By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
The Australian Policy Handbook
By Catherine Althaus, Peter Bridgman, Glyn Davis (Allen & Unwin, $45.00, softcover, 268 pages)
The idea of a policy handbook might seem misguided, but there’s good reason behind this thoroughly revised edition, an authoritative guide to the process of policy making in government.
The handbook is ”unashamedly written from the perspective of practitioners working from within the formal government machine”.
Our world is shaped through public policy and the community is affected by it. It is the substance of government, the foundation of the laws that regulate our behaviour, the justification for taxes, the support for education, health and other social services.
Public policy gives us roads, railways and airports, drought relief, emergency services, industry and employment development, and natural resource management. Politicians make the decisions, but public servants provide analysis and support for those choices.
The authors recognise the “complexity and discretionary nature of policy decision making”, but their experience has shown a good process can help create better policy.
They say that, “By process we do not mean something mechanical or standardized; policy is too much shaped by the particular problem it addresses and by a rich constellation of laws, budgets and political circumstance to be reduced to immutable rules”.
It’s all about “constants” in good policy making – an intellectual rigour about issues, a commitment to procedural integrity and a willingness to experiment and learn through implementation and adaptation.
Discussing policy making in an Australian context, The Australian Policy Handbook offers a view of the policy process and suggestions about each step. While the world of public policy can sometimes be turbulent, this valuable book is designed to be “pragmatic and accessible” and can be used by students, teachers and practitioners.
The authors, with impressive credentials, draw on their depth of practical experience to outline the processes used in making public policy that combines sound analysis and realistic know-how.
This fourth edition is packed with counsel: ‘snapshot’ synopsis in the margin, relevant quotes, analytic frameworks and examples, timetables, diagrams, practical hints, checklist for policy development, internet research tools, a glossary and references.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.