Spatial planning and urban infrastructure have emerged as important foci of debates about cities in the last decade. The Australian government has returned to the urban terrain via an infrastructure program and urban policy development after more than a decade of dormancy on urban issues. This paper examines the new urban policy in an historical context to assess how it represents an evolution in federal approaches to cities. First the paper reviews recent scholarly debates about national level urban policy. Next the paper reviews the Australian experience of national level urban policy, focusing on the policy approach adopted. Lastly the paper assesses how the current national urban policy represents an evolution of previous efforts. The paper argues that although the new urban policy arrangements avoid some of the weaknesses of previous attempts they are nonetheless fragile in new ways.
The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.
This paper was presented at SOAC 6, held in Sydney from 26-29 November 2013.
SOAC 6 was the largest conference to date, with over 180 papers published in collected proceedings. All papers presented at the SOAC 2013 have been subject to a double blind refereeing process and have been reviewed by at least two referees. In particular, the review process assessed each paper in terms of its policy relevance and the contribution to the conceptual or empirical understanding of Australian cities.