Australia’s national urban policy: The smart cities agenda in perspective

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The Australian Government’s attempts at national urban policy have been sporadic and inconsistent, under the constraints of constitutional, financial, ideological and political factors. This paper concerns the recent resurgence of national urban policy under the rubric of “smart cities” adopted by the Turnbull Government and carried on by the incumbent Morrison Government. It investigates how this round of smart cities agenda articulates with Australia’s political tradition of national urban policy to seek continuity and change, through comparing historical policies, unpacking major smart cities programmes, identifying explanatory factors and critically commenting on its innovation and legacy. Drawing upon these analyses, this paper argues that understanding the smart cities agenda needs to move beyond the political, ideological “to-and-fro” pendulum to national urban policy observed in history. Rather, it resonates with a globalised policy norm established upon the city-based global integration and competition, driven by an imperative of transitioning to a knowledge economy and pursuing innovation capacity. It is too early to judge whether the smart cities agenda will bring changes to Australian cities in the way it wishes, since it involves longterm infrastructure investment and urban development projects. However, a comprehensive and consistent national urban policy to govern the Australian system of cities and towns has not been established yet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-217
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


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