Far from fearing Labor’s return to government in Queensland, businesses willing to take a flexible approach will be able to take advantage of competitors dwelling on a likely downturn in business confidence and leverage wealth creating opportunities created by the change.
Since the recent election, we’ve heard tales of woe from the Queensland business community about a potential change of government denting business confidence, reducing investment and destroying opportunities for commerce exposed to government decision making. There is even concrete evidence of some companies, particularly those with an interest in things specifically ruled out by Premier Palaszczuk, getting ready to pack up and leave town.
Have no doubt, there will be losers in the business community. A few new business pipelines are now running dry. Those invested in preparing for privatisations and government property sales face a deadweight loss. So too those who’ve arranged their businesses around large-scale outsourcing and those seeking advisory, finance or construction opportunities that might have arisen from ‘asset recycling’ infrastructure projects.
But with the few exceptions of these so obviously precluded, the change of government should actually create business opportunities for companies smart enough to take advantage of a period of uncertainty and change in the government-exposed market.
State business leaders have warned a wafer-thin parliamentary majority for either party, but particularly Labor, could have negative impacts for businesses. To paraphrase FDR, is Queensland business falling into the trap of ‘fearing fear itself’ by falling prey to group-think around business confidence and Labor?
The very fact this is happening creates great new opportunity for business – for every door that closes, another opens.
Smart operators will turn uncertainty into strategic opportunity. While competitors and peak groups are crying into their coffee, you can make the deal. You just have to be smart enough to work out where opportunities lie and how to position effectively with Labor in government.
The fundamentals of government business in Queensland will remain in place under Labor.
Former Treasurer Keith De Lacy has said “speaking on behalf of the business community, the big concern is a period of paralysis when very little gets done while the government works itself out and how to take itself forward.” This simply isn’t a problem for the vast bulk of commercial opportunities in government-exposed business.
As constitutional academic Anne Twomey pointed out recently, the normal business of government continues very well (arguably better!) in the absence of politicians – in some international cases for many months. It might not be great if you’re a New York hedge fund waiting for a stake in an electricity generator, but it’s little more than a hiccup for an innovative Queensland company wanting to sell a new medical device to the public hospital system.
Even at an ideological level, there’s little for business to fear from a Labor Government. Right back to the formation of the party at Barcaldine in 1891, let alone in the post-war era, Labor has always supported the fundamental role of business in the economy.
There’s as much in it for a Labor Government to support the generators of wealth as there is for an LNP one. The Victorian Baillieu Government showed Australian voters won’t tolerate do-nothing state governments.
Have no doubt Palaszczuk needs to drive private economic activity.
It’s just that some government business opportunities will be new, like those arising from Labor’s promised $40 million business development fund. Those in the resources sector have little to fear, as Adani appears to realise having already stated its preparedness to work with a Labor Government.
The challenge for business is that the most effective way to engage with the government will have changed. A few doors will shut, but the most effective way to get through all of them will have subtly changed. Consultation, employment and social capital being more important focuses than under Newman.
Former Business Council chair Tony Shepherd said the election means the “philosophy of tax, borrow and spend is being rewarded”. Even if that’s true, it might not delight the Business Council but it should delight Queensland businesses seeking to engage the Palaszczuk Government on new opportunities.
Justin Di Lollo is the head of government relations firms for STW Group which includes Labor-aligned lobbying firm Hawker Britton and is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Australian Graduate School of Management. He tweets at @JustinDiLollo.
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