Political Science

Grassroots field campaign helps Labor win in Victoria

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I’ve been a bit busy with work (new job) and family over the past two months but will try and post more regularly in a couple of weeks after work starts winding down for the Christmas break. In the meantime here are a few interesting posts (listed below, with highlights) about last weekend’s incredible result in Victoria where a first-term government was ousted in a state election – a very unusual occurrence in Australian politics.

It has been particularly important for progressive campaigners in Australia’s largest three states, who have all recently suffered defeat at the state and federal level. There are now three Labor states/territories in Australia (Victoria, South Australia and the ACT) and renewed hope for Labor in the next federal election due in 2016. There are also important state elections due in Queensland and NSW over coming months and hope this momentum will produce better results in each of those states. The conservative majorities in both NSW and Queensland are very large and there are few signs at this stage that the swings expected in each of those states will be large enough to unseat those governments. However, lessons can be learnt from the Victorian result which can help Labor win back many marginal seats in each of those states.

One newspaper story I would recommend reading is by former Victorian ALP Secretary Nick Reece in this morning’s AGE newspaper. The article is available online here, and here are some interesting excerpts:

“The Napthine government thought the union movement would deliver it victory courtesy of an anti-union scare campaign. Instead, the unions were decisive in the Coalition’s defeat.”

The blow-back from the Liberal’s ineffective anti-union campaign was heart-warming for many progressives across Australia. At the same time that the Labor team was using “putting people first” as its slogan, the conservative Victorian Liberals seemed determined to repeatedly slander the unions and their volunteers. The Liberals refused to concede that the teachers, nurses, ambulance workers, firefighters and other workers campaigning against them actually had more in common with average Victorians than they did. The Liberal anti-union slander was confirming how out-of-touch the Liberals actually were.

Yesterday’s Guardian also had an article by Gay Alcorn with some very interesting quotes from Victorian Labor’s Assistant State Secretary Kosmos Samaras.

One of my favourite quotes from this article is “The slogan Putting People First came from the ground, that was something that was coming up, they wanted politicians to put people first. The term that continually was coming back to us.”

Kosmos also stated :“The Liberal party is not in the game. They don’t know how to run a field campaign. They lost because they refused to talk to people.”

I’ll return with more links and commentary in coming days. 😉

OK… later on Monday… I have to admit this article by Rick Wallace in the Australian (which I may buy today for the first time in an eternity 🙂 is my favourite so far…


THE secret weapon in Daniel And­rews’s campaign was made in the USA — in the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 — and transplanted to the sprawling suburbs of Melbourne to snatch an improbable victory from a first-term government.

Revealed to The Australian through unprecedented access in the final week of the campaign, the secret weapon was rolled out in 25 marginal seats to unleash a phone call and doorknocking blitz.

Yesterday, Labor’s Community Action Network was credited with underpinning Andrews’s win and snatching a clutch of seats from the conservatives.

Along with a revamped advertising strategy, the so-called field program allowed Labor to outmanoeuvre the Coalition with a much smaller budget. It helped reinvent the way Labor campaigns.

The bad news for the Coalition is that the network is expected to become a permanent feature of ALP campaigns in Victoria and is likely to be deployed in NSW and Queensland next year.”

….

“Two weeks from the election, ALP assistant secretary Stephen Donnelly took The Australian behind the scenes to visit campaign operations in the battleground seats of Eltham and Monbulk.

En route to Eltham just days from the poll, Donnelly says that throughout this year, working largely in the shadows, the Victorian ALP built a network of more than 5500 volunteers and 250 volunteer leaders using a system honed by Barack Obama’s Democratic Party machine.

He says the party road-tested the system in last year’s federal campaign — without the support of then leader Kevin Rudd — and it helped sandbag the seats of Isaacs, Chisholm and McEwen amid Labor’s heavy defeat.

“Daniel Andrews saw it operate in the federal campaign for Isaacs and said, ‘Yeah I want it for next year. Let’s do this’,” Donnelly says.

Andrews was partly motivated by money, with Labor facing a cashed-up incumbent while its donation­s had largely dried up.”

“The fulcrum of the campaign was the 35 paid field staff. They were hired for their skills and experience running events or call centres or in similar roles, rather than for factional allegiance or party loyalty.

Each was assigned to recruit at least 150 volunteers and select leaders from among them to run the operations.

Donnelly says he didn’t care if they were party members or not (45 per cent aren’t) and all that was needed was to share ALP “values” and have a commitment to unseating the government.”

….

this is the funniest part I think: “With a budget half the size of the Coalition’s, Labor’s ads had only three main messages and were tightly targeted in programs swinging voters watch. Direct mail, a fixture of past campaigning, was restricted to undecided voters discovered through the field program, and mail was tailored direct­ly to the issues they cited.

“The Liberal Party is running ads really heavily in the news, but we know from our research that our undecided voters don’t watch TV news. They watch Big Brother ,’’ Samaras says.

The other tactical error by the conservatives, Samaras says, is the focus on linking Andrews to the militant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

“Most people in the focus groups say, ‘What’s the CFMEU?’, or that it doesn’t have any relevance to their lives,” he says.

That Samaras and Donnelly have been briefing The Australian several days out from the poll speaks volumes about the ALP’s confidence in its new campaigning — and they are proven right.”

Not sure if I want to start watching Big Brother though 🙂

I will come back to this post over the next few weeks. Might be worth also saying a few words about how Australian parties have evolved their campaigning techniques over the past century and also about old as well as recent American influences such as Marshall Ganz, OFA and Saul Alinsky.

Political Thriller to be filmed in Canberra Australia

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From the Canberra Times today:

A multimillion-dollar six-part fictional mini-series shot in Canberra, and peeling back the capital’s layers of power, is now in the development stage.

Based on The Mandarin Code and The Marmalade Files books by journalists Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann, the mini-series is in the hands of production company Matchbox Pictures, known for its work on The Slap and The Straits.

A statement from Foxtel confirmed it would be working with Matchbox Pictures with funding support from Screen Australia. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was expected to make the announcement while launching the book at Parliament House 10.30am Wednesday.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said it would be fantastic for Canberra.

“There’s nothing bad about this, it’s all great,” Ms Gallagher said.

“For anyone who loves the city it will be wonderful to watch.

“Just the exposure that [Canberra] will get through Screen Australia.

“What we all love about the city is going to be projected as part of this wonderful story by two local authors and respected journalists.”

Pene Lowe, owner of Hansel and Gretel cafe at Phillip featured in two key scenes in The Mandarin Code, was thrilled about the news and about her shop being included in the fictional storyline.

“We need to put up a little sign saying ‘spies corner’,” Ms Lowe said…

More here: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/multimilliondollar-political-film-project-to-be-shot-in-canberra-20140806-100w5u.html

The 2012 ACT Election – two more perspectives

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A few days I ago I shared a paper on the 2012 ACT Assembly election written by local academic and historian Chris Monnox. Today I’m adding one from political writer and researcher Terry Geisecke as well as the analysis and summary of that election from the federal Parliamentary Library.

Terry’s paper is available online via Australian Policy Online website: http://apo.org.au/commentary/act-election-2012 and its contents helped during the writing of the official 2012 ACT Labor Campaign Report.

giesecke_the_act_election_2012

The Federal Parliamentary Library (in case you weren’t aware) is an absolute treasure trove of useful research material about politics, campaigning and Australia history and current issues. In December 2012 Research Brenton Holmes wrote a terrific paper explaining some of the highlights of the 2012 ACT Assembly election. The full paper, with extensive references) is available here: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/ACTElection2012 and I’ve also attached a pdf version below:

parlInfo_backgroundnote_ACT2012

Happy reading!

 

Norman Arbjorensen asks if Liberals have employed US Republican-style ‘strategic racism’ to win elections?

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Norman writes: “The hardline stance by the Abbott government on asylum seekers – and let’s call it for what it is: a blatant appeal to racial prejudice thinly disguised as “border protection” – has served the Liberal Party well. But rather than racism driving the policy, as has been suggested, there might well be other agendas at play.

Consider the political advantages that the Liberals have won from the propagation and exploitation of fear. The 2013 election campaign is still fresh in memory with Tony Abbott’s repeated mantra of “stop the boats”, and the explicit linking of asylum seekers and their flimsy vessels with border protection and national security. We have now seen the deployment of the armed forces to turn them back.

To take his military analogy to the point of absurdity, in an interview in January Abbott likened the situation to a war – that is, a heavily armed, First-World nation mobilised against a sporadic and unorganised invasion of leaky boats. He declined to give details about the government’s strategies because that would be “giving out information that is of use to the enemy”.

That is highly charged rhetoric and a look at recent political history suggests a pattern that is more than just crass political opportunism.

…..

The “stop the boats” mantra was trumpeted loudly in the 2013 campaign, but what did we hear about savage cuts to welfare, steep rises in student fees, the abolition of the discrimination commissioner’s job, the handing over of the Human Rights Commission to an avowed opponent of its existence, the free rein given to the Business Council of Australia via the Commission of Audit, or to the far-right Institute of Public Affairs in writing policy and setting the agenda? Such outcomes have little discernible benefit to anyone but the big corporates and the very rich, and contain distinct downsides for most who responded to the “stop the boats” siren song.

Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan pitched a shameless appeal to the “moral majority” with his folksy talk about the sanctity of the family and traditional values, not for their own sake but simply because supply-side economics, which we now know as neoliberalism, was as little understood as it was unpalatable to the average voter. Strategic racism is simply a reprise of that monumentally successful exercise.

After the 2004 election, the Liberal Party sought to play down the issue as a deliberate focus of its campaign, despite a poll showing 10 per cent of respondents nominated it as their reason to vote Liberal. I attended an industry briefing in the election’s aftermath in which a top Liberal Party campaign strategist was asked why the Labor Party kept losing elections (by then, four in a row). “It’s simple,” he said. “A message of fear beats a message of hope every time.”

The intake of breath in that auditorium was palpable.”

More here: http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2014/06/21/the-abbott-governments-use-strategic-racism/1403272800#.U8yWvi1–70

For many close watchers of conservative politics in Australia I have to admit there’s not much new to learn here. Many journalists have written similar words over recent years. Here’s a good example in the Guardian by David Marr: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/22/iillegals-refugees-immigration-australia

One member’s view of the 2012 ACT Assembly Election

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In coming days I’m planning to add some historical information about the most recent ACT Assembly election, which was held on 20 October 2012. The first item is a submission made by one of our member’s Chris Monnox to a post-election report compiled after the campaign. Chris is an author and academic, who also recently wrote a very comprehensive history of ACT Labor.

I’ll begin by attaching a pdf copy of Chris’s submission.

Chris Monnox submission to review of 2012 ACT election campaign

 

Great Article by Sally Young on the history of political campaigning in Australia

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As previously mentioned, Associate Professor Sally Young has written some great books and research papers about political campaigning in Australia, particularly advertising techniques.

Her book The Persuaders: Inside the Hidden Machine of Political Advertising (Pluto Press, 2004), is a terrific read for students of journalism, political science and professional communications.

If you haven’t read any of her recent work this article is a great starting point: A Century of Political Communication in Australia, 1901–2001.

At the bottom of the article is a link to download a pdf (if you prefer to print it out an read it on a bus or in bed later).

I love some of the old photos that Sally has collated in her various articles and books, but not many come close to the entertainment value of this video from the Gruen Transfer…

Even the “non-politicians” know exactly what they want and need to succeed in politics

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As mentioned previously, I’m not alone in thinking about how professional Australian politics has becomes over the past few decades. For several years since I started a thesis, which is now on a back-burner due to work, family, life, etc.

A couple of years ago I read the ad below and it got me thinking again …then I was distracted by the small matter of helping a government get re-elected and managing a party office…. Now I’m thinking again. If a 20-something Senator in the Greens can advertise such a well-defined professional campaign position why aren’t there more Australian books, blogs and forums on political campaigning and campaign techniques? Where does one go to get qualified for such a well-paid job?*

Then around October last year at a media conference in ANU I heard that Greg Jericho was heading up the new “Political Communications” degree training at UC – great stuff!

CAMPAIGNS & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER – Position Description Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Campaigns & Communications Manager SENATOR SARAH HANSON-YOUNG

26th July 2012 2:46 pm
The Campaigns & Communications Manager (CCM) would suit a highly motivated person with a strong history in managing large-scale campaigns in a political environment, and who possesses highly developed strategic and communications skills. As part of a small team the CCM will be responsible for the overall management of the Senator’s re-election campaign along with management of strategic communications and campaign priorities of the Senator’s various portfolios. The CCM will work closely with the Senator’s Chief of Staff and Media Advisor to ensure day-to-day communications are strategic and effective. The CCM will also work with the Senator’s Electorate Liaison officer on campaign priorities and election preparations.

Roles and Responsibilities
1. Primary responsibility for coordinating the Senator’s re-election campaign.
2. Develop and manage the Senator’s communication strategy.
3. Work with Media Advisor to ensure all communications are clear, effective and strategic.
4. Develop and maintain effective working relationships with relevant internal and external stakeholders;
5. Develop and support key campaigns on key portfolio priorities.
6. Work closely with internal and external stakeholders to ensure consistency and co-ordination of the Senator’s strategic direction, communications and campaign priorities.
7. Identify campaigning opportunities that support parliamentary work and parliamentary opportunities that will support ongoing campaigns.
8. Help manage and coordinate Senator’s media appearances and requests as required.
9. Manage the production of communication materials produced and authorised by the Senator’s office.
10. Represent the Senator on internal election campaign committees and working groups.
11. Represent the Senator at official events, party functions, community meetings and public engagements if required.
A salary within the range $60,827 -69,216pa will be determined commensurate with relevant skills and experience. In addition, an allowance in the range $14,319-$17,898 is payable in lieu of overtime.

Applications addressing the selection criteria and the names of two referees should be forwarded to: ali.neyle@aph.gov.au by 8 August 2012. Position Description Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Campaigns & Communications Manager