There they were, the state treasurers in Canberra last week, walking in a line for the cameras in their boxy little three-button spiv suits as they headed off to do a job on Peter Costello – looking for all the world like the poster for Reservoir Dogs. “Let’s go to work”. Even the film’s tagline fitted the occasion.

But as the tax row between the Commonwealth and the states continues, it looks more and more as if the federal treasurer is the man who’s pulling the heist.

Peter Costello has made great play about the GST being a state tax. That means he doesn’t include it in the Commonwealth’s budget.

But if the treasurer punishes the states by taking it off them and handing it out as direct grants, the GST will unambiguously become part of the Commonwealth’s revenues and – bang, bang – there will go the main defence about him and Howard not running Australia’s highest taxing government.

Costello’s pre-Budget posturing could end as messily as Tarantino’s shockfest.

PS Tim Colebatch takes a great look at John Howard, the centralist, in The Age today.

Peter Fray

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