The story of Joe, the jolly ambassador – a children’s tale 8. December 2015 Ad astra Opinion pieces/current affairs (8) Once upon a time there was cheerful fellow called Joe who lived happily in a kingdom called Coalition. The king of Coalition needed someone to look after his treasure. He had lots of money in his counting house, but wanted even more. Joe always wanted to count the money and fill the counting house with even more treasure. So the king picked Joe. Jolly Joe was very happy. He puffed out his chest, patted his fat tummy, and soon began counting the money. Soon he realized that there was not enough. There were lots of people knocking at the counting house door asking for money, but no matter how much he gave them, they wanted even more. It seemed as if they never had enough, and there was no end to them. The king became angry and said to Joe "We must have more money". Some people are getting too much. Take it away from them so I can give it to my friends. Joe scratched his head. Then it suddenly struck him – there are two sorts of people out there – the 'lifters' who work hard and deserve all they get, and the 'leaners', the bludgers who don’t work and sit at home watching the telly all day, and every fortnight collect their welfare payments from the counting house and spend it on booze and ciggies. They don’t deserve what they get, so I’ll take it away. Every year Joe had to decide how much money he had, how much he would give away, and how much he needed so that the money didn’t run out. So he worked out something he called a Budget. He took money away from the leaners and gave it to the lifters, who always complained that they had to pay too much of their money to the king. The king called it a tax. No one liked a tax. When he had finished his Budget, Joe thought he’d done a great job. He even sat with his mate Mathias, who also counted the money, and puffed on a very big cigar, so pleased was he with his work. Someone took photos. The people became very angry. It didn’t seem right to be celebrating after taking money away from those who had so little. So the people of the kingdom complained loudly about Jolly Joe’s Budget, even many who liked the king. "That’s not fair" they shouted, and shook their fists! Joe couldn’t understand. Tact was not his strong point. He couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about! The people said: "Joe you need to get more money into the counting house". He wouldn’t have a bar of that idea. "What we need to do is to spend less. That is why I’m cutting out payments to the leaners", he said. But the people protested – what if they starve? Jolly Joe was unmoved. The leaners have had it too sweet for too long, and are not entitled to bludge on the rest of us forever. He had even travelled to London to tell the world that "the age of entitlement was over". He was proud of his speech, but he wasn’t all that tactful in pushing his point. Diplomacy was never Joe’s strength. Greedy for even more money, the king told Joe to put up the tax on petrol. The people protested again and waved their fists. "The king takes too much tax already", they said, and when Joe planned to tax petrol even more, they said it would make it too expensive to drive a car. The poor people said they wouldn’t have enough money to fill their petrol tanks. Jolly Joe was quick to reassure the people: “The poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far in many cases” he said. The people laughed at Joe’s lack of tact; the poor people felt insulted. Joe had his facts wrong! The people went on complaining. Many people said that they couldn’t afford to buy a house to live in because the prices were too high. Younger people wondered if they would ever own their own home. Jolly Joe came to the rescue with his very own homegrown solution: he advised first homebuyers to "get a good job that pays good money". In case anyone didn’t understand, he added: “If you've got a good job and it pays good money and you have security in relation to that job, then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money and that's readily affordable.” Simple he thought! The people laughed again. Getting a job at all was hard enough; getting one with a lot of money even harder. “Has this man no commonsense” they murmured; “has he no diplomacy at all? He must think we are all simpletons with no feelings.” Then along came another prince, who had always wanted to be king. He was fed up with the king. He said: “It is clear that the king has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our kingdom needs." He said he wanted to be king. And so it came to pass that many of the king’s men were also fed up with the king, and Jolly Joe too. So they changed king. The new king threw Jolly Joe out of the counting house. Jolly Joe was angry and upset. He got together all his counting tools and said: "someone else can count the money – I’m off!" But there were some who were sorry for Jolly Joe. Although he had made a big mess of his Budgets, although the money in the counting house went down and down, although he couldn’t work out how to get more money, although everyone thought he was big flop, they felt he should be given a special gift because he had lost his counting house job. So they said: "Jolly Joe, would you like to go to a far-away land and help our friends there with their problems?" The United States sounded good enough for Joe. He would have a nice house in Washington that he didn’t have to buy, and a fat salary as well as his pension from the king. There would be some chores though. All that was needed was strong diplomatic skills. So they picked Jolly Joe! The people were astonished! They wondered how on earth Jolly Joe’s ‘diplomatic’ skills would stand up to the strain of collaborating with the President and his team in solving the tensions between Russia and the US, the Middle Eastern conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, and surrounds; the immense forced migration; the menace of ISIS the world over; the tensions with China over its acquisition of islands in the South China Sea for building military bases; and the threat of global warming and reaching a consensus about how to avoid a catastrophe. They wondered how he would manage during the next tension-packed year of a Presidential election. But his mates said: “Jolly Joe’s a good bloke. He’s had a smack in the eye. He deserves a prize after being kicked out of the counting house.” But the people asked: "Isn’t this a job for a diplomat, for someone with commonsense, for a man who knows how to be tactful, for a person who knows a lot about international affairs? He wasn’t much good at the counting house, and he said and did a lot of silly things that really upset people, so how could he be any good at this job, one that requires tact, diplomacy and discretion?" But the new king was convinced he was the man for the job: "Joe is a great Australian; he is one of the most engaging, persuasive people I've known in public life. He's held very high office, he's got great contacts in the United States; he's a passionate patriot who has a good understanding of how Washington works already." And that was that! So the tale of Jolly Joe has ended well for him. He has a well-paid job, a big pension, a magnificent house, plenty of cars and drivers, and lots of lavish functions to attend. He will rub shoulders with the elite and powerful of the world. He will be a big knob, even bigger than he was in his counting house! But will the tale of Jolly Joe end well for us? The people ask: "Will he be the same bumbled-footed incompetent in Washington as he was in the counting house? Will he embarrass us not just in our own country, but now also all over the world?" The people are holding their breath! What do you think?