Editorial - Friday, August 15: What is Joe playing at?
I'M convinced Joe Hockey is a good man, a highly intelligent man.
Which makes his recent comments - highlighted by this week's "the poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far in many cases" - so difficult to understand.
That comment is not just a one-off, either. Recently, the treasurer was arguing the rich deserve more benefits from the budget because they pay more tax.
It seems he is struggling with the concept that has underpinned Australia's taxation system for, well, forever - the rich should be paying more of the burden because they have more.
In the case of his car comments, there are three enormous problems - apart from the small detail that if you are talking about what the rich and poor would pay in excess as a percentage of their income, he is just plain wrong!.
Firstly, most people who are less well off, and particularly those in country areas in the Clarence Valley, do own cars and don't have any alternatives but to use them.
Secondly, there is an economic theory my Year 12-student son tells me is Marginal Propensity to Consume. It indicates how much of your income you are likely to spend and save.
Poorer people have to spend more of their income to survive than the rich, and as a result, any extra costs affect them more than those who are better off.
Thirdly, of all the rotten aspects of Coalition Budget that Joe Hockey and his colleagues are struggling so badly to sell, the fuel excise impost is probably one of the more unremarkable, but Mr Hockey has now put it into the spotlight.
What confuses me is trying to understand what audience Mr Hockey is playing to. Surely, if his Budget is to have any chance of being accepted, it is rural residents and those in working class suburbs who he has just insulted that he most needs to get onside.