The Australian Policy Handbook

The Australian Policy Handbook

The Australian Policy Handbook

The Australian Policy Handbook


The theory and practice of policy-making in Australia are addressed in this fully revised text. The authors draw on their depth of practical experience to outline the processes used in making public policy while systematically explaining the relationships between political decision makers, public-service advisers, community participants, and those charged with implementing programs. This updated guide includes new material on evidence-based policy making, deliberative-democracy and consultation processes, the media, community engagement, and other networks. The fresh examples, references, and Internet resources make this an ideal guide for both students and professionals.


Governments pursue their objectives by implementing policy. A statement of public policy is therefore a statement of politi- cal priorities. In the Australian system of government, though, not all actors involved in policy formulation are political. Indeed, much policy advice is prepared by public servants committed to notions of professional neutrality. The system must find ways to mesh such impartial expert advice with a political perspective.


Public policy cannot be separated
from its institutional context Policy is
essentially an expression of the political
will of a government.

So for policy professionals and
for partisan participants alike, an
understanding of the nature of
government and the political dynamic
is crucial.

In this chapter, the traditional
hierarchical theory of responsible
government is complemented by a
functional division of government into
political, policy and administrative roles
to explain the reality of the institutions
and operations of government.

This chapter sketches the institutional context of policy making. It offers both the formal model of the Australian politi- cal system—usually described as ‘responsible government’—and a more dynamic representation of the interaction between poli- ticians, advisers and the public service.


Australia is a liberal democracy. Emy and Hughes (1991:226–63) broadly define a liberal democracy as referring to a political system heavily influenced by liberal concepts of politics charac- terised by belief in the individual, a consensual theory of society, belief in reason and progress, and suspicion of concentrated forms of power. It is hybrid polity organised according to particu- lar views of power, legitimacy, justice and freedom.

The Australian system of government melds notions of ministerial responsibility, drawn from the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster in London, with a federal Senate modelled on US practice. It includes a governor-general, as the representative of the Queen, and a powerful executive that . . .

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