Edited by Andrew Massey and Karen Johnston
Chapter 15: Australia: building policy capacity for managing wicked policy problems
Governments in Australia, as in many other countries, have wrestled since the late 1970s with a series of structural reforms in the public sector, intended as the foundation for improving governmental efficiency and effectiveness, and thereby contributing to national economic productivity. While these broad goals and directions of public sector reform have been widely shared among the liberal-democratic countries, the methods and pace of change were quite different, depending on the administrative traditions, local leadership and political ideologies prevalent in each country (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011). This public sector reform process, designed broadly in accordance with neoliberal principles of new public management (NPM), was initially directed towards deregulating the economy, redefining core roles for government, and enhancing efficiency in the delivery of public services (Dunleavy and Hood 1994). These reforms were initially focused on structures and managerial processes within the public sector (e.g. divestment of ‘non-core’ functions, restructuring, and skills development to enhance managerial efficiency), but the reform process soon moved on to promote market-based approaches to service delivery by non-government providers. Relationships with external service providers were developed and shaped through competitive tendering in many areas, with new forms of performance-based service contracting. By the early 2000s, contestability was well entrenched in most OECD countries, and performance metrics were widely used in program management both within and beyond the core public sector (Bouckaert and Halligan 2008).
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