Middy-economics: you can't have your ale and visit too

Many consider the ordering of a middy of beer, as opposed to a schooner, an offence against Australian manhood. But not our Treasurer.

Macro-economics and fiscal forecasting are all very fine, but when it comes to selling a budget in punterland, Joe Hockey prefers to use units of measurement the Australian public can easily understand: the schooner's smaller sister.

Speaking to ABC Radio on Thursday, Mr Hockey sought to emphasise the modesty of his planned $7 GP impost by comparing it to the price of a middy of lager.

"One of the things that quite astounds me is some people are screaming about $7 co-payment," he grumbled.

"One packet of cigarettes costs $22. That gives you three visits to the doctor. You can spend just over $3 on a middy of beer, so that's two middies of beer to go to the doctor."

Leaving aside the very important issue of middy inflation, a scourge particularly prevalent in Sydney's smarter bars, this sort of equivalence could lead to some wrenching ethical dilemmas.

When baby's got a sniffle, but mummy has the kind of headache only chardonnay can fix, what would the Treasurer have us do? Given that the co-payment is supposed to deter us from going to the doctor too often, wouldn't it be better for the nation if mummy put baby to bed with a paracetamol and sat down with her chablis?

It is probably difficult to justify a ciggie over say, a child's measles vaccination, but what about medical problems of lesser gravity like, say, a mild case of conjunctivitis?

And how many doctor visits would you get for one of those nice Cuban cigars the Treasurer likes to smoke?

During question time, the Labor backbench taunted the Treasurer as he took a question on the reduction of Labor-inflicted debt and deficit.

"How many shandies is that?" heckled Victorian MP Rob Mitchell.

Or at least that is what he seemed to say. The acoustics of the chamber can deceive, as Education Minister Christopher Pyne learnt when video footage emerged of him during Wednesday's question time in which it sounded as though he had called Opposition Leader Bill Shorten a rude Anglo-Saxon term that rhymes with the Minister for Environment.

But a media official for Mr Pyne said the correct quotation was actually: "You are such a grub". Which did much to restore everyone's faith in the civility of Parliament.

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The story Middy-economics: you can't have your ale and visit too first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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