Like a criminal in the dock: there’s no other way to describe how Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey appeared at his press conference today, delivering the Coalition’s long-awaited policy costings.
The man most likely to be in charge of the country’s finances next week showed all the telltale signs of a guilty party: sweating profusely, covering his mouth and constantly dropping his gaze to the floor as he devised his answers.
In a world where perception is fact, and appearance guides perception – particularly during an election when this is exponentially the case – Hockey epitomised the complete opposite of the economic competence he was trying to convey. And on which much of the Coalition’s campaign has been built.
Yet there was little wonder why Hockey looked guilty and ashamed, for he had just produced a mere eight pages of costings for the Coalition’s sixty policies and the means by which they would pay for them.
What a slap in the face for the (admittedly small in number) Australian voters who are genuinely interested in what a policy might cost and how that cost would be offset elsewhere. I’m accustomed to voters being treated like ignorant fools by politicians, their staff and their campaign teams, but this tactic is one of the greatest insults to our intelligence that I can recall.
I’m not suggesting the Coalition’s costings are material to the election outcome. Voters have pretty much decided to choose the Liberal brand and at this stage it would require something like Abbott being caught with the proverbial goat for them to be persuaded otherwise.
I’m not even particularly fazed by the last minute release of the costings, considering the tactic has been employed by Opposition Leaders from both sides for at least the past four federal elections.
No, what gets MY goat is the contemptuous lack of anything that appears to be detail in the costings document – there’s not even a superficial attempt to satisfy those of us who want more than lowest common denominator information.
I wasn’t expecting the Coalition to produce an alternate version of the Federal Budget Papers, but I did expect a greater breakdown of the spending initiatives and the savings. How hard can it be to slap all the policies together in one publication accompanied by their costings? (That’s a rhetorical question – I know it’s not that hard).
The Coalition missed an opportunity today to shake the cynicism of a few doubting Thomases. A professional-looking publication showing a costings breakdown for every policy and the accompanying savings would have set the tone for the first week of a new Abbott Government, conveying: they’re professional and they’re competent.
Today’s exposition by Joe Hockey from the witness box has done just the opposite, conveying: they’re shonky and they’re hiding something.