The magic of harmonisation: a case study of occupational health and safety in Australia

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    Harmonisation is both a substantive policy reform and a political project. Using the lens of Pollitt and Hupe’s “magic concepts of government” and the harmonisation of Australia’s occupational health and safety laws as a case study, this article argues that as a political project harmonisation has a magical rhetorical quality that obscures traditional differences, eases the business of governing, and makes it almost irresistible as a policy solution. The article observes, however, that harmonisation’s magic is: illusory in that it obscures rather than resolves policy differences; seductive in that it entices stakeholders to overestimate its capacity to reconcile such differences; and time limited with reform outcomes eventually becoming vulnerable and fragile. The article concludes that harmonisation’s “magic” and its limitations need to be better acknowledged, with government use of harmonisation tools being approached with a healthy level of scepticism, and policy and regulatory review processes being designed to guard against its seductive qualities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)137-155
    Number of pages19
    JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Public Administration
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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