Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

From Post-Fordism to 'Post-Holdenism': Responses to Deindustrialisation in Playford, South Australia

Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

From Post-Fordism to 'Post-Holdenism': Responses to Deindustrialisation in Playford, South Australia

Article excerpt

Global restructuring has created major problems and challenges for many regions and local economies. This is particularly so for those subnational regions, such as the City of Playford (previously known as the City of Elizabeth) in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. Playford is South Australia's second largest council area, containing 35 suburbs and with a population of around 80,000. Over a number of decades, it has experienced a gradual but steady process of deindustrialisation, largely due to global economic restructuring processes. However, Playford is now being threatened with a far more dramatic level of deindustrialisation, resulting from the closure of the General Motors Holden plant that for the previous six decades had underpinned its economy and employment base.

This article analyses the Playford region's experience in negotiating the impact of these dramatic changes in the global economy. It firstly considers the impact of the deindustrialisation process on Playford. It then examines the attempts over past decades by South Australian state governments to develop and implement strategies to respond to the threats posed by deindustrialisation. The recent change of government, after 16 years of Labor governments in South Australia, provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on what these recent policy responses have meant for the City of Playford. The article also examines the attempt by local government, business and community groups in Playford to develop a collaborative partnership approach as part of an endogenous growth strategy in response to deindustrialisation. It concludes by examining the evolving interaction between state, local and federal policies and the resulting impact on the region's capacity to counter the deindustrialisation forces that it faces.

The story of automotive manufacturing industrialisation in Adelaide's north

The development of the City of Elizabeth (renamed Playford in 1997 after merging with the City of Munno Para) was at the outset the direct result of South Australian Premier Thomas Playford's efforts to attract foreign investment to Adelaide's north through a mixture of cheap labour, appealing land prices, tax concessions and publicly funded infrastructure. The development of Elizabeth from the 1950s was a venture unmatched in scale by other projects anywhere else in the country. It was built on a large stock of uniform housing designed for occupation by workers and their families and it was championed by a Housing Trust (SAHT) far more active in its vision for social and economic development than its counterparts in other states (Peel, 1995). As one of the very first Australian 'new towns', Elizabeth successfully attracted foreign investment, expert technicians, industrial workers and new immigrants to build the type of community envisaged by this experimental urbanism. Through state policy intervention, manufacturing industry and employment provided a foundational infrastructure for cultivating a robust working-class community and pool of workers for high-skilled jobs.

Elizabeth quickly became a significant hub of automotive manufacturing in Australia in the late 1950s when the multinational company General Motors Holden (GMH) established its automotive assembly plant there to complement its existing plant in the Adelaide suburb of Woodville. At its inception, the Elizabeth plant of GMH employed close to 2,000 workers, and nearly 7,000 at its peak in the 1970s. Over subsequent decades, this multinational company built a series of Australian motor vehicles that would become iconic in the country's culture. Productivity of the manufacturing industry and associated business boomed in Elizabeth and surrounds in the post-war period after the establishment of GMH. However, within only a few years, Elizabeth and the region began to feel the impact of global economic restructuring that swept western countries in the early 1970s.

Post-fordist global neoliberalisation and deindustrialisation in Playford

The initial planners of Elizabeth could not have foreseen the changes that would emerge with the global economic restructuring of the 1970s and which transformed capital and labour through processes of neoliberal globalisation. …

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