Joe Hockey in Washington DC
Joe Hockey (Image: Sky News)

At what point does taxpayers’ support for Joe Hockey end? The former treasurer continues to benefit from his time as ambassador to Washington via his new venture as a DC lobbyist.

The Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window team has kept an eye on Hockey’s new firm Bondi Partners (pitched as a “small business” by Hockey). Today Joe Aston reported that Hockey has succeeded in luring Australia’s Los Angeles Consul-General Chelsey Martin to join a number of former advisers and embassy staff.

Now Crikey was highly critical of Hockey’s time as treasurer (although we think what he likely regards as his biggest failure — continuing massive deficit spending — was actually important in keeping the economy going through the miserable Abbott years).

But as an ambassador he proved a revelation, managing the highly demanding relationship with the malevolent toddler in the White House successfully.

Having finished his diplomatic stint, he used the contacts he forged in the Trump administration and Congress to set up shop as a lobbyist and consultant for those looking to navigate a treacherous environment in the capital of the US empire.

While this amounts to using relationships developed at taxpayer expense for personal enrichment, Hockey is as entitled as any other public servant to do this after leaving the public sector behind. The workforce is full of people using skills, knowledge and relationships developed in the public sector in private sector roles. And remaining in Washington means some stability for his wife and children.

What sticks in the craw, however, is that not merely is Hockey parlaying his taxpayer-funded role into a lucrative private-sector gig, but he’s recruiting from among his former diplomatic staff.

It’s fine to employ someone like Alex Tureman, a former Democrat staffer who Hockey brought on to advise him at the embassy. But employing former head of Australian defence staff Alan Clements, or Martin, or national security adviser Mark Watson, amounts to cherrypicking Australian diplomatic and defence talent for a US business.

All, of course, are entitled to work wherever they like. But it’s a very American-style revolving door from representing the interests of Australia straight to representing private interests.

Who’s who in the Hockey zoo

Tureman was senior adviser to Hockey when ambassador and co-founded Bondi Partners. The former Democratic staffer and campaign worker previously worked at Business Forward, a trade group that promoted Obama-era policies such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Martin is Australia’s consul-general in Los Angeles. Before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) she spent eight years covering politics in Canberra for the AFR, including writing stories about the government’s heavy spending on private consultants. She has spent 15 years at DFAT, including as a political counsellor and in public affairs.

Clements was Hockey’s former head of defence at the embassy. The retired air vice-marshal and former FA-18 pilot spent 35 years as a senior officer at the Australian Defence Force and heads Bondi’s defence and aerospace focus. He’s based in Canberra and is the founder and executive director of HARD Advisers, which was set up in May.

Watson was Hockey’s senior national security executive at the embassy where he developed “a range of key partnerships” with US national security agencies and worked with US companies looking for opportunities to engage with the Australian national security and defence communities. He has worked as a diplomat and national security official in Hong Kong, Singapore and London and was previously a lawyer in Sydney.

Peter Fray

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