NEWSFLASH! In September I will join The Conversation as its Business and Economy Editor. I have been honoured to work at The Age for the past ten years, originally alongside the legendry Tim Colebatch, and for the past four years as economics editor in my own right.

At The Conversation, my job will be to make the best thinking from Australia's 40 univerisites accessible to the widest possible audience. That means you. From the new year I will also write a weekly column.

On this site are most of the important things I have written for Fairfax and the ABC over the past few decades. I recommend the Search function. The site is a record for you, as well as me.

I'll continue to post great things from The Conversation and other places here, and also on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Getting the evidence

Maybe we've been too hard on Kevin Rudd.

These days everyone is bashing him over the head about introducing policies without an "evidence base". I got in early.

It is true, he did promise to be guided by the evidence.

Here's what he said in November just before the election on The 7.30 Report:

"I'm a Labor moderniser. Always have been, always will be and what that's on about is good evidence based policy in terms of producing the best outcomes for this nation, carving out its future in a pretty uncertain century where things fundamentally are changing."

Rudd is in hot water now over his plan to fight school truancy by stripping welfare payments from parents whose children don't go to school.

"We've yet to see the evidence that this kind of approach will work," says the President of the Council of Social Service Lin Hatfield Dodds.

But here's my thought. Maybe that's what Rudd's plan is about - getting the evidence.

It'll run as a trial in specified suburbs and towns. It's possible to think of the welfare measure as a gigantic government-funded economics experiment using real people, real money and a real control group.

It'll produce evidence alright - on a scale researchers usually only dream of.