Perth could become Australia's biggest city and its capital, a nationally recorded debate between two leading Australian historians has heard at The University of Western Australia.
A capacity Perth audience of more than 330 people heard Professor Geoffrey Blainey AC and Professor Geoff Bolton AO address the topic "Is Australia Going West? Will Perth be the capital of Australia by 2050?"
ABC Radio National presenter and UWA alumni Geraldine Doogue, who moderated the debate for the national broadcaster's "Big Ideas" series, said one of the tests of a great city - a capital city - was the way business and community invested in educational institutions, such as last week's $20 million donation by retiring WorleyParsons CEO John Grill to The University of Sydney.
Professors Blainey and Bolton agreed that Perth had grown at an unprecedented rate, particularly in population. However, relying on mining and its created wealth did not of its own generate a capital city.
Professor Bolton said art, culture, major buildings, philanthropy, vision was essential to becoming a capital city. This would grow only with commitment from the community.
Perth should become Australia's capital because of the nation's economic shift from east to west, Professor Bolton said.
WA was closer to areas of increasing influence, such as India, China and the Islamic world, which made Perth a better option to be Australia's national capital.
"We've entered the Indian Ocean century, and the long leadership of the eastern states in reigning supreme could be ending," Professor Bolton said. "We're tired of those clever chaps in Melbourne and Sydney - it's our time."
Professor Bolton said there was nothing in Australia's Constitution to prevent Perth becoming Australia's capital, only that it needed to be more than 100 miles from Sydney.
The Dean of UWA's Faculty of Arts, Winthrop Professor Krishna Sen, said the debate highlighted the value of informed discussion about Australia's future and UWA's role as a world-class university in stimulating public debate on issues of public importance.
"UWA's goal to be in the world's top 50 universities by 2050 will make Perth a key player in the future of the nation, the region and the world," Professor Sen said. "It is critical we promote the importance of community discussion to help shape and define that future."