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:

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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