Hockey walks the talk, but minus the tutu

In high spirits: Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey meets shoppers at Westfield Parramatta. Photo: Andrew Meares
In high spirits: Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey meets shoppers at Westfield Parramatta. Photo: Andrew Meares

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, newly slim and ever-smiley, went to Parramatta Westfield on Tuesday. For most people this is called a walk, but for a politician it is known as a ''walk-through'', a special species of perambulation that can only occur under certain conditions.

There must be cameras present to capture the spontaneous nature of the politician's interactions with locals. And he must be reasonably sure he will not be barged with a shopping trolley or gypsy-cursed by a passing pensioner - these things make for bad ''optics'', as they say in the spin trade.

The optics of Hockey's walk-through, with local Liberal candidate Martin Zaiter, were optimal. He was warmly greeted by shop owners and shoppers and was in sufficiently high spirits to make an Alexander Downer joke as he passed a boutique displaying stockings.

Hockey could not afford to be too smart - across the way, a shop window bore a mannequin in a magnificent tulle tutu, not dissimilar to the one he has regretted being associated with ever since he danced with it on television in 2010.

Hockey's free-range tour of Parramatta threw into sharp relief the Prime Minister's failure, so far, to do a western Sydney ''walk-through'' of her own.

(Julia Gillard did do a few al fresco morning interviews at the Rooty Hill Novotel complex, which has been transformed into a politics theme park for the week. Mark Latham, spotted at the RSL on Monday night, subbed in for the giant Mickey Mouse - the former Labor leader is less cuddly but writes a better column.)

After his Parramatta airing, Hockey gave a press conference in which he was sweetly coy about which tax cuts and welfare payments the Coalition would keep after its abolition of the carbon tax. Asked whether he endorsed opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison's proposal that asylum seekers in the community be subject to shadowy ''behaviour protocols'', Hockey came over all modest.

''My personal view in this instance doesn't matter,'' he said.

Elsewhere, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott accused Gillard of launching a ''false birthplace war'' by signalling her intention to crack down on 457 visas. The Coalition would have no truck with such divisive tactics.

Pity the poor west as Gillard and Abbott try to win it. They stalk each other like Dr Frankenstein and his monster, whose twinned fates led them to the Arctic as each hunted the other.

Thankfully for the Australian electorate, the Gothic novel comparisons end there. Rooty Hill is warm and pleasant and the RSL does a wonderful schnitzel.

This story Hockey walks the talk, but minus the tutu first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.