The Evidence Based Policy research project seeks to determine the degree to which Australian public policy-makers adequately follow an evidence-based policy process. A policy-making process that is ‘evidence-based’ has the following features: it aligns with the scientific method of inquiry, is based on analytical evaluation—such as cost-benefit analysis—and should follow a robust procedural system. In effective evidence-based policy-making, a problem is identified, and objectives are formulated, which leads to an evaluation of all possible solutions. The optimal decision is then drawn from this evaluation.
Past iterations of this project have found that much of public policy in Australia is formulated on a whim and without an evidence base. For example, from 2018 to 2021, the project examined 72 government bills—and found that only eight had used a cost-benefit analysis, with a further six that may have done so.
The findings continue the trend, showing a consistent lack of a comprehensive evidence-based policy process as measured by the Wiltshire Criteria. Overall, the federal government scored lower than any of the state governments—averaging 5.25/10 across eight bills. Assessed across four bills each, the Victorian and New South Wales governments performed only marginally higher than the federal government with an average of 6/10 and 6.5/10 respectively, while Queensland scored 7.5/10. Although there is some variance between jurisdictions, the statistical significance of these differences should not be overstated given the small sample sizes.