Prime Minister Tony Abbott is standing by Joe Hockey even though he doesn’t agree with the treasurer’s poor-people-don’t-own-cars argument.
Mr Hockey has been labelled out of touch with ordinary Australians following his defence of a budget measure to restore indexation of the fuel excise.
Asked by reporters on Friday whether he agreed with his Treasurer’s comments, Mr Abbott said: “Plainly, I wouldn’t say that.”
But he went onto to defend Mr Hockey, saying he had a plan to ensure all Australians were better off in the long term.
He said the best thing the government could do for all Australians – “rich and poor alike” – was to get the budget back under control so that services everyone needed, but especially low-income people, were delivered effectively.
Asked whether Mr Hockey still had his support, Mr Abbott replied: “Of course.”
While conceding that not all elements of the budget were popular he was “very proud” of what he and the treasurer had brought down.
Like the Prime Minister, government frontbencher Christopher Pyne has offered “full support” to Joe Hockey, but has passed up six opportunities to back the Treasurer’s comments on poor people’s use of cars.
Nationals colleagues and Victorian Motoring Enthusiasts Party senator Ricky Muir rounded on the Treasurer yesterday, saying he failed to understand the reliance on cars in regional and rural areas, while Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said the comments were an unneeded distraction.
On Friday, Mr Pyne, the Leader of the Government in the House, was asked six times on Channel Nine to support Mr Hockey’s judgement, but defaulted to backing the Treasurer’s general performance.
“I am not going to cop criticism about Joe about support for low-income workers because Joe’s efforts since he was Treasurer have all been about reducing the cost of living pressures that Labor has been piling on,” he said.
“Joe has been standing up for low-income workers and middle-income workers his whole political career.”
Mr Pyne stated three times that Mr Hockey was “doing an inspirational job as Treasurer”, and declared he had the full support of the Government.
“Of course he does. Absolutely,” he said.
On the same show, Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese found Mr Pyne’s support disingenuous.
“You had six opportunities to say you agreed with Joe Hockey said, and you refused to do so. Why? Because what he said was rubbish,” Mr Albanese said.