Ross Gittins, The Sydney Morning Herald's economics editor, today claims Federal Treasurer Peter Costello has attempted to 'punish' him for writing a column that called into question the Treasurer's veracity on industrial relations reform. Here's the offending column, Porkies used to support industrial relations reform, which started with the lines:

It's amazing what calumnies and distortions treasurers get away with, particularly Liberal treasurers. For a range of reasons, economists who should be warning the public not to be misled by the treasurer's nonsense keep their mouths shut.

And there was more of the same.

That column, along with a number of others (including one last Wednesday which explained in easy to understand detail the great fees rip-off in electronic funds payments by the banks and others) led Crikey to observe that Gittins was at the top of his form at the moment with some insightful and factual columns about a range of economic policies.

But not even Gittins could have realised that the Federal Treasurer and his department would attempt to 'discipline' him over that Porkies column but banning him from.

Read Glenn Dyer's full report on the site here:

CRIKEY: When you join the dots it does appear that Peter Costello does have a serious bullying problem. Crikey remembers the occasion in the early days of the Howard Government when Terry McCann wrote a strong column on the evils of bracket creep. A few days later both Costello and McCrann were guests of Tabcorp chairman Michael Robinson in the Arthur Robs corporate box at the MCG.

Costello went off his brain at McCrann in front of the other guests and Murdoch's bearded burbler said it was all very embarrassing and Michael Robinson was forced to apologise for Cossie's completely inappropriate behaviour.

Around the same time, another story did the rounds about a huge spray that Cossie gave Macquarie Bank CEO Allan Moss after one of his underlings put out a press release which was mildy critical of proposed chanages to R&D tax breaks. The Millionaire Factory was forced to retract the statement and apologise.

Then you have numerous stories of Costello heavying the CEOs of financial institutions when an economist dares criticise his economic management. In these calls there have been hints of adverse regulatory decisions against the institutions in question.

At last, we've discovered a way to get Costello to wake up from his 9 year slumber and act against the bank cartel. If enough bank economists publicly criticise the lad, he might just start tilting the playing field in a way that benefits and consumers and winds back the $15 billion a year in government-licenced profits that Australia's banks make every year on a pre-tax basis.

The final pillar in this picture is Costello's record when it comes to defamation. The writ against Bob Ellis was defensible because it did involve an inaccurate slur against his wife. However, an earlier defamation action in the 1980s against former Victorian Trades Hall secretary John Halfpenny was nothing more than a piece of legal bullying by a thin-skilled political operative.

Halfpenny gave a speech at Monash University in which he said little more than words to the effect of "the emperor has lost his clothes". Costello sued and the union ended up shelling out in a secret settlement that did none of the parties any credit.

If our glass jawed Treasurer would like to heavy Crikey's boss, he should contact Eric Beecher at Private Media Partners from Thursday this week when management control is handed over.