Learning from public administration past: ANZSOG case library opens up

By David Donaldson

October 16, 2017

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The Rudd government’s pink batts scheme has become a byword for what can go wrong when public policy is rushed, with government pumping significant amounts of money into a barely regulated industry.

Mike Mrdak, then-head of the Commonwealth Office of the Coordinator-General, has admitted to being “sleepless” over the home insulation program.

One staff member, who was seconded to the branch given responsibility for the program, described this as a “stressful and difficult period” because the department was trying to build the plane while it was already in the air:

“I found out about the program via the media release from the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, on 3 February 2009 and at that time, it was unknown to me that the department would be implementing this program and I was asked to join the program. So not having had any previous background in the implementation of such program or background in roof insulation, I was starting from scratch in terms of my knowledge and contacts in the industry and it was a stressful and difficult period because the government had announced that the program had already commenced and householders and various people from the community were even phoning the department switchboard and asking…how they could receive the rebate. But the Department didn’t have any opportunity to plan or go through…a new policy proposal process…Rather, it was announced and then we had to figure out how we would implement it and just meet the government’s objectives. So we were at the same time attempting to deliver the program and design it.”

Ultimately, four insulation installers died in separate incidents linked to the program.

This episode in Australian public administration has been thoroughly examined and debated, and the above insights are not new.

They have, however, been collected in the latest case study published by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government as part of its John L Alford Case Library.

The library, which used to be accessible only to members, was recently made open to the public. Created in 2004 to remedy the lack of public sector teaching cases relevant to Australia and New Zealand, the library is now the third-largest collection of public policy and management cases in the world, with nearly 200 cases covering a wide range of topics from all levels of government.

It offers users a regularly updated collection of catalogued, peer-reviewed cases, and is designed as a resource both for instructors using interactive teaching approaches and practitioners and researchers seeking authoritative accounts and analyses of important public policy and management issues.

Most of its content is licensed under creative commons.

ANZSOG’s case library was recently named in honour of public administration expert Professor John Alford, who has now retired.

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