Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hockey's Bank Bashing Blooper

This week saw Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey indulge in a little bank-bashing as he tried to score a few political points and be seen as 'hero' to those with a mortgage. It seems to have backfired, on a number of levels.

First, he proposed legislative controls on bank interest rates. That is, he has proposed either aan extreme socialist policy, or an extreme right policy. It is certainly a policy that seems contrary to Liberal Party policy and beliefs, which say that "we simply believe in individual freedom and free enterprise". Legislating interest rates is contrary to both of those beliefs. Malcolm Turnbull, perhaps the Liberal Party's only moderate with any public profile, did his best to distance himself from the comment. Tony Abbott said nothing. (Aside: John Howard and Peter Costello would have publicly decried the suggestion and privately carpeted the perpetrator, while making public statements about banks not needing to raise rates.). Liberal backbencher Don Randall said it was a "typical lunatic fringe idea", not realising it had come from a member of his own party with leadership ambitions.

Second, he proposed an inquiry into the financial services, particularly of banks. The concept is worth considering, but Hockey showed he was just a talking head by indicating he had no plan for any terms of reference.

It seems that, in his quest for a headline and populist policy, Joe Hockey has somewhat alienated members of his own party, and earned the criticism of business and economists, especially in the media, and the Government. While Tony Abbott does not want the instability, real or perceived in polls, associated with a reshuffle, Joe Hockey's days as Shadow Treasurer could well be numbered. Post-Christmas / New Year would be, perhaps, the least damaging time for an Opposition reshuffle.

Populist announcments are never good policy.