Adelaide's inner city area is slowly being turned around from a long period of population decline as people left for the suburbs to modest levels of growth, albeit often from a small base. High rise apartments and townhouses are replacing the old industrial sites and the empty lots. The CBD is being filled in, or more accurately, it is undergoing redevelopment and renewal.
There are still a lot of grungy areas around the CBD of Adelaide if you look closely. You don't need to explore the decayed and grimey back alleyways to see them, as many of the grungy areas are empty lots or holes in the ground, waiting to be developed. Many of these have been there for a long time, ever since the boom in office buildings came to a crashing halt.
These empty lots in the CBD were starting to be re-developed as inner city apartments, then the global financial crisis happened in 2008, and everything just ground to a halt. We are learning to live with the booms and busts in the global economy, and we realize that it is going to be a rough ride and a tough experience. We know that the policy discourse of the two speed economy means that there will be winners and losers, and we fear that those of us living in Adelaide will be amongst the losers despite a booming China's demand for Australia's iron ore.
Adelaide continues to lag badly economically. It is still suffering from the abrupt ending of the post 1945 boom in industrial capitalism boom in the 1980s. Paul Kelly in his The End of Certainity argued that the 1980s shift to deregulation and the free market by the Hawke/Keating Labor government effectively dismantled the pillars of the Australian settlement that had been put in place at the time of federation in 1901.
These pillars were: White Australia, industry protection, wage arbitration, state paternalism and imperial benevolence. The habits, the structures of feeling such as the sense of entitlement and the assumed expectations of government protection of that disappearing world are being pulverized by the global economy. The structural adjustments imposed by the economic forces of globalization are giving rise to a deep anger, and an in-your-face style of politics.
This anger and hostility has coalesced around a populist conservatism that dosen't want to change anything, desires to be relaxed and comfortable, expects the national government to be in control of events, and instinctively opposes those reforms that will help make Australia more sustainable through ecological modernization. The consequences are an ever deepening polarization in the body politic.
rise in the prosperity and redevelopment of the inner city area in Adelaide, and the other capital cities in Australia, is associated with the economic restructuring to a service economy that has seen the concentration of the tertiary educated workers in professional and managerial occupations in the central city. Though Adelaide is dismissed as a cultural backwater whose bright young university people keep leaving for Sydney and Melbourne, the inner city professionals also include artists and their culture values creativity, individuality, difference and merit.
The so called creative class are often referred to in the tabloid media as the cosmopolitan ‘Latte Set’ who are held to be out of touch with the aspirational, honest and partriotic values of hard-working Australian families living in the suburbs of the capital cities and the regional cities. The assumption in this conception of urban development is the continuing strength of consumer preference for lower density suburban development, for the use of the private car, and for investment in providing freeways, arterial road systems, and river crossings and tunnels.
It is a case for suburbanisation and against urban consolidation. It basically means more suburban sprawl on the fringes of the city with its low residential densities, increased car dependency, isolation from services, separation of home and work and people traveling long distances from home to work in peak hour traffic. Many of the outer suburbs are working class enclaves with 50 per cent or more of their workforce in the traditional industrial occupations.4
As the Urban 45
document highlights these different conceptions of the city raise questions about what kind of city do we want to live and work in. The problem that Adelaide faces is both to place limits around its suburban sprawl and to attract and retain creative people so that the inner city can prosper.