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New name, new look for latest national urban policy, but same old problem

Richard Tomlinson writes in The Conversation (17.5.16) about the federal government's interest in urban policy, witnessed in its recent 'Smart Cities' plan. The author argues that the plan represents another case of a 'Commonwealth knows best' approach marked by increasing centralisation of urban policy planning.

'Globally, interest in national urban policy peaked in the late 1970s and declined sharply thereafter. The trend held true for Australia, peaking under the Whitlam government.

'The decades after the Whitlam government produced a variety of federal housing and other urban policies. None had the scope of a national urban policy.

'Not until 2011, with Labor’s Our Cities, Our Future, was a national urban policy launched. This did not mirror a similar resurgent interest in Western countries. These countries promote intergovernmental decentralisation, while Australia has increased centralisation.

'Australian exceptionalism – both its “unique model of metropolitan governance” and its extreme vertical fiscal imbalance (VFI) – provides the setting for federal policy that assumes the prerogatives of state and metropolitan urban policy.'

 

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