Q&A: Who makes public policy in Australia?

63d55290d9b911e5977177527b345482_inset_imageOn 14 August 2013, 400 guests attended an interactive discussion exploring the question Who makes public policy in Australia?. Hosted in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPPA Victoria), the debate covered a range of questions from the moderator and the audience including:

  • Is Australian public policy at greater risk of capture by vested interests now that at other times in its history?
  • Which interests dominate in public policy making, is their influence inappropriate and what impact have they had on policy making?
  • Is Australia’s political system robust enough to resist undue influence? Are politicians robust enough? How might the system be strengthened?

Our panellists were:

  • Gay Alcorn, multi-award winning Journalist
  • Geoff Allen AM, Founder Allen Consulting and Chair, Centre for Corporate Public Affairs
  • Melissa Conley Tyler, National Executive Director, Australian Institute of International Affairs
  • Terry Garwood, Deputy Secretary, Local Infrastructure & Land, Department of Transport, Planning & Local Infrastructure
  • Professor Brian Howe, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
  • Professor Helen Sullivan (Moderator) Director, Melbourne School of Government

Read what they had to say on our Twitter feed for 14 August or watch a video of the event.


My Time in the White House: Dr Shelley Metzenbaum

On 12 August 2013 Dr Shelley Metzenbaum spoke to approximately 100 guests, at an event co-hosted in partnership by the Melbourne School of Government and ANZSOG. Dr Metzenbaum is recognized internationally as a leading expert in public sector performance management and measurement, leadership, and accountability.

In this seminar Dr Metzembaum reflected on the achievements and challenges of managing government performance from The White House where she was responsible for overseeing President Obama’s performance agenda from 2009-13 as Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Before this, Dr Metzenbaum served as Associate Administrator for Regional Operations and State/Local Relations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Undersecretary of Environmental Affairs and Director of Capital Budgeting for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dr Metzenbaum has also held notable posts in academia, most recently as founding director of the Collins Center for Public Management at Boston’s McCormack School, and as director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Public Sector Performance Management.

Before this, Dr Metzenbaum served as Associate Administrator for Regional Operations and State/Local Relations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Undersecretary of Environmental Affairs and Director of Capital Budgeting for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dr Metzenbaum has also held notable posts in academia, most recently as founding director of the Collins Center for Public Management at Boston’s McCormack School, and as director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Public Sector Performance Management.


Vote Compass

0963ad60d9ba11e5977177527b345482_inset_imageVote Compass, an interactive electoral literacy tool which was launched shortly after the election was called. It is being used for the first time in Australia during the 2013 election campaign and has drawn almost 500,000 responses in its first three days. Vote Compass is a tool developed by political scientists at the University of Toronto in partnership with the Melbourne School of Government, the University of Sydney and the ABC. It offers an accessible framework for learning about party platforms, stimulates discussion on a wide variety of election issues, and encourages democratic participation within the electorate. Vote Compass enables voters to compare their views with the platforms of political parties, while also building an expansive database of public opinion for academic research. Dr Aaron Martin and Nicholas Reece from the Melbourne School of Government have been heavily involved in the development of Vote Compass for Australia. Vote Compass is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan organisation. More information about Vote CompassGo to the 2013 Australian Election Vote Compass Video of Melbourne School of Government’s Dr Aaron Martin discussing Vote Compass on ABC News 24


Directions in US corporate and International Tax Reform

On 25 July 2013 Melbourne Law School and the Melbourne School of Government hosted a lecture by Dr Eric Toder, Co-director, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Centre. He addressed attendees on the high US corporate tax rate which may place US multinationals at a competitive disadvantage. Some US multinationals have avoided tax by shifting income to low-tax jurisdictions. Dr Toder reviewed why it is hard to tax corporate income in a globalized economy where both the source of income and residence of companies can be shifted, commenting on suggested reforms. Dr Toder previously held US government and international positions in tax policy, including as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis at the US Treasury Department, Director of Research at the Internal Revenue Service, Deputy Assistant Director for Tax Analysis at the Congressional Budget Office, and consultant to the New Zealand Treasury.


Election Watch

050905d0d9ba11e5b84ee1f202308fc6_inset_imageElection Watch is an initiative of the University of Melbourne. Its aim is simple: to go beyond the rhetoric and encourage Australians to engage with issues that shape their lives by making it easy for them to access a diversity of quality information about the politicians, the politicking and the policies. Election Watch brings together the University of Melbourne’s most respected and experienced academics, to provide rigorous analysis and independent commentary on the Australian federal election campaign. The Melbourne School of Government contributes funding and direction to Election Watch, along with its other strategic partners which include the Centre for Advancing JournalismVoteCompassFarrago Magazine and The ConversationElection Watch is edited by Cathy Harper who has been a journalist and producer at SBS and the ABC since 2000. She has reported from East Timor during the 2002 independence vote and from the United States in the lead up to the 2004 presidential election. The opinions expressed by contributors to Election Watch are the authors’ own and not those of the University of Melbourne. Go to Election Watch



Melbourne School of Government launches ambition for better policy

09658220d9ba11e592b8373d1914f24c_inset_imageOn 18 June 2013, the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Business & Economics and Melbourne Law School at the University came together to launch the Melbourne School of Government, among leaders from the academic, corporate, government and community sectors.

The Governor of Victoria, His Excellency the Honourable Alex Chernov AC QC joined the University of Melbourne’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis to officially open the new School.

The Vice Chancellor is himself a Professor of Political Science, with previous academic appointments at Washington’s Brookings Institution and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A National Fellow with the Institute of Public Administration Australia, he has also served as Queensland’s most senior public servant, Director-General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and as the Foundation Chair of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.

This first-hand experience of the value of joining the theory and practice of public policy, led the Vice Chancellor to personally champion the establishment of the Melbourne School of Government. Speaking at the School’s launch, he said:

“The new School brings together a wealth of policy and governance expertise. Students will be not only be taught by leading academics across Law, Business & Economics and Political Science, but will also engage with experienced practitioners inside and outside the classroom.”

Inaugural Melbourne School of Government Director, Professor Helen Sullivan, confirmed that the School will work intimately with federal and state governments, Australian and international businesses, the legal sector, domestic and foreign NGOs as well as the world’s best think-tanks and academic institutions and the general public: “These relationships will be critical if we’re to improve the expertise of those developing and implementing policies. We want an ongoing, genuine and robust dialogue with the world around us, to develop innovative responses to contemporary policy questions.”

The Dean of Law, Professor Carolyn Evans, and Dean of Business and Economics, Professor Paul Kofman, highlighted that as a joint venture of three faculties, the Melbourne School of Government can most effectively explore solutions to today’s pressing public policy problems, which are multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary – in areas like immigration, climate, ageing and health, food security, resources taxation and urban planning.

The Governor of Victoria, His Excellency the Honourable Alex Chernov AC QC, said:

“There is no doubt that most challenges facing us and the rest of the world today are so multi-dimensional and complex that they tend to inhibit rather than encourage public discussion and development of policies in relation to them … if there was ever a desperate need for an effective School of Government that can engender quality discussion and facilitate the development of workable policies that assist governments to improve society, that time is right now … Our community should, therefore, be grateful to Professor Glyn Davis and the University of Melbourne for establishing such an important institution.”

Special guest speaker Helen Silver, who recently stepped down from the role of Victoria’s highest public servant, Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, said with real fervour: “I fundamentally believe in the importance of creating a dedicated academic ‘space’ to enhance the design and delivery of public policy, to generate thought leadership on complex, public policy issues; to engage across sectors and with other jurisdictions; and to create the next generation of public service leaders.”

Image above: Rear L-R Vice Chancellor Prof Glyn Davis; Helen Silver; Prof Mark Considine, Dean of Arts; His Excellency the Honourable Alex Chernov AC QC; Governor of Victoria; Prof Helen Sullivan; Director Melbourne School of Government; Front L-R Prof Paul Kofman Dean Business & Economics; Prof Carolyn Evans, Dean of Law at the launch. View more photos from the launch event. Read Helen Silver’s full speech – Helen Silver speech [PDF, 284 KB]. Watch the video of the launch event below.


Melbourne School of Government researchers win prestigious international award

Image: L-R Prof Jenny Lewis, Vice Chancellor Prof Glyn Davis and Prof Mark Considine. Photo: Peter Casamento.
Image: L-R Prof Jenny Lewis, Vice Chancellor
Prof Glyn Davis and Prof Mark Considine.
Photo: Peter Casamento.

Professor Mark Considine, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and Professor Jenny Lewis, Melbourne School of Government, have become the first Australians to win one of the most prestigious international awards for research in the field of organisation studies and governance.

They won the Jan Kooiman Prize for the best research published in the journal Public Management Review in 2012. The prize is named after Jan Kooiman, an internationally renowned Dutch scholar who pioneered the study of governance and its role in explaining the steering capacity of public institutions.

The chair of the judging panel, Professor Stephen Osborne from the University of Edinburgh, described the research as “…path-breaking in its contribution to our knowledge of the way networks of actors impact the delivery of public services.”

Titled Networks and Interactivity: Ten years of street-level governance in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia, the study involved a 10 year examination of the way front-line staff in public service agencies, NGOs and private contractors in Australia, the UK and the Netherlands responded to the needs of their clients as processes of contracting and privatisation took root.

Prof Lewis said, “The research findings have significant implications for the way governments design public services and for the debate about the importance of different governance arrangements and their impact on contracting out services.”


Number of posts found: 69