Steve Lewis
in The Australian looks at the Liberal leadership today and sums up everything
that’s wrong with the man who would be king, Peter Costello, in one
short sentence: “But he is still unwilling to chance his arm to speak
out regularly on issues outside his economic portfolio.”

It could be even shorter – “He is still unwilling to chance his arm.”
We still don’t know what Peter Costello stands for – and he doesn’t
want to let us know.

Lewis says the treasurer’s trip to far north Queensland last week was
“as much about broadening [his] eco-centric image as it was about
seeing at first-hand the bold experiment under way in reforming
indigenous policy.” OK. We know about the first. Where does he stand on
the second?

Costello toyed with taking part in the Sydney Harbour Bridge
reconciliation walk in 2000, then didn’t (Tony Abbott did). He turned
up for the Melbourne event. Then, yesterday, he ruled out apologising to Aborigines for the stolen generation and other past government policies.

His views aren’t contradictory. They may even add together to produce a
new forward looking policy on indigenous affairs – but they can also
leave the treasurer looking like a quid each way guy.

No one doubts Costello’s capability. The rest is up the air, however.
And that’s where he looks so weak, compared with the prime minister.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey