Hockey’s farewell draws elite of US in­dus­try and pol­i­tics

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - CAMERON STE­WART WASH­ING­TON COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Joe Hockey is not leav­ing Wash­ing­ton qui­etly.

A stun­ning who’s who of Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness lead­ers will pay trib­ute to Aus­tralia’s out­go­ing am­bas­sador at a gala farewell party on Satur­day.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kush­ner have ac­cepted in­vi­ta­tions to join some 400 Amer­i­can and Aus­tralian power­bro­kers who plan to at­tend the big Wash­ing­ton bash.

Don­ald Trump’s act­ing chief of staff, Mick Mul­vaney, is among those who will speak and a long list of Trump cabi­net min­is­ters and ad­vis­ers from Steven Mnuchin to Stephen Miller are also ex­pected to at­tend as well as lead­ing Amer­i­can CEOs.

On the Aus­tralian side, former prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott and golfer Greg Nor­man will speak, while other at­ten­dees will in­clude bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man An­thony Pratt and News Corp co-chair­man Lach­lan Mur­doch and his wife Sarah.

Don­ald Trump was also in­vited but couldn’t at­tend so in­stead he has in­vited Mr Hockey, a semireg­u­lar golf part­ner of the Pres­i­dent, into the Oval Of­fice for a per­sonal farewell on Wed­nes­day (AEDT).

The at­ten­dance of so many power­bro­kers re­flects the close ties that Mr Hockey has forged, es­pe­cially with the Trump White

House, but also more broadly in the US dur­ing his four-year term as am­bas­sador.

Mr Hockey’s stint in the coun­try’s most im­por­tant diplo­matic post has been widely praised for help­ing Aus­tralia main­tain a close re­la­tion­ship with Mr Trump and his key ad­vis­ers — some­thing that many other US al­lies have failed to do.

Un­der Mr Hockey’s watch the US-Aus­tralia al­liance sur­vived sev­eral po­ten­tial storms in­clud­ing the an­gry phone call be­tween Mr Trump and then prime min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull over the refugee deal in early 2017.

In 2018, Aus­tralia was one of the only coun­tries ex­empted from Mr Trump’s steel and alu­minium tar­iffs while Mr Hockey also played an im­por­tant role last year in de­fus­ing po­ten­tial diplo­matic ten­sions over Alexan­der Downer’s role in trig­ger­ing the FBI’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Asked what his proud­est achieve­ment was in Wash­ing­ton, Mr Hockey said “nav­i­gat­ing this un­cer­tain world with twists and turns ev­ery­where”.

“The great­est legacy I can leave is the thought that you can’t take the US al­liance for granted,” he told The Aus­tralian.

“You just need to keep work­ing re­ally hard at it more than ever.”

Mr Hockey says that in an era where the US is more trans­ac­tional with its al­liances, Aus­tralia needs to keep closely and con­stantly en­gaged to en­sure it pro­tects its own in­ter­ests.

“In this world there is no re­gard

for tra­di­tional al­lies, there is no re­gard for tra­di­tional part­ner­ships, there is no re­gard for any great his­tor­i­cal al­liance,” he says. “De­ci­sion-mak­ing comes down to coun­try-spe­cific re­la­tion­ships in a way we’ve never seen be­fore and that means you can be de­fined as a close ally but then end up on the wrong end of a trade an­nounce­ment or some­thing else and it is the re­la­tion­ships that hold it to­gether.”

Mr Hockey has got to know Mr Trump bet­ter than most am­bas­sadors in Wash­ing­ton, hav­ing played golf with him and hav­ing also de­vel­oped a close re­la­tion­ship with the Pres­i­dent’s act­ing chief of staff, Mr Mul­vaney.

Last year, Mr Trump granted Scott Mor­ri­son the first state din­ner for an Aus­tralian leader since John Howard’s in 2006.

So af­ter four years, what are Mr Hockey’s ob­ser­va­tions about this mer­cu­rial and un­con­ven­tional Pres­i­dent?

“He is an en­gag­ing and cu­ri­ous per­son,” he says. “You never think of it when you see him on tele­vi­sion or so­cial me­dia but he ac­tu­ally asks a lot of ques­tions. He is cu­ri­ous and he is in­cred­i­bly street smart. He is canny and he is in­tel­li­gent.

“I think he likes pro­vok­ing peo­ple and he is ‘Amer­ica first’, which rubs a lot of coun­tries up the wrong way. But we would ex­pect our Prime Min­is­ter to be ‘Aus­tralia first’ so you can’t deny Amer­ica’s right af­ter all these years to put their coun­try first,” he says.

Mr Hockey’s term fin­ishes at the end of next week and he will be re­placed by former se­na­tor Arthur Sin­odi­nos. But Mr Hockey will re­main in Wash­ing­ton for much of this year, do­ing part-time lec­tur­ing on pub­lic pol­icy at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity while he works out his next move, which is likely to be a cor­po­rate role in the US.

Mr Hockey has said that de­spite serv­ing 20 years in fed­eral par­lia­ment, in­clud­ing four jobs as a min­is­ter and now a four-year term as am­bas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, he wants to keep work­ing.

Nor­man

Trump

Kush­ner

Mnuchin

Hockey

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