Multiple agents, blame games and public policy-making: the case of local government reform in New South Wales

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Political Science, 2017, 52 (1), pp. 37 - 52
Issue Date:
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© 2016 Australian Political Studies Association. Politicians often use ‘independent experts’ to avoid blame for contentious public policy. The use of multiple agents, however, has attracted relatively little attention. We extend the blame-avoidance literature to identify additional opportunities and risks that arise when multiple agents are used to support/oppose particular public policies. We then test our propositions using evidence from recent local government reforms in New South Wales. The picture which emerges is largely one of confusion whereby independent agents provide contradictory opinions, attempt to shift blame to one another, and dispute interpretations of earlier advice. We conclude our analysis with a discussion of the salient factors for successful pursuit of the multiple-agent variant of the blame games.
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