The story of Joe, the jolly ambassador – a children’s tale

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?

Comments (8) -

  • Ad astra

    12/9/2015 11:27:11 AM |

    The old king won’t go away. He wants to get back into the counting house, but he hasn’t got a key any more.

    He’s standing outside in the street waving his arms at the people, shouting that he was a very good king. He hollers that he’s made it easy for the new king. He tells them that all he was trying to do was to pile up money in the counting house. He can’t see why the people got so annoyed.

    “What’s wrong with charging people $7 more to see a doctor?” he shouts. “What wrong with making students pay more for their university degrees?” he bellows. “What wrong with making young people wait six months before they get any money from the counting house?” he pleads.

    The king loves jingles, especially with just three words – they’re so easy to remember. Now he’s got a new three-worder: “What’s wrong with…” He can use it over and again – and just add the zinger.

    A tall woman watches him from a window above the street. She was the one who got him crowned as king in the first place. She wants to make him king again.

    She holds her head in her hands as the people hurry past the king. Some seem not to know him, curious about why he’s waving his arms. Many ignore him, muttering that he’s had his go at being the king, messed up, and should just go away. Most are more interested in their morning coffee.

    Meanwhile Jolly Joe is packing his bags to go to Washington. He’s glad to be out of the counting house and away from the new king.

    He’s usually a jolly man, but he’s still very cross. He’s glad now that he’s going. He’s fed up with the counting house. As he waits for his taxi, he mutters to the passers-by: “If I was going to stay it’d be overwhelmingly about getting even with people that brought me down.” He slowly shakes a clenched fist.

    The passers-by mutter too. They hope he cools down by the time he gets to his new job in Washington. It’s pretty cold there now! He should spend time in the snow before he starts, they say.

  • Ad astra

    12/9/2015 2:57:45 PM |

    Bernard Keane has a great exposé on Jolly Joe in Crikey today. It uncovers his extraordinary diplomatic skills!!!

    In case you can't read it, here is the text:

    "In January, Joe Hockey will go from politician (or more accurately ex-politician) to public servant when he becomes ambassador to Washington DC. How cut out for life as a diplomat Hockey is is a little unclear. There was, after all, his peculiar admission that he only took the DC gig because if he'd stayed in politics he would have been obsessed with revenge on those who brought him down (imagine Joe as a Mad Hocks, roaming the political wasteland in the last of the novated lease V8 Interceptors -- fully imported, of course).

    "If the Americans aren't too worried they're being used as therapy by a failed Aussie politician, a check of his State Department file might throw up some more interesting quotes. For example, his hosts might not have forgotten Hockey’s attack on Barack Obama in 2009 when he said: "I can't claim to be an expert on the US economy, but what I do know is that the American people are starting to question Barack Obama's management of the US economy,"

    "Given US unemployment has since halved from 10% to 5% under Obama while it rose to over 6% here under Hockey, and the US budget deficit has fallen from 12% of GDP to 2.8% of GDP while Hockey presided over regular deficit blowouts, Joe should probably have stopped at admitting his lack of expertise on the US economy.

    "Hockey didn’t confine his criticisms of the US to Obama, though: he blamed the US government (and, hint, hint, the Democrats), not Wall St, for causing the financial crisis. “I would argue that they key to the crisis was the market-interfering role that the United States government played in actively encouraging leaders to extend loans to people who were fundamentally unable to service their debts," Joe opined in 2010.

    "And while Hockey subsequently changed his tune, let’s not forget his dismissal of the G20 as a "centre-left movement across the world that is trying to run the line that government should be the centre of everything in our lives," which might raise a smirk or two.

    "Hockey might also need to be careful about making smalltalk with other ambassadors in DC for fear of reopening old wounds. When Wayne Swan was named world’s best finance minister by Euromoney, Hockey angrily lashed out at at the magazine, saying it had awarded “Slovakian ministers, a Serbian, a Nigerian and a Bulgarian. In 2001 there was a Pakistani finance minister. That is quite an extraordinary one, that one.”

    "What was extraordinary about the Pakistani winner in Hockey’s eyes, he never made clear. He was Shaukat Aziz, who was very close to successive US governments and especially the Bush administration, was lauded for a consolidation of Pakistan’s previously shambolic public finances, and who later serve a full term as prime minister of Pakistan. As for “a Nigerian”, well, that was only one of Africa's most powerful women, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who became managing director of the World Bank for four years between stints as Nigerian finance minister and foreign minister.

    "Tread carefully at those Georgetown soirees, Joe. The penalties for a diplomat who regularly sticks their foot in their mouth are much worse than for politicians.


  • Gravel

    12/12/2015 3:51:20 PM |

    Ad Astra

    I see your 'admiration' of Jolly Joe matches mine.  I love your different style of writing.  Thanks.

  • Ad Astra

    12/12/2015 5:58:31 PM |

    How good to see you back commenting on The Political Sword.

    I hope we will see you again when we resume in 2016.

    Thank you for your kind remarks. Writing about our current crop of politicians is a delight. They are such a rich source of material. Their escapades deserve the ridicule they attract. Writing as if for a young audience enables their ludicrous behaviour to be described in language suitable for children, which befits them so accurately.

  • TalkTurkey

    12/13/2015 4:12:23 AM |

    Ad astra
    I'll combine any comments on this with my near-overdue comments on the main page. Comments I haven't written yet.

    One thing though, I'm glad you enjoy writing about our current crop of politicians, because frankly they make me feel sick.

    Hi Gravel!

  • Patriciawa

    12/13/2015 3:15:59 PM |

    Hello Gravel, TT, AA et al!   TT exactly describes my own feelings about this current crop of pollies.   They seem to have no redeeming features at all.  I come here to read  what you all at TPS have to say about their antics but they simply don't inspire me to write at all these days.  Rather, they disgust me.  

    To think of we average-to-low income earners subsidizing the life style of the  Turnbulls or the Hockeys for that matter is disgusting.   So they expect us to believe they could do better out in the big big world and without political influence? They tell us they must be well remunerated and paid generous expense allowances or we would get fewer or lower quality people than their esteemed selves running for office!  I think we would be just as well served on both left and right of the political spectrum by citizen draftees, drawn from a register of available  persons,  advised by salaried career public servants. I understand this often occurs already.  Politicians tell us now that their  daily 'briefings' from their best bureaucrats are a lifeline.

  • Ad astra

    12/13/2015 9:01:31 PM |

    I look forward to your comments. Perhaps it's because the current crop of politicians make us so nauseated that we feel compelled to call them out.

    Your argument that we would do better in selecting parliamentarians if ordinary citizens were drafted to parliament, is borne out by the success of the unusual way in which some of the Senate cross benchers were elected. They have turned out to be pretty wise and for the most part balanced.

  • Ad astra

    12/18/2015 10:44:59 AM |

    I'm closing off comments on this piece.

    Joe Hockey is either a slow learner, (should that be 'slow leaner'), or the ideological imperatives that drive him are hardwired into his brain so that he still believes that what he did as Treasurer was appropriate fiscally. Although admitting to the political failure of poor salesmanship, he still believes he was fundamentally right.

    You can read more in: Joe Hockey defends record and touches on failings in farewell speech to MPs by Shalailah Medhora in The Guardian:

    Next year on TPS Extra I will publish pieces on the subject of 'framing', which is central to political discourse. It plays a major part in determining success in politics, or failure. I will draw on the work of cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff, and illustrate my argument with examples drawn from our own federal politics.

    Until then, enjoy the Festive Season.

Comments are closed