Our national office during this last election was a quiet hive of activity as we supported state campaigns with various activities.
By Brett Constable
A federal election campaign is something to behold! Even though we don’t yet have fixed dates for federal elections, in recent times at least we have been pretty good at identifying the window of likely dates and thus are able to work stolidly towards the final day. Always ready of course for some unexpected cause for an urgent call to action.
Our national office during this last election was a quiet hive of activity as we supported State campaigns with fundraising; website, email and social media communications; and advertising coordination. For the first time we also supported the National Campaign Committee with managing a strategic fund to support national strategic projects and campaigns. As with all new initiatives some teething problems were encountered with prioritising the allocation of this central pool of funding but the model for future campaigns within our confederate structure has been established.
Post-election after our debriefing and farewelling of short-term staff, our focus shifted to preparing for the next three-year federal election campaign. This always begins with setting the budget and unfortunately due to our drop in vote we also took a significant cut in electoral funding across the Party which naturally flowed through to harsh impacts on the budget for the national office.
Rather than the ideal of a three-year budget being struck, allowing for the build up towards the next election, negotiations at National Conference last November resulted in only a 12-month commitment of funding from States for the national office at a level which necessitated some cutbacks in staffing, including my own position to four days and the campaign coordinator, Chris Harris, to half-time. In the context of some scheduled extended leave, Chris subsequently made the decision to finish up in his position at the end of June. A big thank you goes out to Chris for his efforts in the planning and implementation of the last campaign, plus his follow-up work afterwards to lay a solid foundation with the ‘rule book’ for future campaign activities to be used by the national office.
Apart from myself, our national office currently comprises:
- Mark Quinn, our office manager, holds our frontline for public contact and providing help to members and State offices with system support queries;
- Helen Thompson, our part-time finance officer, with one of her tasks being to calculate the amounts due to States from fundraising activities we coordinate (the national office processed close to 27,000 transactions last financial year);
- Susan Sussems, our fundraising coordinator, manages our quarterly national appeals program on behalf of States as well as supporting State-based fundraising planning and implementation;
- Rosanne Bersten, our communications coordinator, is responsible for managing content on our website including our new online magazine, supporting the upgrade of State websites, and other communications related activities covering emails and social media;
- Andrew Dockery, our online systems coordinator, is responsible for ensuring our national IT infrastructure stays online for all the campaigning, membership and fundraising activities we undertake across the Party. Andrew is very ably supported by some outstanding volunteers, particularly Erich Schultz and Seamus Lee, along with our contractors, Andrew McNaughton and Fuzion;
- Lucy Quarterman, our new International Development Officer has just started with us after the recommencement in June of the Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program under the auspices of the Department of Finance. This follows the defunding and winding up of the program earlier this year due to budget cuts by the Government to AusAID and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The defunding of the program earlier this year can only be described as a debacle considering the utter disruption it caused for the projects we were engaged in, plus the need for a very unfortunate early termination to the contract of our employee at the time, Rathi Ramanathan.
My heartfelt thanks goes to all our staff in both the national office and around the States for their dedication to their roles in support of our legions of members and supporters who volunteer for the many activities essential to keeping our Party growing and developing its organisational and campaigning effectiveness.
In particular I wish to acknowledge and thank this year’s co-convenors, Christine Cunningham and Penny Allman-Payne for their unwavering commitment to their positions and availability to support myself and the national office.
And now I look towards this year’s National Conference with a hope that the national office has been able to demonstrate over this last year a high level of value for the Party on absolutely minimal funding, and that this then translates into an operating budget worthy of the campaign we need to mount for the next federal election.