Governance via persuasion: ENGOs, social licence and Australian environmental policymaking
Murphy-Gregory, H, Governance via persuasion: ENGOs, social licence and Australian environmental policymaking, Australian Political Studies Association Conference, 26-28 September, Sydney (2016) [Non Refereed Conference Paper]
Environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) in Australia are seemingly more politically active and influential than ever before. They have been at the forefront of recent high-profile debates on issues of national significance including the Great Barrier Reef, the renewable energy sector, factory fishing trawlers, forest conservation and of course climate change. Yet important questions about ENGOs remain: what new strategies and tactics have ENGOs used to increase their visibility and influence on Australian policymaking in recent years? How should we understand their contributions to contemporary governance arrangements? This paper addresses these important questions by critically analysing the increasingly used ENGO tactic of withdrawing or denying a ‘social licence to operate’ (SLO) to various corporate actors via three recent campaigns. These include the campaigns against Gunns Limited’s proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill, Seafish Tasmania’s FV Margiris/Abel Tasman factory fishing vessel, and salmon producer Tassal’s bid to farm salmon on Tasmania’s East coast. I argue that SLO is best understood as ‘governance via persuasion’, a mode of governance first proposed by Bell and Hindmoor (2009) to capture political activity akin to ‘governance without government’ that incorporates appeals to normative values. Whilst the success of ENGO campaigners appears to support the society-centred view of governance, I contend instead that ENGOs’ SLO campaigns many ultimately enhance state-led hierarchy and therefore support a state-centric relational account of governance. This is because ENGOs in fact demand (and succeed) in bringing about greater government regulation as a result of publicising concerns about corporate actors. Employing the SLO strategy may promote opportunities for ENGOs to participate in subsequent network governance processes alongside state and corporate actors.