Policy Perspectives Essay Example
POLICY PERSPECTIVE 14
Identification of wicked policy problem
The Australian drug and alcohol policy has the task of solving difficult policy challenges. Due to the complexity of such issues, they are referred to as ‘wicked’ problems. According to Head (2008, p.102), the word ‘wicked’ is such perspective implies not in the context of evil, but a case of highly resistant issue. In Alcohol and drug policy, the wicked problem is the presence of numerous stakeholders with different interest and values, alcohol and drug culture in Australia and, implementation disadvantage. Just like many policies, drug and alcohol policy have several stakeholders with conflicting interests, objectives and values. For instance, the Australian Public Service Commission (2012) stated that in tackling the consumption of impacts of drugs, there is conflict between reducing the risk of drug through offering safe and clean needles and sending a strong message that drugs’ consumption is illegal. Also, while the government wants to eradicate drug and consumption of alcohol in Australia, it also understands that manufacturers make profits and employees citizens; hence they cannot do away with the business but just to regulate it.
Disadvantaged implementation is another wicked problem (Head & Alford, 2015, p.714) to drug and alcohol. Implementation of this policy depends on the commitment and behaviour of the citizens and industry players. However, citizens are not always cooperative because of social disruption the policy is causing them (Head, 2008, p.107). A culture of consumption of alcohol and drug use is deeply rooted in Australia. Drugs and alcohol are used in events, parties and leisure as a form of socialization. In this way, drinkers find it hard to assist in the implementation of this tough policy. Such situations are backed by the behavioural studies which hold that people tend to resist actions which go against their comfort zone. Industry players also make huge profits from the sale of alcohol and drugs. The industry is worth billions of dollars, and industry players will do everything to continue making profits (Munro & De Wever, 2008, p.205). As such, they will not be committed to the implementation of the policy.
Overview of the policy
Drug abuse and alcohol misuse have had harmful effects on both the youth and adults in equal measure (Miller, et al. 2010, p.113). Some of the most common drugs used in Australia are marijuana, methamphetamine, opioids alcohol, tobacco and depressants. As a national problem, the Australian government took a step to formulate public aimed at reducing the menace. Australian alcohol policy has been a major approach towards reducing alcohol related risks such as diseases, deaths, low performance. Australian drug and alcohol policy is described as public policy aimed at decreasing the misuse of alcohol in Australia. The drug and alcohol policy was formulated by the commonwealth parliament of Australia and adopted in 2013 (The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014). The policy states the prevalence of the alcohol and drugs in the countries, and talks on various measures the federal government has put forth in drug and misuse of alcohol.
Miller, et al. (2010, p.113) stated that in 2010, the research done by the government revealed that alcohol was the drug leading to more deaths in the country. The study estimated that out of 10, there are 4 people who abuse drugs or misuse alcohol. The same research also concludes that 34 percent of people die as a result of misuse of alcohol (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). The policy has recommended an increase of age, price, taxation, control of advertisement and changing of culture as some of the effective approaches which can be used to reduce alcohol misuse in Australia. The new policy states that alcohol should not be sold to a person under the age of 18 years. The policy also posits that alcohol should not be sold to a foreigner under the age of 18 years; the age can be ascertained through verification of passport (The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). Australian drug and alcohol policy has moved on to ban consumption of alcohol during sporting events. The policy argues that since people tend to be influenced by peer pressure, crowd mentality and no control, they misuse alcohol during sporting events. The nature of selling alcohol everywhere and anyhow has created a culture of a drinking nation in Australia. The new policy regulates and provides that alcohol should be at the supermarkets, bars and designated shops. Australian drug and alcohol policy also states that advertising of alcohol should not be done at prime times which expose young people to the drug (Haber, Skov & Khelifa, 2016).
Effect of the policy
TheAustralia policy on drugs has had three key effects including supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction (Haber, Skov & Khelifa, 2016). Supply reduction approaches means interrupting the manufacturing and even supply system of the illicit drugs. This is not just internal process but also at the border. It entails the customs, border security and prosecuting individuals taking part in supply of the illicit drugs. Demand reduction approaches entails regulating the consumption of dangerous drugs and alcohol as well as self-restraint based care and approaches to decrease drug usage (Haber, Skov & Khelifa, 2016). Harm lessening approaches implies to ways of decreasing drug-based risks to members of the society. In this aspect, the policy works as safety net to the society. According to Doran to (2010), the threefold theoretical framework holds that the supply and demand preventions cannot completely be effective, hence people should be involved and harm they face be minimized. Therefore, the policy recommends the provision of syringe and needles, and safety injection to control deaths and spread of diseases. The harm control aspect the policy has impacted support to drug users with an aim of stopping consumption (Howard, Gordon & Jones, 2014).
In brief, the policy has reduced the supply or sale, the usage and harms it causes to Australia. Public policy is like a change process which is often accepted by some while opposed by others (Banton, 2016, p.996). People who are affected will automatically reject it while people who benefits from it will embrace it. Similarly, the Australian Alcohol and drug policy has had both positive and negative effects on Australian social and economic systems. On a positive note, Australian alcohol policy has managed to reduce consumption of alcohol among the teenagers (Livingston, 2015, p.5-6). The policy states bars selling of alcohol and drugs to any children under the age of 18 years. In addition, the policy puts strong penalties to those who defy such orders. As result, most of the stores and outlets which used to sell drugs or alcohol to the youth below 18 years have stopped resulting in reduction of usage among this group (Ladwig & Luke, 2014). The policy through ban of prime time advertisement of drugs and alcohol has reduced drug use by up to 70 percent in (Australia Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014).
The Australian policy on drugs and alcohol has led to reduction of drug-related death in the recent past. Evidences have shown that controlling the availability and access helps in regulating usage of alcohol by youths (Hallgren, Leifman & Andreasson 2012, p.585). The policy has reduced the number of outlets selling alcohol from 5 percent between 2010 and 2013 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). If companies or outlets are directed not to sell alcohol and drinking time is also regulated, youths in Australia could find it difficult to access and consume it. The UN study of death related to drugs had estimated that 3 out of 1000 deaths are resulted by heavy consumption of alcohol. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014) claimed that he control program entrenched by the policy on sale, advertisement, price and taxation has reduced the deaths to 1 out of 1000.
Australian policy on drugs has reduced production and supply of drugs and alcohol making the producers to engage in other beneficial economic activities. McSweeney (2015) argued that illicit drug growers and traffickers in have been wreaking ecological mayhem by clearing fields to plant and produce their commodity. The situation has fueled environmental degradation through climate change. Even though, the drug and alcohol policy has not done much to curb the production and trafficking, it has greatly amplified environmental degradation and devastation which accompanies them (McSweeney, 2015).
A controversial effect of the drug policy is that it has contributed to slowing down of the economy. Drug market has several shareholders depending on it including farmers, manufacturing companies, drug barons, stores and outlets, marketers, and the entertainment industry. In 2013, Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that illicit drug and alcohol market contributed up to A$ 6 billion to the economy of Australia (Uren, 2013). The same report claimed that tax avoidance by producers and suppliers was responsible for extra A$20 billion (Uren, 2013). It means, regulating or interrupting production and supply of illicit drugs and alcohol will to loss of jobs and disruption of trade hence slow economic growth in the country.
Problems, issues, benefits of the policy
Australian Alcohol and drug policy has faced problems during its implementation thus affecting its effectiveness. Some of such problems or issues are public policy as a political process, resistance from interest groups, impact on the economy and conflicting state laws (Head & Alford, 2015, p.713). In this regards, self interest and politics of the day may affect it. The parties or government formulate policies that would win them more popularity or votes, and the voters look to maximize their preferences on what the government is offering (Anderson, 2003, p.14). Even with strict policy, the government can fail to implement some parts so as to reduce opposition and loosing of votes. On the other hand, Head and Alford (2015, p.715) claimed that private media, opposition parties and civil societies determined to undermine the government will use various reasons to make sure the implementation of the policy is not successful. In most cases, these actors want to portray the government in bad light to enable them gain political mileage.
Therefore, policy making also involves evaluation of the political and economic gains. Remember that, control of the alcohol sector has negative consequences on the industry players. Head and Alford (2015, p.721) contended with strict policy, the market players are bound to lose profits, people are likely to lose jobs in the process and related companies and industries such as agriculture, advertising and auditing will probably lose profits. Alcohol is regarded as an important contributor to the Australian economy. In fact, research shows that the value of drug and alcohol in Australian in 2014/ 2015 financial stood A$10.4 billion (Haber, Skov & Khelifa, 2016, p.10). Therefore, reducing drinking hours and the number of outlets selling this product can have a tremendous negative impact on country’s economy. As a result the government may face opposition from these actors.
Australia has several states and territories with their own laws on alcohol. The difference in laws between federal and state laws and vested interest threatens the implementation of the alcohol policy in the country (Howard, Gordon & Jones, 2014, p.1472). For instance, before harmonizing the law on age of drinking to 18 years, every state had different ages for drinking. Similarly, every state has different penalties for abuse of drugs and alcohol misuse offense from the federal law. States also have different licenses for outlets selling alcohol, which contradicts the federal law (Howard, Gordon, & Jones, 2014, p.1475).
Another problem posed by the implementation of the Australian alcohol policy is that it causes social disorientation. The study established that the policy had a negative social, cultural and economic impact on the drinkers. In Australia, alcohol consumption is often linked to forms of celebrations. Alcohol is consumed during social, recreational, business and cultural events (Doran et al. 2010, p.469). For numerous citizens drinking and using drugs, particularly marijuana is identical to socializing, relaxation, and having good times. Consumption of drugs and alcohol is acknowledged as a fundamental part of culture and life of Australians and the majority of adults take it to some extent. Therefore, regulating it is a cultural and social loss to the drinkers because most of them will not meet at the same places to drink with their friends, workmates and family leading to social marginalization (Miller et al. 2010, p. 114). Furthermore, drug users and alcohol drinkers are always not able to pay the penalty; a situation which leads to serving jail terms.
However, Australian alcohol policy has several benefits to the country. Some of the benefits of a policy include signs of effectiveness, economic productivity and improved social factors. Fischer, Miller and Sidney (2006, p.225) described public policy as a principle guide on how a government or public officers will tackle the needs of its citizens. The public policy is aimed at improving health, enhancing education and economy. From the definition, implementing a public policy is a sign of effective and performing government. Since the policy has reduced the outlets and controlled the trading hours, many people cannot access drugs and alcohol during work hours (The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). As a result, people now concentrate on their jobs, thus increasing productivity in Australia. Similarly, the new policy has reduced risk of employees operating equipment or machines under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Critical reception and your response
Adoption of Australia alcohol received both praise and criticism. Those who had been faced with the problem of alcohol misuse positively received the policy and even claimed the move had long overdue. Study conducted by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014, p.112) through survey across Australia in 2013, revealed that a large number of people claimed the policy is good in its entirety. They agree that availability, low prices and lenient age restriction are some of the apparent reasons for the increase in the misuse of alcohol. In the study, high number of people welcomes the policy and supported greater control of alcohol marketing and advertising, particularly on TVs and billboards (Munro & De Wever, 2008, p.206).
A significant number wanted a ban on sports sponsorships and high taxation on the companies selling the product (Fergusson & Boden, 2015, p.217). The public based support for policy on the argument that sports event promotes pro drug abusing and drinking culture and excessive consumption of alcohol in the country hence leading to social problems (Munro & De Wever 2008, p. 183). Various non-government organizations dealing with the youth came in support of the government on the increase of the price of alcohol, setting a drinking age and putting tough measures such as strict license on the outlets selling the product. Studies have shown that more than a third of the young Australians between the age of 17 and 20 years old engage in hazardous drinking or binge drinking and develop problems associated with alcohol. Therefore, in increasing price and drinking age, many youth not manage to afford or access alcohol (Doran et al., 2010, p.469). On the other hand, the policy has been criticized. Drinkers and drug users have claimed that the policy is strict and limitation their social lives. The policy also received condemnation from alcohol manufacturers and related industries.
The industry players are concerned about potential losses that they are likely to face as a result of regulation on alcohol consumption. Labour unions have protested the new Australian Alcohol policy terming ill-intended. The labour unions argue that implementation of such strict policy will create unemployment as most of its members will lose jobs. The position of this research is that the positive reception of the policy is good for the government. The number of people supporting regulation of drug and alcohol consumption is much higher, thus making the implementation much easier.
Current position on the policy
In 2014, Australia industry players were given 2 years to adopt these changes. Research shows that within this short time of implementation, the Australian alcohol policy has shown a good progress or positive results. The move to increase alcohol price has had a great impact, particularly on the youth. In Australia, alcohol content of more than 14 percent per litre is taxed higher (Haber, Skov & Khelifa 2016, p.16). In the past, 5 out of 10 youths used to consume alcohol. The number is now reduced to 2 youth out of 10. Increase in alcohol pricing reduces consumption and related harms. The policy has also reduced the number of outlets selling and trading of alcohol. In so doing, the availability of the product has significantly reduced, particularly now residential places. Haber, Skov and Khelifa (2016, p.18) opined that by decreasing the availability and cheap alcoholic product and creating the ‘floor price’ availability and affordability, pricing policies often have considerable effect on consumption of alcohol. Taxation has proved to be an effective strategy to curb misuse of drugs and alcohol. Before the adoption of alcohol policy in Australia, taxation of the product was roughly $6.6 billion annually while the social cost of the related risk was approximately $36 billion (Haber, Skov & Khelifa, 2016, p.18). The situation led to the introduction of more taxation. Increase in taxation especially spirit has led to increase on alcohol price making more people unable to buy.
Haber, Skov and Khelifa (2016, p.17) has established that such measure has resulted in reduction of spirit beverage by 30%. Controlling alcohol marketing and advertising have been effective in Australia. The new policy bans advertising alcohol during prime time. The approach has reduced the new of popularity of drug and alcohol among the youth. Similarly, the policy demanded that the manufacturers put a warning on the packages of alcoholic products. The survey on the efficiency of such warning shows that it has increased health awareness among the drinkers (Zhao, Stockwell and Macdonald, 2009). The study concluded that health awareness is now higher among groups with high risk, such as heavy drinkers and young people.
Anderson, J. E. (2003). Public policymaking: An introduction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Company, pp. 1–34.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey
detailed report. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). Alcohol policy and attitudes. Australian
Institute of Health and Welfare 2017.
Australian Public Service Commission (2012). Tackling wicked problems: A public policy
perspective. Australian Public Service Commission.
Banton, M. (2016). Reflections on the relation between sociology and social policy. Sociology
Doran, C.M., Hall, W.D., Shakeshaft, A.P ., Vos, T., & Cobiac, L.J. (2010). Alcohol policy
reform in Australia: what can we learn from the evidence? Medical Journal of Australia, 192(8) 468-470.
Fergusson, D., & Boden, J. (2015). Alcohol use in adolescence. University of Otago.
Fitzpatrick, J.P, Latimer, J., Carter, M., Oscar, J., Ferreira, M.L, Olsen, Heather C., Lucas, B.R,
Doney, R, Salter, C, Try, J., Hawkes, G, Fitzpatrick, E, Hand, M, Watkins, R.E, Martiniuk, A.L.C, Bower, C, Boulton, J., & Elliott, E.J (2015). Prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome in a population‐based sample of children living in remote Australia: The Lililwan Project. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 51(4), 450-457.
Fischer, F., & Miller, G.J. (2006). Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Politics, and
Methods (Public Administration and Public Policy, 1st Ed. Routledge.
Hallgren, M., Leifman, H., & Andreasson, S. (2012). Drinking less but greater harms: Could
polarized drinking habits explain the divergence between alcohol consumption and harms among youth? Alcohol and Alcoholism, 47, 581-590.
Head, B.W. (2008). Wicked problems in public policy. Public Policy, 3(2), 101-118.
Haber, P., Skov, S., & Khelifa, N.A (2016). Alcohol Policy. The Royal Australasian College of
Physicians and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
Head, B.W & Alford, J. (2015). Wicked problems: implications for public policy and
management. Administration & Society, 47(6), 711-739.
Howard, S.J., Gordon, R., & Jones, S.C (2014). Australian alcohol policy 2001-2013 and
implications for public health. BMC Public Health, 14(848), 1471-2458.
Ladwig, J.G., & Luke, A. (2014). Does improving school level attendance lead to improved
school level achievement? An empirical study of Indigenous educational policy in Australia’, Australian Educational Researcher, 41(2), 171-194.
Livingston, M. (2015). Understanding Recent Trends in Australian Alcohol Consumption.
Alcohol Research and Education.
McSweeney, K. (2015). The Impact of Drug Policy on the Environment. Open Society
Miller, P. G., Coomber, K., Staiger, P., Zinkiewicz, L., & Toumbourou, J.W. (2010).Review of
rural and regional alcohol research in Australia. The Australian Journal of Rural Health, 18, 110-117.
Munro, G., & De Wever, J. (2008). Culture clash: alcohol marketing and public health
aspirations. Drug and Alcohol Review, 40(27), 204–211.
Uren, D. (2013). Illegal drugs industry adds $6bn to economy. The Australian
Zhao, J., Stockwell, T.I.M., & Macdonald, S. (2009). Non–response bias in alcohol and drug
population surveys. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28, 648-657.
More Important Things