Multiple exemptions to evidence-based policy

In recent years we’ve seen a number of colossal Government policy failures, including the National Broadband Network and the home insulation scheme, which is now being investigated by a Royal Commission. These failures have resulted from poor policy development processes at the centre of Government, representing a failure to fully adopt the push toward evidence-based policy in the 2000s. Given the risks that bad policies can pose to the economy, we need to reconsider at least two rules that operate in both Commonwealth and State Governments. These rules are:

  • Cabinet documents are not released to the public for 20-30 years, and
  • Election commitments are not to be subjected to the same level of scrutiny as other policies, as confirmed in a recent guide prepared for Commonwealth Public Servants (see Abbott’s push to reduce red tape by $1 billion per year, and note that this rule has also been applied by previous Governments).

The first rule protecting Cabinet documents means that Governments have got away with some pretty bad policy because the policy development process hasn’t been transparent to the public. The policy development processes around the NBN and home insulation scheme were apparently weak, and this would probably be obvious if the Cabinet documents were accessible to journalists and the public. In this case, knowing that they might be exposed if the evidence for policies was weak and the public would find this out, Governments might push for better policy development and implementation plans. The protection of Cabinet documents only serves the public interest in the case of national security matters or where documents would truly reveal Cabinet deliberations – i.e. in the case of minutes of the meetings recording which Minister said what (if not protected, Ministers might be less than fully frank). Otherwise, there should be a presumption that documents should be released to the public in the interests of transparency and promoting evidence-based policy.

Regarding election commitments, it seems silly to me to suppose that just because a Government has been elected a majority of the people approve of every single one of its policies. Governments have substantially greater resources to research and develop policies than Oppositions, and hence it should naturally be expected that election commitments should be subject to fresh scrutiny after an election. The Commonwealth Government should certainly review its Paid Parental Leave policy, to investigate whether it could be delivered in a lower cost and, arguably, more equitable fashion.

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8 Responses to Multiple exemptions to evidence-based policy

  1. Craig Wilson says:

    very well thought through and put gene

  2. Jen says:

    Totally agree. The “we have a mandate” mantra can have unintended consequences apart from being costly to taxpayers. Paid Parental Leave will be a money pit.

  3. Chris says:

    Axe the PPL and the $200 voucher for marriage counsellor.

  4. Katrina drake says:

    Very well expressed , I couldn’t agree more, and on my favourite topic of rorts !

    I have for some time become increasingly despondent on the rorts that abound for every government policy. It seems that for every new government policy, there is an equal and opposite rort put in place.

    I believe this is because most policy is not evidence based, but arises because some politicians thinks its a good idea, based on radio talk back, twitter or some media beat up.

    The rorts cause well intentioned policy to fail due to budgetary overspending. They benefit the greedy, and not the needy for whom the policy was intended.

    Examples are so numerous,
    > dental Heath for chronic illness – rorted
    > roof insulation scheme – rorted
    > prescription medicine reviews scheme – rorted by lowcost pharmacy chains
    > 457 visa – rorted
    > student visa – rorted
    > marriage counselling scheme- rorted
    > super co contribution for low paid – rorted
    > the national low rental subsidy – rorted for international students
    > HeCs – rorted by universities, and not re-paid by students
    > vet fee help – the current scale of this rort is staggering
    > first home owners grant
    > home saver accounts
    > smsf

    The list is endless – and all examples of policy where the intended recipients received very little benefit, while an industry sprang up and benefited from the rort.

    I think we would all be a lot better off if government stopped being so frivolous with our taxpayer dollar. If government cannot spend taxpayer money wisely and carefully, they should leave the dollars with the citizen to be more self reliant, so we can care for our own health, roof insulation, teeth, education, savings, …etc.

    The thoughts of the rorts being planed around maternity leave schemes, national disability schemes, will make the average tax payers blood boil.

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