Enacted inertia: incumbent resistance to carbon pricing in Australia, 1989-2011

  • Marc Hudson

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines the behaviour of incumbents when faced with persistent advocacy of a policy that would potentially undercut their position. The problem is considered from a longitudinal perspective, with examination of four specific periods of policy contestation for the actions of incumbents and the development of strategies over time. The case study focusses on Australia, and the work of incumbents to defeat proposals for a carbon price. The conceptual background of this thesis, which makes contributions to the study of power within socio-technical transitions, draws principally on John Kingdon’s seminal work on policy windows, as well as on the more recent development of Institutional Work by neo-institutional theorists such as Thomas Lawrence and Roy Suddaby. By combining these theories, alongside insights from other public policy theories, it is possible to identify the evolving actions undertaken by incumbents through the course of a prolonged set of policy battles. This leads to a set of insights about how incumbent strategies have changed over time, in response to growing pressures and changing dynamics among proponents of the pricing of carbon dioxide (via either a tax or an emissions trading scheme). For each of the four periods, the researcher drew on materials from newspapers, magazines, memoirs, trade publications, websites, interviews with participants and upon other scholarly works (especially where researchers had privileged access to incumbent actors). The thesis’s findings show that incumbent strategies have not been static over the thirty years of contestation over carbon pricing, and that patterns of incumbent activity can be discerned. In detecting and explaining these patterns, it makes a contribution to the debate over the role of policy and political conflict and incumbent resistance during a still-unfolding socio-technical transition.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAndrew Mcmeekin (Supervisor) & Michael Hodson (Supervisor)


  • carbon pricing
  • Socio-technical transitions,
  • climate change
  • incumbent resistance
  • policy windows
  • tactical incorporation

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