Policy making in opposition: a case-study analysis

Stream: Panel 44 - Public Policy & Social Justice: The Practice of Policymaking
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


Policy analysis is a well-established element in the field of political science. It is almost universally focussed on government policies however. There is very little attention devoted to the way policies are developed in opposition. Yet policies developed in opposition can be critically important, especially if the party which has developed these wins government. As promises announced during the election, they become high-priority elements of the next government’s agenda, and may often be pursued, whether or not they fare well through the usual analysis process within the public service. Even if the party developing the policy is not ultimately elected, the announcement and discussion of the policy at the time may influence policy development in government, since the party/parties in government may respond on account of public pressure around the issue. Conventional policy analysis tools, such as the Australian policy cycle, have been frequently used to analyse government policies but are rarely employed to consider opposition ones. This paper proposes to use two case studies, one the grocery-watch policy developed by the Rudd Labor opposition ahead of the 2007 election, and the other the paid-parental leave initiative of the Abbott Liberal-National opposition in 2013, in order to examine what we know of the policy process. In doing so, the paper will shed light on the decision-making in opposition, and the feasibility of analysing opposition policy making more broadly.


Martin Drum (Presenter), University of Notre Dame Australia
Associate Professor, Politics and International Relations
The School of Arts & Sciences
The University of Notre Dame Australia

John Phillimore, Curtin University of Technology
Professor of Public Policy and Executive Director
John Curtin Institute of Public Policy
Curtin University