Public policy and what’s missing in action?

6 Dec 2016

In her speech to the CSIRO-Monash Superannuation Research Cluster Conference 2016 in Melbourne, the Productivity Commission's deputy chair says evidence based research is a critically endangered beast.


Good morning. And welcome to the 2016 CSIRO-Monash Superannuation Conference.

Today, you will hear and learn of the endeavors of the super research cluster. And research dividends in a field of public policy endeavour that matters. Today the $2 trillion behemoth meant to deliver better retirement incomes for working Australians. And some would argue it’s a field of much policy tinkering, but perhaps less well informed public policy design and development.

So when Deborah Ralston asked me to open the conference — my response was a resounding yes. For the PC shares much in common with the cluster. My Commissioner colleague, Angela McRae who is also here today, represents the PC on the cluster’s steering committee. And Angela and I, along with our PC team, have been beavering away in the retirement incomes space over the past 18 months.

And will continue to do so for the foreseeable future thanks to David Murray. And our work has benefitted from the insights Deborah and her cluster colleagues have shared with us along the way. But this good old fashioned evidence-based research you will hear about today has much in common with the black rhino.

A critically endangered beast — seldom seen and rarely funded. For today we find ourselves struggling to deal with what should not be intractable policy issues. And why intractable? I fear it is because three simple but essential prerequisites to good public policy are sorely missing in action.

Now the first prerequisite missing in action is evidence-based policy research and analysis. Something core to the cluster and the Productivity Commission’s DNA. The second essential prerequisite and very much missing in action, is policy and program evaluation. The third, and arguably the twin sibling of evaluation, is experimentation or piloting. And for the PC, these are the essential E’s of good public policy.

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