Joseph Drew is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Local Government in the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney and adjunct Professor at the Department of Business Administration, Tokyo Metropolitan University. His research interests focus on expenditure and revenue structures for local government, performance measurement and corporate governance. Previously he worked in senior management positions in performance monitoring within the retail banking sector. His work has been recognised in the 2004 Australian College of Educators awards and he is the recipient of the University Medal (2003) and the D H Drummond award for economics (2014). Joseph was the lead author of the paper which won the Pierre de Celles Award for best paper presented at the international Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration Annual Conference in 2014. He is the author of over 60 scholarly works and recent publications have appeared in Local Government Studies, Public Money & Management, Publius, Public Administration Quarterly, the Australian Journal of Public Administration, the Australian Journal of Political Science, Australian Taxation Forum and Policy& Politics. He has consulted with numerous Victorian, Tasmanian, Queensland, South Australian, Western Australian and New South Wales councils on municipal reform, accounting, finance and economic matters. Joseph has also been called as an expert witness for State and Federal Government Upper House inquiries.
Joseph is co-author of (with Bligh Grant) of Local Government in Australia (Springer) published in 2017. His new co-authored book, Selling Public Policy, is scheduled for publication at the end of 2019.
Joseph has just signed a contract with Springer to write a third book - Saving Local Government: Consolidation, Collaboration, or Re-Creation? - due at the end of 2020.
- Registered Teacher (Reg. No. 802960 (Qld); 248980 (NSW))
- Justice of the Peace (Qld)
- Member of Institute of Public Administration Australia
- Member of Australian Political Studies Association
- Member of Australia and New Zealand Regional Science Association
- Member of the Australian Journal of Public Administration Editorial Board
Can supervise: YES
- Expenditure and revenue functions for Local Government
- Education achievement
- Education economics
- Performance Monitoring: Government and Non-Government Sectors
- Fiscal Federalism
- Empirical Rhetoric
- Selling Public Policy
- Efficiency Measurement
- Applied Ethics (Natural Law and Principle of Double Effect)
- Banking and Finance
- Local Government Finance and Economics
- Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy
- Performance Monitoring
- Corporate Governance
This book brings together the refereed proceedings of the 24th Annual
Conference of the Australian Association of Professional and Applied Ethics (AAPAE) 'Applied Ethics in the Fractured State', held at the Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology Sydney in June 2017. The book is eclectic, with chapters on health regulation in Australia, Eastern ethical theorising (Confucianism; Buddhism), euthanasia and community engagement, all of which are examined from the unique perspective that Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations affords its contributors.
This book offers a general introduction to and analysis of the history, theory and public policy of Australian local government systems. Conceived in an international comparative context and primarily from within the discipline of political studies, it also incorporates elements of economics and public administration. Existing research tends to conceptualise Australian local government as an element of public policy grounded in an 'administrative science' approach. A feature of this approach is that generally normative considerations form only a latent element of the discussions, which is invariably anchored in debates about institutional design rather than the normative defensibility of local government. The book addresses this point by providing an account of the terrain of theoretical debate alongside salient themes in public policy.
Drew, J 2019, 'How Losers can Turn into Winners in Disputatious Public Policy: A Heuristic for Prospective Herestheticians.', Australian Journal of Political Science.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
There is a large literature that seeks to evaluate municipal amalgamations ex post, but a relative dearth of scholarly inquiry into the practical political task of persuading the public to accept amalgamations ex ante. We address this important gap in the literature by conducting a rhetorical analysis to ascertain what types of arguments are believed to be efficacious for persuasion on amalgamation. We find evidence to suggest belief in the efficacy of persuading the public through recourse to various projected dreadful consequences, particularly amongst opponents of amalgamation. We conclude by considering some of the reasons behind the observed rhetorics and briefly outline one possible solution.
Drew, J, McQuestin, D & dollery, B 2019, 'Good to Share? The Pecuniary Implications of Moving to Shared Service Production for Local Government Services.', Public Administration.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Drew, J 2018, 'Playing for Keeps: Local Government Distortion of Depreciation Accruals in Response to High Stakes Public Policy-Making', Public Money and Management, vol. 38, pp. 57-64.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Use of discretionary accounting accruals has long been recognized as a vehicle for earnings management in the private sector. More recently, evidence has emerged suggesting that public officials may similarly manipulate discretionary accruals in order to achieve 'balanced' operating results. This paper extends the previous literature on the manipulation of depreciation accruals to the realm of high-stakes public policy-making.
Dollery, BE & Drew, JJ 2018, 'Chalk and Cheese: A Comparative Analysis of Local Government Reform Processes in New South Wales and Victoria', International Journal of Public Administration, vol. 41, no. 11, pp. 847-858.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC A substantial empirical literature exists on the consequences of local government reform programs. However, much less effort has been directed at examining how reform processes affect the outcomes of reform programs and little work has been invested in the comparative analysis of local government reform processes. To address this neglect in the literature, this article provides a comparative analysis of the contemporary municipal reform initiatives in the New South Wales and Victorian state local government systems. It is argued that the much more deliberative and inclusive Victorian approach represents a superior approach to the hurried 'top-down' New South Wales method.
Drew, J, Blackwell, B & Dollery, B 2018, 'A Square Deal? Mining Costs, Mining Royalties and Local Government in New South Wales, Australia', Resources Policy, vol. 55, pp. 113-122.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Mining operations are often controversial since they can impose significant external costs on the local municipalities and local inhabitants. Under current legislative arrangements in New South Wales (NSW), Australia,
local governments are constrained from recouping costs directly from mines by means of increased property
taxes on mines due to state-wide limitations on tax increases – known colloquially as the 'rate-cap'. Moreover,
mining royalties are paid directly to the NSW government and not to affected councils. In this paper, set against
the background of mining activities in NSW, we estimate the magnitude of costs imposed by mining operations
on rural and regional local authorities. We then offer alternative public policy solutions which would enable
affected municipalities to recoup some or all of the cost burden placed on them by mining operations in their
respective local government areas.
Drew, J, O'Flynn, J & Grant, BJ 2018, 'Performing what? Exploring and expanding the notion of synecdoche in performance management practice.', Public Administration Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 395-424.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The corpus of scholarly literature on performance management largely neglects its role as a rhetorical device. Yet the performance narrative is truly an art of persuasion: it employs master tropes in order to discover warrantable beliefs. However, aside from a unidimensional account of synecdoche, where it is referred to simply as taking a part-for-the-whole, the rhetorical nature of performance management largely seems to have escaped notice in the public administration literature. Our focus is to provide a more fulsome account of synecdoche that can lead to a different perspective on what scholars and performance management architects have generally considered as perverse behavior and deceitful gaming. To provide our discussion with context we examine the persuasive intent and effect of the 'Fit for the Future' program, which sought to promote municipal amalgamations in New South Wales, Australia.
Drew, J & Fahey, G 2018, 'Framing unpopular policies and creating policy winners - the role of heresthetics', Policy and Politics, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 627-643.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Drew, J, tran, V & Noguchi, M 2018, 'The Role of Revenue Volatility in Local Government Expenditure: A Comparison of Tokyo Metropolitan Local Governments', Economic Papers, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 443-455.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Drew, J & Grant, B 2018, 'Natural law, non-voluntary euthanasia and public policy', Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 67-82.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Natural Law philosophy asserts that there are universally binding and universally evident principles that can be determined to guide the actions of persons. Moreover, many of these principles have been enshrined in both statute and common law, thus ensuring their saliency for staff and institutions charged with palliative care. The authors examine the often emotive and politicized matter of (non-voluntary) euthanasia – acts or omissions made with the intent of causing or hastening death – with reference to Natural Law philosophy. This leads us to propose a number of important public policy remedies to ensure dignity in dying for the patient, and their associates.
This volume of Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations (REIO) is an outcome of the Australian Association of Professional and Applied Ethics' (AAPAE) 24th Annual Conference 'Applied Ethics in the Fractured State.' The conference was held 21–23 June 2017 at the University of Technology Sydney and hosted by the Institute for Public Policy and Governance (IPPG). It was convened by Bligh Grant who was generously assisted throughout by fellow members of the Organizing Committee, Charmayne Highfield and Joseph Drew and the entire AAPAE Executive Committee, namely Hugh Breakey, Alan Tapper, Ian Gibson, Jo Namio, Kay Plumber, Michael Schwartz and Sunil Savur, with Sunil providing valuable experience drawn from his role as convener of the 2016 conference,
held at the University of Adelaide, and his co-editorship of Volume 17 of REIO (Savur & Sandhu, 2017).
In searching for a conference theme, the organizing committee was faced – as indeed most are – with the challenge of providing a topic that (a) was broad enough to be inclusive of the eclectic range of research and practice interests of the members and associates of AAPAE while (b) not being completely nebulous. Ultimately 'Applied Ethics in the Fractured State' was agreed upon. Yet the decision was not merely expedient.
McQuestin, D & Drew, J 2018, 'The price of populism: The association between directly elected mayors and unit expenditure in local government', Lex Localis, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 673-691.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2018 Lex localis. It would appear that directly elected Mayors have indeed become fashionable. However, few seem to have paused to ponder the pecuniary impact of directly elected Mayors on local government: Indeed there is no evidence at all from the Antipodes and much of the extant work is somewhat dated. We analyse a five year panel of data for New South Wales, Australia and find evidence of strong and statistically significant increased unit operational expenditure in local governments that employ the directly elected mayor model. We conclude by outlining the effect that this association might have on local government sustainability.
Drew, J & Grant, BJ 2017, 'Means, motive and opportunity: Distortion of public policy-making performance management data', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 76, no. 2, pp. 237-250.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Regulatory authorities are increasingly relying on performance data for public policy making purposes. However, this reliance necessarily assumes that the data is free from material distortion. This paper provides a conceptual framework for understanding the 'means', 'motive' and 'opportunity' for distorting data employed in high stakes performance management programmes. We present empirical evidence which suggests that the use of data drawn entirely from financial statements is by no means a guarantee of a distortion free depiction of performance. In addition, we provide econometric evidence of some important determinants of performance data distortion. Taken as a whole, the following analysis provides a comprehensive picture of the salient matters which must be addressed in order to ensure accurate data for public policy making purposes.
Drew, J & Dollery, BE 2017, 'Hired guns: Local government mergers in New South Wales and the KPMG modelling report', Australian Accounting Review, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 263-272.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Across the developed world, including Australia, public policymaking now rests heavily on commissioned reports generated by for-profit consultants, contrasting starkly with the earlier customary reliance on the civil service to provide informed policy advice to political decision makers. Dependence on commercial consultants is problematic, especially given the moral hazards involved in 'hired guns' providing support for policy 'solutions' desired by their political paymasters. This paper provides a vivid illustration of the some of the dangers flowing from the use of consultants by examining the methodology employed by KPMG in its empirical analysis of the pecuniary consequences of proposed municipal mergers as part of the New South Wales' (NSW) Government's Fit for the Future local government reform program. We show that the KPMG (2016) modelling methodology is awash with errors which render its conclusions on the financial viability of the NSW merger proposals fatally flawed.
Drew, J & Grant, BJ 2017, 'Multiple agents, blame games and public policy-making: The case of local government reform in New South Wales', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 37-52.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
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.
Dollery, B & Drew, J 2017, 'Paying the piper: A critical examination of ACIL Allen's (2016) An Economic Assessment of Recasting Council Boundaries in South Australia', Economic Analysis and Policy, vol. 54, pp. 74-82.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2017 Economic Society of Australia, Queensland Contemporary public policymaking relies on commissioned work from for-profit consulting companies as a prime source of policy advice. The scholarly literature on the 'externalisation' of policy advice has questioned the analytical rigour of such externalised advice. An embryonic literature on policy externalisation in Australian local government has demonstrated that serious flaws exist in numerous consultant reports. In an effort to contribute to this nascent body of empirical scholarship, this paper critically examines ACIL Allen's (2016) An Economic Assessment of Recasting Council Boundaries in South Australia which prescribes the wholesale amalgamation of South Australian local councils. We show that ACIL Allen (2016) is seriously flawed and its policy prescriptions should thus be treated with caution.
Drew, J & Grant, BJ 2017, 'Subsidiarity: More than a principle of decentralization – A view from local government', Publius: The Journal of Federalism, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 522-545.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
A common interpretation of the principle of subsidiarity in the federalism literature is that decentralized government, which is closer to the people, is better able to respond to the preferences of its citizens. However, when the principle is denuded of its moral foundations in this fashion it not only fails to provide the grounding for achieving human dignity and the common good, but may also become the harbinger of fiscal crises and social dysfunction. We provide a more comprehensive account of the principle of subsidiarity and contrast this with various conceptions prominently presented in the federalism literature. We then explore how this more comprehensive view of subsidiarity would look in practice. In short, we argue that mere decentralization of government fails to capture the ontology and desirable outcomes of the principle of subsidiarity.
Drew, J, McQuestin, D & Dollery, B 2017, 'Do Municipal Mergers Improve Technical Efficiency? An Empirical Analysis of the 2008 Queensland Municipal Merger Program', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. DOI: 10.1111/1467-8500.12286.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Municipal mergers remain an important instrument of local government policy in numerous countries, including Australia, despite some concerns surrounding its efficacy. We consider the claim that amalgamations enhance the technical efficiency of the merged entities by examining the 2008 Queensland compulsory consolidation program which reduced the number of local authorities from 157 to 73 councils. To test the claim we conduct locally inter-temporal data envelopment analysis over the period 2003 to 2013 inclusive. Our evidence suggests that (a) in the financial year preceding the mergers there was no statistically significant difference in the typical efficiency scores of amalgamated and non-amalgamated councils and (b) two years following the mergers the typical technical efficiency score of the amalgamated councils was well below the non-amalgamated cohort. We argue this may be attributed to increased spending on staffing expenses, although comparatively larger operational expenditure also served to diminish efficiency.
Drew, J, Grant, BJ & Fisher, J 2017, 'Re-evaluating local government amalgamations: Utility maximisation meets the Principle of Double Effect (PDE)', Policy and Politics: an international journal, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 379-394.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Public policy debates are often dominated by economic analysis of aggregate financial benefit. However, public policy formulated on this basis is frequently regarded as profoundly unsatisfactory by stakeholders. Focussing upon municipal amalgamation, this paper provides an alternative framework for public policy analysis which emphasises the importance of intent, process and uncertainty in decision making. We contend that an approach of this type better accommodates public opinion on contentious policy reform. Moreover, it reminds policy makers that even the most admirable economic outcome must still be achieved through a morally licit process.
Drew, J, Kortt, MA & Dollery, B 2017, 'No Aladdin's Cave in New South Wales? Local Government Amalgamation, Scale Economies, and Data Envelopment Analysis Specification', Administration and Society, vol. 49, no. 10, pp. 1450-1470.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Local government structural reform programs are often based on the purported benefits of increased scale. We examine this question in relation to the proposed amalgamation program for New South Wales (NSW) by the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel using Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA). We find evidence that a significant proportion of municipalities scheduled for amalgamation already exceed optimal scale and that the great majority of 'amalgamated' entities will initially exhibit decreasing returns to scale. Our findings thus stand in stark contrast to the Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP) contention that municipal mergers are the optimal approach to capturing economies of scale in NSW local government.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2017, 'The Price of Democracy?: Political Representation Structure and Per Capita Expenditure in Victorian Local Government', Urban Affairs Review, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 522-538.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Local government systems across the world face acute and ongoing fiscal challenges. In Australia, the regulatory response has focused squarely on council consolidation. This has, unfortunately, meant that comparatively little attention has been paid to alternate, less disruptive methods for enhancing municipal sustainability. One such possibility lies in modifying the structure of local political representation. We conduct a number of estimations on a four-year panel of Victorian municipal data to test whether the 'law of 1/n' has empirical support at the local government level. Our results clearly show that the number of geographically defined fragments, or wards, within a given municipality is a statistically significant determinant of local government expenditure. A number of public policy recommendations follow from the empirical evidence that might be broadly applicable to other municipal systems.
Local government plays a vital role in providing infrastructure, services and employment to rural and regional communities. Indeed, threats to the fiscal viability of regional councils may well jeopardise the sustainability of an entire community. In December 2013 the New South Wales (NSW) Minister for Local Government suspended Central Darling Shire (in far-western NSW) and appointed an interim Administrator in response to an unprecedented liquidity crisis. In October 2014 a public inquiry recommended extension of the period of administration until September 2020. This paper considers the processes leading up to this extraordinarily lengthy period of financial administration. In particular, we examine the claim that an inequitable allocation of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) was a major factor in bringing about the Shire's liquidity crisis. We conclude our analysis with some recommendations for changes to FAG allocations which will help ensure sustainable futures for rural communities.
Dollery, B, Kortt, M & Drew, J 2016, 'Fostering Shared Services in Local Government: A Common Service Model', Australasian Journal of Regional Studies (AJRS), vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 225-242.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Structural reform of local government through forced municipal mergers has occurred in a number of countries, including Australia, with mixed success. We argue that shared services arrangements by groups of voluntarily participating councils represent a superior means of securing the advantages of scale and scope in local government, without the heavy costs of the blunt instrument of compulsory council consolidation. However, in practice, the success of shared services has been inhibited in small regional, rural and remote local authorities by the costs of establishing and running shared service entities, which can swamp any savings from shared services. Taking into account the special characteristics of small non-metropolitan councils, we present a Common Service Model tailored to minimise establishment and transactions costs, maximise flexibility, and generate transparency.
Fahey, G, Drew, J & Dollery, BE 2016, 'Merger myths: A functional analysis in New South Wales local government', Public Finance and Management, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 362-382.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Structural reform through municipal mergers is ubiquitous across the developed world and Australian local government is no exception. Advocates of council consolidation, including the New South Wales (NSW) Government in its current amalgamation program, frequently contend that larger local government entities will generate cost savings through scale economies, despite the fact that different municipal functions exhibit a wide range of production characteristics. In the NSW case, no empirical evidence has been presented in support of the claim that amalgamation will induce greater economies of scale. In order to examine this claim empirically, we undertook a functional municipal expenditure analysis for NSW using 2014 data. Our results cast considerable doubt on the scale economies claim made by the NSW Government.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2016, 'Less Haste, More Speed: The Fit for the Future Reform Program in New South Wales Local Government', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 78-88.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2015 Institute of Public Administration Australia. In August 2011 the New South Wales (NSW) Government established the Independent Local Government Review Panel to examine the options for improving the sustainability of the NSW local government sector. In October 2014 the NSW Government set out its response in its Fit for the Future reform program. This paper provides a critical assessment of the Fit for the Future program. We show that it contains errors, relies on unreliable data, and neglects important factors, which may be ascribed to the haste with which it has been constructed. This could have serious consequences given the potential impact the Fit for the Future program will have on NSW local government. We thus conclude that it would be prudent to address these matters before proceeding further with the program.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2016, 'How High Should They Jump? An Empirical Method for Setting Municipal Financial Ratio Performance Benchmarks', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 53-64.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2015 Institute of Public Administration Australia. Heightened concerns regarding the financial sustainability of local councils have resulted in an increasing reliance by municipal regulators on financial ratio performance benchmarking. However, these benchmarks are often assigned without explicit justification and despite a paucity of empirical evidence. Furthermore, regulators typically allocate a single performance benchmark across an entire local government system despite the fact that individual councils may face entirely different operating environments. Failure to take account of the environmental challenges facing councils can result in inappropriate or unattainable performance benchmarks that may give rise to unintended consequences, such as the well-documented threshold effects. To address this problem, we develop an empirical method for allocating performance benchmarks with respect to the current level of performance and environmental constraints facing individual local authorities. We demonstrate this technique in a case study using data drawn from New South Wales local authority operating ratios. Failure to take account of the environmental challenges facing councils can result in inappropriate or unattainable performance benchmarks which may give rise to unintended consequences. To address this problem, we develop an empirical method for allocating performance benchmarks with respect to the current level of performance and environmental constraints facing individual local authorities. We demonstrate this technique in a case study using data drawn from New South Wales local authority operating ratios.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2016, 'What's in a Name? Assessing the Performance of Local Government Classification Systems', Local Government Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 248-266.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2015 Taylor & Francis Local government classification systems are employed in many countries for regulation, grant transfers and other public policy purposes. Given the pivotal role these classification systems play in public policy, their accuracy is a matter of some importance. Classification systems take several forms typically consisting of groupings of municipalities based on factors such as degree of urbanisation, population size and the like. However, to date none of these classification systems have been tested for homogeneity with respect to environmental constraints or validated against external data. This paper employs the classification system for New South Wales (NSW) local authorities as a representative case study to demonstrate that a wider range of external constraints should be considered for the robust classification of local councils.
Kortt, MA, Dollery, B & Drew, J 2016, 'Municipal Mergers in New Zealand: An Empirical Analysis of the Proposed Amalgamation of Hawke's Bay Councils', Local Government Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 228-247.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2015 Taylor & Francis Local government policymakers across the developed world have frequently employed municipal amalgamation to improve the operation of local councils, and New Zealand is no exception. This paper empirically examines claims made in Potential Costs and Savings of Local Government Reform in Hawke's Bay that the merger of the five local authorities in the Hawke's Bay Region of New Zealand would generate significant cost-savings. We empirically test for the existence of scale economies in a single merged Hawke's Bay council and find that no cost-savings can be expected. This removes a key argument for a forced Hawke's Bay amalgamation.
Drew, J, Dollery, B & Kortt, MA 2016, 'Can't get no satisfaction? The association between community satisfaction and population size for victoria', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 65-77.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2015 Institute of Public Administration Australia. Traditionally, the problem of determining the optimal size in local government has been empirically assessed by estimating the relationship between population size and the costs of services (usually measured in terms of per capita expenditure). These studies, however, have proved largely inconclusive. In comparison, an empirical analysis based on the relationship between the size of government and community satisfaction offers a potentially fruitful contribution to the debate regarding the optimal size of local government. However, to date, few studies have followed this approach. We therefore contribute to this literature by exploring the relationship between population size and community satisfaction for Victorian councils. Our findings provide evidence of an inverted 'U-shaped' relationship, which predicts low community satisfaction at very large and very small population sizes.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2016, 'Does Size Still Matter? An Empirical Analysis of the Effectiveness of Victorian Local Authorities', Local Government Studies, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 15-29.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2014 Taylor & Francis. Efficiency approaches to the question of whether population size matters to optimal local government have proved largely inconclusive. However, recent exploratory empirical work employing an effectiveness approach – as proxied by citizen satisfaction survey data – offers a promising way forward. The present paper seeks to build upon an earlier cross-sectional analysis of Victorian local government by employing longitudinal data over a three-year period – 2008 to 2010 – for Victorian local authorities. The greater depth of data confirmed the positive associations with population density but suggests that negative linear relationships dominate over parabolic associations for population size. This result underlines the need for the collection of more local government citizen satisfaction data by Australian local government systems, given its potentially fruitful application in tackling contentious questions in contemporary local government policy debates.
Drew, J, Kortt, MA & Dollery, B 2016, 'Did the Big Stick Work? An Empirical Assessment of Scale Economies and the Queensland Forced Amalgamation Program', LOCAL GOVERNMENT STUDIES, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 1-15.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Drew, J, Grant, BJ & Campbell, N 2016, 'Progressive and Reactionary Rhetoric in the Municipal Reform Debate in New South Wales (NSW) Australia', Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 323-337.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Hirschman's (1991) rhetoric of reaction is a potentially powerful typology of the arguments made by both proponents and opponents of reform. However, scholars have identified a number of gaps in the typology, in particular that it has struggled to explain the lines of rhetoric associated with disputed empirical evidence. This paper reviews Hirschman's typology before applying it to the contentious municipal amalgamation debates currently unfolding in New South Wales, Australia. We then examine the lines of attack open to progressives and reactionaries on the basis of empirical data. We conclude that the use of empirical data opens new lines of rhetoric for both 'progressives' and 'reactionaries' generally, but that both information costs and complexity significantly affect the timing and penetration of the arguments.
Drew, J, Kortt, M & Dollery, B 2016, 'Peas in a Pod: Are Efficient Municipalities Also Financially Sustainable?', Australian Accounting Review, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 122-131.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Public policy makers have principally focussed on improving the operational efficiency of local government on the presumption that this will result in a more financially sustainable sector. We argue that it is erroneous to assume that an efficient local government entity will necessarily be more fiscally sustainable. To test this argument, we apply an innovative method for empirically testing the association between financial sustainability and operational efficiency to the New South Wales (NSW) local government system. Our results suggest limited positive associations between financial sustainability measures and municipal efficiency.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2016, 'A Factor Analytic Assessment of Financial Sustainability: The Case of New South Wales Local Government', Australian Accounting Review, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 132-140.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Financial sustainability in local government remains a pressing problem which has seen a host of public policy interventions, including compulsory consolidation and performance monitoring through financial sustainability ratios. In September 2014, the New South Wales (NSW) Government announced a reform program centred on increasing scale in local government to make councils 'fit for the future'. We apply factor analysis to the ten financial ratios informing the NSW Government's reform initiative to identify the underlying factors for observed financial performance data. We find evidence indicating that three independent underlying factors account for the adopted measures of financial sustainability. The public policy implication arising from this study suggests that the reforms imposed by the NSW Government on NSW municipalities may only meet with limited success.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2016, 'Summary Execution: The Impact of Alternative Summarization Strategies on Local Governments', Public Administration Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 4, pp. 814-841.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Performance management in the public sector, including local government, has become far more pervasive in recent decades. Often performance indicators are summarized into a single score to enhance understanding and ease dissemination. However, the summation of performance indicators caries a risk that the rating assigned may largely be an artefact of the summarization strategy rather than an accurate representation of municipal performance. We employ the recent evaluation of New South Wales' municipal performance to demonstrate that the performance indicator compilation strategy is indeed a major determinant of the ratings assigned to local councils. Moreover, we illustrate how ratings may exert a constitutive effect on municipalities by altering organizational behavior. A number of policy lessons are drawn from our empirical analysis, including significant methodological considerations and the need for higher levels of transparency.
The new Victorian Government won the 2014 election on a platform to inter alia introduce a cap on council rates in all Victorian councils. This means that a rate-cap will be introduced beginning with the 2016/17 financial year, with future rises in rates pegged at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) after this date. This paper provides a comparative empirical analysis of New South Wales local government - the only Australian local government system to operate a rate-pegging regime - and Victorian local government with respect to rate-capping. We find evidence to support the proposition that rate-capping has deleterious effects on municipal revenue effort, equity, debt and infrastructure maintenance. Moreover, our findings do not provide empirical evidence in support of the claim that rate-capping increases municipal efficiency. The paper concludes by considering various alternative public policy instruments to rate-capping.
Bell, B, Drew, J & Dollery, B 2016, 'Learning From Experience? An Empirical Evaluation of the 2000-2004 Municipal Mergers in New South Wales', Economic Papers: a journal of applied economics and policy, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 99-111.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
While the bulk of the empirical evidence shows that municipal mergers do not improve the performance of local authorities, Australian policymakers nonetheless continue to impose council amalgamation, as illustrated by the current New South Wales Fit for the Future local government reform process. This paper first critically examines the empirical evidence employed by the Independent Local Government Review Panel on the impact of the 2004 council mergers. We argue that this evidence is flawed. We then provide an empirical assessment of the municipal mergers, which occurred over 2000-2004 with our sample drawn from Group 4 councils in the New South Wales variant of the Australian Local Government Classification System. Group 4 councils represent a group of significant regional cities and town councils with similar operational activities. We demonstrate that merged councils have not performed any better than their unmerged peers over the period 2004 to 2014. The paper concludes with some brief policy implications for local government reform in New South Wales and elsewhere.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2015, 'Inconsistent Depreciation Practice and Public Policymaking: Local Government Reform in New South Wales', AUSTRALIAN ACCOUNTING REVIEW, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 28-37.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2015, 'Road to Ruin? Consistency, Transparency and Horizontal Equalisation of Road Grant Allocations in Eastern Mainland Australian States', Public Administration Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 518-546.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Intergovernmental grant funding of local government is not only common in many multi-tiered countries, but often hypothecated on local government infrastructure maintenance and renewal. In Australia, the federal government has been providing grant funding for roads since 1973 through the different state Local Government Grant Commissions. The guiding principle for this distribution of grants has been to enhance horizontal equity in the provision of local government services to all Australians, regardless of where they reside. This objective has particular significance in a commodity based economy which relies on local government for the bulk of its road infrastructure. Moreover, several recent inquiries have suggested that a growing local infrastructure backlog is a problem with national economic ramifications. Against this background, this paper examines whether the grant allocation practices of the three states which account for the bulk of the Australian population and economic activity accord with intended horizontal fiscal equity principles underlying road grant allocations. We present evidence which demonstrates that a lack of consistency and transparency not only undermines equity goals, but also the financial sustainability of individual local authorities.
Drew, J, Kortt, M & Dollery, B 2015, 'What Determines Efficiency in Local Government? A DEA Analysis of NSW Local Government', Economic Papers: A journal of applied economics and policy, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 243-256.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Data envelopment analysis (DEA) has the potential to make strong contributions to the formulation of public policy. In particular, DEA can be used to identify the determinants of efficiency and this information can be used to inform debate around municipal boundary reform and other matters. However, there is a dearth of empirical literature on the accurate and correct specification of DEA. We use conceptual considerations to posit an ideal specification for Australian municipal DEA before estimating a number of models to demonstrate the effect of specification on the identification of determinants. Our evidence suggests that incorrect specification may well produce spurious associations and lead to poor public policymaking.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2015, 'The State of Things: The Dynamic Efficiency of Australian State and Territories', Economic Papers: A journal of applied economics and policy, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 165-176.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This paper uses intertemporal and locally intertemporal data envelopment analysis to examine inter alia how yardstick competition, heterogeneity, innovation and competition for business and capital manifest themselves in the Australian federation over the period 2007–2012. The incidence of the Global Financial Crisis during this period also facilitated the testing of a hypothesis on how Australian state and territory jurisdictions might be expected to respond to a uniform macro-economic shock. Intertemporal evidence provided support for the contention that federalism fosters 'democratic laboratories.' The locally intertemporal analysis provided empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that competitive tensions result in increases to the relative efficiency ceteris paribus of sub-optimal jurisdictions over time. Moreover, some evidence was found to support the proposition that imitation of best practice leads to converging efficiency between comparable peer jurisdictions.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2015, 'A fair go?: A response to the independent local government review panel's assessment of municipal taxation in NSW', Australian Tax Forum: a journal of taxation policy, law and reform, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 471-489.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP) recently handed down its final report on the financial sustainability of New South Wales (NSW) councils. The report identifies a number of problems in relation to local government rating practice and recommends that the NSW Government consider replacing the present rate-pegging regime, changing the base from which council rates are levied for high-density unit complexes and reducing the number of exemptions and concessions currently available. At the heart of the recommendations is an empirically untested contention that the current system of council rates in NSW is inherently inequitable in terms of both inter-municipal equity and capacity to pay. We begin our assessment of the ILGRP claims by reviewing the theoretical foundations of council property taxes. We then provide a synoptic account of NSW municipal rating before empirically assessing equity under the current arrangements. Finally, we propose a set of public policy responses which address the equity problems identified in our analysis.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2015, 'Breaking up is hard to do: the costs of de-amalgamation of the Delatite Shire Council', Public Finance and Management, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 1-23.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
In 1994, the Victorian Government instituted a radical council amalgamation program which eliminated over 60% of all local authorities. In the forcibly merged Delatite Shire Council local resentment engendered a sustained grassroots campaign which eventually reversed its contentious compulsory consolidation. The resultant de-amalgamation was the first in modern Australian local government history, although demergers have occurred in other countries, most notably in Quebec in Canada. Whilst economic theory sheds much light on decentralization, by contrast little work has been done on how best to conduct council deamalgamation. In this paper, constitutive accounting theory is applied to the Delatite Shire Council demerger. The empirical evidence flowing from our analysis contributes to the embryonic literature on municipal de-amalgamation and thereby provides public policymakers in other local government systems with an account of how accounting decisions play a critical role in the future of de-amalgamated municipal entities.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2014, 'Keeping It In-House: Households Versus Population as Alternative Proxies for Local Government Output', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 73, no. 2, pp. 235-246.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2014 National Council of the Institute of Public Administration Australia. Forced amalgamation has been used as a policy instrument in local government by numerous regulatory authorities across the world. A common presumption underlying municipal mergers holds that larger local councils will experience greater economies of scale. However, the empirical evidence on this question is mixed. Part of the reason for this could lie in the frequent use of population as a proxy for local government output in the empirical literature. This paper examines the use of alternative proxies, particularly the number of households but also the addition of business unit data. We demonstrate that household data represents a more accurate proxy of Australian local government output compared to population size. In addition, the paper employs experimental data, conceptual considerations on population, and household dynamics to establish that the number of households represents the most appropriate measure of local government size for both empirical and public policy purposes.
Drew, J, Kortt, MA & Dollery, B 2014, 'Economies of Scale and Local Government Expenditure: Evidence From Australia', Administration and Society, vol. 46, no. 6, pp. 632-653.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Controversy surrounds structural reform in local government, especially efforts aimed at involuntarily reducing the number of local authorities to secure scale economies. We examined whether scale economies exist in local government outlays by analyzing the expenditure of 152 New South Wales councils. Initially, council expenditure is characterized by scale economies. However, given the correlation between population and population density, it is important to determine whether the influence of population on expenditure is due to variations in population density. When areas are decomposed into subgroups on the basis of density, the evidence of scale economies largely disappears. © 2012 SAGE Publications.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2014, 'The impact of metropolitan amalgamations in Sydney on municipal financial sustainability', Public Money and Management, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 281-288.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The Australian Independent Local Government Review Panel recently proposed amalgamating the majority of New South Wales (NSW) local councils in the Greater Sydney metropolitan region in order to increase municipal population size with the aim of engineering a more financially sustainable system. However, no attempt was made to determine whether there is a statistically significant association between larger population size and improved financial sustainability ratios, nor whether the proposed merged local authorities will be more financially viable. This paper addresses these critical omissions. The empirical analysis reported indicates that the proposed amalgamations will not secure enhanced financial sustainability in Greater Sydney local government. © 2014 © 2014 CIPFA.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2014, 'Separation anxiety: an empirical evaluation of the Australian Sunshine Coast Regional Council de-amalgamation', Public Money and Management, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 213-220.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
As part of the broader Queensland local government amalgamation programme, in 2008 Noosa Shire Council, Caloundra City Council and Maroochy Shire Council were compulsorily merged into a new Sunshine Coast Regional Council. Five years on, unyielding public opposition and a new Queensland Government has secured deamalgamation of Noosa Shire from the Sunshine Coast Regional Council. Given the almost complete absence of empirical literature on municipal de-amalgamation, the Noosa case provides a rare opportunity to empirically assess a de-amalgamation process. Accordingly, this paper provides a critical evaluation of the de-amalgamation analysis prepared by the Queensland Treasury Corporation. Far from placating residents, the de-amalgamation plans are likely to provoke further acrimony due not only to equity problems, but also a lack of democratic representation on key decisionmaking bodies. On a broader level, this case study serves as a template for the theory and practice associated with any municipal de-amalgamation-either in Australia or abroad. © 2014 © 2014 CIPFA.
Drew, J & Dollery, B 2014, 'Would Bigger Councils Yield Scale Economies in the Greater Perth Metropolitan Region? A Critique of the Metropolitan Local Government Review for Perth Local Government', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 73, no. 1, pp. 128-137.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Forced amalgamation is a ubiquitous feature of Australian local government reform - compulsory council consolidation programs have occurred in all states and territories, with the sole exception of Western Australia. However, the Final Report of the Metropolitan Local Government - released in October 2012 - called for a reduction of about 60 per cent of the local authorities in the Greater Perth metropolitan area. The Western Australian Government responded by announcing that the number of Perth councils will fall from 30 to 14 from 1 July 2015. The Final Report recommended amalgamation on seven main counts, including scale economies. However, apart from citing work on Tasmania by commercial consultants Deloitte Access Economics (DAE) (2011), no econometric evidence was produced in support of claims on scale economies. This paper seeks to remedy this deficiency by estimating a number of econometric models on the impact of amalgamation on Perth local government. The results of our empirical modelling suggest that scale economies, cost savings and other pecuniary gains are largely illusory. Indeed, only two of the ten main local government functions provide evidence to suggest potential economies of scale. © 2014 National Council of the Institute of Public Administration Australia.
Drew, J & Gamage, S 2018, 'Just Do It? A Cautionary Tale on Implementing Performance Management Regimes.' in Pilcher, R & Gilchrist, D (eds), Public Sector Accounting, Accountability and Governance: Globalising the Experiences of Australia and New Zealand, Routledge, Abingdon.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
There has been a recent trend towards the use of performance indicators – often predicated on financial data – to enhance accountability and transparency of local government both in Australia and abroad. However, performance management also brings with it a range of risks including inter alia unintended performance distortion, synecdochal gap and intended distortions. This chapter reviews the substantial scholarly literature on government performance management before applying the concepts to a particular instance of high stakes performance management: the New South Wales Fit for the Future program. Fit for the Future required councils to self-assess against seven ratios drawn from financial statement data. Councils which failed to achieve the prescribed benchmarks were subject to forced amalgamations. Empirical evidence is provided which suggests significant levels of distortion in the performance management data. It is argued that careful design and testing of ratios – in order to avoid deleterious outcomes – is extremely important in any performance management regime, irrespective of whether accounting data from audited financial statements is used.
Grant, BJ & Drew, J 2017, 'The thawing continent: The changing role of local government in a people's federation' in Bruerton, M, Hollander, R, Arklay, T & Levy, R (eds), A People's Federation?.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
One could be forgiven for thinking that the 'Terms of Reference' (ToR) for the Reform of the Federation White Paper released in June 2014 might have foreshadowed the expansion of the comparatively limited remit of Australian local government. In particular, the suggestion that the allocation of roles and responsibilities might be made with regard to the principle of 'subsidiarity, whereby responsibility lies with the lowest level of government possible, allowing flexible approaches to improving outcomes' territories appeared to presage a level of decentralisation far greater than that of the states, or at least a sustained investigation of the possibilities in this regard. If this course had been taken, the White Paper process could have engaged with the longstanding debates concerning regionalisation and regionalism in Australia, within which the subject of local government has necessarily formed an element. However, the subsequent Discussion Paper devoted just half a page to local government's position in a document spanning 121 pages, with a clear presumption that state and territory governments were to remain the lowest level of government to be considered by process writ large, thereby consigning the cynical amongst us to infer that under this particular White Paper process Australia was destined to remain 'the frozen continent'. This was resoundingly confirmed by the Turnbull Government's discontinuation of the White Paper process.
Drew, J 2017, 'A Tale of Two Jurisdictions: A Focus on the Effect of Regulatory Constraints on Municipal Resilience in Australia' in Steccolini, I, Jones, M & Saliterer, I (eds), Building governmental financial resilience under austerity – an international perspective.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Dollery, B, Kortt, M & Drew, J 2016, 'Australian Local Government Perspectives on Contemporary Structural Reform' in Sadioglu, U & Dede, K (eds), Theoretical Foundations and Discussions on the Reformation Process in Local Governments, IGI Global, Hershey, Philadelphia, pp. 179-204.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This chapter examines the municipal merger programs in the different Australian state and territory local government systems. In particular, it considers whether the amalgamation policies have met the claims made about their efficacy by advocates of amalgamation. The chapter outlines the characteristics of Australian local councils in comparative perspective, briefly describes the major problems confronting Australian local government, provides a synoptic account of the extant literature on structural reform in local government, and summarises Australian municipal merger programs. It then considers their impact as seen through the prism of a host of public inquiries into local government in the different states, as well as the scholarly literature. The chapter concludes with some comparative analysis of Australian merger programs with similar policies in other countries.
Drew, J & Grant, B 2017, 'Natural Law, the Principle of Double Effect, Non-Voluntary Euthanasia and Public Policy', 24th Annual AAPAE conference: Applied Ethics in the Fractured State, Australian Association of Professional and Applied Ethics, Sydney, NSW.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Drew, J 2017, Impact of mining on rural sustainability.
Drew, J 2017, Report for South East Tasmanian Councils, Report for South East Tasmanian Councils.
The McKell Institute has released a new report, Giving Local Government the Reboot - Improving the Financial Sustainability of Local Governments. Written by staff of the University of Technology Sydney Centre for Local Government (UTS:CLG), the report delves deeply into the financial issues facing most local councils.
Drew, J 2016, Report for Oberon Council.
Drew, J 2016, Report for Greater Hobart Councils.
Drew, J 2016, 'Performance Monitoring Pilot for NSW Local Government'.