You will be required to examine how your chosen Australian organisation and other stakeholders are communicating on the issue to influence public opinion and policy formation

Assignment 3: Major Project due Sunday 26 May 2024 8pm (AEST)

The Major Project has two parts:

  1. Report
  2. Briefing Note on related aspects of the same topic.

Conduct an investigation into a contested public affairs issue of your choice which is an active issue in T1, 2024. An active issue means you have evidence it is being considered by an Australian government at a state, territory, or federal level. You may NOT choose an issue from another country. For example, the practice of fracking is a policy issue in many countries. Fracking is an example of an issue for Australian governments of all levels and an issue for Australian mining companies (global and domestic) that requires public affairs work.

You must also develop Parts A & B from a client (organisational perspective). For example, if you focused on fracking, you would need to select an Australian organisation currently using fracking or proposing a new fracking-based mining project. You would research policy (relevant to federal, state/territories) and public opinion in Australia. Assignment word count requires specificity in scope and focus so an organisational perspective is key.

You will be required to examine how your chosen Australian organisation and other stakeholders are communicating on the issue to influence public opinion and policy formation. Again, please note: the Australian issue must be active in policy and/or media debate in T1, but most issues will have a history. History is relevant, BUT if you make the brief and report about the history, rather than the current situation, you will miss the mark.

The Major Project must include a discussion/analysis of:

  • the issue (policy, public affairs, public opinion perspective)
  • the stakeholders. These are the organisations (third sector and business sector) contributing to the public debate. You should include stakeholders which support your organisation's perspective and those in opposition. You may also want to identify key stakeholders which are not yet decided (latent and aware). Given your issue is contested, they may be a potential friends or foes in shaping government policy and/or public opinion.
  • government policy (including key public sector actors) and other political actors (friend or foe). Remember political and public sector actors beyond 'the government' will be relevant in your analysis.

Both parts of the assignment will be based on: desk research, media content analysis and discipline-specific research and unit content. This assignment is designed to equip you with skills and knowledge used in public affairs practice in the workplace and to demonstrate your applied knowledge gained in the unit.


You work for a consultancy called 'Livewire Public Affairs' and have been asked to write an internal report and briefing notes for a specified client's senior management. You choose the client and the issue (remembering it must be an active issue in T1, 2024) Livewire has a reputation for intelligent and successful research-driven campaigns. They have experience in providing effective communication strategies around issue management for a variety of high profile clients in government, business, and third sector organisations.

Livewire's public affairs consultants are renowned for their industry knowledge, analytical and research skills, and tenacity in managing difficult issues and media relations for clients. They are able to identify what will become 'hot topics' and anticipate what will shape public opinion and influence debate and policy development. Their motto is: 'In full command of the facts'.

In anticipation that the client may be required to respond quickly, you have been asked write an internal report and briefing paper on a contested public policy issue. Its purpose is to provide insight into the current public debate surrounding the issue and its likely trajectory in affecting policy development.

You will therefore select a contested public issue or 'hot topic' that will affect future policy development. Some broad examples are: electric vehicles (EVs), homelessness, medically supervised injecting rooms (MSIR), vaping, gambling, waste. If you are unsure whether your issue and organisation are appropriate, you may check via the Assignment 3 Q&A discussion forum or ask your tutor in seminars.

In researching and writing the report and briefing paper you will identify key issue elements (focusing on contested debates) and anlyse your client organisation's position and their contribution to public debate. However, you MUST also analyse the position of key stakeholders: political, business, media, opinion leaders and influencers, and other social actors (e.g., from third sector organisations).

Your work will include the research of public opinion around the issue, including dominant positions evident in a time-bounded period of heightened media activity. Draw on a range of sources such as government policy papers, senate hearings, Google trends, social media platforms, news stories (feature articles, documentary/current affairs etc), and importantly, library search using licensed databases which you access via the Deakin Library.

This investigation will also be analysed in the context of your demonstrated application of disciplinary research linked to concepts addressed throughout the unit (ALR782 - essential learning resources and readings).


Word limit: 2,500 words  (+/- 10% max)

Weighting: 50% of unit mark

Submission: CloudDeakin > Assessments > Assignments > Major project

Deakin late policy applies: See 'Rights and Responsibilities as a Student' For each day your assignment is late and you don't have an approved extension, you lose 5 marks. It is best to apply for an extension as soon as you know you need one and have the supporting document(s).

Part A: Report 2000 words

The Livewire report will be comprised the sections below. The full report will: outline the issue, provide research-based evidence of public opinion, a discussion of the key actors and positions influencing the debate, an analysis of the appetite of government in relation to the issue, and a forecast of key trends of the issue.

  1. Executive Summary (short overview of report and its findings). (Approx. 200 words). Do NOT simply explain sections from the perspective of general content. Executive summaries are read by busy managers who are interested in a summary of findings and contentions included in the report
  2.  Background/Context: Introduce your client, the issue and policy being contested. Provide a situation analysis of the issue and policy being contested, relevant dates for policy outcomes, summary of history (but limit this to one or two succinct sentences), the public debate (remembering what you learned about public opinion formation in topic 4) and its significance to policy development. (Approx. 300 words). You should also make clear why the matter is important to your client. In other words, ask yourself what are the consequences for the client if they do not get the policy outcome they desire and/or public opinion is against them.
  3. Media Content Analysis: (Approx. 150 words)This will be a succinct explanation of your process.  (e.g., research methods - how, what, and period under review). Ensure you have reviewed Report and Briefing Note format ideas
  4. Discussion: (Approx. 450 words) Analysis of your finding's significance in relation to government action.
  5. Forecast of key trends: (Approx. 200 words)Identify trends to be monitored related to the  issue in terms of public debate (and opinion) and policy formation (in the short, medium and long term). (Approx. 200 words). Think about political change. For example, when is the next Australian federal election scheduled, are there by-elections on the horizon, what happens if the current government is not returned? But don't lose site of your analysis - consider business sector and third sector influence on trends.
  6. Conclusion and Findings: Use this section to conclude your report and highlight key points including problems to monitor and/or opportunities to take advantage of which have been identified in the body of your report. Consider the client's issue position, sector actors and organisations influencing public opinion formation,  and of course, media influences . Keep this section succinct. Bullets may be used effectively to present summarised findings.
  7. References:  Use APA7 formatting and only include sources that you rely on to produce your report. In-text citations must provide page numbers or section/paragraph numbers for online sources). Why? Markers may want to check sources cited to check points made).
  8. Appendices. (Optional: only append highly relevant source material)

Report writing takes many forms and is typically driven by the purpose of the report. We have prescribed the structure for your report, but the following links provide additional insights into report-style writing and presentation.

Part B: Briefing note 500 words

You have identified relevant stakeholders in your Livewire report. Adopt one organisation identified in your Part A report which opposes your client's position. You may choose a clearly defined organisation from government, business, or third sector. Failure to be clear at section 1 of the briefing paper may cause confusion.

Prepare a briefing note for your client about the organisation and their potential actions/communication and impact on driving/influencing policy and public opinion. Briefing notes have many uses. In this context, assume the briefing paper you prepare will be used to inform a future media strategy for advocacy and to influence public opinion (and debate in the public sphere).

1. The organisation name.

2. Date

3. Purpose statement

4. Background summary

5. Current status of policy and public opinion

6. Trends/forecast/

7. Recommendations for media strategy to counter the opposing organisation

8. Your name and contact details

Briefing papers are just that - brief and focused. We have provided you with some examples. However, use your judgement given the task focus. Provide the most salient, relevant points which are powerful, persuasive, and informative for your client. What advice do you really want to provide to your client?

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