The new Prime Minister has barely been in office long enough to change the curtains and already he’s launched a major inquiry into the aged care sector and announced a $4.6 billion school funding fix.

NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian has torpedoed an unpopular fishing ban between Newcastle and Wollongong.

Almost every day one politician or another highlights ‘gang violence’ in Melbourne.

Yep, it must be election season.

Over the next six months there will be state elections in NSW and Victoria as well as a federal poll. Of course the outcome of the Wentworth by-election could bring the later to a head a lot sooner.

For advocates, the question is ‘are you ready’?  That is, do you have pre and post-election plans as well as a ‘red book, blue book’ strategy in place?

Pre and post-election plan

Smart operators understand that with so little time to go until the above mentioned elections, lobbying Government and Opposition MPs on particular issues is a waste of time. Right now, both sides are clearing the decks of anything non-election critical. The only decisions that interest politicians are those that will get them across the line with voters.

However, a common mistake is to shut off all engagement with MPs. Part of your pre-election plan should be to remain in contact with both the Government and Opposition, not because you want something from them, but because you can give something to them. Agreeing to take a ticket to a fundraiser, taking a staffer out to lunch or simply buying them a cup of coffee can provide a relief from pre-election pressures.

In other words, be visible.

And of course be ready when the dust clears following the election.

Your post-election plan needs to answer the following: who are the new Minister’s relevant to our organisation and what key messages do we want to communicate to them? Who are the new ministerial staffers? Who are the new Shadow Ministers and staffers? Have MPs changed in any electorates where our operations take place, should we meet with them and what do we want them to know? Have we mapped out an engagement time line, making sure to give new Ministers and Shadows time to settle in?

Red book, blue book.

A cavalcade of political commentators are already making prognostications as to who will win the approaching elections. Labor elder Graham Richardson has unsurprisingly already written off the Federal Coalition’s chances federally. Somewhat surprisingly is Richo’s call that the Berejiklian Government will also fall to Labor, despite the fact that most bookies still have the NSW Premier holding onto office.

For advocates, it’s critical to remember that anything has, can and will happen in Australian politics. It’s therefore essential to take a ‘red book, blue book’ approach to the coming battles.

‘Red book, blue book’ comes from the briefing and critical information packs government departments prepare for whoever takes office – blue if the incumbent government remains and red if a new party takes over.

Instead of preparing for what the polls say will happen, advocates should have a plan that covers any and all eventualities – a returned government, a new government or even a hung parliament. What will you need to provide in each scenario to clearly convey your key messages and ultimately achieve your advocacy goals?