University Of Tasmania
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Publicans, Presbyterians and policy : an institutionalist analysis of alcohol control policies in Australia and New Zealand 1900-2010

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:36 authored by Hanna, DJ
Alcohol has been heavily regulated around the world for many centuries. Today there are at least as many approaches to alcohol control policies as there are nation states. Despite this policy variation, little research has focused on the forces that have shaped alcohol regulation. Australia and New Zealand had divergent approaches to alcohol regulation despite geographic, cultural, and demographic similarities. Through their histories, alcohol regulations were also heavily debated issues of public importance. Despite this, there has been little or no comparative research which seeks to systematically describe and explain alcohol control policies in the antipodes. This thesis seeks to address this gap in the scholarly literature by providing a detailed historical account of the trajectory of alcohol control policies in Australia and New Zealand and, using the tools of historical institutionalism, proceeds to present an explanation of policy divergence between the cases. This research focused on the influence of institutions in shaping policy paths and divergence in alcohol controls. The institutions assessed included mid-level political institutions (division of powers, parliamentary structure and practice, constitutional arrangements, and the judiciary) and, consistent with the work of some historical institutionalists and political scientists (such as Lowi), the influence of policy legacies. The approach incorporated a comparative, historical assessment of alcohol control policies (dependent variable) and ideas, actors and institutions (independent variables) over a long time period (1900-2010) to identify divergence and its causes. The research found that in 2010 the alcohol control policies in Australia and New Zealand were less similar than in 1900. This divergence became pronounced after World War One when Australian controls followed a path of incremental change, while New Zealand followed a different path with two brief periods of significant change (World War One and the late 1980s) and rigid stability in between. The divergence was evident in availability controls and other policy tools, including: taxation, drink-driving countermeasures, treatment, advertising controls, and national alcohol policies. Australian alcohol policies were consistent with the incremental change path identified by March and Olsen (1989), whereas New Zealand's diverged after World War One when they followed a different path of rapid and dramatic change at critical junctures followed by locked-in‚ÄövÑvp rigid stability; consistent with the path identified by Collier and Collier (1991). The cause of alcohol control policy divergence could be largely explained by institutional variables. Australia and New Zealand had similar cultures, policy actors and exposure to ideas throughout the period. These factors were less significant in shaping the policy divergence. The influential institutions were twofold. The first was divergent political institutions that concentrated power in New Zealand and dispersed it in Australia (especially the federal division of powers), allowing New Zealand governments a greater capacity to intervene in the economy and society and to make significant policy changes. The second was divergent legacies from policy decisions at points in time. For much of the period, policy legacies were more powerful than political institutions in driving divergence. This was demonstrated after New Zealand introduced the General Licensing Poll from 1918, which shaped rigid stability compared to Australia. This was despite political institutions that provided greater opportunity for New Zealand Governments to implement policy changes, a demonstration of the influence of policy legacies. The industry and temperance movement were effective in influencing alcohol control policies when they worked together through a Presbyterian and Publican‚ÄövÑvp coalition. They were less effective when they worked alone or were divided. The key determinant of whether actors would work in coalition or competition was the feedback from policy legacies. This research confirmed many findings of historical institutionalists and those of Theodore Lowi regarding the important role of policy legacies. The interplay between political institutions and policy legacies were the major drivers of alcohol control policy divergence from 1900 to 2010.


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