<i>Illustration: Glen Le Lievre</i>
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

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.

Twitter: @JohnBirmingham