JSB178 Week Six Lecture Notes
The Policy Cycle
Government’s policy agenda
Issue attention cycle
The plan of the government and those areas that interest them and receive their attention
Developed by the political arm of government
But they rely heavily on the bureaucratic arm to inform and advise them
Can be changed by external factors/circumstances outside government, especially someone else’s agenda
(always watch the press).
Example of External Factor
The Howard Government came into power on 11 March 1996 with no agenda to reform firearm laws.
On 28 April 1996, Martin Bryant opened fire on tourists at a Port Arthur tourist site. He killed 35 people and
There was an immediate public outrage over access to firearms, especially semi-automatic weapons such as
that used by Martin Bryant.
Howard then changed the liberal party policy supporting gun ownership and obtained State Government
support for a gun ban and the firearm ‘buy back’ scheme.
External Factors in Justice Policy
Decisions of courts
Strong community groups
Coordination with other agencies
Budget cuts or increases
Change of government
How do you find a government’s agenda?
Policy documents from the election
Instructions from the new minister
How do government decide what is important?
Issues are prioritised after consideration of: re-election chances, genuine concern to do what is best, re-election
chances, policy of the party, re-election chances, personal preference of minister whether the matter is or is not
significant enough for the cabinet, re-election chance, and re-election chances. This is not a cynical point of view – it is simply realistic. The importance of re-election chances is simply the
democratic process at work. While other factors are important, there is no point in having an excellent policy if there
is no chance of the party being elected. Therefore, the parties need to ensure they have the best possible chance of
being elected because ultimately, the public decides.
How is the agenda set?
According to Bridgman and Davies the agenda arises from:
Competition between competing voices.
It is decided politically and not on individual significance.
There is a bias towards matters which already receive government attention.
Often set by political elites either within or associated with the government.
Can anyone in the community set the policy agenda?
The short answer is yes.
If you are a representative of a community organisation or private interest group then yes, you are able to
influence the policy agenda.
In fact, as a member of the public – that is your job.
If you are a public servant working in a government agency then yes you also may influence policy agenda,
but only if it is in a presentation of full and frank advice – not as a ref