Mr Hockey, you need to come clean. Come clean with the Australian people. You can start with being honest with yourself. Take a deep breath. Deep down, you know you stuffed up the Budget. Now you are stuffed. Your government’s pretty stuffed, too, largely thanks to you. Next to your Prime Minister, you are the chief architect of its disaster. And you know it.
It wasn’t a little stuff-up. You stuffed your first budget comprehensively, from design to delivery. First let’s take the delivery. You couldn’t put a foot right. The ‘poor people don’t drive cars’ thing, the cigar thing, the dancing in your office on Budget Night to name but three of your many debacles; none of that helped, even though there is probably a Darwin Award nomination for life-endangering stupidity in it. We won’t even go into your appearance on the BBC in October when you were caught out on greenhouse emissions. Your party denies climate change. And you deny that there is any link between economic activity and global warming. But it would not have mattered how badly you had carried on, Joe your Budget Disaster is more deeply-rooted than that. Generally, a government can ride its first budget home without too much trouble but your government’s first budget fell at the first hurdle, the hurdle of macroeconomics.
Macroeconomics is something your shock troops, the Commission of Audit failed to understand; something no reasonable person would expect them to understand. They are just wealthy businessmen after all, business-card carrying bovver boys, sent out to work us over and soften us up so that you could budget-cut the bejesus out of our standard of living. But they got it wrong. As you would expect from a mob from business backgrounds, they didn’t know better because their experience is almost solely in microeconomics. And it showed in their absurd first premise.
The Commission adopted the assumption – as the underlying basis for its recommended budget cuts – that overall unemployment would stay close to 6 percent whether any, some, or even all of its suggestions were implemented. It was, and remains, an absurd over-simplification. You can’t make billion dollar cuts without increasing unemployment.
You increase unemployment: you decrease your government’s income tax revenue. And it has all come back to bite you on your rump. If it were a horse, you would take your budget out the back and shoot it, Joe. But in politics, you know it won’t be the horse that will be sent to the knackery.
Talk it up all you may, the economy is not responding the way you said it would. And you just sound daily less competent, less credible, less believable.
No good shouting in parliament, either, Mr Hockey. You look and sound desperate. And no wonder. Unemployment is up according to the ABS. Business and consumer confidence are down, according the NAB. That’s what you would have expected had you troubled to look at the bigger picture. Had you known to look at the macroeconomics.
Adding even further, now, to your desperation is the way your party has shot its credibility to pieces by promising no cuts as one your election ‘promises’. You lied about what you aimed to do to get elected. And you have lied about that lie ever since. You can’t get your cuts and new taxes (let’s not call them savings) past the Senate yet you have no other strategy. As the PM admitted yesterday, there is no Plan B. All your desperate, hypocritical bipartisan appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
So now, the best you can do is rubbish Labor for behaving well, like an opposition. This horse is well and truly dead, Joe. Stop flogging it. Besides, you make yourselves appear as if you are still behaving like an opposition. And there’s a double jeopardy with that: do you really believe the people won’t remember your own opposition antics? Or maybe triple jeopardy in that it is always a bad idea to blame someone else every time you make a mistake. You don’t even have to be in politics to know that.
Of course it’s not all your own fault: falling commodity prices have painted you further into a corner. In addition to your own bad medicine, your own incompetence, there’s been a big drop in overseas earnings, despite a modest increase in exports. And we stand on the threshold of another GFC if oil prices continue to plummet. But don’t expect sympathy and understanding.
Remember when terms of trade turned crook when you were in Opposition and you still blamed Swannie? Remember the ways you rubbished Labor for a budget deficit blowout caused largely by falling commodity prices? Now it’s happening to you. The only difference is that Wayne Swan had a few clues. In fact, he was internationally recognised for his smarts as a treasurer. And he understood macroeconomics.
Stupidity is repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result, Joe. When you don’t know what you are doing, you fall back on repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. Against all advice, against all evidence you reckon that a few more cuts will get the budget on track. Unbelievable! And you reckon you can hector Labor into dropping their opposition to your fundamentally flawed and unfair budget and pass the cuts in the senate. Incredible!
Let’s just get this straight. You rubbish Labor. You accuse them of being wreckers and incompetents and then you appeal for their bipartisan support for a budget that is fundamentally flawed, a budget that just won’t work. You lie about their record of success in government. You spin the old debt and deficit disaster slogan every time you open your mouth. And you expect Labor support? How’s that working for you?
Time to man up and take stock even if the truth hurts, Joe. The truth is that you are being sidelined because your PM and your party have lost all confidence in you. Just admit it. OK, we know that type of thing is hard for you. Honesty is not something we have come to experience recently from the Liberal brand. Denial is your stronger suit. We heard you havering on ABC Radio National this morning. Fran Kelly asked if you were being sidelined now that Michael Thawley has been appointed secretary of PMC. She clearly touched your thaw spot. Your response was to try to shoot the messenger; rubbish things you see published. Abbott and Thawley, themselves, you claim, couldn’t believe ‘that article’. Shall we take that as a yes, then? No more hocking, Mr Sooky. Let’s look how your PMC has worded it:
“Mr Thawley is expected to advise on how budget strategy should be recalibrated, and then co-ordinate all arms of economic policy including industry policy, labour market policy, education, transport, infrastructure and tax reform.”
Sounds a lot like he’ll be doing your job, Joe. Best you fess up. Throw yourself on his mercy. Start with telling the truth about the way you hung Napthine out to dry in the Victorian election.
The truth is you chose to hang on to news about your government’s decision to soften on privatising university fees and on GP co-payments when earlier signals would have thrown Nappers a lifeline. OK you are still pretending about the GP co-payment because you want to fiddle the books at MYEFO. You want to leave in the receipts from a co-payment you will never collect just to adjust the bottom line a bit as Labor said in the house yesterday. It won’t work, Joe. The electorate is smarter than you think. And tell your boss to back off with his bullshit about withholding the 3 billion for the East-West link project. You pledged those funds last year for public transport.
Now Peta Credlin let the GP co-payment genie out of the bottle without telling you and you tried to stuff it back in. Your own MPs were forced to ask reporters what their own party’s policy was. It wasn’t a good look, Joe. No good whinging about her authority getting above her pay grade; better get used to it. You are well and truly second fiddle. There only be a lot more of the same from Thawley.
Time to stop blaming Labor for everything, Joe. It won’t wash unless, of course, you really want to sound like an opposition. We’re all heartily sick of it although some of us are sure your lot could blame Labor for the Ebola crisis and the loss of MH17. Time to stop pretending you have the foggiest idea of how to be a treasurer. Do the decent thing. Come clean; make a clean breast of it. Apologise for your stuff ups. Admit your own ignorance and your mistakes. Step aside before you are pushed. It’s for your own good and it’s best for everyone in the end. It will be a lot less messy and much less painful all round. Drop out now and avoid the rush at the end of your government’s first term. You will only get one term. You never know, you could start a trend.