Joe Hockey Was Utterly Destroyed On Last Night’s #QandA
He did not have very much fun at all.
When Joe Hockey stepped into Penrith Panthers last night, he probably wasn’t expecting the level of thorough obliteration he was about to endure. The foot of the mountain has long been the heartland of ‘Howard’s Battlers’, and would have once been a gimme for the government Joe Hockey serves.
But last week’s budget has angered Penrith, and they let Hockey know about it. What followed was the most precise and completely overwhelming destruction of an opponent that Panthers has seen since Craig Gower and Ryan Girdler took the field back in ‘03.
By the second question of the night you could tell this wasn’t going to be a typical Q and A. The questioner immediately reminded Hockey that the average personal income of everyone else in the crowd was only 10% of his own.
“I’m really curious,” she began, “how it is you manage to stay in touch with what the reality of everyday life is like for the ordinary Australians to whom Tony refers?”
Joe Hockey seemed thrilled.
Subsequently, Hockey was asked if it was necessary to lie to get elected (or, presumably, just something he did for fun). In response, Hockey unleashed a funny little phrase that I personally hadn’t heard before but had something to do with Stopping The Boats — to which the Panthers crowd enthusiastically responded. After all, it was this community just months before that had voted in a candidate who claims asylum seekers are responsible for traffic jams, as if boats had been washing up on the M4.
Next cab off the rank was a young man who would not look out of place in the Home and Away surf shop. He handily listed off just about every broken promise contained within Hockey’s budget.
Mr. Hockey took a little bit of time to explain why each of those broken promises weren’t actually broken promises and were actually something else instead. And on we went.
When the next questioner asked why Hockey hadn’t cut even more out of the budget, she received the kind of smattering of applause you hear when someone makes a shitty golf shot but hey, they still hit the ball so that’s probably worth something.
— Grand Poobah Robbo (@armac152) May 19, 2014
Our next questioner opened with a phrase that will put ice in the veins of any Treasurer: “I’ve done some maths.”
She proceeded to outline a scenario in which a friend’s three young children become ill. Putting together the cost of the childrens’ doctor visits and medication it becomes somewhat untenable for those on lower incomes.
In response Hockey noted that it’s rare that all three children would get sick at once. This elicited a laugh from a crowd, albeit a tired laugh from a crowd up all night dealing with three sick children.
Tony and Joe then went toe-to-toe over the definition of the word tax.
It wasn’t getting any easier. Staying on the co-payment, the next questioner mentioned a pensioner saying she’d just have to “stay home and die” since she couldn’t afford the increase in cost of doctor visits. This left Hockey in the enviable position of having to come out and say he doesn’t support old ladies dying.
Next up, an elderly questioner pulling Joe Hockey up on his comparison of the $7 co-payment to beer and cigarettes — because, you know, as someone surviving on a pension he can’t really afford beer and cigarettes.
The real tragedy here was that his question really would’ve been improved if he’d taken a long drag afterwards.
This gave Tony Jones the opportunity to unleash perhaps the line of the night. Hockey noted that 80% of elderly Australians are on the pension, to which Jones replied “is that the number of people you’ve scared with this budget?”
Then came perhaps the bravest question Q and A has seen. A man suffering a series of chronic illnesses, including an anxiety disorder that would make speaking to a national audience pretty terrifying.
“How do you expect me to live on a disability support pension and treat my conditions when I cannot find suitable work with your proposed heartless Medicare payments and other increased cost of living measures?” he asked.
Hockey bravely disagreed with the premise of the question, and then waved around his cuts to the carbon tax again.
The hits kept coming.
Enter registered nurse Kerry Rogers. If you are sick in the Nepean area you’re going to want to hope your nurse is Kerry Rogers. If she is one iota as good at healing as she is at delivering smackdown after smackdown, you will be back on your feet in seconds (although you may have had all your hypocrisies exposed.)
She opened by praising Mr. Hockey on his ability to do the impossible: galvanise every sector of the medical industry against him.
The attack on Medicare was madness, she said, which would be ultimately more costly for the taxpayer; it was an ideologically-based charge on an already underfunded industry.
Hockey was in full “sick of this shit” mode, but it wasn’t helping. The tide had long since turned.
Questions that followed included whether or not Hockey excluded certain figures from the budget that would demonstrate just exactly how thoroughly the Government was planning to fuck the poor; how medical research will be utilised if people can’t attend university; and how a public servant, likely to be among the 16,000 fired, will live without qualifying for the Newstart allowance for six months.
Hockey was on the ropes, desperately trying to remember if anything in the budget directly attacked the rope industry.
Next up, a young Tasmanian spoke about the insufficient number of jobs in Hobart, against the numbers of people unemployed. He asked how cutting their benefits would help them get the jobs that aren’t there.
Hockey’s response was reduced his by-now favourite phrase: “I don’t accept that.” Because if you don’t like the way something is phrased you can say you don’t accept it, and then it won’t happen. This should apply to the budget, too.
As a Penrith boy at heart, last night’s Q and A was truly uplifting. It’s something we don’t see enough: Western Sydney given its chance, standing up and fighting for what is right for them and their families. This episode had the kind of passion, verve and power that is rarely seen on television. I’d argue, in fact, it had the kind of passion, verve and power that hasn’t been seen in Penrith since 2003, when Ryan Girdler and Craig Gower lead the mighty Panthers to the only victory that compares.
It might be worth firing up iView for this one.
Watch last night’s Q and A on iView here. The Twitter feed cut out halfway through. Added bonus.
James Colley is a writer/comedian from Western Sydney. He tweets at @JamColley.