''Always be prepared' '“ Boy Scout motto.
Every federal election government departments initiate 'caretaker' mode; no new regulations, no new laws, just enough governance to keep the country ticking over until a new government is sworn in.
It's a bureaucrats' favourite holiday period.
In the months leading up to the federal election, however, government departments resemble a disturbed ant hill as they scramble to prepare the famous 'blue book' and 'red book'.
The blue book contains briefings on the status of various legislation, public programs and fiscal position for a government returned to power. The red book contains similar briefings for a new government should the incumbent be defeated.
It's a critical exercise to ensure stability following the chaos of an election campaign.
It's also a valuable model for organisations and advocacy groups to use in preparing for the post-election political environment. A 'red book/blue book' approach helps ensure your organisation is able to swing into action when the next government is sworn in.
Your red and blue books should contain two sections, (though they will overlap somewhat) '“ one section contains a brief on your organisation and key issues to be handed over in your first few meetings with the new government. The other section serves as more of an internal strategic plan for your organisation.
Here are some elements to include:
Key messages: During an election campaign both sides of politics are focused on the three or four critical issues that resonate with their voting base. If your organisation's key messages don't mesh with these issues, they tend to fall off the radar. It's therefore essential to provide a simple executive summary that outlines the three or four essential messages you need the new government to understand about your function and purpose.
Key issues: It's important to provide a detailed brief on the top issues facing your organisation or industry. The outline of each issue should be thorough, however, only include the most important issues. Other groups will also be providing briefings to the new government and information overload is a reality.
For a returned government, a key issues brief can be less detailed; more of a reminder of where each issue was up to prior to the election.
This first section should also include a selection of your recent earned media and advocacy campaign work.
New faces, new names, new strategies: Whether the incumbent is returned or the opposition is successful in forming government, one thing is certain - people move. Odds are that after an election you will have a new Minister, with new staff. You may also have a new relevant Assistant Minister and MPs in electorates geographically or demographically relevant to your organisation may also have changed.
Prior to the election, it's important to have at least some idea of when and how to approach new Ministers, MPs and staff with your concise and coherent 'Section 1'. It's also important to start to formulate a 6-12 month engagement strategy to build a good working relationship with new relevant government representatives.
Events: It's also important to work out how these new faces will affect your planned events. Who is the new relevant Minister and do they need to be invited to your major events? Should they be invited to speak? Are there other new and relevant Ministers, Assistant Ministers, advisers etc that should be invited? Should some events be postponed or cancelled? Is there a need for additional events? Not all these questions can be answered prior to the election, however the groundwork can be laid.