Best practice impact analysis — pursuing strong evidence-based policy

By Jason Lange

October 11, 2019

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A memo from Jason Lange, Executive Director of The Office of Best Practice Regulation in the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet.

Decision-makers expect the Australian Public Service to provide a strong evidence base when developing advice on policy proposals and changes.

Many of the steps involved in undertaking evidence-based policy analysis will be familiar and embedded in your work already: identifying the policy problem, articulating the pros and costs of alternative options as well as stepping out the views of stakeholders and how precisely they will be impacted. This is the definition of what impact analysis is. It is also what the Government’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) system delivers.

RIA formalises good policy development, demonstrating a clear evidence base to support the decision-maker. The questions asked by the RIA process are intended to be a support tool for policy-makers to consider and answer as part of your everyday work.

The RIA requirements have been in place for some time. They kick in when a decision about to be taken is likely to have more than a minor impact (be it positive or negative) on individuals, businesses or community organisations. You’ll likely know this as a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) — which is the document used to capture your impact analysis.

RIA settings cover key decisions of government, including those asked of the Prime Minister, of the Cabinet and its committees, and decisions delegated to Ministers. It helps you frame the analysis of the potential impacts of a decision and provides stakeholders with a transparent understanding of the evidence behind decisions.

The Australian Government is recognised as a world leader in RIA. The maturity and proven effectiveness of our system has set a benchmark for what best practice impact analysis looks like.

The Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) administers the Australian Government and Council of Australian Governments’ RIA systems. The OBPR is located in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and maintains day-to-day independence from government in its decision making on the RIS system. Its role is to ensure policy proposals put before decision-makers are accompanied by robust and high quality impact analysis.

The OBPR is an enabler for policy-makers. We are here to help right from the start of your policy development process. We will help you to articulate impacts, draw out the suitable range of Whole of Government options to respond to given issues, and ready your new policy proposal for the decision-making process.

To help in your pursuit of robust, evidence-based policy, the OBPR can:

1. Map out policy problems

  • We can work directly with a policy team drafting a RIS. We can help you map the RIA requirements against your policy development plan and decision points. Through this, we can help you identify risks and other issues the impact analysis should consider. Further, we can help to articulate potential economic, environmental and distributional impacts of your policy proposal.

2. Review RISs as they are being shaped

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss your RIS with the OBPR. We are more than happy to provide informal advice and input at every step so you can test the direction and how it’s tracking against expectations. Adjusting direction or tightening the analysis is far easier when you engage with us as it is being pulled together. It will also give you better comfort of how close it is to passing the OBPR at the more formal stages of the RIS assessment process. We don’t care about a missing comma and there is no such thing as a dumb question!

3. Provide training in evidence-based policy-making

  • We will come to you and provide training, ranging in group size from a team to a larger group of departmental staff, focused on a specific policy issue or RIA more generally. No doubt you already have ample support to draw on in your agency, but we can bring our perspective of what is required through RIA processes.

The best point of initial contact is the OBPR Helpdesk, which can be contacted at or on 02 6271 6270.

We also have an extensive range of online resources, available here.

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