#AWalkinthepark – energy, decarbonisation, money and failure

Another five laps, another four articles

Lyster, R. and Bradbrook. 2006.  Chapter 1: Overview of energyproduction adn use in Australia. In Energy Law and the Environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 1-9.

Warren, D., Christoff, P. and Green. D. 2016. Australia’s sustainable energy transition: The disjointed politics of decarbonisation. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transition, (in press).

Murray, G. and Chesters J. 2012. Economic Wealth and Political Power in Australia, 1788-2010.  Labour History, no 103. pp.1-16.

Bovens, M. and ‘t Hart, P. 2016. Revisiting the study of policy failures.  Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 23, (5), pp.653-666.


Lyster and Bradbook give a handy if slightly a-political overview of Australian energy production and consumption. Nowt in it about the efforts of John Howard and others to suppress renewables (the infamous LETAG meeting in 2004 for example).  Good on the 2005 attempt to revivify the  nuclear energy debate, but were writing before it fell over.

Murray and Chester give a handy overview of concentrated wealth.  There were some INSANELY rich people, comparatively speaking.   Samuel Terry, ex-convict, had a network approximately 3.4% of GDP?!  (Yes, I know the figures are all necessarily rubbery, but still…)

They make 1974-5 a key turning point in Australian economic history, which is I think largely fair, thought it gives Malcolm Fraser credit for being a neoliberal revolutionary where he really wasn’t, despite his admiration of Ayn Rand and Hayek.

Nice stuff on the background to the Harvester judgement too –

“With the protectionists in power, the relationship between wealth, power and the state flourished during the early years of Federation. One clear example of the power of the wealthy is the influence that Hugh McKay was able to exert on the government to enact legislation to protect his manufacturing interests. In 1905, rumours circulated that rival companies in North America were preparing to dump their excess farm machinery onto the Australian market and undercut local manufacturers. McKay stimulated nationalistic sentiments and pressured Prime Minister Deakin to protect Australian industry by increasing tariff protection. Deakin agreed to the protection of domestic industry but, sensitive to the increased voting capacity of the newly enfranchised working class voters, he tied the excise exemption to the manufacturer’s willingness to pay a fair and reasonable wage. The newly established Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, under the dominance of Justice Bourne Higgins,40 was subsequently to determine a fair and reasonable basic wage in what became known as the Harvester Judgment. Although the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act 1906 was subsequently overturned by the High Court, the basic wage concept remained in place and formed the centrepiece of wage fixing for six decades”

(Murray and Chesters, 2012:8)

How is that for unintended consequences!

In their judgement

From 1915 onwards the ruling class continued to systematically use the state to contain class struggle. Class conflict was largely resolved through parliamentary political parties, representing labour and capital. During the long economic boom that followed World War II the development of the seemingly ‘neutral’ state using legal forms of coercion and persuasion through a ‘layer of professional mediators’ gave indirect power to the ruling class, enabling them to operate from a small and relatively weak social base

(Murray and Chesters, 2012:8)

This puts Labor’s late 80s attempt to bring green groups into the state apparatus into perspective…

Warren  et al is a paper I read recently but for ‘facts’ rather than theories.    Back again, this time to loot the conceptual underpinnings.

It’s good on the question of policy integration failure, and the role of fossil fuel interests in shaping ‘common sense’ about the costs of abatement. This is bi-partisan

the government developed its own energy strategy, culminating in the 2012 Energy White paper (EWP), which reemphasized Australia’s competitive advantage, as Howard had so successfully done, and once again coupled Australia’s economic prosperity and security with the use of fossil fuels. Indeed, despite its title Australia’s Energy Transformation, the EWP had little to say on domestic electricity generation matters, instead focussing on the need to further develop its fossil fuel exporting capacities.

(Warren et al. 2016:7)

Theoretically, there’s  EPI (Environmental Policy Integration)

For Lafferty and Hovden (2003: 9), EPI involves ‘the incorporation of environmental objectives into all stages of policymaking . . . and a commitment to minimize contradictions between environmental and sectoral policies by giving priority to the former over the latter’. Analytically, much of the EPI literature centres around three ‘dimensions’ of policy: process, outputs, and outcomes (see for example, Hertin and Berkhout, 2003; Nilsson et al., 2012; Nilsson and Persson, 2003).

(Warren et al. 2016:2)

There’s really good stuff on ideas, interests and institutions (p.9-10) that I will need to keep coming back to.

And I need to read the following –

Diesendorf, M., 2012. Lost energy policies, opportunities and practice. In: Crowley, K., Walker, K. (Eds.), Environmental Policy Failure: The AustralianStory. , 1st ed. Tilde University Press, Prahran, Vic, pp. 44–59.

Kern, F., 2011. Ideas, institutions, and interests: explaining policy divergence in fostering ‘system innovations’ towards sustainability. Environ. Plan. C:Gov. Policy 29, 1116–1134.


Finally, the study of failure (always close to my heart)

Bovens and ‘t Hart do a nice overview of the history and challenges involved in studying policy failure (they are ‘constructed’ in the same way social issues are. Blumer 1971 blah blah)


And as they observe

“To get complex organizations and policy networks to actually learn from feedback, rather than make symbolic, opportunistic or minimal impact changes in response to it, (March and Olsen 1975) about their past performance is hard enough – that much we know from the spate of studies on policy change and policy learning across a wide range of sectors and jurisdictions. To induce policy (as opposed to political) learning from highly public, politically charged forms of feedback such as that produced by evaluators and public inquiries in the context of policy fiascos is proving even more difficult (Birkland 2006; Boin et al. 2008; Hansen 2007; Howlett 2012; May 1992; Walsh 2006).

In short: big policy failures can be, but all too seldom are, a trigger for big policy learning that reduces the likelihood of their reoccurrence.”

(Bovens and ‘t Hart, 2016: 662)


After the PhD I hope to get around to reading

Starbuck, W.H. and Farjoun, M. (eds) (2005) Organization at the Limit: Lessons from the Columbia Disaster, New York: Wiley Blackwell.

‘t Hart, P. and Tindall, K. (eds) (2009) Framing the Global Meltdown, Canberra: ANU Press.

Tiffin, R. (2010) ‘A mess? A shambles? A disaster?’, Inside Story, 26 October 2010,

http://insidestory.org.au/a-mess-a-shambles-a-disaster (accessed 1 February 2015).

Tilly, C. (2008) Credit and Blame, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

And read on Heclo ‘puzzling and powering’’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s