Not that long ago, allies of the Prime Minister were sufficiently worried about Treasurer Joe Hockey’s burgeoning reputation as an economic hard man that they backgrounded journalists to make sure the media knew it was Tony Abbott who “made the hard calls” within the government. After the disastrous 2014 budget, that backgrounding suddenly stopped.

Now, the PM’s allies are waging an orchestrated campaign to undermine Hockey — with a savage op-ed in the News Corp Sunday tabloids, and multiple stories about Hockey being dumped.

Sacrificing a bumbling Treasurer with poor communication skills won’t address the real source of this government’s political difficulties: the man who makes the hard calls, Tony Abbott himself.

What it will do is make an already chaotic government look even more self-obsessed, divided and buffoonish. Arthur Sinodinos’ contribution this morning — demanding that anyone leaking against Hockey be sacked — only adds to the impression of a rabble led by a desperate man prepared to do anything to cling to the prime ministership. To what end, we don’t know. Hockey, for all his grave faults, at least understands the need for economic reform. Tony Abbott appears to want the top job simply for the sake of being prime minister.

When the Rudd government was looking for ways to communicate better with voters, then-finance minister Lindsay Tanner offered some sage advice: “How about we just try governing?” Tony Abbott and his government would do well to heed that advice. Instead of in-fighting, undermining, and assessing everything through the prism of short-term politics, how about they just try governing? Who knows, it might address some of their political problems, too.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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