Monday, September 21, 2015
Joe Hockey as MiniRAT. Thoughts on his departure
Joe Hockey was Tony Abbott's Treasurer (finance minister in most countries). He is widely thought of as being one of the weak links in the Abbott Government and has lost his job in the new administration. He is leaving Parliament.
Joe was not someone I agreed with much. My politics are a fair bit to the left of his. But I have a much higher opinion of him than most people and that opinion was from experience.
Early in my career I worked in Tax Policy Division of the Australian Treasury. Much of my work was detail and accounting obsessive studies on what was really going on in tax avoidance schemes and the like. High bandwidth dry stuff.
Most the details parts of tax policy and corporate law is handled by the Assistant Treasurer who used to go by the awful monicker of "Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer". The wags always shortened this to the MiniRAT.
When I was at the Treasury we had several MiniRATs some of whom were unimpressive. However I had a bit to do with Joe Hockey when he was MiniRAT and found that he was enormously quick at getting across the brief. He did not always agree with the Treasury advice - but he was able to enunciate the issues. He asked exactly the right questions - and sometimes questions we had not thought through ourselves.
Joe had the bandwidth. I mean really properly. Joe was sharp.
When he became Treasurer I had very high expectations. And I was mostly disappointed. As Treasurer he never looked the part.
I do not know why. Partly I think it is hard to be a rational finance minister when you have an ideologically driven (rather than pragmatic) Prime Minister. Tony Abbott did not care for the numbers and that makes it hard to win on the numbers.
Some people think he was just lazy. Smart but lazy. I see no evidence.
Maybe he did not have the support necessary to carry things in Cabinet. I am an outsider these days. I do not know.
I was disgusted at the way Martin Parkinson was railroaded out of the Treasury Secretary job (permanent head job in the UK context). That lowered my opinion of Joe - but again I was not privy to the politics.
That said Joe, if you are reading this. Good luck in the future.
Also here is some unsolicited advice to anyone who winds up in his future. Be aware that underneath the political bluster is a fine mind.
I hoped for and expected a better end to Joe's career. But then maybe this is not the end of his career.
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