Top

Out of the wilderness & in with a shout - the remarkable resurgence of NSW Labor

In 2011 Labor was down and out. Could 2019 see them back in control? Wells Haslem Mayhew Special Counsel & Labor Upper House candidate Julie Sibraa discusses the way forward for Labor over the next five months.

On Saturday 26 March 2011 the voters of New South Wales dispatched a 16-year-old State Labor Government with brutal efficiency.

As I stood alone at what would be my all-day vigil at the St Kieran’s Public School polling both in Manly Vale that election day morning, I felt, even more than usual, the full force of what the expression “they’re waiting with baseball bats” meant, such was the hostility towards me and my cardinal-red Labor t-shirt.

One woman, having observed a queue of people refuse to take my how-to-vote, asked me whether I needed a hug. As kind as she was, she also refused to take my leaflet. I truly understood at that point how bad things were.

Later that night, the seats tumbled, and the margin of the Liberal-National Coalition victory progressively went from healthy to jaw dropping. As the pendulum swung by a record 16.5 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis, it knocked over 28 Labor seats. We were reduced to just 20 seats in a 93 seat Legislative Assembly – at that time the largest swing against a sitting government at any level in Australia since World War II.

The swing in the former Labor seat of Bathurst - Ben Chifley’s birthplace - was 37 per cent. Not even the talent and popularity of New South Wales’ first woman premier, Kristina Keneally, could in any way turn the tide that washed Labor out.

On election night, former premier Bob Carr memorably said: “It has taken a lot of effort to produce a result this bad. A lot of effort – spread over four years.” Harsh but fair.

Conventional political thinking was that the scale of such a loss would have Labor out of government in New South Wales for at least three terms – 12 years – or more. Heads greyer than mine said sadly, “I’ll never see another NSW Labor government in my lifetime”.

A sad state of affairs given Labor’s proud history in this state.

Fast forward seven-and-a-half years to November 2018 and Newspoll has the Liberal-Nationals Coalition and Labor at 50-50 – albeit in a poll taken before the resignation of Opposition Leader, Luke Foley. This puts the 2019 State Election well and truly in play and a win for Labor a distinct possibility. How has this happened?

A majority the size of that won by Barry O’Farrell and the political mandate that went with it meant his new government pretty much had carte blanche to do whatever they liked – and they were well-prepared. The big consultancy firms, anticipating an unprecedented bonanza of work coming their way, helped O’Farrell write policies and work out how to finance the big infrastructure projects Labor couldn’t and wouldn’t even try.

Much of the work involved privatisations and asset sales. Consultants also advised on ideas to restructure government departments to shed public sector jobs which would in turn reduce recurrent expenditure and the proportion of the budget spent on employee costs.

This approach has been the ongoing hallmark of the O’Farrell/Baird/Berejiklian Governments – asset sales or “asset recycling” and privatisations – with cashed up superannuation funds only too willing to do the buying. For example, the sale of Port Botany and Port Kembla to three superannuation funds and an investment firm in Abu Dhabi netted the Government $5.07 billion. These and other critical asset sales barely raised an eyebrow in the media or broader public, such was the supremacy of the government’s political position.

Even the fall of Barry O’Farrell over an undisclosed bottle of Grange and Independents Commission Against Corruption revelations against several Liberal MPs from Newcastle and the Central Coast, didn’t seem to slow the momentum to sell, privatise and outsource. Now led by nice-guy former Treasurer Mike Baird and his sidekick, the replacement Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, the program continued.

In 2015 New South Wales again went to the polls. Labor had a new leader in Foley and although the Baird Liberal-National government was re-elected comfortably, Labor ran a faultless campaign for an opposition still bedevilled by the sins of its past, clawing back 11 of the heartland seats lost in the 2011 purge and setting itself up for a fighting chance in 2019.

Since then, the Coalition has lost two safe seats through by-elections in Orange (previously National) and Wagga Wagga (previously Liberal) to Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and an Independent respectively. Labor will need to win another 11 seats back to be in a position to govern the State in a probable hung Parliament. Sure, it’s a big ask, but in the volatile political environment that currently exists, it’s possible.

Eight years is a long time in government today. Problems can no longer be blamed on the former government and political capital is in short supply. Nice guy Mike Baird is long gone back to the world of banking and finance, and the Premier is showing increasing signs she has little control over her cabinet and MPs. Treasurer Perrottet’s recent demand that he be given a seat closer to where he lives (what!) at the expense of another cabinet colleague because he didn’t like the travel time to work, was simply astounding and an indication of how demonstrably out of touch members of the government have become.

We saw further evidence of growing dysfunction within the Liberal-Coalition ranks in the course of events around the Wagga Wagga by-election and its eventual outcome – a 28 per cent swing and the loss of a seat the Liberals had held since 1957.  Revelations in ICAC relating to sitting Liberal MP Darryl Maguire, his refusal to resign from Parliament, his forced resignation, the stoush between the Liberals and Nationals as to who should run for the seat and the suggestion of disgruntled Nationals handing out for the Independent and eventual winner Joe McGirr, all add up to some serious issues within the government’s ranks. The fallout from that historic loss is still being felt as reports surface that Liberal and National MPs have continued to sledge one another via text message.

Despite eight years with a far more favourable economic climate, the return of the “rivers of gold” in stamp duty and the eye-watering proceeds of public asset sales – $26 billion alone for the sale of Transgrid and half of Ausgrid - the fact is NSW’s key public services, like schools and hospitals, the principal responsibility of a state government, remain chronically over capacity and underfunded. The stories of teachers buying their own materials to use in class and patients waiting hours for emergency treatment continue and more and more of the costs previously borne by government have been offloaded to the NSW taxpayer by way of tolls, higher public transport costs and fees and charges. Traffic congestion is no better and trains and stations are still overcrowded. And the cuts to services continue. Recent attempts to cut funding for out of home care services for children with severe disabilities and funding for Disability Advocacy services were only stopped after a community outcry.

The Liberals’ obsession with using the sale of critical public assets to build monuments (asset recycling) reached peak arrogance and absurdity with their decision to tear down and rebuild both the Sydney Football Stadium and the 18-year old Sydney Olympic Stadium at a cost of over $2 billion. All this while school students continue to study in demountables and classrooms without air-conditioning and nurses in rural hospitals are looking after up to 11 patients at any given time.

The 2019 Labor campaign will be values-based, harking back to the great Labor governments of McKell and Wran. It will focus on our core strength when in government – delivering services to the people of New South Wales. Labor’s policies to do this include commitments to nurse-to-patient ratios, a school-building program, air-conditioning schools, funding local libraries, restoring TAFE, a massive fund to upgrade Sydney train stations, using the funds from the sale of the Snowy Hydro Scheme on transformational projects in rural and regional New South Wales and outlawing wage theft, with many more policies to come.

Despite the recent fall of its leader Luke Foley, replaced by an experienced and highly competent new leader in Michael Daley, Labor is a serious contender for the 2019 election. Labor has held its nerve, got its act together once more and the electorate is waking up to the fact the Liberals have sold the farm. The public sector workforce has been either substantially eroded or outsourced. The costs of vanity projects like the two stadiums are being worn by taxpayers at the expense of core services in hospitals and schools and other valuable community programs.

Adding to the Premier’s problem is the federal Liberal National Government (Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison), which has become so hapless and divided it is almost incapable of governing. Even if the State Government was performing well, the implications of the Wentworth by-election result must surely be keeping the Premier awake at night. With the federal election most likely to take place after the New South Wales election, it’s possible the voters with their baseball bats might decide to strike early and vent their anger on the Berejiklian Government.

After eight years of Liberal-National Government in New South Wales, we’ve seen three Premiers and four Treasurers. That’s not the stable government the people of New South Wales were promised or expected when they turfed Labor out nearly eight years go for much the same offence. As the polls have shifted towards Labor, panic has set in amongst the troops and the Premier has been forced into a series of embarrassing backflips including modifying the stadiums folly from a $2 billion plus plan to a $1.5 billion plan, the backflip on the Sydney Marine Park which would have upset the commercial and recreational fishing industry, and most infamously her decision, under pressure from radio broadcaster Alan Jones, to overrule Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron and allow the building’s famous sails to be used as a ‘giant billboard’ for the Everest horse race. More unpopular policy jettisoning and backflipping in the coming months is a sure thing.

Michael Daley leads a fresh team of shadow ministers and MPs who were mostly not even in the Parliament when the old Labor regime was thrown out in 2011. In the seats we don’t hold, all but a handful of candidates were preselected months ago, in some cases well over a year ago, and have been out campaigning for some time. Labor is ready to govern once more.

Saturday 23 March 2019 - bring it on.

Michael Daley and his team

Michael Daley, 53, is the member for the eastern suburbs seat of Maroubra – a seat continually held by Labor members, including two Premiers - Heffron and Carr, since its creation in 1950. Daley is born and bred in Maroubra and an avid Souths Sydney Rabbitohs supporter in the National Rugby League. A former in-house lawyer for the NRMA, he entered Parliament in 2005 in a by-election following the retirement of the long serving successful Premier Bob Carr.

Daley became the Minister for Roads in the Rees cabinet of 2008. In the Keneally government, he served as Police Minister and Minister for Finance.

Hailing from the centre, or right faction of the Labor Party, Daley has long been considered leadership material. In the washup from Labor’s disastrous showing at the 2011 state election, Daley sensibly declined to contest the leadership, which saw former trade union boss John Robertson elected, only to himself fall shortly before the 2015 election, replaced by Luke Foley.

Michael Daley is considered a highly competent, safe pair of hands to lead the Labor Party’s 2019 campaign. His experience in government and pragmatic approach to public policy will stand the party in good stead with voters on a range of issues, from the economy through to bread and butter state service issues of transport, health and education. His key team of Ryan Park in the shadow Treasury role, Jodi McKay in roads and transport, Jihad Dib in education and Walt Secord in health are all close allies of Daley. The leadership transition has been seamless.

Julie Sibraa is Wells Haslem Mayhew Special Counsel and an Australian Labor Party candidate for the Legislative Council at the State Election.

Scott Morrison – Australia’s new Prime Minister

Scott Morrison has been elected Australia’s 30th Prime Minister after winning today’s Liberal Party leadership ballot 45 to 40 against Peter Dutton. Julie Bishop also stood for the leadership but was knocked out in the first round.

Josh Frydenberg was elected Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, with an “absolute majority” ahead of Steve Ciobo and Greg Hunt.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull resigned immediately from his Sydney eastern suburbs seat of Wentworth. A by-election will be held at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Prime Minister Morrison was Treasurer in the Turnbull government. He has been in Parliament since 2007, representing the seat of Cook, situated in the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney. He has served previously as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Minister for Social Services.

Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg was Minister for Environment and Energy in the Turnbull government. He has been in Parliament since 2010, representing the seat of Kooyong in the inner-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. He has served previously as Assistant Treasurer and was Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister under Tony Abbott.

The conservative wing of the Liberal Party, led unofficially by Tony Abbott, has been undermining Turnbull’s leadership for more than a year. They were at odds with a number of Turnbull’s policies, including energy security, combating climate change and changes to superannuation.

While discontent has been brewing for some time, the recent poor showing by the government in the by-election for the Queensland seat of Longman and disagreement over energy security and climate change, were catalysts for Dutton’s original challenge on Tuesday this week. Nevertheless, the decision to seek to roll a Prime Minister, who was by historic standards not performing poorly in opinion polls, was surprising.

It goes to a deeper ideological schism at the heart of the Liberal Party between conservative right-wing members and more socially progressive colleagues.

However, the practice of dumping prime ministers midterm has become a recent feature of Australian politics, commencing with Labor’s rolling of first term Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010.

Budget 2018

Last night's Federal Budget has been branded 'an election budget', with the Turnbull Government announcing an overhaul of the personal tax system, more money for older Australians' care and employment, and a slew of new medical research and technology initiatives. 

Mental health services and the Great Barrier Reef were also big winners, while financial services measures were centre stage and the 'black economy' was targeted.

Here is our wrap up.

budget-2018-public-relations

Well done Cricket Australia – how not to manage a crisis

By John Wells

As Cricket Australia learned very quickly, the vast amount of grief coming from this month’s crisis in test cricket, is of their own making. What started as a difficult issue for CA was quickly turned into a full blown crisis.

It is instructive to learn from these issues and crises, and see how they can be prevented in the future. This one appears to have all the hallmarks of a crisis that will go on for some time, despite CA’s attempts to downplay it.

The best recipe for crisis communications is good old fashion issues management.

cricket-australia-media-relations

The key principles to help you to prevent or survive a communications crisis:

1. Don't make things worse!

2. Get the story over and done with, and

3. Remember there’s always next week and next year.

In the case of Cricket Australia, they broke all three of these rules. And now they are paying for it.

Let’s have a quick look at the issue.

1. What makes this worse

The constant speculation around what happened in South Africa in the third test, how it happened and who was responsible, was very unhelpful. Pretending the planning for this ball tampering incident involved the bowlers only made the matter worse; and then believing once the three players were sacked, everything would be okay, only caused the issue to escalate to a crisis.

I would argue that CA made the issue worse.

2. Getting the story over with

This means quick disclosure of the facts.  Gather ALL the information and get it out quickly – don’t suspend players before you articulate the facts.  If there are delays, announce the delays and the reasons for the delays.  There is an old saying: “if you manage an issue properly you will prevent a crisis”. This issue was not properly managed and it escalated into a crisis.

3. Remember there’s next week and next year

You must conduct yourself in self-respecting ways.  You will be dealing with many of the same media and journalists again. The perception of you by the media in the future will depend on how you handle this matter. The aftermath of this crisis could last as long as your career if you really screw things up.

This crisis is going to come back to haunt CA for a long time.

cricket-australia-public-relations

Points to consider

Ensure your organisation has a sound and inclusive culture and that all significant issues within the organisation are identified and properly managed.

Pre-crisis planning

Make sure you have a crisis plan that it is well-focused and well-tested. It is clear from this crisis that CA did not have an appropriate plan to manage such an issue.

Our guide to the Facebook news feed changes

Facebook recently announced it will be rolling out changes to its algorithm, favouring content from friends and family over public pages. Stav Pisk explores how organisations can use the changes to their advantage. 

The Facebook news feed algorithm has changed significantly since the platform first launched. Time after time, organisations and individuals alike have adapted to the changes.

The latest version of the algorithm, however, could leave organisations scratching their heads as they look to adapt their social media strategy.

 

social-media-sydney

Facebook announced that it will be going back to its roots – a social network that connects friends and family with content that matters to them.

CEO and Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said Facebook users should expect to see less content from organisations, brands and the media, and more from friends, family, and groups.

Not only will the new Facebook news feed prioritise friends and family, it will also prioritise content posted on public pages that “create meaningful interactions between people”.

So, what does this mean for the organisations, brands, and media outlets that have invested time and money in creating a Facebook strategy?

Get to know your followers
You might think you know what your followers want to see – but how much do you really know about them?

Get to know your followers by asking them what type of content they want to see, whether it be through a poll, a Facebook Live session or a simple post.

You will be able to see what those who are engaged with your content want to see and change your strategy accordingly.

Ask and you shall receive
Since the announcement, organisations and brands have been directly asking followers to seek their content in different ways.

From going to their owned channels (such as websites and apps) to asking followers to go to their Facebook pages and click “See First” – brands and organisations have placed trust in their followers to go out of their way to view their content.

Engaging content or nothing
Since Facebook will now prioritise content that creates meaningful interactions, your content must be genuinely engaging.

This means no more clickbait, less memes, and more thought-provoking content.

If you give your followers a reason to engage with your content, they will – don’t post just for the sake of posting.

Zuckerberg said that although there are tight-knit communities on Facebook and news that generates conversations on important issues, “passive experiences” (reading news, watching videos, reading through page updates) are still a major part of the Facebook experience.

The announcement made one thing clear: the news feed will showcase more content from pages and groups whose audiences are not only engaged, but also authentic.

It is probable the algorithm will favour content like Facebook Live as it creates the considered two-way dialogue Facebook believes is currently missing.

Money talks
It does not appear that sponsored posts, or Facebook advertising, will be affected by the new algorithm.

Facebook’s advertising capabilities continue to be some of the best – if not the best – as far as social media goes.

Paid content could be one of the most successful ways to get into people’s news feeds, and having a considered and highly targeted Facebook advertising strategy will be essential.

If you need help with your social media strategy, please get in touch.

Federal Cabinet Reshuffle

By Tim Mantiri

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today announced a reshuffle of his cabinet - promoting five new faces to the Government’s principal decision making body.

Newly elected Nationals Deputy Leader Bridget McKenzie moves from the backbench into the ministry and cabinet as the Minister for Sport, Rural Health and Regional communications. She replaced former Senator Fiona Nash as deputy leader of the Nationals following Nash’s resignation from Parliament on account of her status as a dual British citizen.

public-affairs-sydney



Liberals Michael Kennan and Dan Tehan move from the outer ministry into cabinet, with Keenan taking on the Human Services portfolio and Tehan replacing Christian Porter as Social Services Minister. 

Porter gets Attorney General as George Brandis resigns from the ministry and Senate to take on the role of Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

First term Queensland Nationals MPs David Littleproud and John McVeigh were perhaps the biggest beneficiaries from today’s reshuffle – moving straight from the backbench into cabinet as Agriculture and Water Minister, and Regional Development, Territories and Local Government Minister respectively.

Prime Minister Turnbull today also announced the creation of two new ‘mega portfolios’.

Peter Dutton will lead the new Home Affairs portfolio based on the UK’s Home Office which will be responsible for the AFP, ASIO and the Australian Border Force; while a new Jobs and Innovation portfolio that takes in the former Industry and Employment portfolio responsibilities will be run by Michaelia Cash.

While a reshuffle was widely expected before the end of the year, such wide-ranging changes and the elevation of the two Nationals backbench MPs - Littleproud and McVeigh -came as a surprise to many observers as well as many in the Coalition party room. Their elevation into cabinet could be interpreted as a ‘geographic necessity’, as Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce aims to increase Queensland Nationals’ representation in cabinet, reflecting the significant number of Queensland Nationals in the party room. 

Infrastructure Minister and Nationals MP Darren Chester also leaves cabinet in a move some have interpreted as ‘payback’ from Joyce for not backing his candidate, Matt Canavan, for the position of Deputy Leader.

Part of the need for a reshuffle is the ongoing illness of Minister Arthur Sinodinos who is taking a period of extended leave as he battles cancer, but is expected to return to the Parliament in mid-2018. 

Prime Minister Turnbull said the reshuffle "reflects the values of the Coalition with new and reinvigorated portfolios, designed to encourage enterprise, particularly small businesses, family businesses, innovative businesses, and, of course, protecting vulnerable families".

The reshuffle is likely to be the last major Government announcement for 2017.

The full list of the cabinet, outer ministry and assistant ministers is included below. 

CABINET

Prime Minister - Malcolm Turnbull
Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure and Transport Minister - Barnaby Joyce
Treasurer - Scott Morrison
Foreign Minister - Julie Bishop
Attorney-General - Christian Porter
Home Affairs Minister - Peter Dutton
Sport, Rural Health and Regional Communications Minister - Bridget McKenzie
Human Services Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Digital Transformations - Michael Keenan
Social Services Minister - Dan Tehan
Agriculture and Water Minister - David Littleproud
Regional Development, Territories and Local Government Minister - John McVeigh
Indigenous Affairs Minister - Nigel Scullion
Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister - Steve Ciobo
Finance Minister and Special Minister of State - Mathias Cormann
Revenue and Financial Services Minister and Minister for Women - Kelly O’Dwyer
Defence Industry Minister - Christopher Pyne
Defence Minister - Marise Payne 
Resources, Northern Australia Minister - Matt Canavan
Energy and Environment Minister - Josh Frydenberg
Health Minister - Greg Hunt
Communications and Arts Minister - Mitch Fifield
Jobs and Innovation Minister - Michaelia Cash
Education and Training Minister - Simon Birmingham

OUTER MINISTRY

Minister for Urban Infrastructure - Paul Fletcher
Minister for International Development and the Pacific - Concetta Fierravanti- Wells
Minister for Small and Family Business, Workplaces and Deregulation - Craig Laundy
Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security - Angus Taylor
Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs - Alan Tudge
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel - Michael McCormack
Aged Care and Indigenous Health Minister - Ken Wyatt

ASSISTANT MINISTERS

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister - James McGrath
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister - Damian Drum
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer - Michael Sukkar
Assistant Minister for Finance - David Coleman
Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment - Luke Hartsuyker
Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs - Zed Seselja
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources - Anne Ruston
Assistant Minister for Vocational Skills and Training - Karen Andrews    
Assistant Minister for Children and Families - David Gillespie
Assistant Minister for Immigration - Alex Hawke
Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services - Jane Prentice
Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation - Zed Seselja
Assistant Minister for Environment - Melissa Price

Tender process – significant resources with no guarantee of pay off

By Isabelle Walker

As a public affairs firm, we’re often asked to tender for certain pieces of work, especially on a contract basis with government departments.

This is often exciting and complex work, giving our business an opportunity to head up large public relations campaigns from inception and strategy, to implementation and eventually completion.

These types of projects provide the chance to showcase the range of skills our team offers, and are incredibly important for small business as it provides substantial work over a long period of time.

However, the difficulty with tendering is the process of proposal. As a small business, our resources (that’s staff) are organised to service a range of clients efficiently and without waste. A tender process often involves a thorough overview of our capability, potential methodology, and general analysis of the project – and this is before you’re certain you have the job.

Of course, tendering is vital to any business wanting to receive government or departmental contracts, but can be taxing on a small business with fewer resources to dedicate time to large tenders (often over 50 pages long), with no guarantee of payment at the end. The tender process is becoming far more complex.

government-tenders-sydney

Though the pay off if you do receive the job is overwhelmingly worth the resources dedicated to the tender process, when an organisation does decide to go elsewhere with its contract, it can be frustrating for the small business as they have already invested in the project.

Though I don’t have a solution, it has given me food for thought for how the industry – especially small business – approaches the issue.

It could extend to how a firm incorporates potential billing for pitches to private clients who – though perhaps not having a full tender process – still require money and effort to be spent on putting together a pitch with no guarantee of success.

Do we sell a short, cheap plan of action to the client who can then choose to bring on our services full time?

Do we have an understanding that in order to pitch, the client will pay for the man hours dedicated to putting the pitch together and presenting it? Will they pay for our travel to their cities to pitch?

Will this make firms who do this wholly uncompetitive? Should there be an industry approach?

Though there may be answers, or firms may have found ways around this issue, it is vital for small business to remain competitive against well-resourced firms in the tender process, but not to the detriment of its bottom line. 

Bennelong by-election preview

By Tim Mantiri

The North West Sydney by election that could cost Malcolm Turnbull his majority

 
While the result of the by-election may see only a single seat change hands, the result this weekend could have huge implications in Canberra. However, a win in Bennelong will be the boost Prime Minister Turnbull needs to cap off a strong finish to what has been a difficult year, and put pressure on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten coming into 2018, Timothy Mantiri writes.
 
This Saturday voters in the North West Sydney electorate of Bennelong will be casting their ballots to elect their local Federal MP in a by-election brought on by the resignation of Liberal member John Alexander.

Mr Alexander, who is contesting the seat again, resigned in the wake of the recent dual citizenship crisis in parliament after being unable to conclusively determine that he was not a British Citizen by descent through his English born father.
 

government-relations-sydney


abor in turn is running former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally for the seat, after being hand-picked as the candidate by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

While the result of the by-election will see only a single seat potentially change hands, the result this weekend could have huge implications in Canberra when Parliament returns next year.

Given the Coalition’s precarious position in the lower house where it currently holds 75 of 150 seats (not including the vacant seat of Bennelong), a loss in Bennelong would mean that it would lose its majority in the House of Representatives resulting in Prime Minister Turnbull having to rely on the Speaker’s casting vote in the event of a tie and on the cross benchers on motions on confidence and supply.

The electorate of Bennelong is comprised of north west Sydney suburbs including Ryde, Epping, Eastwood and Macquarie Park and has been crucial in recent elections. In 2007, the year Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister, then-Prime Minister John Howard lost the seat to Labor's Maxine McKew. In 2010 Alexander regained the seat for the Liberal Party, while the Coalition under Tony Abbott came agonisingly close to toppling the first-term Labor Government.

This year, as voters decide which candidate to back, a host of considerations will be on their minds, from the candidates themselves to local issues in the electorate and other broader factors at play.
 
The Candidates
Prior to his resignation, Alexander had held the seat for seven years and most recently won the seat again resoundingly at the 2016 election, being one of the few Liberals to record a swing towards them and extending his margin to 9.7% against the Labor candidate.

Alexander has carved out a reputation for being a hard working local member and is generally well regarded, a fact seemingly acknowledged by Labor’s reluctance to target Alexander in its campaign but rather to focus on attacking the Prime Minister and the Coalition Government.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in his choice of Keneally will be banking on her high profile as both a former Premier and more recently as a media commentator to displace the locally popular Alexander.

Despite leading Labor to its worst ever election defeat in 2011 and her close links with corrupt former Labor powerbrokers Joe Tripodi and Eddie Obeid, Shorten has calculated that her strengths as an energetic campaigner and her articulate style could be enough to win.

public-affairs-sydney


ocal issues
Bennelong is one of the country’s most culturally diverse seats.

More Bennelong residents describe their ancestry as Chinese than Australian or English. In total, 51.7 per cent of Bennelong residents were born overseas.

With this in mind both major parties are actively campaigning to win the support of Asian-Australian voters, with many campaign events being held with prominent local ethnic communities as well as a large number of campaign collateral being printed in Chinese and other languages.
The typical local issues for Sydney suburbs will also be a factor in the by-election. The respective parties’ promises on transport links, school funding, roads, and community facilities are all issues that will weigh in on Bennelong voters’ minds.

Being the incumbent candidate, Alexander can point to built transport infrastructure, and community facilities and programs as his achievements as local member. Earlier in the campaign, alongside the Prime Minister, he also announced a new $100 million bus interchange in Macquarie Park.

For its part, Labor has been continuing its broader lines from the last Federal election around: perceived cuts to education; its effective ‘Mediscare’ campaign; and NBN issues. 
 
Finely balanced
Despite Alexander’s 9.7% margin, recent polls have suggested there will be a solid swing against him on the weekend. The latest Newspoll this week had Alexander and Keneally at 50-50 two-party-preferred (TPP).

The poll found Alexander’s primary vote had dropped substantially since the last election, with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives the apparent beneficiary. Alexander will be relying heavily on the preferences flowing on from the Conservatives if he is to regain the seat.

The late-in-the-piece scandal around former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari tipping-off Chinese donors (with close links to the Chinese Communist Party) about their likely ASIO surveillance may also influence the way voters approach the election.

While the polls suggest the result will be on a knife’s edge, a recent surge in the Coalition fortunes federally, and a strong on-the-ground campaign, may see Alexander safely across the line.

A win in Bennelong will be the boost Prime Minister Turnbull needs to cap off a strong finish to what has been a difficult year, and put pressure on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten coming into 2018.

2018 in digital: What you need to know

By Stav Pisk

84 per cent of Australians access the internet every day – so it’s important to understand how they are engaging with our brands online.

 2017 has been a notable year for social and digital media. Instagram reigned  supreme over Snapchat in the case of ‘stories’, and Twitter doubled its character limit.

We can expect 2018 to be even bigger.

Welcome to the dark side…of social
Online users are increasingly sharing content on platforms that no one else can see, and we expect this trend will continue to grow in 2018.

The industry likes to refer to this as “dark social”, which is when a group or an individual share content on platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, email, or via secure browsing.

So what does this mean for organisations?

Website referrals from dark social have significantly increased over the years, which indicates that while people might not be actively sharing your posts on their public platforms (such as their Facebook profile or Twitter feed), they are still interacting with your content, only in a different way.

The way you share, position, or advertise your digital content must adapt accordingly.

Micro-moments
A large majority of internet users consume information from a device that fits in the palm of their hands. Google has reported that 96% of people use their smartphones to look up information or conduct research. This can include anything from finding out who discovered pi, to applying for a home loan, or reading a restaurant review.

We expect this trend will flourish in 2018, which means organisations must cater their online content and presence (or lack thereof) to something that will look good and function well on a mobile device. Not only should online content or platforms be mobile friendly, they must also be able to satisfy the users’ needs to have whatever they want, whenever they want it.

digital-media-sydney

The death of organic
Have you noticed that your organic posts are not doing as well as they once did?

It is becoming increasingly harder for organisations to distribute organic content that people will see. Gone are the days of your social media feed displaying content in a chronological order. With constant changes to the algorithms of platforms like Facebook and Instagram, people are now seeing what social media platforms think they want to see. That is, content is only being seen if the algorithm thinks people want to see it.

This is coupled with the oversaturation of content shared on social media – there is simply too much content out there.

To combat this, organisations will need to increase their investment of time and money into strategic social media advertising and the use of influencer marketing.

social-media-sydney

The power of influencers
In a world with fake news and Instagram filters, authenticity is hard to come by. Now more than ever, people are looking to find their ‘community’ whose leader they can trust, whether that be a beauty blogger, a gaming vlogger, or an eating disorder advocate.

Enter: influencers.

While the use of influencers in marketing or public relations campaigns is nothing new, we predict an upswing in 2018.

We expect to see more companies and organisations looking to replace traditional marketing techniques with someone whose opinion the public feel they can genuinely rely upon.

 

content-creation-sydney

Live streaming  
The surge of live streaming on social media platforms will continue in 2018.

Over the last few years, we have seen live streaming become embedded into the social media world, with platforms such as Instagram and Facebook jumping on the bandwagon.

With live streaming, users can see a more authentic side of the individuals and organisations they follow. It is a great way to engage with your followers on a different level, as you can instantaneously answer questions, raise an issue, or promote a product that you have just launched. 
 
Wells Haslem Mayhew now offers comprehensive digital and social services. Get in touch if you think we might be able to help you.

Poll surprise as One Nation fails to fire: A Queensland election analysis

queensland-politics-public-relations

By Timothy Mantiri

Queenslanders have voted to re-elect Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Government over the weekend with Labor on track to hold a majority in the Queensland Parliament.

While the final vote tally has yet to be finalised, Labor is poised to pick up at least 47 seats in the Legislative Assembly giving the party a majority in Queensland’s single-chambered Parliament. This leaves the Liberal National Party (LNP) with a likely total of 40 seats, one seat less than it had prior to the election.

The election result seems to reflect the exit polling and the final published Newspoll, as counting today had ALP on 36 per cent, the LNP on 33.5 per cent, One Nation on 13.7 per cent and the Greens on 9.7 per cent.

LNP leader Tim Nicholls will doubtlessly be disappointed with the result which saw his party go backwards in terms of primary vote and in the number of seats held. 

Questions will also be raised around his reluctance to rule out doing any potential deals with One Nation after the election as several Shadow Ministers lost their seats in urban south-east Queensland.

It was also a bad night for Pauline Hanson's One Nation who look to have lost its parliamentary leader Steve Dickson, with the LNP’s Brent Mickelberg ahead in the Sunshine Coast seat of Buderim at last count. 

Despite some predictions before polling day suggesting a swath of regional Queensland seats could fall its way, One Nation is likely to only pick up the seat of Mirani in Central Queensland (taking in the area between Mackay and Rockhampton), leaving it with just the single seat in Parliament. 

Former Senator Malcolm Roberts, who was booted out the Federal Parliament (having been exposed as a dual British Citizen), also suffered a resounding defeat after contesting the seat of Ipswich (southwest Brisbane).

While the election campaigns were fought on the state battleground issues of unemployment, electricity prices, and the proposed Adani mine in Central Queensland, Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten has already looked to link the result to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership and dissatisfaction with the Federal Government.

public-affairs-sydney

Some disaffected Nationals MPs in the Federal Parliament have also linked the result to the Turnbull Government, with North Queensland MP George Christensen taking the unusual step of apologising to people who voted for One Nation.

"I want to provide a sincere apology that, at this stage, no one else has: I'm sorry that we in the LNP have let you down," the Nationals MP wrote on Facebook.

“The party had to listen more, work harder, stand up for conservative values and regional Queensland, and do better to win people's trust and I think a lot of that starts with the Turnbull Government, its leadership and its policy direction," Mr Christensen said. 

Such open dissatisfaction from his own backbench MPs poses a problem for the Prime Minister as the Federal Parliament approaches the final sitting weeks of the year. Maverick government MPs have been threatening to cause mayhem on the floor of parliament on contentious issues such as same sex marriage and a commission of inquiry into the banking sector.

For LNP leader Tim Nicholls the poor election result means his leadership will likely be under threat as a contested party room ballot for the leadership is tipped to take place this week. Contenders in the ballot will likely include Shadow Ministers Tim Mander, John-Paul Langbroek as well as Deputy Leader Deb Frecklington.

Meanwhile, Premier Palaszczuk will look to press ahead with Labor’s agenda and policy commitments which include: a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030; an extension of a $150 million back to work program to give businesses incentives to take on the unemployed; and a series of tax hikes announced late in the campaign which deliver about $491 million to Queensland’s state coffers over three years.

government-relations-sydney