Coalition needs to plan now for success later

The prospect of a change of government post-September sharpened this week in the wake of the latest Nielsen poll which puts Tony Abbott firmly in the election driving seat.

For Griffith University political researcher, Associate Professor Anne Tiernan, it now begs the question whether the Coalition has made suitable preparations for a potential return to power.

While acknowledging ongoing meetings of the Coalition’s Policy Development Committee during the past 12 months to consider policy ideas, and the recent publication of a 50-page policy statement Our Plan: Real Solutions for all Australians, Associate Professor Tiernan from the School of Government and International Relations says a transition plan is crucial.

“It seems the Opposition has invested significant effort in determining its policy priorities for government but have they made similar preparations for a return to power?

Video commentary here.

“While the political campaign will take centre stage during the forthcoming months, it is equally important for Mr Abbott to have in place a well-considered plan for a possible transition from opposition to government.

“It’s rare that Australian political parties undertake the kind of transition planning that you might see, for example, in the United States.

“Australia is a very different system but many of the challenges of taking over the reins of government are similar. But unlike the United States, where an incoming administration has three months to prepare, and probably a year before that to think about it and do the necessary work, if you win an election here on the Saturday night, you are being briefed by the public service as the incoming Prime Minister and government on the Sunday morning.

“There is very little time after an election to decide important questions like What is the best combination of talent to form the Ministry? Who do you want to be part of the team advising and supporting the Prime Minister? How does the government plan to work with the bureaucracy? What machinery of government arrangements are needed to support the government’s priorities?

“Ironically, Australian political parties are loathe to do transition planning. But it’s a really pertinent question to ask as we contemplate this year’s federal election. How well prepared is the Coalition to take over the reins of government?”

Associate Professor Tiernan is also director of the Queensland node of the Australia New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), based at Griffith University.