Evidence Based Policy Analysis 2019

November 15, 2019

Progressive Economics

This report is part of the Evidence Based Policy Analysis Project, administered by the newDemocracy Foundation, and now in its second year.

Per Capita was commissioned, alongside the Institute of Public Affairs, to provide analysis of a number of Australian policies introduced at a state and federal level over the two years from July 2017 to June 2019.

Click here to download the newDemocracy Foundation’s media release.

The Project is intended to address the concern that policymaking in Australia is falling short of best practice. Policies are often built “on the run” as quick reactions to the political issue of the day, designed to capture the interest of the 24-hour news cycle or motivated by short-term political advantage. This can result in failed policy implementation and poor results for citizens, politicians, and society at large, especially when it undermines public confidence in policymaking.

The Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) 2012 discussion paper Public Policy Drift argued that governments must replace “policy on the run” with a “business case approach” to address the “sense of crisis in the policymaking system”. This approach would involve designing policies based on evidence, consultation, analysis, and debate. The paper outlined a business case approach based on Professor Kenneth Wiltshire’s Ten Criteria for a Public Policy Business Case and analysed 18 federal policies against that criteria, finding that only eight satisfied these standards for policymaking.

Through this annual project, the newDemocracy Foundation commissions two think tanks with different ideological leanings – Per Capita and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) – to repeat the analysis, ranking 20 recent high profile policies (eight federal, and four from each of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland) against the Wiltshire criteria.

For a policy to meet the Wiltshire criteria, it needs to score more than 5 out of 10. Of the 20 policies we analysed, we found 9 had met the Wiltshire criteria, while 11 failed. This shows that although there is high quality policymaking in Australia, especially at the state level, policymaking still often falls short of the best practice the public should expect. Unlike last year, when all of the Victorian state government policies met the Wiltshire criteria, no government achieved a full pass rate in the 2019 assessment.

The 2019 project required Per Capita and the IPA to again choose the case studies together to avoid political bias.

On Per Capita’s assessment, the policies that passed the Wiltshire test were:

  • FED: National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 – 9/10
  • VIC: Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2019 – 9/10
  • QLD: Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 – 9/10
  • VIC: Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 – 9/10
  • QLD: Human Rights Act 2019 – 8/10
  • NSW: Electoral Funding Act 2018 – 7/10
  • NSW: Modern Slavery Act 2018 – 6/10
  • QLD: Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images Act 2019 – 6/10
  • FED: Family and Domestic Violence Leave Act 2018 – 6/10

The policies that failed the Wiltshire test were:

  • FED: Income Management and Cashless Welfare Act 2019 – 5/10
  • VIC: Bail Amendment Act 2018 – 5/10
  • FED: Commonwealth funding formula for non-government schools – 5/10
  • FED: Assistance and Access Act 2018 – 4/10
  • FED: Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money Act 2019 – 4/10
  • NSW: Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment Act 2018 – 3/10
  • VIC: Fire Services Reform Act 2019 – 3/10
  • QLD: Final environmental approval for Adani’s Carmichael mine – 3/10
  • FED: Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act 2019 – 2/10
  • NSW: Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment Act 2018 – 3/10
  • FED: Promoting Sustainable Welfare Act 2018 – 2/10