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Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world and has many of the urban problems characteristic of advanced industrial states. These problems have been accentuated by a near-doubling of the Australian urban population since the end of World War II and a growing concern for the future of Australian cities and the role of government in urban development. In 1972, after twenty-three years in opposition, the Labor Party won control of the Commonwealth Government. With its socialist traditions, big-city following, and leadership dedicated to a strong central government, Labor's national election victory gave a strong new impetus to government intervention in urban affairs and patterns of urban growth. Under the aggressive leadership of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, the Labor Government pushed through Parliament a package of urban land programs involving heavy Commonwealth Government funding, and sought major reallocations of governmental power to help implement these and other programs. Often innovative, generally well-administered, and occasionally very contentious, some of these programs were cut back and others terminated after Labor was replaced by a Liberal Party-Country Party coalition government in the December, 1975 election.
Labor's programs constitute by far the most extensive effort by any Australian Government to establish a national approach to urban land development and the physical problems of cities. As designed and originally implemented, they not only manifest a strong tendency to adopt many of the same legal devices and government controls that have been utilized in North America, England, and Western Europe, but also to strike out in new directions when this seems suited to Australian conditions and can attract the requisite political support. The reasons for and the effectiveness of these programs are matters of significance not only for Australia but for countries with comparable problems. This article focuses on the Labor Government's urban land programs, their goals, structure, . problems, and significance for the future. Australian and American federal government interventions in urban land matters are compared, and the relevance of the Australian experience for the United States is specifically considered.
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