The longer the election campaign goes, the more confusing Joe Hockey becomes.
Last week he was angrily claiming inflation wasn’t under control, a view at odds with, well, the rest of the universe. It would place upward pressure on interest rates, he insisted. Yesterday he responded to the RBA decision to leave rates on hold by claiming we’d “dodged a bullet.” “Quite clearly,” Hockey said, “evidence emerging on retail sales and building construction indicates the last interest rate increase is still hurting Australian families. They are feeling the heat because the government just doesn’t understand what it is doing.”
Just forget for a moment those two statements don’t make any sense when run together anyway.
If inflation remains out of control, as Hockey insists that it does, then why didn’t the RBA lift rates yesterday? Shouldn’t he have been reluctantly urging the RBA to lift rates to deal with inflation?
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The only economic policy Hockey has to offer is the straw man of Labor debt driving up interest rates. The economic facts have relentlessly refused to cooperate – just like they refused to cooperate in the aftermath of the GFC, when the Coalition insisted the Government’s stimulus packages wouldn’t work.
You can only assume that is why Hockey has been almost entirely absent from the Liberals’ national campaign so far, with Andrew Robb much more visible. It has been Robb who has counter-punched every time Labor has tried to attack the Liberals’ costings, not Hockey. It has been Robb who has been all over the media attacking Labor. Hockey has been the invisible man of the campaign, confined to regional Queensland campaigning, although he got tangled up in Cairns yesterday over conflict of interest claims.
Imagine Peter Costello vanishing from sight for long stretches of election campaigns during the Howard years.
Yesterday Tony Abbott confirmed he would retain his existing economic team if he won Government. That means at this rate we’ll wake up on 22 August and Hockey will be in charge of the Australian economy.
The only reason Hockey has the job is because, after the debacle of Julie Bishop as Shadow Treasurer, Malcolm Turnbull foolishly promoted him over Robb. When Abbott knocked off Turnbull, he left Hockey in place out of fear of causing ructions amongst Liberal moderates.
We may all end up paying for Turnbull’s error of judgement back then.