Mapping the Australian economy

More than three-quarters of all economic activity in Australia happens on less than one per cent of the nation’s land mass. In today’s services-driven economy, Australia’s cities are the engines of material prosperity.

For a long time agriculture was the backbone of our economy, as we rode on the sheep’s back. After World War Two prosperity shifted to suburbia, with manufacturing employing one in four Australians. This report shows that Australia’s economy is increasingly driven by knowledge-intensive services located in Australia’s large cities. Within these cities the most intense and productive economic activity is concentrated around central business districts and a small number of other business hubs. The way these areas draw large numbers of businesses and workers together makes them all more productive.

Grattan Institute’s new Cities report raises important questions about whether patterns of housing and transport development that served Australia’s cities so well during the golden age of manufacturing are the right ways to promote prosperity and opportunity into the twenty-first century.


James Button is the Communication Manager at Grattan Institute. James brings a wealth of journalism and speech-writing experience to the role, having worked for many years as a writer and editor at The Age, both in Australia and as their European correspondent. During his distinguished journalism career he has received two Walkley Awards for feature writing. He also worked as a speechwriter for the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, a role for which he was awarded the 2010 Australia Day Award for excellence in speechwriting. James has an Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne, and holds a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University, New York.


Rod Eddington is the non-executive Chairman (Australia & New Zealand) of J.P. Morgan and non-executive Chairman of Lion. Educated as an engineer at the UWA and then Oxford University as WA’s 1974 Rhodes Scholar, Sir Rod’s career began in transport and aviation and he went on to become CEO of Cathay Pacific, Ansett Airlines and British Airways, before retiring in late 2005 and returning to Australia. In 2005, Sir Rod was awarded a Knighthood by the British Government for service to civil aviation, and in 2012 an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for service to business and commerce. In addition to maintaining non-executive directorships with 21st Century Fox, China Light & Power Holdings and John Swire & Sons, Sir Rod also serves as a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), Chairman of Victorian Major Events Company and President of the Australia Japan Business Cooperation Committee.

Paul Donegan is the Senior Associate for the Cities Program at Grattan Institute. Paul has a strong track record of providing effective strategic policy advice in response to high profile public policy challenges. This has spanned issues including city productivity and liveability, economic policy, infrastructure procurement, health, social security, Commonwealth-State relations and public administration. He has worked in the Commonwealth and Victorian public services, and was the disability adviser to the responsible Commonwealth Minister at the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

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