Was Leigh Sales’ Post-Budget Interview With Joe Hockey Fair And Balanced, Or One-Sided?

Spoiler: the answer depends entirely on whose side you are on.

joe hockey

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Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered the Abbott Government’s second budget last night, and so far the general reaction can be summarised by the universal utterance of: ‘meh?’. Abandoning the bleak economic outlook that had justified the horror of their previous attempt, the slew of meek offerings and glossed-over cuts reeked more of a government trying to claw back their public than anything else.

A paragraph which, if one had the pith and sass of Leigh Sales, could be summed up in just one question: “Treasurer: is this what political retreat looks like?”

Leigh Sales took on Joe Hockey directly following his budget address, with a serious of questions that, one by one, took the wind out of his merry little sails. He wanted to be the Good News Guy this time; he wanted to “give people a chance to innovate, to have a go”; he wanted to allow “small business to have a go”; he wanted to “give Australian families every opportunity to have a go”; and, most of all, he wanted “the Australian people to have a go”.

Sales wasn’t having a bar of it. Interrupting his attempts to evade her line of questioning, she pointed to the inconsistency of a government that had spent five years describing a budget emergency — one which forced Australians to either make sacrifices or be guilty of “intergenerational theft” — before suddenly taking a “leave pass” for “handouts and new spending”.

“Since the last budget you’ve back-flipped on numerous plans; you’ve dropped talk of a debt and deficit emergency; you’ve relied on excuses for which you pilloried your predecessor,” she said. “Do you accept that voters are thoroughly confused, not only about what your government stands for, but also about your competence?”

Hockey justified the new budget outlook; although there was more to be done, he said, his government had managed to reduce the projected net debt he claimed had been inherited. At which point he and Sales spent an interminable amount of time throwing around the same numbers to make opposing points — a sentence which, when read back, can a) describe the state of Australian politics more generally, and b) explain why Hockey began to look so frustrated.

Sales also brought up the government’s promised Paid Parental Leave scheme: “Now, not only has that policy been dropped, but you’re winding back the currently less generous scheme that’s available to women, and accusing women who’ve legally accessed it of “double-dipping” and being frauds,” she said. But the real turn in the mood came with her final question: “After last year’s mis-steps, do you accept that this budget is make-or-break for you as Treasurer?”

“It’s not about me, Leigh,” he said tersely, before almost-yelling: “IT IS ABOUT MY COUNTRY.”

Marie Hogg in the Australian has described the interview as one-sided, “acrimonious and awkward”, with Joe Hockey “unable to finish a sentence” as “Ms Sales cut him off” repeatedly, “chose not to respond to the Treasurer” and “blocked him from commenting”.

Many agreed with this assessment:

And many didn’t:

Regardless of how you feel about it, you can be sure it’s just the first of many difficult interviews Joe Hockey will be giving in coming weeks.

Watch it here:

And for a point of comparison, here’s Leigh Sales vs Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen later that evening.