Environmental Policy: Australian Practice in the Context of Theory

Article excerpt

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY: AUSTRALIAN PRACTICE IN THE CONTEXT OF THEORY Thomas, I. (2007) Annandale, NSW Australia: The Federation Press. ISBN 978-1-86287-603-3 pp 493 RRP AUD 69.50 paperback.

A stated aim of this book is to provide a starting point for gaining a background in environmental policy or for developing and/or implementing such policy (p. v). Although the book does provide a comprehensive coverage of this policy field - a coverage relevant to its fulfilling this aim - it does not make it easy for readers to find the information they seek. Aldiough the index provides a broad ranging list of terms and the overall organisation is rational, in the individual chapters information is presented in a confusing and seemingly random manner. Examples from environmental and other fields are often mixed with case studies and theory without any apparent order.

The book has four parts and 20 chapters. Part A (two chapters) provides an introduction to the topic and covers basic issues such as the distinction between public and private policy, the role of economics and politics, and philosophy and 'green' perspectives. It made me eager to continue reading.

But Part B, which presents the range of environmental policies administered by different levels of government, did not sustain the book's flow and focus. It contains superfluous detail and a repetitive discussion of treaties, conventions and legislation that is inessential for what follows. Moreover, it introduces some concepts, such as steps to create an environmental policy (p. 148), prematurely.

Part C, on 'the key elements of policy making' (p.155), is the guts of the book and returns to the aims set out in the preface. Through a 'Landcare' case study, Chapter 9 effectively establishes the interface between theory and practice Chapter 10 reviews relevant policy formulation tools providing readers with constructive reference material Chapters 11 and 12 also contain such material they provide the reader with a comprehensive overview of all aspects of policy implementation. But weaknesses in the ordering of material are evident For instance, the discussion of the advantages of economic instruments (12.5.3) precedes the discussion of the specific economic instruments (12.5.4). Emphasising that the basic policy cycle (p. 179) serves as the guide for the chapter headings in Part C may have created a clearer picture for the reader.

Part D, a thorough overview of the many influences that act on the practicalities of environmental policy making, was illuminating and definitely kept my interest. It clearly explains why the theory of the previous chapters sometimes comes unstuck and does not always translate into real action; it outlines the impact of the political process and other broad influences on the policy makingprocess; and it makes many suggestions on how these influences, such as the media and stakeholder groups, may be managed. …