In a new federal government which has mostly been a huge disappointment, Joe Hockey stands out as being closest in it to a rational politician. Too often, the government has tended to prioritize a “tea partiest” social reform agenda (driven mostly by Abbott himself), while often eschewing the urgently needed economic reform agenda, which has always been the hardest, and most important area to tackle in Federal politics.
Abbott seems ready to implement a baffling array of side issues, long being championed by the looney right in Australia, like the Institute of Public Affairs, who are well outside the main stream, but who nevertheless are listened to by the ideological, ultra conservative, mostly conservative Catholic, cabinet of Abbott. To list them all would take up more space than desired, but just consider these:
- apparently it is now “ok to be a bigot” (according to the chief Law Officer in the land George Brandis), no matter how this might offend others or diminish their space under the Australian sky;
- nobbling the ABC, with apparently the eventual intention of selling off, at least parts of it, to News Limited;
- bringing back the British honors system (what a joke!);
- insisting on implementing the most expensive paid parental leave scheme in the world (and most eschewed to the rich);
- refusing to consider a free vote on gay marriage; and
- dismantling a website developed by the Federal Department of Health to inform consumers of the the most fattening and least fattening foods and have that reflected in food labeling – a very effective way of tackling the obesity epidemic and one fought tooth and nail by the fast and packaged food industries. The fact that this was traced back to the assistant Minister for Health’s senior staffer, who happened to be a former lobbyist for these said industries, did not concern Abbott one iota. It is difficult not to contrast the behavior of Barry O’Farrell and Abbott and his ministers. The Abbott Fedral Government seems to be more captive of vested interests than any in living memory – and it has not even been in office 12 months yet.
Joe Hockey, on the other hand, has exhibited mature leadership in not pandering to the nay sayers in the face of closure of smoke-stack and un-economic industries like cars, alumina and uncompetitive manufacturing. He has tabled a visionary process to funnel Superannuation monies into new infrastructure builds by effectively bribing the states to sell off their mature infrastructure assets and then put the proceeds into new start-up programs in return for the Federal government providing 15% of their cost. Now 50% of Super Funds go offshore, because they do not want to invest in start up infrastructure projects, but are more than prepared to invest in mature assets with proven revenues.
This will revolutionize the way infrastructure is financed and built in this country, at a time when construction in the mining industry is winding down. A sensible, common sense, and economically rational way of tackling this problem.