As you may have seen, the draft Parliamentary Sitting Calendar for 2020 was released at the conclusion of last week’s Parliamentary sittings. This has prompted many people, including us here at Nexus, to consider the plan for 2020 Parliamentary year.
Parliamentary sittings can be split into four distinct periods, and hence the four seasons of parliamentary sittings.
With this is mind, here are our thoughts on the 2020 Parliamentary Sitting Calendar and what you can expect during each of the four seasons in Parliament.
SCHOOL’S BACK, PARLIAMENT’S BACK (FEBRUARY/MARCH)
The return of school also signals the return of Parliament, with Members and Senators scheduled to return from their summer break on Tuesday, 4 February 2020. During these first few sitting weeks, the Parliament is usually focussed on the key issues that have arisen during the summer break.
Despite this, the February and March sitting periods present an excellent opportunity to engage with political offices given that Parliament is relatively quiet during this time. For businesses, this period is an opportune time to present plans for the 2020 calendar year and reacquaint your business with the important political offices.
Furthermore, those companies who have been reluctant to hold events over the past few months due to the busy nature of Parliament may want to consider holding these events at the beginning of 2020. This is because Parliament is typically less busy during this period which in turn makes events at this time more likely to be attended by important ministers. This will increase the overall value of any event to your business.
Key takeaway: Parliament’s return after the summer break typically brings with it a quiet period that can present an excellent opportunity for business and industry to reconnect with ministers and host events following the three-month break.
BUDGET SEASON (MAY/JUNE)
Budget season is once again restored to normality in 2020 following the Budget’s shift to April to accommodate the 2019 Federal Election. This means that the Budget Tree (pictured above) will once again turn red as the Hon Josh Frydenberg hands down his second Federal Budget.
In the lead up to the Federal Budget, Ministers with Finance and Treasury portfolios will be hard at work, and from experience will be harder to engage with during this period.
The Budget is due to be handed down on Tuesday, 12 May 2020 and with the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP due to hand down his first Budget Reply speech two days later on Thursday, 14 May 2020.
Following the hectic Budget week, a level of calm will return to the House of Representatives members, with a fortnight of ‘House-only’ sitting commencing on 25 May 2020. During this period, Senators will be undertaking another round of Senate Estimates hearings and may be harder to engage with during this siting fortnight.
The final sitting fortnight before the winter break takes place in the middle of June and may present the best opportunity for business and industry to engage with both MPs and Senators. This is because the June sitting fortnight is the first since March in which political offices are not consumed by the Budget and the immense preparation that is required in handing down and selling the Budget.
A well-attended event during this period is the annual State of Origin function, where MPs and Senators put aside their political differences for one night and unite in a battle between NSW and Queensland. Should your business be looking to hold an event during at this time, you should be looking to avoid any conflicts with this event.
Key takeaway: The Budget period is a very busy period, especially for senior Government and Opposition members. Despite this, the June sitting fortnight can provide business and industry an excellent opportunity to engage with MPs and Senators.
SPRING SITTINGS (AUGUST/SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER)
After the winter break, parliamentarians return for a sole sitting fortnight in August, in which the situation is similar to that of the June sitting fortnight. This sitting fortnight may present stakeholders with the best opportunity for engagement, especially given the typically busy spring sitting fortnights that will follow.
Based on our experience, the spring sittings in September and October are traditionally amongst the busiest for the majority of political offices. There are a number of events running each day, many of which are aimed at similar audiences, which can force those key political offices to pick and choose what events they attend on any given day.
In all sitting periods, but in particular the spring period, engagement requires an extensive level of planning given that members and senators are typically time poor. Engagement should have a clear purpose and compelling story in order to capture attention.
A point to note in particular is the likely difficulty in engaging with senators during the October sitting fortnight. This is because the second week of sitting is set aside for the year’s third round of Senate Estimates.
During this time, senators, ministers and their respective offices are typically preoccupied with preparation of questions and answers and as such can prove to be harder to engage with during October.
Key takeaway: August can be a quiet period for the Parliament, whilst September and October are traditionally busy. Engagement during the spring sitting will need to be planned well in advance.
CHRISTMAS PERIOD (NOVEMBER/DECEMBER)
The final sitting fortnight of the 2020 parliamentary year is scheduled to start on the week of 23 November 2020 and is typically a time of year dominated by festive events and functions.
During this time, political offices are typically less open to engaging on less urgent issues given the pressures of the political year and in particular coming out of the spring sittings which are amongst the busiest of any parliamentary year.
For business looking to engage during this period should only do so if their issue is urgent and cannot wait until after the Parliament’s summer break.
Despite this, should your business be looking for an opportunity for engagement in a casual setting, the organisation of an end-of-year event within Parliament presents an excellent opportunity to build a personal rapport with important members. It is worth noting that there are many events during this period and will need a specific hook to ensure they are successful.
Key takeaway: Engagement at during this period is typically light-hearted and festive and business should attempt to match the tone unless urgent issues arise.
WE CAN HELP
Should you or your team require assistance in formulating an approach to engagement for the 2020 parliamentary year, please don’t hesitate to contact the Nexus team who can sit down with you and your business and ensure your strategy incorporates all of the intricacies that come with parliamentary engagement.
Meanwhile, if you are looking to organise an event in Parliament House, please don’t hesitate to contact Sarah Cullens of the Nexus Team, an award-winning events director who has years of experience in organising a variety of events in Parliament House.