Joe Hockey: The illegitimate treasurer

The budget got handed down by the illegitimate treasurer Joe Hockey last night. I’m going to call him illegitimate from now on, for reasons that I’ll elaborate on, having given the matter some thought.

The fundamental reason he’s illegitimate is because he’s in a position of power that’s predicated not just on a single fib, because, hey, politicians lie, but on an entire platform of illegitimacy.

illegitimate |ˌɪlɪˈdʒɪtɪmət|
1 not authorized by the law; not in accordance with accepted standards or rules: defending workers against illegitimate managerial practices.

For the record, I’m using the “accepted standards” part of the definition here, although I suspect if I applied legal principles to a standard job interview, Mr Hockey would be out on his ear sharpish. But I’m not a lawyer.

Just to be clear; this government is in power. They got voted in, and governments in power govern, by very definition. I may not — and I don’t — agree with their stated policies, but that’s the price of democracy. Budgets come and go, and there are always those who do well or poorly out of them.

I’ll give you a personal example, because the practical reality to me, of this budget, isn’t all that great. I’ll pay more for Medicare costs upfront — I do wonder what all those private health funds will make of that — but that’s about it in the short term. I can’t predict what it’ll do to the broader publishing economy over time exactly, though I’m not optimistic.

I’ve been a journalist for sixteen years now, and in that time, the averages I’ve seen paid per word (a generally useful metric, but not the only metric) haven’t changed at all. They’re the same, or sometimes lower, than they were back in 1998.

What does that mean? It means in very real and measurable terms, journalists working freelance (which is the majority of my working career) haven’t just lacked pay rises over two decades; they’ve taken a real pay cut. I’ve just looked it up out of curiosity, and back in 1998, petrol prices were at around the 60-70c/litre price point. I now regularly see petrol prices at around $1.50. My freelance dollars buy me a whole lot less than they did back then.

The thing is, while I’d obviously like to be paid more (who wouldn’t?), I’m not going to complain about where I am right now. I’ve got a roof over my head, my mortgage payments are met and my kids are well fed. I even get the odd luxury from time to time, with sensible budget management.

When drawing up a national fiscal blueprint, I’m one of those who could take a little more budget burden, but having been there previously, I’m all too well aware that there are many in lower economic brackets who genuinely can’t.

A $7 medicare hit will stop them going to the GP, which means that a problem may become a catastrophe for them personally, and a serious cash catastrophe for Medicare itself. Bernard Keane has a decent analysis over at Crikey looking at the numbers and the effect on different income brackets.

Take up a position based on a platform, and it's not unreasonable for your bosses (that's the people) to hold you to them. Anything else is corrupt.

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.”
You know who said that? Tony Abbott said that.

Even the much lauded “debt levy” on high income earners is likely to be dwarfed by the superannuation benefits that this exact group will get from this government. Oh, and that’s also ignoring the group of ultra-rich types who pay no tax at all. That’s not drip-down economics; that’s vampirism, and it feels like a fitting term, because I do wonder if those folks even understand the concept of a soul.

Then again, the LNP plays to the big end of town, and always has done, under the mantra of “fiscal responsibility” to the masses. I have my own very serious doubts about that one — the “budget emergency” that the illegitimate treasurer was honking on about seems to have vanished while at the same time he’s actually DOUBLED THE DEFICIT ALL BY HIMSELF — but that’s actually not what they got into power with.

What they got into power with was on a set of specific policy promises, ones that they happily broke down into chantable mantras to keep things simple. The issue with simple statements is that no amount of sophistry (“debt levies”, “non-core promises” etc) can properly undo them.

The Coalition came to power on a bed of promises they made themselves, but the budget reveals exactly how much validity those promises have. (Picture source: Online, original compositor unknown)

The Coalition came to power on a bed of promises they made themselves, but the budget reveals exactly how much validity those promises have. (Picture source: Online, original compositor unknown)

I mentioned this on Twitter last night, and the single and only response I got in the negative was to the effect of “Oh, but Labor lied. All politicians lie. I’m sure you didn’t call them out on that, did you?”

Actually I did; I’m on the record, for example, as being appalled with Labor’s treatment of refugees, chasing the xenophobic vote particularly. Twitter’s a terrible place to hold a discussion though, because you’re stymied by length.

I loathe this particular tit-for-tat “excuse” in any case, but terribly specifically in this case. It’s not a situation where the LNP rode into power on a platform and discovered that one or two things weren’t within budget reach for reasons that could not be reasonably foreseen.

No, it’s not that at all. They have, quite rapidly, BROKEN EVERY SINGLE ONE, and quite deliberately, and with a quite specific agenda in mind. I’m told by some who argued with me that this didn’t matter, because everyone lies but that the LNP still has “principles”, but that simply cannot be true.

principle |ˈprɪnsɪp(ə)l|
1 a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning.

The foundation of the LNP’s election promises was this oft-repeated mantra of no new taxes, no cuts to Medicare/Education/ABC/SBS. That foundation has been shown to be entirely and utterly without merit.

For those who came for the technology laughs, I’m also reminded that Tony Abbott declared the LNP NBN plan to be “bulletproof”, but we’ve all seen how that’s ended up. The NBN is dead from here on out, because it’s going to go down the private funding route. We’ve seen where that puts Australia telecoms policy in the past; indeed, it’s the reason why an NBN made sense as a government investment in the first place!

Quite why “oh, well, politicians are liars, hah hah, never mind, I’m OK Jack” is acceptable for anyone but the most reclusive of sociopaths eludes me. But so it is; it appears that a reasonable segment of Australia is populated by people who don’t get basic empathy, or even the essence of democracy. So I’ll break that down for you.

In a democracy, the power is held by the people, who have a vote.

They vote for those who stand, and in order to get their message across, the people standing for government show their principles upfront. That’s what you vote for, and, once elected, that’s what they’re meant to do.

At least, that’s how it’s meant to work, and, if the LNP were in any way honest, they’d be striving to fulfill their election promises.

They might not make it on every single one, but they’d be trying to do the things they were elected to do. It’s often referred to as a “mandate” by politicians.

These mandates, Joe. The ones your voters actually voted for.

These mandates, Joe. The ones your voters actually voted for.(Picture source: Online, original compositor unknown)

Saying “oh well, they’re all liars anyway” sends as strong a signal as possible that you actually don’t value your vote in any real way at all.

You’re not interested in having a say, and, realistically, if that’s true, your argument holds absolutely no weight, because your vote carries no weight.

Simply letting the LNP get away with a complete platform of lies staggers me, and yes, if this was a Labor government that had completely abandoned the platform it stood on I’d be equally outraged. Or Green, or (shudder) Palmer Party, or any of the others. It’s a very simple principle, and it’s one that the LNP is rather gleefully urinating on right now.

The election mantra was a complete platform of lies, and one they’re openly jubilant about. Reportedly, Joe Hockey, the illegitimate treasurer, was dancing to “This is the best day of my life” as he prepared to hand down his budget.

Yes, that’s a thing he did. He danced, while the lies that the LNP government got on were burned, one by one.

If that’s not the definition of illegitimacy, I don’t quite know what is.

All opinions within are my own; I am not affiliated with any political party and my views are my own and not those of my employers. Pictures of Joe Hockey on this page are via in the Media section where they are presumably cleared for media use and analysis as per standard fair dealing provisions.

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3 Responses to Joe Hockey: The illegitimate treasurer

  1. David Hague says:

    Well said Alex. Well said.

  2. Christian says:

    You could argue that the LNP kept the promise that mattered most to them, one which the average voter obviously decided to ignore under the avalance of rhetoric from the captive press. The promise was to big business and those with money and influence -to always act in their best interests at the expense of the rest of us.

  3. Greg says:

    Spot on.

    Both parties have abused the fact that we live in a representative democracy – lying to gain power and then failing to represent us through their policies.

    I question whether the representative democratic system work if its success relies on the honesty and integrity of those in power.

    Sure, we can let our voices be heard at the next election but that’s after being misrepresented in parliament…and then we’ll only fall back into the viscious cycle.

    I think that sometimes it’s not people lacking empathy but rather having total disdain about the situation.

    Is there not a better solution to hold our politicians accountable?

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