Evidence-based policy gets lost in the politics of the day

by Richard Denniss in The Australian Financial Review
Originally published in The Australian Financial Review on April 9, 2013

In New Zealand, cabinet documents are routinely released soon after cabinet has made a decision. In fact, the New Zealand guide for accessing cabinet documents states explicitly that the need for public servants to provide “frank and fearless” advice is not a reason to keep cabinet submissions secret. Where many Australian public servants might react to this heresy by leaving out detail and problems, in New Zealand most public servants have had the opposite response. They know that their submission will most likely be read by academics, the opposition and the media so they work hard to ensure that cabinet is provided with an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence and arguments for policy decisions. Yet here in Australia, where major cabinet decisions are made on late-night phone hook-ups, we will probably have to wait two decades to read what sort of “evidence” cabinet takes into account.

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