A Case Study Exploring Policy Coherence and Health Equity Outcomes in the Policy Response to the Closure of Car Manufacturing in the Playford area of South Australia

Dr. Kaathryn Browne-Yung
Prof. Sharon Friel
Prof. Fran Baum
Dr. Anna Ziersch

Australia is experiencing significant workplace and social dislocation in response to the end of the commodity boom, the continued decline in mass manufacturing and rapidly evolving digital technologies. In 2017, Australia faced the closure of the automotive industry which is expected to have considerable flow-on effects for affected communities and the broader economy. In this paper, we described a case study of Playford, the location of the General Motors Holden (GMH) car manufacturing plant which closed in 2017, which is an area of considerable pre-existing socioeconomic disadvantage. We explored the impact of the policy response to the closure. We were interested in identifying and mapping policy (in) coherence within this dynamic policy context to illustrate how the economic hardship faced by the community following the closure might be potentially mediated, and the extent to which policies affect health equity outcomes.

We take a critical realist approach, and report here on our policy analysis using Bacchi’s problematization method to explore how policy responses are formulated, revealing which of the existing issues were seen by government as problematic and needing attention. Policy coherence is variously regarded as a strategy for joined up, integrated or networked governance and is viewed as a subcategory of Giddens’s ‘transformative capacity’ holding relational power through the capacity of policy actors to shape and secure outcomes through integrated action. However, greater coherence does not tell us about the appropriateness of a given set of policies, therefore we also undertook workshops with policy actors using a systems approach of Collaborative Conceptual Modelling of engagement and knowledge sharing to explore the perceive effects of the policy response on the affected community.
We mapped these findings to illustrate the complexity and interaction between the community and individual domains affected by the plant closure that may influence the emergence of health equity outcomes and explored what the policy response should look like.