics and AI. How soon will the 4th IR be in full swing in Australia? What should be done now?
The 4th IR will undoubtedly impact Australia in the next 10 years that it would take to construct the HSR project. It will not wait for 35 years, the time the 2013 Government HSR Report recommended for completion of interstate HSR between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, now indefinitely differed.
HSR is a means to an end, not an interstate railway end in itself. HSR is central to connecting a mega-region in Australia along the east coast. The aim would be to distribute +10m of the 24m population increase over the next 3-4 decades in new high tech, innovative cities on the HSR line through the mega-region, instead of in two less desirable, congested, +8m mega-cities with lost spatial liveability.
HSR costing some $200b would be paid for by sale of 400,000 dwellings built over inner-city HSR tracks in trenches, sold at an average price of $500,000 each, raising $200b within the construction period.
New cities of 1m, 2m and 3m people within 2-300km the major cities would be connected to their CBDs in less than an hour commuting time by HSR. It would connect to all major and new cities’ airports on the east coast. The population of the mega-region would be about 6m in Sydney and Melbourne, 3m in Brisbane, 2m in Adelaide and 1m in Hobart (by air), 10m in the new cities and 4m in the nearby regions, a total of 32m of the 48m projected population in 3-4 decades. The new mega-region would be focal point for design and effort to increase innovation and sustainability in Australia. Building HSR would create new jobs now. New cities would create many more jobs in the long term. There would be ample resources to build HSR, new cities and the mega-region from 4th IR jobless and from strong immigration.
In time, there would be much greater productivity improvement from the 4th IR and the new innovative cities to overcome the economic slow-down and disruption during transition. The mega-region would lead the way to greater prosperity and liveability for the future of Australia.