Speaking of consumer confidence, it pisses me off that Hockey has made a sport of talking down the economy, with the media in tow behind him, all rabbiting “gloom & doom”. It’s his job to be positive about our economic performance, yet he continually fails to do so.
They’re only wanting to go in hard now because they believe it will save their skins in 2016, and get them re-elected. Apart from that political need, there is no real Budget crisis. By talking down the economy to serve his own purposes, Joe Hockey has created a political crisis.
Joe has become used to being mournful. It’s a hard habit to break.
You really do have to wonder what’s in it (now that the Coalition has been elected) for the retailers, too.
Their customers are overwhelmingly domestic. Loss of confidence locally hurts them the most.
Yet I saw both the peak body wallah, and Gerry Harvey whinge only a little about the Budget, and then say they thought things would be fine anyway. Let’s see how long they keep THAT up!
Every transaction requires confidence as an essential input. It’s a simple equation:
Price + Availability + Confidence = Sale.
Without any of the three being present in the required measure, there’s no sale. You can have the best product in the world, at the right price, but if your customer won’t get out of bed in the morning because he’s too depressed to bother, or he thinks he might need the money to cope with some trumped-up “Budget emergency”, then you’re whistling Dixie hoping to get a sale out of him.
Cruelling the economy is so against the best interests of retailers, yet they continue to do just that. It’s madness.
I suspect that, deep down (perhaps not so deep, either), Joe knows the economy is OK, but that he’s thumping it now to make the “Recovery” (read: return to normal) look like a work of genius on his part.
There is always the danger of thumping it one too many times, of course, and that’s the risk. You can hit an economy so hard that it stays down for the count. You’ve talked yourself into a recession.
I thought Hockey did alright last night on Q&A, but mainly because he blathered. He cited numbers, he cited figures, he cited offsets and all the rest of the economic palaver they go on with. He bamboozled his audience with pseudo economic science.
He failed to notice the poisonous atmosphere of the audience (apart from a paltry cheer-squad up the back). They were worried. Their questions evidenced that worry. Whether it’s true or not, they believe their lives will become more desperate, in the near future.
Joe wafted his metrics over the top of them like a magician sprinkles woofle dust. Abracadabra! I see your pension cut and raise you a targeted co-contribution that cuts out after 10 visits. Or whatever.
It smacked of far too much glibness, a reliance on a fine clockwork mechanism, a faultless and comprehensive plan that had to work and succeed in every aspect, or else all is lost.
Joe Hockey failed to take emotion into account. It’s what bean counters do. He ignored the very real fears of his interrogators: like the poor bloke with cerebral palsy (and that was just the least horrible of his many conditions) who seemed to be close to tears.
The upset on this bloke’s face as Joe smoothly dismissed his concerns was heart-wrenching. He tried to protest, to make further points, but Joe waved him away. Joe seems to have expended all his crocodile tears on the children of Boat People, forced behind barbed wire. He had none for this poor sod. Instead Joe told him about the motorways he was going to build and about how the Carbon Tax repeal would solve most of his problems.
The audience member, another, perhaps alternative “Joe”, somehow managing to maintain a sad dignity, had to go home to a miserable life of doctor dependency and illness, and probably close to a poverty-level existence, while Joe gets to smoke a Havana cigar and receive pats on the back from his minders… “Well done, Joe! You nailed it!”.
There was something terribly wrong about it all. These were real people, with very real concerns and Joe swamped them with Budget-speak blarney. No plan like Joe’s, with all its interdependent contingencies could survive the first whiff of economic grapeshot.
And then we started hear him say that the Budget, which he himself had touted as an austerity document, was in fact MORE generous that Labor’s would have been. Indeed health funding and education had been increased according to Joe. The faces in the audience betrayed a stunned skepticism on that point. When the Treasurer cheerfully admitted that, yes, the doctor co-payment was indeed a new tax, one got the feeling that he thought he could finally fess up, that the ruse had worked, his audience softened – or maybe battered – up enough.
Luckily for all of us, Joe Hockey has never seen a portfolio he couldn’t stuff-up, and in concert with that fundamental tenet of Australian politics, and with the help of the opposition parties, some of the harder edges of the Budget will be removed before Joe’s holy Tea Party crusade gets into full swing and we go too far down the road to Perdition.
If the polls stay the way they are, if the campaign to turn Australia into a mini-me of conservative America turn “not necessarily to the government’s advantage”, expect waverers to come out of the woodwork, all the better to distance themselves from the Budget we did not have to have.