The Commitment to Sustainable Development in Three Australian States: Policy-Lifecycle Analysis of Three Over-Arching Holistic Sustainability Policies

  • Australian Centre for Sustainable Development Research & Innovation (ACSDRI)
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In Australia, during the early 2000s, all Labor-governed states adopted a sustainable development-based strategic plan or strategy. This study examines the life-cycle of three overarching policies of early 2000s from three Australian states, which are: Tasmania Together, South Australia’s Strategic Plan and the Western Australian State Sustainability Strategy. My study compares the level of commitment towards sustainable development in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia during the life span of these policies and establishes the importance of understanding the political dimensions of sustainable development. Methodological Structure I examined each case from both the macro-level (political and governmental level and external manifestations of sustainable development values) as well as the micro-level (public agency level and internal manifestations of sustainable development values). My study applied two complementary theoretical frameworks: political-economic theory and institutional theory. I also used the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sector Supplementary for Public Agencies (SSPA) as an analytical framework. The findings of this research are supported by corroborating primary as well as secondary data. Research Findings & Conclusion My findings showed that institutional factors may facilitate the diffusion of a sustainable development value-based policy model but the actual implementation of the concept depends on fortuitous political-economic factors. My analysis revealed that all three Labor governments adopted those sustainable development-oriented policies not solely because they were enlightened politicians; rather there was political motivation as well. They saw the strategic plan or sustainability strategy as a new tool: to reconnect with a declining electoral base; to regain public confidence in their government; to manage their party’s political reputation; and to create a plausible alternative to neo-liberal approaches. My study showed that, even though these grand holistic sustainability policies were abolished, slowly discontinued or shelved even after it was launched, sustainability values were incorporated, and trickled down into certain public policies and practices through various institutional influences. Therefore, I have described the sustainable development policy story in these three states as ‘hidden’ successes.

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