Monthly Archives: May 2015

Queensland Election: Liberal National Party Review Released

Campbell Newman & Jeff Seeney - from Jeff's website

Campbell Newman & Jeff Seeney – from Jeff’s website

On January 31, 2015, Queensland’s Liberal National Party lost State Government by a small margin, after having taken Government in 2012 with a record swing and a huge majority in the Queensland parliament.

Today the LNP released their review of what went wrong for them, and you can download it here:

It is too soon to review the Report in depth but it finds, inter alia:

“The overwhelming election win of 2012 led to hubris and a false sense of security consolidating an energetic and reformist government leadership team but without parliamentary experience. The huge influx of inexperienced new MP’s and a leader without parliamentary background contributed to a lack of corporate history in the conduct of parliament and the party room.

“Broad based disappointment has been expressed with the campaign and the election defeat. Undoubtedly, the leadership of the government contributed to the election loss including:

  • the breaking of the promise that public servants had ‘nothing to fear’;
  • the perception of arrogance arising from not listening to the people;
  • pursuing the large scale privatisation of assets to which the majority of voters opposed or had serious reservations;
  • the alienation of key stakeholders in the decision making process; and
  • the two year discordant relationship with the organisational wing.

“The campaign itself, the responsibility of the central campaign committee had inherent problems such as failing to:

  • address the perception of the Government’s arrogance and to turn this weakness into strengths;
  • promote the government’s considerable achievements in fixing “labor’s mess’ and growing the state’s economy;
  • launch an attack program to rebut the deceitful and untruthful propaganda of the party’s opponents;
  • engender confidence with local campaign committees; and
  • manage the expectation that the party with its large majority would hold government at the poll.”

The Report makes 39 recommendations:

  1. The Borbidge Sheldon review report and recommendations must be released to party units at the same time it is given to the state executive and made public thereafter.
  2. The review committee notes the actions taken by the parliamentary party to address the lessons learned from the 2015 election defeat.
  3. The review committee notes the over-riding need to improve the relationship between the parliamentary and organisational wings of the party and recommends:
    1. The parliamentary party members retain the right to select their leader from within their own ranks.
    2. A compact be established to define the relationship between the parliamentary and organisational wings of the party.
      1. That the compact be prepared by a party member nominated by the parliamentary leader who should be a previous parliamentary leader of the LNP, the liberal party or the national party, a party member nominated by the state president who should be a former president of the LNP, the liberal party or the national party and one other, jointly nominated by both.
      2. That the compact be agreed to by the parliamentary party and the state executive and signed by the parliamentary leader and the party president.
  4. That the state executive address as an urgent priority meaningful connectivity and communications with the grassroots membership.
  5. That the LNP Integrity Paper should be updated and implemented and all candidates should be required to acknowledge and accept its requirements. That the LNP in government or opposition be required to adhere to the principles which include:
    • broken promises will not be tolerated by the public;
    • corruption and lack of accountability will not be tolerated;
    • the institutions of state must be respected.
  6. That major policy issues proposed by the parliamentary party where possible be subjected to debate at either the state council or the state convention or, if found to be urgent, be considered by the president’s committee/state executive for comment.
  7. That a party platform detailing the party’s principles and policies be finalised for distribution to members as a matter of urgency.
  8. That the president and the state director, in the LNP Annual Report indicate that the administrative, organisational, financial and policy responsibilities as required under the LNP’s constitution has been complied with.
  9. That the central campaign committee be restructured to include party policy and decentralised representatives as determined by the president and parliamentary leader.
  10. The position of campaign director should be separate from the state director and report to the state president.
  11. The review committee notes that a limited number of federal issues impacted adversely on the state campaign, in particular the controversy over the awarding of knighthoods, the GP co-payment and the defence pay issue and recommends:
    • That close consultation be establish between the central campaign committee and the federal leadership to minimise adverse impacts on state campaigns of federal issues and that a liaison unit be established between central headquarters (CHQ) and the federal leader’s office.
  12. That a central campaign strategy allow increased decision making for local campaigns.
  13. That state elections be avoided during the month of January as it is a recognised holiday period.
  14. The review committee notes with concern:
    • The absence of a marginal/target seats campaign at the 2015 state election and recommends that the strategy be reinstated for future state elections,
    • the absence of a negative advertising campaign, the want of the central campaign committee to exploit the weaknesses of the prime opponent, and
    • the lack of third party endorsements in support of the party’s policies and actions in the campaign.
    • It is recommended that such strategies be included in future state election campaigns.
  15. Sitting MPS, recontesting the poll should be permitted to handle PVA’s for his/her electorate, whilst candidates PVAs should be managed by the central campaign.
  16. It is essential that booth advertising material should arrive prior to prepolling; booth signs should be of a size that enables them to be easily and safely transported.
  17. The centralised banking system and the campaign funding/ budgeting process should be reviewed specifically to provide party units with increased financial control and campaign committees with the latitude to make funding decisions – whilst maintaining the link to CHQ budget/systems/agreements. It recommended that:
    • That the treasurer report to state convention or council, as a matter of urgency, on measures that can be implemented to provide SEC’s with greater responsibility for their funds and budgets.
  18. The Just Vote 1 strategy should be reviewed to ensure that it is applicable to the political and election circumstances.
  19. The review committee notes the enhancements to the applicant review process for the endorsement of candidates and recommends that the processes be monitored to ensure they are robust to meet any issue that may emerge.
  20. Plebiscites should be the preferred method for the selection of candidates.
  21. That the CHQ organisational structure be reviewed to improve efficiency with emphasis on communications, policy development, membership services and the delivery thereof.
  22. That the gender balance of the state executive be a consideration of members when electing persons to roles on this body.
  23. That all appointments made by the state president or the state executive be subject to confirmation by state council.
  24. That the composition of the president’s committee be widened to include the parliamentary leader or his nominee.
  25. That members of state executive recognise the responsibilities associated with their dual roles of governance and communications to and from party units and ensure they act as conduits of information.
  26. That a membership customer relations manager be appointed.
  27. A permanent strategic research office should be established in CHQ to undertake electorate and policy research.
  28. A membership development strategy should be developed to grow the membership which should include the introduction of online membership applications.
  29. A new category of family membership should be introduced.
  30. State convention or state council resolutions be categorised to reflect the three levels of government so that the responsible minister/shadow/councillor or other office holder may be present for the duration of the debate.
  31. State convention and state council attendance by the parliamentary leader and members of parliament be required unless in extenuating circumstances.
  32. Meetings of the LNP state council and state convention and shadow cabinet meetings should be held, where practicable in regional centres as well as the capital city.
  33. That ministers/shadows meet regularly with party policy chairs and their committees and attendance or otherwise conveyed to the parliamentary leader and the state president.
  34. That CHQ prepare a data base of membership expertise as a resource for MP’s and policy committees.
  35. That the LNP establish an independent review of its social media strategy and its effectiveness compared to our political opponents.
  36. That social media training should be introduced for MP’s, senior staff and party members.
  37. That an ongoing social media strategy be developed.
  38. That members of parliament and candidates not be directly involved in the soliciting of funds.
  39. That the LNP consider the full public funding of election campaigns and the banning of trade union and corporate donations.



What Makes A Policy Good?

good_sml“And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good—
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”*

If you roll up not-good policy to Government, there’s every chance they will tell you so: your time and theirs will have been wasted.

You need to know how to ensure what you construct to take to Government is good policy, but “good” is often in the eye of the beholder, and Governments of different styles (e.g. authoritarian/bullying, consultative, conservative, reforming, neo-liberal, or socialist) will see the same policy proposal through quite different prisms.  So too will individual decision-makers who are unable or unwilling to consider policy proposals dispassionately and objectively, and who bring their particular passions to bear upon whatever is before them.

So, you need to know with whom you are speaking, in order to craft a proposal they will see as good:

  • What are their politics, objectives, and priorities?
  • What are those of the Party and of the Government they serve?
  • How do you cast or modify your proposal in a way servicing those layers of priorities, politics, and objectives?

For example, if your proposal needs to pass through a Treasury Department, where the official religion is usually “Market Mechanisms Rule, OK?” your proposal will attract suspicion and opposition as a matter of course, if it interferes with a free market or market-based pricing mechanism.  Benefits will be seen as, at best, secondary.

The text books tell us there are objective criteria any policy must satisfy, if it is to be considered good; for example, it must be all of these:

  • Effective and efficient: so scarce resources aren’t wasted;
  • Equitable: remedying social injustice, providing a “fair go”;
  • Comprehensible: avoiding uncertainty, misapplication, compliance failure, evasion, avoidance;
  • Accessible: avoiding inbuilt exclusions caused by false assumptions;
  • Practicable: avoiding policies made just for show; and
  • Stable: so the outcomes endure and frequent changes aren’t required – this might include consideration of community popularity and/or political sustainability (e.g., would the next Government reverse the policy?).

The Policy Analysis chapter** of The Australian Policy Handbook*** by Althaus, Bridgman, and Davis will give you a good understanding of what lies behind each of those terms.

Original uncaptioned photo: The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (RobertHannah89)

Original uncaptioned photo: The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (RobertHannah89)

However, in dealing with ideologically driven Governments of a neo-liberal bent, then you will find they treat some of those principles as subordinate to some or all of these principles**** below:

  • Custom and practice: don’t lightly change what has gone before;
  • Precaution: identifying thoroughly the true long-term impacts;
  • Choice and freedom: don’t impose stagnation and uniformity unnecessarily;
  • Personal responsibility and mutual obligation: ensuring individuals take responsibility for their own choices;
  • Small Government and lower Government expenditure: the smaller the Government the greater the freedom of citizens, and you are entitled to the full fruits of your labour;
  • Competition, market-based mechanisms and contestability: competition and free markets deliver efficiency, quality and lowest cost; and
  • Mainstreaming: avoiding ongoing disadvantage by eliminating stigma and policy ghettos.

On the other side of the political fence in Australia, a leftish or centre-left Government tends to regard those text-book criteria above, together with consistency with their own policy manifesto, as the starting point for assessing policy quality.  Governments closer to the centre will demonstrate affection for some of those neo-liberal policy principles listed above, while retaining a commitment to the text-book criteria.  Individual members of centre and centre-left Governments might regard the impact on such things as, for example

  • community empowerment,
  • income redistribution,
  • social safety net,
  • jobs and working conditions,
  • infrastructure investment, and
  • environmental sustainability,

as additional key tests for the quality of policy.

But don’t be fooled by these apparent ideological categories and constraints: you have to do the research so that know your audience, because, to cite two examples, some centre-left politicians are concerned to ensure personal responsibility and mutual obligation, while some on the right have a commitment to community empowerment.



* No, not Phaedrus by Plato, but Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
** If we could find our copy (long story) we would provide the Chapter number.  Sorry about that.  I know you’ll forgive.
*** It’s pretty easy to get as it is the prescribed text for several courses at and, and across Australia
**** These words aren’t necessarily our words!



Persuading Government: How To Say It

agressive-manPresuming you already know just what you want to convey, there’s always a right way and a wrong way to say it – get it wrong, and you have blown the meeting and maybe your whole project.

We’ve stressed already the need to present your whole case in three minutes, but there’s many more things you need to do to maximise your chance of success.

Regardless of whether it is Ministers or public servants you’re dealing with, you need to be respectful of their personal and individual constraints:

  • Time – in spite of belief to the contrary, most are very busy, and you need to minimise the demand you are making on their time: e.g. if you’re asking them to investigate something, can you provide a credible head start?  And why are you giving the Water Minister a lecture on the facts of the water cycle?
  • Timeframes – there are many reasons why public services decisions take time, and you need to understand what theirs are, get in early if you are on a deadline, and make their decision as easy as possible;
  • Priorities – Ministers, Chief Executive Officers, senior public servants – everyone – have work priorities, hence time and resource constraints, imposed from above.  You need to be sure that what you are asking of them can be accommodated;
  • Policy – some of those constraints are things they are and aren’t allowed to agree with (perhaps on account of a prior or impending Cabinet decision they are not allowed to discuss with you), things that were committed by a more senior Minister, things promised in an election campaign, and so on.  While this goes to content, it is also relevant to how you express and argue for your idea, and how flexible you are;
  • Community – can your proposal be reshaped or pressed in a way that might minimise community opposition and maximise community support?
  • Codes of conduct – make sure you know how what you are asking will pass the tests imposed by relevant codes (ministerial or public service) and any higher personal standards your decision-maker might apply.

Whatever you say needs to meet a few criteria, before it gets proper attention and the respect you are showing them is reciprocated:

  • Truth – make sure you tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: if you are later found to have misled, directly or indirectly, even inadvertently, your credibility may never recover; inflating your claims is as bad as deliberately lying;
  • Add value – you need to be sure that every single thing you say adds value to the Minister’s/public service’s priorities, as that’s the best way to get attention and support: things that don’t add value are ignored or undermine the other things you say;
  • Respect – you might feel the person with whom you are dealing is an incompetent, evil, wastrel, but if you show anything but respect then there’s every chance your proposals will die there and then; it’s also the case that very few Ministers or public servants are as bad as some in business paint them, so you need to take on board that while you may not think so currently, it’s possible they deserve respect; if you think women should stay at home and mind kids, for example, you’re the wrong person to wheel in an important proposal to a woman CEO – you can all too easily let your feelings show;
  • Aggression or excessive emotion – is nearly always disrespectful, and suggests your approach to policy is selfish, emotional, or irrational;
  • Demeaning – don’t demean anyone; you never know how they might be connected to the person on the other side of the table, and it demonstrates an unprofessional approach – it makes decision-makers suspect your genuineness, motives, and credibility; it’s usually fatal to your cause to deliberately or accidentally demean the person you’re talking with;
  • Objectivity – it’s best to avoid partisan superlatives and try to couch your case in reasonably empirical and objective terms: while you need to convince the person you’re talking with, don’t forget that they in turn have to convince others, so your argument needs to appeal to cool heads remote from the debate.  In particular, how does it service Government priorities?
  • Non-partisan and non-political – whatever you propose might well advantage one side of politics or the other, but rest assured you are dealing with someone smart enough to work that out without the point being laboured – and political professionals often hate being lectured by amateurs, lust like most other professions;
  • The front page test – would your proposal survive, if your discussion with a decision-maker was plastered across the front page of the local Murdoch rag?  If not, your approach is wrong and you’ve failed one of the earlier tests.
  • Jargon – you have to find that happy spot between presuming your audience are entirely ignorant, and presuming they know everything already.  Good luck with that!

Finally, tell a story.  Stories are memorable, and help others intuitively understand what you are saying.  If you haven’t read and applied Winning the Story Wars, or something similar, to your presentation, then you should read it and recast what you are saying.



Persuading Government: What You Say

breakthrough-smlYou’ve finally secured that vital meeting with the right Government decision maker, the one who can make or break your project – congratulations!

What you’re asking for has to have passed a few tests before you are ready to be its advocate: it must

  • be legal,
  • be feasible,
  • remedy a problem or grasp an opportunity*

or you’re wasting your time.

When you present – in your first three minutes, first three slides or first 400 words – what you say must demonstrate

  • why your idea,
  • why not the alternative idea, and
  • why now.

Why your idea?

This isn’t about why you like it – it’s why Government should like it, and that’s entirely different – you have to understand Government priorities, processes and people.  We’ve seen many clients destroy their project by listing the virtues enthusing them, not the virtues that might attract Government support.

What compels adoption of your idea?  Which of the social and economic environment, public and political pressures, current policy failures, and so on, drive the need for it?  What will happen if your idea isn’t adopted?  How does it deliver on Government promises and values?  How does it satisfy the principles** of good policy?  What are the benefits, the State interests?  How are the community’s interests served?  How can it be afforded?  What can be done to improve prospects of success and minimise opposition?  Which credible scientists, academics, public servants, stakeholders, or economists support what you say and will be advocates?

Why not the alternative?

Don’t forget that one competing alternative is making no change, so you must be clear why things can’t stay as they are: unanticipated opportunities or problems, gaps or failings in current policy or programmes, impending doom, changes in circumstances that undermine current policy settings, political risk, and so on.

More generally, you’ll need to show that alternatives fail to satisfy or offend principles of good policy, deliver poor results, are more likely to fail, will agitate key stakeholders and cause them to campaign against the Government, are politically dangerous, offend Government values, are impractical, are too expensive … as many as possible of that sort of problem.  Again, don’t talk about your needs here, but the Government’s and community’s needs – why Government priorities and values should drive them to reject the alternatives.

head-in-the-sand-smlWhy now?

What negatives arise if action is delayed?  What advantages accrue from timely action?  What timeline gives the community and Government the best outcomes, and why?  What’s happening next year that wastes money if this idea isn’t adopted now?

Be mindful of the timing of major events, Parliamentary sittings, the election cycle, the Government’s budget, the grand final, school holidays, commencement of major policy initiatives, release dates of economic and unemployment statistics … and everything else.

Shape and Tone

Your presentation needs to tell a concise story addressing all of those things, with your idea as the heroine saving the day.  (If you haven’t read Winning the Story Wars or something similar, you should.)

The tone of your presentation is important too: make a strong factual argument, with language that is empirical and not emotive or aggressive, nor demeaning of others.

Don’t forget that you’ve got to make your case in the first three minutes, three slides or 400 words – there’s rarely a second chance, so preparation is critical.

Finally, and Always: 2 Things

Include a clear and thought-out “ask” that furthers your objective: a future meeting, someone in the Department to talk with about the issue, delegation to someone, decision-maker to investigate and respond, and so on.  Make sure you secure the opportunity to respond to future criticism of your idea by internal and external stakeholders, if that’s at all possible.

… and leave behind a one page summary, a more detailed summary, sources of more information, and contact details for credible supporters and referees for your idea, where appropriate.



* Never just go there with a problem – always have a well-developed solution, or a way to find the solution.
** Principles of good policy can vary from Government to Government: we’re preparing that article right now, and it will probably be next in this blog.


How to Get That Meeting

knock-minister-door-smallIt’s no use having the best idea in the universe, if it requires Government input yet you can’t get to talk about it with a Government Minister* or senior public servant**.

There are many ways to secure that meeting, but all require effort and planning; not all are suitable for every issue, nor all the time.  They include

  • Write a letter/send an email,
  • Ask a Member of Parliament or political advisor to secure it,
  • Meet at a Community Cabinet,
  • Meet at a Party Conference business centre, or
  • Meet at a Party fundraiser.

Letter or email

Ministers are busy – I’ve never met one who isn’t – and time-poor.  To manage their workload, they have to prioritise, and be convinced that your particular meeting has value, or they will avoid it in favour of more pressing or important business.  Your meeting request must persuade them of that value.

They will need to see your issue is significant to the Government or Minister and of public interest (i.e. the outcome goes beyond impacting just you), the Minister can have a role in the solution or needs to be alerted to a problem, you can add value to development of a solution, and the Minister is the right person to talk with.

Even if you use a lobbyist to organise the meeting, they need to demonstrate the same things, or they will wear out their welcome with the Minister or Department, and maybe yours too.  A lobbyist asking a Minister for meetings will find it harder to organise meetings if they get a reputation for wasting Ministerial time.

Member of Parliament

If you’ve got a Member of Parliament enthused, and they will champion your cause and open the Ministerial door for you, they must be persuaded of those things, too, and able to persuade the Minister or senior public servant.  It’s the same with political advisors.  Local MPs are often easier to get on board with your idea than Ministers, and if your MP-champion is from the same Party as the Minister, a meeting is easier to get.

Community Cabinet

In jurisdiction that has Community Cabinet meetings (e.g. Queensland) and not all do, get your meeting request in early, follow the forms, in your request demonstrate you are local or the issue is local, demonstrate the issue is important, and prepare for the brevity of the meeting***.

Party Conference

Major parties tend to have a business centre at their annual conferences; those centres include opportunities for business observers to request short meetings*** with Ministers.  Entry to the business centre, which normally includes a wide range of briefings and networking activities, isn’t cheap.  Meetings are rarely long enough to conclude any discussion – usually these are used for an introduction, to be followed by a further discussion.

Party fundraisers

Major parties often have comparatively cheap fundraising events (BBQs, golf days, trivia nights, etc.) to which members and supporters are invited – it’s hard to hear about them if you’re not a member or a supporter, and if you’re neither you shouldn’t go – you will stand out.  They also often have more expensive and smaller fundraising events (dinners with speakers, business briefings and the like) mostly targeted at the business community.  It’s normally really bad manners to try to conclude important business at these functions, but it is quite fine to flag to a Minister that you would like a proper meeting, and ask who you contact to make it happen.  At some of them you get a chance to nominate with which Minister you want to be seated.

* Two inviolate rules: (1) Be prepared and don’t waste their time and yours by under-delivering, or you’ll struggle to get the next meeting, and (2) Do your research and make sure you’re meeting the right person.
** This applies to the Australian system of Government, but the principles are the same in most democracies.
*** You often get really short meetings, in some case only 15 minutes – which requires very careful preparation to ensure you are relevant and focussed, and very careful and planned delivery.  Such meetings are sometimes used as a means to generate Ministerial interest in a further, more detailed discussion.