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Having a ball: How politicians can make smiley happy people. seanbjack

How to shape economic policy when we move beyond GDP

The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems – the problems of…
Subjecting job seekers to bogus personality tests, as the UK did, was a misuse of behavioural insights. Lucky Business/Shutterstock

The promise and perils of giving the public a policy ‘nudge’

Do you consider yourself a rational person? For the most part, you probably are. If something hurts, you’ll stop doing it. If you like something, you’ll buy more of it, but you’ll rethink your decision…
A Whitehall CFO would interfere with the work at No. 10. Bob Jenkin

The last thing Whitehall needs is a Chief Financial Officer

The coalition’s latest wheeze is to create a new government Chief Financial Officer, similar to the position found in big corporations. This plan, concocted by Treasury minister Danny Alexander and Cabinet…
Bridging policy and research requires relationships built on trust and respect over a long period of time. Flickr: Don Shearman

Build a bridge: tips to connect research and policy

In a more perfect world, the big policy challenges of our time would be informed by timely, relevant academic research. There would be a close and effective dialogue between academia and policy. Alas…
How many English people did I conquer again?

We still need the census to tell us who we really are

This week the Office for National Statistics opened a consultation on the future of the decennial national census. Two options are on the table: continuing the census, but with a switch to online collection…
Who will watch over politicians' spending? Stephen Johnson

Why we need an independent Parliamentary Budget Office

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has declared he’d like the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) to assess Labour’s tax and spend policies before the next election. Robert Chote, the head of the OBR…
Representing the 90%. Dave Thompson/PA

Britons say no to smaller state

Britain is still a majority social-democratic country. That is, politically, the most significant finding of the latest British Social Attitudes survey published this week. Most people want a country which…
Could charities compete to provide services like nursing? Stefan Rousseau/PA

Limit public service competition to non-profits

The idea that competition is better than monopoly provision in public services is now established wisdom among the British political elite. Since the advent of something commonly called “New Public Management…
We shouldn’t assume hunting, logging or grazing will damage areas like Guy Fawkes River National Park. We also shouldn’t assume they won’t. Ian Sanderson

Stopping hunting, logging and grazing won’t save national parks

Countries create national parks to protect areas of biological, physical, cultural and spiritual significance. In Australia, we generally prefer national parks to be free from activities such as hunting…
If science is excluded from fisheries policy, we’re headed back to the bad old days of overfishing. Greg Bishop

Super trawler gone, but is fisheries policy in trouble?

Last week, the “super trawler” Abel Tasman left Australia, with far less fanfare than you might have expected. Many hail this as good news for Australian fisheries, but we believe it could be a great step…
Peter Shergold, pictured here at COAG with former prime minister John Howard, was Australia’s top public servant from 2003-2008. AAP/Alan Porritt

Peter Shergold: political staffers aren’t killing the public service

In 2007, soon after becoming prime minister, Kevin Rudd found himself unable to attend the Christmas party of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) of which I was the secretary. This…
The Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott has called for a debate over the role of Australia’s public service.

Improving public policy advice is a debate we have to have

The provocative address by Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott to the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) International Congress in Melbourne yesterday achieved something…
Leave “wicked” to the witches and let’s get on with the job of policy research. Witches image from www.shutterstock.com

Too many ‘wicked problems’: how science, policy and politics can work together

Wicked problems, so we are told, are everywhere. Climate change, conflict, an ageing population, obesity… the list goes on. The debate over asylum seekers, difficult and important and politically charged…
The Wonthaggi desalination plant was proposed as Victoria’s solution to water security, but has been the subject of community concern and protest. AAP/Thiess

Solving water security: don’t ignore the public

What is the best solution to the problem of water security in Australia? Finding an answer to this question is no easy matter. There is still much we don’t know about the nature and impact of climate change…
Efficient water use is ever more important, yet budgets for vital irrigation R&D are declining. A. Campbell

Part One: Irrigation R&D drying up - a looming weakness for Australia

Welcome to a two-part special on the troubling plight of irrigation R&D, by Professor Andrew Campbell of Charles Darwin University. Research into the smartest, most efficient and sustainable ways to…

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