THE ONLY WAY IS UP: Joe Hockey's Three Days From Hell

Photo: Getty / James Alcock

It’s been a tough week for smokin’ Joe Hockey. Probably his toughest week since May’s budget when he was caught chuffing away on a fat cigar right before unleashing one of Australia’s most austere budgets in decades.

He’s apologised for the offence he caused with comments in an interview earlier this week, and will be hoping to put the last 72 hours behind him. Here’s how it all went down.

He said poor people don’t drive much, or don’t have cars

On Wednesday the Treasurer appeared on ABC Brisbane radio, where he first made the remarks that would dog him for the rest of the week. The full transcript is here, but this was the key moment:

What we’re asking is for everyone to contribute, including higher income people. Now, I’ll give you one example: the change to fuel excise, the people that actually pay the most are higher income people, with an increase in fuel excise and yet, the Labor Party and the Greens are opposing it. They say you’ve got to have wealthier people or middle-income people pay more. Well, change to the fuel excise does exactly that; the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases. But, they are opposing what is meant to be, according to the Treasury, a progressive tax.

He was unrepentant about it

For the rest of Wednesday and Thursday, Hockey fended off criticism by saying he was merely offering facts for people to debate.

He said he was sorry if he had insulted low-income Australians. “But the fact is that the Labor Party says that it’s an unjust initiative, unfair initiative, higher-income people aren’t paying enough — well here is an initiative where higher-income people pay on ­average three times the amount of lower income households in the fuel excise,” he explained.

His colleagues got anxious

There have been questions in Coalition circles about how Hockey and other senior ministers have been selling the budget, but on Friday morning it boiled over with reports emerging that backbenchers were openly worried about Hockey’s style and tactics.

“It’s like walking into dog poo, ignoring everyone and insisting on walking into every room,” one of his colleagues told The Australian.

Tony Abbott distanced himself from the comments

Next, Prime Minister Tony Abbott distanced himself from Hockey’s comments. Back in Canberra after an overseas trip and asked about the Treasurer’s comments about poor people not driving, Abbott said: “Well plainly, I wouldn’t say that.”

Ouch.

So with backbenchers, fellow senior minister Chris Pyne, and his boss distancing themselves from Hockey you can bet your finest Cuban he was counting down the hours to the weekend.

Then this happened

It seems, when you’re off, you’re off. Just this afternoon he was spotted at Sydney airport parked in a disabled parking space.

Finally, he apologised

To try and put a lid on the horror week, Hockey went on radio to make a grovelling apology for his comments. More on that here.

“I’m sorry about the interpretation, I am sorry about the words,” he said.

“All of my life I have fought for and tried to help the most disadvantaged people in the community.”

Here’s the full apology.

Let’s hope next week’s a better one, Joe.

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