Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

Regulating Land Use for Profit: The Case of Newport Quays

Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

Regulating Land Use for Profit: The Case of Newport Quays

Article excerpt

Urban and regional planning concerns the integration of land use with social, economic and environmental considerations to improve the built and social environments of communities. It is a process that addresses the intersections of public space, civic culture and everyday interactions. However, urban regulation in western societies is continually evolving, as governments respond to changing economic conditions such as the recent meltdown of global financial markets. This paper addresses a case where a State Government explicitly diverted its land use policy away from social and environmental concerns to a concern with fostering local capital accumulation through property development. This diversion of land use policy is illustrative of neoliberal responses to economic weakness at a regional level by governments that have limited control over other policy levers affecting the economy.

In Australia, national, state and local governments influenced by neoliberalism have increasingly sought to establish an economic climate that facilitates capital accumulation. This has been a higher priority than concerns over social well-being. Successive governments have privatised state assets and dismantled labour laws and other social protections. The Australian Government has privatised formerly public assets in banking and telecommunications. State Governments in South Australia and Victoria have followed suit by privatising power and water supplies (Spoehr 2003). Where capital works must be undertaken public-private partnerships have been endorsed, typically leading to an outcome that has the public sector bearing the risks and the corporate sector reaping the profits. The embrace of neoliberalism by governments has been associated with a subordination of social policy to economic policy. The rhetoric of 'steering not rowing' usually signals disengagement with direct management of the economy through the privatisation of utilities and contracting out of services formerly provided by state agencies (Jessop 2002).

Beer et al. (2005) note that neoliberal steering of the economy in Australia has not been accompanied by a reduction in public expenditure over the past three decades. However, the terms of engagement have continually changed as governments seek ways to deal with unrelenting economic uncertainty in the global economy. A study by Jessop (2007) of state power, strategy and structure suggests the reflexive nature of this response to global economic uncertainty, arguing that the structural constraints on the state require continual changes of strategy. That is, the state is not a homogeneous structure but is activated by human agents who privilege certain actors and encourage particular strategies to advance the interests of the state. Other actors within and without the state apparatus operate reflexively within the same structural contexts in ways that place limits, albeit elastic ones, on the capacity of the state to respond to recurring economic crises.

In a recent book, Harvey (2010) suggests that the state must continually respond to recurring economic crises because capitalism relies on amorality and lawlessness to enhance the accumulation of capital and hence is an inherently unstable and crisis prone system. The global financial crisis, argues Harvey, is the logical outcome of three decades of neoliberal economic restructuring, a period characterised by a proliferation of crises. The current financial crisis, he argues, has been driven by a need to attain a compound annual growth of three per cent for the system to remain stable. The rapid economic growth of China, India and other developing countries has created a massive shortage of places where surplus profits can be invested to achieve interest. Investors have responded by creating 'fictitious capital' in derivatives, in futures, carbon trading and in the land market that are based on an illusion of wealth creation divorced from the exchange of real commodities (Harvey, 2010: 17). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.