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  • Commissioner Hayne turns Treasurer's moment in the spotlight ice-cold
  • By Tony Wright
  • 02/02/2019 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: James_S ( 2 articles in 2019 )
It’s known, in the game, as a picture opportunity.

Politician on the make meets constituent/kiddie/moviestar/public figure, hands are grasped, big smiles, cameras whir, flashes pop and the happy little circus moves on.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work so well. The kiddie bursts into tears. Sometimes, it’s a bust. The movie star’s smile is so radiant the politician may as well have stayed in bed.

And then there’s the day the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, met the royal commissioner, Kenneth Hayne.

The very air took on a chill so deep it might have blown in from the Arctic vortex currently turning the northern hemisphere to ice.

"A handshake or something...?" implored a photographer, vainly hoping to open a crack in the glacial atmosphere.

Commissioner Hayne, fresh from months assailed by evidence of the wicked doings of gangsters in suits and giving more than a few of them a doing-over from the bench, wasn’t in a handshaking sort of mood. Or any sort of ice-breaking mood at all.

As Frydenberg, the Treasurer of Australia, sought desperately to maintain a smile that gradually devolved into a hideous rictus, Justice Hayne studied a spot in the air that might have been in a universe far, far away, where he appeared to wish he might be transported.

His hands remained determinedly resting, jiggling slightly, on the Treasurer’s desk. Not a word passed his lips, nor the hint of a smile.

The occasion was the official hand-over of Justice Hayne’s voluminous findings on the behaviour of Australia’s financial sector.

Frydenberg had needed the photo opportunity to go well.

Why, the government he serves had twisted itself in knots trying to avoid calling a royal commission into the banks before being dragged screaming to it. Here was the moment to put that all behind him.

Justice Hayne wasn’t cooperating.

The awkward moment stretched. And stretched. The volumes of the final Hayne report sat as untouched. They might have been hand grenades.

"Thank you, thank you guys," said Frydenberg, eventually.

A photographer, desperate now, inquired whether the commissioner might actually hand over the report, or even shift it across the desk.

Nothing doing.

"It’s all right," said Frydenberg, holding up his hands and conceding defeat. "It’s just...done."

Truth was, this photo opportunity - and the Treasurer himself - had been done. Like a banker on a bleak day in a royal commission.


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