A hung parliament is good news for business
Regardless of the outcome of this hung Parliament scenario; business and vested interest groups will be the winners in the medium to long term.
Forget the current wobbliness on the stock exchange and the suspension of investment and trade by some mining companies and multi-nationals; the opportunities posed for those wishing to engage with the independents and the incoming Government far outweigh the risks.
And if you are a sector which can manage to align its interests with the agenda of those rural independents and the inner city, latte-sipping views of the Greens; then you are on a winner.
Conversely, business can no longer afford to ignore Canberra. It can’t take the support or otherwise for granted of any party regardless of past behaviour and perceived allegiances. No longer can unions be assured of a good hearing from Labor, nor big business a chair at the negotiating table by the conservatives. The broad brush approach to advocacy will no longer work.
So what are the opportunities and risk for businesses and associations?
A much more volatile Parliament offers more of each. For the first time in the modern political era legislation in the House of Representatives will have to be judged on its merits. As an organization wanting to engage politically and in a policy sense, business and associations will have more options than simply having to win over the government of the day to see their cause succeed.
Each one of the Independents views –and votes – will count. It is important to recognize that just because the Independents decide to support either the Coalition or Labor as a minority government does not mean they will support them on every issue. Each piece of legislation will pass or fail in the House of Representatives on the basis of the energy sectional interests devote to MPs across the spectrum.
Remember also, that a defection by even one MP from the major party in minority government could make the difference between legislation passing or failing. This means advocacy needs to be carefully considered, strategically planned and very carefully and deliberately executed.
It also opens up opportunities on nearly every piece of legislation or every policy debate to be challenged by lobbying those MPs likely to cross the floor and support your case. Political issues management will become much more flexible and fluid.
Relationship building with not only the Independents but all MPs from hence forth will be critical and a deepened knowledge of every MP’s likely interest in an organisation’s issue and sympathy with its concerns will be very important.
It will also be critically important to learn to tailor arguments to the specific concerns of the Independents and Greens. When, whom and in what tone to approach should not be left to chance. This is particularly so in the Senate where, come July 01 2011, no legislation will be passed without the support of the Greens, unless of course the Opposition agrees with the Government.
This represents untested waters. We are entering a transitional phase as the Greens move from being a party of protest to a part actively involved in legislative negotiation.
The Greens will effectively take over the role previously played by the Democrats in the Senate. At least initially, uncertainty will prevail and business confidence will take a hit until it becomes clear whether minority government with Independent backing is a viable option.
If it is not the country could head back to the polls within months. The nightmare scenario would be a second election that also did not result in a clear winner. On balance the uncertainty and risk associated with the new political paradigm is probably a net plus for business and vested interest groups opening up more diverse opportunities for the prosecution of their collective interests.
Having the Government of the day oppose your cause no longer means that it could become lost in either the Lower House or the Senate. In short the 2010 election has resulted in a radical re-alignment of power centres within the Australian political system.
This is a positive for busines but it will mean a lot of work will need to be done in order to ensure support for your issues is translated to legislation that is accepted through both houses.
The converse is true to impact on legislation that you want to prevent or amend. No issue, important to an organization or an outcome, can be left to the occasional burst of attention or splash of publicity.
As someone once said in Canberra, if you are not at the table - you are on the menu.
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