Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey arrive for Question Time at Parliament House this week. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott sacked Treasury head Martin Parkinson a week after last year’s election, without telling his Treasurer Joe Hockey.
And Hockey only found out Parkinson’s employment had been terminated after he was told by his Treasury boss.
The revelation is included in a new biography of Joe Hockey - Hockey: Not Your Average Joe - to be released next week, and it shows the carefully managed veneer of unity that binds the Abbott cabinet.
It details deep-seated tensions between Hockey and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, as well as the tensions between the Treasurer and his former leader Malcolm Turnbull, who Hockey believes wronged him in the ballot that led to the election of Tony Abbott as leader.
Hockey says he is still learning to trust Turnbull - but won’t write him off forever.
His wife Melissa Babbage reveals more, saying “There will always be distrust there.’’
“Joe always starts off very trusting of people - in my opinion sometimes too trusting,’’ Ms Babbage says.
“His starting position is always positive. But after the leadership thing (the 2009 Liberal leadership vote), that really annoyed Joe and he won’t trust Malcolm again.’’
Former prime minister John Howard, among many others, says it was Hockey’s decision to allow party members a conscience vote on the ETS that cost him the leadership in 2009.
“You’ve got to have a position,’’ Howard says. “If Turnbull had put keeping the party together ahead of policy purity he probably would have remained leader.
“Only Abbott was able to undermine Rudd in the way he did. If the ballot had gone another way I’m not sure we’d now be in office.’’
Hockey: Not Your Average Joe reveals the effort both Hockey and Abbott apply to their relationship after Abbott snatched the leadership in what the Treasurer believed was almost a certain victory for him.
But that relationship has been tested by a number of events, including the PM’s paid paternity leave scheme, the government’s response to Qantas and what measures should remain in the budget that was eventually handed down.
Abbott’s decision to sack Martin Parkinson without telling his Treasurer before or after the event also surprised Hockey.
But he says he accepted the dismissal of the Treasury secretary he wanted to keep, as being a “prime minister’s call”, just as Abbott accepted his decision to bar the foreign takeover of GrainCorp as being the Treasurer’s judgment to make.
Hockey reveals the shenanigans behind the scenes in the US food processing giant Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM) bid to take over GrainCorp, saying the company had used strong-arm tactics to get its way - later prompting a hand-written apology from its CEO Patricia Woertz.
And it is sure to stoke a further leadership debate with Hockey - who almost quit politics to take up a job in the US - saying he will not spend another stint in opposition.
The biography - which Hockey cooperated on - traces his background as the son of a Bondi beauty queen and a Palestinian Armenian migrant who had grown up in a war zone.
Debuting on the federal political stage at the age of 29, Hockey’s failures and triumphs are chronicled, along with the discussions that went on behind the scenes leading up to the budget, and the Treasurer’s lifelong battle with his weight.