Monthly Archives: January 2015

Why Every Vote Counts

Photo by Ukraine Today

Photo by Ukraine Today



A short Video by Mavi Kocaeli that explains Why Every Vote Counts

(Thanks to Elias Hallaj at Campaigns Down Under



Sax vs. Cymbals

Never ask for Cymbals when a Sax will sound sweeter!

Businesses and community groups who talk with Government always want something, but often ask for the wrong thing:

Policy Instruments & Difficulty

Policy Instruments & Difficulty

Talking about wrong instruments:

There’s many ways to skin a cat*, and usually multiple policy instruments capable of delivering your outcome: it helps if you can be as flexible as possible about how your outcome is delivered.

It’s also vital you can answer this question: “Which policy instruments are the minimum necessary to deliver my outcome, as opposed to the most desirable?”  You need to be able to make do without the cherry, on the cream, on the icing, on your cake.

Your prospects are increased if you are asking for something easier to deliver.  If you’re asking for something hard, you are frightening away potential support, and increasing the prospect of rejection.  Or embedding delay: it’s almost always slower to deliver harder outcomes.

If you are asking for an instrument that can’t actually deliver what you are after – e.g. asking for a policy change when you actually need a change to legislation – here’s a few things that might happen:

  • Your proposal is rejected on the grounds it can’t do what you say it can;
  • Assessment of your proposal takes way longer than expected while public servants try to work out what you really want, how to deliver it, and whether to support that;
  • You look like you don’t know what you are talking about, which depletes the credibility of everything else you say; and/or
  • The debate within the public service and political spheres is not focussed solely on the issue you’ve raised: it can easily become broader, slower and more complicated, and deliver quite a different result from that you were seeking.

So before you go to Government asking for something, make sure you have carefully researched and considered which policy instruments are best and most feasible, in your circumstances.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking a decision (e.g. a Cabinet or Ministerial decision) is a policy instrument – all too often decisions have been ineffective, because it wasn’t implemented through an appropriate instrument that delivers change.  Decisions must activate a policy instrument if they are to be effective.

Regarding the attached table of policy instrument options: a letter from a Minister isn’t included because that might sit anywhere at all on the scale depending on the issue; and often enough to make it worth noting, it is easier to get a directive or determination than it is to get a policy or program change.  These are all a bit generic – in some cases you could treat a media release or an election promise as policy instruments, but they are each probably directives of a sort.


* I like cats, so don’t do this

What IS A “Policy Instrument,” Anyway?

WWI Surgical Instruments

WWI Surgical Instruments

A Government decision is just a starting point: unless something comes after it – action – nothing happens.

A decision might be made by Cabinet, or an individual Minister, or a public servant: but unless somebody implements something or does something, as a follow-up, the decision means nothing.

In Government, the things that give effect to decisions are called “Policy Instruments”.

Here’s a list of some examples*, which I pinched from a Queensland Government website:

They give you an idea of the kinds of things that can be done to deliver outcomes – note that none of them are decisions, but all are actions giving effect to decisions.


* Not a complete list, and they use categories particular to their own needs, but it will give you an idea of the range of instruments available to Government.

Crisis Management 101

From Wikimedia Commons

From Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a downloadable basic primer on crisis management, for you – Happy New-ish Year!

In 2011 Mike Smith gave a presentation on political crisis management to The Art of Political Campaigning Conference* organised by Campaigns & Elections Magazine in Washington DC.

The presentation has been tidied it up and reformatted, and it now might be useful as a very basic crisis management tutorial, with obvious US, and election, taints!

It includes a number of crisis management failure case studies, some of which make depressing reading.

You can download it here – if you use it anywhere, please attribute!


* This is an annual conference – Mike presents most years, on such topics as crisis management, campaign organisation, strategy development, etc.

Campbell’s Tactical Cleverness

Photo by Andrew Kesper

Photo by Andrew Kesper

Calling the Queensland election only days after another credible poll showing the Liberal National Party and Australian Labor Party level pegging at 50/50 is tactically very smart, but not for the reasons proposed by some analysts.

It’s suggest here that Campbell Newman has called the election now because he doesn’t want to risk things getting worse, but there’s a much stronger reason than that.

The LNP know that much of the swing back to Labor since 2012 is not a vote of confidence in Labor, but a protest vote against the Newman Government.  They also know that a sizable proportion of those protesters don’t yet have enough confidence in Labor to return an ALP Government.

So, the LNP are going to spend the next 26 days telling Queenslanders that they mustn’t lodge a protest vote because they risk accidentally installing a Labor Government.

Last weekend’s poll is exactly what the LNP needed to credibly sell that critical message, reinforcing this earlier poll.

Queenslanders should get ready to drown in ads that say “A few votes in a few seats will see Labor in Government again – this poll proves it – don’t take the risk”.