This week, we appoint two co-winners to be crammed into the comically tiny Clown of the Week car.
Neither recipient — Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and backbencher George Christensen, the free marketeers championing an inquiry into banks pulling back from mining projects — qualify for the full award on their own.
Christensen gets only half the award because anyone who pays attention to him expects nothing more than this — the free market is just like free speech, a concept of upmost importance until it gives you literally any outcome you don’t like.
Frydenberg meanwhile gets a reduced sentence on account of a better than expected Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, a reminder that, for all the ideological warfare that took place under cover of COVID-19, there was much from the government this year that was at the very least rational, and glances elsewhere show how bad things could be on a lot of levels.
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On the other hand, that’s the whole problem; Frydenberg is supposed to be better. For the longest time, the treasurer earned his “future PM” tag by presenting himself as a basically consistent conservative, a canny politician but someone who could be argued with on ideas.
But across 2020, with his greater proximity to power and the time in the spotlight that comes with it, he’s slid dispiritingly.
First there was his relentless partisan attacks on the Andrews government during Victoria’s lockdown, stooping to exploit the suicide of a friend of a friend in the search for political points, a grubby flourish which got him a few headlines and did precisely fuck-all for the people of his home state. Further, his apparent concern for mental health at the same time as cutting JobSeeker back below poverty levels was a joke.
And now this: lending credibility to a plan that has the government grilling the financial sector for their commercial decisions.
As Janine Perrett reminded us, this is the man who called the idea of a royal commission into the banking sector a “reckless distraction” and a “populist whinge”. Lest we forget what the commission he fought against ended up revealing — bribes, regulators repeatedly mislead, the dead being charged for financial advice.
One would think this history might give him pause. But it appears Frydenberg, like his colleagues, has learnt the great lesson of politics in 2020 — the greatest superpower a politician can have is not great charisma, work ethic, organisational sense or policy vision. It is simply the inability to feel shame.
He and Christensen deserve one another.