New Approaches to Union Campaigning

The next speaker at CMPM2014 is Michael Crosby from United Voice, who is discussing political campaigning outside election campaigns. Australian unions' ability to organise is widely recognised, even in spite of the overall decline in union membership in developed nations. Union volunteers are still crucial in many campaigns both during and outside elections.

Michael highlights the great sacrifices made by union volunteers, who commit a great amount of their time to organising even in addition to their work obligations, and amongst these especially flags the work of union members with comparatively poor working conditions, such as early childhood educators.

Past union campaigns which addressed this group have been relatively unsuccessful, because they followed traditional union lines without understanding the specific work environment in this area. Instead, there was a need to research the profession more closely: to understand the situation of workplaces in the sector, their profitability and level of staff turnover, and the feasibility of union action.

A New Way Forward for NSW Labor

The third Labor speaker at CMPM2014 is Kaila Murmain, NSW Labor's Assistant General Secretary. She begins by outlining the current political environment in NSW, which has been difficult for Labor following the 2011 landslide towards the Liberals; at the next election Labor would need to regain some 27 seats to win. There has been a need to rebuild with the help of strong local candidates.

One focus of this rebuilding is to attract strong small local donors for the Labor campaign. This is difficult given the considerable lack of trust Australians have in politics and politicians, and the lack of attention now being paid to political messaging in the mainstream media. Volunteers are therefore now the party's biggest asset, and the branch structure has become a crucial tool again.

How Labor Won the 2012 ACT Election

Next up at CMPM2014 is Elias Hallaj, the ACT Labor Party Secretary, who reviews the 2012 ACT election campaign. Every campaign is different, of course, but it also adds to the collective knowledge about campaigning. ACT elections are further complicated by the fact that they use the Hare-Clark electoral system, too.

The political environment for Labor in 2012 was very tough, party due to federal factors. In response, Labor began its campaign twelve months earlier than in previous elections; it needed to reestablish the ACT Labor brand after the leadership transition away from John Stanhope, and distinguish it from federal (and NSW) Labor. This included early candidate preselections and created long campaign lead-ins, but also created a risk of burnout.

Labor tried some strongly localised strategies, therefore, but the Hare-Clark's system of multiple members per electorate also created some internal competition and conflict between candidates and required additional coordination. The emergence of new parties, some of which ran on progressive policies, also complicated the electoral landscape for Labor and Greens candidates.

Australian Labor's Digital Strategy

From the two Coalition speakers at CMPM2014 we now move on to an ALP-themed panel, starting with Skye Laris, the Director of Digital for the Australia Labor Party. She says that in 2013 Labor used online media to push power down and out, trying to engage with a new supporter base and increasing its email address base tenfold over the course of a year. It has also amassed a strong following on Facebook, and used Facebook advertising extensively during the campaign.

This has resulted in a 1000% in online donations (to $800,000) from 2010 to 2013, and a 1500% increase in donors (over 10,000). 15,000 signed up online to become Labor volunteers. Such contacts were also used to source real stories about how Liberal policies would affect them, and to disseminate these stories through social media. Photos and other media generated by supporters were collected and curated online.

Once advertising is comparatively cheap and has a wide reach; it is also easier to target effectively at specific demographics. It leverages organic networks, and can build on organic user-led distribution by reinforcing stories which are already being disseminated widely. This also provides better opportunities for participation in campaigning, especially for people who are time-poor and cannot engage in other ways; it also generates immediate feedback on policies, agendas, and campaigns.

National Party Campaigning in Regional Seats

The next speaker at CMPM2014 is Nathan Quigley, Director of Communications for the NSW National Party; his focus, unsurprisingly, is on campaigning in regional seats. Key elements differentiating such seats are population density, autonomy, and demographics.

The largest seat in NSW, Barwon, is slightly larger than Germany, for example, but only has some one per cent of that country's population. Such seats are highly autonomous, with local media including local papers, local radio stations, and some local television playing an important role. These seats are self-contained in that residents may rarely travel outside the area of the seat (very different from inner-city seats), and have local government structures which similarly focus on the seat's geographic area.

Demographics are also different from the cities: they have large elderly, indigenous, Christian, and lower-income populations, and few inhabitants who were born overseas or have tertiary qualifications. This suits the National party's "red Tory" positioning very well.

Liberal Campaigning Strategies in Australia

Next up at CMPM2014 is Felicity Wilson, Vice-President of the NSW Liberal Party, who self-deprecatingly begins by showing some footage from Jaymes Diaz's trainwreck campaign in 2013.

The keys to winning a campaign is to have a strategy, a campaign plan, the resources, and the activities to execute the plan. Good candidates are crucial to this, especially in marginal seats – they need to have strong local connection, be well-known, viewed favourably, be seen to understand the important issues, and be seen to be able to do something about them.

In planning campaigning strategy, the different electorates are considered separately: some seats (not just marginals) are designated as "key" seats in the Liberal Party, and overall there's a distinction between "best placed to win", battleground, development, and long shot seats based on the likelihood of being able to win the seat. Such designations determine the time and focus devoted to these seats, too – but also the pressure placed on the candidates from the central organisation.

How the South Was Won: Inside the 2014 SA Labor Campaign

The next speaker at CMPM2014 is Neil Lawrence, CEO of Lawrence Creative, which executed the Kevin07 campaign as well as Anna Bligh's campaign for Queensland State Premier and Jay Weatherill's campaign in South Australia; he is alongside his colleague Tony Mitchellmore.

Neil suggests that through the federal election campaigns before 2007, Labor had been comprehensively outcampaigned – the Liberals had imported US techniques from the Republicans, and nobody in the Australian Labor Party understood issue framing.

The first question to ask candidates in any election is whether they actually want to win. Labor at some point decided that it did want to win the 2007 campaign, and therefore selected Kevin Rudd as its candidate, even in spite of some misgivings; the same was the case with Jay Weatherill's in South Australia, against the preferences of the Labor right. In the latter case, especially, there was a need to counter a strong mood for change in the electorate – and Weatherill, rather than Labor's opponents in the Liberal Party, could be positioned as change from inside the party.

The Current State of Australian Campaign Funding Regulation

The next speaker at CMPM2014 is Graeme Orr, whose interest is in the legal frameworks for political campaign funding. The law focusses mainly on accounting and auditing aspects of this, but indirectly affects a great deal more – campaign aesthetics, styles, strategies, staffing, and much more.

The law regulating political finance hasn't changed much overall, but the way in which it is being administered tends to swing between different states. Such concerns have a long history – even in pre-modern times there were concerns about vote-buying, porkbarrelling, and overwhelming an electorate with campaign materials.

Restrictions were gradually introduced over the past 100-odd years, focussing first on candidates (before parties were recognised as legal entities), though in 1970s Australia a more laissez-faire regime on funding was prominent for a few years. Since the 1980s, Australia has laws on disclosing at least larger donations, however.

Importing US Approaches into Australian Political Campaigning

We start the second day of CMPM2014 with Jennifer Rayner, whose interest is in the extent to which American campaigning innovations are being imported to Australia (and whether this makes sense). Some US approaches simply don't work elsewhere, due to different laws on advertising and funding, and the different electoral laws.

So in truth this is more of a process of hybridisation of campaigning, rather than a straight-out importing of US approaches. Any such approaches need to be adapted and filtered through local contexts, even if the Australian media appear to be obsessed with the "Americanisation" of Australian political campaigning.

How Cathy McGowan Won Indi

The final speaker at CMPM2014 today is Campbell Klose, and adviser on the wildly successful Cathy McGowan campaign which managed to unseat Liberal shadow minister Sophie Mirabella in the electorate of Indi in the 2013 Australian federal election. Indi is a very large electorate (roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts), with some 100,000 voters.

Early on, the Voice 4 Indi campaign began by holding some 55 kitchen table conversations with 425 participants, covering local and national issues. The results of this process were taken to Mirabella, who fundamentally disagreed with them and suggested Indi-ans cared only about cost of living issues; in response, the campaign vetted several candidates and finally settled on Cathy McGowan.

V4I then attracted volunteers, with each volunteer having to sign up to a shared value statement. These volunteers covered the entire political spectrum from the left to the right, and represented all the geographical areas covered by the electorate. Social media was used extensively to break down the geographical boundaries (such as mountain chains) separating these different areas – and the campaign conducted significant social media training with its diverse group of volunteers.


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