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Reinterpreting Core and Periphery in Australia's Mineral and Energy Resources Boom: an Innisian perspective on the Pilbara

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Australia's current robust macro-economic condition, at least relative to that of many comparator nations within Europe and the USA, is built largely on the nation's particular insertion into the global economy as an abundant and reliable source of mineral and energy resources. Within Australia, though, public concern is mounting over the many direct and indirect economic, environmental and social effects of mineral and energy resource extraction and processing. Resource peripheries like the Pilbara have been characterised as ‘slippery spaces’ where capital, commodities and labour rapidly flow in, and all too frequently out, of these remote regions, with the surplus from local extraction and processing captured by the ‘sticky places’—the metropolitan cores host to the national and multinational mining and energy corporations (Hayter 2003). Drawing on insights from Innis' staples theory and geographical political economy, this paper focuses on two of these closely connected concerns. First, it briefly explores the attempts to establish a redistributive mechanism with which to equitably allocate the benefits of the boom in a federal polity in which socio-spatial inequity is still regarded as a substantial public policy concern. Second, shifting the focus to the regional and local scales of the Pilbara and its scattered towns, the paper critically explores the ‘Pilbara Cities’ initiative, funded by the ‘Royalties for Regions’ scheme, querying whether or not this ambitious plan can create the conditions for the development of functionally complex local and regional economies.
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Keywords: Pilbara; geographical political economy; marginality; redistribution; staples theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of New England, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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