Bipartisan analysis finds consultation lacking in state and federal policy-making

By Jackson Graham

Tuesday November 16, 2021

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(Gajus/Adobe)

An analysis of 20 state and federal policies has found governments use evidence and consultation only loosely, according to experts from both right and left-leaning think tanks. 

The study, a fourth annual assessment of decision-making by the Evidence-Based Policy Research Project, convened the right-leaning Institute of Public Affairs and left-leaning Per Capita Australia to choose and rank 20 policies. 

The think tanks gave the same score — ranked out of 10 — for 12 of the policies, while giving slightly different scores for another five and scores that differed more than two points for the remaining three. 

The rating criteria considered whether alternative policy options were considered and whether stakeholders were consulted, among other factors. 

Evidence-Based Policy Research Project chair professor Percy Allan said the capacity for corruption and public funding waste would be diminished if every major government decision included key qualities.

Those qualities include the public purpose, who was consulted, what alternatives were considered, why the policy was preferred and how it would be administered. 

“No government in Australia consistently addresses the above questions when making policy,” Allan, a former NSW Treasury secretary, said. 

“Adopting a Statement of Public Interest for each policy would do that.”

Of the policies analysed, six received “solid scores” of between 7 and 8.5. The Federal Corporate Insolvency Bill scored the highest mark and the Queensland Forest Wind Farm Development followed. 

Nine policies received “mediocre scores” of between 5 and 6.5, while five policies were considered “unacceptable” after scoring lower than half marks. 

The Victorian Constitutional Fracking Ban Bill received a 2.5 — the lowest score — followed by NSW Bushfires Bill scoring a 3. 

Other low scores included a 4 for the Victorian Drug Court Bill, and the Federal Income Support Bill and JobMaker Hiring Credit Bill each received 4.5. 

Of the 200 criteria marked to arrive at the individual scores, the left and right think tanks broadly agreed in more than three-quarters of the criteria on whether the legislation was well formulated.  

Sam Mellett, director of the Susan McKinnon Foundation, which funded the project, said policy development was too often short-term, partisan, reactionary, and lacked a public mandate. 

“Our governments should deliver evidence-based policies by taking a ‘business case approach’ in dialogue with communities and affected stakeholders,” Mellett said. 

“Fostering a more rigorous, consistent, and transparent policy process, governments would both develop better policies for the long term and make gains in public trust and confidence.” 


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