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.
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…
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.
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:
Norman Arbjorensen asks if Liberals have employed US Republican-style ‘strategic racism’ to win elections?
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.”
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
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.
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…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 August 2012. Position Description Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Campaigns & Communications Manager
Below is an article I co-wrote with a Canberra-based history academic Chris Monnox regarding last year’s federal Labor leadership ballot. it was published in the Canberra Times just before the result of the ballot was officially declared.
Labor leadership ballot a win/win By Elias Hallaj and Chris Monnox
Labor’s Federal Leadership ballot has been a valuable recruiting and organising opportunity for the ACT Branch of the Party, as it has for each state and territory branch. Eligibility to vote in this historic ballot was bestowed on everyone who was a member of the ACT Branch of the Australian Labor Party on 7 September. Around 1,000 people in the ACT joined 50,000 across Australia and had an opportunity to have a direct say in who would be the next Labor Leader.
Labor is the only party in Australia that gives its ordinary members this opportunity and it signals a new era of reform and participation within our party. As national secretary George Wright told Sky, there is a “big appetite” for participatory democracy.
The immediate benefits to the party have been obvious to all those who work in or near its offices and representatives both in Canberra and across Australia:
1. Membership has increased. More new members have joined and more existing members have renewed their membership. The enfranchisement of all members, regardless of length of membership and amount of meetings they have attended was a stroke of genius. It gave an immediate reward to all the new recruits who signed up on the battlefield of the 2013 campaign.
2. The ballot has been an opportunity to test real-life grassroots engagement and communication skills for many experienced and new hands. The ultimate test in genuine democracies is popular support. This ballot has been a test of messages, networks, campaign techniques, and in some cases relationships and loyalties. All this adds to the campaign capacity and skills base of the party and enables better outcomes in future public contests.
3. The candidates have led by example in ensuring mature and convivial competition and debate, without resorting to personal attacks, despite regular baiting from the mainstream media and the party’s numerous external (and sometimes internal) critics. This has been particularly cathartic following the end of the most recent Gillard-Rudd leadership contest.
4. The numerous leadership forums and seminars and debates have ensured a new pattern of regular interaction between the leadership of the parliamentary wing of the party and the membership of the party. The ACT Branch experience is that these interactions are normal, with relatively easy access to our elected representatives. The public display of this access and its reinforcement at all levels will make the party stronger in the future.
5. The federal leadership ballot has utilized a new acceptance (some say obsession) within modern politics of the latest communications tools. Not only did the candidates and their organised teams supporters use the latest communications techniques more effectively than ever before, the party membership and supporters also used new techniques to engage directly with each other and these new techniques complemented well more traditional town-hall style meetings and telephone conferences all over the country.
6. Not all the administrative and organising for this ballot has been conducted by the formal party administration. The loose networks which are a normal part of any human social activity, normally referred to as “factions” in politics, have also played an active role. And (surprisingly for some) the factions behaved very well. The previous PM might be alarmed to learn that one outcome of his innovative decree has been the evolution of the national factions to a point where they have, in a matter of weeks, demonstrated consistent sophisticated and diplomatic communication and organisational techniques and skills. Factions are an inevitable and normal part of democratic politics, but for too long in Australian politics the downside of factions dominated the public discourse. If they behave in a mature and intelligent manner, organised groups of adults (teams in sporting parlance) can achieve great things. When the major groups or factions in an organization can compete AND cooperate fairly, the whole organisation can benefit. After this ballot, we also now have a clearer line of leadership and authority within the two main factions that will make future cooperation, consultation and negotiation simpler and more efficient.
These have been the benefits. There have been costs as well, most obviously opportunity for the party’s regular critics to accuse it of “navel-gazing” and “in-fighting”, despite the obvious examples of policy debate and organisational success the ballot has brought. The ballot has also been hard work. When asked what her favorite part of the leadership ballot was, a young party members instinctively responded “it’s about end, thank god”. Unfortunately it’s hard to imagine that the future timing of these ballots will not inevitably coincide with the end of a hard-fought campaign, so the participants will inevitably be exhausted until both end.
This process of evolution for this ballot is continuing. From an ACT perspective the democracy has been superb and the opportunity for our local political activists to participate fully in such a historical initiative has been wholeheartedly welcomed. This sentiment has been shared in every city and town which has had an opportunity to host a candidate’s forum, or two (as was the fortunate case in Canberra).
Some of the less predictable aspects of the ballot (such as members sharing pictures of their votes on social media) were unpredictable but may become more normal practice in future public campaigns and elections. We have no doubt that the process has been an overwhelmingly positive one that has strengthened relationships and campaigning skills within the Party. Even Christopher Pyne agrees. In 2008 he penned his opinion on this issue, arguing the Liberal Party should adopt the same process. http://www.ipa.org.au/library/publication/1210898292_document_pyne.pdf
This article represents the personal views of the authors. Elias Hallaj has been the ACT Labor Secretary since 2009 and was previously an Assistant National Secretary of the ALP. Chris Monnox is a PhD Candidate in political history and recently wrote an extensive history of the ACT Branch of the Australian Labor Party as part of his research at ANU.
Photo by Andrew Meares sourced from the same article in the Canberra Times http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/everyones-a-winner-in-a-clean-fight-20131012-2vfaz.html
Although I’ve explain previously the why and how of this blog, I recently came across an article which better articulates why writing (and blogging) is useful for anyone who is in a leadership position (whether they like to admit it or not) in any industry or field of endeavour. The full original article Why Every Leader Should Know How to Write by John Hall can be found via LinkedIn here http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131209150526-86319010-why-every-leader-should-know-how-to-write and can be summarised as follows:
It takes time, energy, and humility to improve your skills as a writer. The payoff, however, is immense.
Here’s what happens when you’re at the top of your writing game:
1. You embed your vision and culture across a wide audience.
2. You open yourself up to valuable feedback.
3. You lead the conversation in your industry.
4. You engage influencers.
Fear and Writing
In his memoir, “On Writing,” Stephen King argues that fear is at the root of bad writing. And, despite all our hubris, there is plenty of fear in the world of business leadership. We’re afraid of running our companies into the ground. We’re afraid of being beaten out by the competition. And we’re afraid that others won’t perceive us the way we want to be perceived.
These fears are what prevent many leaders from becoming great writers. For them, the perceived risk is just too daunting an obstacle.
I know how hard it is to put your ego on the line. I still get nervous when I publish something. But it’s absurd to assume that you should be good at something if you never try. No matter how confident you become in your writing skills, there will always be room for improvement.
So seek out the best writers on your team. Swallow your pride, and ask them to critique your work. Are you communicating as effectively as possible? You’ll find that your team has a vested interest in helping you unlock your full potential as a writer.
The number of platforms leaders have to showcase their brands through writing is growing. If you’re not utilizing them, you’re letting fear stand in the way of opportunity.
As Stephen King says, “Good writing is…about letting go of fear and affectation.” So let go. Just write.
ANU Doctoral Candidate Jennifer Rayner has written a great article on The Conversation about Liberal Party ads from the 1940s and how they speak today’s political language.
Jennifer explains how “Melbourne University has unearthed the only remaining recordings of the Liberal Party’s landmark 1948 “John Henry Austral” radio serial – the first Australian example of a professional, media-centric political ad campaign.
The John Henry Austral series was Australia’s first nationally coordinated and professionally produced political ad campaign. It ran twice-weekly as a 15-minute radio serial for 20 months leading up to the 1949 election, in paid spots on about 80 radio stations across Australia. Campaign scholar Stephen Mills estimates that it cost the Liberal Party some £2300 a month to run the series; this equates to around $125,000 in today’s money and makes it one of the most expensive political ad campaigns the country has ever seen.
Although John Henry Austral was a fictional character voiced by actor Richard Matthews, his purpose was very real: to foster antipathy towards the Chifley Government and so pave the way for a Liberal victory in 1949.
Authors such as Mills and the University of Melbourne’s own Dr Sally Young have argued that the remarkable modernity of the John Henry Austral campaign shows that the Liberal Party was ahead of its time in pioneering professional campaign techniques.
Jennifer is one of the brilliant minds behind this week’s political campaigning workshop at Sydney University. You can find more of her articles at The Conversation here.