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Don’t pick winners when it comes to political change

When it comes to political upheaval, it’s a good idea to play the field, writes Government Relations consultant Renee Wilkinson.

The saying that “a week is a long time in politics” (first attributed to British Labour PM Harold Wilson) holds true in the lead up to both the State and Federal elections. Anything can change in a week – from external events to party leaders.

Cast your mind back to mid-2001, just before the Federal election.

Kim Beazley was favoured to beat John Howard – that is until external events changed the mood of the Australian voters.

In August, the government refused to allow the Norwegian vessel “Tampa”, carrying hundreds of rescued refugees, to enter Australian waters.  Then in September America experienced the devastating September 11 attacks.

These events, and the government’s reaction to them, led to a strong change in voter sentiment –and the government was easily re-elected in November despite trailing in polls throughout the year.

Fast forward to today, opinion polls are indicating a possible state government change at the next election in March 2017.  But that is seven months away and anything can happen.

If your business or organisation deals with government or is impacted by government decisions then now is not the time to start guessing what side of politics will be forming Cabinet in March next year.

Cannings Purple’s bipartisan government relations team has always advised clients to build relationships with both opposition and government.

If your company is developing a project which might take 3 to 5 years to complete it makes sense to brief the relevant opposition spokesperson as well as the government Minister and advisers because by next year their roles could reverse.

Those in opposition appreciate to hear from those who bother to make the contact and develop a relationship.

Everyone wants to be friends with a newly elected government but the new Premier and Ministers will remember those who made the time to talk to them about their projects and their business plans while they were in opposition.

Of course, no matter which party wins government, the bureaucracy will be the constant link between the two. A new government may make some structural changes to the public service but by and large the key senior public servants will stay on and provide continuity.

So forging relationships with those key bureaucrats is a critical part of a government relations engagement strategy.

A government relations specialist will guide you through the personalities, the policies and the politics.

That’s our job, it’s what we specialise in, but what we really want to do is to help you build those relationships for your business to achieve your goals.