Monday, April 23, 2012

Friends, non-friends and enemies

At its core, winning a democratic election is pretty simple. It can be broken down into 2 basic concepts:
  • You win by getting the votes of the majority
  • Friends are more likely than enemies to vote for you
Next, after years of people-watching and political tomfoolery, I’ve decided that there are three basic relationships in politics:
  • Friends
  • Non-friends
  • Enemies
Clearly that’s pretty simplistic but you get my point. There are people who will actively vote for you (friends), people who might vote for you and have no reason to not support you (non-friends) and those who you can count on to vote against you (enemies).

Putting all that together, political strategy for me has always been a derivative of the following:
  1. Try to keep your existing friends
  2. Try to move people from being non-friends to friends
  3. Don’t waste time trying to please your enemies – and sometimes it pays to purposefully antagonise them so your team has a clearly identified opposition
  4. If you really have to do something that will lose a friend, try not to push them into the 3rd category of becoming enemies
Fairly sound political theory 101, right?

Bewildering it is then, that this first term government that hangs on to power only through a tenuous partnership with the “independent” Nationals would do something as mindless as create new enemies from its group of friends.

There are many sad examples of the Barnett Government doing exactly that but today’s launch of the WA Independent Power Association (IPA) tops the cake. The IPA is a group of big companies (typically very strongly aligned with the conservative side of politics) that was formed to advocate for further competition in the power industry (typically something ONLY conservative governments support).

But why would they need to set up a lobby group against to lobby against the conservative government? The answer is as bizarre as it is disappointing.

Quite simply, Premier Barnett and Minister Collier have been shooting from the hip about re-merging two of the Government’s power utilities - Synergy and Verve and the uncertainty they have created by doing so has really annoyed some of their long-term friends. As I acknowledged above, sometimes in politics you just have to do something that will irritate the best of friends, but in this case the noise around a re-merger is nothing more than that – unnecessary noise.

Neither the Premier or Minister for Energy have done any formal analysis of this plan - it’s just something they think might be good to do. They haven’t confirmed that it’s actually going to happen. Indeed the only thing they have confirmed is that while it is definitely being considered, it’s not currently on the government’s agenda.

It’s kind of like if you were planning to invest in some property and the current owner told you that it was for sale but he might not want to sell it… what the hell are you supposed to do with your money? I suggest it wouldn’t be long before you would take your money elsewhere.

And that is exactly what is at risk here.

I know for a fact that some members of the IPA are actively considering whether or not to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Western Australia’s energy sector.  Their decision to create a new “enemy” lobby group and risk their relationship with the government points to a very real lack of confidence in the way our state’s energy sector is being managed.

1 comment:

  1. The power players want fat returns without real competition at the expense of higher costs to consumers and business. They are not Liberal's friends, mere carpetbaggers.