Peter Costello is a glass-jawed
bully who has on a number of occasions been willing to threaten to
abuse his executive powers in order to intimidate the employers of one
of only two groups of people who could seriously question his
performance as treasurer – finance sector economists and economics
correspondents of newspapers.

The
commentators are “protected” in a sense by media traditions and by
their unions, although Costello’s ban of Crikey from the budget lock-up
shows he is prepared to keep pushing the envelope on media intimidation.

Steve
Roach, the Morgan Stanley chief economist who has been scathingly
critical of both Bush’s fiscal policy and Greenspan’s conduct of
monetary policy, couldn’t survive in Australia because the government
would force Morgan Stanley to choose between doing business with the
government (eg the sale of Telstra) and employing a Steve Roach – and
in this country they would choose the former.

It’s also worth
noting that unlike Keating – who, twice a year, would front up to the
annual forecasting conferences of the Economics Society in Melbourne
and Australian Business Economists in Sydney and take quite detailed
questions from the likes of Don Stammer, Ed Shann, Ian Martin, Andre
Morony, John McLeod and other then doyens of the business economics
profession, answering them without notes and without advisers –
Costello has steadfastly refused to put himself in a position where the
depth of his grasp of the portfolio might be tested by people who know
what they’re asking.

CRIKEY: Reports continue to seep out of
Treasury that Costello is lazy and his refusal to submit himself to
detailed questioning suggests there may be something to hide. Is he as
good as his smugness suggests? Cossie certainly blows hot and cold. Who
can forget the day in June 2002 when he made the following comments
during Question Time:

The Labor Party, back to its old tricks, has had the member
for Batman already calling for some of this money to be spent on some
of his pet projects, at the same time as he was calling for it to be
used to reduce debt. Those of you who follow Crikey.com as closely as I do
will see that [Martin Ferguson] has been recycling a few things in his
electorate recently including tips, in a leaflet mailed out to his
electorate in Melbourne, on how to recycle Perth waste, with the phone
number of the member for Swan on his leaflet. I recommend Crikey.com.
It includes very good reading about Delia Delegate this week and the internal machinations of the Victorian ALP.

Apart from getting our name wrong, that’s quite an endorsement from a
man who openly supported us when we sledged Labor, but then bans us for
daring to challenge his performance more recently.

Peter Fray

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