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Happenings on the hill  |  GovernmentPolitics

Focus on Politics: New South Wales

15 August 2022 at 4:01 pm
Angus Crowther
With this revolving door of politicians, who needs Ramsay Street when we have so much drama in Macquarie Street?

Angus Crowther | 15 August 2022 at 4:01 pm

Rory Parker


Focus on Politics: New South Wales
15 August 2022 at 4:01 pm

With this revolving door of politicians, who needs Ramsay Street when we have so much drama in Macquarie Street?

In about six months, the people of New South Wales will be heading to the polls to choose who will lead their state for the next term of government. It’s looking likely that Dominic Perrottet, the current Liberal Premier, will be challenged by Chris Minns who will be seeking to take the top job for Labor for the first time in well over a decade.

This time last year, a re-elected Coalition government seemed like all but a certainty. But, as we head closer to March 2023, the election is looking increasingly interesting…

Perrottet has been leading the NSW government since 5 October 2021, when Gladys Berejiklian resigned due to an ICAC inquiry. Paul Toole is the current Deputy Premier, having taken the reins from 6 October 2021 after John Barilaro resigned. NSW has churned through four premiers in this government and a wealth of senior ministers coming and going. On the other hand, when Labor was last in power in NSW, they faced similar issues: regular changes to their line-up, ICAC inquiries, and dysfunction. Even in opposition, Chris Minns has only been leading Labor since 4 June 2021, after Jodi McKay stood down following factional infighting.

With this revolving door of politicians, who needs Ramsay Street when we have so much drama in Macquarie Street? But while the game of political musical chairs can be an interesting watch, it can make advocacy challenging for social sector organisations—how can you build meaningful relationships when your key stakeholders keep changing?

Quite simply, don’t put all your eggs in the one basket—engage broadly. We regularly talk about how important it is to engage with backbenchers to improve your likelihood of success. Not only are they easier to secure meetings with, but they’re the ones who create pressure on key decision-makers such as ministers. And, importantly, today’s backbenchers are tomorrow’s Ministers and Premiers. Look at Premier Perrottet, for example: this time last year he was a treasurer dreaming of a promotion. In 2014, he was just a backbencher and, in 2011, he was just a candidate seeking a seat. Organisations that built (and maintained) a relationship with the likes of Perrottet when he was a junior politician already had a foot in the door to speak with him when he became Premier. For everyone else, it was a hard game of catch up.

In minority governments, like we see in New South Wales, engaging broadly means speaking with more than just members of government —the crossbench also comes into play (particularly in the Upper House). Government relies on the crossbench to pass legislation, so will play nice with them wherever they can. In this context, having relationships across the political spectrum means you can have a card up your sleeve when you need it. Play it safe with crossbenchers—don’t engage with the aggressive loud voices and avoid giving away more information than you need to, lest they use it (and you!) against the government (catching you in the political crossfire).

When talking about NSW politics, it would be remiss to not mention the elephant in the room: controversy and corruption. For the last 15 years, both sides of politics have been marred by allegations, inquiries, and findings that have cost the jobs of some, and destroyed the reputations of more. Some businesses and organisations have been caught up in this, simply by being in the orbit of their stakeholders. It’s a risk that could happen to any organisation, even if you’ve done all you can to steer clear of some of the more unsavoury parts of politics. But it’s a risk that can be effectively mitigated through proactive transparency in your communications and operations, being aware of your obligations, and engaging broadly across the political spectrum. Building relationships isn’t always to leverage an ask down the line—sometimes it can help proactively neutralise potential attacks.

If you had asked any political commentator at the start of last year who would be the next NSW government, you would likely get a pretty unanimous “re-elected Berejiklian Coalition government”. But, as we draw ever close to polling date, Labor’s momentum is growing and the controversies with the sitting government continue to pile-up—it’s increasingly difficult to predict the outcome. It’s a timely reminder to play nice with both sides: engage with the government first, but don’t neglect the opposition because, who knows, this time next year NSW could have its third premier since 2021.


With regular columnist Neil Pharaoh currently on leave, Neil’s Tanck colleagues Angus Crowther and Rory Parker will be covering until he returns.

Happenings on the hill is a fortnightly column focusing on all things politics, policy, campaigns and advocacy. Stay tuned for updates around political trends and elections, lobbying and advocacy news, and hints, tips and ideas on government engagement that are specifically written for the social purpose/for purpose sector.

Angus Crowther  |  @ProBonoNews

Angus Crowther is co-founder and director of Tanck, a business-for-purpose government relations firm specialising in supporting social purpose organisations through strategic stakeholder engagement and advocacy.

Rory Parker  |  @ProBonoNews

Rory Parker is a senior associate at Tanck.

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