A feature of contemporary public policymaking across the world is its widespread dependence on commercial consultants for specialised advice. While a substantial literature exists on the problems associated with ‘externalisation’ of policy advice, not least the quality of this advice, concern has also been expressed on the moral hazards involved in the process stemming from pecuniary incentives (Craft and Howlett, 2013). A subset of this general problem centres on what has been termed ‘policy based evidence making’ (Boden and Epstein, 2006). In this paper we examine these problems in the real-world context of modern local government by considering the controversial forced amalgamation program in New South Wales (NSW) over the period 2011 to 2017. By way of a critical examination of two key consultant reports underlying the NSW municipal mergers, we show that the failure of this program to achieve its intended aims is due in large measure to the nature of the externalised advice on which it was based and the manner in which that advice was solicited from commercial consultants.

Dollery, B. E. (2018), Policy-Based Evidence Making in Local Government: The New South Wales’ Municipal Merger Program, 2011 to 2017, Economic Papers, (in print).