Former
Treasury Secretary and Nationals Senator John Stone – the only survivor
of the Joh for PM campaign to wash up on the shores of Lake Burley
Griffin – shares some thoughts on the leadership hopes of our pal,
Dollar Sweetie, in the current issue of the National Observer, the quarterly published by NCC spin-off The Council for the National Interest.

Stone
looks at what the Treasurer did with surging revenues at Budget time
back in May. “The outstanding hallmark of this Budget is its sheer
laziness,” he says. “The Expenditure Review Committee, chaired by the
Treasurer, seems to have made no significant effort to peg back (or
better still, abolish) the hundreds of departmental programs via which
it spends, and in many cases wastes, our money.”

Stone talks
about “the proposed Future Fund, into which a lazy Treasurer proposes
to stuff tens of billions of our dollars because he can think of
nothing better to do with them.” He says the Welfare to Work proposals
are “almost entirely lacking in either courage or genuine philosophical
conviction.”

“Over and above all these, however,” he says, “is
the failure on tax reform… The Budget betrays no evidence whatsoever
that the Treasurer has even contemplated a program of genuine tax
reform. Instead, after a lazy Expenditure Review Committee process, a
lazy Treasurer, confronted with a huge and still upwardly spiralling
budgetary surplus outlook, has reacted, first, by cobbling together
some hastily assembled tax cuts having little or no genuine reform
component; and second, by conjuring up a newly devised Future Fund in
which the remaining embarrassing surpluses might be stuffed, ostensibly
to deal with a suddenly recognized problem which has existed long
before this Government took office and which, for the past nine years,
it has studiously managed to ignored.”

Stone also looks at the
“Athens Declaration” and its fallout: “After ten days of
Costello-camp-generated political mayhem, the popguns fell silent when,
on Monday, 9 May The Australian published the result of a
special Newspoll on the leadership question. Asked to choose ‘the best
candidate to lead the Liberal Party’, 61 per cent chose Howard and only
23 per cent Costello. Even more damaging to the claims of the Young
Pretender was the 84 per cent (to only 12 per cent) preference for Mr
Howard among Coalition voters.”

And the future of Mr Costello?
Well, first Stone says “the future of the Liberal party, of the
Coalition, and of political conservatism in Australia, now depend upon
John Howard remaining Prime Minister.” Then he suggests that next year,
when the Government’s more important legislation has been enacted, that
the PM should “invite Mr Costello to discuss how best, in the interests
of their party” the leadership issue should be resolved.

The
Prime Minister should “inform his deputy that, in a Cabinet reshuffle
before Christmas, he proposes to recommend to the Governor-General a
new ministry in which Mr Costello can chose any portfolio he wishes
other than the Treasury.”

“In doing so, the Prime Minister
should put it to Mr Costello that, since he (Howard) is still ‘not
planning going anywhere’, it is no longer in the interests of the
Government, or in Mr Costello’s personal interest, for him to go on
doing a job which he will then already have done for almost ten years
and of which he has clearly grown tired.”

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Peter Fray
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