This project forms part of a broader DPMP interest in studying policy-making in Australia. Drug policy is influenced by the research evidence but also by politics, lobby groups, public opinion, and various windows of opportunity. This research aims to better understand how policy is developed and the opportunities for and threats to evidence-informed policy, through a case study of the “ice epidemic”.
The aim of this project is to examine the emergence of methamphetamine as a policy issue in Australia, with a focus on understanding the policy process and context that gave rise to the development of policy responses to this issue. We apply Kingdon’s (2003) ‘multiple streams’ heuristic to this case study to analyse the problematisation of methamphetamine, the proposed policy responses and the political context, identifying the possible coupling of these streams and the notions of ‘policy entrepreneurs’ and ‘open policy windows’.
A variety of sources, such as published academic papers, grey literature and media sources, were purposively selected to describe the development of methamphetamine as a policy issue in Australia. Kingdon’s (2003) ‘multiple streams’ theory was then used to guide the analysis. This created a framework within which to interpret the development of methamphetamine as a policy issue, by examining how the issue came to be defined as a problem, the proposed policy solutions to the issue and the political context at the time, as well as identifying possible policy windows.
Using this approach to explore the emergence of methamphetamine as a policy issue in Australia in the last decade, we ask: to what extent does Kingdon’s ‘multiple streams’ formulation of policy processes offer a useful explanation of the development of methamphetamine as a policy issue; how well does Kingdon’s formulation work in an Australian context; and to what extent can this approach be effectively applied to other AOD policy issues?
Our analysis demonstrates that Kingdon’s multiple streams heuristic offers a useful approach to understanding the policy process in an Australian drug policy context. However, it should not be understood as a predictive formula, or for understanding the conditions for fostering the development of evidence-informed policy per se. It is useful as a heuristic for exploring policy processes which are more often messy, rather than neat or logical. The findings of this case study speak to the complexity of this ongoing challenge of managing the problematic.
Lancaster, K., Ritter, A. & Colebatch, H. (2014) Problems, policy and politics: making sense of Australia's ‘ice epidemic’, Policy Studies, 35:2, 147-171, DOI: 10.1080/01442872.2013.875144
Ritter, A. (2012, November). Keynote Presentation: Unravelling drug policy: many threads. APSAD Conference. Melbourne.
Lancaster, K., Ritter, A. and Colebatch, H. (2012, October). Problems, policy and politics: making sense of Australia’s ‘ice epidemic’. National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Seminar Series, Sydney.
Lancaster, K., Ritter, A. and Colebatch, H. (2012, March). Problems, policy and politics: making sense of Australia’s ‘ice epidemic’. Drug Policy Modelling Program Symposium, Sydney.
These findings have implications for how we understand and track drug policy processes in Australia. This analytic approach provides a framework for explaining why particular problem definitions and responses to drug policy issues gain traction. By interrogating the policy processes which give rise to particular understandings of drug policy problems in society, we are able to better understand how policy is developed and the opportunities for and threats to evidence-informed policy.