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Problems, policy and politics: making sense of Australia's ‘ice epidemic’

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Drug policy is a complex and controversial policy domain and traditional models of the policy process which present policy making as a process of authoritative problem solving by governments deny the complexity of the policy process in the real-world. An alternative perspective is to engage with the idea of policy-making as an ongoing process of managing the problematic, with multiple participants and competing perspectives. Kingdon's ‘multiple streams’ is a heuristic for understanding policy-making in this way. This article critically considers to what extent Kingdon's heuristic is a useful tool for drug policy analysis, in so far as it may offer an approach to better understanding the complexity of the drug policy process, which extends beyond authoritative problem solving. We apply Kingdon's ‘multiple streams’ to a case study examining the emergence of methamphetamine (an illicit, synthetic psychostimulant drug) as a policy issue in Australia from the late-1990s to the late-2000s. We find strengths in Kingdon's approach as applied to drug policy but also identify a number of ways in which this case study differed from Kingdon's propositions. We question Kingdon's assertion that the ‘streams’ operate independently, whether policy windows are necessary for action, the role of the media and the temporal frame for analysis.
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Keywords: Kingdon; drug policy; methamphetamine; multiple streams; policy processes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Drug Policy Modelling Program, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia 2: University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia

Publication date: March 4, 2014

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