news

No, sorry. Joe Hockey is not a hypocrite.

Joe Hockey as a uni student.

Cast your mind back 25 years. Or 30 years. Or even 10 years.

Assuming you were out of primary school, what kind of views did you hold about the world? About politics? What kind of person did you date? What did you wear?

Maybe it’s just me, but I was a very different person in my late teens. I was equal parts naive and idealistic about the world. I was not terribly mature, even though I thought I was.

Joe Hockey is today being branded a hypocrite after footage emerged of him 30 years ago when he was a university student, protesting the same kind of reforms his government is now trying to introduce, namely the deregulation of university fees.

Joe Hockey wasn’t a politician when he was at uni and he is now. Surely it could be argued that as a former uni student, he has a good insight into both sides of the debate? He was certainly very outspoken at the time. In footage from Nine News, he can be seen talking to the media about how the Hawke government’s proposed $250 fee for students was a terrible thing:

Backing up the protests in his university newspaper Honi Soit, he wrote at the time:

“The Liberal party, which released its education policy two weeks ago, promised to cut back funds to universities and, at the same time, leave the universities to charge whatever fee they wished. Such a policy is suicidal for student welfare. We will have no effective voice in our own fortune.”

It’s a great gotcha moment for the media, the ALP and everyone opposed to the Abbott government’s new university reforms. It’s very newsworthy, I don’t dispute that. And – DISCLAIMER ALERT – I don’t even want to weigh in on whether I agree with his views back then or now. That’s not my point.

What gets my goat is the idea that a politician isn’t allowed to change their ideology. That that is somehow a massive character flaw or a sign of hypocrisy.

ADVERTISEMENT

Think about this: if we hold politicians to keeping the same views throughout their political careers – and indeed their lives – then that means we leave no room for them to evolve.

“If we hold politicians to keeping the same views throughout their political careers, that means Tony Abbott will never be allowed to reverse his position on marriage equality.”

It means Tony Abbott will never be allowed to reverse his position on marriage equality, like Barack Obama has done to international acclaim. As did Kevin Rudd.

It means that we can never expect a more humane approach to refugees. It means that Tony Abbott would have always had to hold firm to his position that climate change was “crap”.

Changing your mind or shifting your philosophical position on an issue is not necessarily the same thing as breaking a promise.

I’m not suggesting all bets should be off when it comes to sticking to your word or being consistent. But racing to brand anyone whose view about a particular issue changes over the course of their lives as a hypocrite only serves to hamper the progression of ideas and policies.

Personally, I don’t want to live in a society where everyone has to believe the same thing they did when they were at uni or even 10 years ago.

The world is constantly changing. The economy is changing. Social mores are changing. Technology is changing. Public opinion is changing. Surely we want public figures to be able to change and adapt too?

The footage of Joe Hockey is ironic, for sure. But is it a knockout punch? Is it hypocrisy? I don’t think it is.

And I look forward to the day when anti-marriage equality groups drag out footage of Tony Abbott saying he doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage to try and embarrass him when he announces he’s changed his position.

On that happy day, I certainly won’t be calling him a hypocrite.

‘Harriet Pawson’ is a pseudonym for a writer/journalist who is known to us. She wishes to remain anonymous due to the intensity of Twitter backlash that can sometimes occur around issues like this.

Do you agree that Joe Hockey’s change of mind doesn’t make him a hypocrite?

00:00 / ???