Illustration: Glen Le Lievre
Why are people so unkind to Joe Hockey? It's not like he was trying to be mean when he said poor people don't have cars. He said cars, people. Cars. Plural. Come on. Joe knows poor people don't have lots of cars. Unless they're up on cinder blocks in the front yard. Not like Joe, who has a Canberra car and a Sydney car and Commonwealth car which comes with its very own driver. A quick shout out to Twitter (the omnipresent surveillance state you have when you're not an omnipresent surveillance state) delivered up multiple happy snaps of Joe in multiple cars, including a late model Commodore, some sort of Toorak tractor, possibly a black Range Rover, and a bright yellow Mini that the rock steady crew at All Aussie Hiphop's Twitter feed unkindly compared to a giant cheeseburger. I really don't think it's fair to crucify Joe for that. Driving a giant cheeseburger around just goes to show how hard Joe works to stay in touch with the common man. And he has to work damned hard. Notwithstanding Joe's Herculean efforts to bring an end to the Age of Entitlement, the Finance Department says he is of course entitled to the Commonwealth's limo service but also to a free ride of his own choosing. It's possibly another reason those poor people who do somehow get behind the wheel of some old clunker don't actually drive very far. The roads are already gridlocked with Joe Hockey's personal fleet.
Perhaps if poor people just drove better cars, they wouldn't be so poor. No raking the bottom of the cup holder for coins when Jeff McCloy rolls into the drive-though. The property developer, mayor of Newcastle and proud owner of a magnificent Bentley, seems to drop wads of the folding stuff like dog hair in summer. Mostly he drops it into the pockets of Liberal Party politicians but there appear to be so many hundred dollar notes floating freely around the former steel town that maybe if you lazy poor people just leaned up against Hizzoner's Bentley some would rub off on you too.
Of course, you may have to drop your metaphorical pants rather quickly.
"What? No foreplay?" quipped Geoffrey Watson, SC, counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption this week, when former Liberal MP Tim Owen testified McCloy wordlessly handed him a "thin envelope" containing $100 bills in Hunter Street, Newcastle.
"I took it at the time," said Owen, "and I must admit I thought 'Hmm, what do I do with this'?"
Hmm. Well, Tim, it's not rocket science, you could say: "No, thanks." Or you could trouser the lot.
Although Tim probably meant to testify under oath that he took the trouser option, what came out, under oath, was a story about returning the "thin envelope" with not very many hundred dollar bills in it and a note which amounted to: "No thanks, Jeff."
Fair enough. We've all had that awkward moment when a property developer hands us a thin envelope with not very many hundred dollar notes in it. It's a situation almost guaranteed to cause confusion. Is Jeff handing me this thin envelope in his capacity as lord mayor of Newcastle, because he wants me to be the local Liberal member which is understandable, because we're both smashing fellows? Or is Jeff handing me this thin envelope – See how thin it is? I really must emphasise the thinness here – because he's a property developer, and they do that sort of thing even though it's illegal, in which case I should probably give it back. The thin envelope, that is. See? Very very thin.
Yeah. No. Not so thin, as it turned out. The $2000 Tim first admitted to returning because, gosh, it wasn't a very good look was it, turned out to be $10,000, and he didn't so much return it, as, well, trousered it.
In Tim's defence, he would have been in heaps of trouble with his wife if he admitted to taking the ten grand after she'd told all her Facebook friends that he didn't –how embarrassing!– and at least he did spend his dirty money on the purpose for which it was intended; funding his re-election campaign. His colleague Andrew Cornwell could not even do that. By one report he spent McCloy's hard-earned on paying off his tax bill. The scoundrel. No wonder the Libs wanted to expel him.
It seems if a fellow is going to pocket a bribe he should really spend the money on whatever the bribe was pocketed for.
On a sojourn from the far northern suburbs, I took an hour before lunch to wander around The Rocks and Millers Point, a fine walk most any time, but purely sublime on that diamond of a mid-winter's day. There are so many ghosts of the old city still floating around those streets but being Sydney ghosts, they're mostly kicking back, catching the rays.
Best soak them up while they can. The state's scrapping of heritage rules, the eviction of hundreds of public housing tenants, the sell-off and the inevitable redevelopment of those properties by the sort of spivs and chancers who keep ICAC in business will finish off even the hardiest spirits. It's a pity. So much of the city's story is written in the line of those streets. When the First Fleet arrived the officers grabbed all the best real estate for themselves, laying claim to the greener, pleasant lands of the Eora people, east of the Cove. They took one look at the unappealing, rocky wastes on the other side and packed the convicts off over there. Sydney's east-west class divide was born on that first day. Hundreds of years later, the descendants of the first jailers and the Rum Corps have decided the lower orders can bugger off out of Millers Point too. It was ever thus in this city. It will ever be.