Monthly Archives: March 2015

Queensland Premier Palaszczuk: Investing in Merit?

seesawIf you’ve ever watched the filling of Cabinet advisor jobs after an election, you would be aghast: across all political parties, narrow networks, factional partisans, warlord loyalists, mates of mates, and the staff from the previous (losing) Government of the same Party, are usually the principal sources of political advisors.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has insisted on a new way: she’s demanded competitive, merit-based* selection: the new Government has advertised senior Ministerial advisor roles via Seek**, and Ministers were initially allowed to employ a small number of temporary staff only.

One of the advantages of the usual system is speed: a Ministerial office can be up and running in a week; one of the disadvantages of merit selection plus competition is that it can’t work very fast.

How well this innovation works in the medium and long term remains to be seen, and that will be the test of the Premier’s innovation, but some of the new Ministerial offices have been struggling to respond effectively to correspondence and phone calls, until they secure more staff.

Boding well for the long term and tending to validate the new system, I’m aware of several excellent Ministerial staffing appointments that couldn’t have been made under the old patronage system.


* See, s27 onwards ( – this link is now fixed, I trust)
** It’s reported that the new Government was swamped with 5,000 applications for the various jobs.

When you meet the Minister …

unhappy-meeting2(Or senior public servants …)

If they’ve had advance notice of the meeting* they will be prepared, in most cases with a Briefing Note about your issues, and recommendations from subject-matter experts in the Department.

Have you previously connected with those Departmental experts and already got them on board with your proposal?

If not, you’re going to struggle to get past whatever is in that Briefing Note.  Do you know what’s in it, what hurdles you have to jump, why they might be recommending something different, in advance?  Are you ready to prove, concisely, that you’ve got a point and the Briefing Note is inadequate?

Most senior-level meetings are perhaps 30 minutes long – many Ministers and Departmental Chief Executives have meetings stacked up 45 minutes apart, which gives them a chance to make notes and read Briefing Notes between visitors.

But: depending on who you are meeting, you may well get less than three minutes** to make your case, before the first question sends you off at a tangent or puts you on the defensive.

Are you ready to prove your case in two minutes?  That’s 320 words if you speak briskly, and perhaps 250 at conversational speed.

Have you worked out what will persuade your particular audience, in 250 words?  That is, what they need to hear, not what you want to talk about?  How do you know you are inside their head?

Only if you have prepared, planned and researched, thoroughly!

* If they haven’t had advance notice of your issues, very few will agree, on the spot, to do more than get back to you.
** A three-minute interruption is good news: it means they are listening, thinking and engaged!

Australian Lobbying: Credibility Fail

in-suit-pocket-95When lobbying and Government relations consultants market their personal access to Ministers, what are they really saying?

Are they claiming that the Government in question is insufficiently accessible, and prefers to talk with businesses and community groups introduced by “friends”?  Are they suggesting Government makes the best decisions when founded on input from their circle alone?

Are they admitting they offer nothing by way of strategic, tactical or communications advice, or that such advice is unimportant compared to access via friends?

If the Government is inaccessible to those outside their circle, is it right to reinforce such behaviour by facilitating it rather than trying to change it?

If a lobbyist is skilled at securing policy outcomes from Governments, as all claim, and if they are committed to Government making best quality decisions, as most too claim, how can they not make an effort to persuade a Government that it needs to be accessible to all?

I assert that whether they market their access ahead of other advisory capabilities, and whether they make a pro bono effort to improve Government decision-making, are tests of lobbyists’ integrity, and of their real commitment to good Government.



Lobbyists Do WHAT?

burke grill chargedMany misunderstand what lobbyists do, and it suits some practitioners to keep it mysterious.

Here’s a list of some of the sort of things lobbying/Government relations consultants* do for clients.

  • Government relations – devising, supervising and/or implementing client profile-building inside Government;
  • Stakeholder relations – similarly, with non-Government stakeholders;
  • Strategy – advising clients on the most effective and likely way to achieve their objectives;
  • Tactics – advising clients how best to respond to events;
  • Communications planning – devising, supervising and/or implementing client communications into Government and the broader community;
  • Message delivery advice – advising clients how best to get their information and messages through to their audience;
  • Lobbying/advocacy – directly conveying client representations to public sector influencers;
  • Research – researching issues, their background, perceptions within Government, processes within Government, and so on; in particular, identifying possible barriers to success;
  • Stakeholder mapping – a specialised kind of research, identifying and categorising stakeholders;
  • Analyse – taking the results of research, and simplifying, summarising, clarifying and organising that material;
  • Synthesising – taking research and analysis from multiple sources or perspectives;
  • Recommending – using analysis to propose strategy, tactics or activities;
  • Open doors – using your contacts and networks to ensure client issues get in front of the right people;
  • Negotiation – directly liaising with public sector influencers to reach agreement on issues;
  • Presentation – directly conveying client information to public sector influencers;
  • Briefing – bringing stakeholders and/or client staff up to speed on issues;
  • Marketing – persuading people in Government to “buy” client credibility or proposals;
  • Public relations – devising, supervising and/or implementing communications programs about your client, in the broader community; and
  • Consulting/reporting – engaging with clients to make sure they are happy with what you’re up to, and getting their take on changes.

burke-grillNot every lobbyist/Government relations consultant does everything on that list, and in fact most do only some of them.

Have I missed anything?


*     I’m using the terms “lobbyist” and “Government relations consultant” somewhat interchangeably – in part, that’s because most lobbyists spend most of their time doing things other than lobbying, as you can see from the list above.