used to think I was a pompous prat when I sent cabinet submissions that
contained spelling errors back to the department they came from. Better
pompous than pathetic.

The Howard cabinet is to legalistic
hair-splitting what Joh Bailey is to hairdressing – but Peter
Costello’s WorkChoices document defence looks thinner than a Warren Truss comb-over.

might be the season of goodwill and all that, but poor old Petey is
looking more and more like the little boy that Santa Claus forgot. At
this time of year we’re all stuffing our faces, but no-one will swallow
his convoluted stories.

The Treasurer’s defence is doubly damning:

  • He’s either mislead the House over WorkChoices – a resignation
    offence in itself – with an unfounded “we know what we’re doing”
    argument over the economics of industrial relations changes; or
  • He doesn’t know what his department is doing – and running
    the economy without reference to Treasury. That’s odd – and dangerous.
    And negligent.

Former Treasury secretary John Stone could
scarcely be regarded as an objective political commentator, but he’s a
stickler for process. That makes his comments
on this matter significant. Stone says Costello has been less than
frank to Parliament about documents related to the Government’s
industrial relations changes.

The documents from October released by Treasury to The Australian include a ministerial minute showing a potential short-term downside to the Government’s industrial relations changes.

month Costello was asked about secret Treasury modelling of the impact
of the new industrial relations system. He told Parliament no such
advice existed.

Stone says the Treasurer is entitled to make
distinctions between minutes and specially commissioned reports but the
Treasurer could have been more direct. “Although he’s technically been
correct, I think he could have been much franker than he was,” says

Yesterday Costello released a document indicating the new
IR laws may bring smaller wages rises for low-income earners. However,
at a hurriedly organised press conference
in Sydney he insisted that his statement to Parliament referred to
modelling undertaken by his department, while what has been published
was a Treasury minute.

At the same time Treasury has issued a statement
saying the document contains a typographical error. It says the
document should say “wages will not fall,” rather than “wages will now

John Garnaut has some withering words on what to make of all of this in the SMH today. The title sets the tone: None so deaf as those who will not hear.