APS leaders explain the ins and outs of regulatory impact analysis in new videos

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday August 3, 2021

Phil Gaetjens
Give the man a fiddle. Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Philip Gaetjens. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) has released a new video series that explains how impact analysis contributes to good policy proposals, and why it is a government requirement.

Regulatory impact analysis (RIA) is the process of identifying a policy problem and weighing up the pros and cons of all potential solutions. RIA is, according to the OECD, ​​a key element of an evidence-based approach to policy making.

The OBPR’s new series consists of 12 videos featuring senior public servants, including Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens and Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment secretary Andrew Metcalfe, who give their insights on RIA.

“Cabinet decision makers can – and should – expect to have quality evidence and analysis from the Australian Public Service when they are being asked to make major decisions,” Gaetjens says in one video.

“Where a policy change might impact Australians, their businesses and the community, government needs to be confident that robust and high quality analysis has been done.

“Impact analysis empowers all public servants, wherever you work and whatever your level, to break down complex policy issues to help government make decisions on the challenges we face.”

Read more: Best practice impact analysis — pursuing strong evidence-based policy

The videos cover a range of aspects of the impact analysis process, including identifying the root cause of a problem rather than a symptom, and using public consultation to test attitudes and reactions.

In one video, Department of Health deputy secretary John Skerritt notes that regulation isn’t the only option for policymakers.

“It’s important for policymakers to realise that there’s a range of options, including the do-nothing option,” he says.

“Regulation is only one of a suite of alternatives that could be, through alternatives, provision of incentives. Alternatives could be non-regulatory measures, such as encouraging voluntary compliance or it could be by providing information on what best practice could look like. So regulation should not be jumped into as the initial approach for policy development.”

Gaetjens has encouraged public servants to take note of the government’s RIA requirements at the beginning of the policy development process, noting that impact analysis is not just a box-ticking exercise.

“We know from experience that RIA works best when addressed as early as possible in the policy development process. And officials in OBPR are ready, willing to help you,” he says.

The OBPR has also urged public servants to watch the new videos and to ‘reach out’ for further RIA advice and training.

Read more: Regulatory stewards: PM&C wants to reform regulator culture


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