With yesterday's announcement of a tripling of WA's Gonski funding, the Government committed at least three cardinal negotiating sins, from which the Gonski Scheme will not recover before the election. Students of Negotiation 101 will recognise:
1) never make proposals you can not justify. By tripling the money to WA overnight, the Government has either admitted its incompetence in assessing what Gonski requires in WA (undermining the credibility of the entire Gonski scheme), OR is back-pedalling from an unreasonable low-ball proposal which was never going to work. Between incompetence and unreasonableness, the Government appears to have chosen incompetence as an explanation - an unusual, but brave, choice.
2) never make concessions without getting anything back in return. Throwing more money at the problem is not generally a successful strategy for keeping predators quiet and docile. In negotiations, generosity generates greed - and we observed the predictable result with the Premier Barnett offering no words of thanks, but unpacking a list of additional demands and going on record as not signing-on before the election whatever happens...
3) reward positive behaviour. Probably the biggest blunder in the long term is the slap in the face of the Premiers of NSW and the ACT, who, with personal courage and against opposition in their own ranks, signed up early to Gonski. The message the Government has sent to them is clear: you were fools to join up early. By rewarding those who held back, the Government is ensuring that there will be no early adopters to any future funding initiatives, however urgent or well intentioned.
The early days of the Gillard Government commenced with the calamity of the botched mining tax negotiation. It appears that few negotiation lessons have been learnt. With a change of Government in the wind, the nation will be watching closely for signs of improved negotiation skill in the next Government. On past performance, we won't be holding our collective breath.
Rose & Barton