The changing state of policy production in Australian federalism: gender equity and schooling

Lingard, Bob (1992). The changing state of policy production in Australian federalism: gender equity and schooling PhD Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2014.564

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Author Lingard, Bob
Thesis Title The changing state of policy production in Australian federalism: gender equity and schooling
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2014.564
Publication date 1992
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor Paul Boreham
Paige Porter
Total pages 497
Language eng
Subjects 330104 Educational Policy, Administration and Management
130308 Gender, Sexuality and Education
Formatted abstract
This research exercise in policy sociology focuses on the development of gender equity policies in schooling at the federal and Queensland levels, including the National Policy for the Education of Girls (1987) and Queensland's policy of Equality of Opportunity in Education for Girls and Boys (1981). Earlier and later developments in gender equity policies are also analysed, indicating the interactive nature of policy production within the dual jurisdictions of federalism. The thesis takes as its point of departure from the mainstream policy literature the view that an understanding of the state is central to any analysis of policy production within it.

Dale (1986) makes a distinction between the topic of research and the resources which are utilised to provide an analysis of the topic. The research has two topics. The first is the development of gender equity policies and the second is theorising policy production within the state, as part of a broader project of providing an historical sociology of the Australian federal state. The focus for both topics is upon the period from Whitlam to Hawke, with special emphasis on the Hawke era (1983-1991). The second topic serves as a research resource towards the analysis of the interactive development of gender equity policies at the national and Queensland levels. The first topic also serves as a resource for the second topic of theorising policy-making within the state and providing an historical sociology of the Australian federal state. Additional research resources included interviews with many of the participants in the development of the gender equity policies under focus, reports and publicly available documents, and the relevant policy files of the Queensland Department of Education.

Amongst the research respondents were many women with feminist views and goals working within the bureaucracy and utilising both the bureaucratic structure and federal-state relations as a terrain to develop strategies to achieve gains in gender equity policy. The Australian neologism, "femocrat", has been coined to refer to such women for whom a commitment to feminism is a requirement of the positions they hold. This professionalisation of the women's movement (Yeatman, 1990a) resulted from the confluence of the second wave of the women's movement and the election of the social democratic Whitlam Labor government in 1972 and also reflected the traditional statism of Australian political culture (Eisenstein, 1991). The research indicates the significance of feminist networks and strategy to the achievement of policies at both the national and Queensland levels. As such, this finding is a most useful resource for indicating the necessity to consider the agency of bureaucrats as another mediating factor in policy production within the state. This aspect of the research also demonstrates the significance of bureaucratic structure and location for effectiveness of a reform strategy. The research shows how femocrats utilised symbolic policies as the first stage of a longer term strategy and how such policies could have material effects when accompanied by a committed political constituency.

The thesis attempts to establish a viable theory of policy production within the state through a synthesis of a critiqued version of the work of Offe (1975, 1984, 1985) and feminist theories of the state (Franzway, Court and Connell, 1989; Connell, 1987, 1990), while acknowledging the state as a terrain of policy struggle (Burton, 1985; Jessop, 1990). Through an amalgam of theoretical and empirically based insights the thesis outlines the requirements of a viable theory of policy production within the state. It is argued that consideration must be granted to the accumulation and legitimation pressures upon the state (Offe, 1975, 1984, 1985), as well as to political ones (Esping-Andersen, 1985, 1990). Recognition needs to be given to the different bases of power in those spheres. Collectively the state is a complex arrangement of institutions and practices which has to balance these ongoing pressures, arriving at temporary settlements at different historical moments. These pressures are mediated in their impact upon the institutions and practices of the differentiated internal state structure, for only some arms of the state are specifically concerned with accumulation, while others have ostensibly different purposes. In turn, state structures, including federalism in Australia and the nature of the bureaucracy, always mediate those pressures. The research indicates very clearly that the interior of the state is a strategic-relational (Jessop, 1990) terrain of policy struggle with bureaucrats and ministers and their practices also mediating between those pressures and policy production. It was also indicated how the policy culture within a specific department framed the policy possibilities. The processes of accumulation and legitimation are gendered and classed processes, while the state itself at the present time has a deeply embedded gendered division of labour, reflecting the broader gender regime of the state, which in turn relates to the nature of the societal gender order (Connell, 1987, 1990).

The historical sociology of the Australian state indicates the statist nature of Australian political culture and the emergence by the turn of the century of a specifically Australian policy response of domestic defence (Castles, 1988), which ensured a tariff protected manufacturing industry and a dependence upon the export of primary products. It is shown how that approach began to collapse in the seventies and eighties, first with Whitlam's attempt to create a social democratic welfare state, which was something of an aberration set against the abstemious labourist approach to welfare institutionalised earlier in the century and during the conservative Keynesianism of the post-war period. Whitlam also reduced tariffs as the Australian economy was integrated into the global one. The last Whitlam budget coincided with the end of the post-war economic boom. The thesis thus deals with the period of economic downturn and restructuring experienced since with the search for a new policy settlement.

The thesis documents and analyses changes in the bureaucratic arrangements and in federalism across that period, with emphasis upon the corporate managerialist revolution within the federal public service and the emergence of what this thesis classifies as corporate federalism. These changes are shown to be part of the endorsement of economic rationalism and the move to integrate Australia in a non-tariff protected fashion with the global economy. The weakening of the progressive potential of Hawke's neo-corporatist approach after 1987 is also demonstrated. These changes were an attempt to grant priority to accumulation over political pressures and also to tighten ministerial control over policy agendas and to have the federal state work in a more unitary fashion. Corporate managerialist changes within the Queensland bureaucracy are also documented. The significance of these changes to the machinery of educational policy production and to gender equity in schooling policies is also illustrated.

The research demonstrates the effectiveness of the femocrat strategy of working within the state to achieve gender equity policies in education. However, the managerialist revolution and the incorporation of education as part of economic restructuring has resulted in a reframing of the gender equity agenda. The Queensland situation is shown to be atypical here, with State neglect of equity during the long period of conservative government and the centrality of Commonwealth policies and funding to policy achievements during that time. Femocrats within the Queensland bureaucracy cleverly utilised national level developments as leverage in the hostile policy culture within the Department. After the election of a Labor government in 1989, there has been a strengthened commitment to gender equity, structurally and in policy and personnel terms. However, all equity domains are starting anew and are affected by managerialism and the tight funding circumstances. Further, the Commonwealth's attempt through corporate federalism (Lingard, 1991, 1992) to establish national policies framed by an economic restructuring agenda also has the potential to further instrumentalise such policies. The thesis demonstrates very clearly the continuing significance of the state in policy production despite its reconfiguration and despite the fact that such a reconfiguration has reduced its capacity to give priority to and enforce equity policies.
Keyword Sex discrimination in education -- Australia
Women -- Education -- Government policy -- Australia
Additional Notes Other Title: Gender equity and schooling.

The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

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