WA Policy Forum: Science-Technology-Policy Interface 

Friday, 24 May 2018

Anas GhadouaniThe Australian Water Association WA Branch Information and Advocacy Group aim to proactively influence WA water policy issues by communicating policy positions and relevant information to key stakeholders, including the community. An important part of this is raising awareness on issues and encouraging conversations between various groups that are involved in policy issues. 

To help achieve this aim, the Information and Advocacy Group held the May 2018 AWA Policy Forum: Science-Technology-Policy Interface.  

The forum was opened by Australian Water Association WA Branch Information and Advocacy Chair, Dr Ursula Kretzer and Mathew Milnes, AECOM group leader for water.  AECOM kindly donated the use of their Perth boardroom for the event as the forum aligns with some of their core values including to collaborate and inspire; to build diverse teams that connect expertise as well as to create innovative solutions; and elevate the communities they touch. 

We first heard from four speakers across the industries of waste, energy, transport and water on how and why science and technology interacts with policy in their industries and on the enabling factors for policy development in a quickly changing world. 

The panellists included: 

  • Kate Debenham, State Manager, WA at UBER. Kate took us on the fast paced journey that has been UBER’s ride so far and appears to be continuing into the future, including plans for uberAIR! UBER is a system disrupter capable of forcing policy change, however UBER realise that to be sustainable you can’t work as a disrupter long term and they are now working closely with policy makers and regulators to move the company into the future and deal with emerging policy issues, such as safety. UBER was able to be a disruptor due to the accessibility of transport infrastructure (roads) to be used for new technology compared to the closed infrastructure of water or energy systems and therefore UBER was able influence the technology and policy interface without significant initial cost investment. 
  • Kassey Truesdale, Senior Policy Officer, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. Kassey ran us through the process of policy creation and review. DWER has developed policy to encourage the use of recycled construction and demolition material in WA. Problems in producing product to specification led to a reconsideration and review of the policy, which took into consideration technical evidence, stakeholder concerns and risk assessment. The resulting policy is intended to assist in creating a sustainable market for recycled products into the future.   
  • Louis Kent, Principal Consultant, Energetics. Louis gave us an honest and informative summary of policy in the WA Energy sector. The policy landscape they work in includes possible disincentives, fear of change, a high level of complexities and political aversion to raising or changing the energy fee structures. We were left with an estimate that people spend a total of 8 minutes a year thinking about their energy bills, which is a hard environment to stimulate public conversations and a public push for policy change.
  • Professor Anas Ghadouani, Head, Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystem Studies; Programme Chair for Environmental Engineering, Editor; Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, The University of Western Australia. Anas described how from his perspective, policy can be summed up as a vision. His work to enhance the science and policy interface in the Water Sensitive City space often focuses on having discussions with people who may be perceived as current blockers to policy change, understanding their views and essentially being a diplomat of relationships to encourage integration and collaboration. He told us honestly that it is not a simple or cheap way to do things but that research, education, carefully unpacking complexities and getting champions on board who are willing to work for the cause, is key to an effective policy and science interface. 

After hearing from each speaker, the information and ideas presented were opened up into a discussion with the full panel of presenters that was facilitated Shelley Shepherd, Director of Urbaqua and Program Manager of New WAter Ways. The conversation was interesting and varied; policy solutions were raised and conversations tied together the waste, transport, energy and water aspects of the forum. The science and technology interface with policy is complex but getting everyone talking from each side of an issue, including scientists, industry, policy makers, stakeholders and the public together at the forum is a great first step at building understanding and improving the interface. 

Shelley did an excellent job in the task of facilitating and linking the conversation and questions between the audience and the panellists. Shelley, taking a page from Professor Ghadouani’s presentation, asked each panellist to give a key word on the future of policy. We were left with some thought provoking words from the panellists; Ambition, Enabler, Vision and Hope. 

On this positive note attendees were invited to continue the conversation over the road at the new venue ‘The Shoe’ within Yagan Square. 

Thanks go out to our member and venue partner, AECOM, our WA Branch Information and Advocacy Group including Adam Kaye who did a magnificent job of coordinating the event with our WA Branch Manager, our panel facilitator Shelley Shepherd, panel members Kate Debenham, Kassey Truesdale, Louis Kent and Professor Anas Ghadouani; Sweet Pleasures for providing our afternoon tea and to management at The Shoe for providing our networking space and nibbles.