On a Friday afternoon in late-January 2009, two officers from Australia’s Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) are set a very urgent task: to devise and cost a proposal to install ceiling insulation in homes across Australia, at little-to-no out of pocket cost to owners. They have just over 48 hours. The Federal Government is frantically scouting for large-scale programs to boost employment and buffer the economy from the Global Financial Crisis.
This three-part case allows for an in-depth exploration of numerous topics and concepts, mainly from the perspective of an embattled Department well out of its depth. Policy development, risk management, outsourcing expertise, implementation, compliance, leadership, centralisation and crisis management are just some of the issues ripe for discussion. The Best Laid Plans also seeks to look behind the headlines and strip back assumptions to allow a fresh take on one of the most analysed and criticised government programs in Australian administrative history.
Part A recounts the early days of the Home Insulation Program (HIP) including the economic and political context. It follows the story from the policy’s proposal to its rapid implementation (Phase 1), all while DEWHA are still trying to work out some very significant details. Complicating matters is the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) which has rejected DEWHA’s preferred delivery model in favour of its own. A new DEWHA Secretary is caught between an under-resourced department with little program experience and a powerful central department insisting on speed and maximum participation with minimal regulation.
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