The Courier Mail today ran a story revealing that would-be Treasurer Joe Hockey failed to declare a family interest for most of the duration of his Parliamentary life.
Mr Hockey declared the directorship of Steel Harbour Pty Ltd held by his wife, Melissa Babbage, in May last year among a series of “new positions” under spouse declaration rules. But business records show Ms Babbage was appointed to the role in 1998. Pecuniary interest register declarations are supposed to be made within a month.
What was even more interesting than the seeming disregard for public accountability, was Mr Hockey’s response to the story …
“As I become aware of my wife’s commercial interests I declare them, as is appropriate,” Mr Hockey said.
No, Sir, that’s not good enough. Setting aside the question of what it implies about a relationship that one can go over a decade without knowing about one’s spouses’ Directorships, the rules pertaining to the register of pecuniary interests are such that you have an obligation to ask your wife about them. But what’s most extraordinary about Mr Hockey’s response was his utter petulance, nay arrogance in declaring the revelation to be a Labor “smear campaign”.
Mr Hockey said: “The Labor Party has previously engaged in this type of muckraking and then been forced to correct such unsubstantiated assertions. It is a desperate action from a desperate government.”
No go, Joe. I mean, what “smear”? There’s no indication from you the story is incorrect. There’s no concession from you – at least none reported that I can find – that you erred significantly. No apology. No “oops”. Just a pathetic attempt to pass the buck to those who are simply pointing out that you have failed in an important area of public accountability. Is it too much to ask that you acknowledge the failure and offer at least a smidgen of contrition? It’s not the Labor Party asking this of you, Joe, it’s the Australian public (or at least those that think such things matter).
Earlier this year when Liberal heavyweight Arthur Sinodinos was forced to apologise to the Senate for failing to declare a bunch of Directorships, he at least showed some character. Can you, Mr Hockey, match that? Do you share a similar level of concern and regard for the principle of transparency in Government? It would appear not.
Even if were to come to light that you had expressed some sort of penitence it wouldn’t matter, as trying to make the issue about Labor and “smear campaigns” is a pathetic and cowardly way to attempt to abrogate your personal responsibilities. And you want us to support you as a future Federal Treasurer?
What’s also somewhat tangentially interesting about the Courier Mail’s story, is that despite the fact they were revealing a not insignificant failure on Joe Hockey’s part, they nevertheless saw fit to litter the story with photos clearly intended to show him in a positive way. Happy snaps of him and his wife, culminating in a fantastically irrelevant-to-the-story family shot of the couple and their children.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer my news services, when reporting actual news, to not attempt to emotionally manipulate me, and how else is such a thing to be interpreted?