Change in Opposition leadership marks ‘campaign start’

Cannings Purple 13 Jun 2019
2 mins
Liza Harvey has replaced Mike Nahan as the WA Opposition Leader.

As we’ve learned previously from federal politics, anything can change in a day.

Liza Harvey has today been voted unopposed as the new leader of the WA Liberal Party, after days of media speculation leading up to the resignation of Mike Nahan.

Bill Marmion will take on Ms Harvey’s former role of deputy leader, in addition to his shadow portfolio responsibilities of Mines and Petroleum, Innovation and Disruptive Technologies, Defence Issues and Science.

This leadership change signals a shift in thinking by the Opposition, from treading water to entering campaign mode ahead of the next State Election in March 2021.

The 2017 election saw Labor score one of the most comprehensive victories in WA history, winning 41 of the 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly—a 12-seat majority – and 14 of the 36 seats in the Legislative Council.

To win government in 2021, the Liberals require a significant swing of votes. But the recent Federal Election win by the Coalition and the disparity between pre-election opinion polling and actual voting shows both how quickly things can change in politics and how unpredictable events can be.

Businesses with government relationships or operations impacted by government decisions need to start thinking now about what the result of the 2021 WA Election might be.

Cannings Purple’s bipartisan Government Relations team always advises clients to build relationships with both opposition and government. If your company has a project that will take three to five years to complete, it makes sense to brief the relevant opposition spokesperson, as well as the current government minister and their advisers. Within a couple of years, it’s possible those roles could be reversed.

Politicians in opposition appreciate hearing from businesses which take the time and make the effort to develop a connection. Everyone wants to be friends with a newly-elected government but a new premier and ministers will remember who talked to them about projects before they were voted in.

Of course, no matter which party wins government, the bureaucracy is the constant link between business and Parliament. A new government may make structural changes to the public service but senior public servants tend to stay on and provide continuity.

Relationships with key bureaucrats are a critical part of any government relations engagement strategy. Our specialists can guide you through the personalities, policies and politics involved in this.

The lead-up to an election is not the time to be engaging with distracted politicians. In an ideal world, you will have established relationships with key players of all political persuasions before campaigning begins.

While the next WA Election is more than 20 months away, today’s Liberal leadership change is evidence that campaign thinking has already started, a clear indication that now is the time to start engaging.

Canning’s Purple’s Government Relations team members are experts at engaging with politicians and government departments – if you need help, contact one of the team.

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