Now we know why Peter Costello likes dropping by Hillsong. He’s after tips on evangelism.

Yesterday at the post Budget Press Club lunch he was practically preaching as he praised his new Holy Trinity – debt reduction, surpluses and tax cuts. Instead of stained glass windows, he used a PowerPoint presentation to spread the good news to the nation, but that’s about the only difference. The final outcome is virtually the same. Preach the gospel, get told “well done, O good and faithful servant,” and get handed the keys to the kingdom.

Or so the theory goes. Still, the treasurer’s message has been pretty well received. A prophet with honour in his own land, it seems. The economics correspondents and all us other Cassandras might as well be voices crying in the wilderness.

But will Peter Costello receive his ultimate reward? He’s had his patience tested more than Job – but the prime minister seems to want a political life to rival Methuselah’s.

Forget economics. Forget politics, or the politics of the Budget. Concentrate solely on John Howard.

He clearly loves being PM. He set off on his political career many years ago with the goal of winning the office, and has successfully fought to retain it three times.

He finds the role comfortable and wants to keep it. The only constraint is that he also probably wants to be able to go down in the history books as a winner, as the only prime minister other than Menzies to leave at a time of his own choosing.

Peter Costello is trying to win converts by his good (budgetary) deeds. Yet Howard will probably stay as long as he thinks he can win the next election.

What will dislodge him is the economic equivalent of the seven plagues that struck Egypt. If the government is going to be tossed into the wilderness where there is crying and gnashing of teeth because of financial mismanagement, Costello’s stuffed.

Fortunately, like all evangelists, he no doubt thinks that he was created for a Higher Purpose.