Andrew Podger: the state of policy analysis in Australia

Launching the book Policy Analysis in Australia, former top bureaucrat Andrew Podger has weighed in on the key changes and challenges imposed by Australia’s hastening political environment. Despite many negative trends, Podger remains an optimist.

Policy Analysis in Australia [edited by Brian Head and Kate Crowley, pictured above] is a weighty book — timely and relevant, particularly right now as a new Prime Minister promises a new era of engaging with an intelligent public about economic policy reform and of returning to good cabinet government practices.

I will not attempt to summarise the book but instead address three closely related themes that run throughout the book: the increasingly divergent sources of policy advice, attitudes to formal evaluation and advice, and the importance of public engagement. In doing so, not surprisingly I will throw in my own two-pennyworth of opinions particularly about the public service.

The increasingly divergent sources of policy advice

A common theme in the book is the increasingly divergent sources of policy advice, a trend common to other western democracies. It is implicit in the contemporary use of the term “governance” and is reflected in Rod Rhodes’ thesis of network government.

In his chapter, Pat Weller presents a sharp contrast between the policy process in 1972 and that operating in 2013. In doing so he firmly rejects the idea of a past golden age in policy advising, highlighting the narrowness of the former approach.

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