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June 6, 2012 – 5:28PM


Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey says the Coalition will hold Labor to its promises.Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey says the Coalition will hold Labor to its promises. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

POOR old Joe.

Forced to flick the default personality switch from ”generally avuncular” to ”prophet of doom”, Hockey flailed at a loss, sinking deeper the more he spun in his own rhetorical quicksand.

Good economic news was just that. Good.

Joe Hockey says Wayne Swan (pictured) is the  'scariest thing in Australia.Joe Hockey says Wayne Swan (pictured) is the ‘scariest thing in Australia. Photo: Andrew Meares

However the Coalition narrative demanded it be spun into something less good. Something bloody awful.

Well, we were good, us plucky Aussies, spending and saving and growing, resilient and all — don’t get me wrong.

It was just The Government that was Bad. A shambles actually. And our success proved it — Australia could be, or perhaps it was already, paradise lost, or in danger of being lost, or … something.

Good economic data evidenced, somehow, the deficiency and incompetence of the Gillard Government. ”Imagine how well our country could do if we had a good government,” Mr Hockey blustered, truly heroic in his quest for badness and sadness.

And as for that Treasurer Wayne Swan, (who, given Australia’s 4 per cent annual growth rate, had earlier called for a moratorium on doom-saying about the economy?)

Mr Swan was the ”scariest thing in Australia”.

Adrian Dodd, on Twitter, pretended to agree with Mr Hockey’s analysis. ”I loved him in Wolf Creek.” Blogger Possum Comitatus did not pretend to agree. He demurred. ”There’s scarier things in my fridge than Wayne Swan.”

(This observation seemed, on balance, true enough — of my neglected fridge at least, given our buttoned down Treasurer bristles periodically, and broils, and sometimes permits himself to emit a squawk of pure, unvarnished irritation — but rarely bites.)

The heroic Hockey epic badness analysis continued.

This was not the time to price carbon (when Australia’s rate of economic growth was among the strongest in the developed world).

This was not the time to tax the mining industry (when the red-dust-on-the-shoes set doing so well they are expanding and investing and drilling and generally prospering to such a degree that one journalist today pointed out Western Australia was actually growing faster than China.)

It was a simple case of black being white. If you say it often enough.

Mr Hockey’s little ironic smile that flashed as he departed the podium seemed to telegraph more than words could that it would have been better left unsaid.

Katharine Murphy is The Age’s national affairs correspondent, and writes The Pulse blog for The National Times.

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