The Age’s

front page story today, quoting former Victorian Liberal Party president
Joy Howley accusing Peter Costello of being an intolerant bully, comes
at an interesting time. Just as Mark Latham had fatal character flaws
that stopped him rising to the top, the same question is emerging with
our treasurer, this time from within his own party.

Crikey discovered it personally with Costello’s decision to ban us from
attending the budget lock-up and organisations that invite our
representatives to speak continue to receive negative vibes from camp
Costello. Yet the lad was talking up freedom of speech and democracy in
his lengthy rebuttal of the Howley attack on ABC Victoria with Jon
Faine this morning.

Blinkered intransigence remains an apparent feature of Costello’s behaviour. For instance, the lad is fighting The Australian’s
FOI Editor Michael McKinnon tooth and nail through the courts to
prevent information being released that is, frankly, in some instances
not particularly sensitive.

We’ve told you before about the senior economist who criticised
economic policy and suddenly found the federal treasurer on the phone
to his CEO threatening “adverse regulatory decisions.”

Then you have the revelation by Meg Lees last month on Insiders
that Peter Costello was impossible to negotiate with over the GST and
the deal was only done after John Howard personally intervened. Prime
ministers need to be inclusive of critics. While the PM can certainly
be a great hater, look at the way he agreed to send Andrew Peacock to
Washington.

Peter Costello has created a culture of intolerance in Victoria and
this extends to snuffing out other leading lights in his home state.
Who is the second most important Victorian Liberal? Hmm, no-one
springs to mind. That’s what happens when preselecting Costello
loyalists seems to be the most important criterion of the ruling Liberal
faction in the state which was once the jewel in the Liberal crown.

Peter Fray

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