Following the Federal Election, I sat down with four experts in Australian politics, communications, and government relations, to understand the key insights we should take from the campaign and the result.
Clive Mathieson, Eamonn Fitzpatrick, Annie O’Rourke, and Ronald Mizen know better than almost anyone the ins and outs of dealing with a Labor Federal government, and they took us through their thinking on what lies ahead for the new government and crossbench. Here are five key takeaways from the session.
1. Ignoring an issue won’t make it go away
It turns out that being a bulldozer doesn’t matter when you don’t listen. As Eamonn pointed out, the pivot from Scott Morrison to recast himself as a bulldozer who would soften up following polling day was reflective of a campaign that had not been paying close attention to what voters were saying, and decided to not respond until it was too late.
Throughout the preceding term of government, the Coalition, and particularly Scott Morrison, were often accused of ignoring the frustrations of the electorate, including during the delayed vaccine rollout, on the treatment of women, and on concerns around the environment. In the end, the attempt to explain those issues away by saying that the government needed to ‘bulldoze’ through didn’t wash with voters.
In contrast, Anthony Albanese made what many thought was a fatal error on the first day of the campaign, when he couldn’t recite unemployment or cash interest rate. But in response, Albanese and his team took the initiative, fronted up to the error, and took the opportunity to speak about the challenges around wage growth and the opportunity for broader economic reform.
This provides a useful lesson for communications and government relations professionals too, demonstrating that the best way to address a problem, is to tackle it head on, admit mistakes, and strive to do better.
2. Expect a collaborative government focused on delivery
While Labor ultimately secured a majority government, the nature of their victory was different to any prior majority government.
A primary vote in the low 30s and the biggest crossbench in Australia’s history will force Labor to reach out to the Greens and independents to work collaboratively to deliver their campaign goals, such as action on climate change and a federal anti-corruption body.
It’ll be in Labor’s best interest to deliver wins to independents and the Greens, helping them to hold their seats at the next Federal Election, preventing the Coalition from picking up the seats it needs to form government.
But a collaborative government is just one step. Labor will also need to focus on delivery, implementing their promises and policies to ensure they have a significant record of delivery and accomplishment to run on come the next Election.
3. Bring solutions, not problems
Getting to know the key stakeholders in the new government is key, but when meeting with Ministers and their staff, make sure to bring solutions and positive ideas, rather than just your suite of issues that need to be addressed, a point Annie made.
The new government is already confronting a challenging set of issues, so when meeting a member of the government, be ready with the solutions that can be implemented to address the challenges you face. Even better is if your solutions not only address the issues you and your organisation face, but can also assist the government more broadly, and fit within their agenda.
4. The electorate is paying attention
As research from Streem following the Election showed, it was ultimately the issues that were resonating on social media that were a predictor of how the electorate would vote, rather than those issues dominating the headlines.
What does this show? That voters are engaging with politics and politicians to a degree previously unheard of. Whether that’s a result of two and a half years of Prime Ministers and Premiers featuring heavily in our lives thanks to COVID, or for some other reason, voters are paying attention.
The data also demonstrates that long-running discussions and issues, such as the treatment of women, climate change, and integrity, wouldn’t be trumped in voters’ minds by the issue of the day, such as a gaffe or new policy announcement.
Expect to see similar trends in the upcoming elections in Victoria and New South Wales, when voters will focus on service delivery and the practical impact of those governments during the pandemic.
5. Being informed matters more than ever
The new government has made it clear that data will be driving their policy and decision-making, and with that comes the obligation to know your area of expertise well, so that when you’re advocating your position to government, you’ve got the answers to their questions.
It also means being on top of issues as they break, and that’s where Streem is unmatched. Our realtime media monitoring offering is trusted by hundreds of Australia’s leading organisations, including the majority of Federal government departments, and many peak bodies. Get in touch today if you haven’t already, to find out what Streem can do for your organisation.
These insights are just the tip of the iceberg of knowledge offered up by our panellists. Be sure to catch up on the webinar now.