Caught on camera: Mathias Cormann and Joe Hockey kick back with a cigar. Photo: Channel Nine
The cigar has always been the first refuge of the fat cat so it may not be a good look to be caught puffing on a Cuban while busy flying kites about the budget and telling Australians it is their patriotic duty to share the pain.
But it might be the image that defines Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget.
High-profile cigar tragic: Bob Hawke.
It is also likely to be a recurring one.
After all, a photograph of a cigar-smoking Malcolm Fraser during a 1978 interview with the New York Times surfaced unhelpfully in Labor’s 1983 federal election campaign, helping to smoke the Coalition out of office.
Most workers at federal Parliament knew Mr Hockey and the Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann habitually enjoyed a post-question time quiet Cuban, but their addiction remained a secret, mainly because they smoked in an off-limits ministerial courtyard.
Political puffer: Malcolm Fraser. Photo: AP
But the ministerial pair became fair game when they lit up outside the Treasury building in the national capital suburb of Parkes and on Friday the Nine Network happily ran footage of them hard at puff.
Health experts condemned the display, and not just on health grounds.
Here were two well-heeled politicians insouciantly smoking away when only a few months back Mr Hockey had confirmed his government's intention to soak smokers with a $5 billion rise in tobacco tax over the next four years.
Bill Clinton. Photo: Reuters
Smoking cigars has been a risky image for politicians, ever since cartoonists started to draw them as an essential accoutrement of the rich and privileged. Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge, Daddy Warbucks and George Grosz’s depictions of 1920s Berlin going to the dogs all came replete with cigars.
But some politicians seemed oblivious to the risks – especially in economic downtimes – and happily remained in a blue haze.
Some even made a name for themselves courtesy of the Cuban.
Winston Churchill. Photo: AP
British prime minister Winston Churchill heroically turned the cigar into a weapon of war while US president Bill Clinton found a new and interesting use for the Havana.
In Australia, Robert Menzies was a leading light-up. And even as smoking started to become the modern equivalent of leprosy, Kim Beazley and Bob Hawke joined Mr Fraser as high-profile cigar tragics.
Mr Hawke’s habit made Labor’s use of the New York Times photograph of Mr Fraser puffing away somewhat hypocritical, but then politicians have always been quick to "undo" unto others.
By 1991, the public had been banned from smoking in the federal Parliament.
But, of course, exemptions were in place for MPs, staffers and journalists. They were free to puff on in offices and the press gallery, while the public was banished to the cold Canberra outdoors.
In May that year an MP complained about the then-prime minister Hawke’s cigar habit.
‘‘We cannot have double standards,’’ non-smoking speaker Leo McLeay told a Labor parliamentary party meeting. Smoking was banished from the building.