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The Changing Geographies of Power and Control in Rural Service Provision: Recent Restructuring Within the Australian Tractor Dealership System

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Over the past few years a considerable body of research has illuminated the changing geographies of service provision in rural Australia. Mostly, this work has emphasised the quantitative aspects of restructuring, by way of documenting numerical reductions in service delivery points and their implications for local employment and service access. In this paper, an examination of recent restructuring within the dealership system for high-horsepower tractors underlines that these quantitative changes also intersect with qualitative shifts to the character of service delivery. Interviews with 31 participants in the tractor dealership system of Central-West New South Wales reveal the recent evolution of a producer-driven supply chain in which two dominant, multinational, tractor-machinery companies have sought to exercise tighter control over customer relations through the restructuring of franchise agreements with dealers. There has been a resultant demise of the independent dealership, and its replacement by a system of standardised, company-affiliated outlets operated by franchise holders. Hence, the spatial restructuring of this industry represents the surface manifestations of corporate strategies in which large economic entities are re-organising their interests in light of globalised theatres of competition and profit. In this sense, the tractor-dealership system is emblematic of changes to power and control in rural service provision as the franchise models propagated by large corporate interests increasingly subsume the small-business sector activities of Australia's rural towns.
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Keywords: agricultural machinery; franchising; global commodity chains; rural geography; rural restructuring

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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