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Is Australia just draining taxpayer money in the Murray-Darling Basin?

A case for improved transparency for Basin reforms

Tony Webster

Infrastructure projects in the Murray-Darling Basin have raised concerns over how taxpayer money is being spent, Tony Webster writes.

The government has announced some recent reviews into aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) reforms but has not yet provided a substantive response to the recent Four CornersCash Splash’ report, which highlighted some problems with the flagship of the Commonwealth’s water recovery programs in the MDB.

Its key message was that around $4 billion of taxpayer money has so far been spent on irrigation infrastructure upgrades, but that these funds underpinned an expansion in irrigation for mostly private gain.

To the casual observer, this might seem an unlikely outcome for a program with an environmental objective. Yet poor transparency around the infrastructure program and a lack of water accounting make it difficult to independently conclude differently.

Exposure draft of weeds R&D investment plan

Weeds RD&E Investment PlanPolicy Partners assisted the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions in the development of a draft national investment plan for weeds research, development & extension.

Weeds remain a significant threat to the health of Australian landscapes, conservation values and the productivity and profitability of agriculture.

We prepared the exposure draft and undertook the first consultation phase for the development of this plan.

Incorporating feedback from the consultation draft, the second stage of creating this investment plan, is the exposure draft (downloadable via the image below). The exposure draft is based upon an initial analysis of the state of weeds RD&E funding in Australia, and initial Australia-wide consultation. The Plan covers 2020-2030, and it is important that the consultation continues to ensure the Plan has impact.

The exposure draft is currently open for feedback at


OECD recognises innovation

Stakeholder Engagement for Inclusive Water GovernanceOur work has been recognised by the OECD as an outstanding example of public sector innovation to provide practical advice to countries on how to make innovations work.

Jason Alexandra advised the Tasmanian Government on participatory fore-sighting for irrigation R&D planning. The project identified industry and community water needs and developed a strategy that would support the expansion of irrigation while improving economic and social benefits from water resource utilisation and supporting a wider socioeconomic policy agenda.

Jason AlexandraRead more on the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation website.



Joint strike fighter program

Joint Strike FighterWe have undertaken a range of economic work for the Department of Defence's Joint Strike Fighter program.

  • Improving the use of economics for strategy and reporting—a capability review
  • Review of forecasting the benefits to Australian industry from the Joint Strike Fighter program—on behalf of PwC
  • Supplementary issues in, and uses for, industry forecasting and reporting—on behalf of PwC




A roadmap for Australia's organic industries

Roadmap for the organic industryPolicy Partners was engaged to develop a roadmap to improve the representation of Australia's organic industry.

We undertook consultations between June and October 2017, including convening regional consultation workshops in seven locations and conducting personal and telephone interviews with key industry and external stakeholders.

To enhance communication nationally, a website and social media platforms were created to provide information on the project and permit feedback on the key issues.

We set out a roadmap which has led to the creation of Organic Industries of Australia.


Knowledge management in Dept of Social Services

Department of Social ServicesWe prepared a report for the Department of Social Services proposing options for improving evidence based policy capabilities, extending work previously undertaken for FaHCSIA.

The report included:

  • an assessment of management information capabilities across DSS
  • an assessment of DSS’s leadership role in Commonwealth in respect of social policy evidence
  • a strategic plan to improve the data capabilities of staff and the evidence base for policy development and program administration
  • an assessment of the implications of the Public Management Reform Agenda and Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act
  • proposed reforms to IT governance, systems, structures and practices which were necessary to support improved evidence based capabilities

Business process review of Defence Property Management Branch

Defence propertyWe reviewed the business processes and performance of the Property Management Branch at Dept of Defence.

The review considered the overall organisational structure and the division of work tasks between directorates to determine what changes should be made to achieve the greatest productivity and facilitate improved work life balance for all staff.

The review involved:

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