With lockdowns across the country winding down, the elusive “new normal” is now in sight.

The greatest challenge for organisations during the pandemic has been adapting engagement opportunities from a distance.

Regardless, several channels remained open for individuals and organisations to hear and be heard from our elected representatives.

To celebrate NSW’s pathway out of lockdown, Nexus has listed five lessons from lockdown government engagement, exploring how the adoption of digital technologies has revolutionised Parliament.


  1. Participation in Committee Inquires

Parliamentary Committees are the clear winner of pandemic politics.

Even when the borders fell, telecommunication technologies allowed the Senate and House to continue their work reading and hearing from concerned community members.  In fact, some Committees actually increased the frequency and regularity of meetings for both members and also witnesses.

Inquiries are an official parliamentary process held to collect information and present recommendations to the upper or lower house.

They are formed with terms of reference, which are the scope that the inquiry is concerned with.

Established from Government, Opposition or in a multi-partisan fashion, these committees hold the power to invite or summon witnesses.

Inquiries can be important for organisations seeking to influence Government: not only do they present a clear legislative pathway, but the Government is basically asking for advice.

So how do organisations participate?

  1. Making a submission and/or
  2. Appearing as a witness.

Anyone can send a submission to an Inquiry outlining their views on the terms of reference and providing evidence or opinion for the committee to consider.

While you can request participating in a hearing, the committee carefully screens and considers whom they wish to speak to in verbal hearings; the purpose of these hearings is to clarify and further educate committee members.

Inquiries are great opportunities to influence policymakers; however, preparation and follow up are essential to ensure your point of view is well understood and expressed.


  1. Virtual Briefings

Although nothing beats a face-to-face Canberra catchup, virtual alternatives are now frequently employed by organisation representatives to inform and influence stakeholders.

These ‘Briefings’ often occur over several days, where key parliamentarians are scheduled to discuss an organisation’s aims, issues, or recommendations.

From friendly introductions to urgent regulatory appeals, virtual ‘Briefings’ provide a direct link to Government influences and the Ministry.

Although next year will see the return of face-to-face engagement, the rapid and universal adoption of fast, high-quality conference software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams will strengthen the voice of remote stakeholders.

Time is a politician’s most coveted resource, and Nexus predicts that these virtual platforms will remain a favoured avenue for stakeholders to engage with their elected representatives.


  1. Question Time

Despite the infamous bluster, Question Time (available to watch online here) is not necessarily just full of hot air; the hour-long sessions often reveal areas of Government priority, while the Opposition reveals their cards through the careful cadre of questions they provide to Ministers.

As a one-way channel, Question Time lets the public and organisations understand the stressors and focus of the Government of the day.

In politics, time is everything, and by monitoring the political winds, a message can go further and spread faster.

As Parliament House continues a strict lockdown for the remainder of the year, it has become even more vital as a lifeline to complement a comprehensive Government relations strategy.


  1. Social Media and Direct Messaging

Social media and direct messaging provide a direct link to political stakeholders.

In theory, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, allow anyone to engage with a political stakeholder.

During lock down and remote working any political advisers prefer direct messaging on key issues rather than calls to the office number.  The critical step is to have the mobile number in advance.  It is hard to see this direct communication channel decreasing quickly after the pandemic.

In practice, most social media accounts are managed by political advisors who screen, write and monitor posts and messages.

However, if research out of the US is to be believed, social media engagement is of vital importance to modern politicians, some of whom monitor their personal pages for hours each day.

With the lockdowns curtailing traditional avenues of promotion activities, social media will continue to grow in importance – particularly after a government budget and before an election – where sites such as Twitter provide a litmus test for political opinion.


  1. The Petition System

Although largely unpublicised, both houses of the Federal Parliament have standing procedures to accept and handle petitions.

A petition is a call to action (or inaction) by citizens concerning some aspect of Government policy. It is the only way individuals can directly put their grievances before the Parliament.

The practice of petitioning Parliament reached a peak in the 1980s when thousands of petitions were put before Parliament each year.

A mixture of obscurity, disillusionment, and the perceived ineffectual nature of petitions have been blamed for its decline.

This perception of ineffectiveness may be due in part to the adversarial nature many petitioners present their issue – to their detriment. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar and more senators with kindness than the cudgel.

Despite its shortcomings, petitions are sometimes a useful catalyst for attention and change.

Former Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd, made history with his Petition EN1938 – Royal Commission to ensure a strong, diverse Australian news media, garnered a record 501,876 signatures.

Although a Royal Commission has not yet been called, the petition sparked a national conversation around media ownership and bias.

Regardless, it demonstrates effective use of and belief in the petition system by the former PM.

Fortunately, the pandemic was not a swan song for Australia’s embattled petition system.



A lockdown should not spell the hibernation of your engagement with Canberra.

Like all other aspects of our lives, new compromises much be reached to reach policymakers and key decision makers

While the list above lists five key methods to reach Government, an excellent Australian Government Relations plan involves expertise, knowledge, and relationships based on trust with our elected representatives.

The team at Nexus is well placed to assist to ensure that all voices can be heard in Government. Don’t hesitate to contact the team here for more information.