The boy who cried wolf, the tale of Joe Hockey and his own and his government’s credibility deficit.

hockey with abbott staring at him

Joe Hockey has been criticised lately, but I tell you what, I think Joe is going to be one of the great treasurers because he’s someone who bounces back and that’s what he’s doing now.

Tony Abbott ‘telling Leigh Sales, what’ …  ABC, 7:30 4/12/2014

Joe Hockey is the little boy who cried wolf. He cried wolf about Labor’s economic management on the hustings. He cried wolf when he had just been sworn in: ‘Labor’s debt and deficit disaster’ big, bad, wolf had devoured the goodies in the nation’s picnic basket of prosperity. He cried wolf when confecting his budget crisis and emergency.

Now, Hockey wants us to believe there really is a big, bad, wolf out there, this time. Really, truly. Wednesday’s lupine national account figures prove it – with big teeth. It could be the end of the good times for quite some time he is saying today along with some other blinding insights about complacency and doing nothing, both apparently, in the Treasurer’s mind legitimate options by implication.

“These national accounts confirm that when it comes to the future of Australian economy, complacency is our enemy,” he said.

“Doing nothing on economic reform is not an option for our country.”

Disposable income has dropped for two quarters in a row.

Asked whether parts of the economy now appeared to be in recession, Mr Hockey said: “No.”

“Fundamentally we are endeavouring to stabilise the rise in unemployment,” he said.

“Importantly, we are seeing strong export growth.” What he didn’t bore us with is what we already know. Export growth is nothing to brag about when commodity prices are in free fall.

Mr Hockey said he was taking advice from Treasury on the benefits of the three free trade agreements signed with China, Japan and Korea, indicating a refreshing willingness to seek expert advice but puzzling his listeners as to why it had taken so long. Does Hockeynomics mean you get the free trade deal first, fingers-crossed and then ask around Treasury later if it is any good for anything?

“I have no doubt 2015 will be better and beyond will be better than that,” he said, sounding as if he were channelling a fortune cookie.

The downturn in mining-related construction highlighted the importance of the government’s infrastructure plans, Mr Hockey said with a straight face knowing in his heart that he really had nothing on the go in terms of infrastructure and would have to suck up to Daniel Andrews after all.

Of course none of it is his fault. No-one expects the treasurer to admit any responsibility for the state of the economy when things are going south, but the consensus is that Mr Hockey won’t be dancing to Best Day of My Life in his office any time in the near future.

His PM was on ABC 7:30 tonight damning him with faint praise. Abbott said that Hockey will still turn out to be a great treasurer. Great to hear on national television that your boss clearly needs to tell us that he knows you still have your P plates on. Time perhaps Hockey cut his own quick remix, Best Day of the Rest of My Life. There are going to be a lot of bad days from here on in for the beleaguered boy who cried wolf too often. David Johnston and Christopher Pyne could join in the chorus. But the evasion is wearing painfully thin with the electorate who are suffering Federal Treasurer excuse and evasion fatigue and in pensioner’s cases about to see it in their reduced income courtesy of an indexation ‘saving’ which was due to be put through at the last possible moment today.

Yesterday afternoon in parliament, accomplished and highly-credentialed Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen linked the budget and the national accounts data. He asked Joe Hockey when he might “acknowledge that the budget has hurt the economy”.

Bowen was, typically, right on the money. It was too close for comfort for the Treasurer. Tellingly, all Hockey could do was rubbish Bowen’s intellectual capacity and tell him off for drawing attention to the truth. It was a fine evasion of ministerial responsibility.

The Treasurer told Mr Bowen that he “just doesn’t understand”.

“It’s so irresponsible for the member for McMahon to talk like that.”

Mr Hockey, get a grip. If it’s not your fault, it’s hard to see who else is responsible. You need to face the music.  You and your budget have buggered business and consumer confidence. The economy is flat-lining. Even Santa’s got the jitters: retail spending is down in the lead up to Christmas.

When you make cuts and when you kill confidence, you don’t take so much tax, Mr Hockey. So you have another round of revenue write downs on income tax and company tax. Then there is the cost of humanitarian aid and training in Iraq and the national terror wind-up. You spent up big on national security and military action. Then there’s those Senate deals you negotiated to secure support for the government’s legislative agenda. They cost a bundle. Admit it, your poor decisions and your lack of any intelligent economic strategy has been a national calamity. Couldn’t you just fess up?

Of course, it’s clear that you have been minded, recently, Mr Hockey. You did promise that there will be no more big cuts. Did some little red riding hood in PM&C whisper in your ear that cuts could take us into a real recession? It’s true. And you have got the message about the need for infrastructure spending. That’s why it’s encouraging to see you talking sense about letting Andrews have the East West Link money for public transport in Victoria. Bugger your boss. The economy needs that investment spent, despite the PM’s threats during the election as he tried to hold Victorians to ransom by threatening to take the money back unless the East West link went ahead.

So a word of advice about this line you’re running about the Senate, Mr Hockey. Give it away. You want it to approve more cuts? Seriously? You are going to repeat the same mistakes but expect different results? It is too late, there is already a whisper from Julie Bishop, aka Princess Mesothelioma that foreign aid will be cut again. She’s cut because she just found out Abbott doesn’t trust her at Lima alone, so he is sending party animal and most reluctant chaperone Andrew Robb to keep an eye on her in case she does something rash like commit Australia to some real emissions targets.

This time, Bishop is threatening to ‘hang it around Tanya Plibersek’s neck. Every day.’ That’s what she said yesterday, at least, in vindictive fury. You wouldn’t want to cross her. Hell hath no fury like a princess upstaged. You can see why she’s a natural when it comes to diplomatic relations. Only it will be your neck, Mr Hockey and your government’s neck that the albatross of another failed measure will be swinging from. That is if there’s room. There’s a fair bit of dead albatross already there, what with the GP co-payment, the fuel excise, cuts to higher education and so on.

If only those bastards in the Senate would support your economic plan? Mr Hockey, Labor has already supported ‘savings’ of $20 billion. So let’s get this straight about the cuts. You really want to inflict even more of the same damage that’s helped the Australian economy tank towards recession? Bag the opposition; blame it all on them.  It’s the only script you know. How’s that working for you, Mr Hockey It’s Labor’s fault for opposing your bad policy, your bad legislative proposals. It’s Labor’s fault for not coming up with alternatives. It’s Labor’s fault.

Mr Hockey, you should be grateful that someone in Canberra has some sense. Make that sense, experience, qualifications, international esteem and a record of success handling the GFC. Stop bagging them, get your head out of volume two of your biography and try to learn something about economics, especially macroeconomics. A nation’s budget is not like a household budget, Mr Hockey. And for God’s sake, Mr Flip-flop, decide on a message and stick to it.

Your inconsistency does not help your credibility problem.  Mr Hockey, I heard you on ABC RN Breakfast just two days ago telling listeners it was all quiet on the wolf front. It was all lambs, sunshine and green meadows. You wanted us to believe that the economy was powering along.

In fact, you even had a bit of sook when Fran Kelly queried your lie that business and consumer confidence were up. It’s not what the latest NAB report says, Joe and your listeners knew it. You waffled about solid achievement and read out some of your talking points which pretend that you have got 75% of your legislation through the parliament.

The fact is that the only bits you have got through have been the ones undoing Labor legislation, the carbon tax, the mining tax and so on. There is no record of achievement whatsoever, and you know it, Mr Hockey however hard you choose to spin it. You have no credibility. Your government is stuffed. You and Abbott are lower than a snake’s belly in the polls.

And you need that albatross off your neck for the New Year. Cut loose your own real debt and deficit disaster.

One sure way to fix all this, Mr Hockey. You and Tony get together with Peta and Michael and call the GG over the holiday break. Forget debt and deficit disaster. Go for a double dissolution. It’s not only richly alliterative. It’s your only option.