AbstractsBusiness Management & Administration

Federal environment policymaking in Australia: avoiding failure; pursuing success

by Kathleen Mackie

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: Business
Year: 2015
Keywords: success; environment; policy; failure; Australia; policy agency; policy official
Record ID: 1033829
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/54239


This study is an empirical investigation of success from the viewpoint of policy officials in the context of Australian federal environmental policy. The research puzzle driving this study is why policy interventions succeed or fail, including from the insider perspective. Specifically, the central question of this study explores whether policy officials have a prior sense of success, what factors they consider are key to success, and how they pursue success. The qualitative approach combines interviews and case studies within environment policy. The interviewees are 51 policy officials who had a central role in the Federal Environment Department over the period 1993-2013. Twelve diverse cases are discussed including the Home Insulation and Working on Country programs. Most interviewees claimed they had a strong sense whether or not a policy would succeed. The common ground on which they based their predictions suggests that three key factors of success set out in the public policy literature warrant closer scrutiny in the environment policy context: stakeholder engagement; clarity of objectives; and a strong evidence base. Interviewees emphasised the importance of a strong policy mandate as a key factor, a factor not prominent in the public policy literature, but of likely significance in environment policy success. The overarching finding is that a primary factor in policy success is the agency exhibited by policy officials. Agency is defined as the self-directed actions of policy officials intended to achieve a particular result for the good of the environment. This study’s contribution to the literature is a heightened understanding of the tactical manner whereby officials pursue policy agendas. An appreciation of these real world tactics may be of value in understanding why policies succeed or fail. For theorists, the study is an insight into the ‘black box’ of policymaking. Though interviewees described their work more in terms of avoiding failure than pursuing success, the study concludes that an increased focus on the agency exhibited by policy officials will enhance our understanding of how public policy is made and why some policies succeed where others fail. Parallel studies in other policy fields would test the wider applicability of the study findings.