Evidence-based policy making

The issue

It is important that we have a rigorous, evidence-based approach to policy making in Australia. We still have the ongoing challenges of climate change, an ageing population, international competitive pressures, striving for better health and educational outcomes, and reducing Indigenous disadvantage. Good policy making processes can ensure that public policy achieves a desired objective in a cost-effective manner.

By providing an evidence base for regulatory decision making, the best practice regulation process seeks to:

  • deliver regulation where it provides the greatest benefits to the community, and
  • to reduce regulation where it would not.

Our position

Libraries and librarians have an important role to play in the regulatory process.

Library and information professionals connect politicians and Government employees to the essential information they need to make decisions based on evidence, not fiction.

Government library and information services are critical, if the people who shape our future are to have access to the very latest information to shape evidence-based policy, and if Government employees are to have access to the knowledge of the past that informs tomorrow’s outcomes.

Government libraries deal with hundreds of enquiries every day, ranging from requests from scientists, engineers, clinicians, emergency workers, lawyers, policy officers, agronomists, through to the information on which Ministers base their decisions.

Our call is for all federal government departments to have access to library and information services run by qualified library professionals, ensuring that government policy is based on robust data and that we do not have ‘government by Google’.

What we are doing

In 2013, we put together a prospectus, which summarised the contribution government libraries make to a well-governed country. This was in response to major cuts to Queensland government libraries at the end of 2012, where we campaigned (with some success) to retain library and information professionals in key government departments.

Since then, we have been involved in a number of local campaigns, for example:

We were involved in advocating for the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion’s library at the Strathmont Centre, Oakden, in South Australia, which faced closure in June 2013. Jobs were lost, but the books and journals were moved to Charles Sturt Public Library in February 2014, which meant people with disabilities and health professionals were still able to access this valuable source of information.

In December 2013, we took our protest about the closure of the National Drug Information Service to Health Minister Fiona Nash's home town of Young, with a stand at the annual Cherry Festival.

We have campaigned against the Tasmanian Government's proposed $295,000 cut to the Andrew Inglis Clark Law Library budget for 2015-2016. 

The Wikipedia incident

In October 2013, we wrote to the Editors of major newspapers highlighting the loss of federal government libraries in relation to the Environment Minister using Wikipedia as his evidence base. 

View the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age coverage of our response.

Other examples

At a time when the federal Department of Health library is under pressure, it was no surprise to read this story in The GuardianHealth Department admits lack of in-depth analysis of Medicare co-payment, 6 February 2015.

How you can help

With deep cuts to the public service, government libraries are under fairly constant review. We will be seeking your support for individual libraries, where there is a strong case against closure, job losses and the destruction of unique and irreplaceable items. 

Share your story 

Do you want to tell us about your story about how facts accessed from a library helped achieve a regulatory outcome? Please drop us a line or or post your story on our Facebook page.

Also if you have used one of our tools or suggestions, tell us the results of your actions. For example, if you have written a letter, made comment in the media, or received a response on a issue, please let us know and then we can keep the FAIR community informed via our newsletter.