The Magic of Harmonisation: A Case Study of Occupational Health and Safety in Australia
The Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration Vol. 34, No. 2 (December 2012) 137-155
28 Pages Posted: 1 May 2013 Last revised: 24 Feb 2014
Date Written: 2012
Harmonisation is both a substantive policy reform and a political project. Using the lens of Pollitt and Hupe’s ‘magic concepts of government’ and the harmonisation of Australia’s occupational health and safety laws as a case study, this article argues that as a political project, harmonisation has a magical rhetorical quality that obscures traditional differences, eases the business of governing and makes it almost irresistible as a policy solution. The article observes, however, that harmonisation’s magic is: illusory (in that it obscures rather than resolves policy differences); seductive (in that it entices stakeholders to overestimate its capacity to reconcile such differences); and time limited (with reform outcomes eventually becoming vulnerable and fragile). The article concludes that harmonisation’s ‘magic’ and its limitations need to be better acknowledged, government use of harmonisation tools approached with a healthy level of scepticism, and policy and regulatory review processes designed to guard against its seductive qualities.
Keywords: Harmonisation, Magic Concept, Policy, Politics, Occupational health and safety, OHS
JEL Classification: H77, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation