Poor Joe Hockey, exposed as not being important enough to be kept in the government loop on Medibank and thus caught telling the truth when the official line was to lie.

The Oz’s Matt Price was on radio yesterday afternoon bagging Hockey for not reading his papers before opening his mouth at a doorstop yesterday to say the sale was still on and there was plenty of depth in our financial markets. (The criticism should specifically be “not reading the AFR” as it had the drop. Or you could go further and suggest he hadn’t taken enough notice of Crikey as we had already forecast Medibank would go the way of the Snowy.)

But the real criticism should be made of Nick Minchin for not telling the truth about why the Medibank sale had been pulled – politics, the Parrot and public opinion, not the financial markets.

It’s patent nonsense for Minchin to suggest a $2 billion Medibank float in the first half of next year would get in the way of the $8 billion T3 late this year. It’s worse than nonsense – it’s a straight lie. Maybe its symptomatic of Canberra that Hockey is the one that looks the goose thanks to the truth being inconvenient. That’s a lot of that going around.

What now becomes interesting to speculate on is what strategy Howard & Co has already hatched for Medibank in the election. The current stance of a straight IPO is simply too obviously a gift for Labor, so we must expect a fat discount (ie bribe) for existing Medibank Private clients. The Government will offer the 2.8 million of them a handful of dollars (why does everything sound so familiar this morning?) leaving Labor to do… what?

Kim’s Option 1: Promise not to sell it.

Kim’s Option 2: Promise to give it to existing clients, topping Howard’s bribe.

Kim’s Option 3: Wrap it in a Gold Card, tied up with a Noodle Nation, and throw in compulsory unionism for all employees.

Peter Fray

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