Peter Costello really is a pretty poor liar. Either that – or he
doesn’t know what’s going on in his department. I guess we shouldn’t be
surprised. His performance is really pretty poor all round.

The Australian’s freedom of information editor Michael McKinnon has delivered another beauty
today. The Treasury has secretly told Costello the workplace relations
reforms will deliver smaller wage rises for low-income earners and cut
productivity in the short term as employers hire greater numbers of
less efficient workers, he and Steve Lewis report today.

The confidential documents reveal “the Government’s key economic
advisers believe the changes will only ‘moderately’ improve
employment… The documents question public claims by the Treasurer and
Prime Minister John Howard that their workplace changes passed this
month will boost wages and jobs and unleash a wave of labour
productivity growth.”

It looks as if Australians will be getting a curate’s egg for their Christmas table:

While Treasury believes the long-term economic effects of
the changes will be positive, it is candid about the negative effects
of the laws for up to 1.6 million low-skilled workers.

The advice concludes the laws would be good for employment, wages and
productivity but would place short-term pressure on some workers.

Challenging the Government’s claims that workers will be better off,
Treasury instead predicts that the wages of people who rely on minimum
pay rates will fall in real terms because of smaller increases granted
by the Government’s new Fair Pay Commission.

It admits the effect on employment growth will be “not huge” and says
the impact on productivity growth will be “slow” and is “difficult to

The Oz, of course, reported last month that the Government was
sitting on Treasury advice which called into question its claims about
the benefits of its WorkChoices legislation.

Dollar Sweetie, though, told parliament three days later that no secret advice existed.

“It was so secret that this report had not been written,” he said with
usual Question Time hyperbole. “Not only was it so secret that it had
not even been written, it was so secret that it had neither been
written nor released.”

Or so he says. McKinnon and Lewis have another story:

According to the documents obtained, a Treasury executive
minute on the workplace relations policy was sent to Mr Costello on
October 6. It argued the “economic case for reform”, including
expectations of higher employment growth, while claiming that
productivity would initially be “suppressed.”

Treasury pointedly argued that wages growth would be slower under the new industrial relations system.

So… Does this mean Costello misled the House or isn’t doing his paperwork properly?

He ummed and erred his way through an interview with AM this morning – very unconvincingly.

It’s the last thing he needs after the Gerard mess. He looked as if he
was lying or lazy over that, too. The only thing counting for Cossie is
the timing. Most punters are concentrating on happier topics than
politicians whose ambitions outstrip their abilities at this time of

Still, it’ll be Christmas in the workhouse for us – and Christmas in
the doghouse for Dollar Sweetie. (Costello. Doghouse. Nice one, hey