The return of the Coalition Government in NSW on a slender two-seat majority in the Lower House may not necessarily mean business as usual for the State. Indeed, the business sector will need to engage proactively with both the Government, Opposition and crossbenchers to ensure its voice is heard.
Although the Coalition has been returned, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has reshuffled her ministry. While Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has retained his portfolio, other key ministers have moved to new portfolios or left the ministry altogether, and some new blood has been brought in. (A full list of the Second Berejiklian Ministry can be seen here.) Because ministers will be keen to place their stamp on portfolios, it is essential that businesses with interests and concerns about policies, proposed legislation and potential regulatory changes are heard. They must engage with the new ministry, and they must do so sooner rather than later.
Similarly, it is essential to also engage with the Labor Party Opposition. It is worth keeping in mind that today’s Opposition could well become tomorrow’s Government – well in four years’ time anyway when the State returns to the polls. Engage with Labor now and start building the relationships you need with the new Leader of the Opposition and the new Shadow Ministry. Let them know you are not just a fair weather friend.
And, if you need to stop or amend legislation that may be brought before the new Parliament, you will need the support of the Opposition and crossbenchers in the Upper House.
Time to go fishing
Navigating the upper house Legislative Council will prove a complicated process given the diversity of its crossbench. Counting is continuing for the upper house, but One Nation, Shooters Fishers and Farmers (SFF), and the Liberal Democrats parties all look like they will secure seats. No doubt one or two independents might also be elected to the upper house. It is therefore important for businesses to continue to engage with key stakeholders across all sides of politics in order to accomplish their legislative and political goals. Keep in mind that the crossbenchers can be very helpful in referring controversial legislation to committee or helping to promote a cause or introduce a Private Member’s Bill.
While it might be harder to get something on the legislative agenda with the Government or Opposition immediately after the election, the crossbench will tend to be more receptive to interests that may highlight some of their niche issues. It is crucial that businesses recognise key stakeholders in the crossbench who are likely to support them and then engage with those key stakeholders as soon as the new Parliament has been formed.
Engaging with a bipartisan government relations firm is the best way to stay abreast of the changes in the Government Ministry, the Opposition Shadow Ministry and among the crossbenches, and to forge strong relationships with decision-makers and influencers. Organisations are best advised to commence developing their political engagement strategies and messaging to ensure they achieve the results they are looking for on policy, legislation and regulation before the post-election dust settles on the new parliament.