A policy cycle is a guide for the policy development and it brings a rhythm, along with a system, to a world, which otherwise appears to be un-orderly and chaotic. Initially, the public policy cycle was proposed in the seminal works of Lasswell in 1951, which was then adopted by others, for instance, Brewer 1974 and deLeon in 1999. The public policy cycle which has been formulated by Peter Bridgman and Glyn Davis, is of great importance to the Australian public policy and is often used as a tool for the policy makers in the nation (Freeman, 2013). In the following parts, a discussion has been carried on over the utility of policy given by these two as a tool for policy makers in the Australian context.
Bridgman and Davis released The Australian Policy Handbook in 1998, which has been changed over the years. This book acts as a guide for the assistance of the public servants, in understanding and developing such a public policy which is reasonable. This model showcases a number of cyclic logical steps, which are helpful for developing, as well as, iteratively improving the public policy. Since its development, the model has been the centre of analysis, criticism, debate and scrutiny, but it still serves as a useful tool in the public servant’s kit (Pipika, 2014).
The model has 8 steps provided in a circle, the aim of which is to promote an iterative, ongoing and cyclic move towards the development and improvement of the policy over a period of time, along with the benefits of cumulative experience, as well as, inputs (Conville, 2013). The first step of the policy clue is the identification of a new issue, by use of certain mechanism. The policy analysis is the nest step under which the research and analysis of the policy problem is carried on, so as to gather enough data, in order to make decisions regarding the policy (Freeman, 2013). In the policy instrument development step, the appropriate instruments of government are identified, which can be used for the policy implementation (Carson and Kerr, 2013).
The fourth step is consultation, under which the external and independent information, as well as, expertise is garnered, so as to notify about the policy development. This is followed by coordination, where the prepared policy position is coordinated by use of mechanisms of the government. Under the next step, the decisions are made by the appropriate body or person; for instance, the Cabinet or the Minister. Once such policy is approved, it is implemented. The last step is the evaluation of the crucial processes in order to calculate, supervise and assess the implementation of the policy (Scott, 2010).
The initial outlook over the stages of this model implies that the complete policy process is managed and coordinated centrally, by the makers of the policy, but it is seldom the truth. In reality, hardly any indication is made regarding who are the involved individuals, or where the policies are originated, the pressures and the external factors, and how the policies are transformed from a mere concept to being actually enacted (Pipika, 2012). Merely just to develop any position, resources have to be allocated, because of which the development of policy is prioritized over some other policy’s development, which competes for the resources. And the approach given by Bridgman and Davis is not very helpful to the policy entrepreneurs and practitioners in the understanding of the wider picture, which is crucial in the development, as well as, successful implementation of any policy.
This model is relevant to the public policy of Australia, in two major manners. Firstly, this model provides a very useful reference model for the identification of a number of probable parts for the development of policy. And secondly, it is very instructive for the policy entrepreneurs in gaining an understanding to the expectation, as well as, the approach which is taken by the public service peers, as this policy cycle model is being taught since a long time, to the public servants (Pipika, 2012). A basic framework is presented by the model in the first instance, which is used by the policy makers for thinking and planning regarding the policy development. Some of the stages of this model can be compressed or skipped or a different approach can be taken, but in totality, this model presents a starting point, in such situations where nothing is present, to be formally imposed (Maddison and Denniss, 2013).
As per the interviews conducted in Australia by with senior public servants Dr. Cosmo Howard, the model failed to match the experiences of the policy makers. This model did identify some aspects of the model, which played some part, to some extent, in the work of policy development, but was too structured, liner and not very reflective of the different approaches based on diverse policies (Howard, 2005). In this manner, the model failed to prepare the policy makers for the pressures to respond to the realities of the policy making in any pragmatic manner in the public service. This model never showcased that following it would result in better outcomes or that the prescriptions have been derived from practice (Colebatch, 2005).
The policy cycle model of Bridgman and Davis also fails to capture the influence of the political players and agendas in the policy development, which is a common phenomenon in policy development. The policy cycle model also falls short in capturing the changing role of public in the twenty first century. Nor does it articulate the need for the public buy-in, as well as, the communication of policy across the cycle, in a clear manner. The key examples of this are the insulation scheme and the Building the Education revolution policy. The goals of the policy were met largely in the policy implementation in both cases, and even the independent analysis showed that the policies were a success through qualitative and quantitative assessment. Though, both of them were announced thoroughly before being implemented, and yet, there was negligible public narrative by the government, which left the media to report the issues, along with the opposition, who are always motivated to undermine the policies (Pipika, 2012).
Even though there have been issues with this model in practice, as a result of the factors which are involved in it, along with the complex landscape of influences, but by constantly referencing throughout their book to the significance or good processes, which help in the creation of better policies, the model has encouraged a formally structured, check-box style and iterative approach towards the development of policies (Althaus, Bridgman, and Davis, 2012). To conclude, even though the model is inaccurate, it provides a reasonably descriptive, as well as, prescriptive normative approach towards the policy development.
Althaus, C., Bridgman, P., and Davis, G. (2012) The Australian Policy Handbook. 5th ed. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Bridgman, P., and Davis, G. (2016) What Use is a Policy Cycle? Plenty, if the Aim is Clear. [Online] eGovernment Tasmania. Available from: [Accessed on 01/12/17]
Carson, E., and Kerr, L. (2009) Australian Social Policy and the Human Services. Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press, pp. 85-90.
Colebatch, H.K. (2005) Policy analysis, policy practice and political science. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 64(3), pp. 14-23.
Conville, S.M. (2013) How useful is the policy cycle model presented by Althaus, Bridgman and Davis?. [Online] Academia. Available from: [Accessed on 01/12/17]
Freeman, B. (2013) Revisiting the Policy Cycle. [Online] Federation University. Available from: [Accessed on 01/12/17]
Howard, C. (2005) The Policy Cycle: a Model of Post-Machiavellian Policy Making?. The Australian Journal of Public Administration, 64(3), pp. 3-13.
Maddison, S., and Denniss, R. (2013) An Introduction to Australian Public Policy: Theory and Practice. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pipika. (2012) Improving the Public Policy Cycle Model. [Online] Available from: [Accessed on 01/12/17]
Scott, C.D. (2010) Adding Value to Policy Analysis and Advice. Sydney, NSW: UNSW Press book.