The Queensland Election is almost over - what should companies be doing now?

The Queensland Election is almost over - what should companies be doing now?

Elliot Stein is the Queensland and Northern Territory Director of government relations and lobbying firm Hawker Britton, where he provides strategic advice to businesses on the operation of the Queensland government. He has previously held multiple public policy and communications positions with Australian governments, including Chief of Staff in the Palaszczuk government and Senior Advisor in the Rudd and Gillard federal governments. He has also worked abroad in New York City as Director of Public Diplomacy with the Australian Consulate-General, and as Director of Strategic Communications with The Glover Park Group.

The Queensland State Election is nearly over. On Saturday night in school halls, community centres and rented shopfronts across the state, more than three million folded pieces of paper with pencil numbers will be tipped onto plastic tables and carefully counted by electoral commission workers.
While political professionals and commentators anxiously await the results, smart companies will already be planning their engagement strategies with the government.
Come Monday November 2nd, we will have a clear picture of the shape of the next government of Queensland. Whether it is a returned majority Labor government or minority LNP government (or any of the above), companies who have business interests, regulatory frameworks and new ideas in Queensland are wise to make preparations this week for the new government.
We know a few things for certain. First, that there will be a full state budget handed down in the early days of the next government. Labor has committed to a full budget by the end of November, the LNP to produce one within 100 days. Budgets bring opportunities for engagement and policy development. While these 2020 statements are likely to only cement in place election commitment announcements, both documents will frame the longer tail of development during the more normal 2021 budgetary process.
Secondly, either a returned Labor government or a newly sworn in LNP government will mean new ministers in new portfolios. On the Labor side, three ministerial retirements means new ministers and a likely reshuffle to reflect new priorities and focus. Any company with interests in Queensland would be advised to interact early and clearly with a new minister, to build a relationship and establish policy goals for the term.
Which brings us to the third commonality of the next government - it will serve for four years. This election is the first fixed, four-year term in Queensland. It will mean a level of long-term planning and policy development that has been unable to occur during the more volatile and shorter unfixed election dates. More than ever, companies can plan their engagement, their policy requests and build meaningful reform-based relationships with key ministers, staff and department heads.
So, what then of the policy and priority of a new government?
There is no questioning that the COVID-19 pandemic has been the great accelerator and the great disrupter of our age. From technology to the future of work, to the nature of our cities and inter-state migration, COVID impacts everything and government is no exception. 
Companies will need to think how their business models have changed and account for how their interaction with government can change too. What efficiencies, digitisation or regulatory reforms have COVID exposed as being necessary? The key is ensuring your ideas for reform and change align with government values and programmes.
The election has made clear that creating, maintaining and growing jobs are the top priorities for government. There have been a great many detailed policies outlined for new skills, training and small business support schemes released over the election - particularly from the Labor Party.

Getting briefed and understanding what is under the hood of these policies is paramount to hit the ground running. When you are preparing to engage with government, it is vital that you know what has already been announced and how your idea can fit into an existing scheme or compliment one recently announced as details are fine-tuned. Knowing how to get that information brings me to my last point.
Engaging a government relations company or lobbyists isn’t about gaining access or special treatment - it’s about having a local subject matter expert who is solely focused on understanding the cycles and priorities of government. It’s engaging someone who has tracked and monitored all the new policies and knows who to talk to about them. 
Like any good consultant, a lobbyist brings to the table a perspective and set of insights gleaned over many years of work in a chosen field. For us - that world is government. We understand the policies, the personalities and the focus of the government of the day and find ways to align a company’s interests with the movement of government.
In summary - smart companies will move this week to engage a government relations specialist, prepare their policy wish list, and start working with a new or returned government next week. Four years can pass in the blink of an eye, so the work needs to begin before 2020 is in the rearview mirror.

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