After I fell off my chair again, it was time to get ready for the launch of the Intergenerational Report (IGR). As I re-read the IGR, it did strike me that some people may have misinterpreted my statement that Australians would fall off their chairs when they read it. So let me set the record straight. Although the report is an analysis of future demographic trends, the statement was in no way some sort of reference to the age and frailty of some Australians and their inability to stay sitting upright. Nor was it in any way a sly reference to the sobriety of anyone who might be reading the report, especially the media and members of the Press Gallery.
Now I’m not accusing anyone, but I’m not ruling out the possibility someone may have sabotaged my own chair. I’m acutely aware that the role of Treasurer doesn’t always make one the most popular person in the land. I did not fall off the chair in the Party Room and I was surrounded by my parliamentary colleagues and friends at the time.
Contrary to some reports, Anthony Albanese was seen leaving my office the previous week, but he denies having a saw or axe in his hand. That visit was all about a different ‘Axe’ – a well-known bloke called Max the Axe. Also it wasn’t a three legged chair I fell off, and therefore it was not inherently unstable. It was a carefully crafted and well put together chair that told a clear and coherent narrative about chairs to the Australian people. It was not a criticism of Australia’s ability to produce world class furniture.
Of course the reference may still have been relevant to the levels of sleep that I had been achieving of late, especially with the IGR being finalised at the same time as Budget preparation. But I was feeling energetic and excited about the launch of this critically important document, so that’s not what I meant. Perhaps I should have said the IGR would blow people’s socks off. After all I had commented on the choice of socks worn by Sky’s David Speers to the press conference on the National Accounts the day before. But after the introduction of the New Tax System in 1999 and the end of the black economy, I am conscious that people no longer stash cash in their sock drawers. The reality is I felt people might fall off their chairs due to the level of important data contained in the report – and definitely because of the exciting potential for our future.
The day of the launch began with the usual media engagements. Thankfully ABC News Breakfast decided to do their own voice overs for the ‘pic fac’ of myself, Mathias Cormann, Bruce Billson, Josh Frydenberg and Kelly O’Dwyer all sitting around my desk looking over the report. Some mornings I find myself doing my own voice over for their show too! Luckily the cameras weren’t rolling when my colleagues fell off their chairs.
The media lock-up sort of began on the Monday, with the first stories appearing in the papers, running all the way to lunchtime on Thursday. In the lock-up I was able to mingle with the journalists, advise them of important details in the report, point others in the way of the cafeteria and ask them for any leaks from the report.
One of the great questions in the lock-up was by the Australian’s Dennis Shanahan who asked why I don’t like Ireland. Have I not mentioned my Palestinian/Irish heritage?! And a gold star to the Tele’s Samantha Maiden for pointing out a typo in the report. This actually reflects the interest of the media in the details of the report. And the focus in the coverage on the content of the report reflected that.
After the lock-up, it was time to meet again with the same journalists, albeit in a different room, and this time hold a press conference. ‘OK, is everybody sitting down…?’
Then with my media duties complete I was quickly down to the Chamber to help Chris Bowen out. I really wanted to make sure that he had an opportunity to address the Parliament. I did point out to him that the Opposition had made an issue earlier in the week about Ministerial Statements. So I responded by giving him the opportunity to constructively enter the discussion. I also made sure he was sitting down in his chair when I started speaking…
Joe Hockey is the federal Treasurer.