On one view Treasurer Joe Hockey made an absolute goose of himself on the BBC’s HARDtalk program the other day.
A kinder view is that Hockey and the interviewer, Stephen Sackur, were simply talking past each other. Sackur was talking about greenhouse emissions, Hockey was talking about coal exports. The question remains open as to whether Hockey understands the difference. In terms of the question he was actually asked, he was talking gibberish.
You can see the segment here or here. There are reports here and here. This is from the Australian Government transcript:
Right, you sell an awful lot of coal in Asia and that raises questions about Australia’s commitment to cleaning up its act. You are one of the dirtiest, most greenhouse emitting countries in the OECD group of developed countries. Is your Government prepared to do anything to clean up its act?
Well firstly, the comment you just made is absolutely ridiculous.
Well, Australia is a significant exporter of energy and in fact, when it comes to coal, we produce some of the cleanest coal, if that term can be used – the cleanest coal.
(Inaudible) Highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases of any nation in the OECD. So, what is wrong with what I am telling you? You are a very polluting nation and you have got a decision to make as a Government about whether you are prepared to do anything serious to change that.
Stephen, I don’t accept the basis of your question, and why? Because we’ve got a small population and very large land mass and we are an exporter of energy, so that measurement is a falsehood in a sense because it does not properly reflect exactly what our economy is. We are on the threshold of becoming the biggest exporter of gas in the world. We are a major producer and exporter of coal. We are now selling uranium to India. We are an exporter – a trustworthy, reliable, predictable exporter of energy that is helping to drive the emergence of the middle-class in Asia. Now, that should be welcomed.
He goes on to say that the best way of tackling climate change is to help developing countries become richer, and to do this they need to burn more coal.
Greens will also be interested in Hockey’s reasoning as to why we need to increase the fuel excise:
The fundamental point is this: that we are asking Australians to pay an extra 40 cents a week in fuel taxes on average, in order to deliver the biggest road building program in Australian history.
Didn’t he promise Christine Milne that the extra funds would go on public transport? Seems she was right not to believe him.
I borrowed from Laurie Oakes’ story When Joe Hockey talks, Coalition colleagues wince for the title of this post. The story started:
HICCUP Hockey strikes again! Just when colleagues were starting to think the Treasurer might be getting his act together he produces another gaffe.
Oakes’ story was written before the BBC interview. Hockey’s was attempting to use national security to pressure Bill Shorten over Hockey’s stalled budget bills. Oakes termed this an appalling misjudgement.
“If Bill Shorten truly is honest about his commitment to deliver bipartisan support in relation to our defence efforts in the Middle East, he’ll provide bipartisan support to pay for it,” he said.
That time Abbott hastened to distance himself and to set the matter straight. Shorten was a true patriot, he said. This time, well you never know, he may agree with Hockey, being ignorant about climate change himself. Or perhaps he hoped we didn’t hear.
I think Laura Tingle got it right back in 2010, when she concluded Hockey and Andrew Robb were liars, clunkheads or both, but “whatever the combination, they are not fit to govern.”
That applies to the whole pack of them, Abbott and his front bench, with perhaps one or two notable exceptions.