Business Observer Programs

Political Conventions and Councils are marquee events on the calendars of the major political parties, but should they be pencilled into your diary?

In any given year Labor, The Nationals, the Liberal Party of Australia, the LNP and some of the minor parties hold large gatherings of the faithful in a major city or regional centre.

Usually falling under the name of 'State Convention' or Federal Council', these marquee events are an impressive spectacle, providing the Party leadership with a grand stage to address their dedicated supporters, as well as a brilliant media opportunity to enunciate their vision ahead of their opponents.

Of course, it's also a fantastic fundraising opportunity. The question is whether or not it's a real value add in your advocacy campaign?

Here are some pros and cons to consider in deciding whether to engage as a 'Business Observer' at the next political event:


A good starting point - As a Business Observer you'll generally have anywhere from five to 20 minutes with a Minister or Shadow Minister and their key staff, depending on their seniority. This can be good opportunity to introduce yourself and your issue to the relevant frontbencher and explore the opportunity for a more detailed briefing at a later date.

Relationship-building - Ministers and key staff understand that it costs money to enrol as a Business Observer and attendance shows you place value on building a relationship with them. If you're able to fit it in your budget, attending will send a positive message about the value you place on their time, as well as the importance of your specific issue.

Networking, Networking, Networking - Signing up as a Business Observer provides outstanding networking opportunities. Outside official allocated meetings with Ministers or Shadows, there's ample opportunity to catch up with staff, backbench MPs and other important Party delegates.

Being seen to be seen - In many ways, attending a function as a Business Observer is about being seen. That is, being seen to be interested in the political process and that particular Party's policy priorities, and being seen to have something to offer.


Limited time - The reality is you don't get much time with a Minister or Shadow as part of a Business Observer's program. Some make the mistake of thinking a scheduled meeting with a Minister or Shadow is a critical advocacy opportunity to outline their detailed position on a given issue. Disappointment inevitably follows when time runs out and the Minister has barely had time to take note of your concerns, let alone promise to look at them in more detail. Business Observers is not the place for a detailed briefing.

Easy to forget - The Business Observers program carries on for most of the event, with Ministers or Shadows and key staff scheduled to meet with paying advocates at allotted times. In any given session, a Minister or Shadow may meet with a dozen or more advocates on a range of issues. There's a definite possibility that your meeting may blur into the myriad of other meetings a politician has taken during the course of the event. So make sure you have a memorable and relevant pitch!

Best use of budget? - Business Observers does cost money, usually a few thousand dollars. Add to this accommodation and sundries and the whole exercise can be quite expensive. It's therefore vital to assess whether registering as a Business Observer is the best use of resources, or whether they could be allocated in a more efficient way to achieve the same result.

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