Negotiating the Australian Senate

Published: Aug 15 , 2016
Author: Keith Stacey

 

The election has come and gone leaving the nation in a state of exhaustion and confusion. It is rare when the person who lost the election then proceeds to do a victory lap. The winner has been described as “the dog that has finally caught the car after many years of pursuit and is not quite sure what to do with it”.

However, politics is the art of the possible and the government will need to play the hand it has been dealt skillfully. There is where their negotiating skills will be at a premium. Count Otto von Bismarck defined the possible as the attainable – the art of the next best. Scotwork would label this a compromise - where both parties give up ground and accept the next best. A skilled negotiator may find themselves achieving all that they desire if they are first prepared to understand what the other party wants. This is best illustrated in the Senate where the number of independents has increased. The government will have to negotiate with Senators who have totally different agendas. Two examples will illustrate the problem faced, but also propose some opportunities this government may have in order to advance its agenda.

The first is the passage of the ABCC legislation that was the reason for the double dissolution in the first place. Senator Lambie has previously voted “no” on this legislation. The importance of a “no” is to understand what the “no” actually represents. Is it a “no” on principle or is there another reason behind it? In Senator Lambie’s case, her stated reason was that the legislation was too narrow and that a wider body to investigate corruption, a national ICAC, should be established. The obvious deal would be to establish such a body with a specialist arm focused on the building industry. So, give her what she wants in return for gaining her support for your agenda.

A similar process could be used with Team Xenophon who wants Australian manufacturing jobs protected and are therefore opposed to the Free Trade Deals (FTA’s) already negotiated. The government could be innovative and propose some “nimble and agile” initiatives in the South Australian manufacturing sector in return for the support of the FTA’s. Again, both parties to an agreement can advance their full agenda without resorting to the sort of watering down of demands implicit in a compromise. Let us hope we see these skills on display in the new parliament – but they will require creative and flexibility on both sides. 

 


SHARE

Keith 432.jpg

About the author:

Keith Stacey
Keith is a Principal Consultant with Scotwork and has over 30 years experience as a business consultant, educator and trainer. He is a regular consultant to senior executives in professional practice and his principal interests in management are strategic planning, project management, client-relationship management and conflict resolution.

Read more about Keith Stacey

More posts by Keith Stacey

Latest Blog:

You Often Have More Power Than You Think

As a negotiation specialist, I’m often asked what the best course of action is when the other party has all of the power. Maybe you are dealing with an incumbent or selling to a duopoly… so it may even feel like it is true that they have ‘all of the power’. While we could talk about what you do when it is true, my experience is that people typically have a lot more power than they might realise.

Latest Tweet:

210/410
Elizabeth Street
Surry Hills
2010
Australia
02 9211 3999
info.au@scotwork.com
Follow us
cpd.png
voty2016_sign_gold.png