Cities in Transition: Changing Economic and Technological Processes and Australia's Settlement System

Australia: State of the Environment Technical Paper Series (Human Settlements), Series 1
P Newton, J Botchie and P Gipps
Department of the Environment, 1997
ISBN 0 642 25281 5

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About the Technical Paper

During the latter decades of the 20th century there has been an increasingly rapid transformation of cities which will continue into the 21st century. It will ultimately represent a transition at least as profound as that of earlier societal shifts such as that from an agrarian to an industrial society. The present transition is to an informational society. Key drivers, as with previous societal shifts, have been primarily associated with revolutionary technological and economic change although clearly there are other dynamics at work (see, e.g., Newton and Bell 1996; Birrell et al. 1995).

The focus for this paper is on those technological and economic forces which are impacting upon Australia's settlement system and, in particular, its major cities. In a mature information society it will be possible for a city's economic growth to occur without necessarily being accompanied by population growth. This results from the fact that information-intensive industries, unlike their more labour-intensive counterparts of earlier eras, are not limited in their growth and development by the confines of a local labour market or by a local market catchment area associated with sales.

Following an introductory section which places the current societal transition in historical context, focus shifts to an examination of the changing urban hierarchy within Australia, where cities such as Sydney and Melbourne can be increasingly differentiated from their counterparts in other States in respect of their network-based, as opposed to population or place-based, development. Attention then shifts to a consideration of intrametropolitan restructuring, where a major turnaround can be identified in the concentration of manufacturing versus information (producer services) industries.