The Treasury and the Global Financial Crisis

Paul t’Hart and John Wanna Authors Paul 't Hart and John Wanna discuss the development of their ANZSOG case series, The Treasury and the Global Financial Crisis.

Despite the solidity of its own economic fundamentals, Australia faced significant effects from the global financial crisis of 2008. This case series considers how the federal Treasury, determined to be prepared for future financial instability, confronted the threat with bold and comprehensive stimulus packages. Drawing on a series of interviews with key players, as well as Treasury documents, the cases offer unique insights into the strategies that saved the Australian economy from being swallowed by the international financial maelstrom.

Why this topic?

When we began writing this case study the global financial crisis was still raging, dominating public policy debate in Australia and elsewhere. This piqued our interest and we set out to develop a case that would help students discover how some of the key institutions of public policy operate under massive pressure when they are trying to fix an unprecedented set of complex problems.

Making contact

We wrote to the Secretary of the Department directly to secure their participation in the case. We benefited from solid on-going institutional and interpersonal relationships between the senior ranks of the Australian and New Zealand public services and the academics connected to ANZSOG where we are both faculty. As a result, there was a lot of trust and goodwill making access, co-operation and candour no problem whatsoever during the case writing process.

Teaching objectives

Global Financial Crisis

We designed this case to give students a sense of how the senior management of a public organisation can become wholly subsumed by a major crisis, and how this crisis can force them abandon long-held policy convictions, ‘think outside the box’, and be prepared to engage in major policy improvisation. Produced as a series, the case provides teachers with two logical phases in the story, each ending in a ‘cliffhanger’ question that makes students keen for the next instalment.

The case focuses on departmental crisis management and working with politicians under extraordinary circumstances but it travels well outside the jurisdiction and policy domain it happens to be set in. 

Writing the case

The main issue we faced when writing the case was to convey the enormity of the events and the cascading surprises they threw at the policymakers in question. Also, macroeconomic policy can get pretty technical and so our challenge was to do justice to the complexity of the issues, yet maintain general audience readability, particularly since this case was crafted as one of organisational crisis management rather than macroeconomic policy improvisation.

Our advice to other case writers is to strike a balance between keeping your eye on the ball (staying focused on the original question you wanted the case to illustrate and thus be centrally about) and allowing yourself to be surprised by what else you discover in the way of hidden layers, alternative angles and teachable nuggets.

Case details

The Treasury and the Global Financial Crisis (A)
Paul ‘t Hart and John Wanna, The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG)
Ref 212-016-1
Also available:
The Treasury and the Global Financial Crisis (B)

Ref 212-017-1

About the authors

Paul ‘t Hart is Professor of Public Administration at the Utrecht School of Governance, The Netherlands and Associate Dean at the Netherlands School of Government in The Hague. e

John Wanna is Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University.

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