Pacific Toolkit – From policy to legislation

Karen Moore
Ms Karen Moore,
Australian Attorney-General’s Department

It is my pleasure to introduce the Pacific Toolkit: From policy to legislation, designed to better equip Pacific Island government officials to chart a way through challenging policy issues which their government seeks    to address. It provides a step by step guide to analysing a policy issue, developing options, making recommendations to government and then going on to progress detailed law reform to address it.

Several years ago, Pacific Islands’ legal leaders – through the Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network – asked the Australian Attorney-General’s Department to build a Pacific policy development course, to strengthen Pacific Islands government officers’ capacity to think through and develop proposals to deal with issues calling for government action. First delivered in 2013, the resulting Legal Policy Development Course was designed to address the tendency to leap straight to law reform without closely examining the problem and carefully thinking through how best to tackle it – which may or may not necessarily involve law reform.

The Australian Attorney-General’s Department has now been running this course annually – since 2015 through our Pacific Policy Champions program – predominantly for law and justice agencies which are PILON members. The Pacific Policy Champions teaches policy development skills, and equips participants with the tools to run a similar policy development course for their Pacific Islands colleagues, thus having a multiplier effect.

As at the end of 2019, over 600 Pacific Island officials have completed the Legal Policy Development Course, with the majority of participation being through the Pacific Policy Champions program or policy training in officials own countries through this program.

This Toolkit, drawing on the Legal Policy Development course, sets outs a policy development road map, providing a ‘how to develop policy’ guide and practical tools that can be used by Pacific Island officials to nut through a tricky issue their government wants to address, and come up with a recommended way forward.

However, there is significant skill involved in then taking a high level policy proposal and turning that policy into detailed and technical law reforms. This requires policy officers to work with legislative drafters, by providing detailed legislative drafting instructions on the policy and then working closely in partnership with the legislative drafters to finalise draft legislation. Pacific Islands’ legislative drafters have regularly indicated that this remains a significant capability gap in many Pacific Islands’ agencies.

To help address this, the Toolkit also goes the next step of providing guidance to Pacific Island officers on how to develop the road map for turning the policy into a new law (assuming that law reform is the chosen solution). It provides guidance on identifying and resolving the variety of complex legal issues likely to arise in this journey, tools to help provide clear and detailed instructions to a legislative drafter to develop new laws, and tips on working with a legislative drafter.

However, given that legislative drafting is a specialist skill and that each Pacific Island country will have its own rules and ways of undertaking legislative drafting, the Toolkit does not cover how to undertake the actual drafting of legislation.

We do not assert the ‘policy to law’ journey is a uniform linear process, or that the Toolkit should be followed to the letter – each situation will be different, there are also other policy development tools out there that can be used, and each country will have its own way of doing things. But this Toolkit should provide a useful starting point in guiding Pacific Island officers in the policy development and law reform processes.

The Australian Attorney-General’s Department thanks the many people who have contributed to this Toolkit, by providing guidance, feedback and suggestions during its development, to help to ensure that the Toolkit is tailored for its intended Pacific Islands audience. As well as members of PILON and the Pacific Legislative Drafters’ Technical Forum, I would particularly like to thank Nola Faasau of Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and Fiona Leonard and Leigh Talamaivao of New Zealand’s Parliamentary Counsel Office for their contributions.

The Toolkit will be an online resource hosted by the PILON website, so that it can be updated on a regular basis. As a shared Pacific resource, we encourage ongoing feedback to ensure it remains relevant and reflects the needs of the Pacific.

I hope this Toolkit, which has benefited from the perspectives and experience of the Pacific law and justice community, will stand as a useful resource to strengthen officers’ skills to turn policy into legislation, and I once again acknowledge all those involved in its preparation for their valuable input.

Ms Karen Moore

Assistant Secretary
International Cooperation Unit
Australian Attorney-General’s Department