This morning, 39 members of the Government’s Parliamentary team voted to spill the leadership – an effective vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister’s leadership of the Government. If, as suggested, the majority of the Cabinet team voted against the spill, then the Prime Minister has lost the support of an increasing number of his backbench, which may, as one journalist suggested this morning, spell a ‘death blow’ to his leadership.
This cloud will hang over the Prime Minister and the party as Parliament returns today and the Government moves on with its legislative agenda, with only five sitting weeks remaining before the next Federal Budget in May.
The Prime Minister faces a mammoth task to repair the party, his relationship with his Deputy, Julie Bishop, which has suffered during this leadership debate, and the Government’s fortunes. The Prime Minister gave an impassioned speech asked his party room for unity following the vote and subsequently stated to the public: “We think that when you elect a government, you elect a prime minister, you deserve to keen (them) until you change your mind.”
This is likely to inflame the backbench who will continue to push for change. In fact, the Prime Minister’s immediate challenge may be to survive the rest of the week as disgruntled back bench and a hungry media, who sense blood in the water, continue to whip up momentum. The New South Wales election in seven weeks’ time will be a defining moment for the Prime Minister if he can hang on.
What’s missing at the moment is a leadership contender. In the absence of a challenger, the backbench are voting against the Prime Minister rather than for any potential candidate (Julie Bishop, or Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull are names touted). The game will change should either go public with their leadership ambitions with Turnbull in particular a divisive figure who splits the party. This may slow down any push to move.
The Prime Minister is due to appear at a press conference before today’s Question Time.
Peta Lange, Associate Director Parker & Partners
A curious twist emerged in the early weeks of January with the release of new data related to the sales figures for books (you know, physical books, those hefty, page-ridden relics of yesterday which were heading the way of the dinosaurs).
Well, miracle of miracles, it seems that book sales are on the rise again.
Waterstones, the UK’s biggest bookseller, reported a five per cent sale rise in December over the previous December. Foyles, Waterstones’ rival had an eight per cent rise. Nielsen Book-Scan reports that the number of physical books sold in the US last year rose 2.2 per cent, the same rise that Nielsen Book-Scan reported for Australia.
And, according to the head of Waterstones, the demand for the Kindle e-reader has all but disappeared.
What this all means is anyone’s guess but the cautionary part is for marketers and those who feel that logic and reason are the only determinants of future behaviour.
There is no doubt that using an e-reader is easy: online books can be purchased cheaply, quickly and effortlessly. E-readers – and the physical books they replace – take up no space in your house. You never have to feel guilty about ripping a page or creasing a corner by turning down a page ear again.
Every logic points to books disappearing. Yet for some reason they hang on, and the reason is that people don’t always act rationally. Quite simply we have become emotionally connected to these wads of paper.
People can act with the herd – as witnessed in the massive swings in recent elections; they can act in defiance of valid information – climate change sceptics; or they can act for intangible (an often unpredictable) reasons such as liking the smell, touch and look of books or vinyl records. You can just see the marketers of e-readers pulling their hair out at the sheer behaviour of people “but e-readers are just better, why can’t you see that!?”.
We know people like choice, but we also know they are paralysed by too much choice. We know that habit is a determinant that can override logic and rationality. We also know that emotion is an essential component of decision making, which is why storytelling has become such an important facet of media training.
Facts are important, but without giving people some emotional content to go with it, facts alone just won’t fly.
Sam North, Media Director
Yesterday’s Queensland election results took everyone by surprise, even the Australian Labor Party (ALP). After suffering a slaughter at the last election (which left the ALP with a mere 9 seats) the Lazarus has risen and the ALP now seem certain to form Government, potentially with a majority.
The repercussions from this result will be significant, not only for Queensland, but also for the Federal Coalition, and serves as a poignant reminder that political leaders can quickly shift from being roosters to feather dusters, while one-term governments are becoming almost commonplace. In just three months, two first term governments have been thrown out – firstly Victoria, and now Queensland.
It is clear that State elections are not determined by state issues alone. While the Prime Minister physically kept his distance, his presence still loomed amidst the polling booths of Queensland. Stumbles, backtracks and bizarre Knighthoods may have had little to do with Queensland per se, but their impact echoed and became subliminally, if not directly, associated with the Newman Government. The Federal Government continued to lose popularity as 2014 came to a close, and the actions of the Prime Minister during January did little to restore confidence. The people vented their feelings at the Queensland polling booths, and the Liberal National Party (LNP) became the sacrificial lamb.
Certainly the LNP didn’t help themselves. This is now the second Queensland Government to fall with a platform of selling state assets. The sell was made harder as voters were reminded of the savage saving measures being promoted by the LNPs’ Federal colleagues. Bikie policies didn’t help either, and nor did Newman’s gung ho persona as an individual who didn’t seem to listen. Policies aside, the electorate just didn’t really warm to Newman – and he lost the premiership and his electorate all in the one day.
Meanwhile the ALP (as parties in opposition do) went to the election promising to do more with less, a notion which sounds good on paper but which may well prove a millstone around their necks.
The Federal leadership
The Queensland election result has added a sense of credibility to the leadership speculation, rumour and innuendo that has dogged the Prime Minister throughout the January holidays. As the magnitude of the result sinks in, it is set to increase the sense of panic on the backbench and heighten destabilisation. Critically though, as one commentator put it last night, “So far the chatter has been among privates and corporals. It’s time for generals now,” as the leadership debate moves from the back bench to the front bench.
Leadership speculation is a notion that Australia became used to during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era, where it was almost seen to be par for the course. This remains one of the strongest balls in the Prime Minister’s defensive arsenal – the community’s frustration with parties who turf out their leader to save their own seats. It didn’t work for the ALP at a Federal level and it didn’t work more recently for the Liberal Party in Victoria.
Tony Abbott will stand firm (he’s already on the record in this morning telling reporters he is determined to stay on as PM). What is more significant is the signal from his peers that no Prime Minister can ever take their leadership form granted.
The Prime Minister’s “make or break” speech to the National Press Club tomorrow will be a landmark event and he will no doubt spend his Sunday drafting and redrafting, trying to pull something out of the hat that will win confidence, not only to the community but also his own backbench. It will contain policy changes – the dropping of his beloved Paid Parental Leave initiative has already been leaked.
Policy changes are only one element though. The government has been plagued by poor consultation, engagement and communication, which can be seen in almost all of its policy failures. This will be harder for the Prime Minister to change and will not magically disappear as a result of a change in leadership.
Where’s the PUP?
The Queensland election saw another high profile casualty with the Palmer United Party failing to win a seat. This too will send repercussions through elements of Canberra, signaling that Clive’s gang may not be regarded as the “keep ‘em honest” party that it was supposed to be a mere 16 months ago. Will Palmer and his team listen to the Queensland message and keep their heads down and try to restore some faith, or will they read this as writing on the wall and make the most of power while they have it?
Next up to the plate…New South Wales
Two states have fallen – Victoria and Queensland – both first term governments. This leaves Premier Mike Baird nervously leading the Government in New South Wales as it faces an election in two months time. Not only does he need to unshackle his party from ICAC investigations, he also needs to disassociate his government with the problems of his Federal comrades and not replicate the Queensland and Victorian results. He will be watching the backlash to asset sales very closely.
As we say, interesting times ahead.
By Michael Hartmann, Parker & Partners
Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner and named as Westpac’s 2014 Woman of Influence, shared her belief in the power of sharing personal stories to effect change at Executive Women’s Australia’s lunch event late last month.
On the same day, two reports from the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce were tabled in Parliament, discussing historical abuses. As Commissioner Broderick reflected on the news of the day she shared some of her approach to the work she is doing in investigating the current situation and ensuing change in our armed forces – and the power of stories in moving the issue from the head to the heart. She said she could see the penny drop when she brought women who had endured abuse face-to-face with the leaders of our armed forces.
Commissioner Broderick spoke compellingly about enlisting men in positions of power to stand alongside women in order to commit to action as equals for the greater good.
“Gender equality is not a zero sum game. It is an issue of balance with good, fabulous, decent men working with us and standing beside us.”
She called upon both men and women to commit to activism by sharing information on domestic violence at the beginning of any talk they give, wherever they were and regardless of the topic they were there to discuss. She spoke of the importance of acknowledging White Ribbon Day and of the urgent need to take on an issue impacting more women across the world than malnutrition. She also spoke of the 1.2 million Australian women currently living in an intimate relationship characterised by violence.
Commissioner Broderick’s message was deceptively simple. Small actions can have a powerful impact. Sharing a story can change hearts, minds, and consequently, our culture for real improvement.
Commissioner Broderick’s speech was an inspiring reinforcement to me of the power of storytelling, which is one of Ogilvy PR’s underlying tenets. We can all play our part for social change.
Georgina Morris, Account Director Ogilvy PR Health
Yesterday’s Victorian election result was nearly 60 years in the making. For the first time since 1955, Victorians have removed a first term government with Daniel “Dan” Andrews and his Australian Labor Party (ALP) taking the helm of the nation’s second largest state economy.
A highly disciplined and targeted campaign with an ability to motivate grassroots supporters delivered a 3% swing to the ALP who appear to have secured a likely 48 seats to the Coalition’s 39 seats. The election of Green’s candidate, Ellen Sandell, in the seat of Melbourne has made history for the party (their first seat within the Victorian Parliament) and a second seat remains within reach.
While the result was considered a foregone conclusion for many; it’s the voting in the upper house that has put a smile on many political pundits’ faces. A wide range of minor parties including the Shooters, Fishers, Country Alliance and Greens are likely to hold the balance of power after the ALP fell short of a majority. This will add an additional level of complexity for the ALP to navigate in legislating its agenda.
First priorities for the Premier-Elect
Following the heady celebrations of last night, Premier-elect Andrews has woken up to reality and the sobering thought that it appears easier to win an election than to effectively govern in the current economic climate. Victoria owns the highest unemployment rate on the mainland and faces a tapering economy with thousands of jobs to go in the manufacturing industry alone. A growing population is placing additional pressure on infrastructure such as roads, public transport, schools and hospitals at a time when the budgetary pot looks empty.
Chaos is one word to describe the likely Upper House that the Premier-Elect must successfully navigate in order to meet the community’s expectation that things will change for the better.
Within the industry space, the Premier-elect Andrews has a number of commitments to meet including:
- Establish a $100 million fund to support the creation of 100,000 full time jobs by providing payroll tax relief to companies hiring unemployed Victorians.
- Create the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel of industry leaders to provide direct advice to the Premier on the expenditure of $500 million for jobs and investment.
- Establish a $200 million Future Industries Fund to support job-creating projects in six identified high-growth areas, including pharmaceuticals, new energy, food and fibre, and international education.
- Establish Infrastructure Victoria to identify and priortise infrastructure needs; and Projects Victoria to deliver them.
- Set up Start-Up Victoria, a $60 million body to bring the most promising and innovative ideas to life through business case development, investment attraction and intellectual property advice.
- Increase the funding and resources for Victoria’s leading research institutions.
- Commission a review by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission to recommend new procurement guidelines for innovation, research and development.
The immediate focus for the Premier-elect will be:
- Ministerial responsibilities - Finalising his ministerial team with an announcement expected later this week.
- Public Service reshuffle - Changes are expected to the Victorian Public Service in the form of structural changes to agencies as well as their leadership.
- East West Link - Releasing the contract details for the East West Link with the aim to convince industry and the public at large that the road is not the number one infrastructure priority for Victoria.
- Back to Work Act – Finalise the policy ready for introduction into Parliament during the first sitting week, which is expected to be brought back before Christmas.
The Opposition must regroup
“It’s time for renewal, it is time for change.” With that, former-Premier Denis Napthine stepped down as the head of the Victorian Liberals – a position he only held for some 630 days. The result is a further example that removing a first-term Premier without explanation is likely to hurt you at the ballot box. More importantly, the result demonstrates that the electorate wants action and measured improvement, and is increasingly likely to dump governments who they see as unable to make a marked improvement – and do so quickly – no matter the leader’s popularity.
The majority of next generation of Coalition rising stars have managed to hold their seats resigning this election result to a potentially embarrassing road bump rather than longer-term damage. Former Treasurer, Michael O’Brien, and former Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, appear to be in a two-horse race for the leadership. They must learn the lesson from this result that Opposition is more than holding the Government to account; you must present real policies to the electorate in order to be seen as a government-in-waiting.
The big question is whether the Liberal and National Parties will move forward as a Coalition, or as separate parties, following the news that the Nationals will review the agreement following the party’s ‘grim’ campaign performance, which has seen them lose at least one seat.
A shudder will be felt in Canberra . . . and Sydney and Queensland
The reverberations from last night’s result will be felt all the way up the Hume Highway into Canberra as well as within the two Coalition-governing states of Queensland and New South Wales who both face the electorate next year for the first time since coming to power. The size of the buffer in these states means that a change in government is unlikely, but a comparable voter backlash would provide both governments with a fright, and a difficult second term.
While state issues dominated the campaign, there can be no doubt that voters have struggled to isolate their concerns and hostility towards the Federal Government, its Budget, and its recent political performances, which will strike fear into the concerns of an already-fretting backbench.
Parliamentary Secretary, Josh Frydenberg called the result a ‘wake up call’ and stated that there are ‘some very serious lessons’ with the party set to ‘go back to the drawing board’. At first glance, the Federal Government may just wish to survive the last sitting week of the year this week, and then take a deep breath when they consider that the next Federal Election remains two years away.
Peta Lange – Associate Director Parker & Partners
The cracks have turned to chasms as Palmers’ not-quite-so United Party succumbs to its own inner turmoil. Somewhat spectacularly, Party Leader Clive Palmer this morning suspended Jacqui Lambie’s rights to attend future party meetings (noting that she’d already missed the past three). At the same time he also demoted her as the Party’s Deputy Leader and Deputy Whip.
The tensions started to emerge publicly back in August when Senator Lazarus attempted to quell any suggestions of a rift when he told reporters “It’s just a load of rubbish …Jacqui and I are tighter than ever….We love each other deeply.” Astute political observers could not help but see such words as evidence that there was trouble in paradise.
The tension within the Party has clearly been brewing for some time, and finally came to a head last week when Senator Lambie criticised her PUP colleagues on ABC 730. That same evening Lambie’s chief of staff Rob Messenger was expelled from the party for what Clive Palmer calls his “disruptive influence” and for making “false and misleading statements” about PUP Senators, while Palmer himself dismissed Lambie as “a drama queen”. Lambie removed the PUP logo from her website, leading to speculation that she may choose to resign from the Party and follow the lead of Senator Madigan who in September resigned from the Democratic Labour Party to operate as an Independent. Such a move has today become the odds-on favorite.
If (as looks increasingly likely) Lambie defects and becomes an independent, what will be the repercussions?
Firstly, there is some legal issues to be considered. Senate practice suggests that should a vacancy arise within a Party, that position must be replaced by another member of that same Party. Senator Madigan was able to work around this point, and there will certainly be discussions and investigations underway both in Lambie and Palmer’s offices to work out logistics as far as PUP is concerned.
More significant will be the impact on the Senate vote as the Coalition attempts to have its legislative changes passed through the Upper House.
The Senate comprises 76 positions. The Coalition hold 33 of those seats, Labor hold 25, and the Greens have 10. That leaves 8 seats in the infamous “cross bench”. Assuming The Greens continue their practice of voting with Labor, the Coalition will require 6 of the 8 crossbenchers to vote with them to pass legislation, while Labor will require only 4 of the 8 to block.
The crossbench had been considered as comprising three separate voting “blocks” where Bob Day (Family First) and David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrats) vote together; John Madigan (Independent) and Nick Xenophon (Independent) vote together, and Ricky Muir (Motoring Enthusiasts) votes in a block with the three PUP Senators. The PUP block has already broken as Ricky Muir proves his capacity to think for himself and, with Lambie, pulled away from the PUP position and added their names to the disallowance motion which is likely to unwind the Coalition’s changes to Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms.
If/when Lambie splits from PUP she will be confirmed as a free radical who will be unlikely to vote in a set block but will bounce toward any position where she feels her vote will win a better deal for her state of Tasmania. Her statement that “I just want to do something that is positive for Tasmania,” will surely to ring loud in the ears of the likes of Minister Christopher Pyne who will be doing all he can do woo her vote, PUP or no PUP, in his quest to see his higher education reforms passed into law.
By Michael Hartmann, Parker & Partners
Susan Redden Makatoa, our very own Group Managing Director – Corporate at Ogilvy Public Relations, was Executive Women Australia’s latest Masterclass speaker, sharing her tips on a critically important issue for women – raising our professional profile.
Drawing from her own experiences, which includes over 20 years working in corporate communication, change and advocacy roles, Susan assured the audience that everyone has a story to tell.
Urging women to stop being selfish and by reminding them they have a responsibility to share their experiences and knowledge, Susan provided her tips on how to do this.
Her three rules of thumb to those that want to build their professional story in a credible way are:
1. Get amongst it – grow your circle through channels such as Twitter, conferences, professional groups, LinkedIn, NFP boards and alumni committees.
2. Be generous – help others out without expecting anything in return; and
3. Make yourself useful – make sure your story is authentic, delivered in a way that makes sense to others (no corporate bingo), and is meaningful and useful to your audience.
A mother of four young children, Susan is not immune to the time pressures facing many women. She handles this by what she calls ‘sweating the assets – making her content work across multiple channels. So, if she writes an article for an industry newsletter, you can be sure she’s also shared it via her social media channels to expand her credibility and reach.
Given the notes being taken during Susan’s presentation, we expect to be hearing more professional stories from women soon.
Arli Miller – Parker&Partners/Ogilvy PR
All eyes were on one of Australia’s most successful executives and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality, Pip Marlow – Managing Director of Microsoft Australia – at Executive Women Australia’s latest Masterclass.
Drawing on her own experiences, Pip delivered a lively, interactive and often candid presentation that included insights on gender equality in the workplace. From the onset, her message was clear that each of us has a role in disrupting the status quo and help female executives achieve their full potential.
She began by acknowledging progress has been made over the years, including legislated maternity leave, women in government and examples of mentoring programs, organisations embracing diversity principles and targets.
However, she continued, Australia’s pace for change is slow – a sentiment and frustration shared by many in the room.
Across the economy women are still underrepresented. Labour force participation by women in Australia has slipped to 52nd globally. Only 10.1 per cent of key executives in ASX200 companies are female. Women still earn less than men – $238.20 less per week and the gender pay gap is actually increasing.
Her opinion for the slow pace of change is threefold. Firstly, an unconscious bias exists in the workforce, in which incorrect assumptions made about women are accepted rather than questioned. Secondly, everyone needs to be accountable for diversity – not just the leadership. Lastly, the majority of workplaces still weight achieving the bottom line as its most critical target, not achieving diversity.
So what can we do?
Pip’s advice is that we all have a responsibility and a role to disrupt the status quo – change will not happen if we sit around.
Gender equality and diversity targets need to be part of daily workplace conversation – we need to speak up in conversations about business targets, results, performance and promotions. We need to hold people accountable.
We can’t leave this fight to others. Every day, in work places across the country, there are opportunities to advance the conversation, to start building.
Pip finished her presentation with a point that is often forgotten and a strong applause from the audience – women’s issues don’t just concern women. They are issues for us all.
EWA Chair and Ogilvy PR Group Managing Director, Corporate – Susan Redden Makatoa thanked Pip for her generosity to help further the careers of executive women and expressed our company’s pride in working with Microsoft.
Megan Caulfield, Senior Strategist Ogilvy Impact
Keeping people glued attentively to their seats was not a hard ask for The Hon Helen Coonan at last week’s Executive Women Australia Masterclass session. But for the former Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, women need to avoid languishing in what she terms the “sticky chair”.
In discussing ‘How to know when you’re executive ready’, Helen stressed not to wait until you feel confident and equipped for a role.
“Be recognised for the right reasons,” she said. “Don’t hang back. Put your hand up for the tougher gigs and you’ll be the obvious choice for jobs down the track.”
In reflecting back on her career it’s clear Helen definitely didn’t wait for opportunities to come to her. She turned down a partnership in a top legal firm taking a “sideways” step by start her own legal business. When taking on the Wentworth pre-selection battle in 1995 she proved she didn’t step away from a challenge. Even though she did not win it was clear her skills and presence were noticed. The year after she was elected to the Federal Senate.
So what are the key attributes she sees as essential for women moving to the C-suite?
Leading from the front, inspiring people to come on the journey and being able to authentically communicate the direction were identified as key qualities that will help women move up the ranks.
But the key message she wanted women to remember was that different times call for different leadership skills and there’s a need to continually develop and adapt once reaching the top. “That’s what will give you the x-factor … the ability to adapt to complex demands.”
However, she stressed you can never entirely be in control. Juggling the work life balance act is an “extreme sport” and for Helen she is a big believer that you can have it all but not necessarily at the same time.
“You need to look for organisations that carve a space for family commitments both for men and women,” she said. “You need to embrace who you are and the lifecycle you are at. And it’s important to remember there are always opportunities further down the track.”
Now enjoying director and advisory roles for organisations including Crown, the Snowy Hydro and JP Morgan, Helen could never be accused of getting stuck. She has had three diverse career paths and passionately believes she has a responsibility to not kick the ladder out from behind.
“I’d like to be remembered as someone who created a pathway for others,” she said.
There were few in the audience who weren’t nodding in agreement when Angela Priestly, founding editor of Women’s Agenda and author of Women Who Seize the Moment, confessed to having suffered imposter syndrome. This is the inability to recognise your own competence while feeling – despite all evidence to the contrary – like a fraud. Priestly said she spent years waiting to be confident – in business, in life and as a mother. She questioned why women are so much more likely to talk themselves down when compared to their male counterparts and asked what women can do to change this.
The panel – Chris Bath (Anchor, Channel 7), Kate Torney (Director of news, ABC), Sunanda Creagh (News editor, The Conversation) and Catherine Fox (Journalist, author and former AFR columnist) – took up the challenge and ran with it. All of these women – successful by any measure – revealed they had faced their own confidence issues and freely shared advice for overcoming them.
Surprising the audience, the panellists referenced moments in their careers where they challenged their skills and ability. When Torney’s boss called her into his office at one point, she thought he was fishing for her opinions on her male colleagues. Instead, he offered her a promotion. Bath thought a request for a meeting from her boss had something to do with her hair. Sunanda noted that nearly all of those itching to get their opinions onto The Conversation were men and urged women to push harder to get their point of view up in lights.
Acknowledging they had developed their own confidence tricks, the panellists passed on their tips.
A few takeaways:
- recognise the skills you have and step up when those skills are needed. Some humility is okay though (phew). Knowing what expertise you don’t have is also a strength.
- be persistent if you don’t get the outcome you want from a negotiation the first time
- put yourself out there – you have nothing to lose but everything to gain
- women should back each other – mentor, speak up when discrimination occurs.
After the panel discussion, questions came in fast and furious. The audience wanted to know: do you need to act like a bloke to build confidence (no), how do you come across as assertive without being a bitch (practise) and is it possible to step back for a while to focus on family and still get ahead (possible and probably preferable but Australian business still has a cultural problem with this so don’t expect it to be easy).
Ogilvy Public Relations Australia was pleased to attend this event as part of its partnership with The Walkley Foundation to promote and highlight press freedom and equality, as well as campaigns around the advancement of women working in media. Diversity and inclusion are part of our DNA and we are proud of our own workplace commitment.
Arli Miller, Director – Parker&Partners/Ogilvy Public Relations