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Okay People, Buckle Up – Are We Heading For a January Election?

Nov 06, 2018

With an early federal election possibly just around the corner, our founder and managing director Jo Scard says not-for-profits need to take action now to put their organisation in a strong position whatever the outcome.

Hey look, just when we thought it was okay to start booking a holiday over Christmas we might just need to strap ourselves in for an even bumpier ride. And here’s why.

I was in Parliament House in Canberra just a week ago and overheard two senior departmental officials who had just appeared before Senate Estimates say they were fast-tracking a project “so that it would be finished before the government went into caretaker mode in January”.

For the uninitiated, that means an election folks, and quite a few months earlier than popular orthodoxy – once a federal election is called the government is in what’s called “caretaker mode”. That is, by convention, when the writs for a federal election are issued, the government assumes a “caretaker” role and has to avoid making decisions that would limit the freedom of action of an incoming government. The public sector must also safeguard its neutrality.

Blow me down, I thought, the prime minister keeps telling us that the government will go full-term, which indicates a May election. Maybe he’s joshing. And why would that be people?

Well, next year goes like this:

The New South Wales election will be on 28 March. Maybe the thinking is that the Coalition will save the furniture and have the federal election before the NSW one. Well that’s what the senior public servants we overheard seem to be thinking.

So what to do straight away?

If you haven’t already written yourself a 1-pager do that today and get it in front of the people that matter to you.
If the polls are an indicator you should be speaking to the federal opposition. Download a list of the shadow cabinet, ascertain who’s key to what you’re doing and reach out to them, available here.
Now, as we all know, nothing is ever in the bag in politics and so you should also be keeping the Coalition, Greens and crossbench in your sights – contact for them all should be at a minimum, a brief email introducing your organisation and agenda with a 1-pager attached.
Of course, like everything else we hear in Parliament House, January could be entirely fanciful and it may be May. Either way it’s soon and we need to get those ducks into alignment.

Medium to long-term what’s the best plan to adopt?

We all need to keep all our balls in the air – never, ever assume the result of an election. The electorate is just too volatile to be able to accurately predict a result, despite polls. Even if you predicted the last Melbourne Cup winner don’t rely on your hunches.

That means developing some really coherent thinking about what you and your organisation or NFPs needs to be doing in the event of a range of different results – war-game it, develop potential policy positions around different scenarios.
Develop a plan – this should contain messaging, targets, a timetable of activities and optimum milestones.
Create some content that can be deployed for stakeholder engagement – that can include engagement eKits that can be sent to MPs that they can use to support your mission.

Define what success looks like – define where you want to get to by when and decide how you might get there.
Most importantly don’t do nothing – waiting for something to happen never helps. To advocate for your tribe you need to roll your sleeves up and do just that, advocate.

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