Incremental institutional change: Does the temporal aspect matter?

Stream: Panel 53 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Policy Reform and Institutional Change 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


From an Historical Institutionalist perspective, this paper analyses changes to Australian institutions for regulating wages and employment conditions between 1983 and 2013. It argues this is a period of repeated, incremental institutional change that has transformed the Australian industrial relations system. It applies Mahoney and Thelen’s model of gradual institutional change designed to explain such cases of incremental institutional transformation. Its key variables for explaining the type of change exhibited are veto possibilities and discretion in rule enactment, which are both rated as either high or low. Despite intending to explain repeated incremental institutional changes, the model insufficiently accounts for the importance of time. In particular it assumes that actors’ preferences are formed in the context of stability regarding the veto possibilities and rule discretion variables. This analysis however indicates that these variables can change because of actors’ choices. This suggests the need to revise the model to reflect the role of time, and actors’ capacities to deliberately manipulate veto possibilities and rule discretion to shape the modes of change that manifest in the future.


Kurt Walpole (Presenter), University of Sydney
Kurt is a final year PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. His core research interests are in the effects of policy change on Australian industrial relations practices, particularly how wages and working conditions are set. His thesis analyses the evolution of Australia's industrial relations institutions between 1983 and 2013 and the process of change has been shaped by political contestation within institutional constraints.