Why won’t they understand? Hockey exasperated at his budget selling job

Sales pitch: Joe Hockey sits down for a breakfast television interview with Karl Stefanovic (left) and Ross Greenwood of Channel Nine on Wednesday morning. Photo: Alex EllinghausenGST hike a wedge too far for the statesMichael Gordon: Abbott in denial about broken promisesVIlma Ward denies being a Labor stooge

You suspect things aren’t going swimmingly in the sales department when a customer goes on TV to holler that she’d never heard so much rubbish in her life and the head salesman has to explain why he was dancing to the song This Will Be the Best Day of My Life minutes before confessing to the market that his big new product bore no resemblance to the originally advertised description.

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey appeared to be stranded in awkward search of a suitable approach to the growing realisation that they were flogging something – a national budget, no less – that actively busted just about every one of the manufacturer’s promises, which is to say, their very own.

Should they simply brazen it out, ignoring altogether the glossy brochures printed months ago promising no surprises and no new taxes; should they forge ahead, spruikling the unrecognisable product to be marvellously superior to whatever the customer might have been expecting, or should they simply trust the great showman P.T. Barnum was right when he allegedly declared “there’s a sucker born every minute”?

Both of them, not surprisingly, started the day bereft for long moments of any words at all.

But just like their budget, things didn’t turn out to be quite what they were cracked up to be.

Abbott copped his sinking moment when a woman named Vilma served him a morning jolt on Channel Ten’s Wake Up program.

“I’ve never heard so much rubbish in all my life,” she responded to his attempts to turn broken promises into necessary medicine for an ailing economy.

“Why don’t you leave the pensioners alone? If we pull the belt any tighter we’re going to choke to death.”

Viewers with a memory were soon coming to Abbott’s rescue via Twitter, identifying Vilma the outraged as Vilma Ward, 85, a Brisbane pensioner with more than a passing acquaintance with former Labor PM Kevin Rudd. Kevin had once tweeted a happy picture of himself with Mrs Ward, who, reportedly, worked on one of his election campaigns. It was enough for Mr Abbott’s supporters to declare his pensioner critic was nothing but a Labor plant, even if she was a pensioner with views.

Joe Hockey got his sinking moment when he was fronted on Channel Nine by Laurie Oakes, who inquired why he had been dancing in his office to the song Best Day of My Life just before announcing the dire cuts to just about everyone in the budget.

Hockey broke out in a sweat.

“Dancing?” he said, clearly dumbfounded at Oakes’ knowledge of a private moment in his inner office .

Soon, he’d stammered his way to shaky recovery, regaining enough equilibrium to declare the idea that he was dancing with glee as “vicious innuendo”. He later offered that Best Day of My Life was playing only because it was son Xavier’s favourite tune, and he hadn’t seen the boy for three weeks.

Abbott and Hockey pretty clearly knew things couldn’t get worse after such a start to the day, and despite the best efforts of the Labor opposition in Parliament to paint them and their budget as deceitful, they settled on an affected tone of exasperation, as if their efforts to perform life-saving surgery on the economy without anaesthetic was being wilfully misunderstood. They’d had their near-death experiences, and they still had a lot of selling to do.

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