What does Australia’s minority Labor government mean for business?
08 September 2010
So Australia’s new minority government has a ‘rainbow’ tinge, if there is such a thing. A mostly Labor coalition of Greens and rural conservatives, who delivered Australia’s first woman Prime Minister government seventeen days after the polls closed. In the lead up to yesterday’s momentous – and tortured – decision by the two country independents, a few changes to the way parliament functions were achieved in just one of the rounds of trying to win their support. The rules surround question time, the presentation of legislation and time limits on questions and answers. More importantly for business seeking engagement with government is the increase in relevance of the committees. This means that a good understanding of procedure and process will help in getting your views across.
However while all the bluster of the past two-and-a-half weeks of negotiations has resulted in the over representation of ‘anacoluthia’ on behalf of those whose importance in the process has ebbed and flowed, it certainly won’t be a ‘paradigm shift’ to a kinder, gentler parliament as has been repeated far too often. Even the feel good vibes emanating from the extraordinary display of a ‘group hug’ from key negotiators from major parties and the three ‘Queen maker’ independents, won’t last. Consensus, smenshus.
The Opposition, lead by the feisty, gutsy and blokey Tony Abbott will continue with the style that has worked for them so successfully. Tony Abbott brought the motley bunch that formed the Oppositon into some sort of tight-knit team that stood rigidly behind him while he executed his belief that an Opposition should ‘oppose’. And do it loudly. He even earned the title ‘Mr No.’ But it got him to within one vote of being Prime Minister, after having earned more first preference votes (about 700,000 more) at the election. He has no reason to change his style. It works.
They key for business will be to continue building relations with senior government ministers, understand their priorities and how you can help make them work. But now you will need to work with the Greens, the Independents (one of whom may even be a minister), and the government backbenchers – whose importance to the running of government successfully cannot be downplayed. Everyone matters in a minority government.
It will also help if you can be seen to improving the lot of rural and regional Australia. The Independents need to convince their conservative electors that political intercourse with the Greens and to a lesser extent, the Labor Party, was a good move. If you can help them do this, you are at first base. Rural, will become the new black.