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Thursday, April 26 2012


DRAFT POST - a work in progress - this is a very long post and will be broken down into a forward and a linked document.

Due Diligence Deficit Disorder (DDDD) things are upside down down under

I originally set out in this post to describe how climate change public policy in Australia, not only lacked basic due diligence processes but also lacked any reliance upon empirical scientific evidence as the basis for major public policy formation. The Australian government has actually turned national public policy formation processes upside down in more ways than one. First, the sovereign nation of Australia outsourced its due diligence processes to an international agency, namely the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and thus, it relied upon questionable and unscientific evidence only collected and published if it met with the UN IPCC Charter defined criteria (see UN IPCC Principles here) of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW).

This post was originally titled,

"Policy based evidence making; Climate change public policy formation, upside down, down under."

However, it must be noted, in the course of preparing this post, it became clear that the process known as public policy formation is failing to get the 'horse before the cart' across many fields, and not only in climate change. It seems ideology is driving public policy making across the globe and in the process creating the illusion of evidence in support. DDDD is therefore not simply wilful blindness relying on confirmation bias, or creating evidence in support of an ideologically driven policy, it is more the expression of a ‘noble cause’ in the form of a range of ‘annointed’ public policy nostrums. It is the notion that' big government' bureaucrats ‘know what is best for us’ as their vision is pure and clear.

Public Policy development, based on ideological rather than evidence based criteria is forced to avoid proper due diligence processes with the practice of wilful blindness becoming an art form. Therefore the DDDD not only manifests in the public policy formation and parliamentary review stages, it is manifest at all stages, including implementation and evaluation.

So this post will examine DDDD and how it manifests itself around the world by using Australia’s climate change public policy development process (and a number of others will be referred to as well) as a case study.

How can ideologically driven ‘noble global causes’ impact upon the nature of the ‘objective knowledge’ underlying Australia’s ‘evidence based policy making’ processes? How are these kinds of 'objective' knowledge differently constructed, depending on who uses the ‘knowledge’ and who controls the processes and does our current understanding of how public policy formation processes fully explain national policy making processes that are subject to ‘noble global causes’?

In an address enthusiastically received by senior public servants in April 2008, Australia’s Prime Minister at the time, the Honourable Kevin Rudd, foreshadowed that, modelled on the UK Blair Government’s programs, "… ‘evidence-based’ policy making is at the heart of being a reformist government…… Good policy is one thing…… ‘evidence-based’ policy (is the) third element of the (Australian) Government’s agenda for the public service (and) is (designed) to ensure a robust, evidence-based policy making process. Policy design and policy evaluation should be driven by analysis of all the available options, and not by ideology. When preparing policy advice for the Government, I expect departments to review relevant developments among State and Territory governments and comparable nations overseas. The Government will not adopt overseas models uncritically. We’re interested in facts, not fads." (See PM Rudd’s 2008 speech here).

Monica Kopacz of Applied Mathematics and Atmospheric Sciences at Harvard University believes, "…..(Dyson) simply says, and rightfully so, that the science is both uncertain and very much exaggerated. It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the (direction and nature) of the future changes. The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty." (See Kopacz’s letter to NYT Magazine in 2009) "

If the Australian government is keen, "… to ensure a robust, evidence-based policy making process (where) policy design and policy evaluation should be driven … not by ideology … (and where the) Government will not adopt overseas models uncritically … (and is) interested in facts, not fads...", then it would apply proper Due Diligence processes to Public Policy formation; and in the case of Climate Change, being the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our time, it would warrant a serious Due Diligence process such as a Royal Commission.  

The ‘users’ in the ‘coproduction of knowledge’ here, would be described by Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, as "… powerful convergent (of) interests. Scientists seeking grant money, media seeking headlines, universities seeking huge grants from major institutions, foundations, environmental groups, politicians wanting to make it look like they are saving future generations. And all of these people have converged on this issue", and he goes on to say, "… [there] are many thousands of scientists who reject man-made global warming fears…It’s all based on computer models and predictions. We do not actually have a crystal ball, it is a mythical object." (See more of Moore here). For reasons ranging from acceptance of science as an authority, pragmatism, self interest, cynicism, power and ‘believer’ faith, these people can be described as having accepted the ‘noble global cause’ of stopping climate change.

Under the ‘overseas model’ of Ottmar Edenhoffer, Co-chair of Working group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he has stated, "Basically it's a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit … is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War…..

As the Australian Government has adopted the UN IPCC climate policy as the basis for its own, I am interested in evaluating the impact ideology actually has, on the ‘coproduction of knowledge’ as constructed in ‘evidence based policy making’. If ‘climate policy has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore’, what does it have to do with? Using the work of Sowell and others, we can try to understand and explain the ‘noble global cause’ ideology adopted by ‘scientists seeking grant money, media seeking headlines, universities seeking huge grants from major institutions, foundations, environmental groups, politicians (and/or policy makers) wanting to make it look like they are saving (the planet) for future generations’ and so an. If ideology, perhaps expressed as the ‘noble global cause’, leads to the construction of less than ‘objective’ knowledge/evidence, which is then ‘used’ as the basis for ‘evidence based policy making’, the implications for public policy making are interesting and significant.

Under the Australian Government’s ‘evidence based policy making’ agenda, scientific, economic and academic studies were to serve as the foundation for the Rudd Government’s public policy formation processes. Therefore, in the context of global pressure on national (and in this case Australian) public policy formation, we can critically examine the source, ideology and actual processes ‘used’ in this ‘knowledge construction’ and thus the ‘objectivity’ of the evidence in the ‘evidence based policy making’ processes. This is done using, as a case study, those as applied to climate change policy formation in Australia.

This critical examination enables the evaluation of the effectiveness of same through the lens of relevant understandings including the application of ‘evidence based policy making’, and ‘coproduction of knowledge’ and others.

The interest in ‘evidence based policy making’ has re-emerged as the utilitarian turn in research funding policy trended towards the provision of ‘useful’ and ‘useable’ research results for economic and social priorities, originally in the UK. Where ‘those at the coal face’ show greater interest in ‘trawling’ existing data and research outputs and demonstrating greater efficacy of specific ‘evidence based’ policies, this proved popular.

‘Evidence based policy making’ seems to have gained credibility as a ‘pragmatic and anti-ideological’ stance, presented at the time by UK Labour as a pragmatic, ‘what works?’ However, there is much discussion in academic circles on ‘evidence based policy making’ as being more than the simple disinterested pursuit of truth and wisdom. For example John Maynard Keynes’ view as quoted states that, ‘…there is nothing a government hates more than to be well-informed; for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult.’

It seems that ‘evidence based policy making’, brought in as the panacea to demonstrate ‘the retreat from ideology’, and designed to counter the shortcomings inherent in ‘ideology based’ policy making offered the ‘research community’ significant potential opportunities to improve the conduct of public affairs, minus the ‘ideology’ in ‘ideology based’ policy making. However, the obvious association of the ‘evidence’ created by ‘objective knowledge making’ processes subject to the ‘power’ of the ‘knowledge users’ to ‘use’ evidence in support of an already adopted ‘public policy’ may, by stealth, have corrupted ‘evidence base policy making’. So, as highlighted by Keynes, there is a natural tension between knowledge and power in ‘evidence based policy making’ and where ‘evidence based policy making’ becomes subject to ‘ideology’ rather than evidence, it subverts its raisons d'être. "Traditionally, professionals operated like a priesthood; reliant on the unquestioning faith of their followers. But patients, parents, students, clients, customers of all kinds are less and less inclined to take professional views on trust. They want ‘evidence’." Among the knowledge they need is not just ‘know how’ (practical experience of what works) but also ‘know what’ (the state of the world), ’know why’ (causes and explanations) and ‘know who’ (contacts and networks) … What happened between these dates was, of course, the coming into office of New Labour in the UK. Its stance (as presented) was anti-ideological and pragmatic. It had a new agenda and so new knowledge requirements. It was suspicious of many established influences on policy, particularly within the civil service, and anxious to open up policy thinking to outsiders. Hence the appointment of specialist advisers." (Solesbury 2001)

However, the ‘users of ‘knowledge’ are not limited to patients, parents, students, clients, (and) customers of all kinds, as policy makers and particularly policy makers with cheque books, have agendas and ‘user’ requirements with ‘knowledge making needs’ of a different nature. Within the ‘evidence based policy making’ framework, where empirical science forms a significant component of the ‘evidence’ and the ‘objective knowledge’, I can for example, point to the public policy analytical idiom of ‘co-production’ to review the process of ‘knowledge making’ practices and in particular the tension between the ‘evidence based policy’ of the ‘critical/reflexive’ ‘co-production’ viewpoint, which attempts to reveal and critique the ontological assumptions behind a public policy, and thus, I can compare and contrast this with what is cynically termed 'policy based evidence making'. 

Where policy making is in part influenced by international drivers [such as international organisation memberships, multilateral agreements and multilateral treaties], and where the impact of such Policies is both global and substantial on nation states' and their interaction with other nation states' [where such policies will dramatically rearrange some or all of the internal nation state constitutional, organisational, trade, economic, legal and political] structures and processes, I am interested in how these policies are currently formed and who drives this, and also, in how the policies are then applied and who drives this?

Similarly, at this stage, I don’t see any of our current understanding of how public policy formation, deployment and evaluation as being capable and sufficient alone, or in tandem, to explain this ‘noble global cause’ international interaction with national policy formation processes. For example, can ‘evidence based policy making’ (e.g. Nutley et al 2008), influenced by the 'policy based evidence' which emerges under the 'coproduction in the making of useful knowledge' (Lövbrand 2011) under circumstances where the 'annointed' (Sowell 1995) are the 'users of knowledge', explain the process, and how this policy making process differs when it is 'annointed' United Nations' bureaucrats, rather than 'annointed' elected representatives in nation states, initiating the formation of the Policy? Indeed, has ‘evidence based policy making’ been diligently applied to Australia's (or the United Nation’s) Climate Change Policy as portrayed (Rudd 2008)?

The key point we need to understand relates the international drivers of policy formation processes around so-called 'evidence based policy making'. In particular, I’m interested in whether and/or how these kinds of 'objective' knowledge get differently constructed, depending on who controls the processes and under what form of ‘noble global cause’ they operate (elected representatives (at national/international levels), national/international bureaucrats, end 'users' of the knowledge, etc).

Based on statements by Australian policy makers, it is assumed that the UN IPCC reports have been adopted by the Australian Government as the sole or predominant source of Australia’s ‘evidence’ of ‘objective knowledge’ and ‘policy’ on climate change. This implies that Australia’s ‘evidence based policy making’ has been outsourced without critical review to a number of unaccountable bureaucrats operating in an international agency based far from Australia. This assumption has been tested by evaluating the relevant documents using Content Analysis to determine whether any core ‘evidence’ was developed or critically reviewed by any dispassionate Australian agencies or is simply a result of the ‘rendition’ of a derivative ‘policy’.

Again, using Content Analysis this poster has critically analysed and evaluated the UN IPCC reports including all relevant supporting, supplementary and summary reports and also public statements associated with these reports.

To be continued

Edenhoffer, O. 2010, ‘IPCC Official: Climate Policy Is Redistributing The World's Wealth’ Interview by Bernard Potter for Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Kopacz, M. Letter in reply to article ‘The Civil Heretic’ by Freeman Dysan. New York Times Magazine: Published: April 9, 2009

Lövbrand, E and J Stripple 2006. ‘The climate as political space: on the territorialisation of the global carbon cycle’, Review of International Studies, vol. 32, pp. 217–235.

Lövbrand, E, J Stripple and B Wiman 2009. ‘Earth system governmentality. Reflections on science in the Anthropocene’, Global Environmental Change, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 7–13.

Lövbrand, E. 2011, ‘Co-producing European climate science and policy: a cautionary note on the making of useful knowledge’, Science and Public Policy vol. 38, no. 3 pp. 225-236

Moore, P. 2010, ‘Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist’ Beatty Street, Vancouver

Rudd, K. (Prime Minister) 2008, Address to Heads of Agencies and Members of Senior Executive Service, Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra, 30 April.

Schumpeter, J.A. 1942, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Harper, New York, 1975 [orig. pub. 1942].

Solesbury, W. 2001, 'Evidence Based Policy: Whence it came and where it's Going', Working Paper, (London: ESRC Centre for Evidence Based Policy and Practice).

Sowell, T. 1987, A Conflict of Visions, Morrow, New York

Sowell, T. 1995, The Vision of the Anointed: self-congratulation as a basis for social policy, Basic Books, New York

Posted by: Chris Dawson AT 03:41 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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