Assessing Environmental NGOs in contemporary Australian governance: contributions, responses and prospects

Stream: Panel 16 - Environmental Politics: Environmental Governance and Policymaking in Australia and Beyond
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm

Abstract

Environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) in Australia are seemingly more politically active and influential than ever before. They have been at the forefront of recent high-profile debates on issues of national significance including the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, the future of renewable energy sector, the status of factory fishing trawlers, forest protection in Tasmania and of course climate change. Within the academic literature, many scholars emphasise the benefits of a vibrant NGO sector for Australian governance and public policy-making whilst critics view the sector – and ENGOs in particular – with some hostility citing concerns that they elevate minority viewpoints, receive too much taxpayer funding and undermine commercial activity. Regardless of one’s views on the rights and responsibilities of ENGOs, important questions remain: how exactly have ENGOs managed to increase their visibility and influence in Australian policymaking in recent years? What tactics and strategies do ENGOs use and how should we understand their contributions to contemporary governance arrangements? This paper addresses these important questions by critically analysing recent evolutions in ENGO tactics that include the issuing and withdrawing of ‘social licenses’, coalition building, consumer activism, and formal participation in network governance arrangements. In doing so, the paper deciphers the contributions of ENGOs to the overall governance mix in Australia alongside business, governments and the NGO sector more broadly.

Author

Hannah Murphy-Gregory (Presenter), University of Tasmania
Dr Hannah Murphy-Gregory is a Lecturer in the Politics and International Relations Program, School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania.