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The Forum > Article Comments > Does your policy work? Toss a coin to find out > Comments

Does your policy work? Toss a coin to find out : Comments

By Andrew Leigh, published 30/4/2008

Australian public policy, and our economy, could benefit from the use of randomised trials to evaluate them first.

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Okay, here are two examples from personal experience that may fit the bill.

In the lead up to the 2007 election the federal government launched its $1,000 dollar rebate for those who install solar hot water systems. Most state governments do the same, as do some local government.

This has nominally yielded results, insofar as more and more people are wanting to go solar ... but... government has not recognised that the factor most inhibiting the take-up of solar hot water is the lack of plumbers to install them. A massive uptake of solar hot water onto Australian homes can't happen unless the government first addresses the skilling up of hundreds of plumbers dedicated to solar hot water installation. This trade policy should have been attended to before the rebate.

When local government decided that the introduction of wheelie bins would be advantageous to solid waste disposal and recycling, how much attention went into road safety aspect?

I don't have accident statistics to go on, but where footpaths are narrow, wheelie bins hog the footpaths, forcing pam-pushers and children on bikes etc onto the road in order to get around them. In my own area this is a significant safety hazard and I would surmise has caused some serious accidents around the country.

But the author's submission should go further than government decisions. It should apply to The Market as well.

When 4 wheel drives hit the market, nothing was done to study their negative impacts. They just hit the market and that was that. 20 years later it is discovered they are a major road safety hazard and have caused the efficiency of the national road fleet to revert to 1968 levels - this despite fantastic improvements in motor engine technology during the past 20 years. Too late.

"Stand-by" power is another classic example where market intervention would have been wise before the horse bolted.

I think merging new technologies should be subjected to environmental and social impact assessments BEFORE they are allowed to be sold whilly nilly on the market place.
Posted by gecko, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 9:59:27 AM
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