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Spare the politics………puh-lease.

Phew, well I’m glad that’s over.

9-weeks of excruciatingly numbing political meandering that delivered………… well, not much.

One of the aspects of the campaign that we have been discussing internally has been if we learnt anything. The answer is a general ‘Yes,’ however the content you could treat on a take it or leave it basis.

Polls

Dare I say it, they were one of the highlights of the Aussie campaign.

Despite the general twitterings of the media, the polls were pretty much on a consistent ‘knife-edge’ across the campaign; the end result? A cliff-hanger.

Based on the musings of our esteemed daily papers one could have been excused for thinking that our pollsters were as reliable as their British counterparts (or the BoM forecasting Melbourne weather) with their ‘forget the numbers, Turnbull’s got it’ commentary.

Messages

It helps to have them.

Attempting to bore your target audience in to submission clearly doesn’t work.

Hopefully the last couple of months’ acts as the lethal injection that obsolete sloganeering without substance needs.

It could have been worse I guess: Cheap Cheap anyone?

The Greens

Surprising? Not really.

Well performed? Not really.

Going places? Most likely.

I would have thought that in the absence of discussion void of any real substance regarding a pragmatic (forget about visionary) forward-looking agenda for the nation, that there was a huge opportunity for The Greens to appeal to the abiding Australian sense of egalitarianism.

This ‘third force’ in Australian politics also appears to have been sucked in to a narrow (and narrowcast) script, despite the ample areas of opportunity (climate change, asylum seekers, homelessness, re-balancing Commonwealth infrastructure spending to include more public transport, the cost of living etc etc) for the further ‘Left’ of pour political landscape to carve out more ground.

The Greens campaign I would describe as overlooking the bigger picture; bicycle super highways have cool renders tho.

Our preferential voting system

Is it time to give it the boot?

As it stands all seats in the House of Reps come down to a two-horse race. Why is it that the jockey of every beaten horse then gets a say in the eventual winner, even though their mount dropped out before the home straight?

The ‘One Vote, One Value’ principle seems to be undermined when a vote for one set of values (or whatever substitutes for them these days) ends up in a camp with a different set of principles.

Preferences don’t even seem to make much difference. As a case in point, the ALP received its second lowest primary vote in history and was a kick of the footy from winning this election.

Which leads me to the……

AEC

I read earlier this week that India can count 800 million votes in a day.

Brexit was confirmed in 7-hours.

In Australia our measly 10 million votes are only approximately 70%. Sure we have the complexity of preferences and the use of the postal system etc, but surely we can speed things up a bit.

A move to first past the post voting, or maybe even using that futuristic thing called the internet could help?

Scare Campaigns

Work.

If, the target of said campaign permits them to.

With a week or more to go before the poll, a robust disaggregation of what was being considered for Medicare (and why), contrasted against the scaremongering may have enabled our soon to be re-sworn in PM to make a statesmanlike speech on election night.

Split the ‘Right’

Given the ‘conservative discontent’ within the broad church of the Liberal Party, will it be an ALP strategy over the course of this, and subsequent terms of government, to try and foment this unhappiness with the view to seeing ‘Team Cory Bernardi’ become to the Libs what The Greens are to them?

Perhaps, but unless we did away with preferential voting such an achievement wouldn’t make any tangible difference (based on where I presume preferences would flow).

What did we learn?

If you want to bring people with you, one needs to understand who they are, what’s relevant to them, and speak to them in their language. Ideally, this process won’t take any longer than necessary.

If you have an opportunity, take it. Never expect that it will exist forever.

Keep things simple, clear and efficient. No one has time, nor are interested in reasons/excuses why the apparently simple is actually not simple. In short, understand and meet expectations.

If, and when something incorrect is said; correct the record. Keep correcting the record until the record is correct. If you don’t do the work you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.

Strategy. A lot of strategies look great on paper and over sound great over a cup of coffee, but said strategy is going to deliver the same result as would have been the case prior to developing, investing in, and implementing it why bother? Better to spend the time identifying what you want to achieve and develop a plan that will actually deliver difference rather than same same.

So………

As things stand today, let’s hope that Sir Peter Cosgrove extends his French sojourn a little longer to allow the dust to settle, and for us innocent Australians to focus on the important stuff in life like football, kids going back to school, and paying bills. You know, the things that need to be considered by every Australian, every day (and yes, that includes football).

 

 

The Trouble with Hollow Men

There is much dispute around the who actually first said “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything” but the implication is clear. A lack of conviction will leave one highly susceptible to group-think, demagogues and charlatans.

A lack of demonstrable conviction is also what appears to drive the disillusionment with our current political leaders and process.

The developed world appears to be beset by a twin crisis of confidence, moral relativism -driving lack of core values and total cynicism when it comes to our political leaders.

It can be argued that Trump, Brexit, the revolving door of Australian Prime Ministers and the retreat from the two party system are all symptoms of this lack of conviction and erosion of trust.

The electorate appears to crave conviction politicians and clear, visionary leadership. Yet, the combination of constant media scrutiny and ‘analysis’ and the cacophony of special interest demands pushes politicians, with any survival instinct, to move with the mood. Ultimately demolishing any credibility regarding principle.

Devising the solution to that dilemma is truly the modern conundrum.

For business the challenge is that the populace now uses the same cynical and sceptical filter when considering anything those with commercial power have to say them. This presents a significant barrier to effectively interacting with any stakeholders.

A vital step in getting through that filter is to own and live by a set of values that the community views as contributing to both the effective and principled delivery of products and/or services and to broader societal benefit.

It is a basic as ‘don’t tell me what you are going to do for me, show me’.

How many businesses try to engage with stakeholders yet either don’t have a clear set of values to measure their interactions against or act in a manner that gives the lie to any claim to be living by such?

Spending the time and energy to formalise and inculcate a set of values is an investment that will deliver manifold benefit. All business leaders should first engage with their core management team and figure out what they all stand for. Then live it.

To fail to do so is to allow your enterprise to appear as hollow as the populists who may have their moment in the sun only to, sooner rather than later, have it shine through them.

RMKA has worked on developing relevant, beneficial and enduring values for many organisations. It is the core of any sound communication and engagement strategy.

 

Tony Abbott: Architect of his own Demise

It is impossible not to feel for Tony Abbott after the events of Monday this week. There is no doubt that he is a well-intentioned man with, what he considered to be, the nation’s best interests at heart.

It must be acknowledged how devastatingly effective he was as an Opposition Leader; albeit using his core strengths (dogged determination, a boxing blue, and, yes, three word slogans) to lower the tone of Parliament, and the approach to national politics in general. In this endeavour he had many willing co-conspirators from both sides of the Chamber and beyond.

During that period one could argue that he effectively took down three Prime Ministers (Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd – twice), no easy task. What no one recognised during what appeared to be his ‘Howitzer’ phase was that he was also drawing up the plans for his own downfall.

He wasn’t a mere draftsman; he was an architect.

He demonstrated how to exploit a broken promise with a zeal unlikely seen anywhere outside a relationship on the rocks. It would be almost impossible to calculate the number of times a high-vis Abbott reminded us about the carbon tax that should never have been.

He was a pathfinder, illuminating the way for future Oppositions.

That’s what makes the Budget of 2014 so mystifying.

A litany of broken promises that drained the pool of credibility, which had been partially filled during the long years he had led the Opposition (granted, it was not terribly deep).

Compounded by the perception that it was highly inequitable, that Budget triggered a response from our collective reptilian brain that fairness was still an Australian trait. Assault fairness – insult the nation.

The sales job was carried out via the echo chamber. Yell an idea in; hear a slogan echoed back. It worked, but only on those doing the yelling. No one had considered informing the electorate of the need for action, let alone contemplating taking it along for the ride.

The appalling politics and communication of Budget 2014 made our former PM (and his fledgling government) an easy target; transforming him from a man of whom the nation was wary but willing to give a go; to another promise-breaking, untrustworthy, administratively inept leader.

Tony Abbott had morphed into what he had previously destroyed.

It is this aspect that generates an increased level of empathy in me for how Mr Abbott must be feeling today. The galling knowledge that in attempting to emulate one of his political heroes, that he had executed his plan so poorly he found himself at the trailhead of destruction. Ironically, he was the cartographer responsible for the map that identified his position so precisely.

It is impossible to gloss over the fact that every time he managed to give his hunters the slip, he, or one of his coterie would send up a flare alerting them to his whereabouts. From Sir Philip, to Bronwyn, to Peter Dutton’s trés hilarious joke – he was Canberra’s Tantalus, almost reaching his goal but not quite being able to reach it.

I hope that history remembers former Prime Minister Abbott with more than just a PutYourOnionsOut hash tag. He deserves better than that.

I also hope that the team of Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop go forward to deliver on their commitment of communicating with the nation, as opposed to treating us as mere tax-paying minions. After all, their decisions will likely have fairly substantial impacts on the lives of us tax-paying minions.

Finally, there’s a chance that the tenor of our national debate will improve and that we will witness some non-poll/focus group driven leadership and policy development.

Who knows, good government might have even started yesterday.

Australian Politics: a lost art?

Australian politics: Raiders of the Lost Art

By Angus Nicholls

Our political system was established as an adversarial environment with the purpose of contesting ideas in a robust manner. For the life of me however, I cannot recall one occasion in recent Australian Parliaments (or Australian politics) where this has actually happened.

It appears to me that the only instances of bipartisanship occur during times of tragedy and where there is only one course of action that should be adopted. That in itself is a tragedy for the functioning of our nation.

Furthermore, Opposition strategy in this day and age simply appears to be a wholesale “No” to any Government position, rather than constructive input to the issues of national importance.

There have been murmurings of late referring to the dire state of Australian politics, including the resort-to-slogans as mantras (The Blame Game, Stop the Boats, Greatest Moral Challenge of our Time, Budget Emergency, Great Big Tax, Debt and Deficit Disaster, to name a few); the ongoing hunt for a “Gotcha” moment; and a lack of philosophical basis for positions that parties take (who would have thought that The Greens would stand in the way of taxing “The Rich” more and opposing the re-indexation of fuel?).

The overall tenor with which we are left is extreme negativity (not to mention the images of the clowns now running the circus – sorry, Senate).

It is not fair however to lay the blame solely at the feet of our elected representatives. The rise of the 24-hour news cycle and journos who commentate as much, if not more, than report, has created a vacuum that will suck the most irrelevant considerations into the public domain.

And then there is us, the general public, whose appetite for detail and rigour seems to have dissipated. Is that driven by the fact that we do not generally care about what is being said, or our national and community standards, or is it seriously meaningless?

We here at ICG refuse to be drawn into the ranks of the commentariat without offering solutions. We believe two things are missing from public discussion. The ability to tell a story (narrative), and a vision that provides aspirational content and hope linked to the issues of the day that capture the public’s (self) interest.

It is not difficult to articulate a vision, given that the decisions made today will deliver what we get tomorrow. In essence, the best way to predict the future is to invent it. On this basis we, as a nation, are confronted with many challenges, ranging from infrastructure bottlenecks to an ageing population, to how to manage climate change, to putting the Budget onto a structurally sound footing.

Australia needs a frank and robust discussion about how we want our nation to look in the future to not only maintain, but also to improve our quality of life in the face of these significant challenges.

Once that vision has been established it is simple to invoke the lost art of story telling to explain where we currently are, where we are headed, and the actions that are being taken and the context in which they are being taken to get us there.

As a company that helps our clients to tell their stories and articulate their vision we believe that taking a positive and constructive approach will not guarantee that people will start listening again, but it certainly creates an environment in which it is more likely.

AN