The Three Sector Solution

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in workshop hosted in partnership by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government and the Curtin Not-for-profit initiative at Curtin University.  The workshop explored the various dimensions of ‘cross-sector working’ and was held at the Australian National University.

The workshop brought together policy scholars, practitioners and thought leaders whose collective experience spans government, the not-for-profit sector, and business to address these issues, grouped around four emergent themes: cross-sector working – the rhetoric and the reality; three sectors – three change agendas; great expectations – outcomes and social impact; and new tools for policy makers and practitioners.

An edited volume based on the workshop was pulled together by John Butcher (ANZSOG/ANU) and David Gilchrist (Curtin University) and captures the discussions at the event.  The contributors to this volume address diverse topics of interest to policy scholars, policy makers and policy practitioners including: the need for profound change in public sector culture and governance, the recent history of policy reform, impediments to private sector investment in social impact, the implications of person-centred funding, the promise (and disappointments) of measuring outcomes, the failings of contractual governance, and the potential for alternative approaches to the realisation of public benefit such as alliance contracting or mutualism.


The Three Sector Solution is available online, comprising 17 different and diverse chapters about all things collaboration.  I was asked to contribute a chapter on the the topic of ‘from New Public Management to New Public Governance: The implications for a ‘new’ public service‘ which provides a background to the theory behind the event and explores the degree to which shifts in how we think about the various sectors have led to real change in governance practice.  In doing so I draw on a range of geographical metaphors such as palimpsests and earthquakes and apply these to a public service governance context.  Who wouldn’t want to read that?!




What next for health?

This weekend marked my second Australian general election and turned out to be a pretty eventful one.  Here’s what I had to say about the implications of the results for health policy, which was published on the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit site.

In the run up to the election, health policy was a key point of debate. A number of commentators have already suggested that Labor’s accusations that Coalition plans to privatise Medicare may have been instrumental in significant gains for Labor, particularly in Tasmania. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has announced that the Federal Police will investigate text messages sent by Queensland Labor urging voters not to back the Prime Minister and his government in order to “save Medicare”.

Regardless, of what plays out as a government is formed, what is clear is that health will remain a hotly contested issue. With the political move to the centre in recent years it has been difficult to distinguish between traditional party positions. To some degree Labor have attempted to return to days gone by in presenting themselves as the saviours of Medicare.

Yet the outcome of this process is likely that there will be little hope for significant reform of the health system. This outcome will not leave any government with a clear mandate or render them willing to take on a substantial health reform process. Indeed, parties may feel that the greatest reward comes not through a positive vision for the future, but through scare campaigns and negativity. None of which offers much hope for substantive change.

In the run up to the election there was not much to divide the various promises of the parties on the health front. Both argued that they were committed to maintaining universal health services. Labor planning to do this through a cash injection into the system and by making savings on private health insurance. The Coalition committed to more limited investments, but with a desire to use existing resources more effectively (including those in the private health system). But what was missing in these election commitments was a clear sense of how the health system would be reformed in a significant way to ensure that we see the level of change that is needed to ensure that this performs as well in the future as it does now.

This election has demonstrated that people care deeply about their health system, but this will not result in politicians feeling courageous about taking on reform in a significant way. The fractured parliament that we will inevitably be left with will also make it more difficult than ever to pass legislation. No doubt we will see money freed up for various different agendas – and likely many of these will focus on interests of independents holding the balance of power. But none of this bodes well for those of us who wish to see Australia embark on a careful and considered reform of its health system.