Reconciling global and local gas supply projections

Woodside’s Scarborough gas development

One of the biggest conundrums we face in Western Australia’s clean energy transition journey, is the tension between global and local gas supply projections.

The International Energy Agency recently affirmed its position that, while gas would have a role all the way up to 2050 in its net zero scenario, gas’ share of the energy mix would be much lower.  In this model, the world doesn’t need any new long lead-time gas developments.

But, locally, the Australian Energy Market Operator says WA is facing significant gas supply shortages over the next decade, with population growth, the ending of coal-fired power generation and the expansion of our mining and mineral processing industries driving demand growth. This includes the gas-intensive lithium hydroxide supply chain, a substance needed in abundance to build the batteries the world needs to decarbonise.

AEMO also says these shortages will be much worse without the domestic gas component of Woodside’s Scarborough project, which, challengingly, is viewed by some as one of the long lead time projects the IEA says the world doesn’t need.

Most of us agree on the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to get out of fossil fuels as quickly as possible.  But, every economy will have a different pathway to net zero. And, given our unique role in supplying the mineral needs of the global energy transition, WA’s net zero pathway won’t be as straightforward as many would like.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

More gas needed for WA’s energy transition

Gas and the energy transition

In 2006, the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre hosted former US vice president Al Gore, as he toured the globe, raising awareness of the looming climate emergency.  I was in government at the time, working on WA’s first climate change action plan, and recall the thrill of Gore signing my copy of his book, An Inconvenient Truth.

Seventeen years on, it was great to be back at the PCEC on Friday, finally having a considered conversation about the role WA can play in the energy transition and the global fight against climate change. And the room had to face some inconvenient truths, as we pondered the huge opportunities and challenges the global energy transition poses for WA.

Among them, an increase in domestic gas demand by our mining industry, as we massively expand the extraction and processing of our world-leading reserves of critical minerals – minerals needed to build the countless solar panels, wind turbines, transmission lines and batteries the planet needs to get to net zero.

Premier Roger Cook should be commended for bringing industry, community and First Nations leaders together for Friday’s discussion.  The Premier is unlikely to follow in Gore’s footsteps, in receiving a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. But his leadership may be more important than Gore’s in helping WA tackle the huge opportunities and challenges the energy transition presents.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

It’s the cost of living, stupid

It’s the cost of living, stupid

It’s the cost of living, stupid. This is what Bill Clinton’s former campaign strategist, James Carville, would be telling Australia’s political leaders if he was on their payroll today.

In 1991, Carville famously hung a sign in Clinton’s presidential campaign office, reminding campaign workers to focus on “the economy, stupid”. The phrase became the strategic centrepiece of Clinton’s victory over George H.W. Bush and is political folklore on the centre-left.

In truth, economic considerations are material at most elections. But, the economic challenges change from cycle to cycle. And, after almost two years of rising interest rates and rents, as well as spiralling grocery prices, the central economic issue for many voters is cost of living.

The political challenges of a cost-of-living crisis are pervasive. Financially stressed voters are more reliant on public services like health, education and housing. They pay closer attention to both budget surpluses and discretionary government spending, wondering if that money could be better spent helping them.  And, when people are feeling worried about worried about putting food on the table, they have less mental energy to think about other important issues, such as climate change.

In WA, we’re fortunate that almost everyone who wants a job, has one. But, if your wages aren’t keeping up with prices, you’re going backwards. Another reason why, as Carville might say, it’s the cost of living, stupid.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Stakeholder and shareholder interests are inseparable

Stakeholder and shareholder interests

The idea that the interests of a company’s stakeholders are unrelated to those of its shareholders is as outdated as it is misguided.

Take BHP and Rio Tinto, who recognise the Traditional Owners of the land on which they operate among their most important stakeholders.  

As we saw across WA at the Voice referendum, the greater the share of Aboriginal voters at a polling booth, the higher the Yes vote, including in Roebourne, down the road from Australia’s richest port, where almost 70 per cent of people voted Yes. How was it not in the interests of shareholders for these companies to back the aspirations of their TOs, whose support the companies rely on daily to create shareholder returns?

Then there is Qantas, which has returned to delivering big returns for shareholders, despite eroding its reputation with many stakeholders, including customers and employees, not to mention the rest of us, who suffer under the higher interest rates inflated airfares help drive.

The fact that Qantas can deliver such returns for shareholders, in spite of its reputational issues, owes much to its privileged position in Australia’s aviation market. But that position is largely at the discretion of the federal government as well as its most important stakeholders, voters, and shouldn’t be taken for granted – a truth probably not lost on many Qantas shareholders, which may have been one of the reasons the 2023 AGM was so testy.

Stakeholder and shareholder interests are inseparable.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Netball deserves corporate support on numbers alone

Netball sponsorship

While I enjoyed watching the Matildas play in Perth as much as the next fan, it made me reflect on the challenges Australia’s professional netballers face within Australia’s corporate-sports landscape.

Meaningful corporate sponsorship and media interest in women’s soccer has only recently been achieved in Australia, but soccer’s contrast with netball appears stark.

While female participation in soccer is on the rise, netball remains the highest participation female team sport in Australia, most likely counting many of Australia’s best female athletes in its ranks.

But, in the recent sports sponsorship controversy involving both the Australian Diamonds and West Coast Fever, the position of some commentators seemed to be that netball players should be grateful they get support at all. And, in the players’ current pay dispute with Netball Australia, administrators say they can’t afford to give players a share of the revenue they help generate.

It’s great that corporate Australia is getting behind women’s participation in traditionally male sports, but, given men’s interest in these codes, I wonder if this is the easier starting point. Getting similarly enthusiastic about the sport most Australian women choose to play would be a sign business was genuine about promoting gender equality through sports sponsorship.

And, having had sore knees for about six months after participating in Netball WA’s corporate challenge earlier this year, I reckon professional netballers deserve every bit of money and respect that would come their way.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Telethon a beacon of philanthropy


When I was a kid, staying up late and watching Telethon was an annual tradition, as was donating a few dollars and promising to double it if someone read it out on TV.

I never managed to get my donation read out, but I’ve decided we’re all square after re-elected Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas gave this column a shout-out at the Telethon Ball on Saturday night.

In all seriousness, I still think Telethon is special – a beacon in a country not known for its philanthropy. Despite having one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world, Australia’s philanthropic giving amounts to only 0.81 per cent of GDP, according to Philanthropy Australia, compared to 2.1 per cent in the United States. Even the Kiwis do better, giving 1.84 per cent of GDP.

One of the unique features of giving at Telethon, is that contributions range from a few dollars of saved pocket money from kids in the suburbs and regions, through to millions of dollars from government, high-net-worth individuals and companies, with many of these corporate contributions coming on top of their business-as-usual community investment programs, too.

Telethon is a Team WA moment that recognises that, despite our relative wealth, excellent public services and social safety net, there is still plenty of need in the community.  And action we can take, collectively and as individuals, to address it.

It’s a tradition that all of us, as West Australians, can be proud of.

This article also appeared in the West Australian newspaper. Photo source: LinkedIn

Finding hope amidst the gloom of the Voice defeat

Voice referendum

I’ve been trying to reconcile an Australia where tens of thousands of people at the AFL finals cheered wildly for the Indigenous elders delivering Welcomes to Country, and an Australia that has voted No to the constitutionally enshrined Voice that most elders wanted.

As further evidenced by almost 70 per cent initial support for the Voice, most Australians value our Indigenous heritage and want better outcomes for First Nations people. But, as a nation, we’re very reluctant to change our Constitution.

This is not to say there isn’t racism in Australia. There is. Rather, with Labor having a record of one success from 27 attempts to change the Constitution, there may be less fraught ways of addressing it.

I supported the Voice because it is what most First Nations leaders said would make a difference, and because so much trust went into the Uluru process started by the Turnbull government.

But, history shows that most Australians view our Constitution as serving our country well, which makes it easy to undermine proposed changes, and impossible to succeed, without bipartisan support.

The passion and hard work that so many people put into the Voice now needs to find other pathways to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

The outpouring of support at the AFL finals suggests there may be more allies available in this effort than it might feel like, today.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Imagine if the No vote was directed at you

Voice no vote

I reflect on how I would have felt, waking up the day after the marriage equality plebiscite to an Australia that had voted no. 

As a gay man, I would have been devastated. I would have felt insecure in my own country and the way I looked at my fellow Australians would have changed.

I remain optimistic that Australians will make a positive choice at Saturday’s referendum. But the pathway to victory for the Voice is clearly narrow.

Sadly, nothing will change for the better the day after a No vote. The tragic health, social and economic experiences of many First Nations Australians will continue.  Peter Dutton proposes another referendum to put a symbolic recognition of Indigenous Australians into the constitution. But, if the argument against the Voice is that it won’t make a difference, I am not sure how Mr Dutton’s gesture would be an improvement.

I’m voting Yes because when Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten asked First Nations people what would make a difference, 243 of the 250 First Nations leaders representing communities across Australia at the Uluru Convention, asked for greater responsibility through a permanent Voice in discussions about their future.

Because a No vote would be a continuation of the we-know-best approach that has got us to where we are today.

And because I know how I’d feel if the No vote was directed at me.

This article also appeared in The West Australian Newspaper.

The difficult topic of nuclear energy and climate change

Climate change and nuclear energy

There are few more difficult topics for those of us on the left, than the role of nuclear energy in fighting climate change.

Growing up during the Cold War, many lefties cut their teeth campaigning against nuclear weapons. But, a second existential threat of climate change is prompting a fresh discussion on nuclear energy

The International Energy Agency says nuclear has 413 gigawatts of capacity operating in 32 countries, avoiding 1.5 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to 180 billion cubic metres of gas demand.

Under its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario, the IEA sees the nuclear industry doubling capacity by 2050, if it can deal with current cost challenges. And, at eight per cent of total energy production, playing a supporting role, alongside gas, in a world dominated by renewables.

Climate campaigners accurately cite the IEA as saying the world doesn’t need any new long-lead time upstream gas projects. But, the IEA also says this becomes difficult without nuclear.

In Australia, the push for nuclear energy isn’t helped by some of its strongest advocates being long term opponents of other forms of climate action. 

Irrespective, in wind, solar and gas rich WA, we shouldn’t need nuclear to achieve our energy security and climate change goals. But, there will be a growing global market for our uranium. Which will be difficult for the left to reconcile, in itself.


This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Could shy Yes supporters swing Voice vote?

Voice referendum

The existence of shy Trump voters was one reason given for pollsters failing to pick the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election.

That there were voters who wouldn’t even admit to pollsters that they supported Trump, for fear of a backlash.

I’ve started wondering about the possible existence of shy Yes voters in the Voice referendum.  And whether, in its growing excitement, the No campaign might miss them.

These may be the musings of a still hopeful Yes supporter, but I have never witnessed a period in Australian politics where cultural conservatives have felt so free to express their true views.

There are no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation. Great events don’t have welcomes to country. And, if they do, you should boo.

Having failed thus far in their campaign to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone because of their race or ethnicity, some on the right are taking the opportunity to tell us what they really think in the lead-up to the referendum.

And it’s making a lot of people feel uncomfortable, perhaps intimidated. But, votes aren’t counted in decibels. And a silent majority can sometimes surprise.

What if the No campaign is becoming what the right criticises the left for? Hubristic and over-confident in both its righteousness and appeal to the masses.

If shy Yes supporters are being created as a result, I hope there are lots of them and that they find their voice on referendum day.

Amnesty highlights global ESG risks from critical minerals rush

Critical minerals ESG risks

Last week, Amnesty International provided a timely reminder of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks for the mining industry, as it scrambles to meet the mineral demands of the energy transition.

In its report, Powering Change or Business as Usual, Amnesty detailed a pattern of forced evictions, crop-burning and other human rights abuses associated with the mining of cobalt by multi-national miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Congo is home to half the world’s cobalt reserves, and currently accounts for 70 per cent of global production. And, with the International Energy Agency projecting cobalt demand from re-chargeable battery manufacturing to increase 1,000 per cent by 2030, the Congo is an important player.

I was relieved to read that none of the companies named by Amnesty were Australian. But, unfortunately, incidents like those reported damage the reputation of the industry, globally.

With Western Australia also abundant in critical minerals, we have the opportunity for a massive expansion in mining over the next decade. But, to maintain social licence and attract the workforce it needs in an increasingly tight labour market, the industry cannot rely on having the positive purpose of supplying the energy transition, alone.

The industry must be seen to be operating to high sustainability and ESG standards in pursuit of this purpose, which includes decarbonising its own activities and delivering positively for local communities.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Giving voice to misinformation and disinformation

Voice misinformation disinformation

Misinformation and disinformation are a toxic feature of modern politics.

And the Voice referendum is another unfortunate example of this.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese must take some responsibility for the misinformation out there.

While committing to the Voice in his election night victory speech sent tingles down my spine, firing the campaign starting gun before the referendum question or Voice design principles had been agreed created a vacuum a thousand theories sought to fill.

But, No campaigners have to own much of the disinformation. Like the one about the Voice being unworkable, because hundreds of language groups won’t be able to agree on anything.

Close the embassies! Disband the United Nations! What’s the point? People of different languages will never agree.

Except, of course, when nearly all the 250 Aboriginal leaders representing each First Nations language group backed the Voice by signing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017.

The Liberal and National parties don’t like talking about this. Having set up the Uluru process in government and given First Nations people a voice in the discussion, they now ignore the almost unanimous call for a permanent Voice the Uluru process produced.

As we’ve seen with Brexit and Trump, misinformation and disinformation divide countries and deliver outcomes that hurt, more than help, ordinary people.

Thank heavens John Farnham has returned to try and bring us together.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Book your organisation’s Voice forum now

Voice referendum webinar

On 14 October, all Australians will have the opportunity to have their say at the Voice referendum.

In partnership with Civility, ReGen Strategic offers a one-hour engagement education webinar to assist organisations to provide their employees with the information they need to make an informed choice at this important vote.

In our interactive session, we will:

  • Take you through the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Voice proposal
  • Explain where they came from
  • Explain how the Constitution works and how it differs from legislation
  • Explain the proposed change to the Constitution
  • Answer the most common questions about the Voice
  • Provide a safe space for your employees to get their questions answered

Our panelists include:

  • Emma Garlett – First Nations Leader and Legal Academic
  • Daniel Smith – Political Expert and ReGen Strategic Executive Chair
  • Rebecca Munro – Former TV Journalist and Glow Creative Managing Director

Plus, you have the option of having your own leaders on the panel, to talk about what the Voice means to them and your organisation.

For more information or to schedule your session now, please contact ReGen Strategic

Understanding intergenerational differences the smart thing to do

Intergenerational differences

I sometimes get asked why I focus on intergenerational differences in the issues I cover.

Let me explain.

The accepted wisdom in politics used to be that voters became more conservative as they aged, because that was what happened with baby boomers, who dominated the electorate for a long time.

But, Australian Electoral Commission survey data show the opposite to be happening among millennials, with Green support among voters born between 1981 and 1996 jumping from 14 to almost 30 per cent over the decade to 2022. Over the same period, coalition support among millennials fell from 38 to 23 per cent.

Perceptions of intergenerational inequality have driven this shift, ranging from climate change to job security, and from nature loss to housing affordability.  But, higher social standards on gender, sexuality, religion and race, also factor, with recent polling showing support for the Voice at 68 per cent for those aged 18-34, compared to 34 per cent for over 50s.

With millennials and Gen Zs comprising 40 per cent of adult Australia and rising fast, future-facing politicians, consumer brands, employers and sporting codes are working hard to understand what this means for them.

Of course, there are individual differences within generations.  But, we must recognise the differences in values and norms that occur across generations, as a result of the vastly different worlds into which we were born.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Diversity and inclusion critical to cricket’s survival

Cricket diversity inclusion

Cricket is at a crossroads. 50-over cricket is virtually dead, and Test cricket is on life support, financially unviable anywhere other than India, England and Australia.

Despite our population growth, cricket attendances in Australia have either plateaued or are in decline. And, if we’re honest, it’s been a while since our national men’s cricket team has been supported like the Matildas are now.

I’m happy to discuss the relative merits of urinals and cubicles. But, in the interests of cricket, let’s do it without undermining broader efforts on diversity and inclusion, in the language we use or the tone of the debate.

In the year that Australia last won a men’s Ashes series in England, baby boomers and their elders comprised about two thirds of adult Australia. These days, it’s about a third, with millennials and Gen-Z making up 40 per cent and rising fast. Over the same period, the number of non-English speaking households increased by 50 per cent.

Rather than being dismissed as ‘woke’, diversity and inclusion should be embraced as good business by any sporting code looking for participants, performance and spectators, not to mention government and corporate dollars, which will increasingly go to sporting codes with broad appeal and social impact.

Cricket will wither on the vine, unless it can capture the hearts and minds of a younger and more diverse community. Framing public debates in a way that makes us look old fashioned or exclusive, will push parents and their kids to other sports and only hasten cricket’s demise.

If we want cricket, and its rich history, to remain a part of the Australian identity, we need to see diversity and inclusion as an opportunity, rather than a threat.

Daniel Smith is a WACA board candidate.

The question you to need to ask before developing a media strategy

Media objectives

There’s no shortage of reasons to engage with the media, but to do so effectively, organisations first need to ask themselves a simple question: what would you like to achieve with your media coverage? In other words, what is your ‘Why’?

Working with clients to define their Why is the first step in developing a comprehensive media strategy and one of the areas we cover in our bespoke media training sessions.

The answers will dictate how the rest of the media relations strategy development process plays out.

Media coverage just for the sake of media coverage isn’t enough – earning media attention can involve a great deal of effort, so establishing clear objectives before commencing any media activity sets you up for the best use of your resources.

So, what are some of the primary objectives organisations might have for their media relations strategy?

Raising your company’s profile. This is the number one reason our clients have for wanting to engage with media. For organisations in the sustainability and ESG space, particularly those seeking to develop innovative projects, the media can be a powerful and influential tool to raise the company or project’s profile and build greater influence. Where the proponents are trying to sell their vision of the future in a space that might not be widely understood, it’s important to have concrete, easily understood statistics that demonstrate the potential benefits and key messages that can explain the project to a wide range of stakeholders without requiring any technical expertise.

Raising awareness. Particularly in the case of advocacy campaigns, the objective with media coverage might be to raise awareness of an issue to inform and educate the public. In this situation, it’s critical to have visuals that can reinforce the story you’re telling and demonstrate impact on a different level. An environmental group trying to draw attention to the damaging effect of marine debris on our oceans will more effectively cut through with images of dolphins and turtles struggling to free themselves from a discarded fishing net to accompany any statistics alone.

Building public support. For many organisations, particularly in the union or non-profit space, they need public support to further their cause. To do so, it’s important to find the right case study. Showing the impact of a policy on an individual or family can make it easier for people to contextualise the problem and be more memorable than statistics alone.

The above are all examples of primary objectives, but in a media strategy, you need to go deeper to unearth your company’s Why. For example, raising your company’s profile is great, but what are you going to do with this new level of visibility?

For most companies, the answer will be that they want to influence or change behaviour. This could include the behaviour or actions of the broader public, customers, members, shareholders or, ultimately, government or other decision makers.

For example, if you are a not-for-profit health organisation, once you’ve raised awareness of a serious health threat, you then want people to change their behaviour to avoid this health issue happening to them. The ultimate objective may be to save lives.

In the case of green industry, companies may need to educate and inform shareholders and the wider public on the merits of their new technology and the positive environmental impact it will have. Once the public and shareholders are in support, the company may be able to use this support to influence government policy to cut red tape.

These are just some examples of possible media objectives and how these might be achieved differently.

For help with setting objectives, developing a media relations strategy or receiving media training, please contact us.

Premier’s energy transition summit must address the big challenges

Roger Cook

Premier Roger Cook’s clean energy transition summit is a great initiative. But, it will be a missed opportunity if it is just another collection of suits, agreeing furiously with ourselves about how exciting it all is.

Of course, the huge investment in critical minerals, rare earths, renewables and green hydrogen that is occurring at present is exciting.  As is the potential manufacturing of wind turbines and batteries in WA.  Then there is the promised land of green steel.

But where the summit could make a real difference, is in explaining and tackling the many challenges we face. For example, many aren’t aware that a massive expansion in mining is needed to meet the mineral needs of the energy transition. Or that we need more gas in the near term, to drive mining growth and retire coal and diesel-fired power.

Then there’s the land access and logistical challenges of building the more than 200 GW of renewables planned across WA by 2040, including getting more than 25,000 massive wind turbines to site.

But the biggest challenge could be the growing skills shortage projected globally, and the increasing reluctance of young people to pursue the mining careers critical to the transition.

Which is why it is so important that the summit reaches beyond St George’s Terrace, ensuring the community is just as excited as industry, at the opportunities ahead.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Cost-of-living pressure on Dutton’s nuclear choice

Nuclear energy may cost more

Peter Dutton’s push to build nuclear reactors in transitioning coal communities like Collie will give Australians a clear choice at the next election.

It means the energy wars are far from over, and we’ll be asked to choose between Labor’s vision for renewables and storage, and a Liberal policy of renewables and nuclear.

I remain of the view that our environment would be better off if we weren’t producing nuclear waste, and that nuclear reactors come with major safety risks in geologically unstable regions.  However, I also respect the International Energy Agency’s view that nuclear has a role in the global fight against climate change.

On its appropriateness for wind, solar and critical-minerals rich Australia, the CSIRO concluded in May that nuclear does not currently present an economically competitive solution. Taking storage and transmission costs into consideration, wind and solar was projected to come in at a maximum of $83 per MWh in 2030, compared to $130 to $311 per MWh for the small modular reactors (SMRs) promoted by Mr Dutton.

The CSIRO also noted that only two SMRs were currently in operation globally, in China and in Russia respectively. Both had experienced cost blowouts and delays.

If the next federal election is fought on cost-of-living issues, Mr Dutton’s nuclear choice may put him on the wrong side of the ledger.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

How to avoid common mistakes in media interviews

Common mistakes

Interviews with the media, especially in front of a camera, can be daunting, particularly for the uninitiated. If it’s about a controversial topic, an interview can feel more like a boxing match than a conversation, and interviewees can leave feeling stunned and unable to remember anything they’ve said. In more recent times, the risk of greenwashing (exaggerating your company’s sustainability and ESG performance) has increased significantly.

There are some common ways people get themselves into trouble during an interview, and here’s some advice on how to avoid them:

Understand the interview. It’s not unusual for busy people to agree to an interview only to find out later that it’s going to be completely different to what they thought. For example, if you expect a casual conversation and find yourself in a confrontational setting, it can throw you off your game. Or if you’d assumed an interview would be pre-recorded and it’s live on camera, you may not give your best performance. So, ask questions about the context and logistics of an interview before you agree to it.

Be prepared. Unless you are an extremely seasoned media performer, interviews in which you ‘wing it’ without having a clear set of key messages you want to get across rarely go well. Make sure you’re familiar with the topic, gather relevant data and information and anticipate potential questions. Refining your messages and rehearsing beforehand will give you a much better chance of performing well and will help you avoid another mistake: waffling to fill in space.

Don’t make things up. There is no bigger sin than fudging figures or fabricating information. When people are under pressure to know the answer to a question, it’s tempting just to make it up. Don’t. It will come back to haunt you later. Either the journalist will know on the spot that you’re being ‘creative’ and push you harder, potentially exposing your lack of knowledge, or they’ll report what you’ve said as fact and find out later that it isn’t, which will discredit you as a talent.

A much safer option if you don’t know the answer is to just to say so. You can’t be expected to know every bit of information and every figure off the top of your head, so simply tell the journalist that you are unsure of the correct answer, but you are happy to check and get back to them with accurate information after the interview.

Tip: use the opportunity to bridge to one of your key messages. This is a skill our clients get to practice in ReGen Strategic’s media training – transitioning smoothly from something you don’t know to something you do.

Don’t exaggerate your sustainability and ESG credentials. Companies around the globe are currently finding out what reputational damage can be caused when they exaggerate their sustainability and ESG credentials, i.e., greenwashing. While you may be proud of what your company is planning to do for the environment or the difference you are making in the community, don’t be tempted to overstate the impact you’re making or, worse, say that you’re doing something that you’re not. Greenwashing can lead to your brand being cancelled, legal action being taken against your company or a significant financial penalty from a regulator.

Listen to the questions. Active listening is crucial during media interviews to ensure you understand, and are answering, the right question. Cutting the journalist off mid-question, jumping to conclusions or providing unrelated answers can create confusion and lead to misinterpretation of what you’re trying to say. Let the journalist ask the question in full, then take a moment to gather your thoughts before responding.

Keep your cool. No matter how hard a journalist pushes you, it’s important to always stay calm and reasonable.  Even though it may feel like you’re under attack, it’s seldom personal. Just remind yourself it’s a journalist’s job to play devil’s advocate. Losing your temper will put them offside and potentially make them push you harder. If that happens, you’ve lost your chance to get your message across.

We cover all these common mistakes and how to avoid them in ReGen’s bespoke media trainings. For more information, please contact us.

Stunts won’t improve corporate sustainability performance

Corporate sustainability performance

Instead of turning the community off with extreme protests, climate activists should focus on harnessing the strong community preferences for sustainable corporate behaviour that already exist.

In one of several recent data points giving evidence to this, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA’s (CCIWA) most recent Consumer Sentiment Survey found several environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics to be highly influential in shaping brand preferences.

Not surprisingly, the most influential group of topics were in the environmental space, with 73 per cent of respondents saying the use of recyclable products and packaging was important or very important, followed by using sustainably sourced materials (70 per cent) and setting targets and restrictions to reduce climate change (63 per cent).

Interestingly, 75 per cent of those interviewed said it was important or very important that companies were transparent, which means the growing focus of ASIC and the ACCC on greenwashing is spot on.

The battle to convince the community of the importance of sustainable corporate behaviour is largely won.  With extreme weather events, as well as their economic, social and environmental impacts, set to increase year on year, community sentiment will only harden.

What both people and our planet need now, is mature leadership that shows us the constructive ways we can drive ongoing improvements in corporate behavior. Rather than stunts that create victims and do more harm than good.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Cyber Security in ESG


As expectations for transparent environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting continue to increase across all sectors, and stakeholders expect to see better management of carbon emissions, diversity, human rights, corruption and bribery, we’re now seeing cyber security quickly rising to the top of the material topic list. In fact, in a recent survey, cyber security was ranked by 67% of respondents as their top concern and is becoming one of the most financially material ESG risks that an organisation may face.

Cyber-attacks and data breaches, such as those recently experienced by Optus and Medibank, are increasing in frequency and severity. As the volume of attacks and breaches increase, the financial impact has also heightened. A cyber-crime is reported to the Australian Cyber Security Centre every seven minutes, with an average loss for medium businesses of $88,407 per attack.

But cyber-crimes inflict more than financial loss – they cause reputational damage, loss of data and significant business disruption. In fact, for many small organisations, a cyber security incident could be terminal once trust of its customers is lost.

ReGen has identified cyber security as such a critical issue that it has entered into a strategic partnership with Centium, which has a strong record of helping organisations identify and manage their cyber security risks. We believe that this partnership represents great opportunities for our clients through access to Centium’s experience and expertise.

Cyber security should not be mistaken as a new term for IT or digital, it is about identifying and managing the risks to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of your data, information and systems. These are business risks that require proactive governance from the business and should form an integral part of ESG strategy.

Cyber security risks are considered throughout ReGen’s sustainability and ESG services, and are included as an integral part of our ESG maturity assessments, materiality assessments, strategies and reporting.

Many organisations are now disclosing cybersecurity as a material risk in their sustainability reports and annual reports with detailed narrative on their mitigation techniques. This also means adjusting their financial investment forecasts and budget accordingly.

ReGen’s ESG maturity assessment plays a key role in enabling organisations to align operations with international frameworks and standards, enhance stakeholder trust and confidence, mitigate risks (including cyber security), and unlock opportunities for long-term value creation.

Organisations demonstrating more advanced ESG maturity in the realm of cyber security point to formalised governance and defined roles such as data owner, data steward and data custodian (often the IT department). The data owner is aware of both the risks and threats that exist and the controls that are in place to reduce these to an acceptable level (risk appetite).

In the near future we expect insurance premiums to be determined by the levels of maturity a business has in place to manage its cyber security risks and for those with little in place higher premiums will be sure to follow. Models such as the Factor Analysis in Information Risk (FAIR) deliver both qualitative and quantitative analysis of risks and provide an excellent basis for engaging business executives in the meaningful evaluation of the risks and effectiveness of controls.

We believe that Cyber Security is an important component of ESG, and we are running a special three-part series to explore this critical topic. In upcoming parts of this series we will explore the key first steps in being more secure, applicable benchmarks and standards, where to start and where are the free resources. We will close the series with an examination of the supply chain and being a trusted supplier to win and maintain business.

 *Expert guidance from Scott Thomson, Centium and Colin Davies, ReGen Strategic 

Separating the Voice and Aboriginal cultural heritage debates

Aboriginal cultural heritage act and the Voice

A few weeks ago, my nephew asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks. Uncle Daniel, if you want to put in a new pool, will you have to get permission from the Voice?

My nephew is a terrific young man, and I am glad he felt comfortable asking. It enabled us to have a good chat about fact and fiction in two conflated debates.

Factsheets for the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act on the WA Government website reveal that swimming pool installations, like many other activities, are exempt. And, of course, these laws have nothing to do with the proposed Indigenous Voice to federal parliament.

But, I understand the confusion.  The two issues can be thematically linked, they are happening at the same time, and both could have been explained better. Deceptive online campaigning linking the two issues isn’t helping either.

I don’t envy those looking for fixes to the new heritage Act. We’ve gone from the 1972 laws, where all property owners had obligations on Aboriginal heritage, but largely didn’t know about them or chose not to comply, to a regime where most people are now exempt, but believe they are at risk.

It will take a big effort, on both policy and communication, to unscramble that egg. I’ll check in with my nephew in a few months to see how it’s going.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Why your company might need a media relations specialist

Media specialists

The person that first said ‘all publicity is good publicity’ clearly hadn’t been through a recent PR crisis where they were absolutely panned by the media and suffered irreparable reputational damage.

While many organisations believe that getting media attention might be a good idea, if it’s not handled well, it has the potential to go horribly wrong. The rise of social media has heightened the risks, with many companies having their hashtags hijacked to complain about the company instead of praise it.

More recently, greenwashing has become an increased risk for businesses with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission releasing draft guidance explaining obligations businesses must comply with when making environmental and sustainability claims. The guidance provides new standards for best practice in providing clear, accurate and trustworthy information to consumers about environmental performance.

The draft guidance was released in response to an internet sweep that found 57 per cent of businesses were making potentially misleading environmental claims. Greenwashing is a genuine risk to companies across all sectors. Even companies who have not actually committed greenwashing could still be publicly accused of the practice, which can still cause significant reputational damage, even if they are later exonerated.

The first question any organisation considering pursuing media needs to ask themselves is: Why? It’s not enough to simply want media, you need to know why your company wants it. It could be a variety of reasons – to highlight your company’s good work, change public perceptions about an issue, influence government policy or attract more sponsors or clients. But if the objective isn’t clear to begin with, any media engagement that follows is likely to be haphazard at best, and ultimately not achieve the results you want.

After the Why question has been clearly answered, the next question is: How? A lot of companies tend to foist the task of media relations onto their poor unsuspecting communications or marketing person, who has no experience with the media. If that’s the case, it can’t be a surprise to anyone that your company is then at best completely ignored by media and at worst suffers some PR disaster.

At ReGen Strategic, we ensure our clients take a strategic approach to media relations, outlined in a media strategy which clearly defines deliverables including objectives, target audience, key messages and media story planner. Where necessary, we also provide media training to company spokespeople to make sure they are ready to front the press.

Once the approach has been agreed, we work with our clients on how to implement their strategy, using our intimate knowledge of the media to give stories the best chance of getting prominent coverage. As a specialist in this area, it’s our job to be on top of everything that’s happening in the media – which journalists are working where, which radio talkback producers are behind the scenes in which programs, which journos are interested in which topics, which stations are rating what, and what their audiences want to hear.

For most companies, finding someone internally who has a deep knowledge and understanding of the media, how it works, and how to work with it effectively, is a tall order. As an Executive Producer for a major media outlet in my previous career, it often surprised me just how little many PR people actually knew about the way a newsroom operated. And it severely affected their ability to get a story up.

Unfortunately, many organisations believe that getting media attention is as simple as writing a media release and sending it to every news station they can think of. Without consideration of audiences, timing, newsworthiness and the 24-hour news cycle, they may as well be throwing a dart at a very small dartboard with their eyes closed. Writing a media release is just the first step. Putting a strategy in place for releasing it is where the real work is done, and without it, companies could quickly discover that there certainly is such a thing as bad publicity.

To work with us on a strategic approach to media relations, contact us directly.

ACCC greenwashing guidance worth a read


If you haven’t wrapped your head around the concept of greenwashing, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission published a useful resource last week. In its draft guidance to business on environmental and sustainability claims, the ACCC outlines eight principles to help businesses comply with their obligations under Australian Consumer Law.

These principles go beyond being simply truthful, to ensuring you do not omit important information, have evidence to back up your claims and, if you say you’re transitioning to a more sustainable future, you present credible plans for how you are going to do so.

The reason this is important to the ACCC is because consumers are increasingly considering environmental and sustainability claims in purchase decisions.  Businesses have obligations under Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 not to make false or misleading representations or engage in misleading or deceptive conduct.

The ACCC’s draft guidance is useful for both companies and consumers.  For companies, it provides numerous examples of what is good practice.  For consumers, it provides a framework for identifying whether a company is trying to take advantage of your good intentions.

With the ACCC able to impose penalties of up to $50 million, as well as the reputational damage that would flow from a penalty, it’s time everyone in business wrapped their head around greenwashing. The ACCC’s draft guidance provides a good place to start.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Progress needed on critical minerals emissions

Critical minerals

There was mixed news for the critical minerals industry, and its ability to help us avoid the worst impacts of climate change, in International Energy Association data released last week.

On the positive side, with growth in critical minerals investment of 50 per cent over the last two years, IEA analysis suggests that currently planned projects could be sufficient to support national climate pledges announced by governments to date. 

However, the IEA also believes that additional critical minerals projects will be needed by 2030 if we’re to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. With the manufacturing capacity for both solar PV and electric vehicle batteries believed to be on track to meet net zero by 2050, adequate supply of the critical minerals these require remains the major potential bottleneck, despite the recent investment growth.

Which is why the IEA’s assessment of the critical minerals industry’s environmental performance was so concerning. While the performance of the world’s top 20 critical minerals producers on community investment, worker safety and gender balance was seen as improving, no progress was being made on the greenhouse gas intensity of production.

Not only does this undermine the contribution critical minerals can make to fighting climate change, it has the potential to make it more difficult for the industry to build social license, achieve timely regulatory approvals and attract the younger workers it will need to grow.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Be prepared: what to do before a media interview

preparing for interview

With sustainability coming into greater focus in the public consciousness, media interest in environmental, social and governance issues is set to increase as well.

All around the world, journalists will be starting to establish networks of sustainability and ESG experts they can approach for comment whenever there’s a major development in this area, such as the recent publication of ISSB standards or increasing regulatory focus on greenwash.

Being regularly quoted as a subject-matter expert in the media offers a range of benefits, but how you perform in your first interview will determine whether your number is deleted from a journalist’s phone or saved as a favourite.

To give yourself the best chance of achieving the latter (whether it’s your first time fronting the media or you’re a regular source for journalists), it’s always important to be prepared before an interview.

If you’re approached by a journalist, there are a few questions you need to ask before agreeing to go on the record. If your organisation has a media protocol in place, your media contact should already have a list of questions to ask.

If not, the first step is to ask what medium it will be: radio, TV, print or online. Depending on the answer, other questions could include: Will be live or pre-recorded? Will it be over the phone or in person? What’s the angle of the story? Will you be the only talent, or will there be others? What will some of the likely questions be?

It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into, especially if you’re not yet a seasoned media performer.

The journalist might not be willing or able to answer all of these questions (particularly around likely questions they might ask), but every bit of information you can get helps, so it’s worth asking.

Once you’ve established the details of the interview and agreed to them, here are a few more tips to help you prepare – no matter what your sort of expert you are:

Brainstorm some possible questions. Journalists often won’t give you the questions beforehand, so think about what you would ask if you were in their shoes, and what your response to them will be. In ReGen Strategic’s media training sessions, we handle this part for you, with our team of former journalists preparing a list of questions they would ask as the media.

Practice. Radio and TV interviews rely on audio and vision, so it’s important to practice your answers out loud (particularly if the interview is live). For TV, you might even want to practice in front of a mirror to help confidence and composure and to be more aware of your body language. Or you could go one further and sign up for a media training session with ReGen Strategic – our program includes simulated interviews for TV and radio that we record and provide real-time feedback.

Find somewhere quiet and secure. The infamous example in the UK of a child running amok in the background during a live TV interview might have been entertaining, but it could also be pretty embarrassing. Find a quiet place for TV, radio and online interviews, turn off any devices you aren’t using for the interview and make sure the doors are locked, if possible. With video interviews using Teams or Zoom more common since COVID, it’s also worth spending some time making sure there isn’t anything personal or embarrassing in your background before the interview starts.

Control what you can. When dealing with media, there will always be some unknown factors, so control what you can to put yourself more at ease. Often, the journalist will be able to work with you on where and when the interview will take place. If you get a choice, choose a time when you are not under pressure and place where you are comfortable. If you’ve never done a live interview before, you may be able to request to pre-record it.

If you’re holding a media conference, decide whether you are going to make a statement first and then open it up for questions, or just start taking questions straight away. If there are going to be multiple speakers, decide who will speak first and what order you will be in. Explain this to the journalists so that the conference runs as smoothly as possible.

Develop key messages. This point is so important that it was the focus of an entire Media Masterclass session a few weeks ago, but it’s worth repeating here. You need to go into an interview with 3-5 key messages that you want to get across. If it’s a radio interview over the phone, write them down and have them in front of you, but don’t read them word for word, just have them there as a guide.

As with embarking on your sustainability and ESG journey, performing media interviews can be daunting.  However, as with making a positive impact, commitment and preparation are key.

For more information about ReGen Strategic’s comprehensive media training, please contact us directly.

Australia must accelerate on electric vehicles

Electric vehicle

I’ve finally got myself an electric vehicle. I should have got one sooner, but Scott Morrison did tell me it would ruin my weekend.

Seriously, we Australians are well behind the leading countries on EV take-up. Last year, 88 per cent of new vehicles sold in Norway were EVs, with 31 per cent of sales in Germany, 30 per cent in China and 23 per cent in the United Kingdom also electric.

In Australia, EV sales in the first quarter of 2023 were 6.8 per cent of total sales, up from 2.2 per cent for same period last year.

The reasons for our low take-up include the cynicism of leaders like Mr Morrison, which both undermined the technology in Australia and discouraged EV manufacturers from supplying the Australian market. Then, the lack of charging infrastructure, relative to other technologically advanced countries, makes consumers worry about the practicalities.

With electric vehicles prices set to plummet further over the next year, on the back of new models entering the Australian market, the best thing governments could do to support take-up would be to subsidise solar-powered home charging facilities.

A week into my EV journey, I won’t be looking back. Recharging is different to refuelling, and you do have to plan. But, running costs are significantly lower.  And, with instant torque, the biggest risk to my weekend is a speeding fine.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Dealing with media: how to manage your expectations

Managing media expectations

Dealing with the media can be a bit of a roller coaster: it’s exciting when a journalist wants to cover your story, but it can be disappointing if the story is not what you anticipated or it gets dropped from the rundown.

When pitching stories to media, it’s important to have realistic expectations about just how newsworthy the story is, and how interested a news outlet is likely to be. Not every story is going to end up on the front page of the paper and headline the nightly news bulletins, which can be disappointing when you feel passionate about a particular issue that’s important to you.

Sometimes even really good stories don’t get the coverage they deserve, and this can be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it can simply be that the Chief of Staff on roster that day isn’t interested in the topic you’re trying to pitch, sometimes your story was in the line up but got bumped by a late breaking story, and sometimes the news outlets just don’t have the resources to cover it.

While there are certainly many things you can do to increase the chances of maximum coverage, including having a strong news angle, timing your story well and having a great case study, it’s also important to manage your expectations.

Here are a few of the tips ReGen Strategic gives to media relations clients and media training participants:

You cannot control the media. Before engaging with media, it’s important to understand the role of the media. Firstly, media is not marketing. You are not paying them to run your story and it’s not their job to make you or your company look good. Their job is to report the facts to their audience.

So, it’s important to concentrate on the things you can control including the timing of your story, your messaging, how you brief a journalist and what you say during an interview.

But, once your media release is sent, and your interview is done, how the media chooses to write the story is largely beyond your control. While this may be a little unnerving for some clients, the upside of a positive media story is that audience reach is maximised, enabling your message to resonate with a broader demographic. On top of this, an objectively written story carries credibility with audiences, enhancing your reputation.

Be flexible. Understand that journalists’ plans may change without any notice, so be prepared to change set interview times and places if possible. Live radio is particularly fluid, so try to have some flexibility in your availability. Having an established media protocol in place before engaging with media can make this easier to achieve. Media conferences also need to be set at a time which is going to be convenient for media to attend – which is not 5pm on a Friday!

You may not be the focus of the story. If a journalist has contacted you to ask you to comment on a story, chances are you may be one of several ‘talents’ in the story. This may mean you get as little as 10 seconds of air time (so make sure you have key messages ready) or a single quote in an article. However, it’s always better to be part of the conversation, even if it’s only a small part.

Understand the story and your place in it. The more information you can gather about the journalist’s angle in a story, and how many other talents may be quoted, the better. Having a media relations specialist act as the media contact can help with this – our media team maintains networks with journalists across all platforms, which makes it easier to find out this information. This will allow you to manage your expectations accordingly.

You will be edited. While you may do an interview that lasts for 10 minutes or more, you could end up only getting a 20 second ‘grab’ in a radio story and under 10 seconds in a TV story, or one quote in a newspaper. (So make what you say count and keep your key messages in mind). ReGen’s media training program is a great opportunity to practice giving answers that fit the ‘20-second grab’ format.

You may be misquoted. Journalists don’t generally intend to go around misquoting people or taking them totally out of context. If this happens to you, it’s fine to contact the journalist and ask for a correction. Having a media relations specialist with a connection to the journalist do this on your behalf will increase your chances of getting a correction implemented. However, if you’ve been quoted accurately, but you just don’t like what you said, then you don’t have grounds to complain. (Maybe work on your key messages in the future instead or sign up for media training if you haven’t received any yet).

These tips, and others, are covered in ReGen Strategic’s comprehensive media training courses. Contact us to book in a session before your next media appearance.

Sustainability matters for all businesses

Sustainability for business

I’m amazed at how many business leaders still think the push for greater sustainability performance and transparency has nothing to do with them.  They need to get their heads out of the sand.

Last week, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation released its first sustainability standards, which will become mandatory for ASX listed companies as part of the global push for consistent disclosures on financial risks and opportunities on sustainability topics.

But, even if your organisation isn’t exposed to capital markets, there are plenty of reasons why sustainability matters.

Very soon, getting a commercial loan won’t be possible without a risk assessment on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. And, if climate risks aren’t already built into your insurance premium, you’re lucky.

Getting a government contract or grant will become increasingly difficult, if you can’t demonstrate how you’re contributing to climate targets and other policy objectives, such as being nature positive, promoting diversity and delivering for local communities. Supplying to companies that care about the sustainability performance of their supply chains will have similar requirements.

Plus, if you want younger people to work for you and buy your products, having a positive purpose and operating sustainably will be selling points.

Irrespective of the cynicism of some, the big environmental and social challenges facing the world aren’t going away.  Nor are the risks and opportunities they present for business.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.




Media protocols unlock media success

Media protocols wireframe

For many organisations, engaging with the media can have many positive outcomes, from raising the organisation’s profile to influencing public perception of an issue important to your company or sector.

But to get to the point of achieving those outcomes, a lot of work needs to be done behind the scenes first.

One area that tends to get overlooked is a solid understanding of how an organisation is going to engage with the media i.e. a media protocol.

If a company doesn’t have strict policies and procedures in place, media engagement can become a shambles pretty quickly.

Picture this: your organisation has just reached a major milestone – it could be securing a major contract, breaking ground on a massive development, winning a significant award or signing a joint venture agreement – but nobody knows what to do when the media comes calling.

With no media protocol in place, your organisation takes too long to respond and you’ve missed the deadline – now media interest has either cooled or coverage of the issue has gone ahead without your input and the opportunity to shape the narrative has slipped through your fingers.

That’s an example of a possible consequence of not having a media protocol in place when it’s a positive achievement – the outcomes can be much more dire if the media interest in your company is because you are facing a crisis or major challenge.

Sending mixed messages to the media can damage your company’s reputation just as easily as a well executed plan can boost it.

At ReGen Strategic, we advise our media relations clients and media training participants on how to develop their media protocol to ensure their engagement with media goes as smoothly as possible.

There are a range of questions organisations need to ask themselves and issues to consider as part of establishing a media protocol.

The first step is to determine who will be the contact point for media enquiries – will that person be someone within your organisation or an outside consultant?

For our media relations clients, ReGen’s team of former journalists act as the media contact and can leverage their positive relationships with media to start any media enquiry off on the right foot.

Whether you are using an outside consultant or an internal resource as media contact, you’ll also need to determine who is authorised to speak to the media on the company’s behalf.

Once the spokesperson has been identified, they might want to think about having some media training before engaging with media.

If the media spokesperson and media contact are different people, a process needs to be put in place outlining how interviews will be managed.

Other practical elements of a media protocol that need to be considered include establishing an approvals process, agreeing on procedures for writing, approving and disseminating a media release or quotes, and how to monitor results.

After all the basic questions around protocol and identifying spokespeople have been clearly answered, your organisation will be better prepared to respond to media enquiries and won’t miss out on the stories you want to be commenting on.

However, a media protocol only determines how the organisation will engage with media and is only one part of a broader media relations strategy, which establishes why your company wants to engage with media, what it’s going to say to media and when it’s best to say it.

Our bespoke media training program and ongoing media relations service can help your organisation answer those questions. Contact ReGen Strategic directly to book in a media training session or learn more about our integrated strategic communication offering.

Green steel another massive opportunity for Western Australia

Green steel

We understand the energy transition will require a massive ramp up in mining, and the opportunities this represents for minerals-rich Western Australia.

But, a recent study by the Minerals Research Institute of WA (MRIWA) highlights a major additional contribution our mining industry could make to global decarbonisation efforts.

The Western Australia’s Green Steel Supply Chain Opportunity report reminds us that seven per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from steel production.  And, with 38 per cent of the world’s iron ore coming from WA, we are a significant part of this footprint.

The immediate opportunity is to decarbonise mining activities in WA, which our big miners are already working towards.

But the big prize, in terms of both emissions reduction and economic impact, is to leverage our natural gas resource and emerging green hydrogen industry to undertake processing activities in WA, as an alternative to coal driven processes overseas.

While identifying incremental steps along the journey, the MRIWA report concludes that green steel production might ultimately be viable in WA using electric arc furnace technology, as a part of a fully integrated domestic supply chain, powered by 100 per cent renewable hydrogen and renewable electricity.

Critical minerals, green hydrogen and the decarbonisation of the steel supply chain. Each vital to preventing the worst impacts of climate change. And each representing a massive economic opportunity for Western Australians.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Delivering effective key messages to media

Key messages for media

We’ve all watched those media interviews on TV with politicians who constantly repeat themselves and never actually answer any of the questions.

As a viewer, it can be incredibly frustrating, and it seems many interviewees don’t know (or don’t care) about the difference between ‘staying on message’ and ‘STAYING ON MESSAGE’.

The latter may actually be an important tactic in a controversial situation, but it can make both the media and the audience think the person being interviewed has got something to hide.

There’s no doubt that before any kind of interview with any type of media, your media relations strategy should include developing some key messages to help you stay on track and get your point across.

Key message development is one of the key pillars of ReGen Strategic’s media training, during which we work with clients to draft and refine key messages for media interviews.

Although feedback from our team of former journalists will yield the best results, there are some key takeaways that can be applied anytime.

Start by writing down up to five succinct bullet points, which helps you to focus on what you want to say, then you can refine how you want to say it.

Key messages should be short and sharp and easily understood by an audience – no more than two or three sentences.

Use language that is strong, will grab attention and be easily remembered by your target audience, but ensure the overall message is something people can relate to or sympathise with.

If applicable, use hard-hitting statistics but limit them so you don’t confuse people – and make sure they are accurate and can be verified.

Tailor your messages to your target audience and avoid jargon (you might be accustomed to using certain acronyms, but it doesn’t mean the audience is familiar with them, and they’ll switch off if they don’t know what you’re talking about).

This last point is particularly important if you’re speaking about topics that are not well understood by the general public or are still new and complex, like sustainability and ESG, for example.

If you’re a sustainability expert presenting at a conference of your peers, it’s fine to use industry terms like taxonomy, materiality and supply chain decarbonisation or acronyms like ISSB or GRI – but they have no place in key messages for a general media audience.

Once you have your key messages, it’s worthwhile practising them out loud (in an interview, you won’t be reading them to yourself inside your head).

It’s also a good idea to think about the kinds of questions you could get asked in an interview, and how you can weave your key messages into the answers.

During our media training program, we run simulated media interviews for radio and TV to provide an opportunity to put your key message delivery to the test.

This component of the media training session not only gives you an opportunity to rehearse your key messages, but also allows you to practise using them to answer questions in a press conference environment.

Of course, while key messages are essential in getting across the point you’re trying to make, sticking to them absolutely, and not offering any additional comment does not make for a good interview.

Many interviewees go into an interview knowing that it’s likely to be edited down to a 20 second (or less) soundbite, and so the tendency can be to simply repeat the same key message over and over to ensure it’s included in the final story.

And while that may be the final outcome, the equally likely outcome is that you’ll annoy both the journalist, and potentially the audience, by avoiding the questions.

To receive expert assistance in developing key messages and an opportunity to test delivery in a realistic simulated media interview, contact ReGen Strategic for more information about our bespoke media training program.

Culture wars put our kids at risk

Culture wars

News that a nine-year-old girl was accosted and accused of being trans by an irate parent at a Canadian little athletics meet last week reminds us of the dangers of the culture wars.

According to media reports, a man demanded she show certification of her sex, claiming she should not be competing.

Wikipedia describes a culture war as a conflict between social groups and the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs and practices.

Having lost the debate (for now) on lesbian and gay rights, including marriage equality, the far right is now trying to save us from trans folk.

Fewer in number, and without a decades-long rights movement behind them, trans people make much easier targets to punch down on.

In seeking to defend trans people from the attacks of the right, the far left can sometimes overreact and vilify anyone who isn’t 100 per cent aligned and conversant with progressive thinking on the issue.

Which the right then uses to infuriate its base and recruit more people to its cause.

And on it goes.

I communicate my personal pronouns (he/him) as a show of support for trans people.

And, when I come across a toilet block with a gender-neutral cubicle design, it always strikes me as an improvement.

The little girl brought to tears by the warring parent wasn’t trans. Turns out, she just had short hair. But, if she was, would it have hurt to have just let her participate and have fun like every other kid?

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Media training and why you need it

The media can be a very effective communication tool for companies that want to raise awareness of their good work, shape public opinion, spark public debate, educate and inform stakeholders or get their message through to politicians and decision makers.

But if interaction with the media isn’t handled well, things can go south pretty quickly (and publicly).

At ReGen Strategic, we believe undertaking media training is an essential part of working well with the media.

Media training can help our clients to understand how the media works, what to expect, what media is looking for in a story, how it should be presented and how interactions with the media should be handled in order to maximise positive publicity and minimise the negative.

The value in media training is that it encourages participants to be strategic in their dealings with media. Rather than just throwing a dart at a dartboard and hoping it hits something, in media training, we encourage people to think strategically and ask themselves some questions about why and how they plan to engage with media.

For a start, we help clients to get really clear on their objectives (their WHY); what exactly are they hoping to get out of interacting with media? How are they planning to carry it out and what have they got to offer? Who is actually going to be responsible for telling the story? And at the end, how are they going to measure results to determine whether their objectives were achieved?

During our media training, we help our clients to work out what they want to say, and how to capture that in succinct key messages that can be delivered during a media interview.

Media training also gives our clients practical tips, advice and feedback on interviewing techniques. This includes advice on how to handle themselves before, during and after an interview, and what the differences are in interviewing for different mediums including radio news, radio talkback, TV news and TV current affairs.

We also talk people through some of the techniques journalists use, and how to deal with them.

Every media training is tailored to the client, but perhaps the most valuable part is putting people through their paces in front of both a camera and a radio microphone. It gives participants the chance to practice all the techniques they’ve learned and then get immediate feedback on what they did well, and where they could improve. We provide copies of these so people can watch themselves later, and we encourage them to do so, no matter how uncomfortable it is!

Contact ReGen Strategic to improve your media relations performance with our bespoke media training program.

Climate justice could top Voice agenda

On holiday in Broome recently, I was reminded of the principle of climate justice.

UNICEF describes climate justice as ensuring the representation, inclusion, and protection of the rights of those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

It’s hard to think of anyone in Australia more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than First Nations people in our country’s north.

A couple of weeks back, science journal Nature Sustainability published a new study saying that Broome, along with many other locations across northern Australia, was at risk of becoming uninhabitable due to climate change.

A potentially lethal danger for humans would arise when higher temperatures combined with levels of humidity that prevent our bodies from perspiring to cool ourselves down.

This mightn’t be a problem in an air-conditioned villa on Cable Beach. But, for many people living across the Kimberley, it could be catastrophic.

Australia’s policies on climate change mitigation and adaptation are largely decided in Canberra, where, after a decade of denial, we are finally seeing progress. But, there is currently no formal way for First Nations Australians to be fully represented in these discussions.

If Australians vote yes to the Voice, and the Parliament agrees on a Voice model, you would think both climate change and climate justice would be towards the top of the list of items for discussion by the new body.


This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

What we can expect from Roger Cook, as Premier

New Premier Roger Cook should be well known to many, as deputy premier for six years and Health Minister during the COVID years.

But, in being elevated to the top job, Roger will come under increased scrutiny, with genuine and understandable public interest in who he is and what he’s about.

I had the privilege of working under Roger before he entered parliament, serving as his understudy as general manager of the WA office of then national government relations agency, CPR.

What I learned about Roger then, as his friend since and in watching his political career develop, talks to the sort of premier he will be and the sort of government he will lead.

Roger has strong values and an ability to think big picture. And he takes the time to build and nurture relationships.

With an MBA, he understands that you need a strong economy and for business to be successful, if you’re to do anything else.

He recognises the importance of mining and gas to exiting coal and the broader energy transition, as well as the contribution of these sectors to the WA economy. But, he is passionate about the opportunity climate change presents to grow new industries in renewables and storage, as well as modern manufacturing based on emerging technologies and low-cost, carbon-free energy. And he believes in the role of government to provide direction for industry and attract investment in a globally competitive world through the provision of infrastructure.

But, Roger doesn’t see a strong economy as being an end in itself. Rather, it’s a way to build a stronger society and improve people’s lives.

At his core, Roger is a family man, with his wife Carly and two adult children at the centre of his life. He understands the important role growing up in a loving and nurturing family environment played in setting him up for happiness and success, and wants this for others.

Roger understands that the world isn’t carved up into goodies and baddies. That complex social issues need thought and care, and how important it is to explain and bring people with you.

It is possible that Roger’s formative experiences in growing up in a large family and working in Native Title taught him the importance of consultation, negotiation and building relationships.

As a younger political operative, working with Roger was an eye opener for me. He was the first political animal I had met who actively took time to sit down with members of other factions and build relationships.

At that time, he had already been pre-selected for the seat of Kwinana and didn’t need their support. The interest in people of different backgrounds and opinions was genuine. It is completely consistent with the recollections of his high school cotemporaries, that Roger was “everyone’s friend”. It’s a quality that probably delivered him the premiership.

As his performance during COVID demonstrated, Roger can make tough decisions. I have no doubt he will make the tough calls as premier, when he needs to. But, given who he is, he will seek to involve his colleagues in the decision-making process whenever he can.  He will be more chairman than CEO, and his ministers will be respected in their portfolios.

At the end of the day, Roger’s success will depend not only on his own capabilities, but on the collective performance of everyone else in his government.

There has never been a more qualified person than Rita Saffioti to become treasurer, nor a more loyal person to serve as deputy. And in committing to maintaining the highly talented Amber-Jade Sanderson’s role as a senior minister in his government, Roger will give his team the best chance of success.

Roger’s biggest fault, from my perspective, is that he is a Dockers fan. But, his true passion is rugby union, a sport that he played in his junior years. Like rugby, politics is a contact sport. 

Now that the dust has settled from a tough, but brief, leadership contest that nobody was expected, I have every confidence in Roger’s ability to bring everyone together as a team and deliver united and strong government.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

We need to listen to First Nations people on the Voice

Uluru statement and the Voice

As a political animal, the magic number for me has always been 50 per cent plus one, the figure you need to get a parliamentary majority and govern in our democracy.

So, when I took it upon myself to get educated about the Voice, the level of consensus among First Nations leaders at the Uluru constitutional convention that gave rise to the Voice proposal made an impact on me.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was the output of the Referendum Council, which was established as a bipartisan initiative by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten in 2015 with terms of reference, “to advise on next steps towards a successful referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.”

In 2017, 243 out of 250 First Nations leaders present at the Uluru convention endorsed the Uluru statement, which called for, the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution” and had been informed by a consultation process involving more than 1,200 First Nations people in 13 community meetings around the country.

Constitutional reform was sought to, “empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.  When we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.”

The views of the seven delegates to the Uluru convention that opted not to back the Uluru statement, as well as all the questions and dissenting views being expressed in the leadup to the referendum, deserve respect.

But, having asked the question of First Nations people through our political leaders and received such an overwhelming response through the community meetings and Uluru convention, shouldn’t we listen?

That’s my understanding of how a democracy is supposed to work.


The illustration that accompanies this article, and all the illustrations that accompany my weekly contributions, are the work of Chris Wood, a local Indigenous illustrator and cartoonist.

Chris’ great grandmother was of the Stolen Generation, taken from her family in the Kimberley to Beagle Bay Mission when she was a child. His father, Wayne, is the first and currently only high-ranking aboriginal union official in the country. Their heritage has been traced to the Worrorra in WA’s north.

Thank you Chris for bringing my words to life.

Climate action and economic wellbeing go hand in hand

With both cost of living and climate action featuring prominently in both state and federal budgets a fortnight back, you would be forgiven for thinking Mark McGowan and Jim Chalmers had been given an advance copy of Deloitte’s recent global survey.

Published last week, Deloitte’s survey of 22,000 millennials and Gen Z’s across 44 countries found cost of living, unemployment and climate change to be the top three societal concerns for these younger cohorts.

Deloitte found about two thirds of the young people they spoke to were anxious about the environment and had taken active steps to reduce their environmental impact.  This included a willingness to pay more for sustainable products. However, most of this group said they were worried they wouldn’t be able to afford to do so, if the economic situation doesn’t improve.

These results highlight the importance of being able to walk and chew gum at the same time on the economy and climate.  Fortunately, with the cost of new renewables now cheaper than new fossil fuel alternatives in many settings, this is getting easier.

But the data also raises the question over the environmental impact, let alone the social cost, of Australia’s comparatively low Austudy, youth allowance and jobseeker rates.

With every passing day increasing the political power of millennials and Gen Z’s, I suspect we’ll be talking about this again during budget season next year.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Sport a proven force for good in politics

The first time I recall a debate about sport and politics was growing up in the eighties, when South African sporting teams were banned from international competition because of Apartheid.

When rebel Australian players, who presumably believed sport and politics shouldn’t mix, decided to tour South Africa, in a move then prime minister Bob Hawke labelled treacherous.

The rebel team played three ‘tests’ and a series of one day matches against an all-white South African team, in front of all-white crowds, at a time when Nelson Mandela still languished in prison on Robben Island.

The sporting bans played an important role in putting pressure on the South African government of the day, and raising awareness of international opinion among the white South African community.  They played a major role in the ultimate defeat of Apartheid and ending minority white rule.

Later, as president, Mandela understood the power of sport to bring people together, with his presentation of the rugby union world cup trophy to victorious Afrikaner captain Francois Pienaar in 1995 a symbol of national unity and hope in the early post-Apartheid era.

Given the depth at which it is engrained in our culture, sport has the potential to influence and affect incredible social change.  For the record, the rebel Australian side lost their ‘test’ series 1-0 and got trounced in the one-day series, 4-2.

Do sustainable services require GST reform?

With many Australians struggling with the cost of living, it may not be the best time to be discussing paying more GST.

But, with the federal budget projected to return to substantial deficit within two years, and most Australian states and territories also in deficit, this may be a conversation we have to have.

Most Australians expect quality public services like health and education, placing high value on programs like Medicare, the PBS and the NDIS. We take pride in Australia’s social safety net, and support investments in roads, rail, energy transition and defence.

With the lowering of company and personal income tax now a bipartisan position, the revenue challenges faced by governments around Australia won’t be solved by tinkering around the edges.

In 2023-24, Treasury expects the GST to raise $86 billion, based on a rate of 10 per cent and exemptions for things like food, health, education and childcare.

Australians might decide that no amount of compensation to lower income earners could offset an increase in the GST rate or broadening of the base, but the revenue upside is obvious.

It’s equally obvious that it is unfair to leave future generations to pay for services and income support governments borrow to fund today.

With federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers talking to the need to work with state and territory governments to ensure the sustainability of services in his recent budget speech, the funding of those services seems like a natural agenda item.

If we say no to GST reform, what will we say yes to?  Take your position; this discussion can’t be put off forever.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Do ESG efforts create value?

This was the question posed by Bain & Company and EcoVadis in assessing how environmental, social, governance (ESG) activities and outcomes have impacted more than 100,000 companies.

Their findings suggest the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’—in addition to benefiting the planet and society, ESG performance is associated with higher profit.

They found four major correlations:

  1. Companies with more women on the executive team had better financial results.
  2. Renewable energy usage correlated with higher margins in carbon-intensive industries (like mining).
  3. Companies that focused on ethics, environmental and labour practices within their supply chains were more profitable.
  4. ESG leaders had higher employee satisfaction.

These results are only the latest in a raft of reports that suggest setting ESG targets, tracking results, embedding ethical decision making, securing sustainable supply chains and practices that reduce emissions and increase diversity are all associated with higher profitability.  

Of course, quantitative studies like this can’t prove that sustainability efforts necessarily led to these strong financial outcomes – a range of factors are at play.

Our experience at ReGen Strategic is that most companies recognise ESG is important, but are not really sure where to start or how aggressively they should pursue their ESG goals. This is particularly so in the mining industry, where resources companies are often seen by the public as directly adding to the level of carbon in our environment through their operations.

IGO is one example of an Australian mining company that successfully changed their business by embracing better ESG performance. Their very purpose ‘making a difference’ is linked to the decarbonisation of our planet, with a strategy linked to ethical and sustainable production, carbon neutrality, and people – all areas identified by the study.

IGO was founded as Independence Gold in 2000 and was listed on the ASX in 2002. For the next decade the company built a successful business in gold and base metal mining.

In 2014, Peter Bradford was appointed CEO and the company started on a new path. In 2015 the first sustainability report was published, and in 2017 IGO’s strategic direction was refocused to clean energy metals. Since that time, base metal and gold mines have been progressively divested, large solar farms and battery storage facilities have been built, carbon has been partially offset, and a range of lithium and other clean energy metal projects were acquired or commenced.

Fast forward to 2023, and IGO is uniquely placed as the only company globally producing four key raw battery materials: nickel, lithium, copper and cobalt. All these elements will play a critical role in the transition to a zero emissions future, with demand expected to accelerate quickly in the coming years.

Of the four correlations mentioned in the study above, IGO has achieved 57 per cent female representation on the board and make up 75 per cent of the senior executive. It has adopted renewable energy, with its largest mine building a 15.5MW solar farm and 10MWh battery storage system. IGO’s supplier evaluation methodology prioritises ethical decision making when selecting and managing suppliers, as well as upholding fundamental human rights through the supply chain as described in the Modern Slavery Statement. And finally, 89 per cent of employees said they were proud to work for IGO, with a similar percentage saying IGO was accepting of diverse backgrounds.

IGO’s pathway to sustainable development is maturing and they are increasingly adopting ESG frameworks and reporting standards. There is a long way to go, but the company has resolutely embarked on an ESG path, and brought their employees, investors and stakeholders on the journey.

So, has it paid off?

Well, if you invested in IGO stock five years ago, you would now have seen a 174 per cent return on your investment, compared to a 21 per cent increase in the ASX index. Last month, IGO reported record net profits after tax of $412 million for the March quarter.

You be the judge.

Will Australia adopt green claim rules to protect consumers from greenwashing?

Following the filing of ASIC’s first civil penalty proceeding in the Federal Court against a superannuation fund for allegedly making misleading statements about the sustainable nature and characteristics of some of its superannuation investment options, greenwashing risks are front and centre for many organisations.

ASIC’s historic filing coupled with greenwashing being an ongoing key enforcement priority for both ASIC and ACCC serves as a stark reminder to boards and executives that “green” claims about decarbonisation, GHG emission targets and product specifications will be facing increasing scrutiny throughout 2023 and beyond.

The ACCC’s Greenwashing by Businesses in Australia report reinforces this key enforcement priority and presents the findings of its internet sweep of environmental claims. The report outlines the eight sectors the ACCC focused its efforts on when assessing 247 different businesses and brands. The report concludes that the sweep identified several high level concerns with further analysis planned that may lead to enforcement, compliance and education activities where necessary. Where more significant concerns were raised, infringement notices or legal proceedings may be actioned.

Since October 2022, ASIC has issued over $150,000 in greenwashing infringement notices with the latest being issued to another superannuation fund in April 2023. Through ACCC and ASIC’s greenwashing action, it has become apparent that greenwashing allegations will not be exclusively made against formal company disclosures. Many of the infringement notices targeted greenwashing i.e. misleading or deceptive statements within ASX disclosures, website claims and investor presentations.

Further to this, social media statements or strategic communication are a key area where greenwashing vulnerabilities lie as quite often, comprehensive information is condensed into viewer friendly information which may inadvertently omit key pieces of information or result in misleading statements. In fact. the April 2023 infringement notice related to a greenwashing Facebook post which overstated the positive environmental impact of the fund with concerns it presented misleading information to investors and potential investors.

While it seems that the Australian Federal Government is following in the footsteps of the UK by committing to standardised, internationally‑aligned requirements for disclosure of climate‑related financial risks and opportunities in Australia, the question remains, will Australia also adopt commitments to protect consumers from greenwashing?

In March 2023, the European Union unveiled the proposed ‘Directive on Green Claims’, a new set of rules requiring companies to substantiate and verify their environmental claims and labels, aimed at protecting consumers from greenwashing.

The newly proposed rules highlight the necessity for credible, reliable and verifiable information for consumers following the identification of greenwashing claims.


The new rules propose minimum requirements for businesses to substantiate, communicate and verify their green claims. Companies will be required to ensure the reliability of their voluntary environmental claims, which will need to be independently verified and proven with scientific evidence.


Time will tell whether Australia will follow a similar path as the EU, however it is clear that greenwashing presents as a significant risk for many organisations, not just those targeted in ACCC’s internet sweep. This reinforces the need for company directors to be sustainability and ESG literate and to be able to demonstrate that any environmental claims or sustainability commitments are credible and informed by scientific evidence and a strategic approach.

Deep-sea mining could undermine entire industry

While there is an increasing understanding that more mining is needed to meet the mineral needs of the energy transition, there is strong disagreement over the role of deep-sea mining.

Few countries countenance the idea of mining within their own territorial waters, but there is a growing queue of companies and state-owned entities seeking permission to exploit mineral reserves in international waters.

Such activity would fall under the purview of the United Nations’ International Seabed Authority (ISA), which currently oversees exploration activity in international waters. This year, the ISA is considering new regulations that would govern the exploitation of minerals, and pave the way for deep-sea mining.

Proponents argue that the world needs the critical minerals deep-sea mining would recover.

Opponents counter that our world’s ocean ecosystems are already under too much pressure from global warming, dead zones, garbage patches, microplastics and overfishing. That up to 90 per cent of the ocean remains unexplored and largely unknown, and a moratorium on mining is needed until we understand our ocean environments better.

We need a successful mining industry to drive the energy transition and fight climate change.  But, it will be harder for the industry to build the workforce or community support it needs to succeed, if a segment of the industry becomes likened to whalers and trawlers, in being seen as putting our oceans further at risk.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Social impact needs corporate and government attention too

With school going back this week, I was reminded of a recent conversation I had with former WA premier Geoff Gallop, when he was in Perth to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the launch of his government’s sustainability strategy.

A couple of years back, Geoff was engaged by the New South Wales Teachers Federation to undertake a review of the NSW education system.

In addition to finding NSW teachers to be under-resourced, overworked and underpaid, the challenges they were facing with student behaviour and a growing suite of special needs alarmed Geoff.  He wondered whether this was an indicator of even deeper issues within the community.

It will be interesting to see whether Carmen Lawrence, another former premier, finds similarly in the review of Western Australia’s education system she is currently performing for the State School Teachers' Union.

I’ve long viewed environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics as being linked.  For example, we’ll have trouble maintaining the consensus for climate action, if living standards fall markedly. But, left unaddressed, the social impacts of global warming will be devastating.  And few companies will make money amid ecological or societal collapse.

With some community issues becoming as obvious as the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, governments and corporates need to ensure we’re pursuing positive social impact as vigorously as we’re coming to address environmental issues.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Timely mining approvals critical to energy transition

mining approvals

News that the Albanese government has doubled the rate at which renewable energy projects are being approved is welcome.

This success has been attributed to a budgetary boost designed to clear backlogs and issue faster environmental approval

The WA Government is on a similar pathway, currently standing up a green approvals team, designed to get renewables and green hydrogen projects off the ground, faster.

While Australia is finally moving in the right direction on climate, the speedy approval of new mining projects will be just as important to a successful energy transition. This is because clean energy technologies are more mineral intensive than their fossil fuel burning predecessors. 

A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car, and an onshore wind plant requires nine times that of a gas-fired power plant. Given the scale of transition investment required, the demand for critical minerals, as well as iron ore, will grow substantially.

Miners will make life easier for regulators (and be more appealing to a younger workforce), if they operate to high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, which includes decarbonising, supporting biodiversity and delivering for Traditional Owners and local communities.  But, if they do, regulators should also work to speed up mining approvals, and governments should provide the funding this requires.

Any future victory lap on climate will only occur around an Australia that has many more mines than exist today.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

The ‘how’ just as important as the ‘why’ in sustainability

When it comes to sustainability and ESG, the how matters as much as the why.

Your purpose and core business may aspire to a positive impact on people or the planet, but if you’re doing harm in the process, workers, customers, investors and social licence generally will be increasingly difficult to come by.

The decarbonisation of road transport is critical, but electric vehicle companies should expect to be marked down for poor labour standards in manufacturing or their mineral supply chains.

Large scale renewables projects will be hugely important to the energy transition, but ensuring they are developed in partnership with the Traditional Owners of the vast areas of land they require will be critical to their timely development.

While we need a massive ramp up in mining to feed the mineral requirements of the energy transition, doing this in a way that results in biodiversity loss and deforestation, as well as the associated release of the enormous sums of carbon sunk in our native forests, will be seen as counterproductive.

The companies that deliver the most positive environmental and social impacts will be those that combine a positive purpose with high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in execution.

In turn, these companies will de-risk their operations, build social license and create value through enhanced reputation and stakeholder trust.

The how is just as important as the why.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

WA food supplier setting example for regenerative agriculture

The need to adapt the way humanity lives in the face of climate change is being felt across all sectors. In the energy and resources sector, alternative fuels and energy sources are being developed to replace outdated fossil fuel energy generation methods.

It’s easy to envision a future without coal-fired power, but what about sectors that we can’t just do away with?

No matter how much energy humanity generates from solar and other renewable sources, human beings can’t eat solar energy and will still need to consume food to create their own energy.

This means that as long as humans exist, so too will some sort of food system to feed us all. The bad news is that feeding all of us humans is one of the leading causes of climate change. In fact, the current food system accounts for 34 per cent of humanity’s carbon emissions, not to mention the other resources it consumes in terms of water and arable land.

We can’t do away with the food system entirely, but it’s clear a major overhaul is needed to make it sustainable in the world of climate change.

That’s where WA-based Dirty Clean Food enters the picture, the food brand of Australia’s leading regenerative food and agriculture company.

Dirty Clean Food is trying to provide an alternative supply chain for core food products ranging from meats and seafood to fruit and vegetables and groceries. To achieve this, the company works exclusively with farmers who are practising regenerative agriculture.

When something is sustainable, it means it doesn’t cause any further damage and maintains the status quo, but for something to be regenerative it must go a step further and leave the environment better than if no activity had taken place.

In the agriculture space, one way to be regenerative is to enrich the soil to increase the presence of microbes, bugs and worms, which increases its ability to absorb and hold water.

Another regenerative agriculture practice is to increase biodiversity and sequester carbon in the soil rather than in the atmosphere and to achieve this, regenerative farmers minimise soil disturbance by avoiding tillage or ploughing.

That’s all well and good for crops, but what about livestock? Livestock emit methane, a greenhouse gas, through their digestion process and this represents a serious problem.

While scientists are working on ways to prevent livestock emitting methane using new feeds and dietary supplements, regenerative agriculture employs grazing practices so that livestock foraging contributes to the health of the soil.

While Dirty Clean Food isn’t at the level of Australia’s supermarket giants, the example it sets and systems it develops can serve as an example for others to follow as the entire food system shifts in the coming years.

Politicians need greenwashing scrutiny too

Climate change, energy transition and the future of gas need an open and honest conversation.

But, I am not sure we fully got that from Greens leader Adam Bandt last week.

In announcing changes to the Albanese government’s safeguard mechanism reforms, Mr Bandt claimed that the Greens, “had stopped many of the 116 coal and gas projects currently in the pipeline from going ahead”.

The reality is, while a higher bar has been set environmentally, the future of these projects rests with the companies involved.

The ball is in their court.

Mr Bandt also claimed that, because of the amendments, new LNG projects would be required to be net zero CO2 from day one.

The Science Based Targets Initiative Net-Zero Standard defines corporate net-zero as:

  • Reducing scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions to zero or to a residual level that is consistent with reaching net-zero emissions at the global or sector level in eligible 1.5°C-aligned pathways
  • Neutralizing any residual emissions at the net-zero target year and any GHG emissions released into the atmosphere thereafter.

The safeguard mechanism only deals with Scope 1 emissions, and, from what I can tell, the above amendment only tackles CO2, to the exclusion of other greenhouse gases, such as methane.

I understand Mr Bandt’s political challenge in balancing his generally constructive approach with a constituency that rejects the important role of gas in energy transition.

But, just as corporate Australia needs to eliminate the gap between what we say and do on climate, we need less ambiguity from our politicians too.

Perhaps the greenwashing inquiry announced last week by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, could add political communications to its Terms of Reference.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Inaugural IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards Expected by Q2 2023

February 16, 2023, may have seemed a typical Thursday to most, however for those involved in investor focused sustainability disclosures, it was a monumental day, as the International Sustainability Standards Board’s (ISSB) final decisions on the technical content of its initial standards were set in stone with issuance expected in quarter two 2023.

Following consultation in 2022, the ISSB agreed that its initial International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Sustainability Disclosure Standards, S1 and S2, would become effective in January 2024.

The ISSB confirmed earlier in 2023 that industry-specific disclosures were required and, in the absence of specific IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards, companies must consider the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Standards to identify sustainability-related risks, opportunities and metrics. The ISSB has committed to improving the international applicability of the SASB Standards throughout 2023.

In a nutshell, IFRS S1 and S2 require a company to disclose information that enables investors to assess the effect of significant sustainability-related risks and opportunities on its enterprise value and establish disclosure requirements specific to climate-related risks and opportunities. IFRS S1 is considered as the baseline or core of sustainability disclosure whereas IFRS S2 provides specific information relating to climate mitigation and adaptation which builds upon the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). S2 also incorporates industry-based disclosure requirements derived from SASB Standards.

So, what does this mean?

Companies that already use SASB Standards will have a competitive advantage in applying the ISSB Standards and should continue to adopt them as this provides a robust foundation for adopting IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards in the coming years.

For companies that have just formed a sustainability vision and purpose and undertaken critical actions towards reporting such as a materiality assessment and strategy, the ISSB’s IFRS will introduce a nuanced process to assist in applying the standards.

After all, the ISSB is committed to supporting implementation for businesses regardless of size, sector, geographical location or sustainability and ESG maturity. With that in mind, those new to sustainability disclosures and reporting should be proactive and use 2023 to consider the future application of the IFRS Sustainability Disclosure Standards within their strategy.

One way companies can do this is by assessing or reassessing their sustainability and ESG maturity and asking some key questions relating to critical sustainability elements to determine their preparedness to adopt the standards including (inter alia):

  • Internal data collation, analysis and assurance systems
  • Sustainability and ESG risks and opportunities
  • Governance and oversight
  • Strategy and objective setting

Native forests critical to biodiversity and climate action


There is no shortage of complex issues to consider in the fight against climate change, but deforestation must be toward the top of the list.

According to the World Resources Institute, there is more than 800 gigatonnes of carbon locked up in the world’s native forests, equivalent to nearly a century’s worth of current annual fossil fuel emissions. 

Deforestation accounts for between 12-20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a leading cause of biodiversity loss and ecological risk.

It is not hard to get agreement on the need to plant trees, given industry’s need for carbon credits and the money to be made generating them.  It is harder to get agreement on the need to preserve our existing native forests. Which is largely due to industry seeing economic potential in currently forested land.

While every tree planted should be celebrated, not all trees are created equal.  There is no substitute, in terms of greenhouse gas abatement or biodiversity conservation, to protecting existing native forest habitats.

In this context, industry needs to ask itself three questions when considering new activity that involves the clearing of native forest habitat. Is it really needed? Can it be done elsewhere? Can it be done differently?

Given the importance of our native forests to the climate and biodiversity, these are the questions regulators and the community will be asking.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Future mining workforce critical to energy transition

Transitioning global energy systems to renewables in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change will be impossible without a massive ramp up in mining.

In recent evidence to a federal parliamentary inquiry, Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable said that by 2030, the world would 50 new lithium mines, 60 new nickel mines and 17 new cobalt mines just to meet demand for energy storage.

Then there’s the mineral requirements for things like solar panels, wind towers, turbines and electrolysers, as well as new transport and transmission infrastructure required as a part of the energy transition.

This huge increase for minerals is driven by more than just the volume of renewable generation and storage required.

In its 2022 paper, The Role of Critical Minerals in Energy Transition, the International Energy Agency (IEA) explained that it’s about the composition of these new technologies, as well.

According to the IEA, a typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car, and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired power plant.

Since 2010, the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50 per cent, as the share of renewables has risen.

Obviously, this future demand presents a huge opportunity for Australia.

We are home to the world’s largest reserves of nickel, as well as the world’s second largest reserves of lithium and cobalt, respectively.  This is in addition to having the world’s largest reserves of iron ore and second largest reserves of bauxite.

But, having the workforce to get these minerals out of the ground, processed and to market may be the biggest obstacle to seizing the opportunity these natural resources present.

According to the Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA, there are current and emerging shortages in many mining occupations, including engineers, metallurgists, surveyors, geologists, electricians, fitters, maintenance planners, welders and drillers.

And, with completions in many related courses plummeting, there is a significant emerging disconnect between the careers young Australians want, and the future skills needs of the industry.

From a peak of 333 mining engineers graduating across Australia in 2015, only 104 completed courses in 2020, according to a recent report by the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM).  Similarly, the Australian Geosciences Council recently released data showing that national undergraduate enrolments in geosciences had fallen from a peak of 3,230 in 2013 to 1,900 in 2021.

AusIMM attributes the drop off in the number of young people pursuing mining careers, in part, to perceptions of the industry’s performance on environmental and social issues, and the growing expectations of young Australians in these areas.  They also identified a lack of public awareness of the importance of mining to the energy transition as a contributing factor.

This is supported by the results of a recent survey of Gen-Z students by BDO.  When respondents were asked what mining companies should focus on to attract young people into the industry, the most prominent suggestion was explaining the importance of mining to the clean energy revolution much better.

The survey also found 59 per cent of students wanted a career that positively impacted climate change, with 66 per cent of students wanting a career that positively impacted local communities. 

Given the growing chasm between its future skills needs and the career preferences of young Australians, the mining industry needs to work a lot harder to tell its story.

Central to this story needs to be the positive environmental and social impact the industry will have in addressing climate change through the global delivery of the energy transition.  But, the industry also needs to show that it is delivering this with high environmental, social and governance standards (ESG), which includes the decarbonisation of its own activities as quickly as possible.

If the industry can understand the importance of this approach to attracting the human capital it will need to meet the mineral demand of the energy transition, then their opportunities are enormous.  If not, then those opportunities will be lost.  But, more importantly, the energy transition we need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change will have next to no chance of occurring.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Perth rides orange e-scooter wave into sustainable future

One of the big challenges of the transition to net zero is getting people out of their cars and into other modes of transportation.

For major cities, public transport options are well equipped to take you from the suburbs to the CBD, but can struggle to cater to intracity travellers.

In Perth, Central Area Transit buses are regular and free, but they are just as much at the mercy of traffic conditions as a car and can often be outpaced by a fast walker in heavy traffic.

While walking has a range of health benefits, Perth’s dry heat can make any extended pedestrian journey particularly unappealing at certain times in the year and isn’t practical for people with mobility issues. Clearly, a more nuanced solution is needed.

Enter Neuron Mobility, an e-scooter rental company seeking to reduce reliance on cars to reduce emissions and improve safety for commuters and tourists seeking to break their automobile addiction.

Using innovative geofencing technology that limits the speed of the company’s e-scooters based on location to improve safety and a commitment to carbon neutrality, the short-term rentals are an affordable and credible low-polluting alternative to motor vehicles.

The company’s distinctive orange e-scooters are ubiquitous in the Eastern States, but are only a recent addition to the West Australian transport network.

Starting with a 12-month trial in the City of Stirling, followed by Busselton this summer, Neuron has just announced a two-year trial with the City of Perth, encompassing the CBD, East Perth, Crawley and Northbridge.

One of Neuron’s biggest selling points is the ability to break free of traffic gridlock in major urban centres, making its e-scooters an ideal fit for office workers making short trips or tourists seeking to explore all that Western Australia’s capital city has to offer.

In addition to the physical features like wide footplates and larger wheels that make Neuron’s e-scooters demonstrably safer than many retail models, the company’s software has innovative features that improve rider safety in urban settings.

These include topple detection which alerts Neuron’s patroller if an e-scooter has fallen over, a 000 emergency button which detects if a rider has had a fall and then helps them call the emergency services via their smartphone, and, crucially, a ‘Follow My Ride’ function that allows riders to share their trip online with friends and family in real-time for added security and peace of mind.

Beyond these features of the scooters themselves, the company has shown a commitment to on-the-ground actions to improve road safety for e-scooter riders and the community it operates in. For the Perth trial, the official launch on March 18 will coincide with a ScootSafe event from 10:00am to noon at Forrest Chase. Riders who visit the ScootSafe events will have the opportunity to participate in a short safety briefing and will be able to earn rewards such as free credits for future rides. Riders will also be directed to the company’s industry-leading online education platform ScootSafe Academy, where they can complete gamified education modules teaching them how to ride an e-scooter safely.

Visitors and workers won’t be the only ones welcoming the trial of the scooters, with a recent report titled Shared Rides, Shared Wealth revealing two thirds of Neuron e-scooter journeys across Australia result in a purchase from a local business.

According to the report, each Neuron e-scooter contributes $70,000 to local economies per year, with riders spending an average of AUD $65 at local businesses per trip. 

While it will take more than a brightly coloured e-scooter to solve Australia’s transport emissions challenges, having a genuine, viable alternative from sustainability-driven organisations like Neuron Mobility is an important step forward.

Note, Neuron Mobility is a client of ReGen Strategic.

Boardrooms and c-suites must wakeup to greenwashing risks


If you’re curious as to how many company directors and senior executives might be sleepwalking off a greenwashing cliff, then the ACCC provides a clue.

Our consumer watchdog scanned almost 250 company websites late last year and reckon more than half of them had made questionable claims about their environmental credentials.

This scrutiny is being accompanied by action from ASIC, which is pinging ASX-listed companies it believes are having us on in relation to carbon neutral and net zero. 

The generational shift towards higher ESG and sustainability standards is not a fad.  Despite challenging economic times, expectations on climate, nature, diversity and many other sustainability topics are growing.

The laws under which both the ACCC and ASIC are looking at greenwashing are not new.  Misleading consumers over the qualities of products and investors through the information disclosed to the market have been frowned on for a long time.

The key to avoiding greenwashing is for companies to eliminate the gap between what they say and what they do, accepting that the requirement for sustainability disclosure and the scrutiny of the information disclosed will only grow.

If companies get this right, they will build trust with investors, consumers and employees.  If not, then it may only be a matter of time before regulatory scrutiny catches up with them.

It’s time for our boardrooms and c-suites to wake up.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

More women in mining can help narrow WA's gender pay gap

mining and the gender pay gap

So, Western Australia continues to have the worst gender pay gap in Australia.

According to data released last week by the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, WA’s gender pay gap is 22.1 per cent, compared to a national average of 13.4 per cent.

The gender pay gap measures the difference between the average earnings of women and men in the workforce.  It is not the same as equal pay for equal work, which has been a legal requirement in Australia for 50 years

The gender pay gap arises from factors like career disruption from having children, cultural norms on unpaid caring and domestic work, the relative inclusivity and flexibility of industries and workplaces, as well as discrimination in hiring, promotions and pay.

WGEA attributes WA’s poor performance to us having more people employed in mining than other states. 

But, the gender pay gap in mining is 16.1 per cent, still unacceptably high, but lower than WA’s overall gap.  The issue is more likely to be that four in five of these highly paid mining jobs are taken by men in WA.

Increased female participation in mining would give the industry access to a broader pool of human capital, while assisting in the eradication of sexual harassment in the industry.

It would also help narrow WA’s gender pay gap and advance the economic empowerment of women across our community.

But, it wouldn’t absolve our miners and all other employers in the state from doing what we can to narrow the gender pay gap in our industries.  Only then will we have a chance of getting WA’s gender pay gap to zero, and providing women, as well as men, with the full range of career and life choices available.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Conspiracy theorists weaponised against climate action

If only proponents of the 15-minute city conspiracy theory realised how much they were arguing against their own interests.

An heir to the 5G and vaccine microchip conspiracy theories, the 15-minute theory again promotes the idea that a faceless global elite is trying to control the masses.

The term 15-minute city was first used by French planner Carlos Moreno in 2015 at COP21, suggesting that greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced if people lived within a 15-minute walk of their day-to-day activities.

Conspiracy theorists now hold that this will lead to climate lockdowns, with people unable to leave their suburbs.

When I was running political campaigns, voters wanted quality jobs and services close to home, to give them more time for friends and family and a better quality of life.

Conspiracy theories of this type typically take hold because people feel the system is not delivering for them economically or their way of life is being eroded and they lack control over these outcomes.

But conspiracy theories often come from somewhere. The 15-minute city theory has been linked to well-known climate change deniers, with their strategy being to undermine public support for climate action by depicting it as costing us our freedoms.

Not unlike when Scott Morrison told us electric vehicles would cost us our weekends.

The sad irony is, if we don’t get climate change under control, the issue for conspiracy theorists and their kids may be finding new places to live altogether, as rising oceans and changing weather patterns make some places uninhabitable.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Fun approach to acknowledgements of Country sparks genuine change

Have you ever listened to a song so often that your brain stops processing it the same way and it loses that magic it used to spark in you? No matter how much you want to get that feeling back, if you hear the same sound enough times it loses all meaning and just becomes noise.

But then a new artist comes along to perform a cover and the freshness of their take is enough to pull you back in and remember what made the song so meaningful to you in the first place.

Perhaps the best Australian example of this is when none other than The Wiggles took Tame Impala’s 2012 single Elephant and added their original song ‘Fruit Salad’ to the mix in a 2021 cover that went on to make history as the first cover to top Triple J’s annual Hottest 100 countdown.

It’s a high bar, but that’s what Acknowledge This! founders Rhys Paddick and Emma Gibbens are trying to do for acknowledgements of Country in Australia.

Like a well-worn record, most Australians have heard the boilerplate acknowledgement of Country formula so many times they can recite the words by heart without much thought – or much appreciation for their significance.

What started as a way to pay respect to the Traditional Owners of the land where events, meetings and other gatherings take place soon became another formality as speakers across the country read the same words over and over again.

Rhys, a Yamatji Australian, knew this only too well, spending years reading out the acknowledgement of Country at assemblies in his years in Aboriginal education without really questioning the words.

Emma, from the cold, dark places of Minnesota, viewed the acknowledgement of Country as an outsider and it didn’t take her long to start asking questions.

What started as a conversation between the two friends led to a desire to reform acknowledgements of Country in Australia.

In March 2020, the pair founded Acknowledge This! as a means to do just that.

Rather than simply teaching people a new set of words, Rhys and Emma want each acknowledgement of Country to be unique and act as a means for people to deepen their connection to Country, culture and each other.

Using robust, genuine conversations as the core of their training session and workshops, Rhys and Emma share their personal connections to acknowledgements of Country, de-bunk myths around cultural sensitivities and provide resources and tools to help people feel empowered to diverge from ‘the script’.

What started with a handful of people at a time over Zoom in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has started to sell out venues across Australia in live sessions delivered to hundreds of people at a time.

In almost three years, Rhys and Emma have had conversations with close to 15,000 Australians and counting.

More than 2.5 million votes were cast in the Hottest 100 that The Wiggles ultimately won, so Acknowledge This! still has some ground to cover to catch them, but next time you hear an acknowledgement with a personal touch, know that change is coming one conversation at a time.

The video featured in this article was filmed and produced by ReGen Strategic.

Big challenges, but big prizes on offer in hydrogen race

The current excitement around hydrogen reminds me of the dot com boom. When mining juniors remade themselves, raising millions for little more than having an active email address.

Like the late 90s, there are plenty of pretenders in hydrogen. But, again, some major players are likely to emerge.

And we need them to.

According to the International Energy Association’s 2022 hydrogen industry review, one million tonnes (Mt) of low emission hydrogen was produced globally in 2021. However, this needs to grow to 95 Mt per annum by 2030 to be consistent with the IEA’s net zero by 2050 scenario. As things stood in 2022, we were only on track to reach 24 Mt per annum by 2030, at best.

However, like big tech, nobody expects the development of the hydrogen industry to be linear. The pipeline of new projects is increasing and technologically advancement will only accelerate the process. The war in Ukraine is also thought to have brought forward the energy transition by five to 10 years.

But, to meet the IEA’s net-zero trajectory, we need to be honest about the challenges facing the industry.

The IEA says governments need to work harder to seed demand for hydrogen, through procurement and by backing hydrogen-hungry projects. A lack of customers was seen as the main reason why only four per cent of low emissions hydrogen projects had reached final investment decision by 2022.

A massive ramp up in mining is required to manufacture the wind turbines, solar panels and electrolysers required.

Appropriate road capacity will also be required, with 12-14 oversize overmass (OSOM) trucks required to shift a single wind turbine to site. Then there’s the port infrastructure required for the kit that is imported, or if regional communities don’t want to be continually at standstill because of one OSOM movement after another.

And we’ll need an “all hands on deck” approach to meeting the demand for human capital all of this will create. Instead of the “every man for himself” approach we’ve seen to date.

But, if these issues can be resolved in Western Australia, there is a real chance that an Alphabet or an Apple will emerge from our many hydrogen proponents to reshape the world.

An abridged version of this article appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Murujuga rock art a global treasure

If you haven’t seen the World Heritage-nominated Murujuga rock art collection with your own eyes, do yourself a favour.

I first had the privilege 20 years ago, when working in government to establish an air monitoring program to assess the impact of industrial emissions on the site.

Visually spectacular, this rich heritage also tells a story of our past, present and future.

The fact that many of the petroglyphs lay under water reminds us how long Aboriginal people have been connected to Western Australia.  Drawings of wildlife like the Tasmanian tiger, also point to a time when the Pilbara experienced a much cooler climate.

And, the depiction of tall ships serve as a mirror, asking us to reflect on the impact colonisation has had on our First Nations’ peoples.

When our biggest export industries were established on Murujuga decades ago, little thought was given to the wishes of Aboriginal people or the value of the region’s heritage.

If we could start again, and Aboriginal people had a Voice, we would probably choose the nearby Maitland Estate, which is largely devoid of rock art, avoiding the destruction that occurred early on.

With the ocean set to subsume even more of the rock art as our climate heats, we may be among a handful of remaining generations able to experience the rock art in its current glory.

Contact the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) to find out how.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Labelling ESG as woke misses the point

It’s a shame that some people perpetuate the culture-war trope of ESG (environmental, social and governance) being part of a woke agenda.

In reality, ESG is a structured way for investors and lenders to assess the preparedness of organisations for the future.

ESG asks whether companies have assessed the risks and opportunities material to their performance, in areas ranging from climate change to nature loss, and human capital to supply chain surety.

ESG also provides a way for organisations to embed sustainability into their strategies, and then demonstrate their performance to workers and customers, to build trust and enable them to make informed choices.

Some estimate intangible assets as making up more than 90 per cent of a modern company’s value.  Critical to this intangible value is a company’s reputation, which is increasingly driven by sustainability performance.

Australian corporate law requires directors to make decisions in the best interests of the company.  Some interpret this as meaning maximising profits for shareholders. 

I can’t think of too many companies whose profits will increase in an overheating world, facing ecological collapse and societal disruption.

If people could move on from the decades-long culture wars, they would see ESG for what it is. A way of creating and protecting shareholder value, reducing inequality today and giving our kids some chance of having the quality of life we’ve taken for granted.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

ReGen Strategic offers an end-to-end sustainability and ESG service.  For more information, please click here.

PM between a rock and a hard place on Voice detail

There are two types of people asking for more detail in the leadup to the referendum on a First Nations Voice being enshrined in Australia’s constitution.

The first type are generally supportive of the idea, but are genuine in their desire for more information about what they are supporting, before voting.

The second will never support the Voice, and are campaigning about a lack of detail in the hope of getting the generally supportive to vote no.

This latter group also points to any dissenting views among First Nations people, as reason to ignore the 250 Indigenous leaders who signed the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which recommended the Voice as a priority.

While he is probably on the money in identifying this latter group as seeking to perpetuate the culture wars, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese finds himself between a rock and a hard place on how much detail he provides about his preferred model.

If he is light on detail, he plays into the hands of the no campaign.  But, every bit of detail he releases widens the opportunity for dissent, which the no campaign will also capitalise on.

The final Referendum Council report delivered to then PM Malcolm Turnbull, said that the structure and functions of the Voice should be determined by the Parliament.  Albanese points to the work of the previous coalition government, as well as a 2021 report by Marcia Langton and Tom Calma as providing direction on what the Voice might ultimately look like.

But effectively communicating enough detail ahead of the referendum to satisfy the generally supportive may be critical to getting the Voice over the line.

Sustainability and ESG focus drives increasing trust in business

This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer provides a lot of encouragement for companies pursuing stronger environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.

Informed by an online survey of 32,000 respondents across 28 countries, Edelman found that business was the only institution seen as both competent and ethical by respondents, with a 20 point increase in the ethics rating for business recorded between its 2020 and 2023 surveys.

In a world of increasing distrust of government and media, particularly among lower income earners, business is now the most trusted institution, with respondents having most faith in the organisations they work for.

The importance of strong ESG performance to employee and customer attraction was also identified by Edelman, with 69 per cent of respondents saying having societal impact is a strong expectation or deal breaker when considering a job, and 63 per cent saying they bought or advocated for brands based on their beliefs and values.

While the perception of business has improved remarkably in recent years, Edelman also identified that the community expects more.  Despite some of the recent pushback against ESG businesses, including by republican governors in the United States, an overwhelming majority of Edelman respondents said they wanted more societal engagement from business, not less.

Unsurprisingly, greater action on climate change was at the top of the list.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

ReGen Strategic offers an end-to-end sustainability and ESG service.  For more information, please click here.

Oil and gas decommissioning a big opportunity

Woodside’s struggles in fully removing old infrastructure from its offshore Enfield oil field, have reminded us of the risks and opportunities associated with the huge decommissioning task facing the industry.

According to the WA-based Centre of Decommissioning Australia (CODA), almost $60 billion in decommissioning work will be required over the next 50 years in Australia.

In addition to this financial liability, decommissioning must sit toward the top of ESG risks for oil and gas producers, crossing heavily into both environmental and safety performance.

Reputationally, any underperformance in decommissioning will also be seen by many in the context of the industry’s perceived performance on climate, and be highlighted by activists.

In the context of increased wartime demand, and the scramble for market share in a decarbonising world, decommissioning must seem as exciting for some in the industry, as cleaning their bedrooms is for my kids on the weekend.

But, I wonder if a lack of industry focus might see WA miss the huge opportunity decommissioning presents to build a new, world class sector, meeting the huge demand in Australia, and competing for the massive spends that will also occur globally.

The WA government has got behind CODA to foster industry collaboration on the risks and opportunities decommissioning presents.

With business opportunities, jobs and improved environmental and safety performance on offer, industry should get on board.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

The problem with relying on experts

If there is one new year’s resolution we should all have, it is to stop relying on experts in our decision making.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s a role for people with know-how in the physical world, from plumbers to physicists, and test pilots to grain inspectors.

The expert advice we should be wary of comes from people who trade in the subjective, making predictions about the future based on their knowledge of the past.

In his book, The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb presents a compelling case as to why experts” in fields like military intelligence, political “science”, economics, real estate and securities are often no more accurate in predicting the future than the average person.

These “experts”, like all humans, have a tendency not to reverse opinions we already have, and to selectively look for evidence to support them.  We also tend to attribute accurate predictions to our own abilities, and misfires to external events. 

Which brings me to interest rates.  If you were a central banker that believed, through your own genius, inflation had been tamed forever, you might confidently predict interest rates would not rise. And you might blame unforeseen rises on events you had failed to predict.

Which gets us back to the key point. The future is unpredictable.  The only history that genuinely repeats, is the history of “experts” routinely getting their forecasts wrong.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Increased regulation and intervention to become the norm

To understand the push towards greater regulation and intervention in Canberra at present, we need to understand that many view market forces and government policies to date to have failed in many respects.

While Australia has enjoyed decades of largely uninterrupted economic growth, there is an increasing view that the success of some is coming to the disadvantage of others.

Australia enjoys some of the highest living standards in the world, as measured by GDP per capita, but inequality is rising.  In the decade to 2019, ABS data shows the average household net wealth of people in the top quintile grew by 20 per cent, while shrinking by 10 per cent for those at the bottom.

Contributing to this has been an unresponsive labour market in some sectors, with high demand for workers, and limited supply, failing to push up wages in industries like aged care.

There is also a sense that we are stealing from future generations.  Australia has amongst the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world, including emitting more emissions per capita from coal fired power generation than any other nation. And, between 2000 and 2017, cleared an area the size of Tasmania in threatened species habitat.

Given the urgency of the climate transition, its wide-ranging impacts on people and planet, and an increasing view that the market cannot deliver the transition by itself, industry, globally, can likely expect more regulation and intervention, not less, in the years ahead.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Time to do the opposite on climate, biodiversity and inequality?

The recent friction between industry and the Albanese government reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George decides to do the opposite of everything he’d done to date.

Unhappy with his lot in life, George reasoned that the decisions that had brought him to this point were to blame, and that it was time to… do the opposite.

When Anthony Albanese became PM, he inherited a country in denial on climate change and a devastating report on the state of our environment.

Wages, as a share of the economy, had fallen to an all-time low.  And east coast energy prices were out of control, again, driving higher inflation and interest rates.

Having worked on WA’s domestic gas reservation policy, I recall how that policy was attacked at the time, with some saying it was going to end investment in the sector.

These days, the policy is recognised as underpinning both WA’s economic success, and, more than any sports sponsorship, the social licence of WA’s gas industry.

Albanese has moved on climate and wages, with environmental protection and energy prices now in his sights.  Industry may have legitimate gripes about a lack of consultation, and time will tell if there are unintended consequences.

But, with the sum of all of the decisions we have taken to date delivering us climate change, biodiversity loss and growing inequality, surely it’s time to consider... doing the opposite.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Aboriginal youths star in fresh health campaign

As Western Australia moves into another wave of COVID-19, it’s a timely reminder that there are still many vulnerable West Australians who are not vaccinated and at risk of falling seriously ill.

Unfortunately, there is still a concern for the Indigenous population, whose vaccination rate is lagging, particularly in regional areas.

The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) is the leading authority for Aboriginal health in our state. It acts on behalf of 23 Member Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across the state, offering support, advocacy, and influence.

AHCWA’s vision is for Aboriginal people to enjoy the same level of health and wellbeing as all West Australians.

This month the Council has launched a video advertising campaign to target the younger generation of Indigenous West Australians. The campaign encourages the youth to get vaccinated against COVID to keep their mob safe and to continue to do the things they love.

The team travelled to different areas of the state to work with local children (not actors), to produce visually engaging and relatable content. It’s part of a much bigger ‘Don’t Hesitate Vaccinate!’ campaign by AHCWA

The video will be shown on regional television as well as across several social media and digital


Note, Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia is a client of ReGen Strategic.

Is a lack of diversity holding Australian cricket back?

Cricket Australia’s vision is for cricket to be a sport for all Australians.  But, if Australia has fallen out of love with Australia’s men’s team, I wonder if the lack of diversity in the side is one of the reasons.

In the 20 years between the 2001 and 2021 censuses, the number of Australians born overseas increased from 21.8 to 27.7 per cent of the population, including a five-fold increase for those born in India.

But, with the notable exception of Usman Khawaja, the demographic composition of Pat Cummins’ side looks very much like that of Steve Waugh’s team two decades ago.  And when you look a little closer, the composition of the state sides playing Sheffield Shield around the country is similar.

But, an even bigger issue might be that the Australian team is even more unrepresentative of the people actually playing cricket at the community level, where participation from players of south-Asian heritage and other newer Australians has been growing for many years.

The biggest and most enthusiastic cricket crowd we have seen in Perth for some time, was for India’s world cup T20 clash with South Africa.

I can’t help but wonder if this type of support and commercial success might be available for the Australian team too, if it was more representative of all the people who love and play cricket in Australia.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Vanadium batteries a potential powerhouse in energy storage

Research suggests the global battery energy storage system market will grow from $US4.4 billion in 2022 to $US15.1b by 2027.

It makes sense given our solar and wind renewable energy industry is maturing, and we need sustainable ways to be able to store that energy.

While lithium-ion batteries currently hold the largest share of the battery energy storage system, it’s said an ‘Elon-Musk-style’ moment will come for vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB) in the next two years.

One of the key players to bring this sustainable technology to Australia is Perth-based VRFB company AVESS, proprietor of world-class technology developed in South Korea.

Next year AVESS is set to launch two batteries for demonstration at an Australian mine site. The demonstration VRFBs will be capable of storing 250kWh of energy, one with 50kW output over 5 hours, and the other with 25kW output over 10 hours.

The batteries can store energy generated from renewable sources to be released as base-load power when required. They are well-suited for solar or wind-connected power systems known as SAPS (stand-alone power systems) in remote areas and can also be grid-connected for ancillary services.

VRFBs are capable of cycling more than 20,000 times over a 20-plus year lifespan with minimal performance degradation. Lithium-ion batteries can expect to see a 50 per cent performance reduction between 500 to 5000 cycles.

And VRFBs are a safer and greener alternative to lithium. Vanadium flow batteries do not contain heavy metals, and the water-based electrolyte is non-flammable and is fully recyclable.

AVESS not only aims to bring the technology to Australia but will implement full scale manufacturing in the country by 2024 in the hope to meet Australian and global battery energy storage demand.

Note, AVESS is a client of ReGen Strategic.

Ignore anti-woke backlash to effect social change

Germany’s soccer world cup loss to Japan last week brought with it the familiar howls of outrage within older generations.

The German team had staged a protest over being blocked by FIFA from wearing a rainbow-coloured armband in support of LGBT Qataris, putting their hands over their mouths in a pre-match gesture.

Virtue signaling, their critics cried! They deserved to lose for not focusing on the football, some fans said.

Of course, Germany could have been beaten by a better team on the day.  But, that wouldn’t suit the narrative of the anti-woke, among which charging others with virtue signaling has become virtue signaling, in itself.

Along with being labelled a hypocrite, being labelled a virtue signaler is now a major risk of speaking out on any social or environmental topic.

But, ask yourself, does the anger of those who level these charges arise because they are so committed to climate action or diversity?  Or is it driven more by commercial self-interest, or a rear-guard action to protect the cultural norms they associate with their own success or happiness?

Cultures change, and this change is driven by people.  In Australia, our original LGBT activists were arrested for taking a stand.

But thanks to their efforts and countless large and small contributions since, Australia has changed for the better.

Stay strong, Gen Z.  Don’t let the anti-woke backlash grind you down.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Gas industry communications need to improve

It’s good to see the gas industry start to explain its role in a decarbonising world.  Because, to date, its communication on this topic has been woeful.

I accept the International Energy Association (IEA) view that gas can help us get out of coal, has a broader role to play in our transition to renewables and may have a role in 2050, even in a net zero world.

However, the IEA also says that, while there is increasing demand for non-Russian gas at present, this growth is likely to be temporary, because the Ukraine war is also accelerating the uptake of renewables and electric vehicles.  The IEA projects global gas demand to plateau by the end of the decade.

Going forward, the gas industry should expect increased scrutiny about the need for new developments and exploration.  As well as what it is doing about the emissions of its operations and customers.

Industry communication that focuses simply on energy security and jobs during transition could leave the industry stranded, as new technologies arrive to deliver the same, perhaps more quickly than expected. The traditional practice of focusing on the volume of jobs created has potentially been counter-productive, as the community feels it is being asked to accept a trade-off.

According to environmental non-profit Global Witness, 636 oil and gas lobbyists attended COP27, 100 more than last year’s meeting.

With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly apparent, and the risks around greenwash growing, the industry’s increased effort in engagement and communication will need to be permanent, open and honest.

This column also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Mining workplace education pilot builds safety and respect

The parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO industry exposed the worst of the sector. What came next might just be the best.

To address the issues brought to light in the inquiry, key WA mining companies Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue Metals Group pooled their resources to find a solution in October 2021.

The result is the Building Safe and Respectful Workplaces program, an evidence-based program developed in consultation with leading experts to educate new entrants to the sector.

An industry first, the program goes beyond sexual harassment, covering the impact of sexual harassment, bullying and racism, including how to recognise and report these behaviours.

The pilot program was held over two days last week, with 30 volunteers undertaking apprenticeships or traineeships with one of the three companies taking part.

Delivered by experienced facilitators from Griffith University and managed by the Australian Minerals and Energy Skills Alliance (AUSMESA), the successful pilot was an important step in the process.

The results of the pilot will be used to finalise the learning program after feedback has been gathered from participants, before rolling it out more broadly early next year.

While it’s still early days and change won’t happen overnight, the influence these three companies wield in Australia should not be underestimated.

BHP has almost 30,000 employees in Australia, FMG has more than 5000 Australian employees, and Rio Tinto has more than 12,000 employees in the Pilbara alone.

There were 123,020 FTE employees in WA’s resources sector in the last census, representing more than one in six of all West Australians with full-time employment.

By bolstering in-house training for the existing workforce with a program targeted at new starters at three of the sector’s biggest employers, Rio Tinto, BHP and FMG have charted a path for a better future for WA workplaces in mining and beyond.

Note, Rio Tinto is a client of ReGen Strategic.

Net tightens around greenwash

The scrutiny of corporate claims on climate action is heating up, with two major developments in recent weeks.

In October, ASX-listed Tlou Energy became the first Australian company fined by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission over concerns about alleged false or misleading sustainability-related statements.

ASIC questioned several of Tlou’s climate-related claims, including whether the electricity it produced would be carbon neutral.

ASIC further revealed that it was investigating other listed entities, super funds and managed funds, foreshadowing court action for serious breaches.

Greenwashing was also a major focus of COP27 last week, with a major UN report released outlining 10 recommendations to bring “integrity, transparency and accountability to net zero” for “non-state actors”.

Key recommendations included organisations taking responsibility for scope three emissions and outlining a clear transition plan to meet their stated short, medium and long-term emission reduction targets.  Further, organisations could not claim to be net zero if investing in new fossil fuel projects.

Greenwashing misleads investors and consumers into making decisions they would not otherwise make. More importantly, it undermines global efforts on climate change, by masking underperformance and eroding trust.

In Australia, the conversation about net zero, gas, the retirement of coal and the rollout of renewables is too complex and important to be undermined by misinformation.

The crackdown on greenwashing should be welcomed by us all.

This article was also published in The West Australian newspaper.  If you would like guidance on how to avoid greenwashing and build trust with your stakeholders through transparent communication and engagement, please contact ReGen Strategic.

Carbon neutral a great first step in sustainability journey

No organisation’s journey towards sustainability and net zero is the same.

Some have massive emissions built into their operations and are investing in completely new ways to operate, while some only need to make minor changes to the way they do things.

Some are just starting to understand their carbon footprint, while others have already reached their targets.

The most important element they share is that they all decided to take that first step.

For ReGen Strategic, the decision to become carbon-neutral was the culmination of a decade-long commitment to seeking win-win outcomes for Western Australia as a strategic communications advisory.

There’s no bigger win-win outcome for WA than doing our part to reduce our emissions, so ReGen set out to become a certified carbon neutral organisation through the Australian Government’s Climate Active program.

ReGen’s journey began in early 2022 with a comprehensive examination of our operating activities to gather extensive data needed to measure our carbon inventory.

This included our electricity use in the office and working from home, business travel and employee commuting, office equipment and supplies, waste and use of professional services.

We then established an internal sustainability committee from all levels of the organisation, who worked together to set an emissions reduction target of 30 per cent by 2026 and identify ways this could be achieved.

With that target guiding us, we started implementing changes in our office to make sure we get there.

To date, this has included changing our computer settings to limit energy consumption, reducing emissions from commuting by securing end-of-trip facilities and providing a rebate on public transport fares, and providing staff with recycling bins at their desks to reduce wastage.

It hasn’t always been easy to change long-held habits, but giving our staff ownership of the process has ensured buy-in across the company.

Some emissions remain unavoidable – for now – so in the interim we are purchasing offsets for those emissions each year.

For our initial certification, we have invested in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor project in the northern Wheatbelt of WA.

More than 90 per cent of the vegetation in this area had been cleared by farming since the early 1900s, but this project is trying to reverse this. with landowners to reforest non-arable land with native species.

The goal is to create a 200km long green corridor from inland to the coast, reconnecting indigenous vegetation with 12 nature reserves across a 10,000km2 area and sequestering carbon for 100 years.

Since 2008, the project has worked with landowners to plant more than 30 million mixed native species of trees and shrubs across almost 18,000 hectares.

Beyond carbon storage, the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor’s environmental benefits include improved biodiversity, soil quality and water quality.

In 2022, ReGen Strategic achieved its goal to become certified as a carbon neutral organisation, but our journey is far from over.

Like many of our clients, we acknowledge how far we have to travel and are committed to staying on this road until we get there.

But the most important step is already behind us.

Generations divide on environmental and social values

Justin Langer’s column in The Weekend West on the importance of shared values in the forging of corporate sports partnerships was right on the money.

And I wonder if there is a divide on environmental and social values between our Generation Z sporting heroes, and the often much older sports administrators and corporate decision makers.

Take the issue of climate change, for example.

Like all people of their age, Gen-Z sporting stars have a lot to lose, as our planet heats up.  The older you are, the more theoretical the likely impacts might seem.  For our younger sporting stars and their contemporaries, increasingly catastrophic weather events, mass migration, ecological collapse and food scarcity are in-their-lifetime threats.

Z’s see baby boomers as having caused climate change, with Generation X and millennials not having done enough to counter it.  Being told that they should be seen and not heard on climate by their elders, simply reinforces this view.

As the effects of climate change become even more apparent, and as it becomes increasingly likely the world will miss its decarbonisation goals, expect the demands for climate action from Generation Z and the coming Generation Alpha to only get louder.  And for their higher standards and expectations to extend to the world’s other environmental and social challenges.

It will be a good test of values for the rest of us, in how we respond.

This column also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Diverse directors the key to inclusive boardrooms

Gender diversity in the workplace has come a long way in Australia, with women comprising almost half of all employed people in Australia in 2022.

But that doesn’t extend to the halls of power, where women represent a substantially smaller share of leadership positions than men.

According to the latest results from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency dataset, women hold 17.6 per cent of chair positions and 31.2 per cent of directorships, and represent 19.4 per cent of CEOs and 34.5 per cent of key management personnel.

Additionally, almost a quarter of boards and governing bodies have no female directors, compared to less than one per cent with no male directors.

While there is reason for hope, with women comprising 41.8 per cent of new appointments to ASX 200 Boards as of November 30, 2021, more needs to be done to build this momentum.

But, while there are many women with the skills and experience required to make strong contributions to the boardroom, getting that initial position and building a board career can sometimes be a challenge.

Enter Carnaby, a freshly hatched advisory firm in Western Australia providing professional development support for people of diverse backgrounds to reach leadership positions.

Its vision is for a more inclusive boardroom culture in Australia, where better decisions and stronger governance are achieved through the representation of talented individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Named for the Carnaby Black Cockatoo, which is renowned for flocking together, the fledgling organisation operates with this spirit of collaboration at its core.

The firm offers director education, mentoring and events programs to emerging and aspiring leaders.

Carnaby recently graduated its first cohort of 15 women from its inaugural Hatch Director Onboard Program and is looking to further intakes for women, as well as tailored programs for other diverse cohorts.

The firm might be just learning to fly, but its three founders have long navigated the currents of corporate Australia.

Bronwyn Barnes is a WA Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, Suzanne Ardagh was the former WA state manager with the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and Daniel Smith is one of Australia’s leading experts in sustainability and ESG, stakeholder engagement and strategic communication.

Collectively, they have spent almost 60 years on boards spanning almost every sector imaginable.

In taking the next generation under their wing, Carnaby’s directors are hoping to make it easier for people of diverse backgrounds to follow them into boardrooms.

The Carnaby flock is just leaving the nest, but once it is in full flight, the sky’s the limit.

To learn more about Carnaby and to express interest in their programs, visit the Carnaby website here.

Note, ReGen Strategic executive chair and founder Daniel Smith is a founding partner of Carnaby.

Engagement key to avoiding sports controversies

Is there a recent sporting controversy that couldn’t have been averted through better consultation and engagement?

Think back to last year’s T20 cricket world cup, when Quinton de Kock sat out a match, reluctant to take a knee, as directed, in support of Black Lives Matter.

It later emerged that Cricket South Africa first provided this direction to players on the bus, on the way to the game.

Earlier this year, the first Manly rugby league players learned about the club’s pride jumper initiative was on the TV news in the week of the game.

Surely, better consultation and engagement would have provided parties in the recent Netball Australia controversy time to understand and reconcile the views of others, well ahead of the Diamonds’ series against England.

I also wonder if better engagement with WACA members might have prevented the statues honouring our men’s, women’s and Aboriginal players proposed for the redeveloped WACA ground becoming controversial.

In a world where culture wars are increasingly harnessed to advance personal and political interests, consultation and engagement have never been more important.  While some will never agree on these issues, most people reach fair positions, if brought on the journey.

Unless sports administrators get it right, issues will continue to flare up, with reputations and the causes people care about damaged in the process.

Daniel Smith is executive chair of ReGen Strategic and a WACA board election candidate. This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Transfer to clean energy gets helping hand

With the transition to renewable energy well and truly underway, companies across the globe are putting forward projects to capitalise on the opportunities available in the green economy.

But not all projects are created equal, and the abundance of proposals for renewable energy generation or storage operations can result in quality projects struggling to attract secure investments among the jostling for attention.

The Clean Energy Transfer Fund (CETF) is using its expertise in the investment space to make sure the best renewables projects get the support they need.

Established as a specialist fund in 2021, the fund seeks out these projects and signs long-term agreements to purchase future energy output once the projects are operational.

With the certainty of the CETF contracts, known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or battery energy tolling agreements, it’s easier for renewables projects to attract the necessary investment to come to fruition.

The backing of the CETF goes beyond the value of a PPA.

As a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) with a Climate Bond Certified accreditation, the CETF also lends credibility to the partner projects and can issue debt in support of these projects.

The process has been achieving significant results.

In the past 12 months, CETF helped secure offtakes across eight wind projects in Victoria, producing approximately 250 MW of clean, renewable energy for Australia.

But renewable generation is only part of the story, with renewable generators intermittent by nature and demand not always synching up with supply.

Having reliable energy storage systems capable of receiving and distributing excess solar and wind energy is critical to creating a future network supported entirely by renewables.

That’s why CETF’s next big project partner is Akaysha Energy, which is working to develop one of the world’s biggest battery sites in the world in Orana, NSW.

At full capacity, the Orana Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) can provide up to 1600MWh with the initial project phase of 200MW by 800MWh of energy storage. That’s enough to power  145 average NSW households for a whole year with a single charge from the initial project phase.

Located on a site adjacent to the local TransGrid substation, the Orana BESS won’t require long transmission lines and will have low environmental constraints, making it the sort of quality project suited for CETF support.

With CETF and Akaysha signing an exclusive offtake option agreement, the development of the Orana BESS is secured and construction is expected to commence in 2023 and be completed in 2024 pending final approvals.

Government has an important role to play in the transition to renewables, but organisations like CETF demonstrate the valuable contributions the private sector can make in securing Australia’s energy future.

Note, Clean Energy Transfer Fund is a client of ReGen Strategic.

Cummins puts cricket ahead of the pack on climate

When I was a kid, the cricket was sponsored by a tobacco company.

While controversial at the time, the Australian government banned tobacco sponsorship of sporting events 30 years ago. Cricket was the last code to quit in April 1996.

In climate change, we face an environmental crisis that threatens the existence of some nations and the liveability of most.

Global temperatures have already risen 1.2 degrees since pre-industrial times, sea levels by almost a foot and we are seeing more catastrophic weather events, here and around the world.

The uncomfortable truth is that whenever we burn gas, we increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Not as much as if we were burning coal, but we are still adding to the problem.

Some energy companies commendably take responsibility for their emissions and have a credible plan to get to net zero, as they support the transition to renewables. These companies should be celebrated, and their sponsorship welcomed.

But, companies that can’t explain how they are part of the solution, should expect increased scrutiny and pushback, as our climate deteriorates going forward.  This isn’t about all resources companies, it’s about the energy companies the community perceives as not doing the right thing by people and planet.

Yes, fast food and gambling ads are bad. And each of us could have done more on climate to date. But these are not reasons to discourage climate action now.

Our current crop of sporting heroes are from Generations Z and Alpha, who have more to worry about than those of us who have created the climate crisis.

When they and their kids are grappling with droughts, storms, floods and mass migration in 30 years’ time, I reckon those that took a stand on climate when they had the platform to do so, will be proud of their efforts.

Raise your bat, Pat Cummins. This time, cricket is ahead of the pack.

Who’s going to pay damages for climate change?

Would decision making around large fossil-fuel projects in Australia differ, if reparations for the impact of their greenhouse gas emissions had to be paid to those most affected by climate change?

Under the 2015 Paris agreement, Australia signed up to mitigating our greenhouse emissions and strengthening society’s ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

But, the agreement also recognised the importance of addressing loss and damage for climate change impacts that went beyond our ability to adapt.

This has come into sharper focus with natural disasters like the recent floods in Pakistan, which inundated a third of the country and destroyed countless livelihoods.

With the increasing intensity of natural disasters linked to the 1.2 degrees celsius rise in global temperatures recorded since pre-industrial times, one study found the top five emitters - the USA, China, Russia, Brazil and India - to have caused US $6 trillion in income losses from global warming since 1990.  It also found most of this had fallen on vulnerable people in developing countries.

Australia might be a smaller contributor to the problem, but the size of our coal and LNG export industries brings us firmly into frame.

Climate justice advocates want next month’s COP27 conference in Egypt to debate potential systems for loss and damage reparations, with many arguing fossil fuel companies should pay.  That might change the calculus.  Even in Australia.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Perfect appeal record delivering for people with disability

More vulnerable West Australians are looking to Legal Aid Western Australia (LAWA) for help after being rejected from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

LAWA has already seen soaring numbers of people from across WA who want to appeal an NDIS rejection to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

And following the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability’s public hearings in Perth, more people are expected to come forward for legal help with appeals.

Some of the families who had their claims rejected were advised they didn’t fulfill the criteria for NDIS, while others felt they had not been given an adequate level of support.

Many applications are for children or teenagers, with the applications coming from across the Perth metropolitan area and regional areas.

LAWA has never lost an NDIS appeal, with most matters settled before going to a final hearing.

But with more cases being rejected by the NDIS, there has been an increase in the number of appeal referrals from the AAT.

As a result, LAWA has assisted more than 650 people with legal advice or representation on NDIS matters since 2019.

LAWA Director of Civil Law Gemma Mitchell said Legal Aid WA faced growing demand from clients of all ages across the state who wanted to appeal an NDIS rejection to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“NDIS appeals are chronically underfunded with increasing demand, and we expect the Royal Commission will prompt more people to come forward,” Ms Mitchell said.

“We know many of the clients who come to us for help with NDIS appeals have mental health conditions, and we are committed to taking a whole of organisation approach to working with clients who have a disability.

“We are helping people to navigate this very complex system, both through the appeal process and with early intervention to enable people to receive the help they need earlier in the journey.

“We are the only specialist in this area in WA. There aren’t any other providers who are funded to provide legal services to NDIS appeals.

“We are expecting even more direct referrals from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in future.”

Note, Legal Aid WA is a client of ReGen Strategic.

Republican ESG scepticism flies in the face of the facts

ESG sceptics are scattered everywhere, but perhaps none are more visible than those in the US Republican Party.

ESG is about companies identifying material environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities in areas like climate change, biodiversity loss, labour standards and data security, as well as diversity and inclusion, LGBT rights and racism.

Already sceptical on climate change, many Republicans bristle at the idea of companies taking progressive positions on social issues.

Ignoring ESG issues is against the long-term interests of companies and shareholders. However, ambitious Republicans see short-term political advantage in calling for companies to do so.

The increasingly polarised US political landscape provides fertile ground for this. Many Trump Republicans see Democrats as being too focused on social (non-white, non-Christian) issues, and not representing them.

Florida governor, and presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis is pitching to this crowd. Already a pinup boy for the anti-LGBT rights movement, DeSantis banned state fund managers from investing in companies or funds that make investment decisions on ESG factors, despite this increasing borrowing costs.

But DeSantis’ increasingly sceptical position on climate may have additional political consequences. Claiming that Hurricane Ian was a “one in 500-year event” ignores climate science and betrays his constituents.

Punching down on social issues is one thing. But maintaining public scepticism on climate change, in the face of the facts and the future, should become increasingly difficult. Even for US Republicans.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

WACA goes in to bat for diversity

If there is a better run sporting body than the West Australian Cricket Association, I am not aware of it.

The men’s and women’s teams hold four titles between them, including our first Sheffield Shield in 23 years.

The Association is financially sound, despite losing two seasons of international cricket to border closures. And is currently delivering on the long-aspired redevelopment of the WACA ground, with $100 million in hard-won state and federal government funding.

But, it’s the WACA’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within cricket that may have the biggest impact on the future health of the game.

As the demographic composition of Australia has changed over the decades, so has our sporting landscape. While cricket and footy are still prominent, there is much greater competition from other codes.

Encouraging and facilitating participation from a diverse range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do if cricket wants access to the full range of talent available, and to grow the number of people buying tickets and watching on TV.

Engaging women not only drives the ongoing success of our women’s teams, it also supports the introduction of children, both boys and girls, to the game.

If we get the diversity piece right, WA cricket will have both sporting and commercial success for a long time to come.

Daniel Smith is executive chair of ReGen Strategic and a WACA member. 

This column also appeared in The West Australian.


Mawarnkarra Health Service’s Perth outreach celebrates milestones

Did you know Mawarnkarra Health Service (MHS) was the first Aboriginal Medical Service to establish a Perth outreach service?

The service was created amid concern about the lack of support patients were receiving when they travelled from the Pilbara to the city for medical care.

Now the Perth outreach service is celebrating two major milestones – its sixth year of operation and its first patient to receive a kidney transplant.

The service assists Aboriginal people navigate the complex health system as they attend important medical treatments such as dialysis, chemotherapy and radiation.

Mawarnkarra Health Service outreach worker Jodie Jackson has worked for the service since it was established six years ago and now helps between seven and 15 people a week.

Jodie said the assistance she offered ranged from transporting patients to their accommodation to attending appointments to translating complex medical terms.

“When they have their appointments, if they’re not confident going in on their own, I’ll go in with them and say, ‘if you don’t understand something give me a nod’, and then we can pull it back so they understand,” she said.

“Doctors use all these big words, and I’ll simplify it and say how it is and they respect that.

“Before, when people were coming down, they didn’t have any guidance and they didn’t have anyone to help them, whereas now they do.

“I'll get their appointments schedule out, we'll have them all laid out, so we know what we're doing. And they know what they're doing as well.”

One of Jodie’s first patients, a 28-year-old woman who has had lifelong kidney issues, is thriving back at home after the successful kidney transplant late last year.

“She’s been part of my program ever since I started it six years ago,” Jodie said.

“She used to do dialysis four days a week. Once the dialysis centre opened up in Mawarnkarra she was able to do her dialysis there, and she would come down to see the transplant mob, the doctor at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth.

“And then we got the phone call, and she had the transplant done in December.

“It was absolutely fantastic – she’s doing great guns. She’s gone from having to do dialysis – which was 8.30am in the morning to 2.30pm in the afternoon, and that’s four days a week – to having a life. She’s thriving now.”

As busy as she is with frequent flights coming down from the Pilbara, Jodie loves the rapport she has with all her clients.

“You're there for everybody, you’re not just there for one person,” she said.

“I don't just do one job. I go from taking a client to dialysis in the morning, and by the afternoon I could be at King Eddie’s or dealing with someone in rehab or back at the cancer place. So, it's never just one thing we deal with.

“Some of these people haven’t been off Country at all. But they know me. They trust me. I’m their eyes and their ears.”

The critical constitutional conversations ahead of us

Today, Australians rightly pay our respects to Queen Elizabeth II as she is laid to rest.

Whether or not you support our system of constitutional monarchy, Her Majesty’s lifetime of service is worthy of thanks and recognition.

However, it does not take away from this to acknowledge that the symbol of the British monarchy causes pain for Indigenous peoples across the world.

Rather, it strengthens us as a nation to acknowledge this.

In the years ahead, we will debate becoming a republic, where any Australian can aspire to becoming our Head of State.

When we last pondered this question, it was done in an environment of growing national pride and confidence, but was still resolved in the negative.

I am not sure that Australians are as positive and confident as we were in 1999, with growing global concerns and a growing acknowledgment of unfinished business in reconciling with our First Nations peoples.

Which is one of the reasons why the upcoming referendum on a constitutionally enshrined Voice for Aboriginal people is so important.

If that referendum passes, I can see the positivity and pride generated carrying forward into a second referendum on a republic.  A no vote, however, bodes ill for both our national self-esteem and the hopes of republicans.

So, let’s pay our respects today. And steel ourselves for the conversations that will define our national identity for generations to come.

Daniel Smith is executive chair of ReGen Strategic

Quitting coal? Just go west

WA’s small town of Collie has been keeping the state’s lights on for the past century. The problem is it’s through coal-fired power, which we now know is the single largest contributor to the growth of global emissions. 

But unlike its sister coal towns in New South Wales and Queensland, Collie is setting an example of how to transition away from coal.

It comes down to a ‘Just Transition’ that supports workers and ensures the town of Collie has a future beyond coal.

What sets Collie’s transition apart from the rest of Australia is the collaboration and transparency between the energy provider, which in this case is government-owned Synergy, the WA State Government, the unions and the community.

Collie has two coal mines and three coal-fired power stations. In 2019, the McGowan Government announced that the state-owned power stations would close, and earlier this year confirmed 2030 as the deadline. 

Thanks to a strong push and leadership from the unions early on, a Just Transition Working Group was set up. Initially there was a lot of raw emotion from workers and a community that had ultimately survived on a coal identity trying to save its town. 

Closures of this scale impact property prices in the town, which means that these workers can’t just sell up and leave to find another job. The flow-on effects for families and local businesses can be devastating.

To combat these concerns four sub-committees of the working group were set up that included:

  • Economic diversity and new industries
  • Workforce planning and training
  • Committing to a just transition
  • Celebrating Collie’s history and future.

Positive impacts of this working group have already been felt by the community.

Open town meetings and memorandums of understanding between the unions and Synergy, and proactive public government announcements have all contributed towards the workers feeling supported and the community feeling secure in the future of their town.

On top of this, the government has announced a range of efforts to entice new industry to the area.

It’s moving its own bushfire operations to Collie, along with bushfire appliance servicing and occupational licensing.

It’s also invested in tourism including an impressive 8,000sqm mega-mural painted on the local dam, the redevelopment of Lake Kepwari for water skiing, new bike trails and improved park facilities and street facades.

This is all part of a $662 million State Government Collie Transition package. Almost $50 million of that will go towards retraining the workforce to newer industries.

There is $200 million to attract major projects to the area. Couple this with an already $3.8 billion for new green power infrastructure around the state, it’s likely we will see a workforce transition to greener energy.

There are already two promising front runners. The first being a zero-carbon magnesium plant by Magnium Australia. This company has developed a ‘green magnesium’ product and aspires to set up the large-scale operation to support the growth of renewables and create hundreds of advanced manufacturing jobs to provide access to global export opportunities.

The State Government is helping fund Magnium’s feasibility study.

The second is Pump Hydro Collie that is working in collaboration with Griffin Coal to investigate a pumped hydro energy storage scheme (PHES) for the Muja coal pit.

As the deepest open cut coal mine in the southern hemisphere, coupled with a discrete geological water reservoir which is water gaining, the Muja pit is ideally suited to PHES.

The project will create 350 direct construction jobs over three years and 20 direct full-time jobs in operation.

There is still a long way to go for the town of Collie but it’s clear that a collaborative approach is the way to make headway in ensuring workers are supported and new industry is enticed to the area for a successful Just Transition from coal to cleaner energy.

And the rest Australia should be looking to Collie as we move towards an end to coal.


Green King Charles no republican pushover

In 1999, I voted for Australia to become a republic.

I’d probably do so again, if the question was put to me.  But, I’m not sure I would be in the majority.

For years, republican campaigners have seen Charles' ascension to the throne as the next big opportunity for constitutional change.

The theory went that, after Queen Elizabeth’s exemplary reign, Charles would prove to be less popular.  The monarchy, in turn, would become less popular and change would inevitably follow.

But, what if the new King is the man for the moment?

The last referendum was held during the hubristic pre-millennium years following the end of the Cold War, before the dot com crash, 9/11 and the GFC dampened the mood.

In that relatively prosperous and peaceful time, it was easy to think that Australia lacking an Australian-born head of state was the biggest issue facing us.

But young people today face much bigger issues, including climate change, an issue Charles has been campaigning on for years – well before it was popular to do so.

It is very possible that his credibility on this existential issue connects him to the community in a way few of us predicted.

And, in a world of polarised debates, disputed elections and authoritarian rule, people look at last week’s dignified transfer of sovereignty, and conclude our system of constitutional monarchy isn’t that broken.

Australia might become a republic, but the campaign will have to earn it.

Daniel Smith is executive chair of ReGen Strategic.

Resourceful Mind boosts miners’ mental health

For mining workers based in WA’s remote regions, there can be many challenges to mental health and wellbeing.

Working away from family and friends can be tough, and many people aren’t comfortable talking about the challenges of mental health – especially when they’re feeling isolated.

A 2018 report by the WA Mental Health Commission found one third of FIFO workers reported experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress, including feelings of anxiety and depression.

But an innovative peer support program designed to get people talking is helping to benefit the state’s mining and resources workforce, support those with mental health issues and promote wellbeing in the industry.

A pilot project developed through a collaboration between Lifeline WA and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA (CME) is already making a difference to the people on site who need it the most.

As part of the Resourceful Mind program, Lifeline WA provides peer supporters known as Minders with ongoing training and support for 12 months via core training, elective online modules and group coaching.

Minders are taught important skills, including how to recognise signs of mental health issues, listen to and support colleagues, have conversations about suicide, and assist others to seek help.

A total of 132 Minders took part in the initial pilot, and thanks to the trial’s early success, it is hoped there will be a broader rollout across the WA mining and resources sector.

Following the pilot, the Resourceful Mind program was evaluated by researchers from Edith Cowan University and found to be safe and effective.

Since the pilot concluded, the number of minders has already more than doubled with Lifeline WA and CME welcoming interest from different resources companies.

Lifeline WA chief executive Lorna MacGregor said the program had been designed specifically for workers in the WA resources sector.

“We understand that many people aren’t comfortable talking about their challenges with mental health, and we know from experience that men are less likely to ask for help,” she said.

“However, we believe workers in the resources sector may be more likely to open up to colleagues identified through the program as natural listeners, who have been trained to have difficult conversations.

“The program modules are delivered by our highly trained telephone crisis supporters who have extensive experience in suicide prevention and offering non-judgemental support.”

Note, Lifeline WA is a client of ReGen Strategic.

What should we be asking of gas producers?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that gas will have a much diminished, but still substantial market in a net zero by 2050 world.

So, what should we be asking of gas companies, as they compete for a share of this smaller pie?

Ongoing commitment to end the venting or leaking of methane during extraction, storage and transport, are minimum requirements. As is an end to non-emergency flaring.  The powering of gas production and processing by renewables should also be the norm.

But we could go further.  Exploration for new gas is continuing, despite the IEA saying it is not needed.  But this might give us the opportunity to find and prioritise lower CO2 resources for development, while ensuring that any CO2 extracted is abated immediately, or captured for use or storage.

Gas companies could take responsibility for the CO2 released when their customers burn their product, abating these emissions or helping with their capture.  And they could introduce renewables and storage into their mix, assisting customers to transition at the same time.

Gas may have a role in our future, but it’s up to us who gets to play.  With some companies on the journey I’ve described, and some not, investors will have a big say.  They have a lot to lose if gas assets become stranded by technology or the stronger regulation that will inevitably come as our climate deteriorates further.

How clean energy company TransAlta is taking ESG targets to the bank

It’s one of the biggest questions facing mining companies today: how do we reduce carbon emissions to contribute to the battle against climate change and reduce our economic risk at the same time.

Global clean energy solutions company TransAlta, which has over 100 years of experience building and operating renewable energy facilities, is not only assisting mining companies to do this but is also on its own journey to decarbonise.

TransAlta’s transition from coal to natural gas and renewable energy has reduced the company’s emissions by more than 61 per cent since 2015. It now operates over 50 renewable and energy storage facilities across Canada, the US and Australia with over 7 gigawatts of clean energy capacity globally and a growth target to produce an additional 5 gigawatts by 2030.

In Western Australia, TransAlta is currently constructing two solar farms and a battery energy storage system. 

The Northern Goldfields Solar Project was initiated under a Power Purchase Agreement between BHP Nickel West and TransAlta, which aims to provide fuel savings and reduce BHP’s scope 2 electricity greenhouse gas emissions from its Leinster and Mount Keith operations by 540,000 tonnes of CO2e over the first 10 years of operation.

TransAlta also recently announced its own ambitious ESG targets, including a further reduction in annual emissions to 75 percent by 2026 and 40 per cent female employment among all employees by 2030. Currently, women employees represent 21 per cent of all employees.

Ambitious but also probable given the company’s already big reduction in carbon emissions to date and its commitment to gender diversity. In 2020, women made up 43 per cent of TransAlta’s executive officer team and 45 per cent of its Board, with equal pay achieved for women in equivalent roles as men.

Although there are many obvious benefits to meeting these targets, one financial advantage  TransAlta has secured is a Sustainability Linked Loan (SLL).

Through the SSL, TransAlta has further underscored its dedication to sustainability by aligning the cost of its borrowing with its greenhouse gas emission reductions and gender diversity performance.

An SSL provides flexibility and the potential for real economic benefits and positive ESG change where the borrower is rewarded with a decrease in its borrowing costs based on the year’s performance.

TransAlta’s loan has a cumulative pricing adjustment to the borrowing costs on the facilities and a corresponding adjustment to the standby fee. Depending on performance against interim targets that have been set for each year of the credit facility term, the pricing adjustment is structured as a two-way mechanism that could move either up, down or remain unchanged for each sustainability performance target.

Not only are emissions reduction and increased diversity the right things to do by planet and people, as TransAlta’s example shows, they are also the smart thing to financially.

Note, TransAlta is a client of ReGen Strategic.

We need to talk about gas and net zero

There may be no hotter topic in Australia than the role of gas in our journey to net zero.

With Australia now committed to reaching net zero by 2050, the focus is now squarely on how this will be achieved.

In May last year, the International Energy Agency said there was no place for new coal, oil or gas projects beyond those committed in 2021, if the world was going to reach net zero by 2050.

However, under the IEA roadmap, gas would still have a role in 2050.  While demand for unabated coal would virtually disappear and oil reduce by 75 per cent as renewables came to dominate, gas demand would only reduce by half from current levels.

And here is where the tension lies.  While the IEA is effectively saying the world has all the gas we need in currently committed projects, the commercial competition to meet, what will still be, a significant market for gas remains. 

Then, there are the geopolitical considerations, alongside the role for gas in short-term emission reduction, such as replacing coal, oil and diesel generation, providing firming capacity to renewables, providing a feedstock to get the hydrogen industry going or replacing more carbon-intensive imports.  And, in Australia, things are further complicated by the financial incentive for gas producers to export LNG. 

At some point, Australia will approve its last new gas field. Expect every proposed development to be hotly contested until then.

This piece was also printed in The West Australian newspaper.

How Australian Potash will help secure global food supplies

As the world grapples with the task of combating climate change, the need to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector is weighed against the need to feed a growing global population.

Addressing either of these issues would be a worthy goal, but one Australian company is seeking to do both at once.

Australian Potash Limited is the company behind the Lake Wells Sulphate of Potash project, located in Western Australia’s north-eastern Goldfields.

For those not familiar with the industry, potash is essentially a mineral or compound that bears potassium – which helps plants regulate carbon dioxide uptake and water circulation, resist drought and disease, and develop strong roots.

Although potassium naturally occurs in soils, it is leached out of the soil as plants grow, which makes fertilisers like sulphate of potash (SOP) essential for securing the world’s food supply.

One of the issues with the existing SOP supply is that, in addition to not being able to meet growing demand partly due to supply chain issues, it is largely produced using a resource intensive method.

This is where Australian Potash enters the equation.

Following in the footsteps of SOP projects in the US, Australian Potash will use the environmentally friendly solar-salt production method, which generates 66 per cent less carbon dioxide than the typical ‘Mannheim’ method, which has been verified by an independent study.

The key to this is leveraging the unique advantages on offer in Western Australia, namely an abundance of sun and wind.

There are currently no established Australian suppliers of SOP, which means Australian farmers are dependent on importing less sustainable alternatives right now.

Australian Potash is one of the companies trying to change that.

Once developed, the Lake Wells SOP project is set to supply farmers in Australia and some of the world’s most productive regions with premium SOP that is organically certified and environmentally sustainable.

It might not be as ubiquitous as a solar panel for global sustainability, but Australian Potash’s progress toward sustainable food production is every bit as impressive.

Note, Australian Potash is a client of ReGen Strategic.

Understanding the gender pay gap

The release of ABS data last week showing that Western Australia continues to have the worst gender pay gap in the nation was very disappointing.

As was the attitude of some online, when I shared this information, asking whether WA could do better.

Here, men take home an average 22 per cent more than women, compared to 14 per cent nationally.

My antagonists argued this data was simplistic. That, if you compared wages in the same industries and occupations, the gap would disappear.

However, what they are talking about is equal pay, which has been a legal requirement in Australia for 50 years

The gender pay gap measures the difference between the average earnings of women and men in the workforce.  It measures women’s position in the economy in comparison to men, reflecting the social and economic factors that combine to reduce women’s lifetime earning capacity.

Factors like career disruption from having children, cultural norms on unpaid caring and domestic work, the relative inclusivity and flexibility of industries and workplaces, as well as discrimination in hiring, promotions and pay.

The gender pay gap reflects the financial ability of women to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow.  It’s a measure of fairness, empowerment and choice.

Last year’s review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act recommended publishing gender pay gap information at the employer level.

It also recommended investigating the collection and publishing of more diversity data, including for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, cultural and linguistic diversity, and disability.

I suspect these two measures would change a few attitudes and, more importantly, drive change.

This article was also run in The West Australian.

ReGen Strategic is fortunate to have former Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons on our team helping our clients with their diversity and inclusion journeys. Contact us to find out how we can assist you.

Nobody wins from greenwashing

News that global fashion brand H&M is being sued for ‘greenwashing’ in the United States is a reminder of growing accountability for business on environmental claims.

Greenwashing is where organisations mislead on their environmental performance, in the pursuit of a competitive advantage with investors and consumers.

It can be deliberate, or accidental.  Either way, it is creating increased legal, regulatory and reputational risk for companies, as well as undermining global efforts on issues like climate change.

In Australia, Santos is the first company to face legal action over the veracity of a net zero plan, and is also defending itself over the truthfulness of its “clean” gas language.

Last year, the Commonwealth Bank was forced to open its books, so that a shareholder could check whether the company had complied with its climate change policy in lending to new oil and gas projects.

With investors and consumers increasingly making decisions on the back of the perceived environmental performance of companies, regulators like ASIC, the ASX and the ACCC are cracking down.

Greenwashing undermines climate action, because it erodes trust, making life harder and less rewarding for the many trying to do the right thing.

To avoid greenwashing, you don’t need to be perfect.  Just be transparent about both the good and the bad, as well as plans for improvement.  And have good data. 

As an ESG advisory with more than 11 years’ experience assisting our clients with communications and engagement, ReGen Strategic is well placed to assist you with this.

With all eyes on greenwashing, this is the smart thing to do, as well as the right thing to do.

This article was also printed in The West Australian.

Two steps forward, one step back on climate

It was a case of two steps forward, one step back on climate action last week.

The passage of the Albanese government’s Climate Change Bill through the House of Representatives was a major milestone.

With the Greens supporting the legislation, and the government welcoming amendments from both the Greens and Teals, this Parliament is showing a maturity that was missing in 2009, when the Rudd government’s carbon pollution reduction scheme was rejected by the Senate.

The enshrining of an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050 is now certain.

In the United States, President Joe Biden won the support of all 50 Democrat senators to pass his cutely named Inflation Reduction Act, which promises a 40 per cent emission cut by 2030.  Among a raft of health and tax measures, the Bill includes US$369 billion for renewable energy generation, as well as US production of wind turbines, solar panels and batteries.  Subsidies for electrical vehicles will also be provided.

The legislation will now head to the US House of Representatives, where it is likely to be passed by the Democrat majority.

To tackle emissions to date, both Australia and the US have largely relied on regulation, as well as pressure on corporates from stakeholders, including employees, consumers and ESG / impact investors.  But, the codifying of targets and incentives is designed to provide industry with the confidence needed to drive further investment and accelerate emissions reduction.

Despite these big steps forward on the domestic front, news of the suspension of collaboration between China and the US on issues including climate change is a major blow.

If we have any hope of keeping global warming to the 1.5 degrees specified in the Paris Agreement, as well as achieving other sustainable development goals in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, we can’t afford backward steps like this.

This article was also published in The West Australian.

Long-form is the new black for content writing

The old saying goes that ‘less is more’, and that has held true in many contexts.

Instagram, TikTok and Twitter all shared a common emphasis on brevity and scarcity when they first took off.

However, each has since recognised the limits of forced brevity and expanded the parameters of the content of their platforms.

Twitter doubled the character limit and introduced native thread functionality, Instagram expanded video length from 15 seconds to a minute at first, and then far beyond that, while TikTok increased the maximum length from 60 seconds to three minutes and now up to 10 minutes.

These changes were all intended to hold people’s attention for longer and build a greater connection than a fun-size morsel of content could provide.

The same is true for long-form written content, which remains an important storytelling tool for any organisation as more readers (and marketers) embrace it.

For example, CGM Communications recently launched a new long-form written content series designed to tell the stories of our staff.

The Under the Hood series goes beyond the typical bio that you might expect to see on a company website and asks the question: ‘what drives you to do what you do for a living?’

The series was posted to LinkedIn, using the platform’s article feature designed specifically for long-form content.

In the six weeks since the series was launched, the five articles make up the top five posts in impressions, click through rate, reactions, comments and engagement rate.

The average performance for these longer articles also significantly outperformed CGM Voice blogs (like this one) in almost every metric, in addition to the added benefit of helping colleagues get to know each other better.

Below are some of the keys to Under the Hood’s success that can work for other long-form content.

1. Think about the interview setting

Getting the interview setting right is an important part of nailing the interview.

Before conducting the interview, consider whether it will be face-to-face, in a public or private place, and how much time you and the source will have available.

The time that worked best for me was a Friday afternoon where people are switching off from the stresses of the weekend. This meant that they weren’t thinking about their next meeting or deadlines, and we had the space to let the conversation breathe and pursue interesting asides.

I conducted the interviews via video from my home office, which provided a balance between a level of connection and body language cues and some distance to allow people to feel more comfortable being vulnerable, and a level of privacy that is difficult to get in public.

The right setting will change for person to person, what matters the most is that it makes the source feel at ease.

2. Work collaboratively

A writer might start an interview with a specific angle or theme for the story in mind, but offering the talent the opportunity to provide feedback on the piece before it is published can make them more willing to open up.

For pieces like Under the Hood, which deal with one interviewee, it’s their story you are telling and you want to make sure they feel they have been represented fairly.

As the interview is wrapping up, consider asking the source what they think the theme of their story is, or running through any rough ideas that have emerged throughout the interview for feedback.

3. Find the right balance

Although you want to unearth as much background information about a person as possible during the interview, what makes it into the finished story has to strike the right balance between personal and professional.

For Under the Hood, there were topics that were deeply personal and compelling, but not relevant to the overall story and were left out. There were also topics that were equally sensitive but were critical to that person’s fundamental values and included with their permission.

Even if the source gives the writer free reign to include any sensitive details, take care to consider the intended audience and possible impacts those details being publicised might have on the source’s life.

4. Let the story dictate the length

While it’s normal to set a rough word count, consider allowing the writer the freedom to see where the story takes them without setting firm restrictions.

Giving the writer freedom to write can allow room for the sort of non-essential details that can often stick with people’s memories.

Most writers will know when a piece is getting too long, but it’s always easier to edit something down than to add more detail after the fact.

Long-form written content isn’t a universal solvent for increasing engagement and creating a connection.

But long-form content can help add valuable much-needed colour and vibrancy to a company’s story and help to share your values while promoting your product, brand or services.

Whether you’re drafting case studies for annual reports, writing stories for your company newsletter, or producing content for social media, the right long-form content can provide added value for both you and your readers.

For assistance with producing long-form written content to complement your communications strategy, contact CGM Communications.

Read the Under the Hood series for yourself:

How to be more strategic about investor relations

Running an ASX-listed business, attracting investors and making your shareholders happy can be a balancing act.

Despite the importance of investor relations to ASX-listed companies, many smaller firms don’t have a coherent IR strategy.

When building an investor strategy that works, consider the following five steps:

  1. Understand your investors

I put this first because so many companies can’t tell me who is investing in them and what their investment goals are. Don’t guess what they want – if you don’t have an IR team who is in regular contact with analysts, retail and institutional investors, then you’re probably getting it wrong.

Consider a perception audit to get first-hand impressions of the company from analysts and former, current, and potential investors. The very process of building the survey and working out who should be contacted starts to help you segment your shareholder register.  

Companies come to third parties like CGM Communications to design and implement the perception audit. Not only is it best practice, but your investors are more likely to speak more freely with a third party – it takes the emotion out and leaves you with an independent benchmark for you to base your IR strategy on.

  1. Build a compelling story

Now that we know our investors – and what they think of our company – it’s time to build a compelling story.

I find it fascinating that companies will invest heavily in marketing to ensure their products and services are communicated in the best possible way to their customers yet fail to excite their investors about the future prospects and opportunities for the company itself.

Any CEO knows their company inside out, but they can sometimes get blinded by the detail. Like any branding or marketing campaign, its best just to tell a story. Excite people with the successes and focus on the type of business you’re building – it’s not always about how many holes you’re digging or the quality of the assay report.

Link the story to your business plan, what your investors are looking for, and then start to paint a vision – what do you stand for? How do you look after your employees? How do you go beyond expectations in the communities you operate in?

Investors obviously want to make money, but they’re increasingly looking to park their money in businesses they can relate to, who do more.

  1. Set clear objectives

Once you’ve established your story and understand your investors, your next step is to set realistic and measurable objectives. These can take many forms, but your objectives should support and enhance your business plan.

Investor relations is seen as a soft science, but hard objectives can and should be set. These can range from the frequency of roadshows, the number of analysts following the company, improvements to investor perceptions, changes to shareholder composition and diversity, to goals around share price, volatility and volume. 

As with the perception audit, using a third party to help identify and establish objectives ensures that they will find the balance between being ambitious and achievable by taking the internal perception of the company out of the equation.

  1. Communicate regularly

Build a calendar and stick to it. Investors appreciate regular and frequent communication in a way that works for them. One of the easiest ways to build out your calendar is to base it around the financial reporting dates for your company, alongside board meetings and the AGM.

The next thing to do is to map out investor conferences to attend and road trips to undertake during the year. These events provide an opportunity to refresh your deck and update investors on how you’re travelling against your story. These events often attract media, which should be considered when your consultants are mapping out the news opportunities for the year.

Finally, overlay all these announcements and events with a range of communications to your current shareholders. Your story needs to be told in a compelling way through programmed conversations with your largest investors, major announcement emails, a regular e-newsletter, but most importantly, through your digital presence.

Your website should be the centre of your IR communications. It houses your ASX releases, results, and management bios, but it should always exceed your statutory obligations. The website is where you tell your story – so make it shine with regular updates, media clips, photos, videos and social feeds.

  1. Assess how you’re going

This should be relatively easy after setting objectives in step three of your strategy, but any efforts to measure quality should be encouraged. Assess the success of every roadshow by giving participants a chance to give anonymous feedback. Allow retail investors to ask questions via the website – and make sure you respond.

And repeat your investor perception study exercise every year or so to see how you’re travelling.

At the end of the day, your investors want you to succeed – their opinions and feedback are precious.

CGM Communications works with ASX-listed companies to design and implement investor relations strategies that deliver results. Contact Anthony Fisk for more.

What Australia can learn from Israel's tech industry


As the war in the Ukraine rages on and Covid is ‘still a thing’, it is more important than ever to consider Australia’s place in supply chains, diversification, the cost of oil and other inputs in our daily lives just to sustain our way of life.

We need to think more about how innovation in key areas such as agriculture and medicine, for example, are driven and how we in Western Australia can secure, partner, and create in this environment to ensure our own economic development.

A big part of this is looking at others who have succeeded in this space and going on a journey with them – and Israel is worth a closer look at as a nation that has been leading the innovation charge for many years. For me, my relationship with Israel started in the ag-tech space over 20 years ago.  

The WA government has made diversification a platform to create new economies for WA and Israel could be a great partner in both products and collaborative research to help achieve that outcome. 

With nine million people, Israel has more companies on the NASDAQ than almost any other country outside of North America.  Year-on-year it continues to attract R&D investment and find success with its start-up economy and enterprise, consistently ranking in the top two for the most innovative economies globally.  

Well over 400 multi-national companies of well-known brands have with their R&D centers in Israel. 

This small nation would geographically fit into the area from Yanchep to Mt Barker but has over 6,000 start-ups and adds a further 600 each year despite this.  

The result is what Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive John Cluer describes as ‘“a hi-tech commercialisation power-house and lab for the world and with all these companies located relatively closely in one unique country-wide tech park”.

Some of the inventions out of Israel that benefit people globally include the mobile phone, car navigation systems, life-saving drugs and medical devices, and even the cherry tomato.  

From an investment point of view, the 2021 calendar year was one of the most outstanding in Israel’s brief economic history.

It was the fastest fastest growing economy in the OECD, recording 8.1 per cent growth in 2021, with a 16.6 per cent GDP increase in the fourth quarter alone.

Israel’s tech firms saw exits jump 520 per cent in 2021 to $US81.2 billion in value. This shattered funding records in sectors ranging from cyber, med tech and agribusiness to space industries, security and fin tech.

Israel also accounts for some 8 per cent of global unicorns, despite representing just 0.1 per cent of the world’s population and that number is set to increase with 33 new unicorns in 2021.

Australia has many similarities with Israel as a relatively small population responsible for globally adopted inventions like the electric drill, the Cochlear implant and Wi-Fi technology.

In observing and working with partners like Israel, Australia – and its companies – can once again position itself as a global player in the innovation space.  

To help make connections with global innovation hubs like Israel, contact CGM Communications for assistance with investor relations, and trade and investment communications.

Behind the scenes: Perth media on the frontline in Ukraine

Although they won’t admit it and tend to shy away from the phrase ‘risking their lives’, it’s got to be acknowledged that members of the Perth media are reporting on the frontline in Ukraine to seek the truth for us watching from the safety of our own homes.

“In every conflict I've been to, there've been deaths amongst the journos. I mean, everyone gets frightened, I think, when the bullets are flying. That's just human nature. You try not to think about it and put it aside to do your job,” says veteran 7 News journalist Geof Parry.

Those were Geof’s intrepid words to me when I spoke to him at the weekend, just hours before Russian missiles hit Lviv, the city where Geof has been based since Putin invaded Ukraine.

By his side when those air sirens went off at 6am Friday (local time), was 7 News Perth cameraman Simon Hydzik who had only just returned to the usually safe Lviv after doing a three-week stint with reporter Chris Reason in the war-ravaged Kyiv.

“In warzones situations can change very quickly,” Simon says.  

“We went and we obviously had a look at the damage and that is scary because you don't know whether there's going to be another missile because they missed the target. So, you are on edge …and you kind of never know where the Russians might be.”



I wanted to share the pair’s journey for two reasons. Firstly, this is a war shrouded with propaganda and misinformation and it’s important to understand how vital it is to have journalists and camera operators we know and trust seeking out real, first-hand accounts of what is happening.

Regardless of whether you consume news or not, whatever happens in Ukraine will have a significant impact on the world and our lives. The actions will – and do – impact our politics, economy and social structures.

And in case you’ve been under a rock for the last month, every action has a significant impact to millions of people across the globe - the growing fuel price is a prime example and I think it can be argued that the public, politicians and even businesses are basing their choices and decisions on the information they receive.

It’s all connected and that is why it is vital we have trustworthy people on the ground to bring us the information.

But secondly, I also want to credit and acknowledge the media given the dangerous situations and long hours they face, away from their families, to bring us truth.

“Haven't missed a day, actually. We've worked every day since the last 31 days,” Geof says.

“I usually start around five in the afternoon. I'm on air around 8:30 that evening and will go through until about one in the morning. And then I get a few hours’ sleep, and then we'd be back on air, we'd be up around seven the next morning. So we're doing both ends of the day.”



In the first three weeks since Simon arrived in Kyiv his crew were pulling up to 18-hour days.

“If one crew is doing Sunrise and breakfast TV crosses, they can pretty much work from six in the morning, all the way until midnight, which can be some very long days but it's not really sustainable for three weeks,” Simon says.

“You kind of need everyone alert and watching for danger.”



“There was a time where we were filming just an area in the city where there had been a bit of a tank battle a few days prior and we saw two missiles sort of fly over the top of us. Then it hit a TV tower probably not more than a kilometre away,” he says. 

Speaking to Simon, 38, who has never covered conflict before, he was very matter of fact about the dangers in Ukraine and assured me he and his crew would never intentionally risk their lives.  

“Obviously warzones are dangerous but everyone in our team of five has families that they want to go back home to, every decision we make is based on getting out of Ukraine alive,” Simon says.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General announced the Unified Register of Pre-Trial Investigations indicated that the Russian military has committed crimes against at least 56 members of the media since the war began on February 24 and of those, 12 have been killed.

Geof, who has covered conflicts in South Africa, Somalia, Balkans, Fiji, East Timor, Indonesia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, says death comes with the territory of reporting on war.

“Back in East Timor, we discovered the body of a Dutch journo, a guy by the name of Sander Thoenes. There was a couple of us who got a tip-off that he'd been killed, and he was up country. So, we walked up there and found his body – just like Harry Burton in Afghanistan, who I knew, he was murdered trying to get to Kabul,” Geof recalls.

Before they even got into Ukraine, Geof and Simon had to prepare for the worst.

“We had to organise armour which you can't bring from the store in Australia. We also had to let our security know our blood types in case there's an emergency,” Simon says.

When they arrive, they are set up with security – but they are really only there to advise.

“It's pretty much just one person in our car that's with us, they are ex-military like the guy that we work with, he is a paratrooper, was in the military for 15 years. But he's also supported by a whole team of people that work for this company based in Lviv that provides information and intelligence,” Simon explains.

“When you hear the shelling in the background, it can be sort of in the distance but our security says, ‘Okay, I can hear it's getting closer or it's coming from this distance.’

“With hearing gunfire and that kind of thing you do have to be careful because obviously if you're hearing gun battles, you don't want to sort of suddenly drive through it.”



Simon, who has been a cameraman for 15 years, says he struggles to explain to his family that he doesn’t spend all day dodging bullets and that a lot of planning and training does go into their decision making.

“It's difficult because your parents will say, ‘Oh, I've had sleepless nights thinking about what's going on with you’, and how do you sort of convince them otherwise?” he asks.

It’s a tough job but we need people we trust doing it.

Geof explained to me that there is misinformation or what he calls ‘the fog of war’.

“A lot of it is just unclarified information, if you like. Everyone does it, you report what you know and what you believe. Sometimes that changes, but you’ve just got to be careful, and responsible, and don't over egg it. Don't try and sensationalise it,” Geof says.  

“After a while, you hone your ‘BS’ metre. There's nothing's adding up, or there's a few things that don't add up on this, so just treat it with caution. But you have your trusted sources, or it's verified by government sources or intelligence, like the Pentagon.”

Simon says while working in Kyiv there was an abundance of videos floating around on social media.

“And no one really knows whether it was shot today or from three years ago. With us being on the ground it is kind of this automatic trust that it's not just a video that the Russian or Ukrainians have put on social media,” Simon says.



“If we hear of a missiles or attacks or even see one of these videos online, we can go to the scene and verify if it actually happened. We have our reporters standing next to the damage and I can send back the authentic vision and viewers can say ‘okay well those pictures are from today’.

“I really enjoy flying the drone, as dangerous and nervous as it makes me feel flying drones in a war zone, it just gives our coverage a whole new dimension.”

Simon recalls one of his most memorable moments was when they were called to interview seven Russian prisoners of war. 



“We had this bizarre press conference where they rolled out a couple of the Russian prisoners. They weren't in handcuffs or anything like that. They were just all lined up at a desk and we could go up to them and get shots of them, which is probably the closest that we've come to any Russian,” Simon says.

Although valiant in their descriptions that what they are doing is just their jobs, both Simon and Geof are not immune to the emotional sights of war.

“I've had tears in my eyes, that's for sure, and it's probably sometimes the things that you wouldn't really expect to affect you. In Kyiv, we were shooting a lot of the people desperate to get on trains and evacuate. It was quite emotional to see these families and young kids. Holding their little dog tight or a cat in a cat carrier, just take everything that's important to them and just trying to get out of there and just so desperate,” Simon says.

Geof says he struggles witnessing the impact on children.

“And mums, their husbands have been left behind, and some of them have left sons behind, because they're of military age. So, there's plenty of tears at those places. And plenty of angst and plenty of uncertainty for these people,” Geof says.

“The scale of, it's what, three and a half million now gone over the border, and a total of 10 million internally displaced people, it's just staggering numbers. So, that's all pretty sad stuff.”

But Geof says there are also the beautiful moments.

“As a country, the resolve and the confidence that they'll pull this off, is just remarkable. And in the early days, the first week or two of the war no one thought that they could respond in the way that they have. And I just mean because of the numerical disadvantage. But, they have just completely bamboozled the Russians,” Geof says.

The pair don’t know how long they will remain in Ukraine and with so much uncertainty on what will happen next, it’s hard to predict what they face.

Geof, however, gave me his guess on the future of Ukraine and Russia.  

“Well, I've been wrong before. Bec. But I'll stick my neck out, a long protracted military involvement, involving both countries. I think it's remarkable how hollow and how brittle the Russian army seems. People assume they were this fantastic, great army,” Geof says.

“And, I think they're just digging in. I think they're digging in, for a long siege. Which is unfortunate, but I think that's the way this one's going to work out, for a while, until they find some diplomatic solution.”

If it is a long siege the media is in for – we salute your efforts.

Stay safe.

How to make an online event more engaging

These days, if you’re planning to bring people together for an important meeting or workshop it’s a good idea to be thinking virtually, whether your event will be fully online, in person with an online back-up or a hybrid set-up to accommodate a mix of both.

However you choose to tackle your event, our top piece of advice is to carefully consider how it will work best online, rather than simply using the same approach you would have used for a face-to-face meeting. Here are five tips for making the most of the online experience so that your participants don’t start zoning out midway through.

  1. Choose the right format

Consider your purpose and audience before deciding on a solution. Is it a simple team meeting being held online because people are working remotely, a large-scale corporate event or an interactive workshop?

What accessibility issues do you need to consider? Your participants might include people based in different locations, elderly participants with limited digital connectivity, or guests with particular vulnerabilities to COVID who need to avoid group settings.

Answering these questions will help determine if your event should be held in person, exclusively online or a combination of both, and whether additional virtual tools or platforms are needed or appropriate.

  1. Consider your technology

Most of us have a decent grasp of the major platforms from Microsoft Teams to Zoom and Webex, but there is a whole host of additional options for making events extra interactive, most with both free and premium paid versions available.

Microsoft Teams Live is more suitable for larger audiences than a standard Teams meeting. The host actively manages the event and can mute participants or restrict screen sharing. Hosts can also set up breakout rooms for small group activities or run a moderated Q&A with anonymous questions from participants.

Miro is a virtual whiteboard suitable for workshop-style sessions that can run within Webex or Teams. It offers different templates ranging from simple sticky note boards to more complex flow-charts, timelines, Agile scrum boards and customer journey mapping. Participants can add notes and make changes live, which keeps the session moving quickly with maximum engagement.

Mentimeter is a useful plug-in for virtual focus groups that syncs up to platforms like Zoom so you can access your presentation library, share slides, and conduct live polls, Q&As and quizzes. Data can be easily exported and compiled into a report collating the insights gained from the session. Kahoot is another platform with interactive presentation tools to run polling, word clouds, brainstorms, quizzes and puzzles.

FocusGroupIt is a different type of option as a standalone program which allows you to set up a focus group with discussion points, questions and surveys. Participants can respond in their own time by text or video so it’s a good option when you’re happy for people to participate at their own pace rather than during a specific session.

  1. Practice beforehand

Do a practice run before your session with a group of test participants to check how your background, sound and lighting are looking and practice functions such as sharing your screen, requesting control or recording the event (remembering you’ll need to let people know at the start of the session if you’re doing this).

This also helps identify any issues with executing your agenda, such as people participating online who can’t see or hear well what’s happening in the room or people talking over each other if they’re not being moderated. Another element to think through is the acknowledgement of country, which you may wish to adjust to account for participants located on different lands.

  1. Keep it interesting

We all know how exhausting it can be to stare at a screen for extended periods, so think about ways to keep your participants interested throughout.

A few simple options to consider are icebreakers or energy breaks where you might run a short quiz, do an emoji check-in to get an idea of how everyone is feeling, or play an online team-building style game such as “Two truths and a lie” or bingo. If you can get people to download an app ahead of time, consider something like Psych, a free game where participants vote on the funniest answer submitted to a group question.

More involved ideas include sending people on a virtual scavenger hunt or organising an Airbnb virtual experience like a cooking class or hosted online game. Companies like Banana Life can be enlisted to host virtual escape rooms, murder mysteries or an Amazing Race-style activity.

Another idea is to organise a special delivery before or during the event, such as a meal, gift or items to use during the session – ranging from standard conference materials to a wine-tasting kit or yoga mat.

  1. Think through the details

Get as granular as possible when planning so nothing is left to chance. Make sure everyone is able to access the technology you’re using and give participants clear instructions if they need to download anything ahead of time, check their connection speeds or use a password. Free versions of some programs will restrict the length of your session or the number of participants so check whether this could cause an issue.

Consider the meeting etiquette, such as whether participants’ microphones will be muted or left on to facilitate interactivity. It’s normal to ask everyone to leave their cameras on, but this could cause issues for people with limited internet connection.

Make sure you have a plan for handling tech issues – this could be as simple as providing a tech support person for participants to contact if needed or having a back-up teleconference number for anyone who can’t access the online platform so they don’t miss out completely.

Running events online doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and keep things interesting. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, so contact CGM if you’d like to discuss virtual options for your next workshop or meeting.

Federal election campaign set to get ugly

In the last sitting of Parliament, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, unveiled a key component of their re-election strategy.

In comments that were subsequently withdrawn, Mr Morrison labelled deputy opposition leader Richard Marles a ‘Manchurian candidate’, going on to say the Chinese government had ‘picked its horse’ and was hoping for a Labor win.

The government argued that it was trying to focus voters’ minds on the choice they face at the election. However, former ASIO boss Dennis Richardson undermined this, saying the government was trying to create a perception of policy difference, where none existed, and that this was not in the national interest. Current ASIO director Mike Burgess said the weaponisation of national security was “not helpful”.

But the attack appears to have penetrated, to a degree, with right-wing front Advance Australia erecting billboards depicting China’s President Xi Jinping casting a vote for Labor at the ballot box.

It is conceivable that right-wing minor parties will also head down this path as the election approaches, seeing it as an opportunity to harvest the votes they need to cobble together quotas in the Senate.

So, how did we get to a point where a government that rates itself on national security is pursuing an election strategy that intelligence chiefs judge likely to undermine our national security?

The answer lies in the polls, and the fact that, with just two months until the likely election date, they are pointing to a landslide Labor victory.

Public polling data aggregated exclusively by William Bowe at The Poll Bludger for CGM Communications shows support for the Morrison Government has tanked since the end of last year.



The Coalition’s position has deteriorated everywhere. Since the beginning of October, the movement has been 2.8 per cent in Labor's favour nationally: 3.3 per cent in New South Wales; 2.3 per cent in Victoria; 3.5 per cent in Queensland; 3.6 per cent in Western Australia; and 0.3 per cent in South Australia.

The swing to Labor is now 7.7 per cent nationally, with state-by-state swings ranging from 2.8 per cent in South Australia up to a massive 11.8 per cent in Queensland. In Western Australia, the swing is currently 9.2 per cent, with Labor set to win Swan (3.2 per cent), Pearce (5.2 per cent) and Hasluck (5.9 per cent), if this swing eventuated on election day.

Of course, polls are just a measure of sentiment at the time they are taken, rather than a prediction of an election outcome.

However, if the state-based trends currently observed were realised on election day, Mr Albanese would likely pick up 22 seats, far more than the seven he needs for a majority.

You can understand why Mr Morrison is breaking the glass and reaching for a national security debate, a strategy that, while often divisive, has proven successful at several previous elections.

Going back to the 1950s, as the fear of communism spread around western countries, the Menzies government found long term success in making the most of internal divisions within Labor at that time, in what became known as its ‘reds under the bed’ strategy.

After Gough Whitlam’s groundbreaking visit to China to meet with then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1971, Mr Whitlam became the first Labor figure branded a ‘Manchurian candidate’, a term borrowed from the 1959 political thriller novel of the same name.

Of course, Mr Whitlam went on to win the 1972 election and establish diplomatic relations with China, a move which contributed significantly to the decades of economic prosperity that followed.

Then, in 2001, the Howard Government, trailing in the polls, made the most of the highly inflamed post-9/11 environment by making asylum seekers and border protection front and center of its successful re-election push. Tony Abbott returned to this theme as opposition leader in 2013, ahead of his landslide win.

Whether Mr Morrison’s strategy is successful this time around may depend on the future trajectory of the Ukraine conflict. However, the Liberals would be worried by recent polling from Essential, which had voters preferring Labor to manage the relationship with China, and evenly split over who was better to understand and respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In an ideal world, the Australian body politic would be able to have a mature discussion about geopolitics, Australia’s place in the world and our vision for the future. But pre-election periods in Australia are rarely an environment for considered conversations.

As we’ve discussed, Australian political history has a number of examples of our better angels being silenced in the leadup to an election. And we’re not alone in this. In US politics, the Trump Republicans spend most of their time talking about illegal immigration and China.  And the Democrats have long suggested Mr Trump is too close to Vladimir Putin, with the term ‘Manchurian candidate’ sometimes thrown around, in that context.

With the Morrison Government up against it and an inflamed global security environment, it looks like our better angels will struggle to find their voice again. It’s going to get ugly.

96fm takes out top spot

Rock music station 96fm has taken out the top spot in the first ratings survey of the year, jumping an impressive 2.9 per cent overall to leapfrog over Perth’s former leading station Nova 93.7.

It’s a stunning comeback for 96fm which spent several years in the ratings wilderness after losing its sense of identity. But things started to turn around for the station when radio stalwart Gary Roberts was installed as managing director in 2019 and promptly made what was old new again by ‘re-branding’ as a rock music station.

Survey One also revealed the bad news continued for former top station 92.9 Triple M, which was nudged into eighth spot by golden oldies station 6IX.

In the AM ratings race, both ABC and 6PR recorded falls overall, losing 1.1 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

In a breakdown of the stats per timeslot, 96fm’s breakfast team of Clairsy and Lisa made a huge gain of 2.5 per cent to sit at 11.4 per cent of the audience share, but it wasn’t enough to knock Nova’s long running breakfast team of Nathan, Nat and Shaun out of top spot, with the team still sitting on a high of 14.4 after gaining 1.7 points themselves.

Over at the ABC, new breakfast host Tom Baddeley had some very big shoes to fill after the sudden passing of the much-loved Russel Woolf, who finished last year’s ratings on top. A dip in the ratings after the high was to be expected, with the program losing 2.7 per cent to sit fourth overall in the timeslot, although just a whisker above rival station 6PR’s breakfast program, hosted by Gareth Parker.

96fm took another massive leap in the Mornings timeslot to be on top at 14.2 per cent, with Nova and former Perth number one station Mix 94.5 on equal second with 12.1 per cent. The news wasn’t so good over at the ABC, with Nadia Mitsopoulos falling 1.8 per cent to 5.9 per cent of audience share, while her counterpart at 6PR Liam Bartlett held steady on 9.2 per cent.

96fm continued its good form over both the Afternoons and Drive slots, picking up 3.6 per cent and 2.1 per cent, respectively. In the AM stable, both the ABC’s Geoff Hutchison and 6PR’s Ollie Peterson had significant falls, with Hutchison losing 2.1 per cent to sit at 5.8 per cent of audience share, and Peterson losing 2.6 per cent to capture 6.1 per cent of the Drive audience.

Gary Roberts, who stepped down as managing director of 96fm at the end of last year, would no doubt be chuffed that all his hard work is paying off. Survey Two will be out on April 12 and will tell whether the station can hold on to its new crown.

Competing for government attention during pandemic transition and recovery

The focus of government over the past two years has been very much driven by the pandemic. As we are now moving into a period of transition and recovery, there are a few things that you can keep in mind when engaging with government to increase your chances of success and maintain your own sanity.

Reconsider your timeframes

More so than ever, governments are balancing numerous priorities, with many of them urgent and emerging. It has limited resources to meet these, and behind the scenes, many departmental staff have been redeployed into other duties related to pandemic management and response. This has reduced government’s capacity, capability, and in other words, its bandwidth for dealing with proposals and representations from business and the wider community. Accepting that this is the case, being patient and factoring this into your timeframes (which may be very different from past experiences) will assist you in managing your own expectations.

Be understanding of the issues that government is dealing with

With the understanding that your issue will be one of many competing matters of varying priority, you should avoid criticising government if your proposal isn’t being given the priority you think it deserves in the first, or even the second, instance. Instead, check in regularly without becoming a nuisance so that you remain close to the top of the pile when the opportunity for consideration arises.

Keep informed

Follow Ministerial and departmental media announcements and tenders, where applicable, to ensure that you are keeping up to date with opportunities to work with government. This is particularly important if you are finding that your regular avenues of engagement and liaison are not as open or frequent. What issues are government dealing with? Does this present an opportunity for you to provide a ready-made solution to an identified problem?

Where possible, your proposal should reflect government language and show alignment with government policy. What evidence can you provide in support of your proposal? Have you done any modelling or polling? Is your proposal costed? Even ball-park figures or qualified evidence will assist in progressing the consideration of your issue.

Can you demonstrate what you have done, or are doing, in the meantime? Use this time to show initiative and progress what you can without government.

Always be professional

While we have all found the past two years stressful and challenging, it is as important as ever to remain calm, confident and credible when engaging with government. You will need to accept that meetings may need to be re-scheduled at short notice and/or take place over platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Very importantly, provide a single, well thought out proposal rather than a collection of emails. To comply with the State Records Act, every email or letter received by government must be logged and then will need to be referenced in the response being prepared. Submitting multiple letters and follow-ups creates delays and potential confusion.

Contact CGM for advice and assistance with your government engagement.

Brand backlash: If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Developing a brand is more than deciding on a name and an accompanying logo.

In a digital world where stakeholders are hyper-aware of brands and have an increasing focus on corporate social responsibility, your brand has to be more than a visual representation – it is your organisational reputation, and it is vital to get your brand right.

Get your brand or rebranding process wrong and you risk losing stakeholder trust and even becoming a cautionary tale.

Take ‘New Coke’, which was infamously panned after Coca Cola decided to make its recipe sweeter in 1985 in a bid to attract younger consumers.

After performing successfully in focus groups, Coca Cola made the disastrous decision to replace the original recipe rather than running the two products alongside each other.

The backlash among previously faithful consumers was so strong that the company reportedly had to hire a psychologist to listen to some of the complaint calls.

After just 79 days, the old flavour was re-introduced.

More recent and visual examples are Mastercard and Kraft’s attempts to rebrand. In 2009, Kraft decided to change its logo with not only an entirely new shape and new colours, but no explanation to loyal consumers as to why the change had been made or what new statement it made about the company. If you don’t remember the logo changing, it’s because the company reverted back to its original logo design within just six months.


Mastercard’s attempt to rebrand was less dramatic, but met with equal confusion from consumers. In a 2015 rebrand, the company kept its colours but made changes to the overall design. Crucially, it removed the company name from logo. Again, there was no explanation as to why the new logo was brought in and it failed to connect.

The Mastercard brand was refreshed again in 2016 to feature two simple overlapping circles with a lower-case 'mastercard' sitting underneath, before it was changed again in 2018 to drop the name entirely as a shift to being a 'symbol brand' that aligns with modern simplicity trends.

The point is that if you’re looking to build a brand or hoping to rebrand, there are some fundamentals you must get right before you unveil that new logo or name.

This holds true whether your organisation is a corporation, small business, not-for-profit, or government body.

The first step is always to understand who you are as an organisation and what you stand for.

You need to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is my organisation?
  • Why does it exist?
  • What differentiates it from every other organisation?
  • What are the problems it solves?
  • Why should people care?

Once these questions have been answered and you have a strong idea of who and what your brand is, we can get to work on your brand identity.

Remember, it’s more than just a name and a logo.

A strong brand identity needs to work for everyone, including your internal team and the people outside your organisation who will interact with it.

To truly succeed you need to build a brand identity that is distinct, memorable, scalable, flexible, cohesive and easy to apply.

Whatever you come up with must be consistent across everything from the print and digital content your organisation produces to the media engagement you engage in and the decisions you make.

A final thing to keep in mind is that branding is an ongoing process.

Your brand does not appear with the creation of a logo – that’s just the beginning of your brand identity.

Instead, your branding is your company’s reputation – its essence – and that can only ever be created and developed over time.

No matter how successful your brand is, you should always be asking yourself what you’re doing as an organisation, why you’re doing it, and how it’s different from anybody else.

Answering these questions will often serve to maintain your brand’s consistency, but every now and then it will identify a need to adapt, and maybe even a need to rebrand. Just make sure to be more considered than Coca Cola was with New Coke.

Contact CGM Communications for help developing your branding.

What to do when Facebook goes down

Access to Facebook has become something we take for granted, and although it began as a simple social networking site, it’s now the place many of us go for our news, the latest COVID updates, health advice, brand recommendations and more.

It’s also become a place that many organisations rely on to communicate with their stakeholders, including charities, small businesses, big corporations, and government departments. So, what happens when we lose access to the most popular social networking platform in the world and what can your organisations do to safeguard yourselves against it?

Those are the questions currently facing European users.

Just this month, Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram out of Europe over a data sharing dispute.

In case you think this is a solely European problem, cast your mind back to February last year, when a dispute between Meta and the Australian Government over whether the company should have to pay news organisations to host news content boiled over and Meta, pulled all news content from Facebook.

It was disconcerting for us news-obsessed junkies who have carefully curated our feeds to show breaking news ahead of photos of friends’ babies, but disastrous for the countless organisations that rely on the platform to communicate with the public and had been booted from the platform after being incorrectly classified as news, not to mention the effect on actual news publications.

Thankfully, the argument with the Australian Government was shortly resolved, news was restored to Facebook and everyone who had been barred from posting was welcomed back.

But there’s a serious lesson to be learned here.

Meta was able to wreak havoc with the major communications tool of many different types of organisations because too many of them had become overly reliant on Facebook alone.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should stop using Facebook. It remains the most popular social networking platform across all age groups in Australia.

However, it should never be the only weapon in your communications and engagement arsenal.

What’s beyond Facebook?

Before you jump straight onto Facebook, first consider your audience. Who are they, where do they spend most of their time, and what kind of content are they most likely to engage with? You may already know the answers to these questions, but if you don’t, then you can try a survey or focus group.

Secondly, get to know the different platforms and communications tools out there. Find out what they are, which audiences are most likely to use them, and their benefits and limitations.

Answering these questions will allow you to identify which tools will work best to achieve your goals and effectively engage with your audience. You should find multiple options to choose from.

For example, explore other social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or WeChat. Just remember that each platform has its own target demographic and its own optimal form of posting. For example, Instagram is targeted towards a younger group who prefer more visual posts, whereas LinkedIn lends itself to a more mature audience who are engaged enough to read long form posts. TikTok and Twitter accounts perform well when posts are frequent, but Facebook and LinkedIn’s algorithms will penalise you if there are too many in a week.

An email campaign or e-newsletters using programs like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor are also great ways to stay in touch with your followers and they will provide you with metrics that are just as useful as social platforms, but with the added bonus of feeling more targeted to the reader. Just be sure to keep a list of your stakeholders and their contact details saved separately as a backup. You should always be able to access this information, without having to rely on a third party platform.

Although communications and engagement has largely moved to the digital realm thanks to digital’s ability to hyper-target audiences, there is still value in printed collateral such as a hard copy newsletter, flyer, or poster. We may be a highly connected society, but there are still some people who are less digitally engaged or lack internet access. This can include those living in remote and Indigenous communities, older Australians, and people with disability. If you fail to engage with these groups appropriately, you will guarantee that you’re missing a big part of the picture, no matter what your organisation or project is.

Most importantly, remember that when it comes to your stakeholders, person-to-person engagement never goes out of style.

That means making the effort to host a townhall or listening session, convene focus groups and meetings, and attend or host community events.

Although COVID may present a challenge to meet in traditional settings, you can combine many of these person-to-person techniques thanks to the countless programs designed to host events remotely including Teams and Zoom.

Whatever you do, be prepared to engage across a variety of channels and don’t become over-reliant on any one tool.

We chat about WeChat: Part Two

In Part One of our series on Chinese digital heavyweight WeChat, we provided an overview of the service’s features, its popularity, business opportunities, the history of collaboration with Western brands and how it differs from equivalents like Facebook or Google.

Part Two will explore business opportunities, potential risks, and WeChat’s place in the future of social media marketing.

Business opportunities by using WeChat

As touched on in Part One, WeChat is more than a social media platform, it has the added attributes of messaging and payment methods. This means that businesses can market and sell their products in the same place without users ever having to leave the app. This extends beyond purchasing physical goods to include services by allowing users to make bookings or appointments through the app.

But the biggest difference is how smoothly WeChat can incorporate third-party applications within the WeChat platform. These embedded apps, known as mini-programs, are available at the tap of a screen, offering the convenience of the Pages function on Facebook, for example, without having to conform to the branding of a larger platform.

User experience plays an important part in securing sales, so WeChat’s seamless integration and other unique features are part of the reason it is so popular with businesses looking to reach its 500 million daily active users.

Limitations and potential risks

Despite its many advantages, WeChat is not without limitations. For example, WeChat does not make recommendations to users about similar content, which prevents businesses advertising directly to users who like similar pages – an effective approach possible on other platforms.

There are also a range of potential risks to businesses intending to use the app for marketing and communication. Importantly, businesses may be exposed to data leakage by using WeChat as files, images and videos are automatically deleted after a set period.

Even innocuous communication via WeChat is particularly challenging to preserve and replicate, as users’ chat histories are tied to individual mobile devices. People often encounter accidental deletion, deletion of friends, backup failure, and crashing of the application. Many users have lost important files in these scenarios, and even the chats of deceased relatives.

Any organisation looking to begin its WeChat journey should be aware of these factors.

Future development of social media

Social media platforms are always looking for ways to innovate and get ahead of their competitors, which often manifests in platforms adopting the innovations of others.

A notable example is when Instagram introduced its stories feature after SnapChat exploded in popularity, and many other platforms followed suit. Western tech giants are now looking to successes on Chinese platforms, as seen when when Instagram launched its Reels feature in response to TikTok’s takeover.

Meta will be looking closely at WeChat for inspiration, and no doubt very interested in the  biggest new trend on the platform – the proliferation of mini-programs to facilitate collaborations with brands. With platforms becoming increasingly homogenous, it’s possible that this feature is integrated into Western social media soon.

By learning to leverage this feature on WeChat now, businesses will be better prepared to adapt those strategies if it is integrated on Facebook, Instagram and other services.

Being an early adopter of WeChat could be an advantage for Australian businesses looking for an edge in a crowded online space, while also reaching the approximately 690,000 WeChat users in Australia.

For more information or assistance with setting up a WeChat account, contact CGM Communications.

Translated to Mandarin:















众所周知,西方国家与“科技巨头”正在不断汲取中国社交媒体平台的成功,正如 Instagram 推出 Reels 功能以应对 TikTok 的收购。

微信可能是 Meta 复制的下一个平台,平台上最大的趋势是小程序的普及,以促进与品牌的合作。随着平台变得越来越同质化,这个功能有可能很快被发展到西方平台中。倘若现在尝试开启微信业务并有效利用应用自身具备的功能,并将其与 Facebook,Instagram展开协作, 企业将更好地适应这些策略。


有关设置微信帐户的更多信息或帮助,请联系 CGM Communications。

Getting internal stakeholders to trust the process

When you think of projects or developments that have failed in the past, images of placard-waving protesters or outraged locals likely come to mind as the ultimate cause of their downfall.

Scenes like this are why the community engagement process is so important, and why significant amounts of planning time and effort are spent identifying and engaging with external stakeholders, ranging from local residents through to businesses, community groups and government officials.

But it’s equally important for project proponents to identify and engage with internal stakeholders to ensure everyone completely understands – and supports – the community engagement strategy.

Engagement strategies can be as simple as a one-way delivery of information from the organisation to the community to a more collaborative approach where the community is given the opportunity to offer feedback, provide solutions or even make decisions.

But with any level of engagement, it only works if internal decision makers, such as senior executives and directors, trust the process and abide by the outcomes of community engagement.

There’s nothing more likely to turn a community against a project than to undertake engagement and then completely ignore the results.

Trying to engage without the backing of key internal stakeholders is like trying to play basketball with one hand tied behind your back – it can be done, but it makes it much harder than it needs to be.

So, what can be done to avoid this?

Just as with external engagement, getting in early is the key to managing internal stakeholders.

Before any decisions around process are made, it’s important to seek out internal decision-makers and establish the overarching purpose of the engagement, identify clear goals, and agree on what elements of the project the community can truly influence.

Take the time to carefully consider engagement design and methods with internal stakeholders, with a particular focus on the risks and why handing some power to the community to influence project outcomes might be worth it.

It will help if you stick to the principles of openness, accessibility and respect when dealing with internal stakeholders, just as you would with the public.

It can be threatening to members of the business to execute community engagement that give the community significant influence on project decisions, so it is crucial to ensure all internal stakeholders are on board in these instances or the entire project could suffer.

If you take the time to secure internal support for the specifics of the process before commencing external engagement, you can do so with the confidence that any outcomes from the process will be welcomed and incorporated by decision makers.

ABC Breakfast program ends the year on top

In a stunning result, the final radio ratings survey of the year paid a fitting tribute to Russell Woolf, with ABC’s breakfast program finishing the year on top. The program, which was helmed by Woolf until his shock death a month into the survey, jumped 2.5 points to snatch the crown from Nova93.7’s breakfast team and end the year on 13.0 points (with Nova on 12.7).

Woolf’s breakfast program had already been gaining ground in the previous survey, but sadly, the nice guy of radio never got to see the results. The massive jump in ratings may be in part due to the huge outpouring of grief and support following Rusty’s untimely death. Hundreds of listeners tuned in and called in, wanting to share their memories of him, with stories about his larger-than-life personality both on the radio and off.

On a personal note, having worked with Russell and his predecessor Eoin Cameron for several years at the ABC, I can only hope they’re up there somewhere having a red wine and revelling in going out on top.

The ABC is yet to announce Woolf’s permanent replacement, with Stan Shaw sitting in the chair for now. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the program’s ratings in the new year…clearly someone has some big shoes to fill.

But the ABC’s good news didn’t extend much past breakfast.

The Mornings program took a small dip of 0.2 points, with Nadia Mitsopoulos ending the year on 7.7, well behind rival Liam Bartlett at 6PR, who picked up 1.2 points to end the year on 9.9, but still in fourth place behind the FM stations.

6PR’s afternoon program hosted by Steve Mills ended the year on 8.5 per cent of audience share, far outperforming the ABC’s Christine Layton (5.5), while in the Drive slot, Ollie Peterson made a slight gain of 0.2 to finish the year on 9.0 points, while ABC counterpart Geoff Hutchison gained 0.8 to end on 7.9.

In the overall scheme of things, Nova93.7 maintained its position as the number one station in Perth with 12.6 per cent of audience share but was closely followed by Mix 94.5 on 12.4. Despite losing a bit of ground, 96fm rounded out the top three in the first survey since the departure of managing director and radio legend Gary Roberts, who brought the station back from the ratings wilderness during his tenure.

The fortunes were not favouring the brave over at 92.9 Triple M, however, where listeners clearly haven’t embraced the re-brand as a rock music station and the station finishing the year on just 5.5 points, equal to oldies station 6IX.

Heading into the non-ratings summer period, all the program hosts will be taking a break from the microphone, with the 2022 ratings to start on Jan 16.

We chat about WeChat: Part One

Facebook. Instagram. YouTube. Google.

Due to China’s strict internet censorship laws, these otherwise ubiquitous brands hold no sway in the world’s most populated nation.

Many Chinese companies have tried to step up to fill that void with a variety of unique and innovative features.

But in 2011, Tencent developed the multi-purpose platform that now towers above the local competition – WeChat.

In our two-part series, I will provide insights from 10 years of using and working with what is a crucial platform for any organisation looking to do business in or with China.

WeChat does more than meet a growing demand for social media functionality, with its impressive suite of features giving WeChat a prominent role in the daily lives of China’s citizens.

The platform at the heart of China’s social media ecosystems offers users everything they could need, ranging from standard features like instant messaging, voice calls and broadcasting to booking a doctor’s appointment, booking and planning for a vacation, making payments, buying clothes and movies as well as playing video games with friends.

It has become one of the world’s largest standalone online mobile apps, with more than a billion monthly active users – with every activity traced, analysed and shared with the Chinese government.

WeChat’s enormous user base has attracted the interest of some of the world’s most exclusive brands, collaborating with fashion label Burberry to stream its fall runway shows in 2014, fashion designer Michael Kors, cosmetics giant L'Oréal.

With 78 per cent of people in China aged 16 to 64 using WeChat, compared to 66 per cent of Australians in the same age range who use Facebook, it’s easy to see why these brands would use it to advertise and sell their products.

The Chinese social media market is the highest potential, fastest growing, and most active in the world, but foreign companies wanting to operate within it need to understand how it differs from Western equivalents and adjust their targets accordingly.

One of the key differences is the role of reviews in purchasing decisions, with Chinese consumers much more likely to be influenced by the views and opinions of those within their social circle.

Another is the increasing prominence of regional platforms and mini-programs.

Once cultural and language barriers have been overcome, and with the right guidance and understanding of the platform, content and strategies from Western platforms can be applied on WeChat and vice versa.

If done correctly, WeChat can provide unique access to consumers in China and in Chinese communities living abroad.

In part two of our WeChat series, I will go into more detail on business opportunities on the app, potential risks and the future development of social media and business.


Translated to Mandarin:


由于中国严格的互联网审查法,这些本应被广泛使用的社交品牌在中国 -世界上人口最多的国家并没有发挥其应具有的影响力。因此,诸多中国公司曾试图通过研发各种独特且 创新的软件来填补这一空白。






微信广泛的用户群体吸引了世界上一些独特品牌的青睐。譬如,在2014年与时尚品牌巴宝莉(Burberry)合作,成功上线巴宝莉秋季时装秀App;轻奢时尚品牌Michael Kors于2017年在微信公众号正式开通奢侈品行业首个服务类小程序;化妆品巨头欧莱雅也相继于2018年在微信正式上线品牌小程序,开启社交电商运营模式。在中国,有78%的用户正在使用微信,年龄段从16岁至64岁不等,这使得我们更加容易理解为什么这些品牌会利用微信来宣传和销售他们的产品。





如果操作得当,微信将为中国与生活在国外的华人消费者建立独特的沟通渠道。与此同时,微信的成功表明只要我们在平台,切入口,社交网络和品牌的建设上坚持移动先行, 就可以创造更多的奇迹。


Top prizes tell story of local journalism

Whether you consume your news in print, online, radio or TV, the WA Media Awards tell another important story – namely the value of local journalism.

Those in communications and PR could benefit from noting the award winners and the stories which were lauded by industry peers.

After all, there is value in knowing who is leading the news agenda, the stories that our audiences care about and how they may relate to our clients.

Take for example the story which started with an allegation of sexual assault at a WA mine, which forced the alarming incidence of rape and sexual harassment in the state’s mining industry into the spotlight.

Caitlyn Rintoul’s skill and tenacity in pursuing the story earned her the Best Print News Coverage gong for the series of stories, ‘Mining for change: Unearthing sex assault shame in WA’s resources sector’, published in The West Australian. 

But her ground-breaking coverage was more than just a news story – it prompted a parliamentary inquiry, which led to mining companies committing to lasting cultural change and the formation of an industry working group. 

Then there’s the powerful interview which award judges said, “brought matters of significant public interest to light and gave dignity to a grieving family failed in their hour of need”.

Gary Adshead and Kamin Gock of WAtoday and Nine News Perth won best television news report and best health story for their coverage of the tragic death of Aishwarya Aswath at Perth Children’s Hospital.

That story prompted a massive internal review and an independent inquiry into PCH’s emergency department with multiple recommendations including improvements to the triage process and a review of cultural awareness.

Rintoul, Adshead and Gock were among those honoured last Saturday night at the WA Media Awards, which is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated nights on a Perth journalist’s calendar.

Every year the awards celebrate stories told by local journalists who are dedicated to their craft and take the responsibility of impartiality, accuracy and public interest seriously.

This year’s gongs were won by journalists from 6PR, WAtoday, The West Australian, PerthNow Papers, 7NEWS and the ABC (in case you thought there was no media diversity left in Perth).

6PR’s Gareth Parker was crowned Journalist of the Year with the Daily News Centenary Prize in addition to other multiple awards, including The Beck Prize and The Matt Price Prize.

The judges were unanimous in their praise of Parker as “someone whose journalism is a shining example of the importance of journalists relentlessly – and fearlessly – digging, probing and challenging those in power”.

Another outstanding winner was Aja Styles from WAtoday, whose submission ‘Stink from the Corpse’ placed the WA higher education sector under the spotlight. She investigated the threats posed to academic freedom, quality education and WA’s research culture by COVID.

The West Australian’s Briana Fiore won the Eaves-Prior-Day Prize for Best New Journalist, and also picked up the award for Best Regional and Community Reporting for her investigation into the “toxic” and “destructive” work culture impacting patient care at Bunbury Hospital.

Victoria Rifici’s investigation into ‘Chaos at Western Suburbs Councils’ won Best Suburban Print Reporting for the series which appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly as well as online at PerthNow and the West Australian.

There are too many to mention here. But while they may work for competing companies, these journalists are united in their dedication to amplifying voices, telling the stories of their communities, holding those in power to account and affecting necessary change.

Good local journalism often focuses on the three Cs – court, crime and council. But great local journalists will dig, follow leads, challenge authority and uncover the stories that someone somewhere doesn’t want told.

No, these journos won’t simply cut and paste a press release, but audiences trust them.

If they cover your story it is worth its weight in gold, especially when you compare the comparable cost of effective advertising for an equal reach in readers, viewers and listeners.

With so much time and energy invested in stakeholder and community engagement as well as media relations, Perth’s communications professionals need to know the journalists behind the big stories of the day, and how those stories are affecting our communities.

These journalists are leading the pack and the news agenda. It would do our clients a disservice not to follow.

Will WA finally deliver for Labor?

The dream of every Labor activist in Western Australia is for a federal election result to still be in the balance when polls close locally, then for WA to bring the election home for Labor with a swag of seat gains.

Unfortunately for WA Labor, this has been an elusive scenario. From a modern day high of winning seven of of the 14 seats available in WA under Kim Beazley at the 1998 federal election, Labor’s share of seats deteriorated at subsequent elections, bottoming out in 2010 with a return of only Perth, Fremantle and Brand from the 15 seats on offer.

In 2016, Labor added the seats of Cowan and Burt to its column, but this wasn’t enough to get Bill Shorten over the line in a close election against Malcolm Turnbull.

Heading into the 2019 election, Labor optimists were hopeful of adding five seats to the party’s column, based on published polling results in the year leading up to the election. However, as in most states at that election, Labor’s performance didn’t meet expectations.

While it is increasingly difficult to predict election outcomes, I feel confident in saying that Anthony Albanese’s hopes of becoming Prime Minister rest on Labor not losing seats to the coalition in New South Wales, as well as Labor picking up multiple seats in Western Australia.

As things stand now, you would have to think there has never been a more prospective time for Labor to add West Australian seats to its column. The record popularity of WA Premier Mark McGowan and the result of the 2021 state election have created a new political environment. This dynamic has been built on strong public support for the state government’s handling of COVID, a community sentiment that the rest of Australia, including many within the Morrison Government, have struggled at times to grasp.

Published polling data aggregated by William Bowe at The Poll Bludger suggests a swing upwards of seven per cent is currently available to Labor. If replicated on election day, this would put Swan, Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce and Ken Wyatt’s seat of Hasluck within reach, on top of the seat of Stirling, which the Liberals have already lost in the most recent distribution.

However, there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge in Western Australia, including the likely opening of the WA borders ahead of the election, and the new dynamic that will create for a community that hasn’t had to live with significant spread of COVID in the community.

And it is worth noting, state and federal voting intentions don’t always correlate in Western Australia.  This includes recently, when in-between two record wins to Mark McGowan in 2017 and 2021, the same voters swung to the Morrison Government at the 2019 federal election. If this trend occurs again, the Liberals might like their chances in Cowan.

In this edition of The Spill, we take a close look at the seats that will matter in WA…. particularly if Mr Morrison fails to pick up the seats he is chasing in New South Wales.

COWAN (Labor 0.9%)

The federal electorate of Cowan stretches east to west across Perth’s northern suburbs, from Lockridge in the east, to Greenwood in the north-west and as far down as Osborne Park in the south-west. 

The seat was created with the enlargement of parliament in 1984 and has changed hands four times: when inaugural Labor member Carolyn Jakobsen was defeated by Liberal member Richard Evans in 1993; when Evans was defeated by Graeme Edwards in 1998; when Luke Simpkins won the seat for the Liberals on Edwards' retirement in 2007 (one of only two Liberal gains at that election, the other being Swan); and when Anne Aly unseated Simpkins in 2016. Aly’s margin went from 0.7 per cent to 0.8 per cent in 2019.

As redrawn by the redistribution, the seat of Cowan has added 0.1 per cent to the Labor margin, on the back of significant change following the abolition of the seat of Stirling.

Cowan has retained only 52.2 per cent of its former enrolment on the new boundaries, in an area that accounts for 44.2 per cent of its post-redistribution enrolment. This constitutes the northern areas of Greenwood and Warwick, Marangaroo and Girrawheen, Alexander Heights, Ballajura and Malaga, as well as the eastern areas, namely the Beechboro, Kiara and Lockridge ends of the electorate. These areas favoured Labor with a margin of 5.9 per cent in 2019.

Gains include the central and north-eastern parts of Stirling, including Hamersley, Balcatta and Stirling in the west, Balga, Westminster and Nollamara in the centre, and Mirrabooka and northern Dianella in the east. This area constituted 49.4 per cent of the old enrolment of Stirling and is now 43 per cent of the enrolment of Cowan. It favoured the Liberals by 2.6 per cent in 2019.

The seat also gains the northern part of Perth at Noranda and northern Morley which includes 14.6 per cent of the old enrolment of Perth and 12.8 per cent of the new enrolment of Cowan. These areas favoured Labor by just 0.1 per cent in 2019.

As far as losses in the redistribution go, the northern end of the electorate encompassing Wanneroo and surrounding suburbs went to Pearce. This was 43.6 per cent of the old Cowan and is 41.3 per cent of the new Pearce, which favoured the Liberals by 5.3 per cent in 2019.

At the eastern end, Whiteman and Bennett Springs moved to Hasluck, accounting for 3.4 per cent of the old Cowan and 3.1 per cent of the new Hasluck. These areas favoured Labor by 3.4 per cent in 2019.

Anne Aly will again contest the seat for Labor and will be up against outgoing Stirling MP Vince Connolly, who reluctantly sought pre-selection for Cowan after a highly publicised push to replace Ian Goodenough as the Liberal candidate for Moore. Given the changes to the electorate, both Ms Aly and Mr Connolly are likely to benefit similarly from the profile benefits of incumbency.

SWAN (Liberal 3.2%)

The seat of Swan is one of Western Australia’s most diverse electorates, inclusive of waterfront suburbs along the Swan and Canning Rivers, stretching across to the Perth foothills and including an eclectic mix of established, gentrifying, working class and disadvantaged suburbs in between.

Swan has existed in name since federation but did not become recognisable as the electorate of the day until at least 1949. Labor held the seat from 1969 to 1975 and 1980 to 1996 (by Kim Beazley, who then moved to Brand) then again from 1998 to 2007.

Current Liberal MP Steve Irons has held the seat since winning the seat from Labor’s Kim Wilkie, in a result that went against the grain of that election’s “Ruddslide”.

Labor has run strong candidates against Mr Irons in the past, including lawyer Tim Hammond, who went on to become the Member for Perth, and Hannah Beazley, who is now the state member for Victoria Park.

While seats in the northern suburbs were highly impacted at the redistribution, the seat of Swan remained relatively stable, maintaining 96.4 per cent of its former enrolment, in an area accounting for 86.3 per cent of its enrolment now. 

Gains include Maida Vale, most of Forrestfield and Wattle Grove in the east, encompassing 13.7 per cent of its enrolment, and 15.6 per cent of the former enrolment of Hasluck. Swan favoured the Liberals by a 6.5 per cent margin in 2019.

Losses in the redistribution include Wilson in the south with a total of 3.6 per cent of its former enrolment, now 3.1 per cent of the enrolment of Tangney. This area favoured Liberal by 1.8 per cent in 2019.

Overall, the redistribution cut 0.5 per cent from the Liberal margin of 2.7 per cent at the 2019 election.

Following the announcement of Mr Irons’ retirement, Kristy McSweeney was pre-selected unopposed by the Liberal Party. Ms McSweeney is a Sky News commentator, a former public relations consultant and former adviser to Tony Abbott. She is the daughter of former state MP Robyn McSweeney.

Labor's candidate is Zaneta Mascarenhas, an engineer who runs an energy management consultancy, and is backed by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union.

The Liberals will not have the benefit of Mr Irons’ profile at this election. If the strong swing to Labor currently being reported in published polling holds, this will likely be the first West Australian seat to fall to Labor on election night.

PEARCE (Liberal 5.2%)

Pearce is another northern suburbs Perth seat that has been heavily impacted by the abolishing of Stirling.

Following the redistribution, Pearce has maintained only 49.7 per cent of its former enrolment, taking in coastal suburbs from Tamala Park north to Two Rocks, and inland from Banksia Grove north to Yanchep. This area favoured the Liberals by 5.6 per cent in 2019.

Wanneroo and surrounding suburbs have been gained from Cowan, and now constitute the southern end of the electorate. This represented 43.6 per cent of the old Cowan and is 41.3 per cent of the new Pearce. It favoured the Liberals by 5.3 per cent in 2019.

Losses in the redistribution include the Swan Valley from West Swan north to recently developed Ellenbrook and Aveley, representing 29.7 per cent of the old enrolment of Pearce and 33.7 per cent of the new enrolment of Hasluck. The area favoured the Liberals by 5.1 per cent in 2019.

Pearce’s remaining non-metropolitan areas have gone largely to Durack, inclusive of Lancelin and the Avon Valley towns of Toodyay, Northam and York. These areas made up 19.5 per cent of the enrolment of Pearce and are now 21.4 per cent of the enrolment of Durack. They favoured the Liberals by a total of 15.1 per cent in 2019.

The southern end of the Avon Valley, at Beverley, has gone to O'Connor, representing 1.1 per cent of the old Pearce and 1.2 per cent of the new O'Connor. This favoured the Liberals by 21.8 per cent in 2019.

Overall, the redistribution cut 2.3 per cent from the Liberal margin.

Pearce has been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1990, and by Christian Porter since 2013.

However, urban development on the metropolitan fringe has tended to weaken the Liberals by giving the electorate a less rural character, a process that reached a culmination in the latest redistribution.

At the 2019 federal election, Mr Porter achieved a swing towards him of 3.9 per cent, compared with 0.9 per cent statewide. This was typical of outer suburban seats across the country, which typically swung to the Morrison Government, after turning against Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals in 2016.

Labor's candidate is the high-profile Tracey Roberts, who has spent 10 years as the mayor of Wanneroo.

HASLUCK (Liberal 5.9%)

The seat of Hasluck includes the Perth Hills and foothills, the Swan Valley and the slowly gentrifying Midland, as well as several outer suburban growth suburbs and aspirational areas.

The seat was created in 2001 and has changed hands at each election through to 2013. Sharryn Jackson held it for Labor from 2001 to 2004 and 2007 to 2010, with Stuart Henry holding it for the Liberals in the interim.

Ken Wyatt has held it for the Liberals since 2013, and his margin reached a new high of 5.9 per cent in 2019.

Hasluck is another seat that has been heavily impacted by the redistribution, albeit to a slightly lesser extent than Cowan and Pearce.

Hasluck, as redrawn by the redistribution, adds 0.5 per cent to the Liberal margin.

The seat maintains Guildford and Midland, the area around Kalamunda, and Mundaring, Chidlow and Gidgegannup further to the east. This represents 69.3 per cent of the enrolment of the old Hasluck, and 63.2 per cent the enrolment of the new. The area favoured the Liberals by 6.8 per cent in 2019.

Gains include the recently developed suburbs around Ellenbrook, together with lightly developed areas to the east and south, from Pearce. As noted above, this represents 29.7 per cent of the old enrolment of Pearce, and 33.7 per cent of the new enrolment of Hasluck. It favoured the Liberals by 5.1 per cent in 2019.

This transfer extends further west to take in Whiteman and Bennett Springs from Cowan, representing 3.4 per cent of the old Cowan and 3.1 per cent of the new Hasluck, which favoured Labor by 3.4 per cent in 2019.

Losses in the redistribution include a section of the electorate's south-east, about half of which involves the transfer of Maida Vale, most of Forrestfield and Wattle Grove to Swan.

As noted previously, this represents 13.7 per cent of Swan's new enrolment, 15.6 per cent of Hasluck's old enrolment, and favoured the Liberals by a 6.5 per cent margin in 2019. The other half involves the transfer of Beckenham, Kenwick and Maddington to Burt, namely 15.1 per cent of the old Hasluck and 14.4 per cent of the new Burt, which favoured Labor by 3.3 per cent in 2019.

Mr Wyatt was promoted to cabinet after the 2019 election in the Indigenous Australians portfolio. He is highly regarded in the electorate, but thought to be contesting the seat for the last time.

Labor's candidate is Tania Lawrence, a former public servant and manager at Woodside who ran unsuccessfully in Darling Range at a state by-election in 2018.

Why the AFL’s vaccine strategy rises above the pack

A few weeks ago, the Australian Football League became the first major sporting code in Australia to make vaccines mandatory for all players and staff across Both men’s and women’s competitions.

The AFL’s decision follows a pattern of vaccine mandates affecting other workforces as Australia prepares to bring down its internal borders.

Healthcare, resources, education and retail are just some of the sectors required to have full vaccine coverage as state governments work to overcome lingering vaccine hesitancy.

With one notable exemption, professional athletes have avoided government mandates, which makes the AFL’s decision to take such a strong stance even bolder.

How the AFL navigated this significant policy change offers lessons on successfully communicating major transformations.

Aside from a few vocal critics – namely Melbourne premiership player Tom McDonald and Adelaide player Deni Vernhagen specifically – the AFL has thus far managed to avoid too much pushback, with five Victorian teams already reporting 100 per cent vaccination rates.

The messaging around the decision played a significant role in achieving this.

Before making it official, the AFL carried out an education program across the industry and clubs and conducted extensive engagement with the AFL Players’ Association to reach a majority agreement.

In the statement announcing the decision, the AFL was sure to reference the AFPLA’s involvement in the first line to reinforce that it was a collaborative decision resulting from thorough consultation, not an edict from above.

It also framed the decision as not only being the best way to uphold its responsibility to keep its players, staff, and the community safe, but also the best way to return to some semblance of pre-COVID normalcy.

With the loss of two AFL grand finals for Melbourne fresh in people’s memories, this was an important reminder of what was at stake.

The timing was another important factor.

By announcing the policy months out from the next season, players and fans will have time to grow accustomed to the idea, and any backlash will likely be a distant memory.

Of course, it’s worth noting that the AFL is in a unique position of strength as the only professional league for Australian rules football in the world, leaving individual players with little leverage.

So how does the AFL’s decision compare with other sporting codes without that luxury?

The National Rugby League has taken a much softer approach by introducing different protocols for unvaccinated players instead.

The NRL went so far as to rule out issuing a mandate, instead pointing out that Victoria’s requirement for all professional sportspeople to be fully vaccinated made it a moot point.

In doing so, the NRL avoided the controversy it attracted when it encouraged players to get the flu vaccine ahead of the 2020 season restarting.

The A-League, Australia’s peak soccer competition, has followed suit in not mandating vaccinations, declaring its policies to be secondary to those of airlines and stadiums.

However, retired star Archie Thompson has called for the league to take a stronger stance, even if it costs the league some big-name players, as another retired player Alex Brosque believes will happen.

Unlike the AFL, the A-League doesn’t have the luxury of time, with the start of the season rapidly approaching.

For the National Basketball League, players have already left over vaccinations.

Despite the NBL not requiring vaccinations, the restrictions on unvaccinated players prompted two brothers to leave the competition.

The AFL’s strong stance can’t be entirely attributed to its position at the top of its respective sport.

The world’s biggest basketball league, the National Basketball Association, has required vaccinations for its staff and referees, but not the players.

But laws in New York and San Francisco restricting unvaccinated players on home teams from participating has left several marquee teams in strange positions.

For the Brooklyn Nets, their marquee star Kyrie Irving made his unwillingness to get vaccinated known early, leading the team to declare him ineligible for all games rather than have him in and out of the line-up.

As a result, Irving has become a beacon for the anti-vaxxer movement in the United States, with a crowd of people protesting on his behalf outside the Nets’ home opener in late October.

In failing to take ownership of the situation and announce a firm policy, the NBA demonstrated a lack of leadership that detracts from its on-court product.

Although Australian rules football is a small sport in terms of global participation rate, the AFL’s communications strategy has set a high benchmark for dealing with complicated issues such as vaccination mandates.

By collaborating with key stakeholders like the AFLPA early and often and clearly explaining why it was necessary, the AFL was able to announce the decision at a time of its choosing and lead from a position of strength.

Contact CGM Communications for help developing your change communication strategy and coordinating your stakeholder engagement policy.

Mayoral showdowns: Three key contests you should know about

The importance of local government is often understated, despite it being the level of government that is closest to our day-to-day lives. It has significant impact on the cities, suburbs, towns and regions in which we live – particularly since its remit has developed past the old stereotype of rates, roads and rubbish. Councils have financial firepower too, with a combined expenditure of $4 billion in Western Australia in the 2019-20 financial year.

As we approach local government elections this weekend, here’s a quick snapshot of three battles for mayor which could shape the direction of their respective local government areas for the years to come.

The City of Fremantle

With former mayor Brad Pettitt’s election to the Legislative Council earlier this year, Fremantle has been without a mayor for almost six months. Under Mr Pettitt, the City of Fremantle clashed with the Federal Government over the council’s plans to shift citizenship ceremonies from Australia Day. 

The next mayor will play a key role in advocating for the local community’s views for the future of Fremantle, with plans progressing to deliver a new container port at Kwinana. As a result, the State Government has established the Future of Fremantle Planning Committee to explore opportunities for Fremantle Inner Harbour, which includes representatives from local government.   

Mayoral candidate Hannah Fitzhardinge is a director and senior consultant with a leadership development consultancy, who previously worked for WA Premier Geoff Gallop. She currently serves on council for the Beaconsfield Ward, and her commitments include developing a new agreement between the City and Notre Dame University. Her council colleague from the South Ward, Marija Vujcic, is also contesting. She’s a human resources consultant campaigning against a rate increase above CPI. If elected, Freo local, health professional and business owner Martin Douthwaite has committed to donating his mayoral wages to the homeless in his first year. Arguably the highest profile candidate is former state MP Adele Carles, who held the seat of Fremantle from 2009 to 2013 for the Greens. Rounding out the crowded field is Rod Grljusich. He ran as an independent for Fremantle at the 2021 state election and played in the WAFL for South Fremantle.

The City of Joondalup

The City of Joondalup is one of the largest local government areas in terms of population in Western Australia. It’s home to key infrastructure including Edith Cowan University, Hillarys Boat Harbour and the Joondalup Health Campus. It’s key infrastructure like this which make it a destination for those who live outside its boundaries. Whoever is successful at the weekend’s elections will have an important role to play in working with the State Government through Development WA to deliver the Ocean Reef Marina.

Albert Jacob is seeking to serve as a second term for as Joondalup Mayor. The former State MP served as the Minister for Environment in the Barnett government, and was the Member for Ocean Reef from 2008 to 2017. Mr Jacob’s election commitments include upgrading street lighting and underground power, developing a proposal for an artificial surf reef near Mullaloo Point and a upgrading the Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club.

Mr Jacob’s challengers include current Central Ward Councillor Russell Poliwka. He is a former deputy mayor and is currently the principal of First Western Realty in Joondalup. Mr Poliwka ran for mayor in 2017 where he placed third with 16 per cent of the vote. Mr Poliwka notes in his candidate’s statement that “spiralling salary costs & extravagant vanity projects must end”. His endorsements include former Member for Hillarys Hon Rob Johnson OAM.

The third candidate is local nurse Ziggi Murphy, who received 484 first preference votes as an independent running for Joondalup at the 2021 state election. She also contested the federal seat of Moore at the 2019 federal election, where she received 2.7 per cent of the votes. Ms Murphy’s campaign commitments include removing penalties for partial rates instalments, reducing costs for small business, and overhauling planning and zoning. 

City of Subiaco

The City of Subiaco has experienced significant changes in the past five years, driven by the switch from Subiaco Oval to Optus Stadium and opening of Bob Hawke College.  One key project driving the area is Subiaco East. This plan involves rejuvenating the 35 hectares surrounding Subiaco Oval, Bob Hawke College and the former Princess Margaret Hospital site. There is bound to be strong continued debate at a local level about the increased density this plan will bring to the local area. Additionally, the new mayor will have to grapple with the well-publicised challenges faced by Hay Street. These are just some of the ongoing challenges and opportunities that the new mayor will face after current Mayor Penny Taylor announced she would not be contesting the upcoming election.

Two candidates are in the running to become the City of Subiaco’s new mayor: Julie Matheson and David McMullen.

Ms Matheson has run for parliament on a number of occasions, most recently to represent the Mining & Pastoral region for the Western Australia Party at the 2021 state election. The certified financial planner’s commitments include preserving Subiaco Oval and reviving Subiaco’s high streets. She notes in her candidate’s speech, “who do you trust as the full-time Mayor to maintain pressure on the State Government to promote development in the right areas?”

Mr McMullen is an experienced commercial lawyer specialising in the health and aged care sector who has represented South Ward since 2017.  Mr McMullen says he is not affiliated with a political party and he is not using the mayorship to achieve higher office. He holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Bachelor of Arts (Communications Studies) from the University of Western Australia, as well a Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance from the Governance Institute of Australia.


Queensland: Is the only way up for Labor?

After devastating Bill Shorten’s hopes of becoming Prime Minister in 2019, Queensland will again be critical to Labor’s hopes of emerging from the political wilderness.

Despite going in with expectations of a net gain, Labor lost two seats to the coalition at the 2019 federal election, leaving it with only six of the 29 seats available.  With just over 20 per cent of seats, this makes Queensland federal Labor’s weakest state.

Like many West Australians, many within Queensland have shown a willingness to vote Labor at state elections and LNP at federal elections, a source of great frustration in Labor ranks.

I am conscious of being a West Australian in writing this, but there are a number of factors that make Queensland’s political landscape unique.

The identity of South East Queensland as almost a state within a state, with increasing similarities to the urban populations of the southern states.  A significant, decentralised regional population, with a history of producing figures like Pauline Hanson, Bob Katter and Clive Palmer, each with their unique brand of economic protectionism and social conservatism.

Add two of the most outspoken COVID-era leaders in Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and outgoing Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young, the massing of COVID numbers on the other side of the state’s populated and somewhat porous southern border, a tourism industry that is on its knees, as well as an often hostile relationship between the Queensland and federal governments, and you have a highly charged political environment.

Then there’s the impact of the many people who have migrated to Queensland as a place of relative COVID-safety over the last 18 months.

The Poll Bludger’s state-by-state breakdown of published federal voting intentions in Queensland is currently showing a 4.8 per cent swing to Labor on two-party-preferred terms. If uniform on election day, this would net Labor three of the seven seats it needs to form majority government, with an additional prospect in the seat of Brisbane sitting on a 4.9 per cent margin.

We take a closer look at these seats below, before examining the swag of Labor marginals potentially available to the LNP.


Brisbane’s northern fringe consists of two distinct parts: Bribie Island and the adjacent mainland suburbs, and Caboolture and Burpengary which lie further inland.

Both Caboolture and Burpengary are white working-class, which is reflected in the lowest median income of any seat in greater Brisbane. Bribie Island is a retirement haven with a large 60+ cohort.

The seat of Longman was gained for the LNP in 2019 by Terry Young, who unseated Labor’s Susan Lamb with a 4.1% swing. Lamb had gained the seat in 2016 from Wyatt Roy, who at 20 became the youngest person ever elected to the House of Representatives when he took the seat from Labor in 2010.

Lamb’s win was partly due to One Nation's decision to put her ahead of Roy on its how-to-vote cards, leading to 56.5% out of their 9.4% vote share flowing to Labor.

With only slight changes on the primary vote (LNP down 0.4% to 38.6%, Labor down 1.3% to 34.1%), most of the swing to Young in 2019 was from improved preference flows: 66.1% from One Nation’s 13.2% share of the vote, along with 64.2% from the United Australia Party’s 3.4%.

In between the two elections, Lamb had to face one of the “Super Saturday” by-elections on July 28, 2018, at which she gained a 3.6% two-party preferred swing. While this was modest for a by-election, the result was an important catalyst for Malcolm Turnbull’s demise a month later, with critics pointing to a 9.4% drop in the LNP primary vote and One Nation’s 15.9%.

Terry Young was the owner of a sports store franchise before entering parliament. The Labor candidate is Rebecca Fanning, a Queensland government health policy adviser.


The seat of Leichhardt covers Cairns and the Cape York Peninsula. Cairns is naturally marginal and provides about two-thirds of the voters. The remainder consists of conservative-leaning rural areas immediately north of Cairns, and Labor-voting indigenous communities further afield.

The seat only swung to the LNP by 0.3% in 2019 – a very different result from elsewhere in central and northern Queensland, where the swings range from 6.1% to 11.8%.

This is likely because of the importance of tourism to the local economy, much of it dependent on the Great Barrier Reef, which has caused climate change issues to play very different here.

Where other central and north Queensland seats rank in the top ten for employment in agriculture (Maranoa), mining (Capricornia, Flynn, Dawson) or both (Kennedy), Leichhardt does so for accommodation and food.

The electorate has the nation's third-highest indigenous population, behind Lingiari in the Northern Territory and Durack in Western Australia.

Warren Entsch is seeking another term at the age of 70, after thinking better of his announcement on 2019 election night that this term would be his last, saying he wished “to help the region recover from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Entsch has held the seat since 1996, outside of his temporary retirement from 2007 to 2010. The seat was won for Labor in 2007 by Jim Turnour, one of Labor’s nine gains in Queensland at that election. Entsch recovered the seat for the LNP when he came out of retirement in 2010.

Labor’s candidate is Elida Faith, an official with the Left faction’s Community and Public Sector Union.


The seat of Dickson covers suburbs 10 to 25 kilometres north of central Brisbane, together with semi-rural territory further to the west.

It has the state's second-highest share of mortgage payers, slightly surpassed by Wright.

Dickson has been held for the LNP by Peter Dutton since 1998, when he unseated Cheryl Kernot, former Australian Democrats leader and one-term Labor member.

Dutton came within 217 votes of defeat in 2007, then unsuccessfully sought preselection for the safe Gold Coast seat of McPherson, where he was defeated by Karen Andrews.

He was again run close at the 2016 election, winning by only 1.6%, before gaining a 2.9% swing in 2019.

The seat will again be contested for Labor by its candidate from 2019, Ali France -  a motivational speaker and former television producer who lost a leg in a car accident in 2011. Her father, Peter Lawlor, was a minister in Anna Bligh's state government.


Brisbane has been mostly a Labor seat since World War II, but has been held by the LNP since the 2010 election. The redistribution before that election strengthened the LNP by adding affluent Clayfield to the city’s north-east.

Unusually for Queensland, but typical for an inner-city seat, Brisbane swung slightly to the LNP in 2016 and slightly to Labor in 2019.

Also typically for a CBD seat, Brisbane has a high median income (the highest in Queensland along with Ryan, depending on which measure you use), with a heavy concentration of people in their twenties and thirties and correspondingly fewer children and seniors. However, it is markedly less multicultural than electorates in Sydney and Melbourne.

Brisbane is one of the two strongest seats for the Greens in Queensland, together with Griffith. Their candidate in 2019 was former Australian Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett, who fell narrowly short of overtaking Labor in second position (25.4% to 23.7%) to reach the final count.

Brisbane’s 79.5% yes vote in the late 2017 same-sex marriage referendum was the sixth highest in the country, and the highest outside Sydney and Melbourne.

LNP member Trevor Evans is good fit for the electorate – he is one of only three openly gay Liberal MPs in the House of Representatives and a former chief executive of the National Retailers Association. He was also once chief of staff to Peter Dutton, but nonetheless opposed him during the August 2018 Liberal leadership contest.

Labor’s candidate is Madonna Jarrett, a director at Deloitte Australia. The Greens candidate is retail worker Stephen Bates.

LILLEY (Labor 0.6%)

Labor came surprisingly close to losing the inner northern Brisbane seat of Lilley when Wayne Swan retired in 2019, with his successor Anika Wells holding out by just 0.6% after a 5.0% swing.

Swan held the seat from 1993 to 2019 outside of an interruption from 1996 to 1998, when Labor lost all but two of its Queensland seats with the defeat of the Keating government.

Wells is a former lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, aligned with AWU-dominated Labor Forum sub-faction of the Right, as was Swan.

The LNP candidate is Ryan Shaw, who served in the ADF in East Timor and Afghanistan and ran unsuccessfully in Nudgee in the 2020 state election.

BLAIR (Labor 1.2%)

The seat of Blair includes Ipswich and rural territory to the north.

It ranks #15 in the country for children under 10 and #19 for those aged 10 to 19, but with more renters and fewer mortgage payers than is typical for an electorate dominated by young families.

The seat is slightly shaded by Longman as the lowest income seat in greater Brisbane.

It has been held for Labor by Shayne Neumann since 2007, who had his closest scrape in 2019 when a 6.9% swing reduced his winning margin to 1.2%.

Together with Graham Perrett in Moreton, Neumann is one of only two out of the nine Queensland Labor members elected in 2007 who has retained their seat long term.

Neumann is a former family lawyer who holds outer shadow minister rank. He is aligned with the Labor Unity/Old Guard sub-faction of the Right, distinct from the AWU-dominated Labor Forum.

The LNP has yet to choose a candidate.

MORETON (Labor 1.9%)

Moreton takes in the southern Brisbane suburbs, including the Chinese community hub of Sunnybank, giving it the largest non-English speaking population of any seat in Queensland.

The Liberals held the seat through the Howard years, but it has since become stronger for Labor due to its increasing cosmopolitanism and redistributions that have drawn it into the inner suburbs.

Graham Perrett has held the seat for Labor since 2007 by margins ranging from 1.1% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2007. The current margin of 1.9% followed a 2.1% swing to the LNP in 2019. Perrett holds shadow assistant minister (formerly parliamentary secretary) rank.

The LNP has yet to choose a candidate.

GRIFFITH (Labor 2.9%)

Griffith covers the southern bank of the Brisbane River and further inner-city territory to the south.

It’s a mixed bag electorally, encompassing strong Greens territory around South Brisbane and the West End and a relatively conservative riverside stretch further east around Bulimba.

It is typical of an inner-city seat in being affluent, dominated by people in their twenties, and lacking in mortgage payers. Griffith recorded a 76.6% yes vote in the 2017 same-sex marriage survey, the eighth highest in the nation.

The seat was last won by the Liberals in 1996, when Kevin Rudd first ran and Labor was all but wiped out in Queensland. Rudd won on the second attempt in 1998 and held it through to his retirement in 2014.

Terri Butler has since held it for Labor on narrow margins – 1.8% at the by-election, 1.6% in 2016 and 2.9% in 2019.

Griffith was the Greens’ strongest seat in Queensland at the 2019 election with 23.7% of the vote.

Butler received a particularly strong 86.4% of their preferences, allowing her to overhaul the LNP’s 41.0% to 31.0% lead over her on the primary vote.

Butler is a Left-aligned former industrial relations lawyer with Maurice Blackburn. She was promoted to shadow cabinet in the environment and water portfolios after the 2019 election defeat.

As in 2019, the LNP candidate is Olivia Roberts, former lawyer and current full-time director of the Easts Leagues Club.

Next week, we turn our focus on our home state of Western Australia.





The enduring power of Opinion Editorials

One of my clients recently had an Opinion Editorial piece printed in a major newspaper. The client called me later that day to tell me about the number of emails, texts, and calls they’d had from many different people congratulating them on the piece. The client was surprised, telling me: “I didn’t think anyone read those anymore!”

We’re often told these days that people don’t want to read big swathes of information; they want it handed to them in bullet points, displayed in a graphic, or better yet, presented as a video so they don’t have to read at all.

At a minimum of 600 words, it’s often assumed the majority of readers don’t have the concentration span, or time, to read a whole opinion piece (aka Op Ed). And maybe they don’t have the prominence they once did, but in my view, opinion pieces are still a valuable communication tool in a PR kit.

Unlike media releases or interviews, opinion pieces give the author the opportunity to express themselves in at least 600 of their own unedited words without having to try to talk in grabs (sound bites) or deliver a list of key messages while under pressure during an interview.

They allow clients to think about what they want to say, and how they want to say it. Opinion pieces can be a vehicle to explain complex ideas or communicate problems and solutions that couldn’t be covered in a one-minute news story. They can inform people about different perspectives on big issues, start important conversations, influence public opinion or introduce new ideas into the public discourse.

Op Eds are also an opportunity for the author to establish their credibility on a given topic. If they’re articulate, they can establish the writer as a thought leader in their space. They’re an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and understanding about topics which might be misunderstood by the general public.

Writing an opinion piece is also a way of letting people know that not only are you an authority on a topic, but that you’re willing to talk publicly about it. This can be key if you’re wanting to become a commentator on an issue and will signal to journalists that they can ask you for comment if they’re writing a story on this topic in the future (and that you’re going to have something insightful and knowledgeable to say). 

Opinion pieces are not as easy as writing a media release. They generally take more thought, research and time to write. They also don’t come without risk – if you’re sharing an opinion, particularly on a controversial topic, you have to be prepared for others to publicly disagree.

But, in my opinion, they’re generally worth the effort.

Can Labor’s Victorian stronghold get stronger?

After a momentous week in New South Wales politics, it would be tempting to re-visit the politics of that state, given its importance to the federal election outcome.

With new leaders for both the Liberals and Nationals, and outgoing premier Gladys Berejiklian now mooted for a run at federal politics, the landscape may have shifted. And there is still Ms Berejiklian’s appearance at ICAC to come. All as New South Wales reaches its vaccine targets and looks to open up, becoming the first state ‘living with COVID’.

We will come back to New South Wales later in the year, as polling becomes available that provides insights into the political impacts of current events.

This week, we update The Poll Bludger’s state-by-state model, following last week’s release of Newspoll data, and do a deep dive on the seats that matter in Victoria.

Updated Model

The updated model has the Morrison Government losing further ground in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, but recovering some territory in Victoria and South Australia.  There is still insufficient data to calculate a swing in Tasmania.

While there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge between now and the election, if the currently observed swings were replicated uniformly at the election, Labor would win 12 seats from the coalition and be elected to majority government.


Labor currently holds 21 of the 38 federal seats in Victoria. Following the redistribution, it has become even more of a stronghold for Anthony Albanese, with the new seat of Hawke considered a sure thing for Labor.

Given this, if Victoria is to contribute to the seven seats Labor needs to win a majority government, Mr Albanese is going to have to win seats in what was once considered safe Liberal territory.

The swing of 4.6 per cent towards Labor currently being recorded by The Poll Bludger suggests this may be on the cards.

Like New South Wales, Victoria is at a critical point. Melbourne has now spent more time in COVID-lockdown than any city in the world. And, while one might expect this to play badly for the state Labor government, the fact that the current outbreak was seeded from a New South Wales outbreak that grew largely unchecked by the light-touch approach to COVID management of the Berejiklian government – an approach publicly backed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison – is not lost on many Victorians. A perception that vaccine supplies and financial assistance were prioritised for New South Wales, at the expense of Victoria, accentuates a feeling that Mr Morrison is a “Prime Minister for New South Wales” – a point Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is not afraid to make.

On the topic of Premiers, something that has become clear since Ms Berejiklian announced her resignation on the weekend, is that it is very difficult for people who live outside of a state to understand the affection that many within a state have developed for their Premier during the COVID era. This is as true for Mr Andrews, as it is for Ms Berejiklian. While these things can change, the potential for this to be a factor at the federal election is real.

In our seat-by-seat deep dive, we look first at the seats that Mr Morrison might look to pick up from Labor, if circumstances turn around, then at the seats Labor has in its sights as it looks to eat into the coalition’s majority.

DUNKLEY (Labor 2.7%)

Based around the outer bayside centre of Frankston, Dunkley lies 40 kilometres south of central Melbourne. The electorate consists of a lower-income, Labor-leaning northern end in Frankston and Seaford with a wealthier, Liberal-voting south in Mount Eliza. Peta Murphy won the seat for Labor in 2019 for the first time since 1990 after the redistribution shifted the seat northwards, boosting them by 2.7 per cent, which was exactly equal to their eventual winning margin. The Liberal candidate will be Sharn Coombes, a lawyer and one-time Survivor contestant. The seat is demographically unremarkable and was altered in the latest redistribution.

CORANGAMITE (Labor 1.0%)

The Bellarine Peninsula, the Surf Coast around Torquay and suburbs on the southern edge of the Geelong form the seat of Corangamite. Former Surf Coast Shire mayor Libby Coker won the seat for Labor in 2019 from Sarah Henderson, who later filled a Senate vacancy. Henderson's 3.1 per cent winning margin in 2016 was eliminated by a redistribution with Coker securing the seat with a 1.1 per cent swing. This marked Labor's third win in the five elections since 2007, but prior to that Labor had only won the seat in 1910 and 1929. This reflects a long-term trend in which urbanisation in and around Geelong has caused the seat to lose rural territory in redistributions – to the extent that Lake Corangamite is now in the neighbouring seat of Wannon. The latest redistribution has cost it the Great Ocean Road from Anglesea through Lorne to Apollo Bay and rural territory around Meredith but it is expected to have little impact on the margin. Corangamite has the highest vaccination rate in the state both for first (92 per cent) and second (62.9 per cent) doses. It ranks #10 in the country for persons who speak only English at home. The Liberal candidate will be Stephanie Asher, former mayor of Geelong.

CHISHOLM (Liberal 0.5%)

Chisholm is based around the eastern Melbourne suburbs of Mount Waverley and Glen Waverley, lying 15 kilometres from the city centre. It was the only seat in the country that the Liberals gained at the 2016 election, following the retirement of Labor member Anna Burke. The seat was held by the Liberals for a term by Julia Banks, a close ally of Malcolm Turnbull who quit the party following his loss of the leadership in 2018, and ran unsuccessfully as an independent in Flinders. Despite expectations the seat would return to Labor, it was retained for the Liberals by Gladys Liu, who had campaigned among the local Chinese community against same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools program. The electorate ranks #2 in the country for Chinese language speakers, after Bennelong in Sydney. Labor's candidate is Carina Garland, the former assistant secretary at Victorian Trades Hall Council. The redistribution has pushed the electorate southwards, which affects around a third of its voters but does not significantly change the margin.

HIGGINS (Liberal 3.7%)

Centred around 10 kilometres south-east of central Melbourne, Higgins encompasses the affluent suburbs of South Yarra, Toorak, Prahran, Malvern, Glen Iris and Carnegie. The redistribution has made only minor changes to what has been a blue-ribbon Liberal seat since its creation in 1949, and was previously held by Harold Holt, John Gorton and Peter Costello. However, the margin was crunched by a 6.1 per cent swing to Labor in 2019, influenced by the retirement of Kelly O'Dwyer, who had held it since 2009, and hostility among inner urban voters following the coup against Malcolm Turnbull. The result also reflected a green-left tide in the area. The Greens now hold the state seat of Prahran, which covers its western end, and Labor won Hawthorn in Burwood at the 2018 state election, which cover parts of the eastern end. This in turn reflects an increasingly youthful age profile – Higgins now ranks #6 in the country for persons in their twenties, #22 for those in their thirties and #5 for renters. It also ranks #4 for high school completion and #9 for median family income.

Labor only slightly outpolled the Greens in Higgins in 2019, by 25.4 per cent to 22.5 per cent, which reduced to 26.2 per cent and 24.3 per cent when the Greens dropped out at the second last preference count. It is not clear if the Liberals would be more likely to lose the seat if Labor or the Greens made the final count given around 80 per cent to 85 per cent of their preferences typically flow to each other ahead in comparable electorates. Labor's candidate is Michelle Ananda-Rajah, a consultant physician in general medicine and infectious diseases at Alfred Health, who has faced scrutiny over comments questioning the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Greens candidate is Sonya Semmens, the owner-director of a fundraising consultancy.

CASEY (Liberal 4.6%)

The Eastern Melbourne fringe suburbs around Lilydale, Monbulk and the Yarra Valley were mostly unchanged by the redistribution. The suburban end consists largely of recent development, giving it a #8 ranking in the country for mortgage-payers. This end of the electorate is also middle-income, culturally homogenous and Liberal-leaning. Outcrops of Labor support further afield coincide with lower incomes at Healesville, a Greens-friendly “tree-changer” tendency around Monbulk, and a combination of the two at Warburton. Labor's chances will be boosted with the retirement of Tony Smith, who has held it since 2001 and served as Speaker of the House of Representatives since 2015. The Liberal candidate is yet to be determined but the preselection has attracted a field of six candidates. Labor's candidate is Bill Brindle, an engineer and small business owner who also ran in 2019.

DEAKIN (Liberal 4.7%)

Falling marginally outside of the current swing to Labor in Victoria, the eastern suburbs seat of Deakin is centred around 25 kilometres from central Melbourne and includes Mitcham, Ringwood and Croydon. The seat has not been radically changed by the redistribution, with the electorate demographically unexceptional on all measures. However, ethnic diversity tends to diminish towards the eastern end of the electorate, which is reflected in lower support for Labor. It was held by Labor during the Rudd-Gillard years before Michael Sukkar gained it for the Liberals in 2013. Sukkar has been noted as a conservative supporter of Tony Abbott and opponent of Malcolm Turnbull. He was embroiled in a branch stacking scandal in late 2020, which did not prevent him being promoted to Assistant Treasurer shortly after. Labor's candidate is Matthew Gregg, a teacher.

Why you have to ‘pay to play’ on Facebook

There’s no doubt that today’s social media environment is a looking a lot different these days. 

It’s much more of a Hunger Games-style dystopian landscape than a Disney musical where things magically come together. 

It’s time to face facts – Facebook is pay to play. Even if you’ve only boosted one post for your organisation or client, chances are the lingering effects of that post tanked any subsequent organic post because now the social media giant knows you have the cash to spend. 

Which might explain why your social media manager is looking a little more stressed these days and has stopped bragging about ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’. Those pie charts just aren’t as full of good news as they used to be. 

Essentially, the good old days of being able to report percentage increases in organic reach and engagement are long gone.

Pair this with the insight that Facebook essentially doesn’t want users to leave the platform and is reducing the reach of external links and it’s likely time to rethink your social media strategy. 

Don’t believe me? Try a long-form social media post versus a traditional link and see what happens.  

Now, one clever workaround, displayed beautifully by the social media team at ABC Perth, involves a longform post with a picture. This tactic allows readers to engage and consume the content before scrolling on. 

Not only has this boosted engagement for the ABC – just look at the number of reactions and comments – but there is nothing stopping the team from circling back and adding a shortened link later in the day. 

The same tactic is used by, which has gone so far as to add customised URLs to their links. Brand, after all, is everything. 

But it does beg the question, what are you trying to achieve with your social media? Are you working to boost website traffic, promoting a brand, or building engagement? Each of these these goals will require a different, strategic approach.

You can no longer handball socials to the work experience kid just because they’re young and ‘supposed to know about these things’.

It’s not all bad news. These changes can give rise to creativity and new ways of reaching a content-fatigued audience which has grown far more sophisticated since the first cat video was posted on Facebook.

If you want to boost your engagement numbers (and who doesn’t) then authenticity is the key. The trick is to have content that audiences have an emotional connection with that doesn’t seem contrived. 

Just look at this example from Lifeline WA. Many organisations have fallen into the habit at some point or another of grabbing a stock image and pushing it out on social, but this post shows how real, authentic content resonates and speaks for itself.

This video is just five seconds long. But it captures the quintessential Perth landscape which tells viewers that this is home and the crowds of people standing at Kings Park conveys the feeling of being part of a community. It triggers a feeling of authentic connection, genuine interest and caring about the cause.

Just because we’ve identified a need for authenticity (which is easier said than done), that doesn’t mean to say that the days of clickbait are over. Far from it. When it comes to those who will persist in trying to drive both clicks and engagement, expect what journalists call the ‘sell’ of a story to get even more compelling. 

Clickbait is a fine art and an effective one, but there are risks to taking sensationalising content too far. And while we’re on the subject of trust and sneaky tactics, some would also go so far as to suggest that a step into dark UX tactics isn’t too far behind. Watch this (social media) space.

The Liberal states the Prime Minister is counting on

Since last week’s edition of The Spill, Newspoll has published its quarterly state-by-state breakdowns, with the results broadly consistent with the modelling we presented last week from William Bowe at The Poll Bludger.

The upshot is the coalition is currently set to lose seats in the Labor held states of Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as in the Liberal-held states of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

Of course, there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge before the election and things may change. The success of the opening strategies in New South Wales and Victoria will be critical, as will the easing of border restrictions in Queensland and Western Australia.

To win, Mr Morrison likely needs to hold the line in South Australia and Tasmania, and turn things around in New South Wales, so he wins seats to offset possible losses in the Labor states.

This week, we do a deep dive on the Liberal states critical to both Mr Morrison’s hopes of surviving and Anthony Albanese’s aspirations of becoming PM.


While there isn‘t enough data available to calculate a state-based swing in Tasmania, the consistency of the swings to Labor currently being recorded around the country suggest the Liberals may have trouble defending their most marginal seat, Bass.

BASS (Liberal 0.4%)

The Liberals’ most marginal electorate is located on the north-eastern corner of Tasmania, with about three quarters of its voters living in the city of Launceston. Bass is also the most volatile electorate in the country, having changed hands at nine of the last 11 elections. This included 2019, when one-term Labor member Ross Hart was defeated by the current Liberal member, Bridget Archer, after a 5.8 per cent swing. This was preceded by swings of more than 10 per cent towards the Liberals in 2013 and against them in 2016. Bass ranks ninth lowest in the country for median household income - though still higher than neighbouring Braddon and Lyons, which typically record similar swings. Bass will again be contested for Labor by Hart, who is now the principal of a law firm in Launceston.

South Australia

Despite all the talk about the politics of naval contracts, there is only really one marginal seat in South Australia, albeit a very valuable seat following the decision to perform submarine maintenance work in SA instead of Western Australia. With a swing of 3.2 per cent currently being recorded in South Australia in our model (2.3 per cent in Newspoll), the Liberals are under pressure to retain Boothby.

BOOTHBY (Liberal 1.4%)

Located in southern Adelaide, Boothby runs from Glenelg through to the suburbs immediately south of the city. Held by the Liberals since 1949, Boothby has been trending to Labor over time. Two-term member Nicolle Flint is retiring, after her margin was halved to 1.3% per cent in 2019 and only marginally improved at the redistribution. Boothby ranks #15 for those identifying themselves as having no religion, a useful proxy for progressive sentiment and the type of affluent inner urban demographic that has been drifting away from the Liberals. However, it also ranks #1 in the country for persons 80 and over. The Liberal candidate is Rachel Swift, a factional moderate who was chosen ahead of the favoured candidate of Flint, a conservative. Labor's candidate is Louise Miller-Frost, state chief executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

New South Wales

To say New South Wales is critical to the election outcome is an understatement. Mr Morrison is hopeful of making gains among six Labor-held marginals in New South Wales. However, based on the current 3.2 per cent swing to Labor in our model (3.8 per cent in Newspoll), the Liberals would struggle to hold all its seats. 

REID (Liberal 3.2%)

Centred around Homebush 15 kilometres west of central Sydney, Reid was retained for the Liberals in 2019 by Fiona Martin, despite the retirement of Craig Laundy, a noted Malcolm Turnbull ally who gained the seat for the Liberals for the first time in 2013. There was a 1.5 per cent swing to Labor in 2019, reflecting the party's relatively good performance in inner urban areas under Bill Shorten. Reid ranks #10 for non-English speakers, #3 for persons of East/South-East Asian ancestry and #7 for persons in their twenties, but contains few young families. Labor is yet to preselect a candidate, with Sally Sitou, a University of Sydney doctoral candidate and ministerial staffer to Jason Clare, and Frank Alafaci, president of the Australian Business Summit Council, both putting their hands up.

LINDSAY (Liberal 5.0%)

An outer western Sydney seat centred around Penrith, Lindsay has been a hotly contested seat since Jackie Kelly unexpectedly gained it for the Liberals in 1996. Melissa McIntosh gained it for the Liberals in 2019 with a 6.2 per cent swing after Labor punted Emma Husar. Husar’s win in 2016 was the only time since 1996 the seat was not won by the winning party at the election. Lindsay is an example of the urban fringe pattern experienced in recent elections, which saw a weak result for the Liberals under Malcolm Turnbull followed by a stronger one in 2019. Based on current polling results, Lindsay is not at risk of falling to Labor, but is worth keeping an eye on given its history. Labor is yet to endorse a candidate.

HUGHES (Liberal 9.8%)

An outer southern Sydney seat that has become secure for the Liberals since the Howard government came to power in 1996, Hughes is likely still safe for the Liberals. However, it is of interest given incumbent Craig Kelly's decision to run as the United Australia Party candidate.

MACQUARIE (Labor 0.2%)

Macquarie combines two geographically and electorally distinct areas separated by the Blue Mountains National Park: the solidly Liberal-voting Hawkesbury River area and the largely Labor-voting communities in the Blue Mountains, notably Springwood and Katoomba. In another example of the urban fringe pattern, Susan Templeman gained the seat for Labor in 2016 with a 6.7 per cent swing, then was pushed close to defeat by a 2.0 per cent swing to the Liberals in 2019. Ranks #16 in the country for English-only speakers and #3 for employment in education and training. The Liberals are yet to endorse a candidate.

EDEN-MONARO (Labor 0.8%)

Eden-Monaro is located on the south-eastern corner of New South Wales, encompassing the southern coast and rural territory further inland. It ranks #20 in the country for highest median age, with particularly large numbers in their fifties and sixties. A famous bellwether seat until Mike Kelly recovered it for Labor in 2016 and hung on in 2019, Eden-Monaro was the electorate most heavily affected by the pre-COVID bushfires. Following the retirement of Mike Kelly in 2020, Labor’s Kristy McBain retained the seat for Labor by 0.4 per cent on the back of preferences from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party, and the dysfunction of the Nationals, whose campaign was complicated by state party leader John Barilaro's withdrawal from preselection. The by-election result also suggested that bushfire negatives for the Liberals under Mr Morrison were negated by the Prime Minister’s surge in popularity in the early days of the pandemic. A 10.6 per cent gap in Labor's House and Senate vote in 2019 indicated a strong personal vote for Mr Kelly. Without this advantage and the advantage oppositions traditionally enjoy at a by-election, Labor may struggle - unless the bushfires and their aftermath remain a factor.

DOBELL (Labor 1.5%)

Located on the coast, just north of metropolitan Sydney, Dobell includes the retirement havens of The Entrance and Bateau Bay, lower-income Wyong, and demographically undistinctive suburbs like Gosford. Dobell ranks #15 in the country for persons aged 80 and over and #20 for persons speaking only English at home. It was held by Craig Thompson before being gained for the Liberals in 2013, then recovered for Labor in 2019 by Emma McBride. Dobell’s behaviour has been typical of urban periphery seats in that the Liberals did not perform well when Malcolm Turnbull was leader but recorded an above-average swing in 2019. A comparison of House and Senate results suggests McBride has a strong personal vote: she received 41.5 per cent of primary votes, compared with Labor’s Senate vote of 31.6 per cent, a 9.9 per cent difference compared with 4.7 per cent for Labor statewide.

GILMORE (Labor 2.6%)

Bordered to the south by Eden-Monaro, Gilmore is located on the south coast of New South Wales, stretching from the southern Illawarra region to Batemans Bay. The seat was an anomalous Labor gain in NSW at the 2019 election, when Fiona Phillips gained a 3.3 per cent swing after the retirement of Ann Sudmalis. However, the Liberal vote may have been dampened by local discontent over the manner in which their candidate, Warren Mundine, was imposed by head office at the expense of Grant Schultz, who had won a local preselection vote. Schultz ran as an independent and polled seven per cent. Minus these complications, the Liberals are hopeful of recovering the seat. It has been reported the Liberals are hoping to persuade Andrew Constance, state Transport Minister and member for the corresponding state seat of Bega, to run for the seat. Constance received sympathetic media attention after nearly losing his Malua Bay house in the 2019/20 bushfires. Conversely, the local impact of the bushfires may linger as a negative for the Liberals.

GREENWAY (Labor 2.8%)

Covering suburbs around 30 kilometres west of Sydney, Greenway tends to be stronger for Labor around Blacktown in the south and for the Liberals around Riverstone in the north. Michelle Rowland has held the seat for Labor since a favourable redistribution in 2007, holding out against a 3.3 per cent swing in 2019. Greenway is dominated by young families, ranking #7 for children under ten, #18 for persons in their thirties and #15 for mortgages, with correspondingly few people in their fifties and above. It ranks #2 for persons of Indian and Sri Lankan ancestry, who account for 13.9 per cent of the population. The Liberals have not yet pre-selected a candidate.

HUNTER (Labor 3.0%)

Covering the interior of the Hunter region, Hunter strikingly recorded a 21.6 per cent One Nation vote in 2019 - the highest in the country - and a 9.5 per cent swing against Labor. The state seat of Upper Hunter largely corresponds, with a state by-election in May producing a rare pro-government swing of 3.3 per cent which allowed the seat to be retained by the Nationals. However, this was prior to the recent COVID outbreak in NSW. Labor's task is complicated by the retirement of Joel Fitzgibbon, who succeeded his father, Eric Fitzgibbon, as member in 1996. Labor has pointedly preselected a former coal miner, Daniel Repacholi, who also represented Australia five times in pistol shooting at the Olympics. The Nationals have preselected James Thomson, a community relations officer at Maitland Christian School. The electorate ranks #2 for percentage of the population born in Australia, and #4 for percentage of the workforce employed in mining, as well as electricity, gas, waste and water.

WA’s Upper House reform explained

Speculation has been rife that reforms to the Western Australia’s Upper House, the Legislative Council, were on the horizon since a number of single-issue candidates were able to gain seats with staggeringly low primary votes at the 2021 state election.

However, the degree and nature of the reform introduced by the McGowan Government last week has gone beyond the more measured approach expected by forecasters like my colleague Amy Blom.

The reforms included in the Constitutional and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Equality) Bill 2021 are based on the recommendations of the independent Ministerial Expert Committee on Electoral Reform, chaired by Malcolm McCusker, WA’s 31st Governor.

The main reforms are:

  • The Legislative Council will become a whole State electorate with 37 Members (it currently has three metropolitan electorates and three country electorates each returning six members for a total of 36 Members)
  • Group Voting Tickets will be abolished and optional preferential voting introduced

There seems to be very little disagreement that the Group Voting Ticket system that led to the election of Daylight Saving Party MP Wilson Tucker with just 98 votes was broken and needed fixing. But the decision to remove regional vote weighting has, unsurprisingly, split opinion. Opposition and Nationals WA leader Mia Davies declared that regional Labor MPs had “turned their back on their constituency” and were “traitors to their communities”.

The creation of a single, statewide electorate means that every vote for Legislative Council candidates will now carry equal weight, correcting what was the most malapportioned electoral system of any Australian state or territory. In delivering one-vote-one-value in the upper house, the reforms remove the malapportionment not only between metropolitan and non-metropolitan electorates, but also between the three non-metropolitan electorates.

In his second reading speech, Attorney General and Minister for Electoral Affairs John Quigley provided the following glaring examples of the existing malapportionment:

  • A vote in Broome is worth 6.2 times more than a vote in Burns Beach
  • A vote in Kalgoorlie is worth 3.5 times more than a vote in Albany
  • A vote in Kalbarri is worth 1.5 times more than a vote in Geraldton
  • A vote in Wundowie is worth 4 times more than a vote in Wooroloo (towns which are 9km apart)

In its report, the Expert Committee provided an annexure with all the arguments that it was given for and against regional vote weighting. It was argued that by removing the distinction between metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions and abolishing specific non-metropolitan electorates, regional representation is being reduced. The counter argument to this is that there is no justification for the electoral system to be weighted on a geographical basis because proportionality will ensure a diversity of views are represented in the Legislative Council and additional resourcing for regional members of Parliament will remain.

However, the Committee was only asked to examine how (not whether) to achieve electoral equality, so its report did not engage with those arguments.

The implications of these major changes are wide ranging and significant in relation to how parties select their candidates and how they campaign across what will be a single, but extremely diverse, electorate. Because the major parties will need to attract votes across the state, the regions cannot be ignored. Parties will need to pre-select candidates who can effectively represent the interests of electors throughout the state, including candidates who will be readily identified with particular regions and regional interests.

The new system will pose challenges for the non-Labor major parties, the National Party in particular. Despite its current status as the majority Opposition party, the National Party has historically been the junior partner in coalitions and alliances with the Liberal Party (whether in government or opposition) and has rarely run candidates or actively campaigned in the metropolitan area. The creation of a single State-wide electorate means that the National Party cannot afford to vacate this space and makes all the more compelling the need for it to come to an agreement with the Liberal Party ahead of the next election. Whether this is a formal coalition agreement or even a merger as occurred in Queensland with the creation of the LNP, the Liberals and Nationals will need to maximise their efforts against WA Labor rather than compete with each other for votes across the State.

The quota of the vote for a candidate to be elected will be just 2.63 per cent (reduced from 14.28 per cent in the current regions). Consequently, a range of diverse interests will be able to access seats in Parliament. All interests will be able to compete on an equal basis for a share of parliamentary power. Minor parties such as the Australian Christians, which have historically received about 2 per cent of the statewide upper house vote without getting any of their candidates elected, will have a much lower hurdle to overcome. Meanwhile, the Greens WA may see its level of support across the state become far more accurately reflected in the number of seats it wins. While some commentators have suggested that the reforms will mean the end of the Nationals as a meaningful force in the Upper House with a state-wide vote of only around 2 per cent, their status as the official Opposition means that in the lead up to the next election they have the best opportunity in their history to campaign not only in the regions, but in the metropolitan area and lift their overall vote to something more significant.

The ultimate impact of this reform won’t be known until the next election, but it seems almost certain that broadly based minor parties will establish more of a foothold and single-issue abberations like Daylight Savings will go the way of the dinosaur.

NSW critical to federal election outcome

By Daniel Smith

The Morrison Government’s decision to deliver billions of dollars in submarine maintenance work to South Australia highlights again how important the Liberal-held states are to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s political survival.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese needs a net gain of seven seats in the 151-seat House of Representatives for Labor to win majority government at the upcoming federal election.

A feature of Australia’s COVID-era politics is that voters have shown an inclination to credit their state governments when they have felt protected from COVID. Border controls, lockdowns and other public health measures have all been decisions of state leaders. While the trajectories have been different in each state, most state leaders and their parties have enjoyed periods of strong support over the past 18 months.

Mr Morrison’s re-election strategy is all about leveraging the political capital available in the Liberal-held states to retain currently held marginal seats in those states, and perhaps pick up seats to offset potential losses in the Labor-controlled states of Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

However, since the outbreak in New South Wales in June, this task has become significantly more complicated.

Prior to the outbreak, based on public confidence in the Berejiklian Government’s “gold standard” approach to COVID management, Mr Morrison would have given himself a strong chance of picking up a swag of Labor-held marginals in NSW. These would have included Macquarie, Eden-Monaro, Dobell, Greenway, and Hunter, all of which Labor holds on margins of less than three per cent.

But, state-by-state polling data compiled by William Bowe at for CGM shows that, with a swing to Labor of 3.2 per cent currently being recorded in NSW, Mr Morrison will struggle to defend the Liberal-held seat of Reid, let alone pick up seats.

A similar swing is being recorded in SA, putting the Liberal-held seat of Boothby at risk. Based on national trends, the Liberals are also likely to have trouble defending Bass in Tasmania, which is their most marginal seat in the country.

Based on current polling trends in Victoria, Queensland and WA, 10 seats appear at risk of falling to Labor in these states.

In Victoria, if the current swing against the coalition of 5.2 per cent was uniform on election day, this would cost the Liberals the seats of Chisholm, Higgins, Casey and Deakin.

In Queensland, the currently projected swing of 4.7 per cent would, if uniform, cost the Liberal National Party the seats of Longman, Leichhardt and Peter Dutton's seat of Dickson.

Here in WA, the current swing of 7.4 per cent is the biggest state-based swing in the nation. If this swing was uniform on election day, the Liberals would lose Swan, Christian Porter's seat of Pearce and Ken Wyatt’s seat of Hasluck.

The challenge Mr Morrison has with his strategy is that his efforts to recover and grow support in the Liberal-held states appear to make his task that much harder in the Labor-held states.

For example, the submarine maintenance decision may be of assistance in Boothby, but it has to hurt in Swan, Pearce, and Hasluck.

Similarly, Mr Morrison’s all-in support for the Berejiklian Government, whether that be for its light-touch approach to lockdown at the start of the current outbreak, or through the prioritisation of vaccines and financial support for that state once the outbreak took hold, has come at a cost in Victoria.

As things stand, Mr Morrison’s electoral prospects hinge on containing the swings in Victoria, Queensland and WA, holding the line in SA and Tasmania, then turning things around in NSW, so that he is winning seats, rather than losing a seat, in that state.

This will not be an easy task. The Labor Premiers are unlikely to provide any assistance. And Mr Morrison needs everything to go right in NSW.

To turn his prospects around, Mr Morrison will be banking on NSW emerging from lockdown and opening up effectively, as well as the NSW health system holding up during peak-COVID in the months ahead. Perceptions of inequalities in the way lockdown restrictions have been applied across NSW will also need to be addressed. As will residual feelings about the Prime Minister’s handling of the pre-COVID bushfire crises. Mr Morrison wouldn’t want another bad bushfire season.

Of course, there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge between now and the election. New issues could emerge and everything could change. But, based on current polling trends, the Morrison Government is in trouble and its strategy of banking support in the Liberal-held states is under pressure.

All Australians hope things get better quickly in New South Wales.  But, perhaps nobody more so than the Prime Minister. There are only so many multi-billion defence contracts you can throw around to bolster support elsewhere.

Next week, we take a deep dive on the Liberal-held states important to the fortunes of both Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese.

Authenticity – why it’s key to creating engaging video content

By Rebecca Munro

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, video is the superior online communication tool. I even wrote a blog about it.

It’s powerful, but unfortunately, it’s also a double-edged sword when you get it wrong.

Video can reach a large audience but if the content isn’t engaging or authentic it could have serious consequences for an organisation’s brand or reputation – or simply be a big waste of money.

Let me share what was dubbed by Australian media as ‘the worst government ad ever’.

This 2017 Federal Department of Finance ad stars real-life department staff who interact in awkwardly scripted scenes in an attempt to demonstrate the excitement of working in the public service.

Critics slammed the $37,000 ad campaign as a disaster that would never be successful in assisting the Department to attract new talent.

In my opinion, the creators lost authenticity when they put real people in a situation where they were required to act. Actors would have been more suitable in this situation.

The strategy didn’t come close to achieving the Department’s objective. Every part of this video, including the music, its length, the low production values, the graphics, the pace, and framing of the camera angles should all align with the objective. Each element is a communication tool and together those tools failed to engage the desired graduate audience.

I’ve worked in video creation and TV for the past 14 years and in my experience, there are a few key tips to follow to create authentic video.

Don’t be a Ron Burgundy

It is imperative to plan before creating a video. Know your objective, come up with a strategy and align every decision to that objective. It’s also important to script and storyboard.

But when it comes to filming on the day, don’t always stick to the script – authenticity comes from flexibility.

A classic example in film is when Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy refuses to stray from what is written on the autocue, which leads to him cursing at his audience and a spectacular fall from grace.

I once had a CEO who was adamant about using an autocue to feel comfortable. The objective of the company was to reassure staff about an issue, but unfortunately their wooden delivery wasn’t aligning with that objective. Once we had completed the script, I asked them to attempt a more casual chat about what the script was about in their own words – that was the take that made the cut.

It’s also the same when you are interviewing talent who has already been assigned their story, sometimes you can uncover a better one in the moment.

Understand your audience

The Department of Finance didn’t understand its audience. I can’t overemphasise how important this is. Make a list of what your audiences’ interests are. Find out who they are and what drives them, or how your organisation can help them achieve their goals.

Trust the human factor

People trust people. There are situations where you can’t avoid using a professional voiceover or actor but where appropriate, use real people from your organisation. You don’t need to put them in awkward acting scenarios, there are many ways around it, such as using an interview format or having them record their own voiceover. It allows for the audience to better connect with the organisation.

Perfect your story telling

Whether it’s through actors or real people, the key to authentic video is to ensure you are telling a story. Story telling engages an audience and allows people to relate. Being relatable is authentic. Story telling is a skill in itself, but it has basic principles such as a beginning, middle and end. It’s always a good idea to get to your story fast, the Department’s ad failed this and likely lost viewers in the first 20 seconds of its slow music and office visuals.

Being authentic is challenging particularly when you are dealing with people who aren’t comfortable on camera. Below is an example of a video I created with the Managing Director of Phosphate Resources Limited. Due to confidentiality I won’t share the organisation’s objective, but as a strategy we sought to show authenticity to a community-based audience.

CGM produces video content including animation, case study and testimonial videos, profile and event filming.

The growing influence of ESG investment

By Anthony Fisk

The Australian market for responsible investments has broken through the $1 trillion mark for the first time, with responsible investment assets growing at 15 times the rate of the market, according to a study released last week by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA).

But the report warned that while many investment managers claimed to be practising responsible investing, only one quarter met RIAA’s definition of a “responsible investment leader”.

Meanwhile, a report released by Evergreen Consultants found that as many as 86 per cent of Australians now expect their superannuation and other investments to be held in funds that acted responsibly and ethically. Their data also found at least 10 per cent of funds that claim to have ESG [environmental, social, governance] orientation in their investments did not – a practice sometimes referred to as ‘greenwashing’.

As pressure increases on banks and investors to move towards higher standards of ESG investment practice, this too has an impact on businesses who are considered undesirable by the investment community.

Take for example, OnlyFans, a social network that says it was pressured by banking-service providers to ban explicit pornographic content. A recent move by Mastercard to suspend the website could have not only broken its business model, but also devastated the lives of the many ‘content creators’ who use the site for their only source of income.

The move has since been reversed, but it shows how powerful ESG investors can use their influence – in this case with payment firms – to confront their ties with ‘undesirable’ business activities.

Of course, there can be a disconnect with what the community views as undesirable and the attitudes of investment managers.

In the RIAA report, exclusion of the fossil fuel sector is front of mind for both the public and responsible investment managers, but issues don’t always align for other industries. For example, after fossil fuels, consumers seek products that screen for human rights and animal cruelty, while responsible investment managers exclude tobacco, porn, and the weapons industry.

CGM is helping our listed clients to consider the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for aligning their communications and reporting, as well as communicating how they’re integrating ESG risks into their decision making.

This communication has become increasingly important for companies as higher standards of reporting practices are demanded. For example, the release of a Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA) report in July found that industry standards were tightening to address the growing threat of greenwashing. 

Of course, any good business should plan to get ahead of the changing winds of investor sentiment.

One of your first steps is getting a deeper understanding of your investors and what drives their investment decisions. But also working with the communities in which you operate to understand what is important to them, and ways your business can help communities thrive.

It is also critical to understand how ESG strategies impact the financial performance of your organisation. For example, the effects of the cost structure of raw materials in relation to extraction, procurement, transportation, energy use and social costs.

If possible, set clear and measurable objectives that both improve your business and are aligned to the ESG requirements of your stakeholders. Back up the commitments you make by regularly and publicly reporting on progress.

And continue to listen – public opinion can shift quickly!

With its ability to make or break businesses, it is foolish to ignore the rapid growth of the ESG sector.

With our knowledge of emerging issues and ability to communicate with investors, government, and community, CGM Communications can help you get ahead of the game.

Authenticity, and why companies should care

By Jennifer Dowdeswell

These days, there’s an increasing expectation for organisations to contribute meaningfully to the community around them and ‘do good’ beyond their immediate sphere.

It’s no longer simply acceptable for a company to provide a product or service and be done with it, they need to consider their wider corporate responsibilities in a meaningful, authentic way.

Whether it’s improving accessibility, increasing the diversity of employees, introducing sustainable packaging or donating significant sums of money to charity – customers and communities today demand more from the companies they support than ever before.

Of course, it’s good for everyone when organisations prioritise the needs of the greater good, but it also makes business sense. Authenticity helps a company increase engagement, attract and retain the best talent, and build loyal brand advocates.

Yet it can be easier said than done. If executed poorly, or in a shallow way, it can have the opposite effect to what’s intended. To get authenticity right, there are three key elements organisations need to keep in mind: genuine intentions, listening first, and remaining consistent.

Genuine intentions

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer report revealed widespread mistrust of institutions and leaders around the world. Employees, customers, and members of the community are more sceptical than ever, so companies can’t treat this as a tick-box exercise, or the public will see right through them.

The old model of corporate social responsibility relied heavily on sponsoring community events, yet community organisations are now more discerning about which brands they choose to align with. Take the recent decision of Perth’s Fringe World Festival to drop Woodside’s name from its Pleasure Garden venue, for example.

It’s essential to behave with genuine intentions, which is made easier when a set of strong core values and a clear vision or purpose are guiding the actions and decisions of every person throughout the company. For larger organisations, it can be difficult to align everyone to one set of values, and even if they exist, that doesn’t automatically mean they drive the behaviour of everyone working there.

Yet no matter the size of the company, it’s clear that a sense of purpose is important, because people want to support companies that are making an authentic contribution. Here in Australia, we’ve seen the Thankyou Group achieve great success selling hand wash and other products with a strong purpose underpinning their brand – to help end extreme poverty. Or consider the brand loyalty that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce built when he donated $1m of his own money to the ‘Yes’ campaign in support of same-sex marriage.

Listening first

To be authentic, organisations need to take time to listen to their audiences and understand what they want before jumping into action. They need to proactively ask questions to gain an understanding of the opinions and needs of their community and customer base.

It was only around a decade ago that many developers in WA didn’t even consider consulting with the Traditional Owners of the land they were proposing changes to. Nowadays this is an essential step and indeed many organisations work hard to go above and beyond the minimum expectations to ensure they are respectfully considering the history, unique characteristics, and cultural significance of the location.

It’s through listening to a broad range of views from across the community that we start to see development proposals with benefits that go beyond the immediate footprint of the site – such as repairs being made to a heritage building or footpaths that are located on nearby land that the developer doesn’t own.

Remaining consistent

It’s essential that the words and actions of organisations match up. If a company says it supports gender diversity and yet none of its senior executives are women, then the message falls flat. Similarly, external consumer-facing messaging needs to align to the internal culture of an organisation otherwise the mismatch leads to inauthentic communication.

At the same time, corporate jargon is a real barrier to authenticity so there’s something to be said for presenting a human side with simple, clear language– especially on social media. This also helps when things go wrong because the way a company responds in a crisis says a lot about them. A poor customer experience can be turned around by communicating in an authentic, real way and staying true to your brand, no matter what’s going on.

In a changing global landscape, with customers and communities showing less trust in organisations than ever before, it’s crucial for companies to be authentic because not only does it help the world, it also makes business sense. Those who don’t take the time to consider this and reflect on their own actions and communications, will surely be left behind.

Moving to the 'dark' side

By Rebecca Boteler

The transition from journalism to public relations (aka ‘moving to the dark side’) is a well-worn career path for many ex-journos - myself included. There are many transferable skills, including storytelling, the ability to write clearly and succinctly, an understanding of how to translate complex ideas into simple words, a strong news sense, and an insight into the media and how it works.

But there are also many differences between the two jobs, which makes becoming a media advisor after a career in journalism quite a transition. Here are some of them:

Representing clients. As a journalist, your main consideration is pursuing the truth and conveying it to your audience quickly (i.e., before your competitors). But as a media advisor, you need to consider what is in the best interest of your clients, and their reputation. Your journalistic instinct will be to ask your clients to comment on everything on the spot to meet the deadlines of news outlets. But as a media advisor, you often need to slow down and consider things like appropriate messaging, whether the interview will meet the client’s overall objectives, whether there could be any risks involved, and occasionally whether it’s in their best interest to speak at all.

Developing strategy. Most journalists give little or no thought to the work that has gone in to getting a media release onto their desk (or these days, into their inbox). But as a media advisor, you need to think strategically, because it can mean the difference between your client’s story getting picked up or put in the trash. A lot of consideration goes into a media strategy, including messaging, objectives, timing, which publication or journalist might be the most suitable for the story and whether the story can be amplified across platforms – all before a media release is even written.

Focusing on the positives. As a journalist, you’re constantly playing devil’s advocate. It’s your job to challenge, question, pursue truth and hold people to account. But in this pursuit, there can be a tendency to focus on the negatives. Even if a survey reveals two thirds of respondents were positive about a topic, the media is more likely to focus on the third of respondents that weren’t. Similarly, stories about the millions of people who leave their house in the morning and absolutely nothing bad happens to them are not news; the one person who did have something awful happen makes the nightly bulletin.

As a media advisor, your job often involves focusing on the positives. You get to tell your clients’ stories of success, examples of where they’ve exceeded expectations, how they’ve helped people, great new ideas they have and what changes they are initiating to make the world better, or to give people a voice.

And when something negative does happen, you get to help your clients navigate that and learn from it.

For all the jokes about the ‘dark side’, media advisors can still serve the public interest by working with journalists to bring critical issues to the public’s attention – which might be the most important trait you can bring with you from journalism.

Future proofing your government relations

By Jack Eaton

Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously said, “a week is a long time in politics”. This is a phrase that should shape government relations strategies, yet can easily be overlooked. While it’s easy to think short term when it comes to engaging with government, political fortunes can change significantly and quickly.

Whether a minister retires, there’s an unexpected election result or a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic occurs, you never quite know what’s around the corner. As a result, it’s critical that government engagement looks beyond the short term. Here are a few things to consider to future-proof your government engagement.

  1. Prepare for and expect ministerial reshuffles

There were minimal portfolio changes throughout the first term of the McGowan Government. All ministers remained in Cabinet for the entire term of government. However, this level of consistency may not be sustained throughout the second term, and is not always the norm.

During the Gallop and Carpenter Labor governments, the Disability portfolio shifted among ministers seven times between March 2005 and September 2008 (noting some ministers held the portfolio very briefly). Throughout the first term of the Barnett Government, the Treasury portfolio was held by three different MPs. The Fisheries portfolio has had four ministers in the last five years. With a major reshuffle touted for the second half of the term, it’s important to consider broadening engagement beyond the direct decision maker and building long-term relationships.

  1. Don’t limit engagement to the government of the day

Given the State Government’s current majority, it is easy to focus on the government of the day. While shadow ministers are not current decision makers (and may not be in the next term of government), they could be in the future. Over the past eight elections in Western Australia, WA Labor and the WA Liberals/Nationals have been elected four times each. Shadow ministers have eventually found their way to the government benches. By way of example, Health Minister Roger Cook was shadow minister for health for two terms.

Engaging with both sides of politics is even more crucial ahead of the federal election, expected before May 2022. At the last federal election, most political pundits had Bill Shorten in the Lodge, so much so that betting agencies paid out early on a Labor victory. I doubt there will be any early payouts this time around. Needless to say, federal shadow ministers could be sitting on the government benches in less than 10 months’ time. Equally, the Morrison Government could be re-elected, and ministerial renewal will undoubtedly be expected.

  1. Identify potential rising stars

CGM Communications recently examined just a few members of the class of 2021 who may be future ministers. However, this list was far from exhaustive. Just as current backbenchers could be future parliamentary secretaries and ministers, parliamentary secretaries could one day be sitting at the Cabinet table. Recently promoted ministers Don Punch, John Carey, Reece Whitby and Amber Jade-Sanderson were parliamentary secretaries during the McGowan Government’s first term. The vast majority of current parliamentary secretaries were recently promoted from the backbench.

While nobody has a crystal ball, CGM Communications is here to help shape your government relations strategy for the future. A week is a long time in politics, and you never know what might be around the corner.

Ten years of CGM

We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled blogging to talk about one of our least favourite topics, ourselves.

As a communications firm, we’re used to telling the stories of others. But, as a consultancy, we rarely have time to take a breath before we move from one success to the next challenge. Celebrating our wins and telling our own story take a back seat. Our clients are always our priority.

But, with the celebration of our 10th birthday, we have taken a little time to reflect and to celebrate what we’ve achieved as a team and as a business. To think about our purpose and where we want to go next.

Our staff tell us that the most important reasons they like working at CGM are that they get to make a difference in the work that they do, they love the diversity of our clients and they love working alongside other high-performing staff, getting experience and exposure across our multi-disciplinary offering.

Making a difference at CGM means helping people grow their businesses and build stronger communities. It means ensuring everyone’s voice is heard when big decisions are being made or public opinion is being formed. It means bringing people together, finding common ground and helping people work together for the benefit of our state and country.

Over 10 years, we’ve been able to do this across almost every sector of the economy, representing the interests of industry, their employees, and the community organisations that support them.

And we’ve been able to play roles in delivering incredible social reforms, such as marriage equality and voluntary assisted dying.

In this environment, every day is different and rewarding. You never quite know what’s around the corner. But you know, that when you have a good day, real people benefit.

It takes a village to build a business, and we have many people to be thankful to for getting us to 10 years. Our clients, who put their trust in us. Then, all of the talented people who have worked with us over the years. It’s very humbling to have had incredibly accomplished people like Rebecca Boteler, Rebecca Munro, Stuart Crockett, Victoria Green, Simon Ward, Jen Dowdeswell, Anwen Pattinson and Sara Willis-Jones put their faith in us. And it’s a privilege to nurture some of the best young talent in the market.

But, everyone who has worked at CGM over the years has made a contribution and left us a better business. While sad, it’s always rewarding to see them depart, hopefully having learned a few things, and taking up exciting opportunities elsewhere. The business wouldn’t be what it is today without any of them.

Mention must also be made of the journalists who take our stories, the government officials who engage with us, and the members of the community who listen to what we say and trust us with their opinions.

Having quality partners in research and production has also been critical.

On a personal level, I am much indebted to my fellow Director, Anthony Fisk. While the business achieved a lot in its first six years, having Anthony on board over the past four years has been critical to our growth. We’re like-minded enough to share a vision and different enough to challenge each other. I couldn’t wish for a better business partner.

Going forward, the quality of our team gives us plenty of options. Building our emerging trade and investment communications practice, further developing our community engagement offering and growing our federal government engagement practice will be key focuses. As will doing our bit to progress the environmental, social and governance journey we’re all on together.

Thanks for indulging this little bit of self-reflection. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled blogging next week.

The global challenge of selling vaccines

You might have the best product in the world, but if it doesn’t excite, or it is not widely trusted then it probably won’t go very far.

In the case of the public communication around COVID-19 vaccines, national governments have attempted a range of approaches informed and shaped by the cultures and political climate they were produced in.

Each one of these approaches uses a combination of emotion, logic and authority – the three types of rhetorical persuasion – to various degrees of success.

Australia’s efforts have been the subject of some criticism, but how effective is our vaccination campaign compared to well-received adverts from around the world?

To find out, I’ll present some notable vaccine ads and examine the correlation between their release and vaccination rates using figures from Our World in Data.


There have been three main adverts circulating in Australia as part of the Federal Government’s vaccination campaign: the ‘Café’ ad, the ‘Arm Yourself’ ad and the ‘Severe COVID’ ad.

The 'Café' ad is a simple explainer ad featuring Dr Nick Coatsworth, which calls on the community spirit of Australians.

It is authoritative and informative, but it lacks impact.

The ‘Arm Yourself’ ad series has a more direct call to action, but the choice to hide the faces of the people featured means it’s difficult to form an emotional connection.

The same cannot be said for the ‘Severe COVID’ ad, which borrows heavily from the anti-smoking playbook by showing the grim reality of severe COVID-19.

It is highly impactful, but it has been criticised because the age bracket targeted by the ad were not yet eligible to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and health advice at the time was not pushing for young people to get AstraZeneca.

As of August 1, 33 per cent of Australians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with only 15.3 per cent fully vaccinated.

According to the Melbourne Institute, vaccine hesitancy is falling with 11.8 per cent of Australian adults remain unwilling to get vaccinated, compared to 18 per cent at the end of May.

With some of this being driven by outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, it’s too early to judge the overall effectiveness of the advertising to date.


The Singaporean Government took a more upbeat approach to its campaign, recruiting beloved comedian Gurmit Singh to perform a pop song as his popular character Phua Chu Kang.

The two-minute song is catchy, and features ‘Uncle Phua’ countering the many concerns of fellow character ‘Rosie’. A playful and engaging way to attempt to sell the vaccine using logic.

When the ad launched on May 2, 31.7 per cent of Singaporeans had received at least one vaccine dose, with 22 per cent fully vaccinated.

As of July 31, 73.6 per cent of Singaporeans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with a staggering 58 per cent being fully vaccinated.

While the ad can’t claim all the credit, it certainly played a role in achieving such an impressive outcome.


The French offering released on June 9 tried to sell people on the message of freedom by juxtaposing people receiving jabs to iconic French locations opening their doors again.

The emotional and uplifting ad communicated a clear way forward by relying heavily on imagery, not words.

On the day the ad was released, 43.5 per cent of the French population had received one dose of the vaccine and 20 per cent were fully vaccinated.

As of August 1, 60.3 per cent of France’s population has received at least one dose, with 46.3% fully vaccinated.

To more than double the proportion of fully vaccinated individuals in just under two months is an impressive outcome, no doubt impacted by the public health campaign.


New Zealand’s ‘Ka kite, COVID’ ad ticks a lot of boxes: it’s funny, upbeat, and appeals to a range of demographics at once.

Instead of addressing the negatives narratives around COVID-19 vaccines, it focuses on the positive outcomes of vaccinations.

When the ad was released on May 3, only 4.4 per cent of New Zealanders had received at least one dose, with less than two per cent fully vaccinated.

The most recent data from the end of July shows that 22 per cent of the New Zealand population has received one dose, with 14.5 per cent now fully vaccinated.

Like Australia, New Zealand has struggled with vaccine supply, which has delayed a nationwide rollout and while the ad was excellent, the mostly younger demographics it targeted have been unable to access the vaccine.


The French and Singaporean campaigns could not have been more different, but both suited their context and have proven effective.

The lesson here is that there is no universal approach to public health campaigns, and different strategies can be successful in different markets.

New Zealand and Australia have taken different approaches but encountered the same obstacle that was unrelated to the quality of the campaign.

Both launched different, but impactful, campaigns targeted at populations that were unable to access the vaccine.

The lesson here is that it doesn’t matter how great the ad is if you can’t deliver the product.

The Federal Government has addressed criticisms of its vaccination ads by saying each was deployed strategically and it had others ready for different phases of the rollout.

With the supply of Pfizer increasing, the true test of Australia’s campaign is just beginning.

Three factors to consider when presenting to government

Presenting a proposal to government can be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with bureaucracy and government decision making processes. There are, however, a few elements to consider that can make this less challenging and increase the likelihood of success.

  1. Who are you presenting to?

If you are presenting to a Minister, learn their preferences around level of detail and format when being presented with information. Are they details oriented or more high level, big picture? Your proposal might benefit from a visual presentation or it might be best administered with a heavy dose of text. Some Ministers are well renowned for their attention to detail, so it will be important to be confident in the facts and figures that you are relying on. It’s also worth establishing whether the Minister has an existing interest – either personal or relating to their electorate.

  1. How does your proposal align with the government’s priorities or policies?

Good governments regularly provide us with guidance on their priorities and policies. Whether this is in the policies that they took to the most recent election, longer range targets such as those contained in the Our Priorities – Sharing Prosperity document released in 2019 or the recommendations of the recent draft State Infrastructure Strategy, there are plenty of clear markers to the direction that government wants to take and opportunities to partner with it.

  1. Where are we in the budget and or election cycles?

This year the State Budget will be handed down in September. However, in a non-election year, the State Budget is usually handed down in May. This means that the bulk of the key decision making in made in the post-Christmas and New Year period and into early March, as agencies put proposals to their Ministers. Following the  Special Inquiry into Government Programs and Projects (the “Langoulant Review”), the McGowan Government has elevated the importance and integrity of the budget by requiring requests for new and additional funding to be submitted as part of the annual process. While there can be exemptions, there is a far greater likelihood of proposals being thoroughly assessed and favourably considered if they are developed in the months before the end of the calendar year.

Above all these, it’s important to seek feedback and get advice on your proposal from people experienced in dealing with government at all levels. Not only will they be able to explain the nuts and bolts of the process but also offer advice on the type of information that government will need to inform its decision.

Contact CGM for assistance understanding key government drivers and identifying prospects for partnership or collaboration.

The difficult COVID conversations ahead of us

Effective communication during any crisis is critical.

Since COVID arrived on our shores early last year, we’ve seen examples of strong communications.  We’ve also seen several fails.

The concerning thing for me, in a country that has struggled with its COVID conversations, is that I think our most difficult discussions are still to come.

To date, our state and territory leaders have been terrific.  While daily press conferences can infuriate some commentators, the community has generally appreciated being able to get information from the source.

The exponential organic growth in the Facebook followings of our Premiers has been another win.  Through this, those that get their news and information through social have also been able to get information at the source, which has helped cut through some of the nonsense you can also get online.

The reward for this, in most part, has been a cooperative community, that informs itself of government decisions and enacts any new requirements quickly.

Except, perhaps, in New South Wales, where some within the community, having been told for the best part of a year that lockdowns were unnecessary, have struggled to adapt to a new environment where they were being told to stay home.

Consistency in approach and messaging during a crisis is critical.

The Victorian Government also learnt this the hard way, when ineffective COVID communication with people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds was a key contributor to that state’s major outbreak and prolonged lockdown last year.

But perhaps Australia’s biggest COVID communications failure has been the inconsistency in messaging and communications around the AstraZeneca vaccine.  You would have thought that, after putting all of Australia’s vaccination eggs in the AZ basket, the Federal Government would have at least mounted a defence of the vaccine, when public opinion was being formed.

While Prime Minister Morrison and Treasurer Frydenburg have been strong when talking about their support for the economy, the silence and rapidly changing public health advice we continue to see in relation to AZ has destroyed public confidence in a vaccine most of the world celebrates.

The possibility of this undermining confidence in other COVID vaccines, as well as providing oxygen to the broader anti-vaxxer movement around the country, means that we may be living with the public health impacts of this misstep for years to come.

But, while the difficulties in discussing AstraZeneca were immense, they may pale into insignificance when compared with the conversations we’ll have to have in the months ahead.

According to the four-stage COVID exit roadmap endorsed by National Cabinet and released by the Prime Minister, lockdowns will be a part of our national strategy for the first two stages. Not everyone appears to understand this, and it is not something that the Prime Minister has spent any time explaining.

Moving to stage three, Australia will cease having lockdowns and recommence international travel, with this move dependent on higher levels of vaccination within the community.  With it possible that every Australian who wants a vaccination will be able to have one by the end of the year, the discussion around entering stage three may arrive sooner than we think.

Inherent in this shift is the likelihood that many Australians will contract COVID, with the vast majority of those who have been vaccinated being asymptomatic or developing only mild symptoms.

But, in a country where eradication has become the metric for COVID success and that tied itself up in knots over the one-in-a-million chance of dying from an AstraZeneca-induced blood clot, this conversation will not be easy.

Nor will the conversation likely to precede it about the need to vaccinate our children, and the associated risks in doing so.

Add a new variant or two, and the degrees of difficulty will only increase.

These will be national conversations that require the Prime Minister to bring the Premiers, the media and the broader community along for the ride in a way that he has struggled to do so far.

As a former marketing executive, Mr Morrison should understand the importance of communication in a crisis. Let’s hope that he finds his voice in the months ahead.

Publicly taking responsibility for the slow vaccine rollout this week was a good start.

Don't communicate, listen

At a time of skill shortages and a tight labour market, internal communications couldn’t be more important. Employers are looking at ways of retaining their people in an environment where opportunities abound, and salaries are rising.

Companies are communicating more with their people, but not everyone is getting it right.

I was recently handed an email from the CEO of medium-sized WA business, designed to explain why employees should stay with the company, rather than take advantage of the larger salary packages on offer with their competition.

It didn’t inspire or attempt to explain why the company was a better place to work, it was merely a shopping list of benefits – shorter hours, fewer clients, more convenience, better transport links. It might inspire the rational side of the brain, but it certainly wasn’t building staff allegiance.

Recently, I had the rare opportunity to read a book on leadership: Start with Why by Simon Sinek. For anyone who hasn’t read the book, his central premise is that people will align themselves to a leader, brand or company that inspires them.

He argues that organisations can inspire by starting with the WHY; understanding and carefully communicating WHY they exist and not the WHAT they do: “Unless you start with the WHY, all that people have to go on are the rational benefits.”

Most businesses don’t understand why their employees work for them, what inspires them, and what puts a spring in their step as they get ready for work every day. It’s not salary, or flexible hours, or convenience – these are important things to have, but they don’t sustain excitement in the long term.

Finding the answer is best achieved by listening, rather than communicating.

It’s by listening that we can start to understand what motivates our people. It may be as simple as being trusted to do the right thing, or working for an organisation that values their contribution, or being part of a positive team that is doing good things for the community.

Listening can occur through survey and polls, but our experience suggests employees will feel truly listened to when their manager or the leadership team makes an effort to meet and discuss what inspires them, and what is discouraging them.

CGM was proud to help one of our clients with a piece of internal communications that brought to life these internal conversations.

The first step was to understand and unify the executive team around their purpose – we started with the WHY.

We recorded why each executive worked at the company, how things were done differently, what they loved about their colleagues’ approach, and what they had learned from their discussions with people from across the business.

By sharing a short video and a range of supporting communications across the business, we familiarised employees with their leaders and what they stood for. And people felt appreciated and listened to after learning about the discussions that had taken place with their colleagues.

It was a small step, but it was the beginning of understanding their employees and catering communications for their needs.

Defining the WHY can be difficult. External support from an arms-length consultancy can help you stop, listen to your employees, and understand your WHY.

Getting your people unified and excited around your WHY, will not only improve staff retention and morale, but help improve customer service and client growth.

CGM has a depth of experience in building internal communication strategies based around clear objectives, including employee retention. Contact us for more information.

Game changer: Why it pays to have experts in the room during a crisis

When it comes to crisis communication planning, more often than not I see organisations seeking expert advice after decisions have been made and, regrettably, reputations have already been damaged.

We so often talk about why it’s important for all organisations to have a crisis communication plan in place to refer to if that dreaded disaster catches you by surprise.

But what I’ve learnt is that having external assistance in the room as decisions are made can be a game changer in a crisis.

The CGM team was recently involved in a crisis where we, alongside other experts, were called in to be a part of the decision-making process.

The alternative, and usually the way it plays out, is for the communications team to be called in after the decisions have been made to simply communicate these decisions in a compassionate, transparent and meaningful way.

Sometimes, if the right decisions aren’t made, it doesn’t matter how much ‘spin’ you put on them in today’s world: the media, stakeholders and even staff will see right through it.

Major crises will likely have staff, customer, stakeholder, digital, governance, reputational and legal implications.

That is why it is imperative to have experts in each of these fields in the room when decisions are being made, such as lawyers, human resources experts and public relations specialists.

When it came to our team, we were able to provide advice, alongside a lawyer, on how to manage stakeholders, government, media and staff communications.

Take for example the backlash the AFL faced this year for covering up alleged sexual harassment, assault and bullying claims.

The AFL went down the path of sweeping the misconduct under the carpet, not a particularly good PR exercise in this day and age … ahem ‘read the room’.

I don’t know for sure what advice it received but perhaps if it had its communication experts in the room at the point of the decision making, it would have been warned that it’s now more important than ever to be accountable, open and transparent.

The media was quick to see through this and focused its coverage on the cover-up.

A true crisis can bring a gruelling level of external scrutiny and pressure, if an organisation manages it badly. Emotions run high and people often panic and forget logic and common sense. This can lead to rash, impulsive decisions that have long-lasting negative consequences.

Being the room meant my team could provide on-the-spot advice on the impact each decision would have from a communication standpoint.

It allowed for this organisation to discuss communication-based decisions and receive real time feedback on what consequences these decisions may have in terms of media, stakeholders and staff.

When it comes to handling a crisis, timing is everything and handling it effectively is just like putting out a fire. A slow response puts lives and livelihoods at risk as the fire grows and become more damaging within minutes. If you act quickly it’s easier to control.

Our team was informed of this crisis early and not only were we in the room to advise on the impacts of the organisation’s decisions, we were also there to inform and implement a fast and strategic approach to communicating with stakeholders, staff and the media.

The result of this was effective because the organisation had control of the narrative. It acted quickly and was able to make informed decisions with a number of external experts in the room. 

This speed of informed decisions coupled with a proactive crisis communication plan to implement ensued well-executed communication and limited damage to the organisation’s reputation.

What an external PR company does in a crisis:

  • Works with executive/management to obtain all the facts
  • Works closely with internal or external legal teams
  • Develops scenarios, messaging and advice
  • Creates possible FAQs
  • Provides media statements and internal communications
  • Forms a 24-hour play-by-play communication plan, which includes risks and what to expect
  • Advises the executive team or Board
  • Implements the external and internal communications
  • Provides media training
  • Manages media and social media depending on internal capabilities

In defence of the website

In a digital landscape cluttered with social media platforms, there can be an inclination to focus too heavily on the benefits each platform possesses, while ignoring your strongest digital asset – the website. 

While Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like offer bespoke ways to communicate with an audience with pinpoint precision, this does not mean that attention should deviate from the humble website.

While websites can range from a simple landing page through to the complicated e-commerce face of an international brand, the same benefits of having a well thought out website apply.

Here are three key reasons why your website should be the backbone of your digital portfolio.

  1. Ultimate communication control

What primarily sets a website apart from any social media platform is the ability to say what you want, when you want, and for however long you want to. It might seem like a straightforward benefit, but I consider it the biggest of them all.

Websites are free of the constraints found on the most popular social media platforms, whether it be Twitter’s 280-character format, the ever-evolving Facebook algorithm, or Instagram’s inability to put URL links in post captions.

Websites also give you the freedom to shape your message in any manner you want, whether that be with text, imagery, video, URL links, gifs, or any combination of these.

An additional, and timely, example of how websites provide the ultimate communication control is that by owning your own channel, it is no longer up to a private corporation as to whether you can or cannot communicate something.

Take Facebook’s recent decision to delete the pages of all Australian businesses that deliver news, which had news organisations that had invested significantly in the platform scrambling to recover. This reliance underpins the complicated issue of multi-national companies overseeing your messaging.

  1. Catering to all demographics

One reason businesses select one social media platform over another is due to their ability to target certain demographics both organically and through paid advertising.

This is beneficial if your business model has a target market that consists of just one demographic. However, this decision does not take into consideration what might happen if your target audience is expanded to include, or changed to, a new demographic.

Facebook’s most popular demographic is the 18-29 age bracket, with Instagram most popular demographic being the 25-34 age range, while Twitter’s is 18–29-year olds.

This skew towards the youth is positive if your business intends to market to anybody under 40 years of age. However, with a population that is ageing, it must be questioned as to whether promoting on social media channels solely can truly reach all demographics.

In comparison, Google owns a near monopoly with a 94.4% share in the search engine market, touching upon all demographics. To put that into perspective, 1.3 million businesses in Australia made direct connections with customers through Google in 2019.

Taking this into consideration, having a website appear in a search engine cannot be overlooked at as the best and most consistent way to reach all demographics.

  1. Unlocking the power of Google Ads

Because of Google’s overwhelming search engine market share, focusing on ensuring your website appears in search engines also unlocks the opportunity to leverage Google’s biggest asset: Google Ads.

What is unique about Google Ads is that spending more money on an ad does not guarantee better results. Instead, ads depend on what is called the ‘relevancy score’ which includes the proposed budget, the website landing page experience and if the keywords the searcher is using are relevant to your ad copy.

What this means is that a Google ad will perform better if the ad copy matches what is displayed on the website landing page, while also containing keywords similar to those used as the search term.

By utilising Google Ads, you can not only review what keywords people are searching for and in what quantity, but also get real-time feedback as to whether what is displayed on your website matches what people are searching for. This provides the opportunity to consistently review your website copy in a way that makes it relevant and relatable to current consumer needs, in a way that is far more flexible than any social media platform.

While having a comprehensive digital portfolio across social media is a great way to ensure variety in messaging and creativity, it comes at a cost if the care and time has not been put into your website. In a world where new digital trends and platforms are constantly emerging, it makes sense to pay attention to the one platform that has stayed consistently strong throughout digital’s peaks and troughs.

Backbench to the Future: Class of 2021

The 2021 WA state election saw a number of MPs elected who, one day, may hold positions of power or influence in the Western Australian Government. While these members will likely spend at least their first term focused on working for their electorates from the backbench, it’s worth getting to know the class of 2021 better. Here are just a few of the MPs that might end up at the cabinet table in the future.

Hannah Beazley – Member for Victoria Park

Hannah Beazley was raised in her electorate, having attended East Victoria Park Primary School, but her roots go back further than that. The daughter of WA Governor Kim Beazley, Hannah is the third Beazley to represent Victoria Park in an Australian Parliament and is the first female member in the seat’s 90-year history. Ms Beazley, 42, has long held an ambition to enter politics, running in 2013 and 2019 at the state and federal levels.

Ms Beazley is more than a legacy figure, having brought a great deal of experience both within and outside politics to the table. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Management, Ms Beazley commenced working for the Department of Premier and Cabinet as a Policy Officer, and later as a Senior Policy Advisor to Premier Geoff Gallop. Following her stint in the public sector, she ran a small business before taking on a number of communications and marketing positions in the private sector. Most recently, Ms Beazley was the Head of External Relations at WA Return Recycle Renew - a local not-for-profit delivering the container deposit scheme.

In her early 20s, Ms Beazley was diagnosed with a life-threatening rare blood disorder. She considers the healthcare she received at Charles Gairdner Hospital saved her life. Ms Beazley said this experience shaped her appreciation of the importance of a strong public health system.

Her local priorities include raising the rail line through Victoria Park and removing level crossings within her electorate. She is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Joint Standing Committee on Audit.

The history of the Victoria Park electorate suggests its representatives go on to big things in parliament. Filling the shoes of former treasurer Ben Wyatt is difficult, but if anyone can, it will be Ms Beazley.

Meredith Hammat – Member for Mirrabooka

Meredith Hammat’s parents moved to Western Australia in the early 1960s, with her father working as a farmhand and her mother as a midwife. Ms Hammat, 51, was raised in the Great Southern region in Western Australia, before moving to Perth to complete years 11 and 12. Ms Hammat credited this upbringing with shaping her values of community and solidarity which drew her to the union movement as a young woman and planted the seed of her career in politics.

Ms Hammat has a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and Industrial Relations) and a Masters of Labor and Industrial Relations from the University of Western Australia, which has aided her in almost three decades in the union movement. Ms Hammat began her career as an organiser at the Australian Services Union and moved up the ranks to serve as Assistant Branch Secretary.

Ms Hammat became UnionsWA secretary in 2012, leading the WA union movement until being selected as a WA Labor candidate and she remains highly regarded by within the union movement. In her time as UnionsWA secretary, she was critical of the McGowan Government’s public sector wages policy, but it remains to be seen whether this will continue now that she is a part of the State Government.

Ms Hammat begins her parliamentary career as a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Joint Standing Committee on Audit.

Ms Hammat replaced Janine Freeman as the member for Mirrabooka – one of the most multicultural state electorates in Western Australia. It remains one of the safest seats in WA and places Ms Hammat in a strong position to enter cabinet in the future.

David Scaife – Member for Cockburn

At 32, David Scaife is one of the youngest members of Labor’s backbench – but he more than makes up for it with an impressive list of credentials. After finishing high school, Mr Scaife received a scholarship to attend the University of Western Australia, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. He also recently completed a Masters of Laws at University College London.

After graduating from UWA, he worked as a lawyer for Slater and Gordon and as a Legal Practice Director at Eureka Lawyers. Mr Scaife drew on his experience as a lawyer in his first speech. He used parliamentary privilege to label an employer he sued on behalf of a former client as a “lawbreaker, a bankrupt and an unfit person to operate a business”.

Mr Scaife is passionate about improving mental health services, which has been shaped by his own experience. He has openly spoken in parliament about being diagnosed with major depression and the ongoing treatment he receives. He notes that this is something he will continue to manage and treat throughout his life.

Mr Scaife’s political stripes are no coincidence. Having grown up in a staunchly Labor Party household, he regularly attended Labor events with his parents as a child. As he outlined in his inaugural speech, he declared he was “raised on a steady diet of politics”. Even today, it’s unlikely that politics is ever far from the dinner table. Mr Scaife is married to Ellie Whittaker, who is the Assistant State Secretary of WA Labor.

He is a proud member of the Left’s Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union. Local manufacturing and industry policy remain areas he is particularly passionate about and he will have an opportunity to contribute as a member of the Economics and Industry Standing Committee.

Mr Scaife unsuccessfully contested the seat of Murray-Wellington at the 2013 State Election. He was elected at the 2021 State Election as the member for Cockburn, following the retirement of former minister Fran Logan. Cockburn has only been held by the Labor Party and is considered a very safe seat.

Jodie Hanns – Member for Collie-Preston

Jodie Hanns is swapping the deputy principal’s chair for a seat in the Legislative Assembly. If she was hoping the chamber would be better behaved than the classroom, she might be disappointed.

Ms Hanns, 49, was born in Yarloop and attended Yarloop Primary School and Harvey Senior High School. Her family have deep connections to the South West region, with her grandparents operating a local shop in Yarloop. Her late father, who she credits as the driver for her Labor values, worked as a union official at Alcoa in Wagerup alongside the Member for Forrestfield Stephen Price.

If it were not for a life-changing experience in South Africa in 1990, Ms Hanns might not be sitting in parliament today. Jodie witnessed a country undergoing a political transition following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Her hosts, two teachers living near Johannesburg, exposed Ms Hanns to how education could bring people out of poverty. As she noted in her inaugural speech, this “taught me the difference that the opportunity of an education can make, regardless of your race, your gender or how wealthy your family is”.

It’s no coincidence that upon her return to Australia, Ms Hanns commenced studying education and spent the next three decades teaching. In 2006, Jodie’s teaching career brought her to the town of Collie, where she served as a local councillor, on the Coal Miners’ Welfare Board of Western Australia and as CEO of the Collie Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ms Hanns is pragmatic about the challenges and opportunities that face Collie. Among her local priorities are guiding her community through Collie’s Just Transition Plan. 

She replaces the colourful and popular Mick Murray, who served as a minister in the McGowan Government’s first term.  

Ms Beazley, Ms Hammat, Mr Scaife and Ms Hanns are just four of Labor’s deep 2021 class and they will have to wait their turn after a new generation of ministers recently ascended to the Cabinet. But even in the biggest backbenches in modern history, they stand out as some of the ones to watch for the future.

China: The big show with massive possible upside for Australia

In 2021 China increased its import quota of Australia’s premium wool. This story got very little media attention, but it highlighted that China still wants to do business with us.

Having recently concluded my role as WA Commissioner to Greater China, a role which I loved and still miss to this day, it is a good time to reflect and hopefully help change the China narrative slightly if I can. Having the opportunity to live in China and be part of this mind blowing and rapidly developing nation, with all its twists and turns, was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. After doing business on and off there for more than 25 years I thought I had a clue but until I lived the experience, I realised my depth of knowledge was lacking to say the least.

Every day we hear about the geo-political issues we are currently experiencing but I will share my thoughts on this another time. Today I will talk about the key to future prosperity, which is “people-to-people” engagement. The benefits of people-to-people engagement are economic as well as experiential, adding significant value to the fabric of all our lives.

I constantly hear government and public servants saying they want a positive economic relationship with China. This is the first clue that they may not understand China and its people. Instead, we should be saying is that we want a positive relationship with China, full stop. Simply removing the word “economic” changes the whole essence and focus of the relationship and aligns far more with the Chinese belief system of “friends first, business second”. This is akin to Australians’ way of thinking in that we value mateship first and foremost.

If we can get our relationship balance right with China, both nations can truly benefit.To achieve this, it is critical to think of economic development as a “continuum”. First, to build sustainable relationships we need cultural understanding, which is achieved through two-way sectors and activities such as tourism and international education, as well as sports and performing arts. From this understanding we can achieve some trade, which will grow and diversify. This trade can potentially lead to some small investments, which is followed by large investments.  We need to keep re-investing in the relationship and revisit its core which is “friendship”. With this lens we all win and build sustainable futures.

My number one thought from my experience living in China is that Chinese people are exactly like Australian people. They are free thinking, open and welcoming. They all want a better life for their kids, better housing, better education, better food and to be able to experience new things through travel. 

If you are willing to invest in the relationship, I can promise you there are significant commercial opportunities for Australian companies. I truly feel for those exporters currently facing barriers who have worked tirelessly on their commitment to this market for many years.  The relationship will also improve if we focus on “friends first, business second”.

China’s economy is growing rapidly as it transitions from an export driven economy to a consumer driven economy and we can be a part of that growth. China has a massive commitment to commercialising innovation and is keen to engage and seek partnerships. To see first-hand the investment into AI/AR/VR, med-tech and Ag-tech just to name a few is truly mind blowing and provides us with great opportunity to grow and diversify our economy.

Remember, if you want to enter or grow in the China market you need to be constantly evolving in your messaging and most importantly listening to your customers. On those fronts right now, Chinese consumer brands are “smashing” Western brands. Chinese brands are far nimbler in their approach to product differentiation and packaging.

Western Australia’s economy has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger on the back of mining and for that we should be truly grateful. If we can leverage off that resilience and diversify our economy at the same time, we will continue to be strong for our children’s children and beyond. We can help drive and influence the future of our economy. 

If you are thinking of entering or expanding your business into China, we can assist with that, and I also encourage you to engage with the Chinese community. Connecting with organisations such as the Australia-China Business Council and Australia-China Friendship Society among others is a great way to start the journey. If you have good positive stories about your engagement with the community and business in China, please share them in your socials as this will help build trust. These small steps will go a long way to building that sustainable friendly relationship that benefits all.

Sports communications in crisis

Professional sports, at their core, are a public spectacle. Without the interest and attention of the public, it isn’t possible for athletes to make a living pursuing their sport.

What happens then, when professional team sports are unable to perform for the public? In 2020, we found out. Some clubs called for their members to continue to offer financial support. Others laid off “non-essential” staff to reduce costs. If the COVID-19 pandemic taught Australia’s sporting clubs anything, it’s not to take fans for granted.

It also changed the way teams had to communicate with their members and fans to hold their interest.

In the past few months alone, Western Australians have seen last-minute changes from government and unexpected outbreaks have significant impacts on sporting events.

How then have some of WA’s biggest sporting clubs – the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers – interacted with the public throughout the pandemic and what lessons can be learned?

The Eagles and Dockers have experienced similar challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of border closures and lockdowns. A closer look shows how they have both communicated differently about these challenges with their fanbases.

The West Coast Eagles are unquestionably the most popular AFL team in WA, with long waiting lists for memberships and a history of on-field success that has resulted in four premierships.

In addressing the ongoing uncertainty of the 2021 AFL season, Eagles CEO Trevor Nisbett laid out some of the details and the uncertainties, closing with this:

“Sadly, some of the certainties that we enjoyed in the past are gone – hopefully not forever – however, we will continue to take steps to improve, to allow us to contribute even more to our members and the community, and to provide the best possible value for your membership.”

This email, coming at the end of the 2020 season, acknowledged the feelings of the fanbase, without laying blame, offered hope and offered the required detail on practical concerns. As far as communications in a time of crisis, it’s a good example.

In May this year, Mr Nisbett had to announce that the derby would proceed without a crowd.

Mr Nisbett kept it brief, this time acknowledging the feelings of the fans and put it in the context of the health and safety of the community.

What was lacking was detail about the practical information for fans who had purchased tickets, specifically about the possibility of refunds.

In each of these examples, Mr Nisbett and the Eagles showed restraint in reacting to both good and bad news and acknowledged the feelings of the fans.

In comparison to the West Coast Eagles, the Fremantle Dockers faced a much more uncertain future at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Dockers CEO Simon Garlick painted a dire picture of the club’s future in a club statement on 25 March 2020.

“While our club has faced its challenges before it is impossible to overstate the implications this crisis has for the very existence of the Fremantle Football Club.”

This message justified severe austerity measures, including standing down more than 75 per cent of the club’s staff. Mr Garlick took an honest approach with members, outlining the realities of the situation and framed the conversation in terms of the club’s survival to put the cuts in context.

In an unfortunate situation, it was a clear, honest and direct communication.

On April 23 this year, Fremantle had to announce that fans would not be permitted at its home game against North Melbourne and the issuing of refunds was a central part of the release.

Given the different financial outlooks for each team, it’s understandable that the Fremantle Dockers would make a point to provide assurances of refunds.

For the Eagles, it makes sense that communications would focus more on feelings than finances.

Despite different approaches, both clubs have successfully executed a clear, cohesive communications strategy in the face of a crisis.

So, what lessons can be learned from these communications?

1: Be honest and clear about the elements of the crisis you can control and acknowledge uncertainty when it is beyond your control.

2: Understand your audience.

3: Adapt your messaging and approach to suit your circumstances.

Follow these guidelines and you will be well positioned to maintain the trust and connection with your supporters in times of crisis.

The benefits of proactive media relations

The news cycle moves at breakneck pace in the digital age and successful media relations can often depend on when in the news cycle you comment on a story or issue.

How and when you approach media can determine how successful you will be in making sure your side of the story is told.

There are two types of media relations approaches: reactive and proactive. Reactive is when a story is already in the media and either a journalist contacts you and asks you to comment, or you approach the media to offer a comment.

Proactive is when your organisation decides it wants to raise an issue or tell a story that isn’t currently being reported on. There are many benefits to this type of engagement – whether to promote your brand, lead the debate, launch a service, or simply communicate with stakeholders.

So, what are the best ways to get your brand in the media and journalists interested in your story?

Develop a media strategy – being proactive generally means you have a lot more time up your sleeve for planning. It enables you to develop a strategy which could include your objectives, target media, timing and key messages.

Get your message in first – if you’re the one raising an issue, you have more ability to set the agenda, shape the debate and get your key messages across.

Provide an element of surprise – stories that are new, fresh, unique and topical are more likely to grab the media’s attention, and you can time the release of the story to have maximum impact.

Tell a positive story – proactive stories are stories that an organisation wants audiences to know – it’s your chance to get the media to cover your successes or prove your organisation is being innovative in your field.

Find the right person to be the ‘face’ of the issue – stories will generally get far more news coverage if they have a real person with a real story that illustrates the issue you are trying to raise. You should generally nominate someone authentic, rather than someone who appears ‘media trained’ however, you will need to ensure your case study has been properly briefed on how to handle media. 

Offer an exclusive – if your organisation has full control over the release of the story, you could consider whether offering it as an exclusive to one journalist is likely to get the story more prominence.

These are just some of the ways that a proactive approach to media relations can be the difference between having your side of the story being represented or scrambling to address a situation spiralling out of control.

For assistance with implementing a proactive media relations approach, contact CGM Communications.

So, your brand’s been cancelled…

Although first coined in 2017, most of us are now aware of a new term in our lexicon – ‘cancel culture’. That is, withdrawing support for people and companies for doing or saying something seen as objectionable or offensive. It is usually performed on social media in the form of group shaming.

Communications practitioners have a long history of dealing with these types of reputational issues with high-profile individuals and companies. Using various techniques, our role has been to provide advice during a crisis, manage media channels and to develop a plan to restore the brand over time.

Despite our experience in dealing with crisis, some might argue cancel culture is a new paradigm. In most cases, online movements are partisan, passionate and organised, which ensures they are loud and influential. But what makes them so powerful is their single-minded focus on their only objective – to cancel you.

So, what do you do when your company or brand becomes the target of the online mob?

Firstly, it is impossible to miss. Your social feeds will start clogging up with detailed posts defining what your company has done wrong and how individuals feel about this wrongdoing. This information will be helpful because it will help you define the issue and impact that it has on your customers, staff and stakeholders.

Of course, it is easy to panic when this happens. It may be difficult to see the curated online platforms your brand uses to promote itself being used against you, but don’t shut the conversation down – this will only make people angrier. Only hide those comments that breach your published social media guidelines. You are then justified in removing comments that are obscene, offensive, defamatory, threatening, harassing, discriminatory or hateful – which they often can be.

These campaigns will usually be driven by perceived wrongdoings by your company that were perpetrated recently, or even in the long-distant past. It would be a mistake to assume these concerns as the rantings of a small splinter group.

At this point, you should assess whether this is a crisis that could have a lasting impact on your brand. This may seem hyperbolic, but if you are facing an online cancel campaign, it is difficult to assess how powerful these invisible adversaries are. And if you handle your response poorly, your brand could be under unrelenting attack, so consider activating your crisis plan. In any crisis we follow the Three C’s Model of Care, Control, and Commitment.

As your social channels continue to be flooded with negative commentary, there is a natural temptation to defend yourself. Don’t. A defensive response – no matter how politely it is framed – is likely to be attacked as unfeeling and unsympathetic to those who have been wronged. You won’t have had time to collect all the information you need, and you can’t go back on your words.

Rather than responding to every post in public forums (you will be trolled) find a way to communicate with advocates offline. In many cases, it’s not actually clear exactly who is doing the cancelling. From drag queens losing gigs after past appearances in blackface to obscure Dr Seuss books being voluntarily pulled by their publisher for racist imagery, sometimes these campaigns take their own shape without specific leadership.

Even if there is no campaign organiser, there will be influencers in this space who might be willing to talk to you. Once you have built up a network of sorts, make an effort to understand their concerns, how they prefer to communicate, and what they would like you to change.

It is at this point that you should consider your response. If you need to apologise, then say ‘sorry’ and acknowledge each concern. A senior leader should be prepared to make this apology, it should be heartfelt, and it should be done by video – which works to show your human side and the ‘Care’ your organisation feels for the breach.

Of course, sorry may not be enough – even if you don’t have all the answers now, outline a process your company will undertake to investigate the issue to ensure it doesn’t happen again – this is the ‘Control’ phase of our crisis approach.

In the case of the destruction of culturally-significant caves at Juukan Gorge, Rio Tinto undertook a complete review of, what it calls, a breach of their values. After apologising unreservedly, it acknowledged and investigated each of the errors that occurred, and completely reviewed their processes to “ensure this never happens again”.

Public opinion and shareholder pressure eventually saw the departure of senior executives, but the organised online outrage remains. Following the Care and Control phases, Rio Tinto reached out to partners, including the Traditional Owners, to understand concerns, to address these concerns, and is taking a sensible long-term view of restoring its brand.

The ‘Commitment’ phase in crisis management takes time. But only in the last week, the PKKP people have shown a conciliatory approach to Rio Tinto by insisting on a seat at the table for any mining activities on their land.

For less egregious breaches of trust, it is not always obvious how you should respond to public cancel campaigns. It’s not even clear what “being cancelled” means for a brand exactly, other than having to pay an economic cost after an offensive statement or action. Is Dr Seuss really cancelled? After the campaign to remove racially offensive books resulted in them being pulled, sales surged to record levels.

After attempting to understand the issues raised by online campaigners, have a chat with your staff and customers. Your staff want to be proud of where they work, and they won’t want you to apologise or give in to what they might see as unreasonable demands. Communicate with employees so they might see the perspective of the campaigners, and openly consult with them about your response. In the end, staff and customers can also be organised as an army of advocates to see off any online campaign.

Consider the reaction from customers and the public when asked about the move to delete the “Golden Gaytime” brand, with 98 per cent voting to keep the name.

After seeing the positive reaction to their brand, Unilever said they had “a deep and longstanding commitment to help build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society for all”. As you can imagine, the campaign to change the name was unsuccessful and this obscure ice cream has never been more popular.

The decade-long campaign to rename “Coon Cheese” was more successful, with the company, Saputo Dairy Australia, changing the brand name to Cheer earlier this year. Yet this was only done after extensive customer research, staff consultation, and academic research that showed the name had possible racist origins.

It may attract satire, but the name change was conducted carefully and in consultation with stakeholders, rather than as a reaction to online pressure.

It might be scary to be in headlights, but in the case of cancel culture, it’s often best to slow down, act strategically, and consult widely.

Morrison’s election to lose? Yes, but…

It takes a spectacularly flawed government to lose an election in the COVID era.

It’s a feat that only Donald Trump has managed to pull off.

For the most part, incumbent governments across the democratic world have been returned with increased majorities, taking advantage of the platform and opportunities to demonstrate leadership that the pandemic has provided.

Voters appear willing to give credit where it is due, but withhold harsh judgment on missteps, given COVID, itself, isn’t any individual’s fault.

Take, for example, the current popularity of Boris Johnson’s conservative government in the United Kingdom. Despite bungling the early months of the pandemic and overseeing almost 130,000 COVID deaths, Johnson is now streets ahead in the polls. This is driven by an increasingly successful vaccine rollout, as well as the reality that the working-class support Johnson secured through Brexit never really left him.

If you apply this post-pandemic political paradigm to Australia’s current federal political environment, it is hard to see the Morrison Government being defeated when it goes to the polls some time in the next 12 months.

While Australia’s island geography and a lot of heavy lifting by state and territory governments have contributed to the country’s strong COVID performance, the reality is that Australia is at the top of the pile in terms of its national COVID performance, both in terms of health and economic outcomes, and the Morrison Government would, quite rightly, expect to get some credit for this.

However, being in Canberra with clients for the budget this week, I didn’t detect the sense of inevitability about the election outcome among either Liberal or Labor operatives that you might expect in this pandemic political paradigm.

Labor figures genuinely feel they’re in with a shot. They point to the polls having had the Coalition and Labor neck and neck throughout most of the pandemic period, with the Prime Minister having had trouble converting the opportunities the pandemic has presented him into obvious electoral support.

With Mr Morrison failing to generate similar levels of support that many state and territory leaders have enjoyed during the pandemic, Labor concludes there is a drag on the Coalition vote and attributes this to non-COVID issues like bushfires and Parliamentary culture, as well as to COVID-related challenges, such as the undermining of state border closures, not taking responsibility for quarantine and the slow vaccine rollout.

Labor figures also point to the fact that the last two elections have been decided hand to hand, state by state, electorate by electorate, with a divided electorate delivering successive close results.  And, when they take you through each state, seat by seat, they make a compelling case as to why the Coalition may have challenges on the ground.

And the Liberals I spoke to this week tend to agree.

The big questions coming out of budget week are whether either the budget or Anthony Albanese’s budget reply will shift the dial, when the election will be and who will win.

To borrow some Howard-era phraseology, Josh Frydenberg’s budget has clearly sought to scrape some barnacles off the ship of state. The question is whether the quantum of funding put into areas like aged care, childcare, mental health or women will be enough to make a lasting difference, or to convince wavering voters the government has a genuine commitment in these areas.

Anthony Albanese has clearly sought to establish another major theme to his platform, with a $10 billion housing future fund set to fund a continuous build of social housing across Australia.  With a $15 billion manufacturing fund already announced, as well as a long-term commitment to extend childcare subsidies to all Australian families, Labor’s agenda is taking shape, with some clear points of difference to the government.

However, modern elections are increasingly fought on the issues of health and jobs.

With the Medicare wars all but over, vaccines and quarantine will be the terrain on which the health battles are fought at this election.

On the issue of jobs, the government is pinning its hopes on private housing construction, investment tax incentives for business, infrastructure spending and personal tax cuts giving taxpayers more money to spend with local businesses.

Until the budget reply, Labor’s jobs pitch focused on growing local manufacturing and sovereign capability in areas such as rail manufacturing.  The continuous social housing build announced by Mr Albanese, inclusive of commitments on apprenticeships, was another significant commitment. I expect we’ll see similar initiatives in renewable technology and manufacturing in the months ahead.  How Labor frames any decisions it takes on tax will be critical, both in terms of how it will affect people personally, but in how it can be framed by the Liberals as impacting on the broader economy and job creation.

As to when the election will be, the building consensus is that the Prime Minister will move once the vaccine rollout has reached critical mass, perhaps at two thirds of the population, so as take advantage of the strong economic conditions and to minimise the chance of new issues taking the government off course.  This makes an election this year very possible.

As to who will win, there’s still a lot of water to go under the bridge. Given Australia’s COVID performance, the election remains Mr Morrison’s to lose. But, there are enough reasons not to rule out a surprise Labor victory.  

Game on.

King of content: why video rules the roost

On average, Facebook videos are shared 89 times more than any other online content.

In 2020, video posts got 59 per cent more engagement than other posts on social media and of course TikTok, a video only sharing app, is now the fastest-growing social media network of all time.

So why are there still so many organisations that don’t use video as a way to communicate to their audience?

Here are five reasons why video is the superior online communication tool.

  1. Video engages audiences

Video is at the top of the virtual food chain. Unlike any other medium, it has the ability to include all other visual and auditory content.

The science behind why this is so engaging is called dual coding. Dual coding means providing an audience with verbal and visual representations at the same time to allow for knowledge to be processed in ways that reinforce each other.

When auditory senses alone are stimulated, it is said people retain about 10 per cent of what they’re told, but when both visual and auditory senses are stimulated, that number goes up to about 70 per cent. Therefore, your video audience is more likely to walk away understanding your message.

  1. Saves your audience time

If you have complex information, a video is one of the easiest ways to condense that information and deliver it to your audience in a clear and engaging way.

Infographics and visual aids help speed up the explanation stage. It’s a bit like when you are assembling IKEA furniture or can’t work out your new Google sound system at home; instead of reading the instruction booklet you look to the 60-second YouTube video of someone who has already spent an hour researching it. 

  1. Video prompts shares

This is probably one of the most important reasons we should all be considering video. It promotes more social media shares than any other medium. If you are looking to broaden your audience, video is the way to do it.

Videos, if relatable to an audience, are a great way for people to express themselves and share information. The most shared videos are usually the ones which evoke some sort of emotion. Authentic video shares result in your message having far greater reach. 

Videos also produce better search engine results, meaning they have a better chance than a written article of reaching audiences who search a keyword. This is simply because there is less video content online, compared to text content.

  1. You control the narrative

Creating your own video provides you with control over your narrative. When trying to reach a large audience, traditional news media remains important but you can’t always regulate the message.

Creating your own video allows you to have complete control over what you put out and, thanks to social media, this is now more viable than ever before.

  1. Video incites action

And lastly, because video has been shown to be more compelling it’s more likely to motivate a call to action. Say, for example, you use a speaker in your video. The audience can see the person who is asking them to take this action. This builds trust and again allows for more relatability.

Video isn’t as complicated as many believe it to be, and the investment almost always pays off. So next time you are planning your communication strategy, consider video.

CGM produces video content including animation, case study and testimonial videos, profile and event filming.

Local government advocacy: lessons from the private sector

As one of the three spheres of government, local government most closely affects the daily lives of its residents. It is also the most trusted level of government, with a recent Essential Poll finding 42 per cent of respondents trusted their local council. By comparison, 31 per cent said they trusted the State Government, and just 28 per cent had trust in the Federal Government.

In the eyes of many, the traditional role of local government is roads, rates and rubbish. But in reality, it’s about much more than that. It’s about the services that it provides the community, creating local jobs for local people and facilitating built and natural environments with facilities and spaces that match the aspirations of its residents.

As the representative body, the WA Local Government Association (WALGA) has a vital role in advocating for all local governments. It has done this on several significant issues, such as timeframes for planning reform, tax concessions, and regional issues related to COVID-19. WALGA quite rightly focuses on general topics relevant to its member base and not the specific needs of local councils.

In recent years, some local governments have stepped up their advocacy efforts with both State and Federal Government to deliver on their priorities, particularly for infrastructure funding. But it's an increasingly competitive market as more and more local governments are advocating for the needs of their community.

As minds turn to the upcoming federal budget and fast approaching federal election, there will undoubtedly be a flurry of activity to secure commitments and funding for industry and community interests, as well as local government.

Some will do it well, and some will fail before they’ve even started.  Common mistakes include starting too late, having too big a list of asks, having an incoherent message and not being able to demonstrate stakeholder support.

So, what can local government do to stand the best possible chance of securing funding and commitments from either the State or Federal Governments?

Well, from a State Government point of view, if last year was the year of the 'shovel ready' COVID stimulus project, this year and the next few years will be mostly about WA Labor delivering on its election commitments, particularly in the areas of jobs and economic diversification and health.  Homelessness will also be on the radar. Aligning asks of government to the priorities of government in these areas will be a good place to start.

The same will likely be true of the Federal Government, post-election. But in the pre-election period, the best way to get money out of the Liberals in Canberra will be to get the State Labor Government to advocate for your ask.  Since the change of government in 2017, the WA Government has proven very effective in securing funding from both the Turnbull and Morrison Governments, leveraging WA’s status as a battleground state, in which the federal Liberals need to hold seats in order to retain government.  This dynamic will likely be accentuated following Labor’s recent landslide state election victory and the continued popularity of Premier Mark McGowan.

Local government has an important role in creating jobs, supporting market-led proposals and welcoming industry. State and Federal governments are still looking for shovel ready projects that deliver on their commitments and are popular with the community, so identifying these opportunities will continue to be necessary. Still, there is much more to it than that.

Arguably, the private sector has been working closely with government to secure funding, advocate on priorities and develop partnerships for decades, whether that’s as private companies or through industry representative groups.

Given the experience and achievements of the private sector in advocacy, there are a few things that I believe local government can learn from the private sector when it comes to advocating on behalf of its 'customers' and ultimately securing funding for its priorities.

Here are five private-sector principles to consider:

 1. Understand your 'investors'

Investor relations are essential components of private sector organisations that need to understand and work closely with shareholders and investors. What differs in local government is that the potential 'investors' are the State and Federal governments, and rather than profit, their priorities and motivations are very different.

WA Labor has been clear on its priorities. They want to create jobs in WA, diversify the economy through manufacturing and industry hubs, improve the health system, particularly mental health, and tackle homelessness and climate change. As outlined above, the Federal Government is more likely to invest if the State is on board.

Advocacy is all about finding win-win situations. If local government can find a way to support the State or Federal governments to deliver on their commitments while delivering something popular with the community then everyone wins.

 2. Know your 'customers'

Successful brands know their customers. They understand their buying habits, their preferences and what's important to them. Local government needs to approach its community in the same way. Understand what's important to them, understand both their current and future needs and get a sense of what matters most.

The City of Mandurah did this incredibly well with its 'Mandurah Matters' community engagement approach. It didn't just run an annual survey asking about facilities and amenity. The City went out and spoke to the community, ran workshops, met community groups, held events, tested ideas and got to know the people it serves. Local governments will give themselves the best chance of success if the things they are asking for reflect the priorities of their community. 

Remember, political parties poll all the time. They have a good sense of what the community wants, and so should anyone asking governments for money.

 3. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise

Granted, the private sector is not always the best at prioritisation. Still, when it comes to advocacy, local governments need to develop a laser-like focus on its top one or two priorities and be relentless in the delivery of this message.  Presenting laundry lists of asks to government make it difficult for them to choose, and often leads to disappointment if an initiative gets funded that, in hindsight, wasn’t that important to the local government that put it forward.

Community and stakeholder engagement with your ‘customers’ can be used to develop a long list of asks, but it can also be used to set priorities.  Keep it sharp, and keep it simple.

4. Get in early

The biggest mistake we see in local government advocacy is leaving things too late. Putting in a budget submission a few weeks before budget day, or launching a public advocacy campaign after the election writs are issued.

Successful advocacy campaigns give themselves time to build a brand, penetrate a message and demonstrate stakeholder support to decision makers.

Leaving things too late makes you look disorganised, with a lack of understanding of how government works.  At its worst, it makes you look like you’re just going through the motions or doing the campaign for political objectives, rather than genuine outcomes.

 5. Government relations is not enough

The best campaigns start early and are research driven, with a clear sense of priorities, purpose and a coherent message.

But they also leverage all the communications tools and channels available to hit decision makers from a range of angles and build a sense of energy and momentum that is hard to resist.

Meetings with government are important.  If you don’t ask, you won’t receive, and government will find it strange to hear things in the media that they haven’t already heard in person.

However, the importance of building and demonstrating community support cannot be overstated.  As outlined above, this is a crowded market, and governments are being presented with great ideas and urgent problems all the time.

Activating local communities, while building understanding and pressure through the media, are often critical to the success of advocacy campaigns.

You need to get the tone right.  But, if you’re not in these spaces, you often won’t look like you’re trying, and other campaigns will get the attention of governments.

Nobody wants to hear about the problems and issues constantly (although there is a time and place for that). However, everyone needs to understand your vision and be brought on that journey.

Upheaval rocks Perth radio scene

Considering the huge upheaval in the Perth radio scene towards the end of last year, the first ratings survey of 2021, released in March, was a bit of a dud. There was very little movement for most of the programs, or across the major stations, which was slightly surprising given the widespread changes. It’s possible listeners were just too confused to know which station they wanted to tune into.

The second survey of the year, released last week, reveals a bit more about whether listeners are happy with the changes. While overall, the status quo remains, with Nova 93.7 still the top rating station in Perth, followed by Mix 94.5, the biggest winner from the survey was 96fm, which gained ground under radio stalwart Gary Roberts, who guided the station back to its roots after a couple of years in the radio wilderness. A re-brand for 92.9 Triple M to focus on rock music has so far failed to pay off in the ratings, with the station sitting 6th overall, behind Triple J.

In the battleground breakfast timeslot, the 96fm breakfast team picked up a substantial 1.5 points despite the retirement of one its key members, veteran Fred Botica, halfway through the ratings period. However, The Bunch are sitting fourth overall behind Nova 93.7, Mix 94.5 and former stablemate 6PR, now owned by Channel Nine. Sitting in the breakfast chair for 6PR is Gareth Parker, who was moved from Mornings; a move which listeners seem to approve of, since he picked up 1.1 points to give him a significant lead over his ABC rival Russel Woolf, who dropped a massive 2.2 points.

ABC listeners also moved away from Woolf’s previous co-host Nadia Mitsopoulos, who lost one point in the Mornings timeslot, trailing 6PR’s star recruit Liam Bartlett, who picked up an impressive 1.9 points to sit at 10 per cent of the market share. Listeners obviously like what they’re hearing from Mark Pascoe on 96fm in this timeslot, since he picked up 1.2 points to edge out Nova for the number two spot behind Mix 94.5.

The tightest race for ratings was in the Drive slot, where there was less movement, probably due to the fact it was the only timeslot not affected by the deck shuffling last year. ABC host Geoff Hutchison lost one point to sit at 5.6 per cent of the market share, while 6PR’s Oliver Peterson picked up 0.5 to move to 8 per cent, which is still well behind the mostly eastern states-syndicated programs which the FM stations run in the timeslot.

Survey 3 is due out on 1 June 2021.

A fix for WA’s Upper House on the horizon?

The dust has settled on the 2021 election, but the emergence of three unlikely winners could prove to be the catalyst for a long-awaited change to WA’s Upper House voting system.

As the votes were finalised last week, it was confirmed that micro-party Legalise Cannabis WA had secured two Upper House seats despite attracting a total of just 1.98 per cent of first-preference votes statewide.

The Daylight Savings Party’s Wilson Tucker won a spot in the Mining and Pastoral Region with just 0.24 per cent or 98 votes. Mr Tucker, who currently lives in Seattle, has confirmed that he will return to WA to take his seat in Parliament.

According to the WA Electoral Commission, to be eligible for election to the Upper House, candidates must be at least 18, an Australian citizen for at least one year, not be subject to any legal incapacity and be an elector entitled to vote in a district. Candidates do not have to currently reside in WA and under the state’s group voting ticket system, they do not necessarily have to attract a substantial number of first-preference votes.

This leaves the system open to convoluted preference deals between micro-parties, which can see them elected in front of other parties that have secured substantially more first-preference votes.

The opportunity for micro-parties with very low first-preference votes to win seats in our Parliament has earned WA the title of the worst voting system in the country, according to ABC election analyst Antony Green.

Aside from the group voting ticket system, the other fairness issue for Upper House elections is the over-representation of regional voters in Parliament, known as malapportionment. Although more than 75 per cent of WA’s population reside in the Perth metropolitan region, it is only home to half of the state’s six Upper House regions. The population distribution across the regions means that a vote in the Agricultural Region carries almost four times the weight of a Perth vote, while the Mining and Pastoral region has almost six times the power of those in Perth.

Premier Mark McGowan has already flagged potential reform to deal with the issues having stated that “the Legislative Council results have exposed a broken system”.

But what could those reforms look like?

Any proposed changes to the Upper House tend to come with the suggestion that it be abolished altogether, as then-deputy Liberal leader Colin Barnett proposed to The Australian in 1999. His reported view at the time was that having two houses of Parliament was a luxury the state could not afford. In 2007, when he was Opposition leader, Mr Barnett backed away from abolishing the Upper House, but said members should have their electorate offices scrapped

Although there is some precedent for abolishing the Upper House – Queensland’s Labor Party did it in 1922 – it is unlikely to happen here for several reasons, the first being that WA has a long history of possessing a strong Upper House and, whether we like it or not, West Australians tend to side with tradition. Ironically, there’s perhaps no better example of this than WA’s resistance to daylight savings in the state.

There is also a serious roadblock to any attempt to abolish the Upper House thanks to legislation pushed through in the late 1970s by then-premier Sir Charles Court, which noted that the number of Members of the Legislative Council could not be reduced, or the chamber abolished, without the approval of a referendum.

More importantly, the Upper House is unlikely to go because it serves an important function as a house of review. The review process acknowledges that imperfect legislation carries a risk of unacceptable consequences, and therefore, every care must be taken to get it right before it becomes law. It also allows for legislation to be delayed, providing more time for public opinion to be included in the legislative process, as frustrating as that process may be for the government and the public.

The WA Legislative Council is here to stay, but it could be reformed to make it more representative.

The first reform the McGowan Government could consider would be to borrow from the changes to the Senate voting system.

Prior to 2016, the Senate voting system was similar to WA’s Upper House. Voters could cast their ballot for a party by marking just one box above the line, leaving the rest up to the preference deals worked out by political parties. Or they could vote for individual candidates below the line by marking a large number of boxes – the South Metropolitan Region had 64 this election – without making a mistake. The system led to incongruous results in 2004, 2010 and 2013, before a new system was implemented in 2016.

Now, voters are able to number at least six boxes above the line for the parties or groups of their choice, or at least 12 boxes below the line for individual candidates of their choice.

Despite concerns from smaller parties, the 2016 election showed that they can still gain seats, but they must have reasonable first preference flows. It also discourages those with specific constituencies, such as platforms based on religion or environmental concerns, from splitting off into fringe or single-issue parties.

This reduces the length of the ballot paper, makes it easier for voters to navigate, and it reduces incongruent results.

The second fix the McGowan Government could explore would be to address the malapportionment issue by re-examining the number of seats available in each region so that representation is better aligned to population.

This could prove to be a bigger challenge than fixing the group voting ticket system as it would be strongly opposed by the Nationals and regional Liberals like Steve Thomas, who had his country seat of Capel abolished in 2008 before moving to the Upper House.

Regardless of what electoral reforms the Government investigates, the Premier has made it clear that it is on the agenda.

Digital keys to unlocking political popularity

What makes a politician popular on Facebook? To the untrained eye, it might not make sense that Premier Mark McGowan has 100,000 more Facebook followers than Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who represents a state twice as populous as Western Australia. But dig a little deeper, and you will find there is some method to the political popularity madness.

The recent WA state election saw Facebook used to an extent that it had not been seen before in West Australian politics. It would be easy to focus on the money spent on Facebook advertising given that between just Premier Mark McGowan and Zak Kirkup’s campaigns, more than $130,000 was spent on Facebook election advertising.

However, throwing money at a digital campaign does not guarantee its success. Rather, campaign success on Facebook relies heavily on a candidate’s presence and persona built outside the campaigning dates and, most importantly, their ability to find the line between the two.

So let me take you behind the scenes on what makes a successful political profile in the digital world.

First, what does Facebook itself say about what makes a successful political profile on their platform?

  • Be themselves. High-performing profiles are often those that understand what their own personal attributes are and are not shy in promoting them to their audience. However, they also ensure that their tone is consistent.
  • Be authentic. Politicians and candidates should bring their audience behind the scenes, showing or explaining things their followers would otherwise not easily know or understand.
  • Be engaging. Make sure a relationship is built between the politician and their audience. In short, what is being said is what the audience needs or wants to hear.

While this information seems simple and logical, finding the balance between being both authentic and engaging, while still being yourself is far more difficult than it appears.

Take our current WA Premier, whose Facebook presence is clear and engaging, yet still shows a personal side. What can be learnt from Mark McGowan’s overall popularity through the prism of Facebook?

Let’s look at some of the key areas that Facebook has identified as important and see how our Premier stacks up.

Be themselves:

I believe that this is Premier McGowan’s social media strength. One thing that is immediately noticeable to me when looking at his Facebook is that his tone is consistent. It is consistent with what he says in press conferences and also on his other social media platforms.

This consistency does not mean that his message and delivery is the same under all circumstances. Rather, there is consistency within each tone of voice, meaning a joke about April Fool’s or kebabs will have the same tone of voice, while an update regarding interstate borders or discussing a snap lockdown will be treated with tonal gravity.

This consistency is impressive given that most politicians do not write their own social media posts. The Premier’s staff appear to have a clear and comprehensive understanding of when each tone of voice should be used and is delivering them effectively.

Be authentic:

Creating authentic posts that bring followers behind the scenes or break down comprehensive news is also something Premier McGowan has done well over the past year.

The Premier’s authenticity, I believe, was best seen in the last year when communicating with West Australians about the Clive Palmer court case. This was a complicated issue that had the ability to be spun purely through a political lens, but Premier McGowan brought his followers behind the scenes in a different way, explaining the complexities while also providing reassurance.

Be engaging:

So, how does one create content that is authentic, and shows a part of themselves, while also being engaging? The answer is trust. Trust and time.

By being authentic and not shying away from taking followers behind the scenes, followers often begin to feel that they know the politician and that posts are being written with them in mind.

This trust assists in building the correct level of importance for each post, providing gravity to serious topics, while giving licence for followers to have fun with posts that encourage it.

This might be how Premier McGowan’s post announcing seven months of no community transmission in November 2020 had the same number of likes as his recent post announcing new state emblems for April Fool’s.

There are examples everywhere of political figures, domestically and internationally, who have managed to build that level of trust with their audiences in their own unique way. For example, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern does this by showing herself in a personable way, often jumping on a Facebook live to answer questions from everyday New Zealanders.

So, what do I suggest for politicians trying to find their way on Facebook?

They should ask themselves if they think their followers trust them and their message. If the answer is no, perhaps peeling back the curtain to show authenticity and not just a polished finished product might be the way forward.

McGowan’s manufacturing vision

One of the most memorable moments from this year’s state election campaign for me was the reaction to Premier Mark McGowan’s answer on vision.

During the leaders’ debate, the Premier was asked about his vision for WA. In response, he talked about a recently announced initiative to manufacture components for iron ore rail cars in WA.

Some observers found that answer underwhelming, but in the wake of the election result, I think it’s worth another, closer look.

Vision is an undefined quality in politics. To some, vision means soaring Obama-style oratory. To others, vision means big, sometimes unexpected, announcements.

In WA, the developments you hear most commonly talked about as visionary are the Fremantle Harbour, the Goldfields pipeline and the North West Shelf development.  A small, but increasing, number of people also talk of the Barnett government’s stadium development in this way.

What these projects have in common, in addition to being expensive and contentious in their day, is that they went on to underpin significant, long-term economic opportunities for the state.

Which brings me back to the Premier’s comments on rail component manufacturing for the resources sector.

On its own, this might appear narrow to some. But, when considered alongside Rita Saffioti’s achievement in securing the local manufacturing of METRONET rail cars in WA, and the enormous size of the iron ore rail car fleet that needs servicing (32,000 rail cars annually), we may be on the cusp of a whole new industry for WA.

Every focus group I’ve had a hand in over the past 15 years has had respondents screaming about the need for more manufacturing in WA, with those old enough lamenting the closure of the Midland rail yards in the 90s.

The current government’s achievements and commitments on rail manufacturing, its progress in developing new advanced manufacturing hubs in Kwinana and the South West, as well as the announcement of big incentives for manufacturers during the election campaign, point to a very solid direction. Add recent commitments to manufacture 1,000 standalone power systems for remote communities and cash incentives to meet the expected boom in local wind turbine demand locally, and the direction is clear.

McGowan Labor has a vision. A manufacturing vision.

Of course, some will say we can’t manufacture things in WA… our wages are too high.  However, many believe the time is right.  Modern manufacturing technology, a narrowing of the international gap in wage levels, plus the increased value being placed on sovereign capability post-COVID are levelling the playing field.

For years, WA has been manufacturing high quality, cost-competitive marine vessels for a global market. If we can do this, many within industry, government and the union movement believe we can do more.

Which is how we arrived at the announcement on local iron ore rail car component manufacturing.

In the last week of the election campaign, CGM commissioned our own poll of Perth voters to get a sense of what was driving voter behaviour.

A key finding was that more than three quarters of voters thought Mark McGowan and Labor had the best vision for WA’s future, compared to only 12 per cent for the Liberals.

The Premier’s previous performance on COVID clearly played its part in Labor’s extraordinary electoral success.

But the punters clearly liked the version of the future Mr McGowan was selling, also.

There’s no doubt in my mind Labor’s direction on manufacturing is central to this appeal.  And, if the Premier, aided by Ms Saffioti and his Deputy Roger Cook, in his new capacity as Minister for Jobs, can deliver on their manufacturing commitments, they will be rewarded with long-term political support from the working people in WA’s suburbs and regions.

For all the projects we now consider visionary in WA, there were many sceptics in their inception, with it taking some time for consensus to settle.

I think Labor is on to something good here. So, let’s make a diary note to revisit the vision conversation down the track.

Key takeaways from the second McGowan Cabinet

Much of the discussion about the formation of the second McGowan Cabinet has understandably focused on the Premier and his taking of the Treasury portfolio. But there is a lot more to read into the Premier’s announcement yesterday.

Here are my key takeaways, including pointers to the future:

  1. Those predicting the Premier will give up Treasury in the short to medium term, might want to reserve their judgment. The Premier is known to have been highly involved in the budget process during Labor’s first term, and at least as passionate as then-treasurer Ben Wyatt about financial discipline. Having shifted a large portion of his previous workload to Deputy Premier Roger Cook, in the form of State Development, Jobs and Trade, as well as enlisting the support of Tony Buti as Finance Minister, the Premier has created a structure that might work for the long term. Given the value he has placed on stability to date, relinquishing Treasury mid-term and claiming some other portfolios would seem out of character.
  2. While the Premier has talked about the looming threat from other States to his GST deal with the Commonwealth as a key driver for his taking of the Treasury portfolio, it is possible the biggest challenge he will face in his first year as Treasurer is the effort by public sector unions to end the $1,000 per year wage rise cap. With a number of enterprise bargaining agreements up for negotiation over the next 12 months, unions will argue that public sector workers have done the heavy lifting in getting the state budget back on track and, with the state economy heating up, more competitive wages will be essential if the public sector is to retain and attract quality staff. Unions may find unlikely allies in industry, given the challenges many businesses had getting approvals and decisions out of government during the last boom, when public sector workers flocked to the private sector in pursuit of better wages. New Industrial Relations Minister Stephen Dawson will lead the government’s negotiations.
  3. Irrespective of what happens with the Treasury portfolio, if Australia continues to win the fight against COVID, Mr Cook is likely to hand Health to someone else in 12 months or so, after 13 years in the portfolio. Education Minister Sue Ellery has been talked about for some time as a suitable replacement, however Mr Dawson may have come into the frame now that he has picked up Mental Health with his new responsibilities. Either way, the Premier will be looking for a safe and experienced set of hands, given the size and importance of Health, leaving Mr Cook to focus on the new and important portfolios he received yesterday.
  4. As Minister for State Development, Jobs, Trade and Science, Mr Cook has become Mr Manufacturing and will help fulfill the Premier’s vision to diversify the State economy. During the election campaign, Labor announced initiatives to progress new advanced manufacturing hubs in Kwinana and the South West, and now has hundreds of millions in incentives and initiatives on the table to attract investment in local manufacturing. The announcement of an agreement to manufacture components for the maintenance of WA’s 30,000 iron ore rail cars in WA, when considered alongside Rita Saffioti’s achievement in manufacturing the new fleet of Metronet rail cars locally, points to the potential establishment of a major new strategic industry for WA.
  5. Ms Saffioti and Mr Cook will jointly have responsibility for delivering Labor’s Westport outer harbour vision, with Ms Saffioti leading the effort after adding Ports to her existing Transport and Planning portfolios, and Mr Cook having responsibility for promoting the landside benefits for industry in his electorate of Kwinana. With Labor now having the numbers in both houses, Westport will happen, the Beeliar Wetlands will become an A-Class Nature Reserve, and it will be almost impossible for any future government to build the previously proposed Roe 8 and Roe 9 extensions.
  6. John Quigley’s appointment as Minister for Electoral Affairs suggests change is coming. With Labor already proposing sweeping changes to political donation disclosures and having a long-term commitment to the principle of one-vote-one-value, the rules under which future elections are fought may be significantly different.  Attention will focus on the Legislative Council, where a malapportionment currently exists strongly favouring regional voters. Striking a balance that ensures regional voices are not lost, given WA’s size and the concentration of our population in the Perth metro area, will be a significant challenge. I expect it’s a challenge Mr Quigley will lean into. Whatever the outcome, let’s hope this year’s election was the last election that micro-parties can game the system.
  7. Thinking forward, the possibility of a major reshuffle and injection of fresh blood into the Cabinet prior to the next election is real. Neither political party has won a third four-year term in Western Australia, and despite the obvious electoral advantage it enjoys following this year’s state election, Labor will not want to appear tired heading into 2025. The left’s Alanna Clohesy was considered unlucky to miss out on a Cabinet spot this time, and David Michael appears to have been anointed as the next cab off the rank from the right, with his elevation to Cabinet Secretary. However, there are now 10 additional names to keep an eye on, following the Premier’s appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries.  These are Samantha Rowe, Darren West, Terry Healy, Simon Millman, Jessica Shaw, Jessica Stojkovski, Kyle McGinn, Sabine Winton, Yaz Mubarakai and Matthew Swinbourne. With only four of the existing 17 Cabinet positions currently filled by women, expect the Premier to use future promotions to work towards a gender balance that reflects the 50 per cent female Parliamentary representation achieved by Labor at this year’s election.

There is much more I could write about the personalities and policies that will confront the challenges and opportunities of the next four years, but these are the key takeouts as I see them, today.

As always, CGM is here to assist our clients understand key government drivers and identify opportunities for collaboration in the public interest.

WA Labor: The Next Generation

On the sporting field, depth is the key to sustained success.

As AFL seasons wear on, the teams that can cover injuries with quality players often rise to the top.  It’s no different in cricket, as we saw with the Indian team in the recently completed test series against Australia.

Second term governments often lose their way, with a key contributing factor being the people they bring in to replace retiring members not having the skills or, perhaps more importantly, the experience to deliver to the same standard.

Which is what make the six new faces being talked about as new members of the second term McGowan Cabinet so noteworthy.   Those of us who have had experience engaging with them feel each would be ready to hit the ground running, if they get the opportunity.

For background, the Premier has to find three new Ministers to replace the retiring Ben Wyatt, Fran Logan and Mick Murray.  If, as expected, the retiring speaker Peter Watson is replaced from within the ranks of the first term Ministry, the Premier has to find a fourth new Minister.  With Morley MLA Amber-Jade Sanderson considered a certainty to receive a Ministry, her current position of Cabinet Secretary will also need to be filled.

So, there are five positions up for grabs, and six names talked about.  This includes Ms Sanderson, as well as Don Punch , Reece Whitby, John Carey, Alanna Clohesy and Tony Buti.

We’ve put together this document to introduce you to WA Labor’s next generation.  We haven’t attempted to predict which portfolios they may receive, but we’re expecting to see a significant reshuffle of portfolios, given the number of positions set to open up at the senior end.

As always, CGM is here to assist our clients understand the policies and personalities that will drive government during the new term, as well as identifying opportunities for collaboration in the public interest.

We hope you find this document useful.

Labor's Next Generation

Download here.

The next frontier in the pandemic fight is communications

Although the loss of any lives to COVID-19 is tragic, Australia as a whole has fared much better than many countries around the world in managing this virus without an effective means of treatment or medical prevention to date.

Now, as the world approaches a year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, a saviour seems to have appeared in the form of a collection of vaccines that are proving effective in the reduction of infection, hospitalisations, severe illness and death.

Results from studies covering the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines by Public Health England and Public Health Scotland, in particular, were sufficiently encouraging for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to feel confident enough to declare that the rollout of vaccines had “dramatically changed the odds in our favour”.

These two vaccines have been approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, but even the most effective vaccine is useless if people aren’t willing to receive them.

Anti-vaccination protests in capital cities across the country late last month suggest that the next battle in the war against COVID-19 will be on the communications front.

While the vocal minority that attended the rallies will prove the most difficult to convince, getting the larger number of people who are supportive of vaccines generally, but are still lacking enough knowledge about these specific ones, on board will be the most important task.

To do so, the Federal Government – which is responsible for the rollout – will need to achieve two things with its communications: to make sure information is clear and accessible, and to be proactive in fighting misinformation.

The rollout only began last week, but I’ve personally seen early signs that there is work to be done to execute both of these.

With respect to the former, take the example of my sister, who recently gave birth to her first child. We were at lunch and I overheard her discussing the vaccine with our mother. While both are generally pro-vaccine, neither had heard anything conclusive about whether the COVID-19 options were safe for breastfeeding mothers to have, and as a result were leaning towards avoiding it.

The next day I heard Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt declare that the vaccine was safe for breastfeeding mothers on the radio. As this was new information, I wanted to check the facts for myself before passing it along to my sister, so I visited the Federal Government’s COVID-19 vaccine website in search of more information.

I had six options: information for COVID-19 vaccine providers, COVID-19 vaccine priority groups, COVID-19 vaccine distribution, aged care providers, people with disability; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

As a member of the general public with questions, none of these labels applied to me, so I picked one at random and started digging around. It took me more than 10 minutes and two websites to find the factsheet I was looking for that explained the science behind that declaration.

If it was my sister, or anyone short on time or determination, they would have likely given up much sooner and left without having their valid question answered.

This is an area that can easily by improved by looking to another government-funded organisation as a guide: the ABC’s frequently updated, easily navigated guide to the vaccine rollout.

This resource works for several reasons: it’s targeted at the general population in addition to specific demographics; it communicates in layman’s terms, while still providing links to more detailed information within the text; and it links to government factsheets and other reliable sources of information.

Of course, accessible information is important, but the Federal Government must also be proactive in identifying and combating misinformation by communicating the science in a clear, easy to understand way.

One of the most common complaints about the COVID-19 vaccines is that people feel they have been “rushed” or “not tested enough” and this is compounded by a lack of urgency among Australians. Outside of Victoria, we haven’t had mass deaths on any significant scale and many people feel safe enough behind closed borders to wait until the vaccine is more established.

Of course, the idea that the vaccine was “rushed” or “untested” is false. A recent episode of the Economist Radio podcast detailed how Professor Sarah Gilbert, the co-creator of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, spent 10 years developing vaccine platforms which allow new vaccines to re-use components of previous vaccines. Professor Gilbert’s years of work have allowed the quick development of a vaccine for COVID-19 once the genetic sequence of the coronavirus was published, it only took a few weeks to use it to create the vaccine.

As far as why the approvals were achieved so quickly, there’s a fairly simple explanation. Instead of waiting until all stages of clinical trials were completed to provide data to regulatory bodies, the developers of vaccines were sharing data with regulators as it came in. This meant that when the final trials were completed, much of the approvals process had already been carried out.

If more people knew and understood this information, the feeling that the vaccines were rushed would be reduced.

This is just one example of misinformation, and one solution, but there are other falsehoods in circulation and the Federal Government must be proactive in combating it.

Ultimately, Australia might be a victim of its own success in containing the virus. More than 200 million vaccines have been deployed across the world, but few countries have been as effective as Australia in using border control to contain the virus. The lack of community spread of COVID-19 means that some people view the vaccine as a luxury, not a necessity.

For Australia to open up to the world again, widespread vaccinations are critical, and effective communications will be a cornerstone of this effort.

Taking a ‘brave’ approach to reconciliation

Thirteen years ago, reconciliation in Australia took a huge leap forward with ‘the Apology’. In 2016, Reconciliation Australia published its first ‘State of the Nation’ report, which introduced the five dimensions of reconciliation: race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, historical acceptance and unity.

This year’s report shows that progress has been steady, support has grown, and more Australians understand the issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders than in the past. The report highlights that the community is well ahead of the government on critical issues such as constitutional reform and realising equality and equity for First Peoples. The data is showing that actions around truth-telling, systemic racism, and inequality need to be addressed by organisations that are willing to tackle the harder issues. It concludes that Australia is at a tipping point and that now is the time to move from ‘safe’ to ‘brave’.

The question that I asked myself when I read this call to action was what does bravery look like? In the report’s foreword, Shelley Res AO states: “Bravery in the face of racism will be our change agent.” It goes beyond raising awareness and increasing knowledge, and it could start with something very personal like challenging those around you and having uncomfortable conversations, even at the risk of social isolation.

As a communications agency that works with a number of Aboriginal organisations in Western Australia, CGM is acutely aware of the importance of reconciliation and the responsibility we all have to help create a better future.

For me personally, ‘safe’ feels like discussing issues with like-minded people, signing up for conferences to find out more, using respectful and inclusive language and ensuring that I learn as much as I can about reconciliation issues. Now these are not necessarily bad, but are they brave? ‘Brave’ for me would be very personal, it would be challenging myself, friends, family, acquaintances or strangers on biases, beliefs or values and having more uncomfortable conversations.

Reconciliation Action Plans (RAP) are a tool for all organisations to use, no matter where they are on the reconciliation journey, as it provides a structured approach to identifying ‘brave’ actions and becoming accountable. As CGM embarks on the evolution of our Reconciliation Action Plan this year, we’re challenging ourselves to be braver.

There are four types of RAPs that you can develop based on where your organisation is on the reconciliation journey - Reflect, Innovate, Stretch, Elevate. Visit Reconciliation Australia for all the tools and templates you’ll need.

All questions are important, stupid

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, more of the WA public is getting an insight into what happens during a live press conference. 

It’s unusual for most West Australians to see a press conference in its entirety. Essentially, the public is now seeing how the sausage is made, and it’s been made this way for decades.

This new insight, however, has managed to upset the many couch critics who, during WA’s second lockdown, went after journalists, vilifying them for their ‘stupid’ questions.

I tend to disagree and would suggest these ‘stupid’ questions are more an ingredient in the sausage making.

To give you perspective, when the Premier announced conditions around the end of our lockdown at 8:40pm one night, most of the political journalists asking the questions also attended the media conference early that morning.

They were into their 16th hour of work and had already put together and filed stories, been to a number of press conferences and interviews, and likely did a live cross or five.

Most of the time when they are called to a press conference, they don’t get much notice and a lot of the time they don’t know what is going to be announced, so they are required to think on their feet.

And it needs to be said, they are not there primarily to facilitate a live press conference for the public’s viewing; they have a whole plethora of tasks to undertake during this conference and immediately after.

Each journalist has different needs. They ask questions for different reasons from each other and from the public, and yes it can seem odd. But hear me out; the television reporter is working on compiling a one-minute TV package and is interviewing in a way to get specific sound bites. Sometimes they ask a question twice because the Premier didn’t give a concise enough answer.

It’s very similar to when the public berate reporters for asking someone how they feel after a traumatic event. “How do you think he feels, you idiot?”, they say.  But the journalist isn’t always looking for a factual answer, rather an emotional one for camera to illustrate to the audience the impact this situation has had. Is this uncomfortable? Possibly, but not stupid.

Then there are the journalists who need to go live immediately after the conference and are writing their live cross as the Premier is speaking. Newspaper reporters have more time and are looking for a fresh angle for tomorrow’s paper while also trying to file for their online edition before their competitor.

They are under immense pressure to relay information fast, which means as they are listening to the Premier, they are also live tweeting, answering questions and emails from their chief of staff and are being fed more questions from their producers back in the office. Sometimes they simply didn’t hear what the Premier said and have to clarify. Again, maybe irritating, but not stupid.

They don’t have a lot of time to ask questions, so not only are they trying to clarify something with an authoritative figure, they are also trying to compete with the dozen other journalists talking over the top of them.

But most importantly and particularly in a pandemic, journalists are simply trying to clarify the facts. We all know there were some grey areas when it came to where we should and shouldn’t wear our mask. Journalists were attempting to clarify every scenario they could think of in that moment.

The public became frustrated; told them to stop asking the ‘stupid’ questions and even joked about it with memes and viral videos.

I’ll admit they were funny, but we weren’t laughing a few days later when we all couldn’t figure out if we had to wear a mask in the car, doing yoga outside, or while walking the dog at a brisk pace. “Is this vigorous?” we thought. If only a journalist had more time to ask.

My point is, even after the journalists asked so many ‘stupid’ questions, there were so many still unanswered.

Following this press conference, veteran journalist Geof Parry copped the brunt of the public’s disgust as they called for him to retire. In good humour, Geof laughed off his critics, reading his ‘mean tweets’ live on radio.

I won’t deny that occasionally a stupid journalist asks a stupid question. 

This is not Geof. Geof is a political reporter with more than 30 years’ experience, who has held our pollies to account over and over again, and who has uncovered countless wrongdoings in the public sector for decades. I think it’s fair to say; he’s got this.

Sometimes he needs to speak over the Premier when he isn’t satisfied with an answer. He’s there to keep the government accountable and our democracy healthy.

So next lockdown (let’s hope there isn’t one) when the live press conferences kick off – let’s give the journalists a break.

They aren’t always experts, but they certainly aren’t stupid.

Australia's defence of public interest journalism

The Federal Government is set for a collision course with tech giants like Facebook and Google over the future of access to news content online. Australia is leading the way as one of the first democratic governments in the world to move to regulate these powerful companies and force them to negotiate payment for content produced by domestic media outlets. Knowing the history and politics surrounding this issue is critical to understanding why such a bold move was made.

Over the past decade, digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way Australians access and consume media.

Gone are the days of waiting for the morning news for breaking stories or reading gossip magazines for the latest celebrity dirt. We now have all the information we need at the touch of an app and most people now get their news information online, specifically from social media.

According to research completed by Roy Morgan, the internet has well and truly overtaken TV as Australia’s main source of news, with 61 per cent using it as a primary source of news in 2020. Within this, 38 per cent specifically nominated social media platforms, and 17 per cent used news feed sites such as Google News and Apple News.

However, social platforms have control over what news and information we see. Our social media friends have become the “managing editors” deciding what we see. An article needs to be liked and shared multiple times before many people see it in their feed.

It’s not surprising then that the stories in our feeds are usually free to access, meaning the media outlets that produce it remain unremunerated while social and digital platforms profit from advertising as users skate through each piece of content.

A mandatory code

Australia’s independent competition and consumer regulator, the ACCC, identified these issues and conducted an 18-month-long Digital Platforms Inquiry. Following this, the Australian Government asked the ACCC to develop a mandatory code of conduct to ensure tech giants like Google and Facebook negotiate access to content with its owners.

After extensive public consultation, the Australian Government introduced the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code legislation to Parliament in December 2020. The code, which is designed to address the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms, is supported by both the Labor opposition and the Greens.

The code uses the threat of mandatory arbitration to force the digital platforms to broker commercial deals with Australian media companies for the value they obtain from having news content in newsfeeds and search results. If they refuse, they face fines of up to 10 per cent of annual revenues.

Facebook and Google respond

Google and Facebook have indicated publicly that they are willing to comply with a code of conduct and are willing to pay for news content but argue the code in its current form is unworkable and exposes them to an unknowable financial risk.

At a Senate inquiry set up to scrutinise the proposed laws, Google Australia managing director Mel Silva said the code would “break” the company’s business model by forcing it to pay news outlets for featuring links and snippets of their content in search results.

Over the past few weeks, Google and Facebook have used their significant resources in an attempt to undermine the proposed code. This included advertising campaigns, political lobbying and even threats to pull services from Australia. Facebook and Google have recruited no less than five lobbying firms, according to the Australian Government Register of Lobbyists. Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has personally appealed to the Treasurer and Communications Minister, while the global head of Google, Sundar Pichai, has had “constructive” conversations with our Prime Minister.

Despite the high-level engagement, it's hard to imagine Google following through with their threats to withdraw their search engine – a service they make billions of dollars on every year. Facebook too have suggested they’ll pull all news from their feeds, despite news and opinion shared and debated on their platforms more than ever before.

The overseas experience

What Google and Facebook are perhaps most concerned about is a precedent in paying for content that would encourage other countries to do the same.

In 2020, French readers saw news snippet and extract results from European publishers pulled from search engines in response to a copyright law that was passed. In October, Google announced that they were investing $1 billion over three years to pay publishers for content showcased on Google News Showcase. The agreement with France allows Google to negotiate individual licences whereby payment will be based on specific and measurable metrics.

Interestingly, Google launched the same product in Australia only this month – a move that signals a major softening of its position. The initial deals cover 25 mastheads, including the Canberra Times, the Illawarra Mercury, the Saturday Paper and Crikey. No deals were made with Australia’s major news outlets including Seven West, Nine, News Corp and the ABC.

Showcase puts publishers’ content in panels providing more information and content from news websites than is found in search results or snippets in Google News. This includes Google paying on behalf of the reader for any content published behind paywalls, allowing users access to content they wouldn’t be able to see unless they made a payment.

However, Google News Showcase doesn’t address the issue of users downloading content using a search engine. This is the major sticking point, with Google arguing organic search should remain a free commodity.

What’s next?

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee are expected to complete their inquiry and report back to Parliament this week. And with the Australian Government, and every major party, supportive of the Code, it is expected the legislation will continue through parliament in the coming months.

Despite the power of these digital behemoths, it is difficult to argue against policy that ensures news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate and helps to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.

The rest of the world will be watching.

Fake news and the COVID rumour mill

Accessing and sharing accurate content has never been more important in Western Australia as we navigate our second lockdown, an upcoming vaccine rollout and the state election in March. However, the ability to spread rumours on social media as quickly as facts means we all need to be careful about what we read and share online.

Digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter have increasingly become the primary tool for government to get its message out to the public without relying on traditional media channels. As we saw this week, this can be extremely effective in times of crisis when important information must be communicated quickly to an entire state.

Regardless of where you were on Sunday, whether you were out and about or in front of a television you would have known almost immediately through social media that most of WA’s population was about to go into lockdown following the first case of community spread of COVID-19 in almost 10 months. Through social media we were able to find out if we had visited the same places as the infected hotel quarantine guard and exactly where we could be tested if there had been any chance of contact.

The flipside is that this week, social media also allowed frightening and baseless rumours to run rife through the community. There were stories that although no new cases had been recorded by the time Premier Mark McGowan gave his press conference on Monday, up to 21 new cases were about to be declared.

Those with the correct information were quick to act on the rumours. Mr McGowan took to social media on Monday night to dispel them and remind people to only share news and information from official or trusted sources. The West Australian’s editor, Anthony De Ceglie, used a front-page editorial to help set the record straight and to remind people that if they did not read it in a proper news publication, then the information was probably inaccurate.

Unfortunately, this week’s rumours about new coronavirus cases are not isolated examples of inaccurate information being shared on social media in Western Australia. Spend long enough online and you will find countless examples of misinformation, whether deliberate or unintentional, about the coronavirus and more. It can be easy to be sucked in by some of this misinformation, particularly when you see that it’s been shared by a contact of yours. When you share it, you’re contributing to its spread, whether you mean to or not.

The best way to avoid spreading the problem is to watch the daily briefings by the Premier, Health Minister, and Chief Health Officer, which are hosted on various platforms. If there is anything you missed or you need more information visit official government websites such as Additionally, get your news from reputable organisations like The West Australian, WAToday, the ABC, and the major television and radio stations. Unlike social media platforms, traditional media organisations such as these are subject to regulations and codes of conduct, which makes them a more reliable source. Many of them may now be behind a paywall, but don’t let that put you off. A subscription is a small price to pay to be confident that your information is correct before you hit the share button.

Does your digital presence match your brand messaging?

The introduction of social media fundamentally changed the way brands, community groups and businesses interacted with their audiences.

Social media has quickly evolved from a person-to-person communication tool into an online advertising powerhouse. This evolution has allowed organisations to communicate directly with thousands of customers on a personal level, which had never been possible before. The flood of behind-the-scenes content and the rise of video advertising is a testament to that. 

However, therein lies the rub. By taking advantage of the freedoms that social media offers, an organisation can fall into the trap of communicating in a way it would never consider appropriate on any other channel, and one that may be inconsistent with its wider brand messaging.

This departure from brand messaging is rarely sudden, but rather a slow deviation that creates a confusing message and an eventual dilution of the brand.

Here are some of the most commonly seen missteps, which could lead to an organisation’s social media presence uncoupling from its brand.

  1. No clear brand messaging across the board.

This is one of the most commonly seen issues on social media, often in small businesses, where the disconnect in messaging comes from a poorly defined brand.

Without a clearly defined and integrated communications plan, there can be no way that a brand’s digital presence can be expected to remain consistent with messaging used across more traditional communication channels such as websites or press releases.

Communications plans need not be long and complicated documents, however they should contain certain key pieces of information to ensure that communication is clear and consistent. This information includes organisational goals and objectives, key messages, target audiences, and the brand’s position in the marketplace. As part of a communications plan, there should be a content calendar providing details on the type of content to be published on each channel, on what date, and to which audience.

  1. The ‘just throw it up on Facebook’ excuse.

Another commonly seen issue is when an organisation takes a piece of content that does not fit on any of their other communication channels, yet publishes it on social platforms, without asking the question as to whether it is providing value to their social media audience.

Not formal enough for the website? Throw it up on Facebook. Not quite long enough for a press release? Pop it on LinkedIn. It is seen time and time again and it is a guaranteed way to dilute a brand.

This issue further highlights the need for a communications plan. Spend some time to understand who your audience is and why you are communicating with them before pressing that post button.

  1. Set and forget mindset

A set and forget mindset is something that can damage a brand’s message in an instant.

A social media post, with the right image, message, and tone can be completely undone by posting it and then not monitoring it for performance and, most importantly, comments.

If nobody reviews previous posts for comments and overall sentiment, a few negative comments can suddenly derail the message. Add to that negative, or off-brand, Facebook shares and suddenly the best-intended post can land itself far off target.

Beyond that, in 2019 an Australian judge ruled that publishers are legally responsible for moderating comments on Facebook and can even be found responsible for defamatory comments that are allowed to stay visible.

Furthermore, if social media posts are not reviewed for performance such as shares, comments, and engagement it can make it difficult to identify that perhaps a post’s poor performance is due to a diluted or confusing brand message. 

Avoiding these common mistakes

While issues with social media messaging can be varied and wide-ranging, there are some simple ways in which a brand can tighten their messaging to ensure there is continuity across communication channels.

  1. Always have an integrated communications plan that identifies the communication objectives and provides examples of messaging to be used on different channels.
  2. Be prepared to say no to posting on social media. If the post doesn’t have a message that matches the brand, or if there isn’t a clear purpose for posting, the question needs to be asked as to whether it is needed.
  3. Monitor social media posts. While it can be time consuming, it is paramount that brands keep an eye on how their audiences are reacting to their posts before comments get out of hand.

Will Perth’s radio shuffle pay off in the ratings battle?

In the world of the ABC, which, being a public broadcaster, officially pays little heed to ratings, but unofficially keeps a keen eye on them, the 2019 experiment to make radical changes to their format by merging parts of the breakfast and morning programs and introducing the hour-long Focus program wasn’t a success, and the sliding ratings is most likely the impetus to quietly go back to the tried and tested regime of breakfast, mornings, afternoon and drive programs.

In radioland, the breakfast program is considered key in securing audiences for the rest of the morning’s programming. So with the declining ratings of the ABC’s Nadia Mitsopoulos/Russell Woolf program, things had to change. Interestingly, while the duo’s ratings floundered for most of the year, they staged a comeback in the final ratings survey of 2020, moving into second spot behind Nova 93.7 in the breakfast slot. However, the announcement the pair would be split up had already been made. Woolf is now flying solo in the breakfast slot, which suits his laid-back style, while Mitsopoulos takes on the harder news style of the morning program, which makes sense given her background as a political journalist.

The retirement of the ABC’s Gillian O’Shaughnessy from the afternoon program created an opportunity for new talent, with former weekend breakfast host Christine Layton taking over. Just about the only presenter not to join in the game of musical chairs was Geoff Hutchison, who slid into the Drive timeslot in the previous reshuffle after many years of presenting mornings. Despite some poor results during the year, his ratings increased in the final survey of 2020 to 6.7% of the market share, still almost a point behind his 6PR counterpart Oliver Peterson.

Speaking of 6PR, the elevation of breakfast host Basil Zempilas to Lord Mayor was one of the factors behind a shuffling of the decks at the commercial station. Basil moving over to 92.9 Triple M Breakfast (a revamped 92.9 going after 96fm’s radio share) solved two problems; 1. The accusations of a conflict of interest being Lord Mayor and on talk radio, and 2. Being a Channel 7 personality on a radio station owned by rival station Channel 9.

Basil’s departure left co-host Steve Mills without a partner. The most obvious choice would’ve been to leave Millsy to go it alone in the breakfast slot, but with the return to Perth of big gun Liam Bartlett, the whole line-up got a revamp. Mornings host Gareth Parker has made way for Bartlett, moving to Breakfast (not his natural habitat), while Millsy slides into the Afternoons chair, nudging current host Simon Beaumont into weekends. Once again, the Drive slot is the only one not to be drawn into the shuffle, with Oliver Peterson continuing in his role with consistent ratings.

The FM radio world wasn’t immune to the changes, either, with the retirement of 30-year veteran Dean Clairs making way for new talent in the breakfast slot at Mix 94.5, while at 92.9 Triple M, Basil is being joined in breakfast by the West’s assistant editor Jenna Clarke and Xavier Ellis. Clarke’s new position also means she won’t continue as host of the West Live podcast, which has been taken over by former Inside Cover columnist Ben O’Shea.

With all the presenters settling in behind their microphones, the only unknowns now are -what will the listeners think, and who will be the winners and losers in the first ratings survey of the year, due out on March 11.

Don’t take the bait - the dangers of careless clicking

If you live in WA and consume news, there’s a good chance you’ve engaged in a conversation about why former West Coast Eagle Ben Cousins’ indiscretions continue to make headlines.

The discussions tend to go like this; “The media should leave the poor bloke alone.” “This is not newsworthy.” “Why is Ben Cousins on the front page again?” 

Sound familiar? I don’t disagree with the above statements, but what I do object to, is the suggestion it is the media driving this content.

It’s pretty simple, the more we engage with Ben Cousins-type content, the more the media will deliver it.

Who can honestly say they haven’t watched, clicked on or read a story about Ben Cousins, even though they didn’t agree it was newsworthy? 

If you said no, you are either kidding yourself or you are in the minority. The media is being driven by the data. The data shows, Ben Cousins stories rate high.

Every time you watch, read or comment on a story online, or buy a paper with Mr Cousins on the front page, data is being collected.

Every little engagement, be it negative or positive, will only encourage more coverage.

So, what power do you have if you don’t agree with what the media is focusing its resources on? Perhaps consider the best complaint is silence.

By silence, I mean try adopting a conscious consumption mindset.

The saying ‘vote with your wallet’ is when consumers choose brands that align with their values, to support good behaviour and ethics.

I’ve begun embracing this idea in my news consumption by intentionally choosing what I engage in, to hopefully influence what is produced. Unfortunately, just like with consumer brands there needs to be a serious shift in public behaviour for it to make a difference.

The same can be said for clickbait articles. There is no denying media is influenced by ‘click’ targets.

They’re a bit like KPIs in the workplace, where employees focus their efforts to ensure success. This is what can happen with journalists and clickbait, which could ultimately be detrimental to the quality of news produced.

If journalists are motivated by these targets, they could put more emphasis on the trivial stories over those with more depth, resulting in more resources going to ‘the cat up a tree story’ over an investigative piece about the corruption at the local council.

Unfortunately, the more we click, the more demand created, which is forcing reputable organisations such as the ABC to follow suit.  

There is in fact a science behind clickbait, the headlines play on our emotions like anger, fear, and excitement, and even though we know we are being manipulated it’s sometimes irresistible. Digital algorithms don’t help the situation either by catering the clickbait specifically to you.

Occasionally we all need a little clickbait escape, but going back to my original point, if you make this a habit, just like with the ‘Ben Cousins effect’, you’ll get the media you deserve.

My advice; start consciously clicking on what you want to see more of and stop clicking on the news you don’t.

My favourite ways to consume news:

  • The Australian digital version
  • The West Australian digital version
  • ABC 720 Perth: AM at 8am
  • The Guardian
  • World news:
  • Perth ABC TV at 7:00pm
  • Scroll through all local TV Perth news bulletins online via catchup services

Meet the new leader of the WA Opposition

Member for Dawesville Zak Kirkup will lead the WA Liberals to the next election in March 2021 after being elected party leader unopposed on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old is the youngest person to hold the position within the party, taking the title from Matt Birney, who was 35 when he became leader in 2001. He is the second-youngest Opposition leader in WA’s history, after Labor’s Thomas Bath, who took on the job in 1906 at the age of 31.

Mr Kirkup’s political aspirations have been clear since he was 17, when he handed then-prime minister John Howard a business card with the words ‘Zak R.F. Kirkup, Young Liberal, Future Prime Minister’ printed on it during a 2004 appearance at Midland Town Hall while Mr Kirkup was a student at Governor Stirling Senior High School.

During his maiden speech, Mr Kirkup said his interest in politics stemmed from early childhood when his mother, who was a member of Greenpeace, would sit at the kitchen table and talk about protesting nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, while his father would quiz him about prime ministers, premiers and treasurers.

Coming from a working-class background, Mr Kirkup became the first of his family to attend university. However, as he said in his maiden speech, it wasn’t for him, so he left to pursue a career in politics, volunteering in several positions before taking a position with the late senator Judith Adams.

He began working for the WA Liberal Party in 2006 and rose through the ranks to become the youngest ever Deputy State Director before serving as an advisor to Premier Colin Barnett.

Taking a break from politics in 2013 to work at BGC, Mr Kirkup was elected to the seat of Dawesville in the 2017 election, replacing retiring MP Kim Hames. Following his election, he used his maiden speech to highlight the need for Western Australia to diversify its economy beyond the agricultural and resources sectors, and for government to accommodate emerging industries.

Mr Kirkup used the same speech to reflect on the historical treatment of Indigenous West Australians, stating that it was “worth noting that we are standing in the very place that voted in favour of a series of oppressive and draconian pieces of legislation that sought to restrict and oppress the rights of all Aboriginal people” including members of his family. In 1904, his ancestor Thomas Kirkup was forbidden by the Geraldton magistrate to marry his fiancée because he did not have the consent of the Chief Protector of Aborigines. Mr Kirkup’s grandfather Brian, an Aboriginal man born in WA’s Midwest in 1941, was unable to own property or a business for much of his life. Mr Kirkup said the recognition of his family’s history would continue to remind him that the position of a Member of Parliament was to “forever to guard against the infringement of personal rights and freedoms”.

Within a year of being elected he had become the shadow minister for corrective services and in 2019 he was assigned shadow portfolios in health, mental health and Aboriginal affairs.

Upon Mr Kirkup’s first front bench appointment, then-opposition leader Mike Nahan described him as “energetic and hard-working”. Other colleagues have described Mr Kirkup’s time as an MP as “impressive” and talk about his future leadership potential began as early as last year when Mr Nahan announced his resignation as party leader.

In his first statements to reporters after being elected Opposition leader, Mr Kirkup said the WA Liberals would support the McGowan Government’s COVID-19 health measures and that the party would be guided by advice from the Chief Health Officer. Moving beyond the pandemic, Mr Kirkup said his other focuses would be keeping West Australians “safe in their jobs” as he promised a “smarter and safer today, and brighter and better tomorrow”.

Mr Kirkup’s election as Opposition leader came after Liza Harvey announced she would step down to give the party an opportunity to “reset” its election strategy.

Community engagement and a controlled border

This is the year where the phrase ‘change is the only constant’ took on a whole new meaning. Every aspect of our lives has been impacted in some way by COVID-19, and as we embark on our ‘new normal’ here in Western Australia with the introduction of the controlled border, let’s take stock of what this means for community engagement.

Traditionally, community engagement has been very much a physical endeavour. Best practice dictated that community groups, reference groups and committees were brought together around issues to debate, guide and provide feedback.

Honestly, is there anything better than real grassroots community engagement where passionate members of the community come together, the private sector listens, and together a real difference is made in the community? More often than not, this is achieved by sitting in a circle in a community hall, using an abundance of post-it notes and drinking lots of coffee.

At the height of the pandemic, we had to innovate and use methods that avoided social interaction. Far from being a diluted version of best practice, this move to digital platforms opened up a whole world of accessibility, and dare I say it, accountability.

Yes, a Zoom or Teams reference group might not be quite as engaging as a face-to-face meeting. Still, it has enabled people from anywhere, and with commitments that would previously have prevented them from participating to take part and have a say – which at the end of the day is what it’s all about. Community members were also provided with access to council meetings and other deliberations that yes, they could have physically attended before, but how many people have the time?

Last week marked seven months with no community transmission in WA, and this weekend our hard border turned into a controlled border with health screening and COVID testing, as well as no quarantine measures in place for interstate travellers from TAS, QLD, SA, ACT and NT. Although, as quickly as the controlled border went live, an outbreak in South Australia meant that quarantine measures were reintroduced, emphasising the uncertainty that our new normal brings.

Everyone will have their view on the controlled border, but as community practitioners, the most important thing we can do is understand the mood of the public and ensure that whatever method we choose to use to engage, we make them feel comfortable so they continue to provide their invaluable feedback. Let’s remember that the ‘community’ is also not a homogenous group. Vulnerable groups such as the elderly may be particularly concerned, and digital methods may not be their preference so putting ourselves in the shoes of the community will continue to be important.

Some things to consider:

  • Revisit your COVID-Safe plans in light of the new environment;
  • Things may change rapidly, be prepared to adapt and evolve quickly;
  • Hybrid engagement may be a good option, providing in-person and digital alternatives; and
  • Maintain physical distancing where possible, encourage good hygiene (always bring hand sanitizer) and encourage participants to stay home if they’re unwell.

Whatever the next phase of this pandemic holds, we need to ensure that communities continue to have their say over decisions that affect their lives. As they say, never waste a crisis, and when it comes to community engagement, we may look back at 2020 and see it as a time when the need for innovation led to a more accessible and highly responsive new normal – which I believe can only be a good thing.

The many faces of successful stories

So, you have a great story and you’re ready to pitch it to the media. You’ve checked all your facts, written your media release and got your spokesperson lined up. But the first question a journalist is likely to ask isn’t about any of that. What they’ll want to know is: have you got a case study?

News organisations ask for case studies (i.e. ‘real people’) for one main reason: they know that most of the time for a story to truly engage their audience, they must be able to relate to it on some level. And the fact is that people don’t relate to facts; they relate to people.

Having a ‘face’ of the story you’re trying to tell can make it far more powerful than all the beautifully crafted words or meticulously checked facts, or even articulate organisational spokespeople. A case study can tell a story in a personal way that audiences can connect to, often in very different ways. Your case study could act as an inspiration, or a warning, they could highlight the human impact of an issue, or pull at the audience’s heart strings.

Case studies can also be used to illustrate and interpret complex information in a way that audiences can understand. Take the state budget as an example. It’s a huge document filled with an overwhelming amount of numbers. If the media were to simply list all these figures in a story, audiences would switch off pretty fast. Instead, publications like The West Australian use real people in different financial situations to highlight how the numbers translate into real effects, which readers can then relate to themselves.

If your story doesn’t have a case study, you’re potentially missing out on communicating with the audience in a way they can understand; through a shared human experience. Having a ‘real person’ to talk about how the facts and figures in your media release actually affected their lives, their family, their health or their finances sends a powerful message in an authentic way. Real people are likely to be perceived by audiences as unbiased because they’re not trying to sell anything; they’re just talking about their experience. And while audiences would expect your organisation’s spokesperson to talk up your story, it carries more weight if the endorsement comes from a third party. Case studies aren’t usually media trained, they don’t repeat key messages and they may not be eloquent, but they are often the one part of a story that makes it real.

But while most organisations are happy to ask their clients to take part in a media story about a positive experience, they don’t feel comfortable asking people who have had a difficult or traumatic experience, even if they have been helped through it by the organisation. Generally, this is because the organisation is trying to protect them and to respect their privacy. And while these are very valid reasons not to ask, the point they could be missing is that some people who have been through a difficult situation actually want to share their story. Time after time in my role as a media advisor, I speak to really brave people who are willing to share their experience, and in difficult situations the reason is often the same; they want to warn others about what happened to them, so that other people don’t have to go through the same thing. Naturally, assisting people in delicate situations requires caution from your organisation, but there are many steps that can be taken to ensure the talent is comfortable and supported in talking to the media.

Of course, there are some stories where it is not appropriate to give the media access to a case study. Stories which affect disadvantaged or very vulnerable people, or children, or which could have legal implications may carry too great a risk for the person involved. In these cases, it may be possible to quote your case study anonymously, or your organisation’s spokesperson may choose to speak on their behalf.

But the next time your organisation has a story to tell, it’s at least worth considering whether you can find someone to tell it with you. It may give your story the impact news organisations are looking for.

A roadmap for building social licence

The freight industry is critical to our economy, and our reliance on efficient logistics has never been more evident. But as our reliance on freight increases, so does the need for road, rail, ports and other infrastructure – potentially resulting in community pressure on all levels of government to impose restrictions on freight operations.

The road industry has recognised this threat and, through its peak body Austroads, commissioned Level 5 Design in collaboration with CGM to develop a best-practice approach to road freight and communities. The model developed looks at ways to work with community stakeholders to understand their concerns, and then to engage with the community around the significance and value of freight.

What we found through an analysis of case studies and extensive research of the literature was that the community’s tacit agreement for the freight industry to operate was critical and relied on an unwritten agreement between community and industry, in which communities support projects if they confer local and broader benefits, also known as a ‘social licence to operate’.

CGM used our understanding of social licence, refined through our extensive public campaign experience, and the IAP2 approach to engagement to develop a roadmap for building community acceptance and support for road, freight and infrastructure projects that could be catered to a state, regional and local audience.

The objectives of these campaigns were to raise awareness of the importance of an efficient freight industry to the broader economy, and to develop an understanding of how this improved the quality of life for individuals and communities. 

Of course, all communities potentially impacted by infrastructure projects now have convenient access to project information through the internet, resulting in heightened awareness of how these projects may affect them. Social media provides a medium for concerned stakeholders to connect, form interest groups and mobilise against projects. This also provides the ability for people directly affected by a project to mobilise support outside of their geographical area and communities. According to a PwC report, a lack of understanding of digital culture and engagement is the biggest challenge for the industry.

Consider the “Rethink the Link” movement in opposition to Roe 8. This movement used online campaigning and environmental messaging to mobilise opposition well beyond the local community. Numerous protest groups mobilised to oppose the project, and the campaign was successful at pushing opposition for the project onto the state political agenda.

At the core of our proposed approach is genuine engagement. Any proposed local infrastructure project should first involve engaging with local constituents and audiences to understand their issues, identify opportunities, and address matters that emerge.

It is not just about listening, governments should be prepared to consider adjusting the scope or details of a project in response to identified community concerns. The CGM model also outlines a process to identify and involve stakeholders in message testing and content, to ensure communication has support and buy-in from the community.

Using our model, the resultant campaign should provide a suite of options that best works with the relevant community to communicate the importance of freight and how it addresses the specific concerns of that community. 

CGM believes this best-practice model has the flexibility to be used for effective communication and community engagement campaigns for a range of infrastructure projects – not just roads.

Our complete report is available on the Austroads website.

Please note that an interactive webinar is scheduled for 10am, Thursday November 26. Please sign up by following this link Webinar: Best-Practice Approaches to Road Freight and Communities.

Your guide to the US election

To help you make sense of what promises to be the most turbulent election count in recent US history, here are the vital questions to consider as the results roll in.

  1. Are the polls wrong again?

Since 2016, most serious pollsters have gone to a lot of effort to ensure the white, working-class voters they missed in 2016 state-based polls are fully represented in their samples.

These corrections delivered a high degree of polling accuracy at the 2018 midterms. Will this accuracy be reflected in the presidential election? We won’t know until the votes are counted.

  1. Will Biden’s advantage with suburban women hold?

When the Democrats swept to a House majority at the 2018 midterm elections, it was on the back of white, mainly female suburban voters who voted for Trump in 2016 but were repelled by the President’s personal style and strongly opposed his efforts to repeal ‘Obamacare’. But the question is: are they also voting for Biden? Current polling suggests they are and that many COVID-scared seniors are joining them.

  1. Will African Americans come back to the polls?

Will the death of George Floyd, the President’s divisive rhetoric and the energy of the Black Lives Matter movement generate a surge in turnout among African Americans, bringing voters who stayed home at the post-Obama 2016 election back to the polls? While polling suggests African American voters aren’t supporting Biden at the same level as they supported Clinton, early voting patterns point to a higher turnout and a likely net benefit to the Democrats.

  1. Can Trump increase white working-class turnout?

The core objective of Trump’s re-election strategy appears to be to increase the historically low turnout among his white, non-college educated, culturally conservative base, who represent the largest voting demographic in the US.  But, can he do it?  If he does, he may surprise us again. If not, he’s toast.

  1. Will record levels of early voting help or hurt Trump?

The laws of arithmetic suggest the record number of early votes cast will make it more difficult for Trump to turn things around in the final days. However, it is likely the small number of undecided voters that remain have not yet voted and might still be swayed.  Interestingly, there are a handful of states that allow early voters to vote again, if they change their mind, including the key swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin.

  1. What will be the impact of voter suppression strategies?

We know that state-based Republican lawmakers have introduced stricter photo-ID requirements that have made it difficult for less advantaged, mostly Democrat, citizens to enrol. But voter suppression can take a variety of forms. Will Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power demoralise voters? Will Trump’s calls for his supporters to keep an eye out for voter fraud intimidate voters? Will Trump’s new Supreme Court majority support Republican challenges to early voting? Be sure that restricting the number of Democrat votes being cast and counted is a key part of Trump’s strategy.

  1. What about Trump’s rallies?

Trump’s rallies are designed to motivate his supporters to turn out on election day, but don’t assume they are the full story on voter enthusiasm. The most recent polling on enthusiasm suggests voters on both sides are more fired up than they were in 2016, with Democrat voters leading on enthusiasm at similar levels as they did in 2008. And we know what happened then.

  1. Which state results will we know the soonest?

Among the swing states, Florida and North Carolina are the jurisdictions likely to report their full results on election night, with postal votes having to be received by election day and systems set up to process early votes prior to election day. We may also have a good idea about what is happening in Arizona and Georgia.

If it’s revealed on election night that Trump has lost one or more of these, it will be difficult for him from there.

  1. Which states will keep us waiting for results?

The key mid-western swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan will be receiving and counting ballots for up to two weeks past election day.

With postal votes expected to favour Democrats, take a wait-and-see approach to results on the night. Unless, of course, Trump ends the night behind, in which case, it is hard to see him winning.

The critical state here is Pennsylvania, with most analysts downgrading the overall chances of both candidates if they don’t bring this state home. This is why Trump has been camped in this state since the debate, trying to convince voters Biden poses a risk to the state’s petroleum industry, and why the Democrats have been focusing so heavily on “backup” states like North Carolina, Florida, Arizona and Georgia.

  1. What are other Republicans saying on the night?

Should Trump lose, the battle will be on for the future of the Republican party between those who have enjoyed Trump’s patronage and the traditional conservatives who used to control the party. If this battle breaks out during the count, it is likely that Republicans believe Trump is losing.

  1. Will Trump run again?

Will a defeated Trump declare his candidacy for 2024? Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon thinks so. Either way, Trump is unlikely to go quietly into the night as former presidents have done before him, with continued speculation about him establishing his own news network and commercialising his loyal base of political supporters.

The verdict

While predicting elections can be a fool’s errand, I am ready to make a call.  In my view, America is thoroughly exhausted, the polling is more accurate this time and the lead Biden has enjoyed all year will be too much for Trump to overcome. If all the votes are counted, this episode of ‘the greatest show’ will end with Joe Biden becoming the 46th President of the United States.

A picture is worth a thousand pitches

When Facebook first started, most posts were text-based status updates or posts on people’s wall.

With the increased availability of smartphones with cameras, it became easier for people to share photos and those that did got much more attention, sending text-only posts into the dustbin of digital history.

In 2015, when photos were well-established as the prominent post type on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg predicted that video was going to be the future.

These days, it’s extremely rare to see any post on Facebook without either a photo or a video accompanying it. Visuals are no longer optional if you’re trying to not only catch and hold people’s attention on social media, but get them to engage with your post.

This principle also applies to a news media strategy. A picture is still worth a thousand words, and good quality visuals can instantly communicate a story in a way even a perfectly crafted media release can’t. The visuals you provide as part of a pitch to a media organisation can be the difference between your story getting picked up or left to languish in a journalist’s inbox.

The use of the word ‘provide’ is key here because gone are the days when organisations pitching their stories to media could rely on newsrooms to consistently provide a photographer or a cameraperson to get vision.

To increase your chance of getting media coverage you need to ensure you have visuals available and later on I’ll share some easy principles to improve photos as a starting point.

Organisations need to take more than a tick-box approach to visuals and should start thinking of what images could accompany a story as soon as they start putting it together rather than scrambling to arrange something at the last minute.

As an example, if it’s a new or proposed property development, consider hiring a drone operator to fly over the land and give a better sense of space.

If it’s a program or service you want to promote, then secure a case study who is happy to be the face of the story and set up a photo shoot.

Not all organisations with media needs will have the budget to hire or employ a professional photographer/videographer but the good news is that most modern smartphones can take a passable photo if five principles are considered:

  1. Lighting – when organising a photo outside, try to avoid the middle of the day when the sun will be directly overhead and cast unflattering shadows on people. If you’re shooting inside, be careful not to have the subject directly in front of a window or you’ll cast their face/s into shadow and the photo won’t be useable.
  2. Framing – although portrait videos and photos are becoming more commonplace with the use of smartphones, landscape is still the best format for newspapers and other traditional outlets.
  3. Selfies – while they are fine for a personal social media page, they should be avoided at all costs when taking photos for professional purposes.
  4. Flash – while the use of flash by professional photographers can bring an image to life, the built-in flash on a smartphone will only make a photo look worse and should also be avoided.
  5. Background – put some thought into what the background of your photo will be and try to shoot in a location that relates in some way to the context of the story you are trying to pitch.

These are just some of the steps that organisations can take to provide appropriate visuals with media releases without breaking the bank.

It might seem like a lot of work but putting in the effort to supply visuals can have multiple benefits.

Even if the journalist or news outlet doesn’t deem your visuals of high enough quality, even a low-quality photo can demonstrate the potential visuals that could accompany a story and will increase the likelihood of the in-house photographer being assigned to the story.

Even if the story is not picked up by the media, having invested in visuals means you already have something to post on your own social media channels.

Ultimately, visuals are only one part of the process of getting media coverage – if an important one.

For more on enhancing media releases, see my colleague Rebecca Munro’s eight tips on the subject from last week’s edition of CGM Voice.

Eight tips to get the most out of your media release

Research suggests 70 per cent of reporters spend less than a minute reading each press release they receive to determine if it’s newsworthy.

When I worked on the chief of staff desk during my television news days, I was responsible for making a decision on whether or not a press release was newsworthy; I could usually tell in the first paragraph.

In today’s media climate of shrinking newsrooms and amalgamating newspapers, it is even harder to have your story told in the media. The way people consume news is changing and when it comes to writing a media release you need to adapt to that change.

Don’t get me wrong; a media release should have all the right ‘corporate’ messaging but there needs to be a balance of newsworthiness if you want it to cut through.

As a media advisor, I’ll admit there are challenges in attracting a journalist’s interest. For those who aren’t used to dealing with the media, it can be intimidating, and it gets confusing when trying to navigate who to send what to and when.

Understandably organisations want their releases to focus on strengths and to use them as a form of promotion. Unfortunately (for a journalist) sometimes a by-product of this is a heavily worded, jargon crammed advertisement.

But instead of giving up and opting to publish on your socials, there are a few easy tips to follow, to help you get the desired result from your media release.

Tip one: use clear, concise and interesting language. Journalists don’t have time to decipher convoluted copy. Corporate jargon may make sense to you but if a journalist doesn’t understand what you are trying to say in the first paragraph they will likely move on.

Tip two: find a news angle and lead with it in your headline. Think human interest, uniqueness or community impact. The press release needs to have relevance to your journalist’s audience. For instance, if you were attempting to promote your organisation’s new managing director, a community audience would be more interested in what changes they will bring to the community, rather than who they are or where they have come from.

Tip three: be available. It’s very frustrating for journalists when they receive a media release and can’t pick up the phone and ask follow-up questions soon after the release is sent out. Have a spokesperson on stand-by ready to go. This is also important if you want your message out on radio or TV.

Tip four: pay attention to each organisation’s news cycle. Sending a proactive media release to dozens of generic newsroom emails close to deadline is unlikely to be a successful strategy. Instead try targeting an individual journalist the day before you want the story to run.

Tip five: it sounds obvious, but news needs to be new. If it has already been covered, consider your unique point of difference. Have you got a perspective that reveals something new and adds to the conversation?

Tip six: include quotes. Journalists sometimes find it easier to use quotes straight from your release rather than an interview but make sure they are interesting and easy to understand.

Tip seven: have a delivery strategy. Could you offer it as an exclusive? Journalists want to be the first to break a story. Offering them a scoop could be the difference between your story being on the front page or buried in the back.

Tip eight: have you thought about accompanying visuals? We live in a digital era. Journalists want their story to go viral. This is especially important for television journalists, who can’t tell their story without pictures.

At the end of the day, mainstream media is unpredictable but a well written media release with a strong strategy behind it is far more likely to get you the coverage you desire.

Big government, money printing and you

With the Morrison Government projecting Australia’s largest ever budget deficits, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the economic and political landscape.

Central to this vastly changed environment is the expanded role government is now playing in our lives.

While the most visible aspects to date of this “bigger government” have been in the areas of health restrictions and income support, there are likely to be two more lasting changes.

Each of these present significant opportunities for industry, particularly for businesses who maintain strong relationships with government.

First, a near political consensus has emerged that supports significant deficit and debt to stimulate the economy.

The traditional left has always supported deficit spending in times of recession, but the progressive left’s growing support for Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) takes this a step further. At its core, MMT holds that sovereign governments should spend in pursuit of full employment, only slowing down when inflationary pressures emerge.  Budget deficits are seen as irrelevant, as sovereign governments, through their central banks, can create (print) as much money as they want.

Indeed, some argue that the Reserve Bank of Australia is already financing deficits and debt in Australia, with the RBA currently purchasing Commonwealth and state treasury bonds on the secondary market with “printed” money.

As we move to the right, support for stimulatory spending from government is linked to historically low interest rates.  For decades, central banks have reduced interest rates when they have sought to stimulate the economy.  Now, with this lever fully pulled, they have no room to move. And, with the cost of borrowing to governments effectively zero (negative, in some cases), there has never been a more affordable time for governments to borrow and stimulate.

What this consensus means for industry is more infrastructure projects going to market, more funds for industry development and R&D, more programs to stimulate exports, more programs to attract tourists, and so on.

The opportunities for businesses who stay close to government, help shape policy directions and respond to the directions set by government will be immense.

The second set of opportunities lie in the recognition by governments that they cannot do it alone. They need the support of industry to drive economic recovery, and they are keen to unlock the relatively strong balance sheets (compared to the post-GFC period) of corporates to do so.

This means going above and beyond to encourage private sector investment, whether that be through the streamlining of approvals processes, the encouragement of market-led proposals from industry or, dare I say it, picking winners through financial incentives.

There has never been a more prospective time for industry to be monitoring a rapidly changing regulatory environment for opportunities to progress projects that may have stalled. And there has never been a better time for industry to approach government with well-formed ideas to drive economic activity and job creation.

The COVID-19 crisis has been tough, if not devastating, for many businesses and the people they employ. But, with the focus of Australian governments shifting to economic recovery and their pockets deepening, there will be significant opportunities for many within industry, particularly those with strong relationships and a strong understanding of government.

With the role of government in our lives and economy set to remain enlarged for some time to come, now is the time for industry to tool up on their government relations functions, get ahead of the game and make the most of the opportunities the current economic crisis presents.

Given the size of the economic recovery task in front of us, the Morrison Government, and all of our state and territory governments, need us to.

CEOs and their brands – a relationship built on passion and planning

In an era of global economies, more than ever before, companies are intrinsically linked with the people that run them, and CEOs can be their best (or worst) brand ambassadors.

So, why should companies consider increasing the profile of their CEOs? Is the risk worth the reward? Advancing corporate responsibility initiatives, delivering industry and policy reform, progressing business priorities and bolstering the brand are all excellent reasons. In today's world, being a faceless organisation in a community can come at a cost, with reputation and loyalty becoming more difficult to establish and maintain during the ebbs and flows of business. Whereas a local face and identity can add real value to your brand – and your bottom line.

The public wants to see action on things they care about, and they believe it is the role of business to lead from the front on significant social and industry issues. It's not enough to fly under the radar. However, there are risks, and having a position on a societal issue can be polarising if the position taken isn’t authentic and overwhelmingly supported by both the business and the Board.

Consumers and employees alike want to know whether they believe in what the CEO stands for. By positively contributing to the overall brand identity, the CEO can help build a more personal relationship that will help them through the good and not so good times.

So, what should leaders, or anyone who wants to raise their profile, consider?

Passion is the most crucial ingredient when it comes to profile raising. Unless a CEO is personally invested in either the issues they are championing, or building their profile – the task is near impossible. Authenticity needs to be at the core of the proposition, and if a leader is not personally invested and just going through the motions then this can be spotted from a mile off, doing more damage than good.

Find a niche and repeat, repeat, repeat. The magic combination of relevance, timeliness and authority will help identify topics and issues that make the most sense to champion. A CEO needs to be able to speak with authority on the topic, but unless it's part of public conversation at that time, it will fall on deaf ears. Alan Joyce is an excellent example of a leader who is intrinsically linked with a household brand.

As a leader in business, he's quite rightly taken a stand on several issues. One issue that he was particularly passionate about was marriage equality. Mr Joyce, who is openly gay, threw his weight and the weight of Qantas behind the Yes campaign. Although Mr Joyce was subject to both positive and negative publicity due to his position on marriage equality, he used his profile effectively to urge other business leaders not to be silent. Passion, relevance, timeliness and authority – the perfect combination.

When building your plan, there are so many opportunities available to you. Host an industry roundtable, petition Government, campaign on social media, bring community members together, sponsor relevant initiatives, use a keynote to make a point or write an op-ed. Ideally, do all of the above. Whatever the method, it's not enough for leaders to only have a position on a topic anymore. Actions speak louder than words and beliefs, and the public want to see concrete examples of actions being taken on issues that matter to them.

Finally, building the brand through personal profile raising doesn't have to be the sole domain of a CEO or managing director. If appropriate, map out topics and opportunities for executive or non-executive directors to help progress business and social priorities. But make sure that messaging and activities are coordinated and complementary at all times.

Mr Joyce summed it up nicely during the marriage equality campaign, "I think corporate Australia, if it's to fix the reputation it has out there, needs to be vocal on social issues. That's what good businesses do. They are part of society, they help promote societal change, and help promote what's good for our people.”

Reflecting on listening

Most of us would’ve had conversations with someone who is not listening, with the result often being a communication breakdown. We are all probably guilty of not concentrating, drifting off, cutting people off mid-sentence, talking over the top of people and listening only to respond, rather than listening to truly understand what the other person is saying.

As a journalist, listening is a skill that is developed through necessity. Being a good interviewer is based on being a good listener. It’s your job to ask succinct questions, properly listen to and concentrate on the answers, understand and process the information and then use that information to formulate your next question. An interview where a journalist sticks to a set of pre-written questions does not make compelling viewing (or listening). Because interviews are recorded or listened to live, it’s immediately apparent if a journalist isn’t listening properly because they misunderstand basic information or ask questions that the talent has already answered.

Working in the corporate world, listening to your colleagues, customers and clients is just as important. To have really good communication, you might want to practice the skill that has now been dubbed ‘reflective listening’. Reflective listening is basically listening to what the other person has to say, and then repeating it back to them. Yes, it’s used in counselling, but it can also be applied in the workplace. Wikipedia defines it as ‘an attempt to reconstruct what the person is thinking and feeling and to relay this understanding back to them’. This can often be started with the phrase “So what I’ve just heard you say is…”

Five tips for reflective listening:

  • Ask succinct questions that don’t offer an opinion or suggestions for how the person should answer.
  • Listen quietly – don’t interrupt, wait for the person to completely finish speaking.
  • Concentrate on everything that’s said, and take notes.
  • Understand and remember the main points and language.
  • Feed the points back to them using the specific words they’ve used without adding your own values or judgements.

The benefit of reflective listening is that the person feels like they’ve really been heard and understood. Conversely, if you’ve misunderstood what they’ve said, it gives them the chance to clarify what they mean straight away. Hearing their words come back to them can also assist individuals to get really clear on what they mean and gives them the opportunity to change the language they’re using to pinpoint their true intention.

Reflective listening also has benefits for the person asking the questions. It allows you to really understand what your colleague, customer or client is saying, improves your communication and relationship, and ultimately, helps you respond to what they really want so that you provide them with a better service.

Focus groups: four tips to get them right

The most important aspect of any political, behavioural change or community campaign is to know your audience. The challenge is to know them well.

Advancements in surveying and polling technology have made gathering quantitative data more accessible than ever, and these are useful tools to understand things like brand awareness and perception, the important local issues, and voting preferences. That’s knowing your audience and that’s valuable to any campaign.

But to know your audience well you’ve got to delve deeper, and that’s where qualitative data that can only be gathered by more nuanced and dialogue-driven approaches like focus groups come in.

A focus group is a small group discussion involving up to a dozen people, led by a professional moderator. Groups could be made up of undecided voters or people that fit the demographic profile of a target audience, such as members of a community where a major development is proposed, for example.

Focus groups offer campaigners and communications strategists an opportunity to hear the unfiltered, unbiased opinions of your target audience. It’s not just about what issues are important or ranking the importance from a pre-approved list of issues (sometimes limited by the campaign’s or organisation’s biases), but how people feel about the issues, how people talk about the issues, and how people respond to messages and campaign material about the issues.

That’s knowing your audience well.

To get the most out of your focus groups, there are four things to consider:

  • 1) Select your participants carefully

If your focus group isn’t representative of your target audience, then you’re unlikely to collect valuable insights. Some panels are full of self-selecting, regular focus group attendees – the ‘professionally opinionated’ – that may not be in tune with your target audience. While it will often be more expensive, steer towards randomly sampled participants, potentially screened through a preliminary survey to ensure they genuinely reflect your target audience, whether that be geographical, demographic, behavioural or attitudinal criteria. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out”. Select your participants carefully up front and you’ll set yourself up for meaningful insights.

  • 2) Trust your researchers

If you’ve chosen the right research partner, you will be working with a skilled and experienced professional, who has recruited, facilitated and analysed many focus groups, across a broad range of issues, involving thousands of participants over time.

Trust them. The researcher’s job is to manage a conversation that delivers on your research objectives. Be clear on what you want from the focus group, then let the researcher determine how best to get that information from the group.

  • 3) Listen and question

If you’re provided with the opportunity to view or listen to the focus group, pay close attention. Focus groups offer a unique opportunity to probe the ‘shades of grey’ of an issue, and the value is in the smaller details. How do people react when they first hear your case or see your advertisement or mail piece? How do they justify that response to others in the group? Why do they think a certain way about an issue? Do they change their position when presented with more information? What language and vocabulary do they use to describe the issue at hand?

However, you should also question the conclusions you draw from observing your focus group. Remember, you arrive with your own biases and theories and you should be careful not to be overly receptive to evidence that supports these. Instead, take notes, then discuss these with your researcher after the session.

  • 4) The more, the better

Early focus groups can provide you with social, economic, market or political insights to help you shape a strategy and message that you can be confident in from the outset. If your budget allows, further focus groups over the life of the campaign can provide valuable information to help you tweak strategy and messaging, as well as determine whether the campaign is meeting its objectives.

If your campaign has an opponent, or opposing views are being expressed to your messaging, mid-campaign focus groups can also help you test responses to opposing arguments.

CGM has extensive experience in managing focus group programs on behalf of our clients. We always recommend a research-driven approach to campaign strategy, including focus groups where appropriate and where a campaign’s budget permits. Campaigns that intend to invest significant resources into getting their message out should also invest in ensuring their message is effective with their target audience. Without research, messaging can be ineffective, at best, and do more harm than good, at worst.

While focus groups can require a significant investment of time and resources, it’s worth it. Know your audience well and you’ll set your campaign up for ultimate success.

Market-led Proposals and the second wave of economic recovery

While the priority of the State Government remains to keep West Australians safe during the health crisis, it is clear that more and more resources are being put into planning and executing our economic recovery.

Private sector investment will be critical to driving WA’s recovery, particularly as the infrastructure projects and smaller ‘shovel-ready’ initiatives the government is funding in its first wave of economic recovery reach completion.

Recent reforms to planning and environmental approvals are encouraging private sector proponents, who rightly interpret this as the government seeking to encourage investment and job creation.

Changes made to the State Government’s Market-led Proposals (MLP) framework over the past six months are also seen as highly encouraging, having the potential to drive innovation, as well as a second wave of investment and jobs throughout our economic recovery.

But industry believes there are opportunities to make the MLP policy even more effective.

More on that later.

To bring you up to speed, the McGowan Government introduced its MLP policy in March 2019, delivering on an election commitment designed to “create a clear, consistent and transparent process to manage unsolicited proposals from the private sector that fall outside of the normal competitive process”.

As the COVID-19 crisis took hold in March 2020, the government announced changes to the policy to align it with the recovery focus areas of health, economic and infrastructure, social, industry and regional WA.

The changes also included the introduction of a first-mover advantage, which would provide a pathway for proponents to retain a right of last refusal in the event that the government determined that a proposal didn’t meet the strict IP, ownership or single supplier criteria for exclusive negotiation.

In this event, the government would likely test the market, with the original proponent provided the first-mover advantage of being able to match a more competitive bid or receive a bid premium of between 10 and 20 per cent.

In August, the Premier and Treasurer announced the introduction of problem and opportunity statements, which are designed to “provide focused opportunities for industry to respond with innovative solutions that stimulate the economy and create jobs for Western Australians”.

A small number of problem and opportunity statements have been released since, focusing on areas as diverse as carbon farming, prison industries and PPE manufacturing.

The State Government’s evolving MLP policy has been welcomed by industry as a significant improvement on the ineffective unsolicited bid process that existed previously.

However, as indicated above, industry sees opportunities for further enhancements.

Two potential changes have been floated, with a view to driving private sector investment and job creation during the COVID recovery period.

In May, an idea was put forward (read here) to relax the requirement for a proponent to demonstrate that its proposal is “unique’” or “not market standard” – a requirement that some proponents struggled with, and one which they were required to meet to gain access to the MLP process and the exclusive negotiation and first-mover pathways it offered.

It was suggested that the uniqueness test be relaxed, so that proponents who could demonstrate that their proposal was in the long-term interest of the WA economy, or could provide a short-term employment benefit, could access the MLP pathways.

More recently, a second, and potentially more contentious, change floated involves the suspension of the requirements to qualify for exclusive negotiation.  Advocates argue that it would drive innovation and investment by encourage more IP-protective proponents to engage with government.  Critics argue it could deliver sub-optimal outcomes, with fewer projects subject to market testing, and be potentially more difficult to manage from a probity perspective.

It is in the interests of the State Government, industry and the broader WA community for the MLP policy to deliver to its potential.  This is why we will likely see ongoing engagement and collaboration between government and industry on how the framework functions, with further changes a real possibility.

In the meantime, proponents will position themselves for success in accessing the MLP pathways by ensuring their proposals meet the priorities of government and the needs of the community, as well as demonstrating that their proposal is unique and developing an effective narrative and evidence base to support these elements.

As with the Global Financial Crisis, the period of economic recovery is likely to be long and bumpy.  The potential for Market-led Proposals to generate a second wave of investment and job creation, as the stimulatory capacity of the State Government reaches its limits, cannot be overstated.

Pobody’s nerfect, but your copy should be

In a world that is increasingly flooded with written content, organisations might have only a split second to make an impression on a reader.

While the most important part of any communication is the message, a superficial error in the copy could be the difference between the message cutting through or the intended audience getting side-tracked.

Not everyone reading articles and content will pick up on typos or grammatical errors, but, for those that do, minor errors can infuriate.

Examples abound in various fields where something has been lovingly crafted, only for a small, but jarring, mistake to undermine the whole product.

It was not so long ago that Game of Thrones held the collective imagination of audiences across the world, but the appearance of a stray coffee cup in one scene on the final season was quickly noticed and ridiculed.

Australia launched a new $50 note in October 2019 which was packed with technologies to prevent counterfeiting and make it more accessible, but it was also missing the final letter ‘i’ in the word responsibility.

Even the pinnacle of print journalism, The New York Times, is not immune to making mistakes, to the point where an anonymous Twitter account which regularly points out errors has amassed more than 13,000 followers.

While these examples are public, I’m sure anyone reading this could stroll through their newsfeed and pick out a few typos with little effort.

This begs the question, why are typos so common?

I believe there are three key reasons.

First, people rely too much on the autocorrect functions of digital devices.

While these can spot misspelled words and are getting increasingly sophisticated in understanding sentence structure, they were not foolproof.

Additionally, design programs used to create more visually creative documents might have limited error detection functions and can lead to mistakes appearing in the most visible content an organisation might produce, like posters or billboards.

Secondly, the prevalence of social media has increased the use of informal language to the point where even the use of the full stop has come under fire for its use in interpersonal communications as being aggressive and abrupt.

I don’t suggest that every message anyone ever sends should be perfect, but the more you write and consume that style of writing, the harder it can be to revert back to formal English when necessary.

Finally, many copywriters, social media managers and journalists are having to post across different platforms with greater frequency and less oversight or support from editors.

At best, these sorts of mistakes illicit a simple apology and are quickly forgotten, as was the case with the Australian Government’s misprint.

At worst, they cause tangible damage to the brand of the organisation responsible and can become emblematic of a broader decline in quality, as was the case for Game of Thrones and The New York Times.

Luckily, simple steps can be taken to limit obvious mistakes.

The first step is to be like Santa and check everything (at least) twice. Before hitting submit or publishing a post, take a moment to read through it again to check for obvious mistakes.

Of course, it’s easy to miss the details of something you’ve written and re-written several times, so the next step is to recruit a fresh pair of eyes to do the final check of your work.

Someone reading something for the first time is much more likely to pick up on missing words and errors because they won’t have the writer’s intent colouring their perception of everything on the page.

The next tip is the trust your gut. If you’re reading copy and something doesn’t look quite right, then act on that instinct and spend a few seconds conducting a quick online search to see if this is a problem or situation others have encountered and already solved.

Finally, and most importantly, be consistent. There isn’t always a single right answer about written English and elements like capitalisations, the use of hyphens and preferred terminology often came down to personal preference.

In these ambiguous situations, make sure that your organisation has a consistent approach to ensure all copy uses the same style and spoke in the same voice.

If it all seems like lot of effort to fix errors that only a few people might notice, consider the consequences if mistakes make their way into important documents and the wrong person notices.

Organisations with a reputation for quality that apply for government tenders might lose credibility if their proposal contains obvious errors and shareholders or investors could question the professionalism of a company if an annual report contains typos.

It might not be feasible to invest heavily in proofing every piece of writing you produce, when it comes to important or formal documents there is no reason why your copy shouldn’t be perfect.

However, English is a tricky language and people can’t detect mistakes they do not recognise, so consider engaging professionals to do the job for you.

NOTE: We have deliberately inserted several mistakes that weren’t flagged by Microsoft Word, how many did you pick up on?

Responding to cyber attacks

Smaller businesses, with lower levels of resources available to online security, are generally more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Bank accounts, email systems and business devices, including computers and mobiles, are just a few of the critical business assets that face compromise.

According to a survey by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), 62 per cent of small business respondents had experienced a cyber security incident in the last year. In fact, the ACSC receives one report of cybercrime every 10 minutes.

This vulnerability has been further exposed in recent months as businesses responded to the coronavirus challenge. Cyber criminals took advantage of new security weaknesses that emerged as employees started working remotely – often using shared computers over insecure home networks.

Despite the obvious threat, many small businesses aren’t prepared for the impact of a cyber attack. If your customers’ sensitive financial and personal data is lost to a third party, what can you do to limit the reputational damage to your organisation resulting from such a breach?

The first step should always be preparation. Cyber breaches can happen quickly, so consider putting an incident response plan in place to respond to an attack or data breach. This includes your immediate reaction, which should include determining what type of attack has occurred and how to protect remaining data.

The second part of your plan should focus on communicating during the crisis and maintaining your reputation over the longer term. As part of this, you should acknowledge and plan for deviations, which occur in real scenarios, and prepare draft responses to these scenarios to minimise problems arising from rushed decision making.

Last week, my colleague described the 3 C’s of crisis management. Showing care, control and commitment provides the basis for all crisis communication. When it comes to a cyber breach, here’s some tips on how to put these principles into action:

  1. Obtain information first – when hearing about personal data breaches, your customers are likely to assume the worst, so be clear about what was compromised (or be genuine and tell people you don’t know)
  2. Disclose what you know openly – assume everything is discoverable so don’t withhold key details
  3. Convey accurate information about the breach – don’t make claims about the “sophistication” of the attack without clear evidence
  4. Use unambiguous and clear messaging – and if you are providing technical advice, ensure it is specific and actionable
  5. Communicate quickly and frequently – use all the channels available at your disposal including staff, email, web, social media and messaging apps, and make sure the messaging is consistent
  6. Take ownership for the breach – this is customer data that was entrusted to you; don’t play the victim
  7. Understand and admit the problem – explain what happened and how you plan to fix the problem
  8. Understand the true value of personal data – ensure your apology is genuine and empathetic

Of course, you want to avoid a cyber attack ever happening to you. If your business handles personal or sensitive information, you must be particularly careful about how it is protected. For further advice and practical tips visit

And for help with planning and preparation for crisis situations, including cyber breaches, please contact the team at CGM Communications.

The three C's of crisis

Preparation, preparation, preparation is your best defence when it comes to protecting your reputation during a crisis. But what if you haven’t prepared, and you find yourself in a situation which presents intense difficulty, complexity or danger – what should you do?

The first step is to understand when you are in a crisis situation. Not all crisis scenarios are straight-forward, and declaring a crisis is always a judgement call. If uncertainty exists, I tend to err on the side of prudent overreaction.

Heathrow Airport is widely recognised as leader in crisis communication. During my time leading crisis communications at the airport, scenarios from emergency landings, protest and hostage situations to baggage system failures were desk-topped, simulated and documented within an inch of their life. At Heathrow this is totally appropriate, as almost all of these scenarios became reality, and this level of preparation gave everyone the confidence to do a good job under immense pressure – on a regular basis.

But what if you’re not a large organisation with a huge number of corporate affairs resources. What should you do then when your reputation is at stake?

If you find yourself in this situation, the best piece of advice I can give you is to plan your approach and messaging around the 3 C’s of crisis.

  1. Care and concern

Before you do anything else, as many people would do naturally, acknowledge your concern for those who have been adversely affected by the crisis, and express your empathy and care for their wellbeing – physical or mental.

  1. Control

Empathy is one thing, but the public, stakeholders and your employees want to know what you’re doing to get the situation under control now, so share what immediate steps you’ve taken to try to resolve the crisis situation.

  1. Commitment

After the initial shock or reaction, to help rebuild your reputation, you must show what longer-term commitments you’re making to avoid a repeat of the situation.

The State Government are delivering a masterclass in crisis management during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to clear, simple messages, delivered regularly, they showed care initially for those who contracted the virus, for families of those who had passed away, for impacted industries, the unemployed and more recently for Victorians. Controls were communicated almost straight away, which were then finessed into a clear staged approach as the situation escalated. Lockdown conditions were explained as more controls were put in place. Commitment is where they have been particularly strong. Hard border - say no more.

At CGM Communications, we have an integrated offering for crisis and all communication needs. We can not only help you prepare, prepare, prepare, but if you find yourself in a situation where you need a team who can work with you to deliver effective crisis communications quickly, then we’re here to help.

The secret to winning elections

Not easy, but simple.

Like almost everyone who has turned their hand to providing strategic political advice, I’ve had my wins and losses.

What I’ve learned is that nearly every winning election effort has the same qualities, as does almost every election loss.

The key ingredients for winning an election are ensuring that your priorities as a potential government reflect the priorities of the electorate at the time of the election, then effectively communicating those priorities to voters.

Having the same priorities as the electorate at the time of the election involves having an accurate view about what the social, economic and political circumstances will look like on election day, then rigorously engaging with the community and stakeholders about their hopes and fears, as well as the best way of addressing these and the issues that will emerge.

Effective communication involves positioning early for the issues that will matter at the time of the election, then relentlessly building your brand using a range of communication tools, so that your time arrives at the time of the election.  When the polls open, you want everyone to understand both what you believe and what you will do, on the issues that matter to them.

So, if it’s so simple, why does it go horribly wrong, so often?

For those in opposition, too often we see a complacency built on the adage that “oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them”.  While there is some truth in the second part of this equation (see below), the first part is nonsense.  Whether it was Bob Hawke, John Howard, Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott, not to mention Richard Court, Geoff Gallop or Mark McGowan, each of these leaders who won government from opposition were energetic and relentless in their pursuit of power, as were the party machines behind them.

Oppositions who think they might slip into government often don’t do the work engaging with the electorate, they don’t develop policies that reflect the priorities of the community and they don’t spend the time building their brand or effectively communicating what they believe and will do.

Governments that lose are almost always characterised as having lost touch with the electorate, leading to them pursuing their own priorities or the causes of special interest groups, instead of the priorities of the community.  Their leaders and senior Ministers are often exhausted, lacking the energy to consider how the world is changing, engage broadly with the electorate, develop new ideas or effectively communicate their vision.  In some cases, this leaves them so disconnected from voters that they think they are going to win, right up until the moment they are turfed out in a landslide.

For those in the private sector, none of the above should come as any great surprise. Behind almost every successful project is a company that has spent the time engaging with the community about what they want, then carefully developing their project to meet those needs, before circling back to ensure their stakeholders are in no doubt about the merits of their venture.  The same is true for companies involved in product development and promotion.

Companies that don’t adhere to this process lose the support of the community, or they lose market share. The same is true for our politicians.

The key thing to understanding my two ingredients for political success is recognising that they need to co-exist.  The most effective communication strategy can do more harm than good, if it promotes policies and messages that don’t reflect the priorities of the community.  Similarly, what’s the point of having great policies, if the electorate doesn’t know about them?

At the top of this piece, I said the formula for winning elections was simple, but not easy.  The truth is politics is hard, with the responsibilities of government making it even more draining.  

But, for those politicians who maintain their energy and focus, ensuring their priorities reflect the priorities of the electorate at the time of the election, then effectively communicating those priorities to voters, political success is almost certain to follow.

Building relationships before you build

The last week has seen a number of large high-profile development projects stall at the approval stage. The WA Planning Commission (WAPC) vetoed Satterley’s long-planned North Stoneville residential community in the Perth Hills due to fire concerns. The controversial $320m Chellingworth redevelopment in Nedlands was also rejected by planning authorities based on excessive bulk, parking and traffic issues.

Some of our leading planning experts were surprised by these decisions. Each of the developments required significant investment and time to get right, and both proponents believed they had met or exceeded planning requirements.

But what these developments have in common is the widespread and strident resistance to the plans by many in the local community. In both cases, neighbours banded together to organise on social media, lobby their MPs, and even run a sophisticated media campaign.

The “Save Perth Hills” campaign certainly captured the attention of the Hills community. Whether it was the thriving Facebook page, the bumper stickers on cars across Perth, or the thousands that attended community rallies – it became clear that the community had rejected the development.

On the other hand, and just down the road from Chellingworth, Paul Blackburne’s $300m redevelopment of the Sundowner site in Claremont has been given the green light. This revitalisation of a neglected hostel site told a positive story of renewal, fostered a level of community acceptance, and had the support of the Premier, alongside the creation of 920 new jobs.

With the expedited passage of legislation to fast-track significant developments in WA, and a raft of new tax breaks, it would seem our State Government is doing what it can to help facilitate investment in the housing sector.

But despite this encouraging environment, early stakeholder and community engagement has never been more important. What’s more, engagement and communication is actively encouraged by planning authorities eager to get shovel-ready projects up and running.

To this end, the State Development Assessment Unit, within the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, has been established to help progress significant developments as defined in the new legislation. This team of experienced planners will receive and assess all proposals on behalf of the WAPC.

Again, early engagement is key to success in this new pathway. It is designed to address any issues prior to lodgement of the development application and also provide assistance and advice on essential stakeholder and public engagement.

Of course, any early engagement should include genuine conversations with neighbours and community leaders on what they want from any redevelopment and how they would like to be engaged. These conversations could prove to be the determining factor in gaining development approval, so it’s worth doing right.

CGM Communications works closely with developers and planning experts to help guide these proposals through the new processes and deliver the community, government and media support necessary to see well-designed developments succeed.

For further information on the new process please visit

Black Swan elections and their implications

An important point in the maturation of any political strategist or government relations advisor is accepting that election results are very difficult to predict.

As Thomas Harris writes in Imperium, A Novel of Ancient Rome, you can always spot a fool, for he is the one who will tell you he knows who is going to win an election.

What makes elections difficult to predict is that many election outcomes have all the qualities of what have become known as ‘Black Swan’ events. 

In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s masterpiece, The Black Swan, the author outlines three qualities of such highly improbable events.  These are that they are unpredictable (few people predicted them), they carry massive impacts, and, after the fact, explanations are concocted that make them appear less random, and more predictable, than they actually were.

Taleb cites examples of positive and negative Black Swan events as the rise of the Internet and the development of the personal computer, World War 1, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The Global Financial Crisis would also fit the bill.

The Black Swan model also fits many of the (free) election results we have seen in recent years.  It fits Bill Shorten’s almost defeat of Malcolm Turnbull in 2016, the Brexit referendum or Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in the same year.  It fits Jeremy Corbyn taking Theresa May’s majority in the 2017 British election, and possibly Boris Johnson’s thumping of Corbyn in 2019 as well.  It also fits with Scott Morrison’s ‘miracle’ victory over Shorten in last year’s federal election.

In each of these contests, very few people predicted the result, the outcomes had huge domestic and/or geopolitical consequences, and narratives were constructed – by both the winners and the losers – to rationalise the outcomes.

Taleb attributes the human desire to construct narratives about past events as one of the biggest contributors to our blindness to future Black Swan events, election outcomes included.  Confirmation bias leads us to develop narratives that fit with our own world view or previous positions, then look for evidence to support the narratives we have developed.

Take Shorten and Corbyn, as examples. The narrative flowing out of their surprisingly strong showings in 2016 and 2017, respectively, was that they had tapped into community angst over inequality and other social injustices.  This led to them doubling down on their platforms, putting forward even stronger redistributive policies.  Despite high expectations of victory, both were defeated in 2019, in results that many, again, failed to predict. In Shorten's case right up until the results were announced, and for Corbyn until Boris Johnson assumed control of the Conservatives.

But what if the narrative that flowed from Shorten and Corbyn’s first attempts at becoming Prime Minister was that their opponents’ political ineptitude was the biggest factor in their relative success?  Malcolm Turnbull, in having blown his political capital by doing nothing in the months following his elevation to the Liberal leadership, then refusing to run negative campaign ads targeting Shorten.  Theresa May, who called an early election for no reason and then promised to take away free milk from British school children in her election manifesto.

While such a narrative wouldn’t have confirmed the merits of the policies they had taken to their respective elections, if it had been part of the takeaway for Shorten and Corbyn, perhaps they wouldn’t have tried to refight their earlier elections in 2019.  Instead, they might have developed new strategies and approaches that reflected the social and economic situations at the time, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their new opponents, the much more politically adept Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson.

US President Donald Trump is going through a similar journey at present.  The narrative flowing from Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton in 2016 was that a surge of support in white working-class voters swept Trump to a ‘massive’ win in the electoral college.

An alternative narrative is that, while Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton, he narrowly eked out a win in the electoral college, with his victory dependent not only on increased support from non-college educated white voters, but also on low turnout from African American voters and college educated Republicans reluctantly voting for him over the even more odious (to them) Clinton.

Of course, this narrative doesn’t confirm Trump’s view of himself or the world.  But, if he had incorporated this thinking into his 2016 takeout, perhaps he would have made more of an effort to expand his supporter base over the past four years, instead of doubling down on the racially divisive approach that he believes won him white working-class support in the first place.

Will Trump be defeated as he seeks re-election in November. Who knows? Right now, the signs don’t look good for him, but anything could happen between now and then.  That is the nature of Black Swan events.

For those of us interested in the political process, the acceptance of elections as Black Swan events carries a number of implications.

For political strategists, it means being clear headed and objective about the reasons for past successes and failures.  It means not taking anything for granted about future elections, fighting them with strategies developed for the conditions and opponents of the day.

For those who engage with government, it means not making assumptions about election outcomes, instead preparing for any possibility by engaging with all sides of politics to develop relationships and a shared understanding of policy.

A mature political strategist or government relations advisor will be highly cautious in predicting election outcomes but will have a lot to say about how you shape outcomes or policies and best position yourself for any version of the future.

Dodging paywalls could cost you more than you think

If you consume news via the internet, chances are you’ve encountered those ‘pesky’ paywalls.

We’ve all been there, enticed by an online headline only to be prompted to subscribe and hand over our money for the full story.

It’s frustrating, and many refuse to do it. It makes sense, budgets are tight and why now do we have to pay for something we’ve always received for free?

Here in WA it can cost anywhere between $1.75 a week for a WAtoday online subscription, to $1 a day for a full newspaper and online subscription for The West Australian.

There is a clear resistance to paying for news online, but the truth is, the pain to your pocket will be far less than the cost to Australia’s democracy if we stop paying for journalism.

Most of us are happy to fork out $9 a month for our Netflix subscription but why are we so hesitant to pay for journalism? Perhaps it comes from entitlement, a misconception that journalists perform a free public service. Many social media users who engage and comment on these locked stories seem to think so, often threatening publications with the dreaded ‘unfollow’.

There’s been arguments that paywalls create a socioeconomic breakdown of those who can afford to read quality journalism and those who can’t.

That’s a real concern but what is even more detrimental to a democracy, is unsustainable journalism.

Newsflash (pun intended) journalists need to get paid too, and you might be surprised to learn they don’t get paid much, for what they contribute.

Take for example recent Walkley Award winner Annabel Hennessy from The West Australian, who this year brought public attention to the incarceration of Aboriginal woman Jody Gore – convicted of killing her abusive ex-partner.

Ms Hennessy’s relentless chasing and investigative journalism resulted in Ms Gore being freed from prison and WA’s laws being re-written. She had the power to tell a story that wasn’t told in the courtroom.

Being a former journalist myself, I dare say Ms Hennessy likely spent long days and late nights having very difficult conversations and probably copping a fair bit of abuse for trying to find the truth – and that is worth our money.

When I see these outraged social media users complaining their news is trapped behind a paywall, I can’t help but think if they get paid for their job.

During the height of the pandemic in WA, we praised our health care workers, our shop assistants and all those risking their health and safety. Journalists were on the frontline too, providing the public with reliable up-to-date information when they needed it the most, and just like our other essential workers, they need to make a living.

If you think about it, this would have been the perfect time for newspapers to act like big business and jump on this in-demand opportunity by locking all content to gain more subscribers.

The majority didn’t exploit this and provided the daily COVID-19 online updates for free.

Yes, the media landscape has changed, and newspapers are forced to get sexier to sell more, but they haven’t lost the ability to create change, and keep our leaders accountable.

Unlike social media platforms, journalists and news publications are held to account for what they publish, and in return force our leaders, big business and members of the public to be accountable – that’s their job.

Journalists have university degrees and are trained to deliver balanced and factual information. In the past, newspapers have done well on advertising revenue but the more appetite for online content means a decline in sales, resulting in cutbacks.

The less journalists there are, the less time they have to dig deep into a story to find the truth on behalf of the Australian public. In other words, how else will we, as former Australian Democrat leader Don Chipp said, “Keep the bastards honest”?

Look at recent wage theft allegations against big companies including Woolworths. When journalists investigate these issues, they shine a public light on them and often force companies into doing the right thing in a bid to save their reputation.  If it wasn’t for journalists, we’d likely see goliath winning many more battles.

Right now, we can’t rely on social media platforms to provide news organisations with enough advertising revenue for them to disable paywalls, despite the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission establishing a mandatory code of conduct.

The code is supposed to encourage social media channels to pass on advertising revenue to the ones who actually create the content. The journalists, who spend hours making the phone calls or waiting outside on long crime scene stakeouts, inside courthouses or at Parliament House. But Facebook still refuses to pay news publications for what they produce.

Google has announced it will come to the table with some compensation, but we’d need all of them to get on board with a lot of money if we ever wanted to see the end of paywalls and a return to newsrooms full of senior reporters who actually have time to investigate.

Supporting real accountable journalism dilutes the overwhelming misinformation and disinformation we face on a daily basis and contributes to a healthy democracy.

As Thomas Jefferson, the man who led the US democracy movement once said: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

The fact is that people were paying for physical newspapers long before the internet rose to prominence, but now seem put off by the fact a digital subscription isn’t something you can physically hold in your hand. I’d argue having your news available digitally, on any device at any time is even more bang for your buck – and that’s worth paying for.

How to reach politicians in an election year

As the WA state election approaches, organisations are turning their minds from the immediate COVID-19 management phase to recovery and rebuilding.

There’s no doubt every peak body, not-for-profit and major corporate player will be vying for attention and commitments from the government and opposition in the lead up to March 2021. So, how do you make your ‘ask’ stand out?

Here are our three tips to set your organisation up for success.

First, position your ‘ask’ as a win/win, for both your organisation and the Western Australian community.

Fortunately, the State Government has already told us what a win for the community looks like. Although deferred due to COVID-19, the Our Priorities whole-of-government targets provided a clear outline of what the government hoped to achieve and what it was focusing on. The government has since identified the five key COVID recovery areas of health, economic and infrastructure, social, industry, and regions.

By aligning your ‘ask’ to one or more of these areas, you’ll position yourself as a partner with government while supporting the entire Western Australian community.

Second, demonstrate stakeholder support.

Showing broad community or industry support for an ‘ask’ does two things: first, it validates the idea as good policy; and second, it signals to government and opposition that your ‘ask’ is good politics.

Politicians want to be community connectors. By demonstrating that you’ve reached out to community and industry stakeholders, you’ll provide government and opposition a path to reach them too.

Third, get in early.

You can be certain January will be a political write-off, as parties cement their final campaign plans and voters gradually return from holiday mode (and couldn’t think of anything worse than hearing from politicians). February and March will be filled with wall-to-wall announcements and campaign events. Timing will be crucial to your chances of success, and this year’s State Budget now falling in October certainly throws a spanner in the works.

Now is the time to finalise your ‘ask’. If you act quickly, you can be a part of the government’s budget thinking AND the election commitment thinking of both government and opposition. Then, if the budget doesn’t deliver for you, the weeks following could still provide an opportunity heading into the election.

So, how do you reach politicians in an election year? Make your ‘ask’ a win/win, demonstrate stakeholder support and get in early.

If you do these three things, you should be celebrating on 13 March 2021, no matter the outcome.

Shrinking media landscape requires innovative PR thinking

With Australia’s media landscape continuing to shrink, new approaches are needed for organisations who want their messages and stories to reach their target audiences.

Falling newspaper sales, declining free-to-air TV audiences and the subsequent fall in advertising revenue made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic have again forced news organisations to cut their bottom lines.

In the past month, News Corp and the ABC both announced significant staffing cuts. News Corp so it can pursue its move toward digital production, after announcing it would stop printing 112 community and regional newspapers, and the ABC to save costs after the Federal Government’s decision to freeze funding increases.

This latest round of cuts follows decisions this year by Buzzfeed Australia, which closed its Australian news operation, Network Ten, which scrapped its digital news site 10 Daily, and Foxtel, which cut more than 250 jobs as part of a restructure.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped the situation media outlets find themselves in, with advertising sales plunging as many businesses went into lockdown and stopped advertising their services. For media outlets already facing falling advertising revenue, partly due to the rise of streaming services, job and programming cuts have been the sad result.

But the news isn’t all bad. After originally being targeted for closure, newswire service Australian Associated Press was brought back from the dead, after being saved by a consortium of investors and philanthropists. The West Australian newspaper is also having somewhat of a resurgence, bucking the national trend by increasing its audience by 4.5 per cent year on year, led by younger readers.

Despite the West’s increase in readership, the amalgamation of our two major newspapers, when Seven West Media acquired the Sunday Times, and the subsequent buy-up of Community News has seen the diversity of our media landscape continue to contract in WA.

For those of us working in PR, this means fewer news outlets and journalists to pitch to, meaning we have to consider different strategies, as well as alternate ways of giving our clients a voice.

Fewer journalists at traditional outlets means those remaining are inundated with requests for coverage. Doing the groundwork ahead of time, knowing when to pitch, and having established and trusted working relationship are imperative to getting stories published in this environment.

Tailoring releases to media outlets, rather than sending them out en-masse, is critical, with producers and Chiefs of Staff having little tolerance for stories that aren’t relevant to their audience.

Identifying what we can do to assist time poor journalists with case studies, photographs and other supportive content is also important.

The rise of independent online news sites provides an opportunity for a story to be published online if matched with the correct outlet. Online stories are more likely to be shared on the outlet’s own social media channels, increasing audience reach, and can have better engagement through the use of video or interactive images.

Clients can also take responsibility for telling their stories directly by addressing their intended audience through a brand journalism practice on their own digital platforms. Doing so provides a home for media releases that have not been taken up by journalists, as well as human interest stories that lack a traditional news hook.

Podcasts are also an increasingly popular news source and there’s one to suit almost any client’s needs. Taking a strategic approach to engaging with this new medium can enable clients to reach new audiences and engage in a deeper conversation than traditional radio programs can offer.

Increased competition, financial pressures and technological innovation will ensure that the most recent changes to Australia’s media landscape will not be the last.  However, by continually monitoring these changes, as well as opportunities for innovation, we will ensure that our clients will always be able to get their message out.

Trump’s ‘Hail Mary’ play for re-election

It was a calculated communication to his white, culturally conservative, working class base that was simultaneously designed to elicit a response from his enraged opponents that pushed his supporters further into his arms in an election year.

To many of us, it looked like madness.  How could tear gassing your own citizens to clear the way for a photo opportunity at a time when Americans are suffering from both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, as well as deep emotional pain at the killing of George Floyd be anything but electoral suicide?

To understand Trump’s thinking, we need to understand two realities.  First, Trump is in deep political trouble.  Second, motivating white, working class people to vote is his most plausible path to another come-from-behind victory.

But, first to Trump’s political problems.

The dominant narrative following Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election was that a surge in support from white non-college educated (working class) voters propelled Trump to victory in former industrial states that had traditionally voted Democrats.

Like most narratives, this represents only part of the story.

Trump’s victory also relied on college-educated Republicans, despite serious misgivings, holding their nose and voting for Trump over the even more unpalatable former Secretary of State, as well as African American voters not turning out to support Clinton at the same levels as they had to support Barrack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

According to modelling undertaken by the Centre for American Progress and FiveThirtyEight following the election, Trump wouldn’t have won in 2016, if any of these three conditions hadn’t been met.

Which is where Trump’s re-election problems begin.

In the highest turnout midterm election in more than 100 years, Democrats swept to a majority in the US House of Representatives.  Their largest gain in seats came in traditionally Republican suburban districts that not only voted for Trump in 2016, but also voted for Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for President, in 2012, with this swing delivered by largely college-educated, predominantly female former Republicans.

At the midterms, Trump lost a chunk of what used to be the Republican base, and there has been no evidence yet that he is winning it back.

Trump’s problems are magnified by the outrage among African Americans at systemic racism and their ongoing brutalisation at the hands of police, which was made most visible by the killing of George Floyd.  The fact that both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 are disproportionately impacting African American communities will be compounding this rage.

In this environment, the sharp decline in African American turnout experienced in 2016 may well be reversed, particularly if Democrat Joe Biden picks an African American as his running mate, which he is reported to be strongly considering.

As things stand, two of the three foundations of Trump’s 2016 victory are wobbly.  Which is why Trump is seeking to reinforce the third - his base.

More than any other politician, Trump understands both the angst and potential political power of the white, American working class.

In their well-researched book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of American Capitalism, Anne Case and Angus Deaton describe how Americans without a college degree have few prospects in an economy where globalisation and technology are taking lower-skilled jobs.  This has led to social decay and falling life expectancy in white working-class communities, on the back of rapidly increasing levels of suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol related illness – the deaths of despair.

Trump’s strategy in 2020 is the same as it was in 2016, being to position affluent, university educated Democrat politicians and journalists as elites who care more about ‘minority issues’ than they do about American workers, offering himself as the only one who understands the latter’s plight and, therefore, as the only one who can reverse it.

With white, non-college educated Americans representing about 40 per cent of the electorate, and historically having the lowest turnout rates at Presidential elections, Trump sees new voters and a path to victory in the family and friends of the people who voted for him in 2016.

Will Trump’s strategy be successful? There are signs, on the ground and in the polls, that some of his people aren’t buying what he’s been trying to sell in recent weeks.  But, even if they did, whether this would be enough to offset what promises to be a much higher turnout rate among African Americans and any further drift of college educated Republicans to the Democrats is unknown.

One thing is certain, should Trump be re-elected in November, he will see his base as having delivered it and his Hail Mary law-and-order play as the start of his comeback.  Draw your own conclusions about what this would mean for the tone and substance of a second Trump term.

Daniel Smith is executive director and founder of CGM Communications.

Policy whirlwind necessitates strong government engagement

The rapid change in government policy Australia has witnessed in the first half of 2020 hasn’t been seen since the early days of the Whitlam Government.

And, with the health, economic and political impacts of COVID-19 still playing out, the current policy whirlwind is set to last for some time to come.

For two weeks following his election win in 1972, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam formed a ‘duumvirate’ with his Deputy Lance Barnard.  Together, they used executive power to implement many of Labor’s election commitments, including ending conscription, opening relations with China, removing sales tax from contraceptive pills, appointing an interim schools commission and banning South African sporting teams from Australia.

Whitlam’s duumvirate was about fast-tracking the implementation of policies that had been developed over 23 years in opposition and were clearly laid out in Labor’s platform.

During the COVID-19 crisis, neither employers nor employees have had this visibility of impending policy change. In responding to a crisis that few foresaw six months ago, we have seen a newly formed national cabinet develop and implement policies to address the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 in real time.

In response to the health crisis, borders have gone up and down, businesses have closed and opened, with the number of people we can associate with, as well as how close we can get to them, changing numerous times.

Changes in economic policy have included the introduction of wage subsidies and an effective living wage, free childcare, fast-tracked regulatory approvals and tighter foreign investment rules.

But we are not done, yet.  In front of us lies the rolling back of some, but probably not all, of the COVID-19 emergency measures. New approaches to economic stimulus designed to mitigate the ongoing economic impacts of the crisis are certain, whether they be from the withdrawal of current government measures, or from a drop off in trade and international investment, as our major international partners face their own COVID-19 challenges.  Further regulatory reforms designed to unlock private investment and job creation are also highly likely.

The risk of ongoing trade and diplomatic tension on the international stage is also real, with associated policy responses in Australia also possible.

The upside for both employers and employees as we move through this period of rapid change is that both the federal and state governments have been increasingly consultative in their development of COVID-19 period policy, as well as being open and responsive to feedback.

We all know that industry craves policy certainty, but, the reality is, policy certainty won’t return for quite some time.  In this environment, all stakeholders will need to allocate resources to both shaping and responding to the change that will continue to come.

The Whitlam duumvirate lasted for only two weeks.  The current period of rapid policy change could last years.

In this environment, all stakeholders need to keep their relationships with government strong and look for ways they can both shape new policy and assist its refinement in implementation.

Five top tips for a successful webcam media interview

In the COVID-19 world, most of us have had to adapt to working via Zoom or other technology, and the media is no different. As social distancing and isolation kicked in, journalists quickly ‘pivoted’ from conducting interviews in person to doing them via webcam.

While this was not only necessary during isolation, it was also an efficient way of conducting interviews, both for the journalist and the interviewee. For those being interviewed, benefits included not having to leave the safety and comfort of their own home, feeling more at ease by conducting interviews in familiar surrounds, not having the uncomfortable sensation of having a big TV camera in their face and not even having to wear pants if they didn’t feel like it (personally, I don’t recommend this, just in case).

But despite these benefits, there are also many pitfalls to doing interviews via your webcam.  As a viewer, I’ve found it fascinating getting a glimpse inside people’s homes. But as a media advisor, I’ve often been alarmed about the quality of the interviews. Poor choices in background, camera angles and lighting can be, at best, amusing and, at worst, distracting. And that is where the danger lies: when viewers are distracted, you’ve lost your opportunity to get your message across, which is, presumably, why you agreed to do the interview in the first place.

And while we don’t all need to have TV studio-quality set ups at home, there are a few things you can do to ensure your webcam interview isn’t a disaster (and doesn’t reveal more than you want it to).

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the brave new world of webcam interviews:

Find somewhere quiet. If there are other people in the house while you’re doing your interview, find somewhere quiet and private to do the interview (preferably with a lockable door). We all remember the professor whose two children made an unscheduled appearance during a live BBC cross as their mortified mother commando rolled across the floor to retrieve them. And while it went viral, few people would remember what the point of the interview actually was.

Position the camera at your eyeline, or above, NOT below. I’m sure we have all seen up more people’s nostrils than we ever thought possible. As a viewer, it’s really hard to concentrate on what someone is saying when you’re mentally counting their nose hairs. Putting the camera at eye level during your interview gives you a chance to connect with viewers to get your point across. It’s also a much more flattering angle.

Choose your background carefully. You might love the ‘tasteful’ nude art hanging on the wall of your office, but think about whether it’s really appropriate for viewers to see, or whether it could be a distraction. As well as removing any controversial or distracting items from behind you, you may want to consider actually placing items in your background that reflect the tone of the interview or illustrate the point you’re trying to get across.

Choose a soft light. Any photographer will tell you that a yellowish, soft light is much more flattering than a harsh, white light.

Check your internet connection and webcam beforehand. It’s a good idea to do a test, with or without the interviewer, before going live to air. Watching someone try and work out how to switch on their microphone does not make great viewing.

For more in depth interview skills, CGM Communications runs full media trainings, please contact:

WA skills review needs industry input

The urgent review of skills, training and workforce development announced by Premier Mark McGowan this week will provide important opportunities for industry to engage about skills needs during the COVID-19 recovery period.

The necessary public health precautions that were put in place to fight the coronavirus severely disrupted many businesses, forcing many to re-think the way they do things, as well as their resulting current and future skills needs.  This thinking has been complicated by both international and interstate travel restrictions, which are likely to compel businesses to recruit locally for some time to come.

This review will seek to identify the skills needs of industry, the availability of those skills in Western Australia and, where there are gaps, how we can re-train local workers with these skills as quickly as possible.

Performed well, this review should be a win-win for West Australian businesses and workers. WA businesses will have the skills they need to drive recovery, and local workers will have the skills they need for the jobs that are available.

If this review is to deliver to its potential, it needs industry to engage.  Our understanding is that this will not be a typical government review that takes months, if not years, to complete and is delivered with pages of recommendations and, sometimes, a shelf to sit on.   The aim is for it to be responsive and nimble, providing advice and recommendations to government for implementation as it goes.

If there are positives to be found in the current crisis, the development of a local workforce that fully meets the current and future skills needs of WA industry is one we would all celebrate.

We encourage industry to engage with this important review. 

Major development reform to boost WA economy

This week’s announcement by the McGowan Government to reduce red tape on major developments is a game changer for many in the development industry.

These new laws, if passed, will streamline the lengthy and complex development application process and kick start significant projects to boost economic activity in the State.

The WA Planning Commission (WAPC) would, for 18 months, be given the power to approve or reject developments worth more than $30 million, or with more than 100 dwellings or a minimum 20,000sqm commercial space.

Developers that meet the criteria would be able to lodge plans directly with the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, which would facilitate consultation, assess proposals and provide recommendations to the WAPC.

Regional and tourism projects of “State significance” could also be referred to the Commission by the Premier on the recommendation of the Planning Minister.

Under the current system, major projects require involvement from a range of agencies to deliver water, roads, fire safety, environmental outcomes and more. In the absence of a coordinated approach, each agency often has requirements that differ or even conflict with those of other agencies.

For example, a residential development on the urban fringe may be required by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) to cut down swathes of trees to act as a fire break. However, cutting down acres of native forests may not be consistent with the preferred outcomes set down by environmental agencies.

Without a coordinated approach and a level of urgency to see these major projects succeed, developers can find themselves negotiating complex access and other arrangements across multiple government departments for months and even years.

While the industry has welcomed the move to streamline the approvals process, there has been some concern that these new rules could sidestep local councils and reduce engagement with the communities likely to be affected by these major developments.

But while these concerns are understandable, it’s worth pointing out that the new legislation is expected to establish a consistent approach to community consultation and engagement for these major projects. The State Government is very much aware of the ability of communities to connect and activate very effectively over local issues.

West Australians expect to be listened to and engaged with when it comes to developments in their own backyard. Despite the laggard economy, locals can and will organise against developments they see as inconsistent with their community. You only have to think of the recent failures of the Roe 8 Freight Link, Point Grey Marina, and Scarborough Beach Twin Towers to understand the power of organised community resistance.

Our communities are not only looking for more engagement, they’re demanding best practice community engagement, including the framework established by the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2). Despite these proposed legislative changes, CGM Communications will continue to help developers gain community acceptance and support for these major projects using these best-practice models.

Our experience with our developer clients is that the most significant project delays are not caused by the local community, but by the red tape dispensed by government. WA Planning Minister Rita Saffioti is hoping to speed up the development approval process by having agencies prioritise major projects, by cooperating better and by providing advice earlier.

This new approach aims to tighten this process to make sure all agencies involved in providing advice to developers are doing it in a more timely and efficient manner, and without the need to bring issues and conflicts to the attention of government.

We anticipate this will bring projects we have been discussing with our clients for several years off the drawing boards, and significant developments, which may have stalled due to COVID-19, back to life.