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Power-knowledge and the performativity of risk regulation in the Australian pipeline industry

Kramnaimuang King, Dolruedee

Description

Questions about regulatory effectiveness arise in the wake of catastrophic events involving technological risk. Criticism is often couched in terms of ‘regulatory failure’ or ‘regulatory capture’, reproducing discourses of responsibility that take regulatory failure for granted. These discourses black box ideas of ‘failure’ and ‘capture’ and, in so doing, fail to address a range of alternative, albeit largely underexplored, discourses and assemblages implicated in the power relationships that...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorKramnaimuang King, Dolruedee
dc.date.accessioned2017-10-30T00:30:22Z
dc.date.available2017-10-30T00:30:22Z
dc.identifier.otherb47392198
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/132666
dc.description.abstractQuestions about regulatory effectiveness arise in the wake of catastrophic events involving technological risk. Criticism is often couched in terms of ‘regulatory failure’ or ‘regulatory capture’, reproducing discourses of responsibility that take regulatory failure for granted. These discourses black box ideas of ‘failure’ and ‘capture’ and, in so doing, fail to address a range of alternative, albeit largely underexplored, discourses and assemblages implicated in the power relationships that shape regulatory knowledge and practices. This thesis explores such discourses and assemblages employing a critical and empirical approach inspired by Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and the concept of Foucauldian power-knowledge. It asks how power-knowledge in relation to risk regulation is performed by and around regulators in the Australian pipeline industry, and how the process of power-knowledge in relation to risk regulation might be improved. Key themes that emerged from the research include: the logics that underpin multiple regulatory assemblages across Australian states; the regulatory apparatuses through which regulation is enacted; technical-regulatory specifications; deregulation; and energy privatisation. Broadly, the findings indicate a number of incoherences of knowledge and practices in relation to risk regulation throughout the regulatory process. Regulators have a certain logic of thinking and doing in relation to safety practices. This logic comprises the largely taken-for-granted assumptions that: the regulation of pipeline risk revolves around two interdependent parties – pipeline regulators and pipeline industries; pipelines are physically safe; risks can be regulated using technical-physical controls; regulation inevitably relies on industry knowledge and activities; and regulation depends on the establishment of good relationships with industry. This logic is, however, inadequate for dealing with differences of regulatory practices across Australian states and the challenges of adopting a harmonised Australian pipeline standard. The regulatory apparatuses considered here included Safety Plans, risk-based regulation, and social-regulatory controls. Actual field safety practices were found to manifest differently from the text in Safety Plans – documents that contain regulatory requirements mandating pipeline industries to identify and control risks. These differences were associated with: (a) organisational factors such as cost-cutting; (b) safety plans being seen as bureaucratic red-tape undertaken to secure pipeline licenses; (c) insufficient understanding of technical safety knowledge in relation to accountability in lieu of regulatory complexity; and (d) misunderstandings around the intentions and principles of workforce engagement. Limitations in risk-based practice were evident in the contradiction between regulators’ reliance on industrial knowledge and self-regulatory activities when managing pipeline risks and industries’ reluctance to share safety knowledge with regulators. Regulators were able only to partially inspect risky activities due to limited resources. At the same time, potential to utilise social-regulatory controls was not realised due to limited familiarity among pipeline professions with opportunities for workforce and trade union engagement. Workforces were involved in the assessment and management of personal safety (low risk) but not in assessing major hazards (high-level process risk). Investigation of technical-regulatory specifications revealed that knowledge about pipeline dangers was incoherent among actors. The ‘measurement length’ specification (referred to in lay terms as a ‘blast zone’) obfuscates understanding of pipeline dangers and leads to mismatching practices in risk accountability, risk assessment and risk communication. Knowledge about pipeline dangers in relation to measurement length tends to be limited to those involved with the encroachment of interested third parties (pipeline industries, associated authorities and entities) but not with those groups who live, study and work within danger zones. Regulators face difficulties in using regulatory tools to cope with newly emergent risks arising from the complexity of pipeline ownership shaped by deregulation and energy privatisation. Regulators have become less effective in regulating pipeline risk in the face of multiple ownership and operation arrangements involving different companies. The effects of novel risk have also shaped the knowledge of other actors outside of regulatory control. The public lacks knowledge of additional costs for services, and of which institutions they can rely on to seek advice for gas repairs. The transferal of safety knowledge has become disassociated among pipeline engineers, field pipeline managers and pipeline technicians. As a consequence, regulators are enmeshed in incoherent discourses and practices involving deregulation, privatisation and the conduct of conduct within a ‘precarious regulatory regime’. Finally, with the aim of improving risk regulation, the incoherences summarised above are re-framed into three stages: (a) re-arranging the risk knowledge of regulators; (b) co-producing regulatory practices with diverse actors apart from pipeline industries; and (c) strengthening the co-accountability of regulators and pipeline industries.
dc.format.extent1 vol.
dc.format.mimetypeapplication/pdf
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.publisherCanberra, ACT : The Australian National University
dc.rightsAuthor retains copyright
dc.subjectActor-Network Theory
dc.subjectPower-knowledge
dc.subjectRisk
dc.subjectRegulation
dc.subjectHazardous Industry
dc.subjectEnergy
dc.subjectPipelines
dc.titlePower-knowledge and the performativity of risk regulation in the Australian pipeline industry
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.institutionThe Australian National University
local.contributor.supervisorLockie, Sewart
local.contributor.supervisorcontactstewart.lockie@jcu.edu.au
dcterms.valid2017
local.description.notesthe author deposited 30/10/2017
local.description.refereedYes
local.type.degreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
dc.date.issued2016
local.type.statusAccepted Version
local.contributor.affiliationSchool of Sociology, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, The Australian National University
local.request.emailrepository.admin@anu.edu.au
local.request.nameDigital Theses
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5d5145237b6dd
dcterms.accessRightsOpen Access
dc.provenance9.7.20 - made open access after no response from author
local.mintdoimint
CollectionsOpen Access Theses

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