Joe Hockey doesn’t own his family’s fortune. His wife does.
In all the furore prompted by Joe Hockey’s comments on house ownership, the casual assumption is that the Hockey family fortune is the Treasurer’s. That’s insulting to the architect, designer and majority owner of their property portfolio, his wife, Melissa Babbage.
There really is only one piece of personal advice Joe Hockey is in a position to deliver on the complicated subject of home ownership.
And that advice is: Marry well.
In the furore surrounding the Treasurer’s remarks about Sydney housing affordability earlier this week, in which photos of Mr Hockey’s multiple domiciles have been juxtaposed with his observations about the necessity of finding “a good job that pays well”, one could easily miss the fact that Mr Hockey’s personal access to affordable housing does not arise from having had a good job that pays well.
It arises – in the main – from Mr Hockey having had the foresight to marry a woman called Melissa Babbage.
Ms Babbage, an ambitious and successful investment banker with a 20-year career at Deutsche Bank behind her, is the author – and owner – of the “Hockey Portfolio”.
It was she who bought the majority share in the Canberra home where rooms were rented out to visiting MPs (including her husband) – a canny investment, seeing as the family home was bought in the late 1990s, when Canberra houses were going for a song owing to the new Howard Government’s public service cuts.
The house cost $320,000 to buy. Now it’s worth probably six times that.
It was Melissa Babbage who bought the Hunters Hill home where the Hockey family lives. To the extent that there is shrewd investment and high earnings in the Hockey family, it is she who is responsible.
And yet, the family fortune is casually assumed to be the Treasurer’s.
One can only wonder how annoying this pattern of assumption is to Ms Babbage, who apart from being the family breadwinner must also – as does any federal political spouse – endure the routinised inconvenience of single parenthood for at least half the year, when her husband is away.
On Budget night last year, when the family was photographed together before Mr Hockey’s first – and, to date – least successful budget, Ms Babbage’s choice of dress became part of the prosecution case against her husband.